Affiliate Group of the Week

Affiliate Group of the Week #19: Drexel Freethought Society

May 9, 2013

Originating from the hometown of CFI’s very own Debbie Goddard, the Drexel Freethought Society has been spreading freethought on the Drexel campus and in the Philidelphia area since 2009. We were able to ask the current president, David McDevitt, a few questions about the group.

First, please introduce yourself. Where you go to school, graduation year, your background. What’s your “atheist/secular conversion story,” if you have one?

Greetings, my name is David McDevitt and I am pleased to be the president of the Drexel Freethought Society. Currently I go to Drexel University, majoring in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in biology. I hope to graduate in the next two years or so.

I’ve been an ardent freethinker all my life and have thrown myself into a variety of different academic organizations. In high school I was on the Robotics Team, captaining it my last year, the National Science Bowl, and Science Olympiad to name a few.

In college I’ve been busying myself in work at the Laboratory for Biological Systems Analysis where I am working as a Paleo-Biomechanics Researcher. Through the connections gained with the Drexel Freethought Society I also enjoy membership in The Ben Franklin Thinking Society and the The Ethical Humanist Society of Philadelphia.

Like many atheists and secularists, there really wasn’t a direct story for when I became an atheist. In my younger years I was always a curious kid. I dabbled with the idea of god, prayed in hard times and the like, but quickly grew out of it. For a while I even made up my own religion just for fun. But soon enough all those ideas fell by the wayside as I became even more skeptical and learned more. 

How did your group get started? What year was it founded? Was there a specific event or incident that motivated you or the founders to create the organization?
Unfortunately I was not around for the original founding but the Drexel Freethought Society was founded in 2009. Then after a summer preparing for the next school year and filling out paperwork the DFS became an officially recognized student organization on October 23, 2009. Then due to complications in the group and lack of interest the club disbanded. 

In late 2011 I learned that the DFS existed from a friend in the secular community and quickly brought it back! The motivation for the reboot was two fold, to give the atheists and freethinkers of Drexel their own community and to give them a voice in a school dominated by religious clubs. And I believe we are achieving those goals now.

What is your group’s name? How did you decide on that name?
The Drexel Freethought Society. Unfortunately, I was not around for the initial naming so our current group inherited the name, but frankly I’m happy with it. Unhindered by religious belief our minds are free to explore everything, and question what we think is true.

How many members does your group have? What kinds of events do you hold?
Well, depends what numbers you use. We have 4-10 regular members plus myself, but our email list has upwards of 30. But our Facebook has 90 or so. We are a small group but we are growing.

We host a weekly call in audio podcast on Spreaker ( This weekly event acts as our normal general body meeting, as well as a way for us to be heard.

We also host several Freethought Movie Nights where we feature some type of movie that we think will stir interesting discussion. Our next one will be Inherit the Wind in the next week or so.

On occasion we also host a speaker to give us and the Drexel community an enriching experience from someone in the secular comunity.

As an example, could you share one thing your group accomplished that you’re most proud of in the past year?
In April last year we quite happily hosted Nate Phelps of the notorious Phelps family of the Westboro Baptist Church with the help of the Freethought Society of Philadelphia. Nate described his upbringing and eventual dissociation with his family. It was a very informative and moving talk. 

Do you have anything else you’d like to add?
We are a new and small group that has been going through several image changes over the years, but we are proud to be secular and we will be heard.

What is your vision for the secular movement?
Personally I hope that all atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers can find their own community and their own voice, especially in places dominated by religion. I hope we can get religious opinion back to the personal idea and out of the public square. I want us all to be treated equally and for us all to live in a world of reason. That is my wish for the secular community.



About the Author: Cody Hashman

Cody Hashman's photo
Cody Hashman is a Campus and Community Organizer at the Center for Inquiry. He graduated from the University of Northern Iowa, with a degree in Psychology, where he was the co-founder and president of the UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers.




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