Wait, an atheist? At the University of Dallas?
I don’t blame you if it comes as a surprise. For the most part, I keep my head down and my pagan thoughts to myself … that is, until now.
Allow me to first clear some things up. As is true of many minority groups, atheists are often misunderstood. Within the religious community, the word “atheist” sometimes comes with a slew of negative connotations and misconceptions; atheists can be subconsciously thought of as stubborn, amoral or nihilistic. For this reason, I actually do not prefer to call myself an atheist at all. I would much prefer something like, “guy who is highly skeptical of the existence of a supernatural power,” which, though obnoxious, lends itself less easily to stigmatization.
Though I’m currently not a believer, I am also no stranger to Catholicism. Like many at the University of Dallas, I was born and raised in a big, beautiful Catholic family. I said my prayers at night, went to Mass every Sunday and was confirmed at age 16. But somewhere between my confirmation and high school graduation, my doubts about my faith reached a critical point and I left the church. I entered a brief period of agnosticism, and it wasn’t until a few months after I came to UD that I cautiously adopted an atheistic position.
As an atheist at UD, I am surrounded by people who base their lives on a faith that I believe is a delusion.
You might assume that I find the religious devotion of UD’s student body irritating or excessive. Quite the opposite. I respect the devout Christian far more than the Christian who practices his faith only when it’s convenient. While I do strongly disagree with the veracity of Christian claims, I also believe this: If God does exist, He had better be taken seriously. If Jesus really is the son of the creator of the universe and was tortured and killed to give us passage into eternal happiness after death if we would only love and serve Him, then yeah, He’s a big deal. He’s the biggest deal. We should be profoundly affected, and it should show. In that light, I sometimes find even UD lacks piety.
But relative piety aside, I find UD lacking in terms of critical engagement with the idea of God. The greatest strength of UD students is their willingness to engage with the big, important questions. I submit to you: If any such question is worth engaging, it is the question that strikes at the core of everything else — the question of God.
Yet at UD, where over 90 percent of students are Christian, it is easy to assume that this essential question has already been answered. I object to this assumption, and I feel it is my duty as a philosophically-inclined dissident to drag the question of God back into the foreground.
UD’s Catholic community has many wonderful qualities, but we must not allow it to become an echo chamber for what we already believe. We must think. We must question. We must doubt. No belief is so old, so sacred, so established that we ought not scrutinize it, especially when we’re talking about the beliefs that fundamentally shape our understanding of the world.
Universities, and UD in particular, are meant to be places where we challenge ideas through candid, purposeful dialogue. It is not enough for us to contemplate these questions privately, or worse, to pretend to debate with those who already agree with us. We must engage, eagerly but respectfully, with the other side.
I challenge you to honestly question what you believe. Shake off the dust of intellectual complacencey. Abandon your comfort zone. Explore new ways of understanding the world.
And to that end, let me be a sparring partner. I am always ready, always eager. I am also interested in making the all-important question of God’s existence a more public and ongoing discussion at UD, and I am open to your ideas.
Now, without further delay, let me start things off …
There is no God.