Atheist group offers to send members to church for charity

Ashanka Kumari

A small donation at the Ferguson Center could help fight leukemia and lymphoma – and send an atheist to church.

The Alabama Atheists and Agnostics is wrapping up their “Send an Atheist to Church” fundraiser in the Ferguson Center Wednesday from 10 a.m. to noon and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The fundraiser, which was also held Monday and Tuesday, is part of an international effort to raise $1 million for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, said Gordon Maples, president of AAA.

A series of donation cups, each labeled with a different denomination, church or specific religious group, will be set out on a table and for every five dollars earned in each cup, one atheist will attend one service of that church or religious group, Maples said.

“I am personally looking forward to getting to know some of the religious communities in the Tuscaloosa area as a result of this project,” Maples said. “Aside from the fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the goal of this event is to promote some sense of understanding of the atheist and agnostic positions as well as broaden our own horizons.”

Isabela Morales, AAA’s Liaison Officer, said that this event will help debunk the stereotypes associated with AAA.

“A lot of people have this idea that atheists and agnostics are haughty, argumentative intellectuals who aren’t willing to engage in real conversation with members of religious groups,” Morales said. “Those of us volunteering to go to church are proving that atheists and religious people can and do have mutual respect and tolerance for each other.”

This is the first time AAA has organized a charity drive like this and also the first time they are sending members to church as a group, Morales said.

“I want to stress that the members of AAA who have volunteered to go to church are not doing it to mock Christians on campus. We want to show that religious and nonreligious people can cooperate for a good cause,” Morales said. “I’m really excited because it’s been a long time since I have had the chance to sing church hymns.”

Douglas Weathers, vice president of AAA, said the fundraiser is AAA’s way of helping people in need.

“It’s not just the faithful that can give and help their communities,” Weathers said. “Sending our members to church may help dispel a churchgoer’s idea, if they have it, that nontheists are somehow different than they are. We are all still people and sending ourselves to church will help bring that message home.”

Despite what some believe, members of AAA don’t hate God or gods, they just don’t believe in them, Maples said.

“We certainly don’t hate religious people,” Maples said. “We hope that people will come into this project with an open mind towards us and I can assure them that we will reciprocate.”