Saturday was the Newtown Festival, a large festival in Sydney that attracts upwards of 80 000 people. There were a bunch of stalls selling clothes, trinkets, food, all the regular market type stuff and also live music. It was a massive day and the crowds were packed in like sardines the weather was terrific, the sun was shining and not a cloud to be seen.
The Sydney Atheists had a stall at the market, where we were handing out pamphlets and invitations to our meetups. We were also signing up members, accepting donations, selling T-shirts and bumper stickers ('Good without god' and 'Test drive your faith, drive with your eyes closed') and generally spreading the concept of positive atheism through discussing our positions on various topics with the crowds, singing various secular themed songs, and handing out lollybags with 'card carrying atheist' cards attached.
We had a really good time and enjoyed an overwhelmingly positive reponse from the crowd, with only a few people getting upset. One of them tried to set their dog on us, as they saw out banner, they said 'sick 'em'! There was also a few people that made faces at us and flipped us off, but that was pretty much the worst of it.
One of the gimmics that we had there was a gong, where passers by could declare their lack of belief in gods by 'giving the atheist gong a big bang'. It was a real hit and was ringing constantly (and as a result I had a splitting headache that saw me well into monday afternoon!). Heaps of children were also ringing the gong, with parents in tow, ringing it after their children did!
We ended up selling a bunch of shirts and tons of bumper stickers and signed up around 80 new members, so the day was a complete success!
Afterwards, we had our 100th meetup, where Ian presented a talk on 'Joke Religions', covering Pastafarianism and a bunch of others. It was a terrific talk and a great end to a terrific day.
To everone who helped out a big thankyou is in order and the event's organiser, John deserves a massive congratulations on a job well done! It wouldn't have come together without your tireless efforts!
It seems that we have caused a bit of a stir, at least as far as the author of the blog 'Sydney Anglican Heritics' is concerned. In the blog post, they talk about turning up to the festival in such an uplifting way:
Upon entry to the site I was overwhelmed by the number of stalls and the multitude of people just browsing around, most of whom I suspect are "dead in their sins".Then goes on to mention a group fairly well known amongst readers of this blog:
So they seem to be a little shaken up by our prescence at the festival, which is pretty good news. It just proves that a candle in the dark really is a force to be reakoned with!
What I did see, however, was group with a stall who were keenly proselytizing the passing crowd. It was a group calling themselves Sydney Atheists. So consider the scene. Here we are on the eve of Connect 09. Within a few hundred metres of the the engine room for mission within the Diocese is a crowd of over 80,000 people just browsing around and who is there to reach them? The Atheists!
My friends, I cannot help but have seen a vision of the effectiveness of Connect 09. In year 2010, when measuring the effectiveness of Connect 09, remember Newtown Festival 2008 ... Atheists 1 vs Moore 'Collage' 0.
Keep up the good work, Sydney Atheists!
For more pics of the Festival, go here
Thanks to William for the video