Not long ago I went to the weekly "Ask an Atheist" event. Basically, a bunch of atheists set up a little stand along the walk in Balboa Park, where the museums are, and some of us are nice enough to donate a nice tent and table with signs and literature. Most of the public reaction seems to be positive. (Haven't been yet? Sign up! It's every Saturday.)
This particular day, while two of us were setting up (SDNA Head Organizer Wally and myself) the park police came along in their go-cart, an older lady and a gentleman. The cart stopped, and the gray-haired male officer addressed us gruffly - "Are you the anti-God people?"
Wally and I looked at each other and Wally said something to the effect that we thought of it more as pro-reason, and the officer waved him silent. "I don't care. I am too. I'm a strong atheist." Here was one encounter that didn't go as we'd expected! He then went on to say he would set up a debate on the walkway in the afternoon between us and the evangelicals who set up in the same area. Based on the smiling eye-rolls and head-shakes from his colleague, this didn't seem like a legitimate offer.
In any event, after talking to us in this jocular manner for a few minutes, his brow furrowed and he said, "Say, you need some kind of permit for this?" "Well, I guess not." "Eh, who cares," he said, and they sped off.
And later the same morning, we helped out an atheist in need, who didn't know about the local community groups, but who was fortuitously in line at the very tasty Cuatro Milpas. These things probably would not have happened this way ten years ago. See? Things are getting better.
A Clockwork Orange
1 hour ago