For the second year in a row, there is a atheist-themed booth at the Kentucky State Fair. Last year, there was a billboard sponsored by the Coalition of Reason posted right outside the fairgrounds though the entire month of August that declared “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone.” The billboard is what prompted the idea for us to have a matching state fair booth at the fair, along with a banner to match the billboard (now being displayed in our current booth at the front of the display table.
Last year we got some media attention, mainly around the billboard but also with the fair booth as a followup story. But don’t think we are saddened by the lack of media attention this year–when people are no longer shocked at the “atheist booth” and get used to the fact that we are here, that is a sign of progress.
My first shift at the booth was on Friday evening, from 6-10. The way the shifts are scheduled, there are 2-3 people there for each shift. Just as last year, we have had no trouble at all finding members who are willing to step up and volunteer, and the shift schedule was filled out just about a week in advance of the fair’s opening date. Having multiple volunteers there makes it a lot more fun than if there were only one person, and it is invaluable for moral support and input in case any debates arise, and they always do. There is one main purpose to the booth, to reach out to our fellow secular citizens and let them know we are here. However we also make the most of the discussions with those who disagree with us. With Kentucky being a majority Christian state, we always have people coming by our booth who are not so pleased at our message. The responses have ranged from a puckered facial expression after they read our banner to declarations that “one day every knee will bow!” And of course, we do get asked from time to time if we are worried about hell, to which I would say “there is no hell.” We also have had long and frank and civil discussions about everything from where morals and values come from to the reliability (or lack thereof) of the Bible to whether or not America is a Christian nation. And the way I see it, regardless of the outcomes of these discussions it is a very positive thing for the religious to be in discussions with atheists in person, rather than only hearing what the preachers and the media have to say about us. We are putting a live, breathing, speaking human face on atheism in Kentucky.
And the discussions are great, but the best reward that we see daily are the surprised “thumbs-ups” and the grateful expressions of someone coming by and saying “I thought I was the only atheist in Kentucky.” This is the prize that makes all of the effort and debating worth it.