Friday, July 18, 2008

Hump the Charming Atheist: A Little Good PR Can’t Hurt.

Ask a church going Christian what their perception of an atheist is and you’d likely get a list of attributes that would just as well describe Joe Stalin, Pol Pot, or Jason the hockey masked fiend from the “Halloween” movies. So I feel it my duty when interacting with theists, and when compelled to divulge my non-belief, to put my best hump forward.

For instance, April of last year (I missed them this April, but they left their calling card) I had my annual visit from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I was on the patio working on my tan, reading Hitchen’s “god is not GREAT”, when they came down my driveway. I greet them, and go into my usual routine. I intro them to the dogs, offer them a cold drink and the use of the bathroom.

I let them do their spiel for a few minutes then , after turning down their pamphlet, declared my atheism, showed them my current reading material, and told them they are always welcome to stop by. They were naturally shocked, probably as much by my friendliness and hospitality as by the fact that I didn’t have horns and didn't try to kill and eat them. They smiled a nervous smile, thanked me, piled into the car and left. I waved was they went down the driveway. Each year it’s a new group.It's always fun.

Today I went to the supermarket with a short list. Outside the entrance there was a card table staffed by two women selling raffle tickets for their church. I ask what the money goes toward. Turns out the church is trying to raise money to buy fuel oil for less fortunate families. With the price of oil twice what it was last year, and the harsh NH winters, it’s a very good cause. The top three raffle prizes are gasoline cards for $100, $75 and $50. I buy six tickets for $5.00.

I fill out the stubs, and on the back of each I write that should my ticket/s be drawn the winnings should go back into the fuel oil fund, and I sign my name. When they saw this they were overwhelmed and thanked me profusely. That’s when they asked to what church I belonged. Uh-oh!

Now that kind of comment, obviously born of the belief that only a Jebus worshipping mind slave could possibly make a charitable gesture, might have pissed me off. I fought back the instinct to chastise them for their erroneous assumption and instead smiled and offered: “No church, ladies … I’m an atheist. I trust my contribution is still acceptable?” Without even a hint of disgust, nor the telltale crossing of themselves, nor even an attempt to throw holy water on me, they smiled back and assured me it was very much accepted and greatly appreciated.

The moral of this post is this: Given the opportunity to demonstrate that atheists are as moral, ethical, charitable, hospitable and decent as any of them…likely even more so … take it. Eventually there will be more of us than there are of them. Until then, a little good PR couldn’t hurt.


Anonymous said...

That a great blog.

You stated: "Without even a hint of disgust, nor the telltale crossing of themselves, nor even an attempt to throw holy water on me, they smiled back and assured me it was very much accepted and greatly appreciated."

Now considering your previous blog being in the LEAST religious state of the union, I would be surprised if they DID make a snarky comment. However, I bet the reaction in Mississippi would of been somewhat different...

- Fastthumbs

DromedaryHump said...


Yeah, quite right. in fact, I was gonna mention that given this is NH their calm response to my proclaimation wasnt that surprising.

In Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, etc., I likely would have been beaten senseless by those two women's folding chairs.