"Words without poetry lack passion; words without passion lack persuasion; words without persuasion lack power."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Behind my red reporter glasses: personal thoughts on student atheism

I recently wrote another Student belief story for the newspaper on the topic of atheism. I really, really enjoyed writing the article and I feel honored the individuals were so honest and transparent with me about their beliefs.

Many of us may be familiar with atheism, but I came to learn that the actual definition, as it plays out in people's lives, is open to interpretation. The official definition according to the American Atheist organization is as follows:
Atheism is the lack of belief in a deity, which implies that nothing exists but natural phenomena. There are no forces, phenomena or entities, which exist or transcend outside physical nature, nor can there be.
The most surprising information I found in my research is that atheists are the least accepted social group in the United States, even compared to homosexuals, immigrants, Jews and Muslims.  Many people I shared that data with were not surprised, but I truly was shocked by it. It's intriguing to identify the different levels of what "is acceptable" and the morals of the general public, and then also to find the speculation or claim of the absence of deity to be more severe than the harsh stances many hold to the above mentioned social groups. One student I interviewed said “some people basically equate us to Satanists."
Perhaps this needs to be re-evaluated, withheld and or redistributed. I am in no way validating any belief or stance, but instead hoping to provoke thought. Atheists are people with souls just like anyone else. On the same token, may each one of us strive to be people who are respected in the way we conduct ourselves.

In correlation with the student age, the current generation is said to be the least religiously affiliated in comparison to others with 29% absent from claiming religious affiliation. This number does not cross indicate that they are all atheist, but as Jesse Galef from the Secular Student Alliance said, atheism among students is growing. The number of affiliates with SSA has more than doubled in the last 3 years. There is a lurking question behind this data..why? What is the reason behind the movement?
Many could assert the reasons of knowledge, enlightenment, secularization, lack of morals etc. While credit may be owed to the some of the above speculations, may I also present the idea that many have been hurt by our American church in in some way. So many people I know have been burned by the words and actions of those involved with religion, and I feel this is a major detour-ant to faith. I am aware this borderlines oversimplification, and I do not intend to generalize a complex subject.

During my research I interviewed many people who profess atheism and found some unique perspectives. One individual shared that although he identifies with atheism, he feels religion has had an incredible impact on society, and finds it's roll in history to be essential. Another man I spoke with had been a part of the christian religion for 40 years, and spent 20 of those on a christian commune. The atheist community seems to be very diverse in spiritual backgrounds and walks of life.  

The last subject I found to be interesting was morality. A central concept through each one of my conversations concerning atheism is the idea that humanity has an innate sense of moral built within us, which is independent of any belief system.
Check out my story on atheism located on the right of this blog under "silly little reporter girl."

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