Atheists, agnostics unite in disbelief
The acronym AAA has a whole new meaning on Auburn's campus.
Auburn Atheists and Agnostics is a new student led social group for the non-religious community.
Poojit Ravikumar, sophomore in management information systems and president of the group, said his organization was born out of the AAA Facebook group he joined when he came to Auburn last year.
"I was like, 'This fits me,' so I joined," Ravikumar said.
At the time, the Facebook group had few followers, but as group members began to converse, Ravikumar and others decided they wanted to make the online group an actual campus organization.
After creating a constitution and bylaws, the group had to go in front of the organization board, which, after saying a prayer, voted on whether to make AAA an official campus group.
"Everyone on the organization board kind of looked at each other, but they all ended up saying yes," Ravikumar said.
Religion may be a touchy topic in the state of Alabama, but AAA is going full steam ahead with already 25 group members.
"The one thing the organization board tried to get us on was a grammatical error," said Seth Denney, freshman in electrical engineering and physics and vice president of the group.
After officially becoming a group Feb. 1, Ravikumar said he was surprised to receive e-mails from several Auburn professors as well as people in the Auburn-Opelika community, thanking him.
Christopher Chabot, freshman in aerospace engineering, and communication director of the group, said the group's goal is not to convince and convert people into becoming atheist or agnostic, but to spread awareness and acceptance and provide a venue for people with similar ideas to come together and share those ideas in a comfortable environment.
"They really kind of lacked this type of club here at Auburn," Chabot said. "To have a Muslim group, a Jewish group, multiple Christian groups of all different sects and to not have a group where free-thinkers and nonreligious people could get together was kind of mind boggling."
The group has many plans for the future, such as working with the Secular Student Alliance, which holds conventions and brings different groups of the same nature together, and the Humanist Gala, a group of Auburn-Opelika residents that meet to discuss similar topics.
Group members are quick to assert that AAA is not a debate group.
"We're trying to inform people so if they do get into a debate or discussion with someone whose beliefs differ, then they won't have to resort to 'uh-huh' or 'I know it's true, but I don't know how to say it,'" Denney said.
The group is also not strictly limited to talking about religion, or lack thereof.
Ravikumar said AAA group meetings are also a time for friends to get together, have a good time and be a part of something.
"It's a different lifestyle, what we believe in," Ravikumar said.
Even after growing up Christian, Ravikumar realized through observation and talking with others that his views greatly differed from that of mainstream religion.
"There's a lot of us, hundreds in Auburn, that feel this way," Ravikumar said. "I was worried about saying that because there's so many negative connotations with being atheist or agnostic."
Denney said, just as with Christianity, there isn't one clear cut way to define being atheist or agnostic.
"It's a very finely segmented spectrum," Denney said.
Chabot said AAA is also a rights and activist group of sorts.
"If we see something going on that's persecuting anybody, it doesn't matter if it's religion or race, we can stick our finger out and say that's wrong," Chabot said. "It doesn't matter what you believe; it's humanistic rights at stake here."