AHA members - traditionally having no other plans on Sunday afternoons - gathered together for the beneficent purpose of beautifying State Street (Madison's main pedestrian thoroughfare). We were for the most part ignored by passersby, but when we did receive comments, they were unequivocally positive. At least a dozen people explicitly thanked us for helping.
For those who couldn't be there to join us, here's a few of the highlights:
Grossest Item: Used band-aids.
Greatest Public Service: Tie: broken glass & yet-to-be-stepped-on gum.
Most Common Item: By an overwhelming margin: cigarette butts.
Best Reaction: "I love you!" - shouted from a passing, dancing skateboarder.
Why???: Trash near trash cans.
|Go Team AHA!|
1) For one, volunteering tends to make one feel all warm and fuzzy inside. As the great agnostic Robert Ingersoll once said, "The way to be happy is to make others so." Thus, even the most self-centered of cynics out there ought to be volunteering in soup kitchens, if only to masturbatorily activate the pleasure centers in their own brain.
2) A deeply ingrained meme in our society is the idea that religion motivates people to do good. To whatever extent that is actually true, hooray! However, we must dispel the misconception that religion has a monopoly on morality. To to this we can point to prison population statistics, or to the 97% of scientists in the National Academy who are atheists, or to the secular Scandinavian countries which outrank the U.S. on nearly every conceivable measure of a fair and decent society- but, as the cliche goes, actions speak louder than words. By openly volunteering as atheists, we provide tangible evidence that people are good without god.
3) Most importantly, we volunteer because its the right thing to do. Atheists are in the unique position of believing that no celestial aid is ever going to come from above to solve our problems. With this realization comes a weighty responsibility. We know that the only way to preserve our planet, to conqueror diseases, to vanquish poverty, to alleviate suffering, to make any moral progress in society ... is to do it ourselves.
If we don't clean up State Street, no one will.