Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What are your main concerns for the secular community off campus, in society that is, now?
Karen Loethen: Oh, Scott, so many. I’ll try to keep my capitalizations down to a minimum. Lol
I have HUGE concern for the many ways that the religious right has put institutional religion into the schools, into the minds of our children. The textbooks that offer CREATION as a true counterpoint to the Big Bang and evolution…ludicrous and criminal! Teaching this to the kids, whose minds are open and interested and listening?!
Do you know that atheists are the least trusted group in our nation? Less trusted than rapists. Seriously? In the United States of America, people actually prefer religious thought and control to reason. It truly boggles my mind.
People are willing to close their minds to the hideous abuses of the church (HIDEOUS abuses). People prefer the idea of faith over knowledge. This is not only lazy, it is also dangerous!
Oh, Scott, this list is way too long; I could go on for pages.
Jacobsen: What is the main battleground for secularism, its values and principles and their implementation in America now?
Loethen: Obviously in our politics. Our nation actually still has In God We Trust on every bit of currency that circulates through our hands every single day. Public policy is continually impacted by the religious beliefs of the masses.
The inconsistent and hateful practices of various religious institutions actually impact the laws of this country, a country founded on the essential tenet of separation of church and state.
The people in power in our country bring their religions into our governmental halls.
Every time secularism gets a toe hold anywhere the religious right rallies and starts shouting We are being attacked!
Oh gosh, I could go on and on here too, Scott.
Jacobsen: What are perennial threats to secularism on campus?
Loethen: The threats to secularism on campus are the same threats to secularism on this planet. People’s fear and ignorance keeps minds shackled to their religions. Secularism truly frightens people.
We had several instances of violence towards our club announcements as well as emails from people that were, shall we say, unsupportive of our club on campus.
Jacobsen: What are the bigger misconceptions about secularists? What truths dispel them?
Loethen: Also an easy one! Atheists are thought to be Devil worshippers. LOL…which is hilarious! Atheists are a theists. We believe in NO deities. None. And that includes the scary ones they’ve created for themselves. But I understand this one because the church really scares the heck out of people with regards to their demons and whatnot.
That atheists are a group. All the word atheist means is without a deity; there is no way to characterize a single atheist based on any other one.
That atheists have no morals. Religion didn’t invent the idea of good behavior, that is a human thing. On the contrary, many of the atheists that I know are so very THINKING. Our behavior is based on our thoughts, on the situation, on reality…there is very little black and white thinking among the secular.
That atheists are angry at a god. Again, no. We have no belief in a god of any kind, therefore anger at a non-existent thing makes no sense. But, again, I understand where this comes from. The church scares believers so much about atheists. I remember being a believer and learning how scary and slippery atheists were.
There are many more myths about atheists propagated by the church, tons of them.
Oh, another one real quick: atheist can’t experience real joy.
LOL — SO wrong! I have never experienced the truly sublime until I began to recognize the realities of our species, of our world, of our galaxy, of our universe.
Jacobsen: What were the main events — even though the group was more or less dead — and topics of group discussions for the alliance on campus?
Loethen: Activism and fundraising, talks about questions of morality, conversations about what does it mean to be secular or atheist, talks about being strong when being attacked, what we wanted to do as a group, and possibly the best thing we offered: being open to any and all questions one might have.
Jacobsen: How can people become involved and maintain the secular student alliance ties on campus? How can citizens become secular activists, and make even a minor impact?
Loethen: Good question. Some people actually can’t be open and active as a secular person because the costs to them may be too high at any given moment. But I think that being open and out as much as possible in important. If you can’t be open, still read and research and talk to trusted people.
The more THINKING people we have on each campus, on this globe, the better our chances of survival as a species and the more peaceful our world can be.
To become involved you might start by informing yourself, read and learn as much as you can, join groups with like-minded people. Start with yourself, see. There are cool and interesting hobby clubs out there, from rock collecting to nature clubs to rocketry to astronomy to debate.
These clubs encourage critical thinking and help people to recognize when logical fallacies are trying to sneak into the argument. Listen to podcasts, read books, etc.
Then, put the word out there.
Simply living and open life of integrity is a huge thing.
To make greater impact, help social movements that mean something to you, join organizations that support the secular agenda, vote or even run for office, pay it forward. We in the secular community have some excellent resources these days thanks to the connections of the internet.
Use your skills and interests in ways that grow the community. Even if you can’t or don’t wish to participate in such a way, live a life being true to yourself. That is incredibly difficult and very admirable.
Jacobsen: Any feelings or thoughts in conclusion?
Loethen: Scott, keep doing what you are doing! You are doing what I mentioned above, taking your talents, skills, and interests and using them to improve yourself and the world around you. Good work.
Jacobsen: Thank you for your time, Karen.
Original Publication in Humanist Voices.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen founded In-Sight Publishing and In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal.