Gord Leslie, Vice-President of the BC Humanist Association, gives the following report on the BCHA at Car Free Day 2015 on Commercial Drive in Vancouver.
I was there before the 9:00 AM road closure, so I had plenty of time to correct any mistakes, and get a good parking space.
While the event did not officially begin until 12:00 PM, people actually started coming by around 11:00. Ullrich, Sue and Kirsten arrived around 12:15 or so. Sue stayed around for a couple of hours (an hour longer than she said she would). Ullrich and Kirsten were there until we did the tear down at 6:30. Thanks very much to the three of them. They were a lot of help and made the day more enjoyable.
I think I engaged with about thirty people that day, and saw many others looking at our tent wondering what we were about.
I had an interesting encounter with a gentleman who identified as a Christian. He started right off by saying he hated what the creationists and the fundies are doing. We had a short discussion on prayer in schools and other ways fundamentalists are harming the school systems both in the States and here. We had a short discussion on the US Constitution and Bill of Rights and gay marriage. It was a rather congenial discussion and I came away from it with a couple of ideas.
As soon as he started talking, I knew I was not going to change his mind, and I believe he had the same idea about me. I decided that it would be better just to have a friendly discussion and see where it went. I think it was an excellent encounter, and I was able to send someone away with, perhaps, a warm feeling about humanists. Here is my point: Especially at events like this where we are putting our best face forward, and trying to encourage people to have a positive image of us, I think we need to forgo arguing and pursue diplomacy.
In the first few sentences of any discussion, I know pretty much know who I am dealing with. If it’s an atheist/humanist I know I am preaching to the converted and would like them to join our movement. If it’s someone I recognize as a believer (in anything) I think I need to go into outreach mode. Find out who they are and what importance they place on their beliefs. Questions that show I am interested in them as people, and that I am not there to have arguments.
You will get more support from honey than vinegar, as the saying goes.
The day was a learning experience for me in another way: In the past I advised against groups like the BCHA doing cultural festivals. Commercial Drive changed my mind. Cultural festivals aren’t visited by the people in that culture only. If the organizers don’t have anything against us being there, I think we should think of attending a few of them as well.
Regardless of that, there are still a number of secular festivals we can attend. There’s a cost to booking a table but I think it’s worth it.