Last weekend was a busy one. There was the Tucson Festival of Books, a presentation by Hector Avalos, and a concert by Roy Zimmerman, all of which were sponsored by FreeThought Arizona. The book faire went well with plenty of books and free periodicals. We passed out close to 400 refrigerator clip/magnets with information of coming FreeThought Community activities. The presentation by Hector Avalos at the UMC DuVal auditorium was well attended. Roy Zimmerman’s concert at the Unitarian Universalist Church made our “Blue Dot” community forget for a while that we were floating in a sea of “Red.” On Monday, 32 Tucson Atheists met for their normal 3rd Monday meeting at Denny’s. With the exception of the book festival, all gatherings were as you might expect: friendly, supportive, and non-confrontational. To be fair, the book festival was also mostly non-confrontational. Most people not interested in FreeThought Arizona and its mission of support for Secular Humanism would simply pass by without comment. There were rare exceptions. These are the negative reactions I observed. Bear in mind that these were rare occurrences:
Before the opening ceremony on Saturday, an older gentleman stopped by long enough to determine that there were quite a few books on Atheism on display. He spit out some barely audible insults and quickly trotted away. He didn’t give anyone a chance to address his obvious concerns.
Later on a younger, bearded, tall man expressed quite loudly that there was “no way” that he could be an Atheist. I asked him why he felt so strongly. He replied, “Unless you can tell me where logic comes from, there is no way I can be an Atheist.” I asked him if it was logical to believe that way. Is it logical to say that Atheists have it wrong just because they don’t know? He looked at me and apparently decided that there was another place he needed to be and trotted away.
That’s the way it goes sometimes. At its heart, freethought involves thinking. Knee jerk, emotional responses to the mere existence of an alternate viewpoint will never win the day and there are those that would rather run away than address the apparent conflict.
One of the most contentious interchanges that happened at the book faire came from an older gentleman who thought he was being socially acceptable by referring to something that “a friend” told him. He said, “Someone told me that Atheists believe that they are responsible for their own creation and end up worshipping themselves.” To which I had to respond, “A preacher noticed I was wearing an ‘Atheist and proud of it’ shirt. He told me that all Atheists think they are their own creators.” It is NOT OK to talk about what Atheists believe or don’t believe. Speak for yourself. We’ll get along a lot better that way. He decided that it was time for him to “get along.” A few in the booth objected to my curt response and chastised me for not considering that he was “trying to be friendly.” But it’s a bit like someone covering up an obvious insult with the phrase, “I’m just saying” like that should make everything fine. In the final analysis, he delivered an insult but didn’t receive one in return.