I don't feel as though just being an Atheist is enough, we need to be active in making our presence known, and our collective voice heard. Following the christians, we are the second largest grouping, but we have the least amount of organization and influence. That needs to change!
So, in that spirit, it was a real pleasure to make the drive down to Wilmington, NC to help out with the Cape Fear Humanists and Freethinkers booth at the Azalea Festival. It was extremely rewarding to realize just how many people were accepting of our message and our presence. Of course, not everyone felt that way. One of our favorites was a woman who graced us with a curse that our booth should burn down, and presented us with a christian blessing that was finger-flickin'-good as she left.
The true high-light of the event was on Sunday when one of the committee members from the festival ordered our booth to take down our banner that read "Good Without God" on one side, and "This world is all there is, and it's enough" on the other. When questioned about the reason for the order to remove the sign, much deflection was offered. Finally, they gave us the reason, saying it was a political sign, and it was offensive, plus there had been some complaints. I was forced to politely point out that it wasn't political in nature at all, and was in fact a philosophical sign if anything. Not only that, I pointed out the abundance of booths that were directly political in nature, as well as all the petition gatherers roaming around with their clipboards and handouts that were all political in content. Furthermore, I said that I felt offended by all of the various religious booths that promote a god that threatens me with eternal damnation and torture if I don't bow down to him; however, I don't complain about it, because that's their right to promote their viewpoint, just as the right exists for us to promote our viewpoint.
So, they called the cops on us, speaking with the lead officer for about 10mins, I pointed out that we were not violating any laws, nor were we creating a nuisance, and we were merely practicing our 1st Amendment rights just like every other booth. After our conversation, the officer returned to talk to the committee members who were threatening to make us close the booth if we didn't remove the banner. Eventually, the committee gave up, but they did verbally say that we don't even need to bother trying to get a booth next year because it will never happen.
The only way for them to block the booth next year is to ban ALL non-prophet...err, I mean non-profit organizations, since being a chapter of the AHA provides non-profit status automatically. Now I'm really feeling great about getting the Humanist message out there, and even more excited to setup more booths at various events.
Oh no, Atheists! Call the cops!
I'm all for making atheism and freethinking more prominent. It's just a shame when people simply get offended by our opinions.
Who was it that said organizing atheists is like herding cats? Think I got the quote from The God Delusion by Dawkins. Anyway, for me it is about always speaking up and being knowledgeable. People around me are not shy about discussing their theistic beliefs? Well, I am proud to be a rationalist and an atheist, and will always have a response or a comment (diplomatically and politely of course, don’t need to sink to the level of so many theists we know). My favorite is still reading books with titles like “The End of Faith” or “God, The Failed Hypothesis” on the subway. I was once re-reading “The God Delusion” on the subway when some dude asked me what it was about then in a somewhat condescending tone if it was a novel. My response was it was about religion and atheism, the supernatural vs. science, delusion vs. sanity, and faith vs. reason. I told him I found it a spiritual book, and it gave me hope that humanity could grow up. Dude got off at the next stop. I firmly believe we as atheist need to spread the good word. Of course, if someone comes up to me and asks me if I am saved, I have been known to respond that A) I was on my lunch break and B) I don’t take private patients, but would be happy to make them a referral. If they look confused, I tell them I assumed they knew I was a clinical social worker and they were asking for help.
I also try to be able to answer with knowledge. E.g. If someone uses Paley’s watch example, well…I know how to respond. Or if someone comments that “hasn’t science proved god exists” I respond that I must have missed that article in Science or Nature, then quote from Hacking’s latest book. If I ask a theist to give a rational for their argument beyond “well it says so in the Bible” I have to be prepared with my own rational response.
So, I encourage all atheists to go out and spread the good news! And kudos for the booth!