An atheist organization in India is promoting Friday as "Hug an Atheist Day," and hundreds have already agreed to participate.
The "Hug an Atheist Day" event page on Facebook, which was created by Indian Atheists, showed over 650 people planned to participate in the event as of Thursday afternoon. The organization is encouraging those who want to hug or be hugged across the nation to set up local meetings where they can gather together to observe the event.
The purpose of the celebration, according to the event page, is "to have a national event, get noticed, spread the word that we exist and we are humans like everyone else, also to create a progressive society where hugs need not necessarily be creepy and act of hugging doesn't have to be taboo for rationalists, as if emotions are poison for rationality (not)."
Heretic Wear, an India-based apparel company that sells t-shirts with anti-religious designs on them, has created a shirt for the event, which has on it the words "Hug an Atheist" as well as the image of a yellow figure who's smiling with open arms.
"If you are not an atheist, but have/know someone who is, feel free to join in the event, you don't need to be an atheist to hug one," the event page states. "Atheists are people, who, same as you, like cats, ice cream, football, and card games. For far too long, they've either been forced to stay closeted about their identity or been treated like snobs when they aren't. Time to break those barriers, that falsely tell us we're too different. Time to hug it out."
A poll conducted in 2012 by WIN-Gallup International found that three percent of Indians say they are "convinced" atheists, as compared to five percent of Americans who say the same. According to the most recent census data on India's religious makeup from 2001, 80.5 percent of the nation's population is Hindu, 13.4 percent is Muslim and 2.3 percent is Christian.
This is the first year "Hug an Atheist Day" has been observed in India, DNAIndia.com reports, though it has occurred on the first Friday in June for the last four years in the U.S.
Atheists aren't the only ones who have a day for giving and receiving hugs, however. Kevin Zaborney, a pastor, created National Hugging Day in 1986 "for family and friends to hug often and hug freely with one another," the event's website states. Almost three decades later, National Hugging Day has grown to be an international celebration.
"It is one day to encourage families and friends to be grateful for the gift of one another and of life through hugging one another," Zaborney told CP in a 2011 interview. National Hugging Day is observed each year on Jan. 21.