Upstate Atheists group aims to create ‘charity beyond belief’
Greater Greer News
5:13 PM, Nov 5, 2012
A new Upstate group is trying to give back to the community. Upstate Atheists founded in May 2012 is made up of about 140 members with a goal of creating “charity beyond belief.”
When Taylors resident Tim Swanson wanted to give back to the community, he had a tough time finding a non-religious outlet to do so. “I want to help the community, but all the places to do that are religious places. … There’s no outlet to do that in a secular fashion,” Swanson said.
The group is sponsoring two children for Christmas, said president Eve Brannon, and it has volunteered with other Upstate organizations. Brannon said the group tries to do one project a month.
Upon learning the group is atheist, some organizations don’t want the help. “I’ll call and make sure before I schedule anything that’s it’s not going to be a problem,” she said. “A lot of people can be put off by having us help, which may sound weird, but it’s true.”
The group volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, a Christian nonprofit, Brannon said. “They were very kind and welcoming, letting us come and participate and help out,” she said.
In addition to the volunteerism, the group is a way for like-minded folks to get together. Greer member Phil Walden said he misses the camaraderie of a church. “You isolate yourself when you say you’re an atheist or you don’t believe,” Walden said. “You isolate yourself from the surroundings that you find yourself in. I don’t care if it’s at work, at home, anywhere. Relationships. You can lose a relationship over your belief or non-belief.”
Being atheists in the Bible Belt, members said they have faced shock and sometimes hostility.
Taylors member Matt Bishop said atheists have to defend themselves. “I didn’t come out for a long time, even though I didn’t believe in it just because I knew I’d have to defend myself,” Bishop said. “Sure enough, when I started telling people when they asked, they start naming off all these different reasons I should believe.”
For more, visit meetup.com/Upstate-Atheists.