Hey everyone. I just wanted to give all of you a heads up that I’m probably not going to have many updates for the next week. School’s starting on the 24th, which means I’ll be a going a bit crazy trying to get stuff done. Have to visit the family, finish up a lot of work, get books and supplies together, see friends I haven’t seen all summer, and organize Society of Non-Theists events. And speaking of non-theist stuff, we already have some drama going on. Instead of explaining, I’ll just show you the email I sent to the appropriate people here at Purdue:
Residential Life Managers,
On Tuesday, August 11 the Residence Hall Association held a religious diversity panel during Resident Assistant training. I am emailing you on behalf of the Society of Non-Theists because I received a complaint from an RA, who for their protection will remain anonymous. They said that while you included an atheist on the panel (which we thank you for), the discussion was upsetting for many reasons:
- Said atheist did not appear to know the basics about non-theism (wasn’t able to define atheism and agnosticism, had a hard time answering other questions)
- Said atheist had never been involved in the very active non-theist community here via either the Society of Non-Theists, the Skeptics Society, of the Lafayette Freethinkers
- Said atheist was a student going up against religious leaders and professors, resulting in an unfair power differential in the discussion
- Said atheist was jibed and teased because of his lack of belief by the other panel participants
Obviously, not being an RA, I was not personally at this event and cannot confirm how accurate these statements are. However, especially since I have previously received complaints about an unfavorable environment towards non-theists in the Resident Halls, they concern me. Non-theists are one of the most disliked and stereotyped groups in the United States, so promoting tolerance and understanding is one of our organization’s biggest goals. To have an unknowledgeable atheist student representing the largest “religious” minority in the US up against highly knowledgeable adults frankly makes us look bad and is detrimental to our progress. It is also incredibly inappropriate for the other panelists to tease each other or debate whose beliefs are more valid in a panel about diversity and acceptance.
We are incredibly happy to finally be included in the discussion about religion diversity, but we want to make sure these events themselves do not discriminate. I do not claim that the atheist was “set up” or that this was some sort of conscious act of discrimination, but that is was rather due to a lack of knowledge about the atheist community at Purdue and at large. For future events, we ask you to please make sure there is no power differential (for example, have everyone be students) and to contact our student organization for a representative who is knowledgeable about non-theism.
Thank you for your time,
President, Society of Non-Theists at Purdue University
Hopefully we get some sort of positive response. I’ll keep you guys updated.