Dawkins Inspires Us to Be More Visible in the Community

October 14, 2009

On Monday evening, October 12, I attended a lecture by Richard Dawkins on his new book The Greatest Show on Earth--The Evidence for Evolution which was held on the main campus of Indiana University in Bloomington, IN.   It was a very inspiring experience.   Yes, Dawkins was Dawkins--knowledgeable, articulate, sharp, and to the point.  However, most exciting was the atmosphere in the auditorium with 3200 people--average age leaning toward  the college generation. 

To be among that many people who had come to a serious lecture about an important topic, to hear them clap and laugh at appropriate points with Dawkins, I felt that the scientific viewpoint had arrived, had come out of the shadows.  It reminded me of the feelings I had the first time the Southport High School gymnasium was filled to capacity for a girls basketball tournament.  Yes, Indiana is the land of Hoosiers and it is not uncommon for a fieldhouse to be filled to capacity for a basketball game--a boys' game.  I felt that women had reached a milestone in acceptance and liberation just as I now felt that the acceptance of science had reached a milestone.

Joe Hughto, President of the Secular Alliance of Indiana University , put it this way: 

How about that Richard Dawkins?  Last night we completely filled the IU Auditorium which seats 3,200 people.  We also had to turn away between 500-1,000 more people that were still waiting outside.  To be completely honest, I thought only about 2,000 people would show up so I am overjoyed that we packed that place to capacity.

As expected, Dawkins pulled no punches when he was talking about religion, especially creationism.  Those comments were met with applause and laughter and that made me notice something; a great majority of the people there were supporters of Dawkins and his message.  That means that we locally have thousands of people who have eschewed religion for reasoning and critical thinking.  I'm actually having difficultly finding the words for how this makes me feel.  When I first started becoming aware of my atheism, I felt like I was one of a small minority that finally 'got it.'  Groups like the SAIU and events like these remind me that we are not alone in our love for reason.

This is why I think it is very important for our group to do as much as we can and be visible as much as we can in the community.  I am quite sure that there are people out there who are just like I was; they feel insulated and alone in their reason.  We need to show them that we are here and that we're not just a bunch of lazy, sarcastic elitists who spend all day lambasting the religious.  We need to show them that we have an awesome community full of awesome people (which we do) and that we are actually doing something to improve our position in society.

I hope for a day when a group like this does not need to exist.  I hope for a day when reason is the driving force behind people's reactions and every new piece of information is met with skepticism.  In order to make that happen, we can't just idly sit around and wait.  We need to go out and make these changes.  We need to do things like volunteer, have lectures, and have discussions with other people that may not agree with us.  We also need to start building community.  We need to make that community one that people will see and want to join because it looks like we're having so much damn fun. -Joe

The Indiana Daily Student had this to say  about the event. 

I would like to repeat and emphasize a phrase from Joe's message, " We need to show them that we are here and that we're not just a bunch of lazy, sarcastic elitists who spend all day lambasting the religious.   We need to show them that we have an awesome community full of awesome people (which we do) and that we are actually doing something to improve our position in society."

At Center for Inquiry Indiana we are planning a full day Darwin Day Science Conference in March which will include special Darwin Day activities for children.  The purpose is to educate adults and children about evolution and science in general.  Sunday, October 18 is National Secular Service Day .   The Student Alliance of Indiana University (SAIU) will be doing Pages for Prisoners and CFI Indiana will be collecting items for a care package to send to a friend and his unit in Iraq.