Atheism And Charity - An Experiment


As some of you may know, I have been trying to figure out a way in which I could become active in my community as an atheist and help promote a more positive image of atheists (if not atheism). I was originally going to try to get a group of atheists together to participate in the Memory Walk - a very worthy fundraiser whose focus is on support for Alzheimer research and support.

I began looking around at different local atheist groups to see if anyone had something similar going on and found out that Tacoma Atheists were planning on participating in the Pierce County AIDS Walk which was happening on the same day as the Memory Walk. Through a few unfortunate turn of events - friends who would have participated with me in the Memory Walk but are out of town on business that day, etc. - I decided to join up with Tacoma Atheists and become a part of their walking team.

My goal was to raise 150.00 for the team and so far I am at 115.00 with a few more people to ask. If you want to sponsor me, that would be awesome! Here's the link you'll need to sponsor - Beth's AIDS walk page.

I am surrounded by people who like me and accept me for who I am, but I was worried that my personal affiliation with atheists might drive people away from sponsoring me. I didn't know if I shouldn't mention atheism at all and hope that my more religious friends wouldn't notice the group I was walking with and sponsor me, not knowing I was walking with an atheist group.

Ultimately I decided against this. I sought out this group as an atheist trying to do something to give back to my community. It seemed dishonest for me to try to hide or ignore this detail when it was such a prominent point of inspiration for my getting involved in the first place.

My personal message on the site reads as follows:
Thank you so much for visiting my page and making the choice to donate a sum of your hard earned income to support an important and noble cause. I have chosen to participate in this particular AIDS walk for two reasons, the most important being this:

1,741 people with HIV/AIDS have come to the Pierce County AIDS Foundation for services, and 638 persons are known to have died from complications related to AIDS as of July 31, 2007. Pierce County has the second highest incidence of AIDS in the State, with 9% of the total number of cases in Washington.

This kind of help is important and it's important that people support these kinds of institutions which are committed to facing and treating a disease which is too often distanced and ignored in our communities because of unfair stigmas which are wrongfully still attached to it.

Additionally, I am proud to join a team of fellow atheists who are intent on proving by example that atheists are just as involved and interested in the community as any other group.

I appreciate your support more than I can express and thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I have yet to receive any negative feedback from friends or family regarding this endeavor and I'm thankful for that. This is the first time I've appealed to people I know as an atheist and I feel like the reaction could have been far more incendiary than what I've experienced. While there are plenty of people who have not sponsored me, I have yet to receive any emails or had any conversation with people where I'm being told they won't sponsor me because I'm an atheist. While I know a few people who probably have made the decision not to contribute because I'm walking with an atheist group, the fact that no one has felt resolute enough in their position to be vocal about it seems like a good sign - maybe people realize that while it's ok to support or not support as you see fit, it's not ok to take these differences and use them as justification to be purposefully confrontational.