Atheist club formed with a ‘positive view’

By Kaitlyn Chornoby

Atheists at OU, a new student organization on campus, was formed this semester with the goal of educating others on being faithless in today’s society and to show that happiness and life fulfillment can be achieved without faith.

Jaimie Wall, a junior majoring in psychology, started the group after noticing there were several campus religious groups, but none specifically for atheism.

Wall said the goal of the group is to not only provide a venue for speakers, but to provide a place for atheist and other secular students on campus to meet, share stories and experience being there for each other.

The main objective of the group is to promote atheism in a positive light, Wall said.

“You hear the term ‘angry atheists’ a lot,” Wall said. “We’re not bad people; we believe in the rights of all people. It’s really important to us that we get the point across that you can be a good person and not believe in God. Human goodness comes from good thinking and not religion, necessarily.”

After holding a table in the OC for two hours, Wall said they received several inquiries from interested students, ranging from those who share their beliefs to those of faith with questions.

Wall said the table extracted a positive and interested response from Oakland’s community.

“We’re not here to stamp out anyone’s beliefs,” Wall said. “We’re just here for people who don’t believe what the majority generally believes.”

Pam Hester, the president of Agape University Ministry, a Christian organization on campus, said that she recognizes Atheists at OU’s right to gather, even if they may not see eye to eye.

“Part of the beauty of a university setting is the hundreds of opportunities that we have to learn from one another, and that’s only because of all the students’ and professors’ different intellectual backgrounds, personalities and opinions,” Hester said.

Wall said the group welcomes members of faith to join their events and encourages students to “make up their own minds” about the group.

“We would love for people of different faiths to come to meetings, because it gives us insight on why they believe what they do and gives them a better understanding as well,” Wall said. “We hope everyone can come to the agreement that we can all believe what we want to believe, but you can’t force it on other people.”

According to Wall, the group is very interested in separation of church and state and how religion is integrated into the political system.

“The reason certain people can’t do things is because they don’t agree with a certain religion,” she said. “Maybe they want to marry who they want, but they can’t due to the political system. It’s important to us that we say, ‘You are so welcome to believe whatever you believe, and I will fight for your right to believe that!’ But it’s also important that the people who do not subscribe to those beliefs do not have to live by them.”

Although the group has only been a student organization for approximately a month and a half, they hosted two tables and a Darwin Day party, which Wall said was a very successful event.

Resulting in standing room only, students gathered to listen to faculty speak about Charles Darwin while enjoying food and a film showing. Wall said a member of the group even dressed up as Charles Darwin for the event.

For future events, the group hopes to co-sponsor an event with the Center for Inquiry, a Michigan-based secular group, at the end of March. They also hope to hold forums, bringing different departments together for discussion.

Wall said events will be designed to inform students and present ways for the members to communicate with each other to have shared experiences.

Focused on a positive view, Wall said a strong desire among the group is to hold charity events to raise money for shelters in the local area. For the last event of the year, the organization plans to hold a canned food drive.

Because there is not a huge presence of atheism in the area, retired professor Richard Dawkins, a popular secular speaker out of Oxford, England, has offered to come to Oakland University. According to Wall, Dawkins is reaching out to OU because it is important to him that students are involved. Dawkins is expected to speak at the O’rena in October.

Currently, Atheists at OU meet every other Thursday in the conference room in Pryale Hall from 10-11 a.m. Its next meeting is this Thursday.

“Even if you take one shred of what we say to heart, religious or not, mission accomplished for us,” Wall said. “We want an open mind and to encourage people to think reasonably.”

For more information on the group, visit its Facebook page or contact Wall to join the mailing list at [email protected]