The Humanists of Boston University set up shop in the George Sherman Union on Wednesday to answer questions and to engage students in conversations about atheists, humanists and other types of non-religious thinkers.
Rick Berger, co-president of HBU, said he hopes Ask-An-Atheist Day helped dispel preconceived ideas people might have about atheism and humanism.
“We see no evidence for the supernatural, whether it be unicorns, teapots, spaghetti monsters or a monotheistic god,” Berger said. “So we live our lives accordingly.”
Atheism and humanism can easily coincide, said HBU Treasurer Bryn Retherford, a College of Arts and Sciences freshman.
“Humanism is an ethical life stance which espouses reason, ethics and justice, while rejecting supernatural and religious dogma as a basis of morality and decision-making,” she said. “Many skeptics, agnostics, atheists, deists and other free-thinking individuals identify as humanists.”
American society stereotypes atheists as immoral or amoral, Berger said. According to a 2007 Gallup poll, only 43 percent of Americans would theoretically vote for an atheist presidential candidate.
“It is difficult for some religious individuals to understand how one can be ethical without potential damnation in the afterlife,” Retherford said. “This is simply not true.”
Humanists do not live a life without meaning or happiness, she said, but focus on leading a life that betters society without the basis of religion.
CAS sophomore Alejandro Arango, who attended the talk, said he questions what type of community atheism can offer.
“To me, religion has the advantage of providing a sense of community,” Arango said. “I have never witnessed a strong sense of family associated with atheism as I’ve seen with Catholicism.”
Retherford said, however, that the HBU aims to create a community where people with similar ideas can share their stories.
“We provide community for those who do not have one,” Retherford said. “We do not deride religion as stupid, delusional or a scam. We hope to work with faith-based organizations to build mutual understanding, particularly since secular individuals are some of the most discriminated against in the U.S.”
The public image of atheism is improving, especially in modern areas such as Boston, said CAS junior Mike Antinozzi.
Berger said he thinks atheism can bring together many causes from lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning groups, women’s groups, environmentalists and civil rights movements because it approaches the issues without traditional religious biases or mindsets.
HBU’s members said they are working to educate students about the prejudices and dogmas that provide a basis for injustice. They plan on hosting journalist Ted Cox to speak about his undercover analysis of religious “straight camps.”
“I hope that critical thought becomes the norm in society, rather than thinking based on superstition and baseless traditions,” Retherford said. “This way of viewing the world is conducive to innovation, something we certainly need at this difficult point in history.”