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.


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.

  • MikeTheInfidel

    The goodies came from American Atheists, the LGBT Humanist Council (part of the American Humanist Association), the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and CFI On Campus. Many thanks to them all for their generosity!

    The event was a blast and we saw a remarkably positive reception. We filled up a page and a half with names and e-mail addresses of people who wanted to be kept in the loop about our group.

  • Nolan

    I wish I could have made it! CRAA should be proud of taking the chance to offer support to the community.

  • Lizz Lloyd

    I had a blast! Did bring my dog though, but we were only there for 2 hours and I have a special doggy water bottle I clip on my belt for such occasions. When he got tired we left, and spent lots of time sitting in the shade. Thank you for being concerned for our furry children! And thank you for my wonderful stickers that my apartment and electronics will be peppered with!

  • benjdm

    Wouldn’t UUs be an example of a church evolving far enough to accept atheists?

    • Hank Fox

      They COULD be, for all I know. But I still have a hard time seeing them, or any church, holding up banners and marching in the Atheist Pride Parade.

      • benjdm

        I think you could be pleasantly surprised:

        Since 1985, the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) has voiced its opposition to the discriminatory practices of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). Based upon the principles which guide our Association, we first protested the BSA’s discrimination against agnostic and atheist scouts, and then protested discrimination aimed at gay scouts and scout leaders.

    • MikeTheInfidel

      There was actually a UU table right next to us. One of the women running the table grabbed a bunch of stuff from our table after they’d packed up theirs, and told us how awesome it was to see us there because she was a die-hard atheist herself :)