Hug an Atheist Documentary to Debut

The documentary Hug an Atheist, made by Sylvia Broeckx, makes its debut at the Atheist Film Festival in San Francisco on Sept. 14. I’m very excited to see this documentary for many reasons, not the least of which is that I have so many friends who appear in it. Dan Fincke has a post about what you’ll see in the full documentary.

I got to meet Sylvia and her husband last year when they came to the CFI Michigan annual solstice dinner. I wasn’t interviewed for the movie, but Jennifer and Jeremy Beahan were and I think Jeff Seaver was too. This description from Dan caught my attention, both because I’ve heard this story from Jennifer before and because it highlights the importance of secular communities.

After several stories about coping with deaths, both actual losses and the fear of one’s own mortality, Bridget Gaudette talks heartrendingly about grieving for the living–how she deals with her anguish over being traumatically disowned by her Jehovah’s Witness parents for being an atheist. Here Sylvia has such a soft touch for showing an evil of religion. This film is not about talking in generalities or using particular people’s pain to make broad political points. Sylvia just has us listen to one atheist’s matter of fact story about the way her parents treated her terribly. And, oh yeah, it just happens to be for religious reasons. The emphasis, here and elsewhere, is not to advance some argument about all or most religiosity or religious people. But it is just one of those things that atheists deal with.

Then Bridget describes her enthusiasm upon coming across a billboard saying “Don’t believe in God. You Are Not Alone”, which introduced her to secular community. And here the film swings, having subtly emphasized, through a dramatic example, how deliberately isolated, by religious family and friends and church, that deconverts can feel, there is a hopeful discussion of atheist and humanist community and how it can fill a crucial role in people’s lives. Jennifer Beahan amusingly reenacts in sing-song fashion her husband Jeremy giddily “bouncing” into the room one day saying ‘I found atheist church! I found atheist church!”

That “atheist church” was then called the West Michigan Freethought Association and is now CFI Michigan. Jennifer is now the associate director and truly the glue that holds the organization together. I found that group entirely by accident in 2006 and it’s people like Jennifer and Jeremy, who have become dear friends, and many others who are the reason that community quickly felt like home to me. Being a part of that community is incredibly important to me now and I hope that all of you have a group like that to belong to.

This documentary has a lot of really amazing people in it — Dan Fincke, James Croft, Rebecca Hensler, Hemant Mehta, Dale McGowan. So many people in it who are exactly the ones I would pick to represent atheists in a project like this. Can’t wait to see the whole thing. Here are a couple Youtube clips from it:



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  • gingerbaker

    Stir-eight to Netflix!!

    Not a bad thing – it might even get viewed by non atheists. I’ll watch it and vote it up.

  • Stir-eight to Netflix!!

    What? Where did you see that? I’d love to watch it on Netflix and recommend it to everyone I know.

  • magistramarla


    A couple of months ago you posted something about the importance of finding a group of like-minded people. We had just moved back to Texas (Yuck) and needed to find a social outlet.

    Because of you, I looked and found the Freethinkers’ Association of Central Texas (FACT).

    My hubby and I thoroughly enjoyed the meeting that we attended, and a sweet couple offered me a ride to another function. Yet another member of the group picked me up and took me to lunch one day, since I can no longer drive due to my disability. It’s very telling that the friendly folks of the Atheist group have been more willing to be helpful to me than my own daughter who lives nearby or another daughter who came to visit, but is spending all of her time with her in-laws and her friends.

    Thanks for reminding me that there is a community of like-minded folks out there!