Something really strange happened in southwest Virginia last week.
A student group called Freethinkers at Virginia Tech was chatting with folks at a table on the Virginia Tech drillfield to promote "Ask an Atheist Day," which I'd never heard of before reading about this. I'm telling you, we're a pretty decentralized bunch.
Anyway, a kid stood near the table for about an hour, then borrowed a pen from the Freethinkers, drew a cross inside a circle on the back of his own hand, and according to this account, "asked students at the table to stab him in the cross with the pen to 'prove to us God existed.' The students declined." Undaunted, the guy stabbed his own hand with another pen, then assaulted a police officer who responded to the scene and, later, two other officers, as well as breaking out a police car window.
I'm pleased this kid will be getting some needed mental health treatment and that no one was seriously injured. What I really like most, personally, is the reaction of one of the Freethinkers when the kid initially asked her to give him the stigmata. The article provides this account: "'We don’t believe in assaulting people,' [she] said. 'We’re very against assaulting people.'” I agree with that position statement 100%.
The article linked above is from CollegiateTimes.com, which is run by students. Notably, none of the other local media outlets covering the story mentioned the religious angle to it. That's probably a good thing, because in addition to being decentralized and against assaulting people, I think atheists would prefer fewer stories about religion-based divisiveness.
However, I wonder if the story were a little different--say, it was a religious group behind the table and someone wishing to prove that god does NOT exist by stabbing his own hand--whether the media would have shown the same restraint.