Hundreds of atheists will gather in Atlanta on Easter weekend for the 2022 American Atheists National Convention.
This will be the first in-person convention since 2019 for the New Jersey-based nonprofit, which will be held April 14 through April 17 at the Renaissance Atlanta Waverly Hotel at the Cobb Galleria Center.
About 500 atheists, who don’t believe in the existence of God or gods, are expected to attend.
Nick Fish, president of American Atheists, hopes the convention will energize and empower atheists to engage in their communities.
“In Georgia and elsewhere, white Christian nationalists are working to restrict voting access, undermine public education, and make abortion illegal,” he said in a statement on the organization’s website. “We cannot allow them to succeed.”
This is also not American Atheists’ first meeting deep into the Bible Belt and it’s had a long-standing tradition of holding them on the long Easter holiday, one of the holiest times for Christians, who observe the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The meeting also falls within this year’s observance of Passover, a time when Jews observe the Jewish exodus from slavery in Egypt, which begins at sunset April 15 and ends the evening of April 23.
In 2017, for instance, the convention was held in August in Charleston, S.C. to coincide with the solar eclipse.
The organization was founded in 1963 by Madalyn Murray O’Hair, the controversial nonbeliever who proudly accepted the moniker as “the most hated woman in America” for her anti-religion activism. O’Hair famously fought for the separation of church and state.
Speakers include Mandisa L. Thomas, founder and president of the Atlanta-based Black Nonbelievers, a nonprofit that promotes itself as being a safe space for Black people who are “living free from faith”; and Dave Warnock, a former evangelical pastor and author.
Thomas will discuss white supremacy within the atheist community, but she also wants to show the diversity of the atheist community.
Founded in 2011, Black Nonbelievers has a community of about 10,000 people nationwide, said Thomas.
She hopes people get a better understanding of who atheist are. “We can be very compassionate and caring people like everyone else,” she said. “We care about economic justice and reproductive justice issues and making sure the laws reflect equal treatment for everyone, including atheists.”
The share of Americans who identify as atheists has risen in the last decade, according to the Pew Research Center.
In the U.S., 4 % of of adults identified themselves as atheists, based on a telephone survey conducted in 2018 and 2019, up from 2 % in 2009. Also, 5 % of Americans called themselves agnostic, having neither faith nor a disbelief in God, up from 3 % a decade earlier.
The event kicks off on Thursday with a Charity Game Night benefitting Access Reproductive Care–Southeast, a nonprofit that offers reproductive care including abortion services.
The organization also plans to do community service while in Atlanta. Members will assemble meals to feed the hungry through local food banks.
The fact that the convention will be held during Easter - is not coincidental.
“It’s the convenience of holding it during that week,” said Debbie Goddard, vice president of programs. “We can get pretty good hotel rates” because of the timing and " to be honest, a lot of our members aren’t busy that weekend.”