Atheists' club finds surprisingly
fertile ground at USU
By Andrea Romero
December 11, 2008 | "Atheism is the lack of belief
in God or gods. It's not the rejection of God. It's
a lack of belief."
That's how Jon Adams and Jordan Daines defined atheism.
It was out of this belief that Adams, Daines and a few
others started the Secular Humanists, Atheists, and
Free Thinkers club in January 2008.
Daines said that it wasn't easy to start SHAFT. "It
took a long time. We had to get a lot of stuff together.
I doubted that it took other clubs this long. ASUSU
had a debate whether there was a need for a club of
this nature on campus because there was already a religious
Adams was the vice president of the religious studies
club but resigned because he thought that atheism needed
its own voice. Adams and Daines have been surprised
by the turnout. With or without university approval
they were already holding meetings and had members on
Facebook, said Daines.
Now as an official club, Adams said that they have
100 members on Facebook and over 200 people on the email
list. Adams said that SHAFT started more as a social
club among friends but now has expanded beyond just
friends to new people looking for like-minded people.
Kaari Rowberry, a junior in interior design, said that
she joined SHAFT because she liked the idea that she
would be around people who questioned the norm in Utah.
Adams said that Eli Brayley, the preacher on campus,
started dialogue. "It was exciting. He provided a different
view for the marketplace of ideas," said Adams. This
was the kind of excitement that Adams said he wanted
to provide for USU. SHAFT has given disconnected kids
a community, it has helped promote diversity and started
dialogue at USU, said Adams. Rowberry said, "It gives
people an alternative." It brings awareness to the campus
Adams and Daines said that SHAFT was created to not
only give atheism a voice, but to confront misconception
about atheism. "People think that we eat babies and
we don't. Atheism can be moral," said Daines. Adams
said that SHAFT is about doubt and being open to think
critically. SHAFT is a response to how vocal people
are about religion, Adams said.
"We are more moral than some people that believe in
God. We are doing it for our own reasons. We are good
for goodness sake and not for God. We don't do it to
be rewarded," said Daines. Our mission is not take down
the Latter-day Saints, said Adams. Adams said that they
don't feel threatened by people with different opinions.
He also said that SHAFT was not about not welcoming
people that don't agree, it's about thinking critically
and questioning because a "hard truth is better than
an easy lie."
SHAFT has held debates and panel discussions. Daines
said that he would like to talk more about science.
SHAFT members would like to do a service project because
it would be a good to give atheism a good name. Adams'
long-term goal is to find a private donor or appeal
to national organizations to be able to fund a scholarship.
The student body will also be hearing about a bake sale
in the spring semester in an effort to create funds
Adams said that the best way to communicate with SHAFT
is through Facebook. Adams and Daines also really recommend
reading A Short Introduction to Atheism, which
can be found at the Merrill-Cazier Library.