Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Faithless in Philly

I started graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania in 2010 and frankly, I was quite surprised that we didn't have an atheists and freethinkers group. In a university founded by a man who gave us gems such as, 'Lighthouses are more helpful than churches' and 'The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason', all I found were faith based groups. There was the Christian Association, Penn Hillel, the Muslim Student Association, the Hindu Students Council, the Penn Catholic Association and more*. But there wasn't a forum where freethinkers could meet and discuss ideas -- social and political issues, science, education, the common lack of faith in the supernatural, etc.

I did toy with the idea of starting a group, but being the lazy person that I am, I didn't really go ahead with it. It seemed like there were too many hoops to jump through and the fact that I was going to be here at Penn for only a short time didn't really help matters. So I was overjoyed when I noticed a poster calling attention to a Darwin Day event conducted by a group called Rekindle Reason.

Rekindle Reason was founded by three freshmen, Emmett Wynn, Isaac Louis Garcia and Seth Koren. Their first official meeting was on 12th February, 2012, the 203rd anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth. It was a relatively light-hearted affair --  we discussed group policy and watched a few videos. The main aim of the group is to foster a community of atheists and freethinkers and encourage critical thinking. The mission statement of Rekindle Reason reads as follows:

Rekindle Reason: A Community of Atheists, Agnostics, and Freethinkers at the University of Pennsylvania is to be an organization first and foremost dedicated to fostering community. Association with individuals of similar philosophies is oft lost for the irreligious, and we aim to make certain these members of the Penn community have such access and are aware that they are not alone in their views. Our meetings shall be havens in which people can question religious beliefs in absolute safety and security.

We wish to encourage the constituents of the University of Pennsylvania community-at-large to think critically about their superstitious and indoctrinated beliefs, as well as make the community aware of the detrimental effects on individuals and on society that religious belief all-too-commonly spurs.

We shall advocate for thought based solely upon science, logic, and reason: the three arbiters of a healthy, modern life. We shall show that neither religion nor any belief in higher powers, superstition, or pointless shibboleth is necessary for individuals to be moral, caring people. Furthermore we advocate that critical thought based upon these three arbiters is more important to human progress than mythical belief, and that it is within our reach to create progressive, just, peaceful societies founded upon these ideals and free of superstition.

Finally, we shall support and advocate for the final severance of the collusion of church and state. The influence of religion upon politics in this nation still occurs to a sorrowful degree. The nation can and must free itself of this oppressive yoke, and in doing so enlighten our policy- and decision-making.

I really hope they can foster enough interest and keep the group going. Not to be presumptuous, but I think Ben Franklin - one of America's greatest thinkers and inventors -- would be proud to see a group that encourages free thought in the university he founded about 250 years ago.

Rekindle Reason' Facebook group can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/251334604943704/
If you go to Penn, and you are an atheist, agnostic, freethinker, secularist or humanist, go ahead and join the group.

*I'm not saying that these groups shouldn't exist. On the contrary, they have every right to practise their faith as long as they don't impose themselves on others, and I've had no reason to think that they do.

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