Despite Focusing on Community Service, Some Organizations Still Refuse to Work with This Atheist Group

The Upstate Atheists, a group in Spartanburg, South Carolina, is getting some much-deserved attention from a local newspaper.

What makes this group unique is that it’s almost exclusively focused on giving back to its community:

“I want to help the community, but all the places to do that are religious places. … There’s no outlet to do that in a secular fashion,” [member Tim] Swanson said.

The group is sponsoring two children for Christmas, said president Eve Brannon, and it has volunteered with other Upstate organizations.

Brannon said the group tries to do one project a month.

That’s heartwarming. That’s living proof that atheists are good without a god. That’s the kind of group I wish we had more of across the country.

And yet, says reporter Katie Jones, the fact that they’re atheists makes them kryptonite to other groups:

Upon learning the group is atheist, some organizations don’t want the help.

“I’ll call and make sure before I schedule anything that’s it’s not going to be a problem,” [Brannon] said. “A lot of people can be put off by having us help, which may sound weird, but it’s true.”

Because, as evangelists love to tell us, Jesus only worked with other Christians. Or something like that.

If you’re in the area, please consider joining the group and helping out with their future projects. Even if others in the area buy into the atheist stereotypes rather than reality, don’t let that stop you from making the Spartanburg community a better place.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • ara

    as an atheist in rural WV, I was excited to find a (generally) secular service organization to become involved with in the Lions Club. It’s secular in origin, even if some individual clubs and events are overly permeated with god talk.

    I was recently involved in an event that hosted a member of the Spartanburg Lions Club, which is the second largest Lions Club in the nation and is very active in their community.  You might try working with them… their website is http://www.spartanburglions.org/

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, Blonde

      i gotta go with that, as well. my atheist parents were Lions and while lots of lions were not atheists, it was (at least back then) a way for dad and mom to give to the community without endorsing a religion.

      i appreciate why this sort of activism is important to you, Hemant. but i don’t want to feel like i’m somehow compelled to do community service to advance the cause of atheism. i’m an atheist. i don’t care if you are, or not. what i DO care about it keeping religion out of public policy, government, schools, the workplace… my motto is “keep religion where it belongs: in the house of worship.” 

       no matter how much charity i perform (and i do a lot) the woo-lovers will still hate me, because i want to enforce our secular Constitution at their expense. i could give away everything including the shirt on my back, as many religious texts suggest i do, and it wouldn’t change a thing. they would still be crying, lying, self-pitying martyrs looking for a taxpayer funded handout and special treatment from everyone, most especially those who don’t share their faith. 

    • Erp

       And many of the formerly all male service organizations now allow women (Lions amended in 1986) though some have anti-atheist stances (Lions seem to forbid discussion of religion and no ban on atheists, Rotary is also non-sectarian, I think Optimists are open, Elks ban atheists [perhaps notable that Elks seems to be US only while the others are international though most Freemason groups which are international also ban atheists]). 

      Lions, I believe, have a special interest in services helping those who are blind or sight impaired or at risk  (one of their international projects is eliminating river blindness).