1. valhar2000 says

    The guy in the hate mail section saying that science requires faith, that he does nto beleive in the god of the bible, but he beleives due to logic, and that Dawkins is a big bad meanie…

  2. hoary puccoon says

    Go Boilermakers!

    Many years ago I started college at Purdue and conscientiously joined the Christian Association for my denomination. The youth minister was such a sanctimonious jerk that he guilt-tripped one of the kids for knowing what an ashtray was– not for smoking, mind you. Just for recognizing an ashtray when he saw it. The kid quit going to church. Shortly after that, the minister also quit– when the oversight committee discovered he’d been embezzling from the church coffers! Ah, those happy college memories!

    So, Non-Theists, welcome and more power to you. If you can turn just half as many students away from religion as that minister did, you’ll be doing great.

    (Do they still cheer,
    “Cosine secant tangent sine/
    three point one four one five nine…”?)

  3. says

    Everywhere indeed, even outside the United States. A new atheist society (the Atheist and Agnostic Society) recently got off the ground at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. The society has a webpage at

  4. says

    Is there a reason they chose the moderately awkward qualifier of “non-theists” as opposed to the technically equivalent “atheists”? What was the reasoning there?

  5. Doddy says

    I think some people take atheist to mean being ‘against’ religion, rather than just lacking it. Just has that stronger connotation that some may feel uncomfortable with.

  6. says

    Thanks for the plug, PZ!

    This is the President of the Society, by the way. As for the reason we chose Non-Theist, we wanted to include a larger set of people than just atheists. We thought that labeling ourselves as Atheists would scare away the agnostics, skeptics, humanists, or anyone who is non-religious but doesn’t want to label themselves. We thought an umbrella term was more apt.

  7. says

    Heeeey, no fair! Where were these guys when I was there… getting on (yikes!) twenty years ago?

    Still, it’s good to see the alma mater – a fairly conservative campus in most respects – getting on with some representation for the non-believer-types. Good on ya, Purdue!

  8. David Marjanović says

    Is there a reason they chose the moderately awkward qualifier of “non-theists” as opposed to the technically equivalent “atheists”? What was the reasoning there?

    Technically, there are also deists, pantheists, and who knows what else…

    Belief in the Force counts as pantheism, right?

  9. David Marjanović says

    Is there a reason they chose the moderately awkward qualifier of “non-theists” as opposed to the technically equivalent “atheists”? What was the reasoning there?

    Technically, there are also deists, pantheists, and who knows what else…

    Belief in the Force counts as pantheism, right?

  10. caynazzo says

    I agree with #8: I felt like the only atheist on campus as an undergrad 5 years ago. While Purdue is/was largely conservative and god-fearing, I credit the philosopher William Rowe (an atheist) whose class “The Philosophy of Religion” stripped the emperor of his clothes.

  11. says

    CC @5:

    click through on the link! The group are quite explicit about why they call themselves what they do (and they cheerfully concur that “non-theist” is a bit of an unusual term).

    Though they describe themselves as “mostly atheists and agnostics”, their net is cast rather wider than that — by their standards, it seems, I am a non-theist myself. Which is all well and good, and even a bit reassuring, if a little difficult to square with the fact that I am a theist.

  12. says

    I asked about the “atheism” versus “non-theism” distinction since I’ve been a long-time advocate of atheism being exactly equivalent to non-theism.

    To make a long story short:

    Part 1.
    Part 2.

    ‘Nuff said.

  13. Skeptic8 says

    HOW CHEERFUL! Credit Dawkins for the response of explorers on campus. The corporate meme generators have been peddling an exclusive product on campus just to counter The Enlightenment since it happened.
    Now the politicians and pundits will have to take into account an obvious and increasingly organized population that doesn’t buy woo-woo at akk. What will they say if they are invited to a large non-theist conference?

  14. says

    CC @12:

    point taken. And I’ve clicked through on your link; and have to say that I don’t agree with you. That is, I think you’re mostly right, but you don’t cover 100% of the population. You wrote:

    …unless you hold a specific, deliberate, explicit religious belief in some sort of deity, you are an atheist.

    What about somebody who holds a specific, deliberate and explicit but utterly non-religious belief in some sort of deity? (You can see where I’m going with this, I’m sure; the person I’m describing is me.) By your definition, I would be an atheist; yet I make an odd atheist, believing as I do in a God (like you, I’ll use that name to save keystrokes).

    For background: I was raised in the Christian tradition, and until not terribly long ago would have described myself as Christian, albeit not a very orthodox one. These days, though, I do not believe the teachings of any religion, Christian or otherwise; belong to no church or other religious body; assent to no dogmata. I believe in a God, but not one that intervenes in the natural world, and not one that listens to our prayers (or, if listening, at least does not respond). In fact, I don’t think we can sensibly say anything at all about this God, other than that he (she, it) exists. (Some might suggest that I should call myself a deist, but even that conception of God is too anthropomorphic for my taste.) In other words, though I do have a “belief in some sort of deity”, it is not a religious but a purely philosophical belief.

    So, though I don’t feel any real inclination to choose a label, I could readily enough accept somebody calling me a humanist, or a freethinker, or even a non-theist (in the admittedly very broadly-drawn way the Purdue students use this term). But I can’t see myself as an atheist, even if some might say I am only technically a non-atheist.

  15. says

    Yeah, they *are* popping up everywhere. I literally just now saw an announcement for a student secular group here, starting up next week. I’m guessing there will be less than 10 of us godless heathens, but that’s better than the zero I know now.

  16. Skeptic8 says

    Dear Mrs. Tilton (#14),
    How would “Secularist” fit? We are “journeyman” explorers here without “masters” to consult. We may try on some metaphysical worldviews from time-to-time quite without expecting to advance them to “theory” status, barring unexpected consilience of course. At no time would we prescribe such theses be emboldened by law or made obligatory upon anyone. Nor should we assent to the imposition of theses generated by other speculators be required of free citizens. Hence, private speculations are our right and our elected governance, forbade by our Constitution, may not exact conformance to any dogma. Nor may it advance obeisance in it’s name. That is “Secularism”; niether the government nor a collection of citizens may force you into the Dominion of any cult. The administration -or politician- that doesn’t understand this lacks my support.

  17. says

    Skeptic8 @16,

    I agree with everything you say, and am very happy with the label “secularist”. But it doesn’t fully answer. I am a secularist/laïcist/anticlerical absolutist; but then I was all those things when I still had some conventional religious beliefs. (Whatever a lot of participants here might think, there are lots of conventionally religious people who would agree with what you wrote above.)

    For me, though, it’s not just a matter of church/state separation, important as that is. I simply no longer believe the things that the various religions teach. (I mean the things peculiar to a given religion. Many teach, e.g., “do not murder”, and I’m sure we’d all agree there, but that is nothing specifically theological.)

    It’s entirely possible that, in a functional sense, I’m not very far away from the atheist majority who comment here. Nevertheless, I can’t accept the “atheist” label that Canadian Cynic’s reasoning would suggest applies to me, because I am convinced that a sort of deity exists. It’s nothing like the God of popular Abrahamic religion, but it’s a “supreme being” for all that.

  18. says

    Oh boy! We’re on the internet again. BTW, “Philosophy of Religion” is still a really interesting class at Purdue. It was taught by a Christian man when I took it, but it addressed questions that I was raising in my personal life, and presented some clear arguments with good additional reading material. I have to say, I don’t know what theologians think they have to go on, but I don’t think philosophical thought leads in a good direction for any ‘Man Upstairs’ or his supposed existence.

  19. Skeptic8 says

    Dear Mrs. Tilton (#17),
    Here, there is no test for orthodoxy! A non-naturalistic assignment of proximate cause to a metaphysical concept as explanation for an observed phenomenon is likely to get some demurs and risible comments about one’s ancestry.
    Some hard case Atheists are refugees from physical and mental abuse by Dominionist “believers” and generalise their rebellion into just about every proposition. A secularist stance in a civil society just requires that there be NO enquiry into one’s cosmology nor the application of an “official” belief.