"Did you guys do this on purpose?" the student asked me during our quad day tabling event.
"What's that?" I replied.
"Set your table up here in the middle of the Christian groups," he explained.
"No, actually, we were assigned this location. Apparently someone thinks that we're a religious group. Would you like a flyer?" I asked.
"No, I'm not an asshole," he huffed before angrily storming off.
That student's inaccurate self appraisal notwithstanding, I'd like to clarify something. I grant that there are asshole atheists, but I don't think that they've cornered the market by a long shot. In fact, some of us may have even sought out a group like Illini Secular Student Alliance to avoid conflict and preaching.
Certainly there are places where atheists get together to congratulate one another on their cleverness and to poke fun at the beliefs of others. Often these are the most vocal and visible of those who call themselves atheists. They've even got whole sections of certain websites where they can get together and troll one another or instigate and aggravate others.
But just as it's the case that most practicing Christians disagree that "God Hates Fags" and the majority of Islamists agree that flying airplanes into buildings is a particularly evil thing to do, the vast majority of atheists have no desire to goad the devout, to instigate fights or to preach irreligious doctrine.
Some of us just want to be left in peace. I, for one, joined ISSA so that I could meet people that agreed with me about some basic things and were willing to discuss our differences peacefully and logically (at least in theory). I have no more desire to convert anyone to atheism than I have to have someone try to save me for Jesus, Allah or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
|Ladies, I should point out that it is considered bad form to wave your vaginas around in public as well.|
This Rotten eCard may be a bit crass, but it makes a point. I think the point goes both ways. Lack of a religion is like a penis, too. I'll keep mine in my pants if you do.
Some of us are just seeking a safe place to talk about what we believe (or don't) without having anyone tell us that we're going to burn in hell. When I came out as atheist to my father and step mother, I was kicked out into the street. I spent weeks sleeping in parks and wandering the streets before I found a place to live.
Now I just want to avoid the argument most of the time. I've had my great debates-never did change anyone's mind, nor did they change mine. I mean, if someone thinks that dinosaur bones were buried by the devil to shake our faith in our almighty creator, who built the earth 6000 years ago, what am I really going to say to convince them otherwise?
I'm not saying there aren't people in the group who like to debate. There are plenty. I know I'm not the only one who doesn't, though. The look of relief I saw in some of the faces on the quad reminded me of how I felt when I finally found others that share my (lack of ) beliefs. It's part of why I work to help the group reach out to others.
So if you'd like to see what we're all about, sign up for our email list on the right, or even better, come check out our first meeting this Thursday night (9/5) at 7 pm in 1090 Lincoln Hall.