The Razorback Freethought Alliance

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The Razorback Freethought Alliance

New student group questions role of religion in society


J. Claire Wilson

Issue date: 9/12/07 The Razorback Freethought Alliance, a new student group at the UA, plans to question the role of religion in society and promote reason, science and the freedom of inquiry in education, according to the group's Web site.

"I was raised in a very strict, fundamentalist tradition of Christianity," said Teresa Blalock, vice president of the Razorback Freethought Alliance.

"In high school, when I began to question things like whether or not everything in the Bible should be taken literally, I was told that some things should simply be believed based on faith. This wasn't a satisfactory answer for me, yet I had no other alternative," she said.

Kevin Metcalf, a law school student who has worked 18 years in law enforcement, founded the Razorback Freethought Alliance.

"Working in counter-terrorism led me to investigate the Islam culture and beliefs so that I could better understand the extremist perspective that includes acts of violence," Metcalf said.

"This led me to explore my own beliefs, and I found that they were not any better supported than any other belief system based on faith." Metcalf said he "recognized the inherent danger of basing action on faith and revealed religion."

Others on campus, including Bill Harter of the physics department, said they see the need for this group to help change the way students see the world.

Harter decided to become the faculty sponsor of this group because he "was quite concerned with the inability of current students to think clearly and critically as well as their tendency to accept primitive superstitions."

The Freethinkers, as they are called, are a unique group, Harter said, for "where else can a student escape the mind-shrink and make-believe that permeates the current society and mature into an adult?"

Educators may be to blame for this, Harter said, because "many professors welcome the dumb-down era that began 20 or 30 years ago since they no longer have to work as hard at teaching and can concentrate on their research."

Increasing dialogue about issues of religion and questioning beliefs are two of the major goals of the Razorback Freethought Alliance, according to their Web site, and the members of the group strive to debate issues in a respectful manner.

Adam Roberts, a junior history major, said he sees the group as a way to expose the Fayetteville community as a whole to an alternative belief pattern.

"The Fayetteville area is a tolerant place, but when I do attend churches in the area, half the time the sermon will preach about how awful life is for nonbelievers and how without a belief in a god your life will be miserable, lonely, sinful, etc.," Roberts said.

Roberts said he hopes to overcome this idea with the Freethinkers and "hopefully getting together as a group will show that the typical freethinker is just like everyone else, just with a different opinion on religion."

Roberts said he believes the reason for the occasional opposition is that "people just don't know that there are many atheists and agnostics," and he likened the position to "where Jews and Catholics were 100 years ago. We're begrudgingly accepted as citizens, but there are a lot of stereotypes."

Being an atheist or agnostic, Metcalf said, does not change nearly as much about a person as many seem to think.

"We hope to raise consciousness that atheists, agnostics, skeptics, humanists and freethinkers in general are just like everyone else,"

Metcalf said, "We are moral, productive, patriotic citizens."

Members of the group such as Blalock said they thought talking about these issues and stereotypes will help people overcome them in the future.

"I think for now, the group is a refuge for like-minded individuals to discuss problems and form friendships," Blalock said. "However, some of us are actively working toward understanding within the community and a future in which very few will say, 'You're an atheist? But you're such a nice person!' We laugh and love like everyone else."


Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful. - Seneca