A presentation to my faculty colleagues on "Coming Out as an Atheist"

At 8:35AM on Thursday, August 27th I am scheduled to make a presentation to my campus community reporting on my sabbatical research, namely, "Coming Out as an Atheist: a Survey". To this date A/N is the only place where I have "published" the results of the survey (see previous blog posts), so this will be the first face-to-face presentation. The venue is a large classroom setting, so at most I can expect 30-40 colleagues. It will be interesting to see who shows up and what kind of questions are asked. The format is typical for professional presentations: I'll have about 30 minutes total and will be asked to leave ample time for Q&A.

Some context: Elon University is a small(ish) -5000 students- comprehensive liberal arts institution in North Carolina. I have been on the faculty since 1985, and have seen Elon grow and change quite a bit, especially in the last 10 years. Although we have "College Chapel" every Thursday morning (optional for everyone) and all faculty meetings are opened with a prayer or "invocation", as are other major events, the faculty and staff are, overall, somewhat progressive. There are plans to start a chapter of the Secular Student Alliance this school year.

The presentation to the Elon community will be heavy on a basic description of the results and light on deep analysis. I plan to present a more "sociological" version of this presentation at the Association for Humanist Sociology meetings in early November (we meet in New Orleans), and two colleagues (one from Elon and one from the UK) and I are collaborating on submitting a paper to the American Sociological Association for possible inclusion on the program at their annual meeting in August, 2010.

The August 27th on campus presentation will be, I suspect, intense in the sense that I know I will be a bit nervous (as I am at any public speaking event), and I anticipate some critical questions, especially regarding the methodology. I will blog about the event soon after it happens, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, if you are one of the folks who have read my blog posts about the data, leave your comments about the survey, the data, and any of the results that you think I should make a special point of mentioning.

One more question: should I wear my FSM t-shirt for the presentation?

In the end it is quite simple: by lowering the stigma associated with being an atheist, the easier we are making it for others to come out and be honest with themselves and those in their social communities. I hope my presentation(s) help contribute to the demarginalization of atheism and help at least one or two of my colleagues to also "out" themselves.

Take care.

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