Roger and Pat Cleveland, of Talladega County, aboriginal had the abstraction in the 1980s to actualize an haven breadth atheists in Alabama and the South could gather.
They capital to accept a abode in the affection of the Bible Belt breadth atheists could feel chargeless to besiege with those with agnate behavior and feel safe, Pat Cleveland said.
The Alabama Freethought Association, formed by the Clevelands in 1989, is now the Freedom from Adoration Foundation’s longest-running affiliate in the country and is the alone one that the civic alignment teamed up with to anatomy a affair hall, FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said.
For years, Alabama was one of the organization’s better and best alive capacity with its own retreat on Basin Joan in rural Munford, which they alarm Basin Hypatia.
Membership in the accompaniment alignment has dwindled to about 170 due to the crumbling of amount activists. The civic alignment boasts about 20,000 members. However, the absolute cardinal of atheists both nationally and statewide are abundant larger, as abounding non-religious – abnormally in the South, do not about acknowledge their beliefs.
Atheism is authentic as not accepting a acceptance in gods, according to American Atheists Inc., a civic agnostic organization.
A 2012 Pew Research Center abstraction shows 19 percent of the country – 60 actor bodies — accede themselves non-religious, up 15 percent from 2008. About 2 percent are atheists.
According to advice from American Atheists Inc., there are at atomic a dozen agnostic or doubter groups amid beyond the accompaniment of Alabama. Membership ranges from teenagers to chief citizens. Not all associates of groups are associates of civic organizations.
Alabama atheists are added alive than best in the country due to the affection for adoration and government to mix in the South, Gaylor said.
The Clevelands and added affiliate associates accept been a allotment of several lawsuits, including a acknowledged clothing adjoin the accompaniment of Alabama to aish crosses from accompaniment parks and to accessible up a architecture acclimated as a abbey in Mount Cheaha Accompaniment Park to agnostic groups.
The American Civilian Liberties Union of Alabama on account of the Alabama Freethought Association filed the aboriginal accusation adjoin Roy Moore, who at the time was an Etowah County Ambit Cloister judge, allurement for the abatement of a Ten Commandments applique and abeyance of prayers in his attorneys in the mid-1990s. The ACLU originally won the ambit cloister case, but it was afterwards befuddled out on a technicality.
“We accept been addled by the steadfastness, adventuresomeness and charge of abounding of our Alabama associates and activists, who, far from actuality beat by its asceticism of Alabama, feel all the added charge to allege out,” Gaylor said.
Pat Cleveland said back she and her husband, who died this year, accomplished there were added bodies like them in Alabama, who believed in the break of abbey and state, but couldn’t appear out of the closet, they capital to accommodate a retreat for them.
“People are afraid about their reputation, but they are accepting braver,” Pat said. “They feel it is a safe abode to appear now.”
The Clevelands donated acreage on Basin Joan, in Munford, a baby boondocks in Talladega County, to the Freedom from Adoration Foundation in the aboriginal 1990s. FFRF aloft money to anatomy affair amplitude and an amphitheater on the peaceful basin in rural Alabama.
Freethinkers renamed the anatomy of water, Basin Hypatia, afterwards one of the aboriginal women to abstraction math, astrochemistry and philosophy.
Usually, the alignment attracts about 200 bodies to the beach retreat over the July 4th weekend breadth associates congregate; accept to lectures on civilian rights, science and religion; camp; and angle and bathe in the lake.
Besides its arresting setting, Basin Hypatia is different in that it is the home to the Freedom from Adoration Foundation’s “Atheists in Foxholes” cairn erected in 1999.
The cairn is committed to the abounding associates of the aggressive who were “atheists in foxholes,” as able-bodied as to all freethinkers — atheists, agnostics, and skeptics of any alignment — who serve in the U.S. military.
Freethinkers beyond Alabama
Other doubter associations beyond the accompaniment are added amusing in nature, but some do participate in bounded activism.
Brian Wibecan, of the Montgomery Breadth Freethought Association, said it is “very difficult” to be an agnostic in Alabama because of the “pervasive accent on adoration and boundless misconceptions about agnostic people.”
“Groups like MAFA abide in allotment to accommodate an haven breadth bodies can allocution about action after adoration actuality allotment of the conversation, and breadth bodies can aperture their complaints about the religious pressures about them,” he said.
The Montgomery accumulation has amorphous to accomplish a added accessible presence, speaking out about break of abbey and state, the misconceptions of atheists and agreeable in accommodating works. The groups afresh captivated a acknowledged aliment drive for the Montgomery Breadth Aliment Bank.
Wibecan, a software engineer, said there are added agnostic groups in Alabama than in Massachusetts breadth he ahead lived, because of the “extreme religious access in this area, and the difficulties faced by abounding atheists here.”
Wibecan and Chuck Miller, bounded administrator for American Atheists in Alabama, said agnostic groups are acceptable added acquainted that the amount activists are growing old, and is it alive to accompany added assortment to its programs and conventions.
“You can pay a amusing price,” Miller, of Huntsville, said of actuality agnostic in the state. “You can be denied application alike admitting it is not actionable to accurate your Aboriginal Amendment rights.”
Wibecan said added aerial academy and college-age atheists are aing groups because they are adverse blowing and intimidation.
Delos McKown, a retired aesthetics assistant at Auburn University and ex-clergy, said he no best receives abrogating animadversion about his non-belief because he has been actual articulate about it over the years.
“I am hardly crossed,” he said, because of his religious ability he wins best arguments. “(Christians) accept these belief about what atheists are declared to be like.”
McKown said he is accepted as the apple agnostic in Auburn, and admits he gets into conversations from time-to-time if “attacked.”
Decades ago he batten generally at Basin Hypatia and alike provided affidavit in the case of Ishmael Jaffree, a Mobile advocate and father, who sued the accompaniment of Alabama back his accouchement were actuality affected to appear adoration casework in Mobile accessible schools.
That case went to the U.S. Supreme Cloister breadth the cloister disqualified that the state’s statute that acceptable religious or quasi-religious action in the Alabama accessible schools was meant to beforehand adoration and was in abuse of the Aboriginal Amendment.
Cleveland said she thinks the accumulation she and her bedmate formed 24 years ago, has fabricated a difference.
“It is actual advantageous every time there is a new face (at the affair hall), and accouchement can appear in and allocution about what is activity on in their school,” she said. “They feel safe abundant to allocution about it.”
(Updated at 8:55 a.m. Monday to accommodate a analogue of atheism and the allotment of adults who analyze themselves as atheist. and at 3:33 p.m. on Thursday to analyze aftereffect of clothing adjoin Roy Moore).
This is the aboriginal in a alternation about atheists active and alive in Alabama.
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