I'll be leaving for a three day biology conference in Nebraska early tomorrow morning. If the blog is dead, that's why.
On Monday I agreed to be a part of a panel for a class here titled Communicating Across Cultures...one of those required classes everyone loves to take. All I was told is the class was discussing religious oppression on campus, and that needed a non-theist for a panel to answer questions from the audience. I said sure. I asked for more details about what specific questions were going to be asked, but they never replied. I shrugged it off, thinking it was just short notice, and along with my agnostic friend (who was the one who directed them to me), went to the panel this morning.
Unfortunately, I felt like I'd been duped.
Maybe duped is too harsh of a word. I generally like to give people the benefit of the doubt that they're not being malicious, but either way, I was seriously annoyed. I arrived about ten minutes early and sat waiting with Agnostic Friend until class was going to start, with no real instruction from the professor. She then asked us to sit down with the other panelists...one of which is a middle aged man. Okay, I think, maybe he's in charge of some diversity program.
She introduces us to the class, and says that we're going to take about 5 to 7 minutes to explain why we believe what we believe, and then we'll open it up for questions. Agnostic Friend and I exchange looks of "Eep, wish she would have warned us about that." Unfortunately for him (and thankfully for me), she asked him to start first. He talked for about 2 minutes, basically just briefly defining what it meant to be an agnostic. It was then my turn, and I probably stammered on about atheism for about 3 or 4 minutes. It's hard enough listing all the reasons why you're an atheist in less then five minutes when it's taken you a decade to figure out, but I tried my best. I thought I did a pretty good job for having absolutely no notice about the question.
That is, until the next person spoke. The older guy wasn't just some diversity person...he was a professor and doctor at our student health center. And not only was he presenting the Christian view point, but he had a typed up perfectly organized speech, full of all the usual horrible arguments for God and Christianity (which I will talk about after the biology conference). On top of all that, he's beautifully eloquent, charismatic, and filling his introduction with personal, emotional, funny stories. I know they're horrible arguments, but that they're going to sound amazing to the audience, especially after my improvized talk. To make matters worse, the fourth panelist was a graduate and former head of the Muslim Student Association...and had an actual Powerpoint presentation that he had obviously given many times before.
You can understand why I'm pretty annoyed. The two non-theist junior undergraduates are sitting up there, not even notified what the main question (or even PURPOSE) of the presentation is, while two eloquent, older, and more prepared theists make us look like unprepared fools. It was honestly embarassing...not because I'm not able to make good presentations or arguments (because I can *grumble*), but because I had absolutely no warning while they obviously did. Not only am I personally embarassed, but I regret losing this opportunity to present atheism to a large group of students who 1. probably never encountered it and 2. now won't ever want to encounter it again.
Of course, even if I was prepared, would it really have been fair facing me off against Mr. Professor Doctor "I've Traveled the world and dined with Kings" Former Atheist Saw the Light Jesus Cures What Even Medicine Can't? I'm fairly certain even the brightest 21 year olds with the best arguments will look foolish when debating a charismatic "adult" with horrendous arguments.
The cherry on top was that because the format was Q&A, I never got a chance to refute any of the garbage the Christian and Muslim were saying. I guess that gives me some blogging material for after my trip.