Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Making Connections

I thought I'd give an update on how things are going on the school front. I've been attending Rational Thought @ UCSD's weekly "Rationally Speaking" meetings ever since this post, and I've met a lot of really nice, really smart people in the process. As I mentioned, they come from a variety of religious backgrounds and have expertise in many different areas, so it's interesting to get some other perspectives on atheism and rationality. Plus, those who weren't brought up in a religion can get new insight into the believer's mind from those who have. I've traded Twitter feeds with some of the RT members, and a couple have even linked to this blog, including Jonathan from Conversational Atheist. His site has a bunch of great articles and resources for talking with theists.

But the connections I've made aren't just limited to atheists. At RT's quarterly Ask an Atheist table (the same event that originally got me interested in the group) I met a guy named Neil. He's a Christian who preaches on campus now and then, and it turns out that he not only knows both of my parents, but actually converted my dad from Judaism to Christianity. I had heard my mom mention that she knew someone who preached at UCSD, but this comment never sank in until I met him. Although of course I see Neil's views as deeply misguided, he did seem like a sincere and kind person. Thankfully, he agreed to let me tell my family about my unbelief on my own time rather than tattling on me himself, so that's one potential disaster averted.

I'll be attending some additional RT events over the next two weeks. There's a talk on "Hate Speech in Religious Texts" on Thursday as part of the Hate-Free Campus Campaign. While the point of the meeting is to draw attention to intolerant verses in the Bible and Quran, in a way it's also meant as a criticism of the very idea of "hate speech." Really, all (legal) forms of speech should be allowed on campus, even those with hateful content. Following that is Atheism Awareness Week, five day's worth of events on the following topics:
  • Monday: "What's an Atheist?"
  • Tuesday: "Questioning Religion"
  • Wednesday: "Improve Your Mental Health"
  • Thursday: "Critical Thinking Workshop"
  • Friday: "Parenting Beyond Belief"
I'll go to a few of these and write about it if anything of particular interest comes up. It's encouraging to be able to talk with friends about this stuff and not just read it from books and the Internet. The sense of community you get from spending time with like-minded people is certainly one of the reasons that religions are so successful, and in this regard it's great to see unbelievers follow suit.

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