One thing the SSU does really well is connect with religious groups on campus for real discussions where both sides feels comfortable grilling each other on their respective beliefs:
Last quarter, the SSU’s theme was religion outreach. [Group officer Xianhang] Zhang said the group invited different religious [registered student organizations] every week for a Q&A session. They hosted groups representing the Jewish, Mormon, Biblical Literalist, Hindu and Muslim communities. Zhang said these sessions were extremely successful.
“Everyone enjoyed it,” he said.
Joy Severin, an intern for The City Church, a church based in Kirkland with a building in the U-District on Northeast 50th Street and 17th Avenue Northeast, attended the “Ask a Bible Literalist” session that the group hosted. Severin said that going in, she wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. She initially thought she would be put on the spot and grilled to no end, but instead, Severin said she was surprised by the atmosphere.
“It was a lot more civilized than I expected,” she said.
During the session, questions were asked about Severin’s faith and beliefs, and she couldn’t help but be impressed.
“They knew what they were talking about,” she said.
… The session helped her gain a better understanding of atheism and agnosticism, and as a result, she was able to have an intelligent conversation without being ignorant or rude. Instead of causing her beliefs to fall apart, this questioning of her faith strengthened them.
Severin feels there should be more meetings like this where people of different backgrounds can discuss these differences.
Michael Amini is another officer in the group and, as he’s shared with us before, he had a rough time coming out as an atheist:
Unlike [group officer Alicia] Godersky and Zhang, who were both raised in nonreligious families, Amini was raised Mormon. When he told his family that he was atheist, he said his mom told his sister that it would have been better if he had died, and his dad said he is not contributing to society. He said his parents still love him and welcome him in their home, but they don’t want him staying alone with his younger brother and sister.
Still, Michael’s found a place he can be himself in this campus group.
His story, and the story of the amazing conversations about faith led by group members, just underscores the importance of having groups like this at schools across the country.
That goal gets to the heart of why the Secular Student Alliance exists.
Incidentally, we’re at 137 affiliate groups worldwide… and counting.
[tags]atheist, atheism, Samantha Pak[/tags]