I started investigating atheist campus groups for the first time in college, in an attempt to find people who were like minded to myself. While I have been aware of the fact that I’m an atheist since childhood, it was not until I started attending university and being swarmed by campus ministries that I ever really felt a need to talk or even think about atheism. For most of my life, my lack of belief in God was something I was quiet about unless asked. The atheist campus group I encountered was called the American University Rationalists and Atheists (AURA), and we engaged in weekly discussion on religious and secular topics.
Hi, I’m Aaron Friel, a student at the University of Northern Iowa and president of the UNI Freethinkers & Inquirers. We organized an event last weekend called Progressive Picnic; here was our elevator pitch:
It's hard to believe, but the fall semester is just around the corner! Start the year off right by hanging out at the Progressive Picnic on Sunday, August 24th from 5-8 at Lawther Field at UNI. At the picnic, you'll have a chance to hang out with leaders from all the great student orgs and members of the Progressive Coalition! Live music will be provided by local bands Peas and Carrot and Commons Collective, and we’ll have games like bags and MEGA JENGA. And all with refreshing sno-cones to keep you cool during move-in weekend. Everything is free!
I asked three leaders of CFI On Campus affiliate groups--Max Nielson of the Secular Student Alliance at the College of Charleston, Aaron Friel of University of Northern Iowa Freethinkers and Inquirers, and Max McKittrick of the Illini Secular Student Alliance--to tell me what their organizations had planned for the start of the semester. Read what they had to say, and think about what your student group is doing to kick off the year. (Oh, and utilize their ideas all you want--the best events have usually been inspired by something another group did first!)
Nine months ago, my friend and roommate Austin Edwards approached me with a proposal: Create a club for atheists and nonbelievers at our university. I was apprehensive at first, but after a short while, I agreed that it was a good plan, and we went about organizing a pilot for a discussion group-style club.
The pilot went well, and we decided to start regular weekly meetings. We teamed up with another friend – Jason Chapman – to form the executive board, and started going through the process of obtaining student government approval. Our meetings were… interesting, I’d say. Somewhat sparsely attended and not particularly well planned, we still had a good time, and had a few meaningful discussions, but honestly, we lacked a direction and purpose for our club.Bear with me, this is actually going somewhere.
Philosophers struggle to make sense out of the apparent impossibility to accurately describe sensations – like perceiving the color blue – to people who’ve never experienced such a sensation before. They call it the ‘explanatory gap’. In reflecting on the Center for Inquiry’s Leadership Conference, I’m unsure how best to bridge that gap. The gist is…it was a really good conference. For the longer and hopefully more helpful insight into the conference, I’ll share a few points I took away, and we’ll see how they tie together.