Evangelical Atheism

I had an experience I've never had before this weekend. I was walking with friends in downtown Royal Oak, MI, and we passed a group of people on the street corner handing out literature. It was a group coordinated by Grassroots Atheism consisting of members of Detroit Atheists and Mid-Michigan Atheists & Humanists. Apparently they're also creating a documentary, because they were also filming. I have to say, they were polite and non-obtrusive. I didn't see them starting arguments or bothering people, just handing brochures as people passed. However, it reminded me of the end of this video (warning: strong language & intent to offend. The part I'm referring to comes about 2:52 in).

I'm not condoning the guy's rant against Mormonism, but I think the idea of Atheists going door-to-door, or even standing on the corner in Royal Oak passing out literature is pretty funny. But, at the same time as I see the humor in it, and I see where people get really irritated, as the author of that video did, at people coming to their homes to talk about their faith, sometimes I think as Unitarian Universalists we should be willing to go a little bit further than we do in sharing our own faith. Maybe not door-to-door, but let's not continue to be the best kept secret in town, eh?

*A note to readers of the blog on Facebook: Videos from this blog do not, unfortunately, come with the blog post when it feeds into facebook. To view them, you'll need to go to the blog post itself at http://revcyn.blogspot.com or, in this case, YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7dW-bt_1LzY.


I found your blog through the grapevine. My name is Chris McLaughlin and I am the organizer of Grassroots Atheism in Royal Oak, MI. It's too bad you didn't stop and talk to us and you would not have made the assumption that we are proselytizing. Our primary goal is to introduce the public to atheists and atheism in an attempt to clear up the common misconceptions about us and what we believe. It is not proselytizing, but rather public relations.

Also, the documentary crew was a group of filmmakers from California making a documentary about atheists.
Cynthia Landrum said…
Hi Chris,

Thank you for commenting. I did, indeed, make a point of stopping and talking for a minute or two. I collected your brochure "What is Atheism?" and a business card from a fellow from the Mid-Michigan Atheists & Humanists, and said a friendly hi and introduced myself. I wish I had time to talk more. Perhaps I'll find time in my schedule at some point to attend the Mid-Michigan group, as I'm sure I would enjoy the networking.

While it reminded me of that video, that does not mean I assumed you or your group was proselytizing, nor did I use the term, although I wouldn't have thought it was bad if you were, under the definition of "recruit someone to join one's party, institution, or cause." I did use the term "evangelical" in my title. I use the term in a very loose UU shorthand sort of way to mean, "tell people about your beliefs," which I think would apply to what you were doing, as I understood it from the experience and from your comment.

While I see humor in the situation, I hope you understand it's in a laughing at myself sort of way, as I personally am a (strong) agnostic humanist minister, which, when I said so to the person who handed me the brochure, provoked a seemingly shocked reaction from her akin to what I felt at finding atheists handing out literature on the street corner. The whole encounter, for me, was about challenging stereotypes and assumptions on both our parts.

I would love to hear more information about this documentary, and I'm curious about this "grapevine" of which you speak. Again, thank you for your comment, and I'm sure my readers would enjoy hearing more. When I shared your brochure with my worship committee, people found what you were doing very intriguing, as many of them are atheists, agnostics, and humanists.

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