Ask an Atheist booth causes curiosity

Our “Ask an Atheist” booths have attracted the attention of the ISU Daily along with many students. Join us on Fridays from 11am to 1pm in the UDCC Commons.

Opportunity to gauge life without scripture

By Erin Oftelie — Daily Staff Writer | Sunday, October 11, 2009 9:38 PM CDT

Full test provided below for posterity.

The Atheist and Agnostic Society began meeting outside Parks Library on Friday afternoons at a booth entitled “Ask an Atheist” when school started this fall.

The society intends “to provide an educational and support system for students who believe that one can live a fulfilling, productive and ethical life without religion” according to the student organizations Web site.

“Our president, Anastasia [Bodnar], saw the idea on a Web site, and thought it would be a good way to get the word out that we exist … and to show people that we’re here and we’re not scary,” said Tori Aletheia, treasurer of the society and senior in psychology.

To her knowledge, Bodnar said the Atheist and Agnostic Society at Iowa State is the oldest free-thinking group in Iowa, with about 30 active members.

By having the booth every Friday, the club hopes to raise awareness for their group and give people the opportunity to learn about what it really means to be atheist or agnostic.

“Clubfest has its advantages, but a lot of people don’t go to clubfest, and we wanted to [showcase our club] more than twice a year,” said Bodnar, graduate student in agronomy.

Bodnar said they are asked some interesting questions from students at their booth. Some of their most common inquiries are “what does atheism mean?” Answers to the questions vary, depending on which group member is answering the question, however she said they are careful to point out that “this is just one person’s answer” and that it is a matter of perspective.

Negative feedback toward the group has been minimal, Bodnar said.

She said most of the negative interactions are very brief.

“We get these weird run-by picture takers,” she said. “We haven’t figured out what’s going on with that yet.”

Bodnar said people who approach the booth are “really interested in expanding their understanding of their own religions” and, if nothing else, leave with a better understanding of what it means to be atheist or agnostic.

Some people who speak with the club’s members leave feeling strengthened in their own faith.

“If you have to defend your faith to someone who doesn’t have any, a lot of people walk away with their faith strengthened,” Bodnar said.

Bodnar was raised in a Christian household, with a strong background in the Catholic faith.

She went to a Catholic school until eighth grade, before attending a public high school. She said she doesn’t really talk about being an atheist with her family because church is so important to them.

Bodnar said her mother is concerned that she will be missing out on the sense of community and belonging being a member of a church community offers, but she said she has found that in the Atheist and Agnostic Society.

“[It is] a great group of people, we do a lot of things together,” Bodnar said.

Aletheia, who has been a member of the group for five years, said she also enjoys the sense of community it provides its members.

“I think it provides that same sense of community that people are getting from their churches or faith groups,” she said. “We provide intellectual discussions and social events, just like churches do.”

The group recently started to expand their volunteer and outreach programs to provide more of that sense of community to its members.

Their latest philanthropic venture is the “Reggie Sleepout,” which will take place Oct. 24 at Drake Stadium.

The group will find people to sponsor them, and they will sleep outside in “box houses” overnight. So far, the group has raised more than $300 for the event.

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the group’s existence, it will host a “Superstition Bash” to which the entire campus is invited.

The bash is scheduled for Nov. 13 in the atrium of the Molecular Biology Building. Magician and comedian Nathan Allen the Maniac will be performing, and various activities will address superstitions.

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One comment on “Ask an Atheist booth causes curiosity

  1. Adam says:

    I’m never in the UDCC at that time on Fridays so I didn’t even know this existed. I have a similar background to Bodnar. I went to a private Catholic school until the 6th grade. I became an atheist when I was 16 years old but I never told my parents because I knew religion was important to them. I have 2 friends who are atheists that know I am, though.

    I ended up here because of the email about the sleepout and just thought I would say this.

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