Just their presence alone has prompted a subsequent counter-gathering by those on the other side of the fence.
But the message behind the Stockton Atheists and Freethinkers Colloquium tonight in McFall Room at the Manteca Public Library might one of the most controversial since the group started meeting there last year.
“Violence, Morality and Sex in the Bible” will be the name of the lecture given by San Francisco author and activist David Fitzgerald, and some of the questions posed in the introduction on the group’s website – Is every sperm sacred? Was Paul gay? Where are MY concubines? – hit at the very heart of Christianity and theology.
The Stockton-based organization, which is a part of a growing collective of non-believers that announced their presence to the world emphatically in 2011 when they took out billboards in Stockton and Lodi, has been using the more centrally-located Manteca building to pool resources with the neighboring Stanislaus Humanists.
And their decision to meet in Manteca wasn’t met with fanfare by members of the Christian community.
Two local churches – Christian Worship Center and The Place of Refuge – held an event of their own in Library Park the first time the group met and tensions became somewhat elevated when a faction of the group wandered around the building to just outside the door to where the group was holding its meeting.
That practice has since been discouraged, but pastors Steve Parea and Mike Dillman have made the night an open call to Christians in Manteca to come show their non-believing brethren that this is in fact a Christian community.
The group does warn that Fitzgerald’s presentation does include strong images and language and may not be suitable for all audiences. The event is free and open to the public and will run from 8 to 9:30 p.m.