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Okay, hiatus over, sort of. At least I can start blogging again.

I seem to have two gears right now. For weeks at a time I commute up 15 stairs to my home office. There’s no sound for seven hours but a slow-breathing dog at my feet and my inbox rattling under a constant light hail of email. I rise only to get the mail and pee. Then I suddenly fly around the country speaking to hundreds of people about big ideas.

Now I’m back in the Cone of Silence.

That’s not a bad combination, really. Each is a great antidote for the other. But I do seem to remember middle distances and smaller crowds, like going five miles away to a restaurant with one other favorite person. Gotta get that in the mix again.

But I have to say, the nine events I did in the last three weeks were really fun. And believe me, ‘fun’ was not always the first word that leapt to my mind after visiting a freethought group. The spirit and attitude in the secular movement is just remarkably different compared to even 5 or 6 years ago. I’m not the only one who’s noticed that it’s more often actually fun now to meet and hang out with other secular folks than it once was. We seem to be more varied in age, gender, color and culture, funnier, more relaxed, less maniacally focused on One Thing, and much more likely to talk about things like building community and raising kids and food and travel and movies and sex.

It used to be maybe one in four groups that really had an engaging social feel to it. But I felt this in every single place I went in the past three weeks, without exception — from a secular homeschool community center and an Ethical Society in Baltimore to Camp Quest South Carolina to PBB workshops in Austin TX and Raleigh NC to the convention of the Atheist Alliance of America in Houston to the fun and funky Triangle Freethought Society. We’re normaling up, folks. And of course the more fun and normal we are, the more fun and normal humans will hang out with us.

Oh by the way: if you were in a group that I spoke to before 2006, and you’re wondering…Yes, honey. You were one of the fun ones.

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Dale McGowan is the author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism for Dummies. He holds a BA in evolutionary anthropology and a PhD in music.