Affiliate Group of the Week #1: Windsor/Essex County Atheist Society
November 8, 2012Our campus groups do great things every day of the week, and rarely get the recognition they deserve. That's why we're starting a program to recognize CFI On Campus Affiliate Groups of the Week! It's a way for groups to get their name out there more publicly and share their successes with the world. Each week, we'll pick a group that's doing fantastic work to highlight.
First up this month is the Windsor/Essex County Atheist Society, who recently worked to remove convocation prayers from their graduation ceremony. Shawna Scott, their president, graciously took the time to answer a few of our burning questions.Affiliate groups will be featured every Thursday evening. If you know of a group that you'd like to see featured here, email their info to firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know! We want to hear your great stories. And if your group is not yet affiliated, get on that, would ya?
First, please introduce yourself. Where you go to school, graduation year, your background. What's your "atheist/secular conversion story," if you have one?
I am Shawna Scott, president of the Windsor/Essex County Atheist Society. I am first-year doctoral student at the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada. I grew up as a devout Roman Catholic. After meeting students from other countries, I began to wonder if I would be Roman Catholic had I been born in other parts of the world. I realized that birthplace is a huge predictor of religious denomination. While in high school, I met a Muslim student who who born in Iran (a country that is over 99% Muslim). If, for example, Jesus is the true God, would it be fair that the Muslim student would go to hell just because of her birthplace? Questions like that began to fill my mind, and I began to take a more skeptical approach to "evidence" for God. I then realized that I lacked a belief in God and accepted that I am an atheist.
How did your group get started? What year was it founded? Was there a specific event or incident that motivated you to create the organization?
I founded the club in March 2010 in order to build a community for nonbelievers. It started off as a Facebook group that provided a platform for members to share information, resources, and experiences with one another. Within a year, we became a ratified student club. With the assistance of the Secular Student Alliance, we became a fully-active group.
What is your group's name? How did you decide on that name?
Our club's name is the Windsor/Essex County Atheist Society. At the time the club was formed, no local atheist group existed. It is useful to have a local group in order to discuss issues relevant to the region. For example, many members in the community were interested in discussing the case of the "smiling, weeping Virgin Mary statue" that made big news back in our club's early formation.
How many members does your group have? What kinds of events do you hold?
Our club has 210 members. We hold monthly meetings and have topic-based discussions (e.g., last month, we discussed research on the mental health of nonbelievers). We have gone to Skepticon III, Skepticon IV, Secular Student Alliance Conference, and the Reason Rally. We held two movie night events and did fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada (our club donated $630 and attended the walk in London, Ontario). We have had members contribute to blood drives. Each semester, we hold an Ask an Atheist booth and tabling events. We held a protest in response to the City of Windsor's raising of a Christian flag at City Hall.
As an example, could you share one thing your group accomplished that you're most proud of in the past year?
We asked the University of Windsor, which is a public university, to replace the convocation (graduation) prayer with a moment of reflection. Within one month, the University of Windsor announced that this change was permanently made. For more information, please click here.
How did you hear about CFI On Campus? How have you worked with CFI On Campus in the past, and how do you hope to work with us in the future?
We heard about CFI On Campus at the Secular Student Alliance 2012 Conference. It was great to meet the CFI representatives. CFI has been very supportive of our initiatives and has provided us with some amazing resources and merchandise. We are hosting a debate in the spring of 2013 with Dan Barker as a guest speaker. We hope that CFI can assist us as we coordinate this big event. We look forward to being affiliated with the CFI for many years to come!
About the Author: Sarah Kaiser
Sarah Kaiser is a field organizer for CFI On Campus. Prior to her work at CFI, she got her start in the freethought movement as the co-founder and president of the Secular Alliance at Indiana University, where she helped organize a nationally recognized atheist bus ad campaign and large campus speaking events. As an atheist, a feminist, and a small part of the universe's way of understanding itself, she is thrilled at the chance to help advance CFI's mission. On Twitter: @sarahebkaiser.
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