Freethinkers host ‘Ask an Atheist’

Rebecca Reis

KentWired Video

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Members of the Kent State Freethinkers honestly answered thought-provoking questions from around 25 students and community members who attended their “Ask an Atheist” event Friday evening in the Student Center.

Four members of the Freethinkers, a secular organization for atheists and agnostics, answered questions from an open panel in an effort to dispel misconceptions and stereotypes about being a non-theist.

One attendee asked the panel how they respond when people say without religion they don’t have a moral compass. Conner Howard, senior pre-journalism and mass communication major, explained atheists look to the Golden Rule or Aristotle’s Golden Mean as guide for behavior.

“The most important thing it lacks is the notion of divine punishment or reward,” Howard said. “It’s doing what you know to be right without the expectation of being rewarded for it. It’s avoiding the negative behavior that would harm others without the expectation of punishment.”

Thera Pich, sophomore chemistry major, said he attended the event out of curiosity. Pich was raised Buddhist and Catholic, but started investigating other religious views after taking a class in comparative religious thought.

“It’s pretty eye opening,” Pich said after the panel. “I was really surprised about the atheists. They’re still spiritual, but not connected to religion.”

As one of his questions, Pich asked the panel how atheists and agnostics can adopt some religious values but not take on the rest of the religion.

Katherine Abshire, senior fine arts major and member of the Freethinkers, answered that accepting religious values — such as Christianity’s teaching “give to the poor” — is something that an atheist can support without believing in the religion itself.

“To acknowledge that there are belief systems that have positives is not disingenuous to me,” Abshire said. “I can acknowledge that they are positives without accepting more supernatural claims and without accepting the rest of the religion as true.”

Nicholas Tietz, senior computer science and mathematics major, volunteered to be a part of the Freethinkers’ panel. He said he thought the event went well.

“There was a better turn out than I expected,” Tietz said. “I don’t think there’s one take-away message, but I hope people learned something.”

The topics of discussion included talking to children about atheism, classifications of atheism and why members of the panel became atheistic. Howard said he sees religion in the same way as he sees mythology.

“People knew for a fact that Zeus ruled their lives and Prometheus gave them fire,” Howard explained. “People don’t believe that anymore so its now considered myth. One day Jesus Christ might be considered myth.”

Contact Rebecca Reis at [email protected].