It sounds like it could be a lame joke: A group of atheists walk onto a predominantly conservative Christian campus. A students affairs administrator says, “I can’t believe this.”
Believe it or not, it’s no joke. There is a new group for atheists at Texas Christian University.
TCU’s Secular Student Alliance was formed by Alexis Lohse because the 32-year-old transfer student from Tarrant County College said she wanted to create an environment where non-believers can explore their spirituality and openly discuss their faith (or lack thereof) in a comfortable setting.
“I saw that there wasn’t any support system for students who don’t have a particular faith,” said Lohse, an Austin native, who moved to Fort Worth four years ago. “And that’s in stark contrast to the vast number of religiously affiliated organizations available to students. So I thought it might be a good group to set up.”
Though the group isn’t quite official yet (Lohse said there are one or two bits or paperwork to file), it has already met a couple of times and the meetings have been well-attended. The secular students will be classified, somewhat ironically, as a “religious and spiritual life” organization by the Office of Student Organizations. Lohse also plans for the group to be an affiliate of the national group Secular Student Alliance.
Some of the Alliance’s campus affiliates have been accused by critics as being militant in the way they have promoted their organizations. Students at Northwestern University and a few other affiliates participated in “Everyone Draw Muhammad Day” on their campuses, in which students drew pictures of the Prophet Muhammad in chalk to protest Comedy Central’s censorship of South Park’s image of the Muslim prophet.
Lohse said her newly-formed group will not be so attention-seeking.
“We aren’t here as missionaries for the atheist movement,” she said. “We’re here to create a safe space for people who either already have these viewpoints or people who are developing their views on spirituality.
“We’re hoping to have people who are questioning [their faith], that just don’t know yet, that want to see what we have to offer,” she continued.
Lohse said the organization’s reception from the administration has been warm, but she does anticipate some kind of backlash from students.
“We’re not going to have to do very much to irritate people,” she said.