This Saturday, I visited the Atheist Coming Out Party in Westerville, Ohio. The event had numerous hosts and sponsors- American Atheists, Students for Free Thought, Secular Student Alliance, and many, many regional skeptical and atheistic groups. As such, the event drew in atheists, secular humanists, skeptics, and other assorted heathens from all around Ohio, as well as neighboring states.
Where, do you ask, does a group of such cursed godless people go to gather? A lovely event barn in a gorgeous park:
And what do atheists do at such a party? Well, they begin with a little bit of potluck dinner and socializing:
I sat at a table with atheists from Tennessee, Kentucky, and northern Ohio. Visitors had traveled for hours and hours on end for this lovely event. Our region, after all, does not generate many skeptical and atheist get-togethers. New England has Boston Skeptics in the Pub, Las Vegas has The Amaz!ing Meeting, but the midwest usually has a dearth of heatheny gatherings.
After a filling lunch of the unwashed souls of the damned (and carrot cake), we moved upstairs for a series of talks. First up was Hemant Mehta, Chicago-area atheist who wrote I Sold My Soul on Ebay, and who writes at the Friendly Atheist blog.
Hemant had one very important take home point in his talk: atheists need to capture the positive aspects of church culture. We need to provide a sense of community for one another. We need to advertise our messages as effectively as Christians do. And, especially, we need to use our organizations to do a boatload of charity work, like the Christians do.
Following Hemant came Edwin Kagin of American Atheists. He delighted the audience with a very impromptu series of atheist jokes and assorted ramblings. Edwin does most of the legal heavy lifting for American Atheists, and has done so for quite some time. His take-home point was…well, I’m not exactly sure, but he definitely stressed the idea that atheists must come out of the closet, lest they remain a forever marginalized group.
Speaking of atheist marginalization, the event even had protesters! Unfortunately, my photo did not come out very well:
The protesters’ signs said things like “God Loves You”. They behaved in a very respectful and kind manner. We certainly returned the favor: some atheists brought the small group food and water, and I made sure to ask permission before snapping a quick shot of the gang.
Hopefully the group learned that atheists look normal, behave decently, and even have families themselves. Look at this beautiful family that attended the event:
Wow! This presumably atheist family has already taught its young daughters to play chess.
I had to leave the event not long after Hemant and Edwin’s speeches. I missed the “de-baptism” held later; formerly baptized theists were passed over with a large hair dryer, then given a certificate of their newly de-baptized state. I missed out on the certificate, but I did get a free shirt from American Atheists. It espouses the general, non-confrontational message of the event: