Go Hug an Atheist in Eastern Kentucky! September 23, 2010

Go Hug an Atheist in Eastern Kentucky!

Hey, college atheist groups, can’t afford a billboard to let people know you exist?

Not a problem.

Just chalk positive slogans on the ground and watch the controversy ensue. That’s what the Secular Coalition at Eastern Kentucky University did:

Messages from a secular group have been written on sidewalks across EKU. While the writings are drawing some controversy, school officials say it’s all about freedom of speech. A group at EKU called the Secular Coalition is wanting to promote Hug An Atheist Day, but not everyone on campus is embracing all the sidewalk messages. Some students say some religious groups have rubbed students the wrong way and they may be the ones to have drawn the reaction.

What?! Hugging an atheist!? That will only lead to orgies, I tell you.

The promotional chalkings have included phrases like, “No God? No Problem” and “THOU SHALT NOT… Haha, just kidding!”

That was enough to generate cover from a local news channel. Not a good one, either. Not only did they not interview a member of the atheist group on camera, they showed a number of students explaining how offended they were by the messages.

I watched the segment. Twice. I looked for anything even mildly offensive. I couldn’t find anything even close. Am I missing something?

Whatever you’re doing, Secular Coalition at EKU, it’s working. Keep the hugs coming today.

If you’re in the area, they’re hugging people from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Powell Corner.

Stop by, say hello, and ask them how you can help the group.

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  • Hitch

    Frankly I’m rather impressed by the coverage. They talked to a large range of students and give a pretty good sense about how many are actually not offended or even concerned.

    If coverage of DMD would have been like that…

  • So.. Why was that girl offended? “because I’m a Christian” is not a reason to be offended at that statement. Maybe if she’d said “Because I can’t handle people having different beliefs to me”… Morons…

  • Seems like the usual “Their very existence insults me” nonsense.

    The evils of tolerance, and all that.

  • Hugging an atheist would mean acknowledging that atheists exist and that they aren’t going to steal their buildings, burn their women and rape their cattle. Basically they’d have to admit that atheists are human beings with opinions about gods that aren’t compatible with their own opinions. Unfortunately even this basic human connection is beyond some people.

    And they say that religion isn’t harmful. Tsk!

  • Secular Stu

    “No God? No prolem”? C’mon guys.

  • Bob


    The young woman is likely offended not because she’s Christian, but because the statements contradict beliefs she holds to be true absent any critical/rational evaluation.

    Vader: “I am your father.”
    Luke : “Noooooooooooooo! That’s not true! That’s impossible!”

    Atheist : “There is no God.”
    Christian: “Noooooooooooooooo! That’s not true! That’s impossible!”

  • ewan

    That didn’t seem all that bad. There was an underlying assumption that atheists were ‘them’ and not ‘us’, but it didn’t come across as Fox-esque deliberate antagonism, just slight bemusement.

    I think if I were anything to do with EKU’s Secular Coalition I’d be making friendly approaches to these people.

  • Todd

    I’m glad to see this happening at my alma mater. My brother-in-law (a Presbyterian minister) teaches part time in the Philosophy and Religion department there, I’ll have to remember ask him about this.

  • JD

    They’re offended you don’t believe in woo at all, but they’re also offended by the fact that you don’t belong to their bandwagon. But being offended is a red herring anyway, seeing the history of Christianity in the past half millennium, at least Protestantism, is that Christians will be offended by even the slightest deviation from their particular doctrine to the point of splitting organizations. The fact that there are 33,000 protestant denominations are a testament to this fact, they can’t deal with people that don’t match their fifty point litmus test checklist 100%. 49 points? You’re out!

    The Catholic side is an enigma though, their remaining flock seems to accept systematic coverup of sex crimes and letting the perps continue what they do best. Maybe their sheep have simply been broken.

  • Bob


    I suspect the Catholic reaction to the molestation scandals is partly due to the role priests have in the community – the shepherd beyond reproach, a desire to ‘protect’ the child (i.e. their anonymity), and the issue of having to re-examine one’s belief system (easier to just pretend x didn’t happen and has no bearing on your faith).

    But, what the heck do I know? I was on the traffic patrol.

  • Don Rose

    Nice work by the students.

    Whether it offends people, or they love it, or anywhere in between…… the consistant exposure will help people feel free to step forward as atheists. The more visible we become, the more we’ll be,

    first: “tolerated”,

    second: “accepted”.

    I’m a rabid atheist…..lol, but I’ll throw a hug at anyone. I love people, but I hate ignorance.

  • Steve

    The flock doesn’t accept it. The sheeple at the bottom are pretty divorced from the Church leadership in general. They don’t like what’s going in many areas (not just the child abuse stuff), but many stay in nonetheless.

    Still, there an unprecedented number of people are leaving the Church in Europe. So many that in some rural areas, priests now care for several villages and towns at the same time.

    Even frickin Ireland realized what the RCC is up to and they lost most of their reputation there. That should tell you something.

  • muggle

    Only that first girl was an asshole. Even the one who said she was offended because you know, she’s Christian, then allowed that it was free speech and they have as much right to it as we do. Really, I didn’t think the coverage was bad at all. I liked the one who said it was reaction to always hearing how you’re going to burn in hell.

    I understand why the hugs but hate it. What is with the hug crap that is so popular these days? Am I the only person left alive who is not comfortable with being hugged by strangers? It’s creepy and way too familiar let alone making yourself vulnerable to anyone who wants to get physically close for whatever reason whether it be to pick your pocket or cop a feel.

    I don’t have to hug a complete stranger to be friendly. Won’t a smile and pleasant conversation do any more? I wish they had come up with something else to demonstrate that we’re not a bunch of sulkies because nonbelievers like me who just plain aren’t comfortable with the intrusions on their body are going to build the stereotype that we are grumps. Why not just hold an open pot luck or something and say come meet us and see how much more we have in common than we are different. We’re all just people.

    Anyone not comfortable/curious enough to check that out isn’t going to come hug an Atheist either. Frankly, if I were on the other side of the fence, I’d be thinking what the fuck’s wrong with them wanting to hug strangers? Hell, I’m on their side of the fence and find it more than a bit creepy.

  • miss_ellie

    hey i’m actually one of the students who drew the chalkings and i know that none of the ones i wrote could have insulted anyone. i actually was the one who wrote the “thou shalt not… haha just kidding” that was shown. the religious groups are some of the biggest groups on campus. and they get pissed any time someone does something that doesnt follow their beliefs, like hug an atheist day or out and proud day done by the lgbt group

  • I was one of the students who chalked these messages as well, and we weren’t out there targeting people, or out there with the sole purpose to offend. We’re promoting our organization in the same manner that other groups, religious or not, are doing. And we’re not baiting people with free food.
    I feel like some members of the student bodies should get thicker skins. If they don’t like hugs, then they don’t have to come hug us.

  • Oliver

    I love how the tone of that piece was basically:
    “Are they *allowed* to say those things?? … Hmm, freedom of speech, you say? … Are you sure? … Boy, I really feel like that must be illegal or something”

  • Old Colonel

    I came out as an atheist while a student at EKU in 1981. One redneck dorm mate gave me shit for weeks. I’m glad there is a Secular Student Alliance now, but sorry (not surprised) that the religious groups still have so much influence. I am glad that the group is getting some attention and hopefully more atheists will come out and will join. It is a tough thing to do in such a right wing region, I know. We heathens were not organized at all back then and would just grin and bear it when the illegal religious ceremonies and prayers took place on campus.

  • Alec Spencer


    I’ll post more later, but I love you Hemant!

    Alec Spencer
    President of the Secular Coalition of EKU

  • Secular Stu

    Only that first girl was an asshole. Even the one who said she was offended because you know, she’s Christian, then allowed that it was free speech and they have as much right to it as we do.

    No, she was a bit of an asshole, too. Can you imagine a Democrat saying they’re “offended” by a “Hug a Republican” chalking, or vice versa?

  • Rebecca

    You asked if you were missing anything. No, you weren’t missing any hidden evil committed by the secular group. You were missing the fact that this is KENTUCKY. Most of what is popular or accepted in Kentucky is terrifyingly stupid. The Baptist bullshit is so thick you can taste it. I’m so happy to hear about a secular group at EKU that is actually doing something. I go to UK and used to be a part of the secular group there, but it quickly dwindled into angry nonsense so I stopped going. I’m so proud of EKU’s group! Oh and there probably weren’t any atheists interviewed/shown because:
    1. They were probably hiding to certain extent (Offended rednecks are a very scary thought. Seriously, the professors will probably even be after them. It happened to me in high school.)
    2. I doubt the silly news channel would show them anyway. Can’t be promoting atheism or anything!
    Sorry if I sound bitter… you try being trapped in KY for years…

  • I’m glad that the reporter reminded viewers that “Unless someone’s life is in danger, then the freedom of speech is protected.” As implying that atheist chalking messages is almost but not quiet as bad as threatening a person’s life. At least the reporter didn’t imply that the free food was potential poisonous.

  • Ben

    The biggest difference between religious and atheist chalking (or any other kind of advertisment) is that the religious try to convert others, while the atheists merely try to find others like them, who just haven’t “come out” yet. We try to defend out position, when religious people try to convert us. We don’t try to convert them. Atheism today is like homosexuality in the 80’s. More and more are “coming out”, but no one is being forced, nor turned against their will.

  • Allison

    I’m a student at EKU and I can vouch for the controversy around campus. Anytime someone walks over one of those messages there is a comment from them. I feel like the religious organizations shouldn’t be allowed to chalk on campus if atheist groups aren’t allowed. Why aren’t people upset about there constantly being religious messages there? I am very excited to go and hug an atheist!

  • Dan W

    Some moronic Christians get offended by the existence of atheists. In other news, the sky is still blue and bears still shit in the woods.

    It seems no matter how inoffensive the statements made by atheist groups are, there will always be idiots who take offense. Because hugging atheists will somehow infect you with atheism.

  • miss_ellie

    now that the whole event is over for the day, i will tell you how it went: first off, we had plenty of hugs! i was actually surprised by how many people came up and hugged us. there were, however, the people who told us they would pray for us and that they couldn’t because they were christians. but some people were just surprised to see us out there. i will probably be hoarse in the morning from asking all day for hugs and telling people to come over and get a hug. probably the funniest part of the day for me was when an older gentleman came up and told me i was too pretty to be giving out free hugs. But overall i think we did a good job today, we talked to people who had no idea our organization even existed and talked to people about our non-belief. skepticism is gonna grow in the bluegrass!

  • Alec Spencer

    Actually, they asked to interview us…at 10:30 the night beforehand. I asked if they could do it the next day (when they did the story) and they never contacted me.

  • inmyhead

    Thanks for that. I went to msu in eastern ky and watched that news station all the time. Awe… I miss ky. I am impressed with the coverage also, they did a great job.

  • STA

    front or side hugs? 😛

  • “Like .. ya know … I’m a Christian and stuff.”

    Listening to how the ones who are offended talk says alot.

  • Dildace

    The video’s not playing. I suggest that it is a conspiracy by the news station to cover their embarrassed-red asses.

    No, but really, how do I watch it?

  • Saint Gulik

    “They seem to be specifically targeting Christians in general.”

    Waagh. Brain Hurt.

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