When atheists visit the Bible Belt, you can’t always expect positive media coverage but Kansas City Public Media ran a great radio segment on the Kansas City Atheist Coalition and their recent conference:
The Kansas City Atheist Coalition tries to shake off the stereotypes of bitter, angry atheism while they talk to the public about the value of a secular society and government. While they avoid confrontation and even do charity work, the Coalition still finds it’s hard to be a nonbeliever on the edge of the Bible Belt.
The Coalition also works to give atheism a positive, public face. In places like Westport, they hand out brochures, carry signs, and try to offer an alternative to street corner evangelists. Sarah says they hear a lot of support, but also plenty of hostility to their slogans and signs.
“One of the more offensive ones that caused a reaction out of people was simply one that said, ‘Smile. There is no hell.’ And even though, I think, especially for a free thinker or a skeptic or an atheist, those messages are pretty tame, pretty non-confrontational, just to say something like ‘there is no hell’ really elicits a pretty emotional reaction from a lot of people. And a lot of people simply said things like ‘There is a hell’, ‘Hell is real.’ And a lot of people just said things like ‘Jesus loves you.’ One gentleman, though, drove by, and he shouts out his window, ‘Praise Jesus! And f you!’ A lot of people will cross themselves. Actually at one even, we had a woman covered her daughter’s eyes, cause apparently she didn’t want her daughter to see the word ‘atheist.’”
I was at the conference and it was full of positive energy. There was a lot more time spent talking about how to lift up our own community rather than bringing down religion. It’s nice that the segment recognized that because it does go against the stereotype of atheists only interested in tearing down religion and not wanting to replace it with anything else.