Atheists in San Diego, Calif. are trying a new approach to recruiting non-believers by offering food, such as pretzels and cheezits, and putting up large banners that read "Relax: hell does not exist, or heaven either, enjoy your life."
The atheists are members of the San Diego-based group the San Diego Coalition of Reason, and every Saturday they set up a booth in the city's Balboa Park alongside other religious groups, such as Hare Krishnas and evangelical Christians, to educate passerby on their lack of beliefs. Along with the quirky banner that hangs over their booth, members of the group also lure people into a conversation using pretzels and Cheezits; the pretzels are used to symbolized the "twisted logic" of theism, while the cheezits represent the "power" of non-belief.
"We like to have a gathering place for our members, people that want to chat, get to know each other, they can come do that on any Saturday," Debbie Allen, one of the organizers for the atheist group, told local KPBS-TV. "But also we like to let the community know that there are groups that they may want to participate in."
Additionally, Jim Eliason, another organizer for the group, told the local media outlet that their group is not afraid of being aggressive in their beliefs.
"We're constantly fighting to get religion out of our schools, constantly fighting to get the teaching of creationism out of our schools," he said. "So if we can de-convert people away from these religious ideas that keep them stuck in this dogma that forces them to believe these things, that's a moment of pure joy for us."
Small atheist groups have also been popping up around the country in the form of atheist churches, or Sunday Assemblies where atheists gather to discuss all things non-religious. One such gathering recently arrived in San Diego, and it has been dubbed by some as an "atheist megachurch" because the services include singing, reflection, and fellowship for non-believers.
Allen, who is also an organizer for the atheistic Sunday Assembly, told 10News that the purpose of the Sunday Assemblies is for atheists to form a local community together. "My hope is nonbelievers and non-theists no longer have to hide in the shadows."
Eliason added to 10News that the purpose of the gathering is "to provide some of the same universal needs provided by a house of worship […] Some people are yearning for that connection and we provide a godless connection to do that."