UConn’s Free Thinkers tackle issues
Published: Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 22:08
If you have a passion for intellectual debate, the UConn Freethinkers Club is the best place on campus to exercise it. An affiliate of the Secular Student Alliance, Freethinkers is an organization for individuals to share their thoughts in a safe, judgment free environment. Each week the club decides upon a pertinent issue to discuss, covering topics ranging from atheism to vegetarianism to gender roles. Members are encouraged to research the topic and arrive prepared to debate and listen to opposing arguments.
While the organization is officially affiliated with a secular mentality, Freethinkers chief organizational officer, Sebastian Correa, a 5th-semester English and economics major, says that, “Freethinkers is a club where everyone can get together and discuss topics in a friendly way. You do not have to be an atheist or agnostic to attend.” The open door policy of the club welcomes members of all faiths, whose perspectives create a dynamic debate environment and add diversity to the conversation. Correa affirmed the value of having diversity within the club, saying, “Our club, is not a bunch of people talking about how they aren’t religious, we discuss topics such as abortion, human rights, gender roles, politics, etc. A great discussion is always a goal of mine.”
The whole concept behind Freethinkers is inclusive. Many members of the group are atheists, a choice that even in modern society is often the source of discrimination and rejection. For Correa, the open door policy of the group goes beyond bringing a more colorful cast of characters to the table. “Keep in mind that everywhere in this country, and world at that, people are not always open to atheists. This club is a safe haven for those who may be closeted as atheists, skeptics and/or agnostics. We have had members who were afraid to tell their parents, and this is sadly a real problem in our society. Many parents are frightened by atheism; the word itself instills a sense of fear. It carries a lot of negative baggage.”
Given the number of controversial subjects the club has covered, including abortion, religion and gender, the organization maintains calm discussion that is always intellectual and relevant. This environment is not only safe for students who need to share their opinions, but it is a stable and productive learning environment. According to Correa, “Most members learn from our diverse thematic meetings. I hope that new and current members can become enlightened with the ideas of critical thought, skepticism, argumentation, reason, science, and the courage to stand up for your beliefs and opinions, but at the same time to have the ability to question and even change these beliefs if they do no stand up to logic and reason.”
The organization’s numbers are currently small, making the conversation rewarding and thorough, but the club is looking to boost membership this fall. In the works for this year is a panel discussion open to the student body. This opportunity could open UConn students’ minds to a variety of new issues and allow them to embrace the empowerment of critical thinking. “We promote critical thinking; this is a very important skill to have in life. Colleges are supposedly trying to promote critical thought,” said Correa.
Freethinkers meets from 9-11 p.m. in the Phillip E. Austin Building, room 247.