To this day, there is an overwhelmingly negative perception of atheists by the religious, and the public. This notion is propagated by religious believers, and the media. For most of my life, I was unaware of the sinister connotation to the word atheist, held by so many millions of Americans.
Pennsylvania has recently become the 18th state to pass marriage equality. It has been almost exactly ten years since gay marriage has first passed in the state of Massachusetts. Gay marriage in Pennsylvania marks the 14th consecutive victory for gay marriage. Progress started out slowly, where Massachusetts was the only state to pass gay marriage for five years.
Hosting a large, campus-wide event had been on my wish list for some time, especially since that would offer our group, the Secular Alliance at Indiana University, greater visibility than our usual events. The opportunity landed neatly in my lap when a group four people—three faculty and one PhD student—contacted multiple student groups expressing interest in speaking as a panel on the topic of science and god. They were clear that they did not want it to be a debate, but rather a dialogue. I'm on the fence as to the effectiveness or utility of public debates, so I was happy to go along with a panel discussion. I was direct in sharing my interest in coordinating just such an event, and soon took charge. I had spent considerable time in the past trying to put together just such a panel with no success, so it was a nice change that one came to us pre-formed!
It's been a month since SASHAcon and I'm still in awe of this wonderful thing that we somehow managed to pull off. Last summer I wasn't sure our idea would ever come to fruition, and I had absolutely no clue what I was doing.
Maybe it’s just me, but tabling for events in secularism has always been…a little tense. You stand there next to your poster-board, flyers in hand, and a (forced) smile as hordes of passersby try their darndest to avoid making eye contact as they race by. Sometimes I wonder if we ought to replace the usual props with lollipops and teddy-bears (“Despair Bears” have a nice ring to them) to ease the tension. Then I remind myself that promoting skepticism has always been an uneasy task, because skepticism is relentless and scrutinizing by nature. That’s what Darwin Week at UNI is all about. It’s a healthy concoction of science and inquiry with a pinch of discomfort that gives it a kick. In this regard, the 2014 lineup of speakers didn’t disappoint.