So today I woke up bright and early (okay, 8:45am, but it's fall break people, be sympathetic) to watch Dr. Tom Arcaro
of atheist survey fame film the round table discussion that will eventually become the meat of his documentary Everyday Atheists
. Perhaps ten people from all around the area came, though not everyone participated in front of the camera. It took about three hours and easily could've gone on for much longer. You know how much people love anecdotes and everyone has their own stories. Topics covered most things that hit the shit lists of the religious and the blogs of the nonreligious: parenting little heathens, morality, Obama and politics, social believers, how to deal with religious family members, public and private social settings and of course we had to teach some of the less internet-savy members about His Noodliness, the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Yarrrr. I didn't participate in the round table, though perhaps I should have. I certainly would have been the youngest in the discussion and I like to think my youthful enthusiasm is encouraging in the field of open discourse. However I was too afraid of saying something indomitably stupid and ruining my street cred forever. Hah. Atheist street cred. I'm a ridiculous girl. I'm also not a natural Bible-belter. I was born and raised and spent 18.5 years of my life in the suburbs of Philadelphia. I'm a recent transplant to Elon (college does that to you) and would feel a bit awkward trying to pull that off. Anyway.
I think what Dr. Arcaro is really going for with this discussion is the opportunity to demonstrate how varied and wonderful atheists can be and indeed why organizing atheists is often referred to as herding cats. There certainly were some very different view points being expressed. Four men and two women participated, the oldest being near 70 and the youngest being 24. I gathered that at least four were parents and one man had brought his twenty-something daughter along. (We chatted, it was good times.) Among the participants were a Buddhist atheist, a republican who also used to witness as a Southern Baptist, a vegan, a self-described anti-theist, a secular Jew and, my personal favorite, a guy who was a pretty average atheist except for the fact that he's a magician. He performed some prestidigitation for us after we finished filming. XD
Certainly this documentary will be not only for atheists but will work toward Arcaro's continuing goal of helping to destigmatize atheists in the minds of the religious majority. Atheists are a minority, but we are a fast growing one and we cannot demand respect if people fear or hate us. The point of this documentary is to present the multifaceted approaches of atheism and show that there is nothing to fear in us, nothing to hate. We are next-door neighbors, teachers, friends, siblings, children, parents who simply believe in one less god than Christians/Muslims/Jews. In all other aspects we are as varied as the next sect, in fact sometimes all we have in common is
our non-belief. The round table is a plea for understanding, for tolerance, for acceptance and for open and honest discourse with other atheists and with theists.
As Dr. Tom likes to say, downstream there's a lot of work to do. He plans on filming bios of each of the participants and then will have quite a bit of editing to do. He's hoping that his documentary will be pared down to about a half hour and he has almost 3 hours of film from today alone. He has also mentioned perhaps documenting the development of Elon University's new secular organization SANE, which I mentioned last post. I'll help with that if I can. I plan on bringing a camera to SANE's next meeting which will feature a showing and then possibly discussion, if we have time, on Bill Maher's Religulous
. Hell, I'll even take minutes if necessary. I've been waiting for something to get involved in. That showing will hopefully take place on the 27th of October. Never fear, I'll let you know how it goes.