Elderly Members Of Atheist Group Face Jeers, Fears From Peers


CARLSBAD, CA — It’s just before 4 p.m. at La Costa Glen retirement community in Carlsbad, and a group of residents are gathering in one of the meeting rooms. But these seniors aren’t here to play Bingo.

As Brigit Clarke-Smith takes the microphone, it quickly becomes clear that this is not your usual retirement center activity.

“Gay marriage and marijuana have been OK’d in a couple of the states now,” she tells the crowd. “So Leviticus, 20th chapter, 13th verse says when two men lay together, they should be stoned. We’ve just all misinterpreted it before.”

Clarke-Smith, 84, is a La Costa Glen resident who started a group called Atheists Anonymous two years ago. Clarke-Smith was raised as a Christian, but said she quickly decided it wasn’t for her.

“When I was 8 years of age, I used to play the piano for the Sunday school,” she said. “I’d play ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so, little ones to Him belong, he is weak and I am strong.’ And this poet who was the superintendent of the Sunday School would come over and say, that isn’t how you sing it, and then she’d tell me how to sing it. So when I’d get to that part again, I would just go ‘hmmm hmmm hmm’ because I said, ‘I’m not weak, I’m strong. And I don’t even know who He is!’ ”

Clarke-Smith started Atheists Anonymous after a fellow La Costa resident asked if she was a Christian.

“I thought, that’s a strange thing to say, and I said, ‘no,’ just like that,” Clarke-Smith said. “And she said, ‘well, what are you?’ And I said, ‘I’m an atheist!’ And she was angry, and she walked right out.”

A woman overheard Clarke-Smith and shared some advice.



Click on the image below to watch the video.

continue to source article at kpbs.org


  1. “I have been called a Jew lover”

    wow! such a thing is still an acceptable insult?!

  2. I hope that ‘Atheists Anonymous’ will not be interpreted as something you have to be cured of. Like ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’.

  3. “I don’t know who he (Jesus) is anyway”

    I love it…will you be my Gran please?

  4.  “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so”

    Where exactly does it say that, wasn’t the purported Jesus one who touted the whole infinite post-life torture?

  5. I think you have to remember the age group; with many of the residents post 70 years of age, 50 or so years ago this was an acceptable insult, and for those who were twenty at that time, probably still is.

  6. What in the world is an “acceptable insult”?  I’m trying to imagine which insult would be acceptable if it was directed at me or anyone else for that matter.  Would it have to do with the insult in question having been based on some grain of truth?

  7. They certainly need to keep “atheist” in their name. I agree that the anonymous part seems odd. I was first wondering why the camera was showing all these anonymous faces for everyone to see. Maybe the name should be atheists and freethinkers or something along those lines. I found it interesting that there were also several women in the group. Good going Brigit.

  8. My wife’s mother lives there with her husband. We spent a week there a couple years ago. It’s a *very* nice place. Sadly, I did not know about this group or I would have looked them up. Next visit…  ^_^
    EDIT: Also, sadly, I did not see my relatives in any of the groups shown… though I think they might be sympathetic.

  9. Perhaps they should drop the “Anonymous” part in their name. People might get the impression that they have a twelve step program or something to “cure” atheism. They have a lot to be proud of and nothing to be anonymous about.

  10. The issue is we are priding ourselves on being tolerant of other beliefs and religions,
    still we do not tolerate the beliefs of atheism.  For that reason, most of the a.a. members agree they
    should not change the group’s name.

    Yay democracy!

    She does not look like a Gran/ny to me-she may not even be a grandmother.  

    Love your moxy, Ms. Clark-Smith!

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