The Secular Student Alliance (SSA) at Trinity University is a new addition to the Trinity Community. The group holds bi-monthly meetings at 5pm on Thursdays in Northrup Hall 332. The meetings have an attendance of around 20-30 people and the atmosphere is extremely welcoming.
The meeting started with a mission-statement-like expectation for the discussions that would be taking place: “Our meetings are a place for secular, nonreligious or questioning people to express themselves in a safe space and have thoughtful discussion on taboo topics in many other places. We reserve the right to ask anyone to leave if they become rude, confrontational or act in a way not conducive to productive and polite dialogue.” This is a completely fair expectation. Groups on campus hold meetings so they can come together as a community with similar interests and/or beliefs. People should respect this freedom and right to assembly, or expect to be asked to leave.
The discussion part of the meeting mainly focused on the categorization of the types of secularism. There was time for everyone present to say where they fall on a scale of religious belief. This included everything from being a “Sunday stalwart” to “solidly secular”. Those who are part of the Facebook group for the SSA had an online test to determine where they fell on this scale. Another categorization was the different types of atheist you could be. This was actually where a lot of diversity among the members became apparent. Some people declared not believing in a higher power and thought that religion can actually be harmful, while others just said they weren’t sure if there was a higher power but did not think that religion was inherently harmful.
Later in the meeting, there was the discussion question of why or why not members considered themselves atheist. As a Catholic, and apparently a “Sunday stalwart”, the reasons I gave were vastly different even from those who weren’t ready to call themselves a full-on atheist. However, the response to my reasons was completely respectful of my viewpoint despite not agreeing with it. There was no cross-examination of my religious beliefs. Additionally, when I stated that I was attending the meeting to learn more about secularism, there was enthusiasm from a large proportion of the members.
In the future I will most likely not be attending SSA meetings as I have a strong belief in God and that having faith in Him does more good than harm. However, anyone who is interested in learning about secularism should know that this is a great environment to do so in.