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I am an Atheist* Day

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*Includes Agnostics…

Purpose: To make atheists more visible in their communities and to provide resources for people seeking to leave religion.

Background: There are many organizations representing atheist, agnostics, freethinkers, and secular humanists throughout the United States. Some of these organizations focus on the separation of church and state and others create local groups to bring atheists together. However, many of these are fairly insular groups that do not engage in activities in their communities outside their meetings. In order to make significant social change, a much larger effort is needed. Learning from the anti-slavery, women’s suffrage, and civil rights’ movement, we can craft a strategy that can be replicated in cities across the United States on an annual basis.

Idea: Much as the gay rights’ movement focused on getting people to come out of the closet, atheists need to tell their friends, families, and their communities that they are atheists. Sometimes they will find people within their groups who share their views and were just waiting for someone else to come out. It is always more difficult to shun a group when you know someone personally who is a member. In addition, the activity will provide resources for people seeking to leave religion.

Planning: Organize a steering committee. Contact local organizations to see if they have members that want to participate.

Activities:

  1. Choose a city where there are “early adopters” such as Portland, Oregon, which is the city in the United States with the fewest religious adherents. It may be possible to interest other cities in having the event at a time close to ours.
  1. Publicize the event with bus side posters, billboards, local press, social media, leafleting, etc. prior to and on the day of the event.
  1. Seek radio and TV interviews prior to, during, and after the event. Train a group of people to be prepared to do this. Be prepared to explain why the activism is important and why religion is doing harm. Craft concrete messages to be repeated by each spokesperson.
  1. Choose a public location (such as Pioneer Square in Portland) that is in the heart of downtown Portland. This could also be done in conjunction with another event that brings people to that location.
  1. Have an active microphone where atheist activists cite their names and why they are atheists. It is important that these are not speeches and that there is always a line of people (pre-approved) who are ready to speak. At this first event, it is important to have ordinary people speak. At a future event, it might be good to have well-known speakers. Also, it will be cheaper.
  1. Materials should be available from books, posters, bumper stickers, pamphlets, pins, etc. Powell’s Bookstore in Portland would be an ideal partner.
  1. Have a tent to show films like Jeremiah Camara’s excellent “Contradiction” featuring religion in the African-American community.
  1. Have live music.
  1. Train people in Peter Boghossian’s new Atheos Application and have an easy leaflet for people to use in talking to people at work, school, etc.
  1. Have everyone who is willing wear an “I am an Atheist” t-shirt so we can engage with the crowd.
  1. Booths – Sales: t-shirts, etc. Free: Literature, buttons. Other ideas: Completely goddess hugs, atheist hug, ask an atheist, voting, come out as an atheist, …
  1. Name of event – ideas – I am an Atheist.

National Organizations:

  1. Seek endorsement from national organizations: American Atheist, FFRF, etc.
  1. Seek start-up funding from them.

Funding:

Start a funding campaign on social media using a site such as Go Fund Me or Kickstarter.

Replication:

Create a kit after the event that can be shared with other atheist groups to replicate in their own cities.

Next Steps:

  1. Designate a Steering Committee
  2. Set up subcommittees:

Location, date, and logistics (electronic, tables, etc.)

Marketing – booths, signs, ads, and literature

Public Relations – radio, TV

Recruitment – people to attend and speakers at the microphone

Security – reach out to police in advance of event

Research on similar events that have been held:

Secular Student Alliance – Held fifth annual Ask an Atheist Day on April 16, 2015

Draft – November 20, 2015

 

 

About the Author Karen Garst

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