I have a pretty terrific wife and kid, but we have a kind of hole in our lives socially. We don't have a support network locally and since moving to the 'burbs we've struggled to make new friends. I envy the sense of community my dad got from his "church family." We're atheists, but isn't there some avenue besides church that could provide my family with a similar real world social network? Could joining a fraternal organization be the answer?
My grandfather found a balance and camaraderie in his life from his membership in a fraternal order that served him much like my dad's devotion to his church. It makes me wonder if this is something I should explore myself.
The idea of an extended surrogate family for socializing sounds fantastic, even more so if there was room for my wife and kid. Rituals and speechifying don't hold any great appeal to me, but the idea of getting to know other families through dinners, activities, and community service--in a manner more or less parallel to how church congregations bond--is intensely appealing. And I sure wouldn't mind a friendly lodge where I could tipple a bit from time to time.
As has been discussed before here
there is also the whole "belief in a higher power" requirement that virtually all of these organizations share. Not sure about that.
Here are my questions:
1) Should I look into my local Masonic Lodge? Or do my preferences point me more toward groups like the Elks?
2) Any atheists in a fraternal order who can relate their experiences? I'd rather not lie about my atheism, but I could choke it down if it was only once. If every spaghetti dinner started with an endless prayer and our charity was petitioning to post the Ten Commandments or some such, I would definitely not be okay with that.
3) Are there other similar organizations I should consider?