For those who feel like they don’t fit in with a religious or faith-based view of the world, but instead are adherents to the ideals of the enlightenment and fundamental principles of the natural world without a religious perspective, The Rational Association of Free Thinkers, or R.A.F.T., is planning to hold their first meeting of the semester this Wednesday, Nov. 1, where those with a secular viewpoint are all welcome. This is the club’s third year in existence, having committed to providing a sense of community and freedom of expression for those at the University who do not adhere to a particular faith tradition and prefer to see the world in a more secular, or rational lens, as the club’s name would suggest.
As per the club’s description, it is made known that “Our hope is to bring secular celebration, service projects, and information on the secular point of view, to campus.” Furthermore, it is stated that “we see ourselves not as opponents of religion and the religious, but rather as supporters of the secular and scientific, interested in the natural world, not the supernatural.”
One of the club’s faculty advisors, Dr. Patricia Behre, from the University’s history department, when asked about the types of activities that the club plans to partake in, said, “We’ll be doing two things on Nov. 1. Early in the day, we are participating in the festival of faiths that is put on partially by Campus Ministry. Various groups of different faiths talk about giving thanks in their faith tradition and we have a secular version of that.”
In terms of a specific plan for the semester and the year as a whole for the club, Behre was unsure, but stated that “if they mirror previous years, I’m sure we’ll have a set of events for Charles Darwin’s birthday in February, we usually do that. Last year we did it for the first time in the library and it included an installation of books about Darwin, or in which Darwin’s theories are addressed.”
Another one of the main activities the club took part in last year involved the creation of a delegation from Fairfield to participate in the March for Science. Behre noted that “it was co-sponsored by a variety of departments in the College of Arts and Sciences who contributed to that effort.”
In the past, they have also hosted film and lecture series, such as their spring film series, which featured films such as “Inherit the Wind” (1960), a story about a southern school teacher going to court for introducing evolution to his curriculum, “Religulous” (2008), which is about TV host Bill Maher’s interpretation in regards to contemporary religion, and “Letting Go of God”(2008), which involved a monologue of a personal journey by Julia Sweeney, an American actress and author.
They also hosted a fall discussion series, where matters discussed ranged from the notions of religious tolerance and liberty, as well as the separation of church and state in relation to presidential politics in the United States. Another event in this series aimed to talk about a much larger, existential issue that humanity faces in the 21st century, which is the notion of how many more people can the earth feasibly sustain in the coming years, according to the fall series description.
Feeling as though the secular voice on campus was not heard well enough at Fairfield, Behre pointed out that “We started it years ago because there wasn’t any obvious place for students who come with a secular point of view… of course, everyone knows that Fairfield is a Jesuit university… but that doesn’t necessarily mean that everybody here is a Catholic, or even a Christian.”
One of the student coordinators for RAFT, Brenna Mulhall ‘18, added that “RAFT is really important to me because it is a space in which I can be myself. I am not religious, so RAFT is an opportunity for me to interact with like-minded individuals.” She continued saying, “despite what might be thought of the club, we are welcoming to people of all belief systems and hope to create a warm environment in our meetings.”
Lastly, Behre added that “In our view, a clear-eyed examination of the natural world — in all its complexity — is the best guide for making the world a safe, and respectful place, for all of this earth’s creatures.”