An atheist from Colorado was working the Boulder Atheists tent at the Boulder Creek Festival last summer.
These types of festivals are a great way to promote your organization and it can be hard to get people to come to your tent instead of the competing ones. So the Boulder Atheists had a marketing plan:
… they brought palettes of bottled water, and inkjet labels with “Boulder Atheists” on them as well as the URL of their web site (boulderatheists.org). We placed the bottles in an iced cooler, and had them on display in front of a sign that read “FREE WATER.” And man, did that make us popular. We drew plenty of attention, if only for people wondering “are you the guys with the free water?” It seemed like such an obvious idea for anyone wanting to draw attention to their booth. As one of the organizers quipped: “Leave it to the atheists to bring cold water on a hot day.”
Some people were glad to take them up on the offer.
Others… not so much:
One lady took a bottle, started to walk off with it, then brought it back, saying “I’m sorry, I can’t accept this.” Another lady approached interested in the water, then flat out refused when she noticed it was an atheist booth. I wondered what we must look like to them, and the only thing I could think of that would make me feel that way was if I went to a booth to get free water and it was being offered by Scientologists or the KKK…
Apparently, atheist water is tainted with the tears of God.
(When I was at the Rally for Reason at the opening of the Creation Museum in Kentucky, a church group brought a giant bucket of bottled water for us to drink. I don’t remember if they were on our side or with the Creationists, but it didn’t matter. We appreciated the kind gesture and were more than willing to drink the water.)
The Boulder story also includes entertaining recollections of a guy proselytizing to them and a couple atheists going to the “free psychic reading” tent…