How to Find and Join a Local Humanist Community in the United States

In the United States finding and joining a local humanist community can be difficult. Not because they're unwelcoming or exclusive, but because so few of them exist.

In the United States it seems like there’s a church on every corner. Most towns have more than one church and cities can have dozens. Local humanist communities, which can provide a similar community experience (but with very different underlying beliefs), are much rarer. Whereas there are hundreds of thousands of churches, there are perhaps less than 500 explicitly humanist organizations in the entire country.

For example, the largest and most prominent humanist organization in the United States–the American Humanist Association–has a network of only 250 or so local groups connected to it, with the rest being independent and self-started. On a practical level, this means if you’re interested in joining a local group, it might be difficult to find one.

In this article, the third in my series An Introduction to Humanism, I’ll be explaining how to find and join a local humanist community.


But First: Why Join a Local Humanist Community at All?

Speaking from experience, joining a local humanist community can have numerous benefits, both for individuals and for the community as a whole. Here are some key reasons why you should consider joining one yourself.

Enjoy a Sense of Belonging

Being part of a local humanist community can provide a sense of belonging and identity based on shared values. It feels good to connect with people on a deeper level than say, liking the same bar or similar music–but that’s part of it too!

Gain a Support Network

Local humanist communities often act as a support network in times of need. For example, when I was a complete mess and needed to talk to others about my deconversion from Christianity, my local humanist group was there for me. Of course the types of support are much broader than that. They can include help with childcare, support during a health emergency, pet sitting, emotional support, and much more.

Access Shared Resources

While humanist communities are not known for their wealth, they can nevertheless provide access to shared resources. This could be anything from tools and equipment to skills and knowledge.


Participate in Community Improvement

When people come together, they can make significant changes in their local areas. Examples include local food drives, highway or park cleanup efforts, tree planting, community gardens, and other volunteer initiatives.

Unlock New Social Opportunities

Joining a local humanist community offers numerous opportunities for socializing. Community events, clubs, groups, and gatherings are great places to meet new people and form meaningful relationships.

Experience Personal and Professional Growth

Being part of a humanist community provides opportunities to learn new skills, take on leadership roles, and engage in activities that one might not have considered before. For example, my wife and I had never been leaders and administrators of an organization before. Then we joined the board of our local humanist community. We gained valuable experience that boosted our confidence as leaders and even progressed our professional careers as a result.

Learn to Practice Civic Responsibility

Active participation in a local humanist community promotes civic engagement. It encourages individuals to contribute to the common good and become better citizens. Local humanist communities tend to be plugged-in to social movements and political issues that affect their areas. Examples include celebrating and advocating for their local LGBTQ+ community, women’s reproductive rights, fair elections, and much more.


How to Find a Local Humanist Community

So we’ve established the benefis of participating in a local humanist community. Now the tricky part, finding one. There are three places I’d recommend looking.

Search the AHA Directory

As I mentioned aboove, the American Humanist Association is the largest and most prominent humanist organization in the country. Their network of local groups is also likely the most active. You can search their directory by state to see if any chapters or affiliate groups are in your area.

Search Meetup Groups Near You

Since local humanist communities are meant to be in-person groups, Meetup is the most popular online home for both AHA groups and independent groups. You can search for humanist groups in your area, but you may also want to search for related group types such atheist groups, recovering from religion groups, freethinker groups, ethical societies, and more. Meetup is usually pretty good about providing recommendations once you start looking.

Search for Humanist Facebook Groups

Another popular platform for humanist groups is Facebook. Most humanist organizations I’ve come across have Facebook pages and/or Facebook groups. If you’re unable to find a local group through the AHA directory or Meetup, this is your next best bet.


How to Join a Local Humanist Community

Joining a local humanist community can and often does mean different things from group to group. Every group I’ve come across puts on free events, so the first step is to simply show up and see if the group is a good fit for you. Becoming an actual member of the group may be more involved. To find out what steps you need to take I recommend speaking to the local leadership.

Why the extra steps? Since these groups are democratic in nature it’s important to make sure that the people who have voting rights on organizational decisions are serious about promoting the group’s health and longevitity. Some groups require a small annual member fee while others require a certain amount of volunteer engagement. Others don’t require either, but rather have a new member course interested folks need to complete before gaining full member status.

Up Next: What is a Humanist Chaplain?

So far in this post series we’ve covered what humanism is, what it means to be a humanist, and how to find and join a local humanist community. In the final two installments I’ll be writing about two little-known types of humanists: humanist chaplains and humanist celebrants. These are both types of secular clergy that serve their local communities by providing ceremonial services and mental/emotional care and counseling. If you’d like to follow along, please subscribe to my humanism newsletter.

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