There are different types of hugs – warm hugs, bear hugs, the sideways awkward hug, the backslapping jock hug. And everyone likes hugs, no matter what size, shape or form they are in. Everyone, including atheists. This Friday, if you ever feel like giving out free hugs, you can hug the atheist closest to you because the first Friday of every June is celebrated as ‘Hug an Atheist Day’.
If you can’t find an atheist close enough to hug, you can always take a trip down to the Marina Beach tomorrow evening and give out a hug to the members to the Chennai Freethinkers Club (CFC), the organisers of the event. “The whole idea behind this day is to show people that atheists are just like everybody else – people, who, same as you, like cats, ice cream, football, and card games,” says Geetha TG, co-ordinator of CFC.
The CFC is a regional arm of Nirmukta, an organisation dedicated to promoting Science, freethought and secular thinking all over India. The CFC is largely an online group, who have regularly scheduled meetings to discuss a range of issues from superstition to deeper issues of casteism, oppression and domestic violence. And the Hug an Atheist event, like the meetings, is a part of the CFC’s agenda to make themselves more visible in the mainstream and meet like minded people.
“This is a meeting for the atheists, not by them,” says Ganesh Veluswami, a doctor and a member of the CFC. “We want to spread the word that we exist and we are humans like everyone else, also to create a progressive society, where hugs need not necessarily be creepy and the act of hugging doesn’t have to be taboo for rationalists,” he adds. The event will see the members of CFC interacting with beach-goers about their beliefs and, of course, taking hugs if one is in a mind to give them.
And how would one recognise atheists to give them the hugs? “We’ll be wearing T shirts that say ‘Hug an Atheist’,” exclaims Geetha. “But jokes apart, we will be going around talking to people about atheism and about atheists, so we shouldn’t be too difficult to find,” she says with a smile.