An atheist student organization has launched a charitable drive that has its members attending a church service in exchange for donations.
Alabama Atheists and Agnostics of the University of Alabama is holding the "Send An Atheist to Church" fundraiser this week in order to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
According to the rules of the fundraiser, a set of cups, each bearing the name of a denomination, are set out for people to put money in at the donation table. For every five dollars placed in one of the cups, one of the AAA members would attend a service of that denomination.
In an interview with the student newspaper The Crimson White, AAA President Gordon Maples explained that donations to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society were only part of the goal that the group had in mind for the event.
"Aside from the fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the goal of this event is to promote some sense of understanding of the atheist and agnostic positions as well as broaden our own horizons," said Maples.
"I am personally looking forward to getting to know some of the religious communities in the Tuscaloosa area as a result of this project."
On Wednesday from 10:00 AM until noon, the group accepted donations, and on Thursday it is scheduled to fundraise from 10:00 AM until 4:00 PM. On the final day, Friday, AAA will have the table open from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM.
On its Facebook group, which has 197 likes, AAA states that on the first day of the "Send An Atheist to Church" charity drive, it received $159.05. For another day, it raised an additional $105.03.
Rather than dread upholding their end of the charitable agreement, AAA members interviewed by The Crimson White expressed interest in the effort.
"I want to stress that the members of AAA who have volunteered to go to church are not doing it to mock Christians on campus. We want to show that religious and nonreligious people can cooperate for a good cause," said AAA Liaison Officer Isabela Morales.
"I'm really excited because it's been a long time since I have had the chance to sing church hymns."
According to the "Current Organizations" page for the University of Alabama, Alabama Atheists and Agnostics "welcomes students who hold various perspectives on faith and religion, but who have arrived at their beliefs through independent, rational inquiry."
Alabama Atheists and Agnostics did not return a request for comment by press time.