Trinity Universityâ€™s Atheist Alliance is not a myth. This very real club is in the process of becoming a club. Paperwork in tow, president and senior Julian Seale hopes to start up bi-weekly meetings as soon as possible, and extends an invitation to anyone interested once the club becomes official. With over 70 members on Facebook, the Atheist Alliance has amassed a large following and continues to garner student interest on a daily basis.
The emphasis? Anyone is welcome. Oh, and no shoes or cell phones during the meeting.
Starting off as a closed group on Facebook with a mere two members, a few weeks ago the Atheist Alliance was only an idea. When Sealeâ€™s poster was hung up in Coates side by side with the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship banner, though, it riled up not only an approximately 90-comment argument via Overheard at Trinity, but it also stirred skeptics on campus to unite.
â€œSomething like this is very controversial. I knew when I was making the poster that I was opening up a can of worms,â€ Seale said.
Although there are many types of atheists, sophomore Hannah Sullivan defines an atheist, at the core, as â€œa person who lacks conviction of a god.â€
The organization is called the Atheist Alliance, but anyone is welcome to join, regardless of beliefs.
â€œPeople should join if they have skepticism or lack of belief and feel that they need a community. Just like any other group, community is important so that you donâ€™t feel like you are lost in the sea of people,â€ Sullivan said.
Skeptics seeking a safe haven are encouraged to join. During meetings, everyone will be provided with a place to talk in a safe and academic manner.
The idea behind the Atheist Alliance is not to persuade others that they must identify as atheists.
â€œIt is not a sales pitch. I am trying to create an environment where people learn. Whether you come to my club and are more theistic or more atheistic, that is up to you. If you walk away with knowledge, that is what I like,â€ Seale said.
Sullivan agrees, stating that most of the negative feedback toward the club has been from people who believe the Atheist Alliance is trying to change peopleâ€™s views.
â€œSome people are offended by it because they think we are going to advertise or change peopleâ€™s points of view,â€ Sullivan said.
Seale hopes for the club to encourage philosophical and religious discussion, and to foster a sense of community among those who may feel uncertain of their beliefs.
â€œI hope they walk away knowing more about their religion, about their community and about diversity. There is just so much to know. If I can give a good message about what it means to be a good Christian, a good atheist or a good person in general, that is my mission. I want to create an environment where it will be okay and fine to talk about themselves because it is part of their identity,â€ Seale said.
Senior Jonathon Hinojosa reiterates this.
â€œI hope it is an open place where people can exchange ideas and discuss things freely without feeling like they need to hold something back because they might offend somebody,â€ Hinojosa said.
Another goal Seale and supporters of the Atheist Alliance have is to dissuade any stereotypes about atheists.
â€œIâ€™m trying to get rid of the stereotype that every atheist is a militant douchebag,â€ Seale said.
Sullivan agrees, stating that atheists are often misunderstood by others.
â€œA lot of people think atheists are bitter, angry people, but we really donâ€™t feel that way. Sometimes you just need people to help you up,â€ Sullivan said.
Although the group is not an official organization on the Trinity campus yet, many students have been grateful for the potential start-up, giving atheists a voice at the university.
â€œI have had so many people coming up to me, thanking me for starting this club up. People that have graduated. People that just want a voice. They say thanks for sticking your neck out there,â€ Seale said.