Atheists Converge on Mormon Country
Columnist finds that the two groups have a lot in common
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 18, 2014 3:32 PM CDT
A group of Utah atheists and former Mormons march around the Salt Lake Temple Square on April 6. A national group is holding its annual conference there this week.   (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

(Newser) – Leaders of a national atheist group say the best spot to find a nonbeliever is in a place of faith. To that end, the American Atheists, in an effort to raise awareness and attract new members, are holding their annual conference over Easter weekend in Salt Lake City, the home of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They say the church's large influence in Utah has made atheists in the state reluctant to speak about religious doubts for fear of being shunned. Atheist group leaders also criticize the LDS influence as having overstepped its boundaries in areas of public policy.

Mormons and atheists may seem like polar opposites, but they're actually "unlikely cousins," writes Michael Schulson at the Daily Beast. The convention "will bring together in Salt Lake City two distinctly American movements, with remarkably similar demographics, that are in the process of emerging into a public sphere that has long considered them suspicious outsiders." (Click for his full column.) Atheist organizers expect hundreds of participants to arrive between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

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Apr 21, 2014 6:44 AM CDT
I love the sign in the accompanying photo that states "Equal rights for ALL", evidently that excludes anyone that wants to believe in religion.
Apr 19, 2014 1:43 PM CDT
The symphony of creation (I forget writer's name) Some say that life came to be by accident – the right chemicals in the right place at the right time. They believe that all the interdependent processes that transform matter into a thinking rational being occurred randomly, and that by chance they happened in the right sequence and timing required to create life, that the next life flowed spontaneously from the first and so on ever since. The creation of life is the result of a symphony of innumerous coordinated intricate processes. It's difficult to imagine that such a complex task was not orchestrated. Consider the following: Imagine a beautiful, fully furnished modern home. Now imagine if that home were totally disassembled and sent to you with instructions on how to reassemble it. There would be floorboards, roof shingles, bathroom tiles, plaster, windows, carpet, faucets and light fixtures – all of the things you would expect to find in a home, except they would be in a kit accompanied by a huge instruction manual that detailed how to construct the house. Now imagine if instead of the kit containing a disassembled house, it contained the disassembled parts from a disassembled house. That is, imagine if instead of a refrigerator the kit had all of the tubes and wires needed to build a refrigerator, and instead of a couch you were given fabric, cushions and springs, and instead of being given bricks you were given clay, etc. Now imagine if instead of being supplied with the pieces that make up the parts that make up a home, you were supplied with the raw materials that make up those pieces. Imagine if you were supplied with elements like iron, hydrogen, copper, carbon, oxygen, and so on and were told how to combine those elements to make cloth, stainless steel, glass, wood and so forth. Also imagine that you have never seen a house before, so you don't even know what you're supposed to wind up with. And once you start you must continue or it will be ruined. But this is child's play compared to what happens in our world every day. When a baby begins to form in the womb, thousands of processes are set in motion, each doing its part and then ceasing, each knowing when its turn is up, each taking the building blocks of life and assembling them into flesh and bone. Blood vessels, blood cells, hair, retina, ears, kidneys, taste buds, nerves, tendons, and on and on are all assembled in the correct sequence in the correct place at the correct time. There is the equivalent of a construction manager overseeing the construction and placement of every single cell. Building a skyscraper requires an incredible amount of construction management, but that is nothing compared to creating life. If you could zoom in (down to the cellular level) on a baby in the womb, you would see a scene bustling with activity like an airport on the day before Thanksgiving where passengers, taxis, baggage handlers, mechanics, stewardesses, screeners, janitors and traffic controllers might seem to be randomly moving about to the uniformed observer, but they all woke up that morning and went to the airport to perform a predetermined task; it is orchestrated. In the same way the activity in the womb is marvelous. There would be new cells of all shapes and sizes being created at a break-neck pace. There would be various building blocks, nutrients and chemicals being shuttled from place to place just when they are needed. It would resemble the view of a major city on a weekday morning from a helicopter flying above downtown. Just as there are thousands of cars, trucks, busses, planes and pedestrians moving all about, each with their own task, in the womb there are thousands of seemingly chaotic processes performing the symphony of creation. Imagine how complex the instructions for creating life must be. But some believe that, in essence, this instruction manual occurred naturally – that there is no intelligence in the design. It's like seeing the busy airport from my previous example and saying that it was not planned, but rather millions of people were wandering about resulting in innumerable possibilities of place and time, and that one day they all just happened to be in the right place and doing the right things to form an airport, and from then on it just kept going – and an airport was born. We'll probably never know the truth of how we came to be, but objectivity dictates that intelligent design is as valid a theory as any other.
Apr 19, 2014 1:24 PM CDT
Atheists "proselytizing." How absurd. "Have you heard the story of nothing?" "Have you found bitter cynicism?" Only in America can you not believe in anything so hard that it merits a poster-board on a stick and a news story.