The Atheist and Agnostic Society was founded in Fall 1999 with the goal of bringing balance to campus. To introduce the group, Douglas Ficek, founder and president, composed a letter to the Daily Not theist bashers. The letter was followed up with an article Atheist, agnostic group promotes discussion and an interview with Dr. Avalos Avalos encourages religious diversity.
Not theist bashers
By Douglas Ficek (Letter to the Editor)
Perhaps some of you have seen fliers promoting the first meeting, which will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 8 at 5:30 p.m. in 412 Ross. Strangely, some of the fliers have been torn down, so you may have missed them.
In any case, if you’re an atheist or an agnostic — or even if you’re just interested in learning about atheism and agnosticism — you are welcome at the society.
Now some might ask, “What are a bunch of atheists and agnostics going to do for an hour every week?”
Instead of offering a punch line, let me say this: The ISU Atheist and Agnostic Society aims to provide a respectful atmosphere suited for productive intellectual discourse.
We will have speakers present material; we will have discussions; and we will ultimately learn.
Let me assert: This group is not an excuse to bash theists.
We will not promote disrespect. We will not take advantage of Quick Es.
We will not in any way attempt to hinder other groups’ ability to operate. And having said this, I hope that we will be treated similarly.
In conclusion, I hope that many of you will take advantage of the ISU Atheist and Agnostic Society and what it has to offer.
I believe it will be a positive and productive experience for all involved. See you there!
ISU Atheist and Agnostic Society
Atheist, agnostic group promotes discussion
By Christa Burton (Daily Staff Writer)
“Last year it was conceptualized, but it was not until this year that someone came along that had the time and energy to put into it,” said Hector Avalos, adviser to ISU Atheist and Agnostic Society.
That someone is Douglas Ficek, president of the Society. Ficek’s hope is that the organization will create a sense of balance among the campus organizations.
“ISU is saturated with religious organizations, and there is not one group that’s purpose is the discussion and promotion of secular ideology,” said Ficek, junior in philosophy.
Avalos, associate professor of religious studies, agreed with Ficek’s view of the ISU philosophical climate.
“You have a lot of religious organizations, but you have no balance, no nonreligious organizations,” he said.
The newly formed organization already has about 40 members, Ficek said.
Avalos and Ficek have four main goals for the organization. The first is to promote atheism and agnosticism.
“We want to provide a support group for people on campus that do not believe religion is the best approach to life,” Avalos said.
The second goal is to provide a respectful atmosphere for discussion. Ficek is anxious to talk about ideological issues, but he stresses that one of the most important ideals of his organization is respect.
“This is not a group about theist-bashing. There will be discussion about ideology, but disrespect will not be tolerated,” he said.
The group also wants to serve Ames and surrounding communities, as well as defeat stereotypes about atheists and agnostics.
Ficek said he believes atheists and agnostics are sometimes viewed as angry or bitter individuals. Through this organization, he wants to replace that image with one of people who promote discussion and work to help the community.
The next meeting of the ISU Atheist and Agnostic Society will be tonight at 6 in Room 160 of Carver Hall.
Avalos encourages religious diversity
By Kate Kompas (Daily Staff Writer)
The chairman of Iowa State’s religious studies department has a unique take on the discussion.
Hector Avalos is an atheist — a fact he doesn’t disclose to his students until the last day of class — and adviser to one of ISU’s newest clubs, ISU Atheist & Agnostic Society.
The club has caused a fair amount of controversy at ISU, but Avalos said it is much-needed on a campus with a large number of Christian student organizations.
Avalos, who said he was chosen as adviser because he’s “well-known as somebody who is a secular humanist,” said he did have some advice to offer the club officers.
“My advice was that we had to be a constructive group,” he said. “We had to have constructive dialogue and function as a support group for atheists and like-minded people.”
Avalos said he isn’t aware of too much opposition to the group. “It’s hard to say,” he said.
Avalos said both he and the club welcome constructive criticism, “as long as it’s fair.”
Attendance at the group has been impressive, he said, with about 30 people coming to the first meeting.
The professors says another job of the group is to try to eradicate stereotypes surrounding secular humanists.
“We wanted to dispel this myth that atheists are embittered people who hate the world,” he said.
On the contrary, Avalos said atheists, because they believe this is the only life they have, tend to try make it very meaningful.
This mentality, Avalos said, inspires atheists to “make this world the best they can.”
The Mexican-born Avalos wasn’t always a secular humanist. Avalos grew up as a child evangelist, a fundamentalist Christian.
During his sermons, Avalos said, he was occasionally pelted with stones, which he said makes the occasional opposition to his atheism seem small in comparison.
“I know how that thought process works; in order [to promote Christianity], I had to learn how to refute the other arguments,” he said.
It was during this period of soul-searching that Avalos began to wonder about his own beliefs. “The question came, ‘How could I ever know?'” he said.
Being an atheist, Avalos said, gives him a certain amount of freedom.
“You appreciate more of what you have; you live for this life, you don’t live for another one,” he said.
Despite his early Christian background, Avalos said his family doesn’t have a major problem with his choice.
“They haven’t disowned me; they love me just as much,” he said. “It wasn’t that much of a problem.”
As for his teaching, Avalos said he’s received very positive marks from teacher evaluations, and most of his students cannot gather from his lectures that he’s an atheist.
Avalos is also proud of the fact that there is more religious diversity in Iowa.
“There are more Muslims, more Hindus,” he said. “There is this religious diversity that’s growing.”