Friday, February 19, 2010

Send an Atheist to Church: Preliminary results

About a week ago I mentioned how the Society of Non-Theists would be holding a Send an Atheist to Church event. Yesterday was our first day, and we exceeded expectations! We raised about 140 dollars, and the Exponent (local student newspaper) wrote up a nice article about us:

Non-Theists attend religious services to benefit food bank

By Katy Adams, Staff Reporter

Publication Date: 02/19/2010

“Save a soul, put food in a bowl” and “Donate to charity and spare our souls” are two slogans that the Purdue Society of Non-Theists is using to raise money for charity.

From 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. today, the Society of Non-Theists will raise money for Food Finders Food Bank of Tippecanoe County, which they hope will help to raise awareness of the club.

The idea for the fundraiser, called “Send an Atheist to Church,” was based off Hemant Mehta, an atheist who sold himself on eBay to attend any church service at $10 an hour. The winning bid, $504, went to a non-profit charity, and Mehta wrote a book on the experience titled, “I Sold My Soul on eBay.”

The fundraiser has set out paper cups to collect donations. The cups are labeled with different religions or denominations, including cups for Buddhists, Methodists, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and a cup for general donations. A donor can donate to a specific religion, hoping that religion get closer to “winning.” All profits go to the charity and each domination will have society members attending their services.

As of Thursday, the Methodist church had the most donations.

Monya Anderson, a senior in the College of Liberal Arts and treasurer for the organization said that the club raised $135.31 for the Food Finders Food Bank on Thursday, and that the fundraiser has given them a chance to learn about other denominations and religions.

“It brings a lot of discussion (when people visit the table) ... (we) met a lot of people, (had) varied reactions,” she said.

Kimberly Tricoche, a senior in the College of Liberal Arts, visited the table because of the signs. She said that the organization’s efforts are creative and are helping a good cause.

“They are saying they are open to going to other churches. It’s a creative idea to send themselves to church (for charity),” she said.

Elizabeth Almada, a junior in the College of Education, disagreed, saying that the list is discriminatory to others faiths, as the only non-Christian religions named on the cups are Judaism and Buddhism. She said that as a campus event, it should be campus-wide, with one for each denomination.

“I’m all for donation, but it seems like a battle of the churches, kind of shows who cares and who doesn’t,” she said. “‘Come to my church. We raise the most money.’”

Anderson said the organization e-mailed different people, but some didn’t respond or weren’t interested. She said that the organization will continue to do the fundraiser in the future, either every semester or every year, to continue to raise money.

(I'm pretty sure the Baptists and Mormons are winning, maybe they weren't when she interviewed everyone)

I'm always happy when our events get covered by the news, but it's even more awesome in this situation. Hopefully even more people will stop by our table today and we can raise even more money. I wasn't even sure if we'd make 100 dollars, so I'm already elated.I was stuck on an airplane for most of yesterdays event, but the members who were at the table tried to fill me in on how it went. They said the most common remark was "Where are the Catholics?!" We tried so hard to get the Catholic church on campus to agree, but they kept being noncommittal and referring us to other people - thankfully most people understood that situation. Maybe now that they see how successful our event was, they'll join us for next year.

We also had questions like the young lady in the article, about why there were so many Christian groups. Short answer: Purdue has a lot more Christians. We asked the Islamic Center and they declined (though they were very polite and nice). Someone from the Muslim student association came by later in the day and told us to sign them up, so at least we have them now! The Hindu student association never replied. Other than those groups, there aren't really that many clubs or places of worship for non-Christian faiths. Someone asked about Taoism and Deism - show us where we can actually physically go, and we'll go there!

And one of the funnier responses through the day was actually from random atheists who walked by, not theists. We got a couple of glares from (presumably) theists, but atheists would stop and be offended. They thought we were a religious group trying to force atheists to go to church, not an atheist group being a little silly! Once we explained the situation, they would laugh about it. I think that illustrates the religious environment at Purdue - it is totally normal, common really, for religious people to go around trying to save us heathens in public.

I'll let you know how today goes!


  1. Cool. If the religionists were really on the ball, they'd come up with a corresponding event of their own. Donate to sponsor a church member to read the first X number of pages of The God Delusion or something like that. Unless they're afraid it would be too convincing.....

  2. Nah, they'd cheat. Sit there with the book open, praying over it in tongues under their breaths.

    "They thought we were a religious group trying to force atheists to go to church, not an atheist group being a little silly!"
    -- I can see how that mistake could be made, actually; took me a while from the first posting to work it out.

  3. Just stopped by and donated to the LDS cup. Glad to hear the event is going well.

  4. Love this. There is one flaw, however: Buddhists are non-theists too. HH Dalai Lama even stated this at a recent event at Stanford University: "I am an atheist" (verbatim quote). Not understanding Buddhism, has led many to lump it into the religion basket. It's also true that many Westerners behave as though Buddhism is a religion, applying their family Judao-Christian social culture and world view onto it. But I assure you, it is not. It is scientifically based upon both subjective and objective observations. Since subjective realities are only beginning to be assessed and utilized in science, in the West, we are naturally skeptical. Scientific studies are underway to identify whether what Buddhism tells us is true or not. When it determines a Buddhist idea is untrue, HHDL has openly stated that he will adopt the scientific findings. That is not religious. That is fact-based reality.

  5. Anon--I've yet to meet a Bhuddist who wasn't in love with the words of Deepak Chopra. So if there is an error in how many atheists see Bhuddists, this may be part of the problem.

  6. ... As a Buddhist in practice but not in name, I'd have to say that the Dalai Lama and Deepak Chopra can go eat hay.

    Granted, that's Zen Buddhism for you.

  7. I don't know Andre, it might be a bit hard to get down three tons of flax.