This afternoon the officers of the Secular Student Union at the University of Washington had a beginning of the quarter planning meeting. We discussed the sorts of events we wanted to plan for the fall quarter, but we had one issue.
Seattle is a little different from the rest of the country. It’s pretty godless already. And the atheists out here don’t tend to care about their atheism, because those who aren’t atheists are fairly benign and private about their religion.
Well, except the Mars Hill Church. We all rally together to sneer at them.
In the Midwest, atheists swarm to atheist meetings because it’s the only bit of sanity they get. It’s the only reprieve from the constant barrage of Christianity. It’s possibly the only chance you have to meet another atheist. Issues of separation of church and state are readily apparent when they’re being violated in your home town.
But in Seattle, most people are apathetic about these things. They’re not confronted with them on a daily basis – it’s easy to giggle at the silliness of religion when you think it’s relegated to other parts of the country and the world. So our club has been tiny recently.
The thing is, we disagree on how to get people interested in our club. Some officers think we need to focus on social events and not be aggressive about religion. But while social events are great, I don’t think it works as a draw in apathetic areas. In very religious areas, social events are your only chance of meeting other atheists and feeling comfortable about speaking your mind. But here, there’s no problem in meeting another godless person. Just walk down the street and say hello.
Maybe this is just the firebrand in me speaking, but I think we need to be more controversial. Not necessarily crazy – but we need to get out there and make it clear that religious privilege is an issue people should care about. That abstinence only education is religiously motivated and has been proven not to work. That the Catholic Church’s stance on condom usage in Africa has killed many people. That we have Christian Dominionists who want to be President. That we have the Discovery Institute itself sitting downtown, spewing its creationist garbage. Not everyone on campus is totally apathetic – they’ve just never been exposed to the reasons why many of us believe religion is a problem.
We’ll see how it pans out. School starts this week, and we’re thinking about letting people trade their souls for a cookie during the activities fair. If cookies don’t attract students, I don’t know what will.