Atheist students celebrate Darwin Day, answer questions

The students who form Atheists for Science and Reason celebrated Darwin Day by handing out Darwin valentines and engaging the Ball State community in spirited discussion.

The one-month-old group sat in the Atrium for seven hours on Monday, turning two folding tables into a one-stop shop for anyone with questions about atheism or evolution. Resources available to passing students included informative CDs called Darwin discs, fliers, links to websites and the group's own Ask an Atheist forum.

Wes Jurica, a sophomore computer science major and the acting president for the organization, said one of the main goals of the group is to get rid of misconceptions people have about atheism.

"It's a statement about whether or not there is a god," he said. "It's just one thing. It's not a way of life. It's not a world view. It's just this one question."

Most of the students who stopped at the table had more than one question for Jurica and the other group members. Kyle Neal, a freshman computer technology major, was one of the atheists students could ask.

"We've gotten a lot of ... ‘What is the beginning of life, if you don't believe in God? What do you believe in? Can you be moral without religion?'" he said.

Tyler Talsma, a junior telecommunications major, stopped to take advantage of Ask an Atheist. He stayed for the better part of an hour, debating points of Biblical theology with Jurica and other group members. Talsma said their presence in the Atrium was great and the resulting discussion was fun.

"Whether or not they're a group I disagree with or not, it's good and it's in the marketplace of ideas and I think that people should ask hard questions, but then on the other side be the devil's advocate to themselves," Talsma said.

According to a 2008 survey by the American Religious Identification Survey, roughly 15 percent of Americans identify themselves as "Nones," meaning they are atheist, agnostic or have no stated religious preference.

Neal said being an atheist is still taboo and has a stigma attached to it. Grace Perdew, a fellow Atheist for Science and Reason member, agreed. She said atheists will use phrases like "in the closet" to describe their situation.

Jurica said he hoped their presence in the Atrium would help them connect with other atheists on campus and make them aware of the group's existence.

"We thought there might be a lot of people out there that might feel ostracized by their views," Jurica said. "Some of our members are still not out of the closet yet. ... It's definitely a good support group kind of feeling." 


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