Student Club Aims to Proselytize Atheism

A group of students at Sacramento State University are "evangelizing" for people to join a new atheist club they hope will remove the stigma of atheism and also promote it.

The new club is looking to recruit under the name Atheist Student Organization and is being spearheaded by English majors. They have already enlisted the help of associate philosophy professor Matthew McCormick to serve as the group's faculty sponsor or adviser, reported the school's newspaper, The State Hornet.

In the past, the university was home to another atheist club whose members eventually graduated or became involved in other things, according to McCormick.

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Now, student Steve Owen wants to revive atheism on the campus with a club that will "debate and challenge theistic assumptions."

"I think it's very important to give a voice to atheists on campus considering the fact that theism is the default, normal position," said Owen, a graduate English major.

Approximately 20 students have shown interest in the group, according to the newspaper.

For Angelique Lopez, a senior English major, the club represents a way to strip atheism of its bad rap.

She wants "to talk to people about being an atheist and to get them to see that an atheist isn't something bad or something that has a negative connotation."

Another interested student, Robin Martin, a graduate English student, said it was "important for atheists to be represented on campus and in the larger society."

"Often atheists don't make their feelings known for fear of abuse or attack," Martin added.

The club is a snapshot of a movement of atheists who have become more vocal about their belief in disbelief in recent years.

In the past two years, several anti-religion books from avowed atheist authors like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris have hit the best-seller lists.

In January, an atheist group in Minnesota launched their own radio show in an effort to erase the stigma of atheism.

The movement not only shows atheism stepping into the cultural arena but also placing a hand in politics as well.

American Atheists, which advocates for the separation of church and state, formed the Godless Americans Political Action Committee in 2005.

And according to The Washington Post, Congress had its first self-avowed atheist in March when Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) said he does not believe in a supreme being.

But their efforts have yet to significantly sway public opinion on denying God.

A 2006 nationwide poll by the University of Minnesota identified atheists as America's most distrusted minority.

Americans rated atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants and other minority groups in "sharing their vision of American society." Respondents also associated atheists with everything from criminal behavior to rampant materialism.

A 2007 Gallup Poll also showed that more than half would not vote for an atheist for president.

Meanwhile, others like senior ethnic studies major Marc Sorensen, who is a member of International Student Christian Fellowship at Sacramento State, are simply confused about atheists who insist on meeting with each other.

"What are the reasons for creating an atheist organization? To discuss someone you don't believe in?" Sorensen said.

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