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

(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.

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.
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)
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