Atheists at Albany Pride

My atheist Meetup group, Capital Region Atheists & Agnostics, rented a booth for Albany, New York’s Gay Pride Day.

Whew! Fantastic event! My own personal thank-you to all who organized the thing, and all who attended, and especially to the members of CRAA who made it all happen. (I’m hoping some of them will chime in here and tell me who sent all the great atheist/agnostic/humanist stuff that covered the table and caught so many eyes.)

Photos follow. In order to see these large, you have to click on a photo, then click again after it opens in its own page. (I’m sure there’s some easier/better way to do this, but I haven’t figured it out yet.)

There was an eye-catching banner donated by one of the founding members, Rick Martin, “Why Are There Atheists at Gay Pride Day?” fliers written by Mike McElroy and designed by me, and just a whole mess of people who showed up to man the booth and offer moral support. Rick, Mike, Nick, Rich, Rajesh and Dan were some of the core booth-minders and crowd-schmoozers.

I’m ashamed to say that I had a “Proud to be an Atheist” button that I didn’t put on until I got into the city park where the event was held. Old habits, I guess, grown out of the goddy Deep South swamp I grew up in. But I’m proud to say that I did wear it all the way home.

There were plenty of people who came to the booth and asked questions or voiced support. There were also a certain number who came by and looked but walked away without speaking, some with doubtful expressions. But at least while I was there, there were no strongly negative reviews.

One thing really caught my eye — the number of churches and goddy organizations in the parade, all with messages of inclusion. I noticed it for two reasons — one a criticism, one a speculation.

The criticism is that churches were definitely part of the historical problem with acceptance of gay rights, and it’s interesting and wonderful, but also sort of annoying that some of them are now so big-tent buddy-buddy. That this group once cast out of churchy society is now welcomed in makes me feel less that there’s some inclusionary goodness happening, and more that a predator running short of its natural prey has decided to accept new kinds of meat.

The speculation is in regards to that very inclusionary phenomenon: If churches can evolve to accept and welcome the LGBT community, they can evolve to accept others. Except that’s not ever going to happen with atheists, is it? Because by our very nature, we’re not a group subject to that sort of inclusion— not by a church, anyway.

Which means, again, that we have to build our own culture, our own venue of social inclusion.

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Side note to all the dog owners and dog lovers there today: MOST of the dogs I saw there weren’t having a very good time. It was a bit too hot for dog comfort (I hope you were all giving them nice cold water when I wasn’t there to see), but the music was also screamingly loud. Hey, it hurt my ears sometimes, and I have some hearing loss; can’t imagine what it must have been like for sensitive doggie ears.

I saw some dogs dragging on leashes looking like they wanted to be somewhere else fast.  I guarantee you, your dog would much rather be hiking in the woods with you, somewhere near a nice cool creek, than in a crowded city park on a hot, humid day.

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