If you actively follow the news in the atheist community, then you’ve undoubtedly heard about the story of Damon Fowler . No, this isn’t going to be another rant about the appalling regressiveness of the small-town, American South where the pious have no hesitation to flout the Constitution and ostracize a young man for standing up for the law. No, that rant will be reserved for when I have a steady supply of scotch sitting next to me, but alas, the supply has currently run dry.
Instead, I’m going share my thoughts on the positive aspects that have emerged out of this story and how it demonstrates the need for atheist groups such as this one.
Now the first thing that may come to your mind is, “why are you, a Canadian, talking about an American story?” Sure, the Canadian atheist community isn’t normally subjected to the absurdity our American counterparts are. As far as I can tell – and please share any stories to the contrary if you have them – we don’t have communities that shun children over these issues. Of course, Canada doesn’t have the Church and State separation issues that America does, at least not on such a large scale. (Catholic schools aside.) So Canadian atheists may not face the challenges faced by people like Fowler, but atheist groups are still needed. Why? One word: Community.
Community. It was demonstrated when the news about Fowler’s story spread across the internet. Thousands have been raised for a college fund, he has received a scholarship, and I’ve even read adoption offers on Facebook. It demonstrates that we are not selfish individuals, only looking out for our self-interest. (I find that stereotype to be amusing as most atheists I know tend to reject that neoclassical economics view of the world.)
Sure, atheist groups do play a role in providing a counter to the many religious groups we see on campus. AAFW members have frequently attended events held by the religious groups and have actively debated with them. In doing so, we are trying to prevent those groups from having full control of the stage, so to speak. But, community, for me, remains reason number 1 for the existence of groups such as ours.
As the atheist club on campus we are saying to our fellow atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers, “We are here. Come join us. You’ll be welcome with open arms”. Here is a place where you can come to express your views on religion and other related topics without worry that it could lead to rejection. You may, as I did, find some of your best friends are waiting in this group. So to those atheists in the Waterloo region who have yet to come out to one of our meetings I say, “Come on out”.