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First National Atheist Meeting in Brazil

Recently Brazil has experienced how organization through social networks is resulting in protest and events in the real world. The first big event that comes to mind is the “March for the laic Government” that took place in August 2011. Since then, we have had public events against corruption, for feminism, and the latest - to gather atheists.

The idea of the event, according to Stiphanie Silva, is to meet each other and organize. “We need to get out of the closet, show we are good sons and daughters, parents, that morality is independent of faith” says Silva, who is a member of Sociedade Racionalista, the association responsible for the event organization.

 

On February 12th (Charles Darwin’s birthday) several States held atheist meetings, each one organized by local atheists. The places were usually public parks, and in most of the cases the activities were decided during the meeting. Among them, speeches from participants and debates were the most common.  Atheist meetings have happened before, however, this was the first time coordinated meetings occurred all over the nation on the same date - and it was mentioned in the press.

Brazilian press

The atheist event was mentioned in a few small town newspapers, hundreds of atheist blogs and two well known Brazilian press channels: a newspaper from São Paulo (Estado de São Paulo [1]) and a national magazine (Isto É [2]).  

Unfortunately, Isto É mentioned the idea that simply because atheist are getting together to discuss ideas, share stories and specially make new friends, atheism might become another religion, as indicated by recent news regarding Alain de Botton’s temple for atheism. This article was criticized by many atheist groups, including LiHS (a member of AAI).

Estado de São Paulo had a neutral article, which focused on the people behind the event organization in São Paulo and noted that the point of the meeting was to make atheism, which is not well seen in Brazilian society, as nothing to be ashamed of.


Opinion of atheists

The idea of the meeting raised critics, even among atheists. Some made videos saying that the idea of meeting to celebrate disbelief is foolish, but others were excited about the opportunity to meet some of their virtual friends in real life.

Wagner Caldas, who took part in the event of Espirito Santo, describes the meeting:  “Here in Espirito Santo we already have regular meetings, and the first national atheist meeting was on the same date of the fourth atheist meeting of Espirito Santo. As we organize monthly events, the date chosen for February was exactly Darwin’s birthday and Atheist Pride day.  As at all other meetings, the main topics were meeting people and finding out how they became atheists. The natural idea of self-understanding includes knowing the history of the others. It was a astonishing event that gathered more than 50 atheists. We did not gather to attack anybody’s faith or gods, but just to celebrate our similar thoughts. 

I think it was extremely productive, and we should hold more meetings. Such events should be promoted and encouraged.”

 

The event of São Paulo, which I took part in, was very interesting. An estimated 200 people were present. From the people I spoke to, most of them heard of the event from Facebook, and went simply to meet people with similar thoughts. Due to a last minute notification, microphones and speakers could not be used on the public park where the meeting happened, however the atheist stand-up comedy show proceeded. People from neighbouring cities travelled to São Paulo just to attend the meeting, and everybody was happy to go home with a bigger networking of fellow atheists.

Special thanks to
Wagner Caldas, Alexandre Guimarães for allowing the usage of their photos and interviews.

Notes
[1] Estado de São Paulo - currently the fourth biggest newspaper in Brazil, with around 236,000 copies printed daily (December 2010). (Source: Wikipedia)
[2] Isto É - National magazine with around 360,000 copies per edition. (Source: Wikipedia)