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Atheists Read Religious Texts for Charity

Planning time2 to 3 weeks
Group Size4+
Staff #2+
Event DateAnytime

Activity Overview: Headlines containing some variation of the above have been appearing on a few campus and local papers lately, getting out a positive freethought message at no cost to us. Events like these are a great example of student groups promoting themselves to the public without being offensive or abrasive. What's more, they're a great mini-service project, and a fantastic excuse for awareness tabling.

This packet mostly covers things specific to this project; other generally advisable practices are available in the service project packet.

Planning timeframe: This doesn't take too long to set up, but if this will double as a publicity stunt, you'll want to have a media strategy in place about two or three weeks beforehand.

Coordinating: Two or three coordinators are needed to schedule readers, take and forward donations, and work with media. You'll want at minimum two volunteers at the table at any one time, one to read publicly, the other to handle the cashbox.

Material requirements: Have your usual tabling supplies (banner, flyers, literature) on hand. You'll also need a cashbox to handle donations, and possibly a receipt book. The religious texts are central to the event, and should represent a variety of faiths and practices - besides the Bible, Tanakh, and Koran, try to get the Bhagavad Gita, the Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Dianetics, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and others. Think about creating a handout of titles, to include descriptions and suggested passages. Your university library should have copies of everything you need; for those hard-to-find or -carry books, you may be able to find them online, although reading from a laptop doesn't pack the punch of reading from a book.

Suggested Walkthrough

  1. Select a nonreligious charity to make donations to. We recommend the Foundation Beyond Belief and the organizations they support. Figure out how you'll charge for reading; perhaps it will be by the verse, the page, time, or some other criterion.
  2. Solicit volunteers to read, and schedule them. They should be able and willing to speak publicly. Choose trustworthy people to handle the cashbox.
  3. Draft a press release to give to local and campus media. You'll want to give this to them about a week before the event - this will give their reporters a notice to cover it, both before and after the event. The SSA has some resources on media relations.
    If you're going to be handling cash, there are some important things to keep in mind. You'll need a cashbox, which you can borrow from student activities or purchase, as well as someone trustworthy to handle it. Decide beforehand what forms of payment you can take - usually cash, sometimes checks, only rarely credit. Think about using a laptop for people to access PayPal. Customers may ask for a receipt - you can get a receipt book at an office supply store. This can help you inventory so nothing gets lost!
  4. Plan to set up your table in a high-traffic area for a few days - the longer you're there, the more interest will build. 
  5. Read your texts for charity! Generally, people will come up and request a particular text or passage, but other people who don't know what to pick some way of doing so. You may want to skim the passage before reading. Your volunteers may be unwilling to read passages that are intolerant or immoral, or better yet, you may be able to charge extra for those. Whatever your policy, post it beforehand.
  6. After your event, thank your volunteers, coordinators, and donors!
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