Last Thursday, the Purdue Society of Non-Theists held their first "Ask an Atheist" table. We set up a table in front of the Class of 1950 building, and made ourselves available to answer questions about being a non-theist. Our goal was to try to help correct misconceptions about our group and non-theism in general. Purdue has over 100 religious student organizations so we needed to be less confrontational for this event. In light of recent debate about confrontation, I should mention that the Purdue community, as a whole, frowns upon confrontation.
Initially we didn't get a lot of questions, but as the day wore on, we were asked many interesting questions. Most of the questions were primarily along the lines of: "Why are you a non-theist?", "Where do your morals come from?", "Why do atheists live on, if there's nothing to live for?" We did have a young woman give us a pile of books and asked us to read them and give her feedback. Some of the club's members are planning to do this, and will try to follow up on their responses.
I am happy to report, that we will be doing this event again in the future. It was a very positive event that seemed to start a lot of very good discussion. We were able to stay on task and stay positive. I created a list of talking points for us to keep in mind for the day, and I think they helped set the tone (if you'd like a copy, I can send them to you). I also think that our location was good, but next time we do this, it will likely be a lot colder outside. We'll be setting up in a high-traffic building when that happens. Also, to keep this idea fresh, we can use a prompt question to start discussion for future events.
I think the only negative I can identify is the number of people we had at the table at one time. In the future we will be running the table with less people present. Having nearly 15 people there at the end of the day, was maybe a little intimidating. We set a schedule, but it was loosely followed. Next time, we will definitely hold ourselves a little closer to this schedule. I'm sure I can safely say that all of us highly enjoyed this event, and are looking forward to the next one.
6:42 PM Mike Brownstein