Society of Edmonton Atheists: ‘We’re interested in having a booth at your expo. We feel it’s a fun atmosphere where sci-fi fans (which for some reason have a crossover with atheism) can find out about our group, therefore we’re applying under your non-profit section’
Reply: NO – you violate our policy of promoting religious doctrine
Society of Edmonton Atheists: ‘We’re interested in joining the displays at City Hall that are aimed at celebrating the diversity of faith groups in our city and making everyone feel like they belong’
Reply: You might not qualify under the guidelines as you aren’t considered religious
So which is it, are we too religious in nature, or not religious enough? There still seems to be major misinterpretation of our motives, knee jerk reactions and excuses for why we aren’t automatically INCLUDED in the community in which we live.
Let’s be as clear as possible. The Society of Edmonton Atheists is a social group aimed at fostering a community for atheists, agnostics, freethinkers and skeptics…we aren’t out to convert people to atheism and we aren’t a hate group. We run a book club, we have pub nights and coffee, we hang out and laugh, we play board games and share stories. We try to educate the public on what atheism is and why many of us hold that viewpoint. We volunteer and help out in the community. We are your neighbours, your family, your friends and co-workers.
Our goal with putting up displays and information booths is to raise awareness of our group so those that feel they would like to join a like-minded community can find us.
While the actual statistics for atheists in the Canadian sphere is difficult to pinpoint, the people who check ”non-religious” on their census is larger than you expect, and is growing. A 2008 poll by Harris-Decima showed that 23% of Canadians actually hold no belief in God (not just simply non-religious or un-affiliated). By 2015 an Angus Reid poll showed 26%. So why does our group, a quarter of the population get forgotten about so easily?
Last year we ran bus ads in Edmonton, a large expense for a small non-profit group such as ourselves. Immediately we were quoted under the ”advocacy” category which came with a price tag that was unattainable for a small group (and nearly 3 times what we eventually ended up paying). There were multiple discussions before our group was brought back to the regular non-profit rate. Why were we automatically put into the category that assumed we’d be ”controversial” in nature when all we really wanted was an ad that merely stated we exist?
Now, while we have no real reason to be upset about the City Hall item yet as we haven’t been denied (it was a ”we’ll have to consider it” type situation), it’s the pause that shows that there is still work to be done. If the goal of the displays are to show our city’s diversity it shouldn’t take any consideration to include the non-believers…it should be encouraged.
We are, however, still waiting to find out how we promote religious doctrine when we have none, and sadly, we have a feeling we might never find out.