“When you tell someone you’re not a theist, it’s like saying I’m taking the issue that is closest to them and discrediting it,” said McDonald, chairman of Metroplex Atheists.
The stigma attached to atheism, be it perceived or real, is part of what McDonald is trying to quell.
“We’d like to show Christians we don’t have horns and a tail,” McDonald said. “We’re just normal people.”
One disturbing example of discrimination against atheists (and rationality) is mentioned in the piece:
Clark Vinson, a Baptist-turned-atheist who grew up in Irving, said he believes he has been discriminated against in the Bible Belt because of his lack of religion.
“I was on the verge of sealing a contract for $105,000 a year for a school district in the area for counseling services,” said Vinson, who was a therapist at the time. “I lost the contract suddenly.”
He said a friend who worked for the district told him a school official was disturbed after seeing a Darwin fish on his car.
There’s also a very positive note — a working relationship between a Christian and an atheist:
Randy and Dana Word have been married for more than 40 years. The couple lives with their daughter, Kelly Word, and Dana’s parents.
Everyone in the house is a devout Christian except Randy Word. He’s vice chairman of Metroplex Atheists.
Though the family gets along most of the time, an evening discussing beliefs can get quite heated.
“We get into it about once a week,” said Kelly Word, 27. “It’s never a dull moment.”
If you liked it, feel free to shoot a nice email to reporter Holly Yan for writing the piece (her contact info is on the page). We need more reporters like her covering who we are, how we think, and what we do.
The Atheist Community of Topeka has passed its first year of life and continues to evolve. More than 75 people have joined its online meet-up group, and near-weekly events draw upwards of 30 people. For president Lee Tibbetts, the gatherings provide an outlet for expressing beliefs not often heard in the country’s largely Christian society.
“It’s about opening up the dialogue and letting the nonreligious people know they are not alone and getting the religious people to know that not everyone has the same beliefs,” he said.
Tibbetts said as a young man, he began researching numerous religions but never found evidence sufficient to warrant his belief. He said his group can play a vital role in shedding light on what he said was a taboo subject. So taboo, in fact, that numerous members contacted for this story didn’t want to talk for fear of the stigma. One 20-something
Both these groups shed light on two important facts:
- Their existence is vital, especially in conservative areas.
- They are reaching out to the already non-religious instead of trying to de-convert the religious.
Here’s to their continuing sucess.