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Is Debating About Religion Worth It? By Greta Christina (Presented by Secular Students and Skeptics Society)


In March 2013, Secular Students and Skeptics Society at University of Colorado was able to host Greta Christina thanks to the Speakers Bureau from the national SSA. This article summarizes the experiences of that event for the group.

On March 6, 2013, our group had Greta Christina come talk on our campus about the importance of debating with theists. The highlights of her talk included forums which might be more suited for debate, suitable topics that would be worth discussing and how to pick and choose the people that might be worth debating with. She also talked about several examples from her own experiences and the lessons that she learned from those past experiences. Finally, she emphasized why it is important to have debates about religion and, even if it’s not your particular forte, not stifle those who do debate others on religion. 

On the topic of forums, she stressed the importance of publicity; making sure that debates are in a public forum for others to have access to. She made a note that the people who are often more influenced by a debate are not those participating, but those who are on the sidelines watching.

Faith, Proof, and Everything in Between by Dr. Andy Norman (Presented by Penn Secular Society)


In February 2013, Penn Secular Society at University of Pennsylvania was able to host Dr. Andy Norman thanks to the Speakers Bureau from the national SSA. This article summarizes the experiences of that event for the group.

Penn Secular Society was able to fly Dr. Andrew Norman to Philadelphia to give a talk, and put him up at a hotel near campus. None of this would have been possible without the financial help we received from the Secular Student Alliance. Additionally, we bought a banner with our name and logo on it which we used to advertise this event, and we distributed lots of flyers.

Dr. Norman titled his talk "Faith, Proof, and Everything in Between", and spoke on the interplay between faith and proof, and to what standards we should hold our beliefs. The event attracted many of our members, and even more students from various campus religious groups, so the total attendance ended up being just over fifty people. Dr. Norman spoke for around forty-five minutes, and then we had another twenty minutes or so of questions from the audience.

An Open Letter to the Secular Community


It is an amazing time to be part of the secular movement. Look at what’s happened in 2012 alone. We held the Reason Rally, the largest event our community has ever had, which brought over 20,000 atheists, humanists, and other secular people together on the National Mall. We are growing, attracting new people, and drawing more attention than ever before. A big part of that growth is thanks to our large and dynamic online community. Online secular communities have helped people encounter new ideas, deepen and broaden their thinking, and even change their minds.

A Problem with Online Communication

At the same time, the fact that so much of our community is online brings with it certain challenges. Communicating primarily online can make it difficult to recognize each other’s humanity. Online we don’t have the same vocal and physical cues to tell us what another person means by his or her comments, so it’s easier for misunderstandings to develop. The instantaneous and impersonal nature of online communication also makes it much easier for these misunderstandings to escalate, or for civil arguments to turn into bitter fights. Like many online communities, our comment and forum threads all too often become places for name calling and even threats, rather than honest dialogue based on mutual respect. Between the small but vocal number of abusive participants (often called “trolls”) who hurl threats and insults, and the overheated rhetoric of some ordinarily friendly and reasonable people, our online environment is in danger of turning toxic. Fortunately, our secular values of reason and compassion give us tools to rise above the lowest common denominator of online communication.


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