Jessica Wallace: Arts & Entertainment Editor Ω
When Julia Sweeney made the newspapers in her hometown of Spokane for being an atheist speaker, her family and friends were disappointed in her. Her community, deeply religious, did not seem to understand.
It is difficult going against the belief system you were raised with. This is one of the reasons for the creation of the Kamloops Centre for Rational Thought. Organizers and participants want to recreate the sense of community one may find in a church, but for those who are atheist.
The Kamloops Centre for Rational Thought presented a film at TRU’s Alumni Theatre on Thursday, entitled Letting Go of God.
“We’re trying to replace the fellowship with the Centre for Rational Thought,” Bill Ligertwood, organizer of the event, said Thursday.
The film featured Sweeney recounting her self-realization from a Catholic upbringing into an atheist belief system. Growing up in a Catholic environment, she had once wanted to become a nun. It took a group of Mormons showing up at her door for her to question everything she believed and knew.
“Do you believe that God loves you with all of his heart?” they had asked her.
The problem Sweeney had with the question was nothing to do with God or her relationship with God, but the way that the question was presented. She could not get past the words “believe” and “his”. To Sweeney, one should not believe, one should know. As well, she questioned whether God is male.
She listened open-mindedly to the Mormons present their story to her, but her first reaction was that it was ridiculous. She wondered if other people thought of Catholic stories in the same light. This experience paved the way for Sweeney to explore religion as she knew it and question everything.
Sweeney’s speech about her journey into atheism was informative and entertaining. She used comic relief to ease the tension of the serious topic. Audience members repeatedly laughed out loud listening to Sweeney’s testimonial.
“It’s like God is bipolar!” Sweeney said when recounting her experience of reading the bible from cover to cover in bible studies. She felt disconnected between how she was taught the bible and the way that she read it as a critically thinking adult.
The majority of her speech was spent discussing the credibility of different religions, and at times it felt like listening to an NDP candidate complain about the Conservatives while ignoring their own agenda. She didn’t spend much time speaking directly about atheism but it did flow cohesively from her speech about religion.
Ligertwood led a discussion after the film. Several people commented on the movie and related it to their own experiences.
“A lot of times I get asked how I appreciate the beauty of the world,” Ligertwood shared. “I appreciate it immensely more—every second of the ride. I don’t pin it on what will happen next.”
Ligertwood also talked about his experiences travelling. He associated the poorest and most oppressed people he met while travelling to being the most religious.
“What our centre is looking for is something based on reason and evidence, not supernatural,” Ligertwood said.
The Alumni Theatre was about a quarter full with mainly middle-aged people attending the free event. When I asked Ligertwood whether many young people are members, he informed me that some TRU students are currently starting up the TRU Free Thinkers, an on-campus atheist group.
To find out more about the Kamloops Centre for Rational Thought visit www.kamloopsatheist.com. To find out more about the TRU Free Thinkers, search for TRU Free Thinkers on Facebook.