Manitoba's atheists are spreading the word at this year's Morden Corn and Apple Festival -- non-believers venturing into the heart of believer territory.
The Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics of Manitoba (HAAM) will be setting up a booth at the festival for the second year to talk about their viewpoints and beliefs -- or lack thereof -- with festival attendees.
The booth will mark the beginning of HAAM's You are Not Alone campaign.
HAAM outreach co-ordinator Patrick Morrow said it's an effort to reach out to "closeted" atheists in Manitoba's Bible Belt.
'For some people, it's very difficult to come out as an atheist. We want to let them know that we're here and that we would welcome them to come out and join us'
"It's all about reaching out to other atheists, humanists or agnostics and letting them know we're out there. Often in our community, a person who labels themselves as a humanist or atheist, there's a sense of isolation," Morrow said.
The other part of the campaign is to dispel some of the misinformation Morrow said more fundamentalist religious groups spread about HAAM.
"We're not influenced by the devil, and believe it or not, some people believe that. I've been told I'm going to hell in a veiled sort of way many times. It's a little offensive, but nobody has the right not to be offended," he said.
HAAM president Donna Harris said the group is also hoping some people decide to join, especially those who might be on the fence about atheism.
"For some people, it's very difficult to come out as an atheist. We want to let them know that we're here and that we would welcome them to come out and join us," she said.
This doesn't mean the group is looking to convert anybody, though, Morrow said.
"It's not something you can convert to. I think it's just coming to the realization of what is true," he said.
Festival chairman Chris MacPherson said more than 100 vendors set up at the festival, including several "information-only" groups, which include HAAM, but also the Young Earth Creationists.
Last year, Harris said, the group of non-believers got a mix of reactions from attendees ranging from thankful to angry.
"We had every reaction. We had people who were obviously offended that we would even be there. We had a couple of people just look at us again, then yell at us and walk away. We had a lot of people come out and start debating and talking. We also had some people who were really glad to see us," she said.
They expect the reactions to be the same this year, though Morrow thinks the signs the group made for the campaign, which read: "Don't believe in God? You are not alone," will get more reaction than last year.
"I think the religious might be a little more willing to approach us," he said.
Morden will be the only Bible Belt stop for the group.
The campaign will continue afterwards with advertisements on Winnipeg Transit and another display at the Winnipeg street festival Manyfest, Sept. 6 to 8.
The Morden Corn and Apple Festival runs from today through Sunday.
Morrow said no matter what attention they get at the festival, it will be good.
"We're quite secure in our argument. The purpose there is to get to talk to people, and we'll get to do that," he said.