Two years ago, Sarah Hargreaves started an organization to help bring light to the positive side of what being an atheist means, something that gets vastly ignored and forgotten. But Sarah wasn't always an atheist. After teaching Sunday school, vacation bible school and even helping to organize a church summer camp, Sarah moved away from her hometown. The church that had been like a second home was harder to get to and, unable to choose a new one that felt right, she became a "Christian without a church" - right around the same time the "marriage equality" fight was really coming into the spotlight.
So after searching around, testing out several other organizations and outreach attempts she started becoming acquainted with other like-minded people. Using connections made at www.Meetup.com and attending conferences like Skepticon and ReasonFest, she finally started to feel like she was a part of something real, that she was "plugged in" to a comfortable community.
There were lots of opportunities for her and other atheists to get together for various "Skeptics in the Pub" type hangouts or educational speakers to listen to but she missed being able to help people, really reach out into the community at large and be able to help people but without the umbrella of a church. So taking what she learned and adding it to what she was missing from her days within the church, the idea for the Kansas City Atheist Coalition was born.
The mission for the KCAC is to "advance atheism through activism, philanthropy, education and the cultivation of a positive secular community." Sarah breaks it down like this; as activists they stand and fight for not just their own rights but the rights of those who could be considered allies. A good example of this is marriage equality, fighting churches and groups that don't just display homophobic behavior but are outright gay-bashing in nature.
She goes on to say "We do one charitable thing a month like we will volunteer with Harvesters Food Network or we'll do a blood drive with the Community Blood Center of Kansas City but the AIDS Walk is a great opportunity because we are out in the community mixed in with a bunch of other groups in Kansas City and we are all working towards the shared purpose to raise money to help fight the disease of AIDS and we get to participate in this march where we can wear our KCAC t-shirt and it's a great opportunity to be this very 'out' atheist doing good for goodness sake. That kind of captures the spirit that we are wanting to get at with the whole part of us doing good works n Kansas City. Letting atheists do good things out of the goodness of their hearts and also showing our community that we are good people."
Lastly, it's education. "It is educating ourselves; we are interested in learning more about science, biology, and cosmology; psychology, sociology, society and people in general, the world around us; understanding our own minds and how they work and how we function as a society; other religions and cultures. A lot of freethinkers find the study of religion totally fascinating; I myself find the study of religions interesting. Of course, educating others. Educating the community at large about what it means to be an atheist."
So far KCAC has been fairly well accepted by the members of the community. People recognize that, even with the title, atheists are generally good people. With the exception of the incident last month with the Kansas City St. Patrick's Day Parade they haven't really had issue with being accepted either. Once in a while they come across a group that isn't thrilled about them being so up front about their lack of belief but outside of a preference that they don't display their shirts or banner they haven't been turned away from helping.
When asked about the ultimate goal for her organization, like most secular activists she hopes to one day be put out of a job. "At the end of the day if people aren't feeling ostracized, made to feel like the "other" or different...then they don't need a support system because their friends, family and neighbors all accept them for who they are then I'll be happy."