Unlike most religious student organizations, one budding group called Skeptics is steadfast in its belief in non-believing.
The two-year-old organization provides a venue for atheist and agnostic GW students to connect with one another on campus.
For non-believers, the student organization is what church is for Christians: an avenue for like-minded people to discuss their views and find closure among understanding peers.
But Skeptics is not solely a discussion group. Organized and founded by senior John Beers last semester, Skeptics’ second official purpose is to “challenge believers in gods, psychics and all other supernatural occurrences, with arguments based on scientific evidence, logic and reason,” he said.
Though this aim sounds like it might provoke the wrath of many religious organizations, Beers said the main goal of his organization is to open up awareness of free thought and inspire discussions between religions.
“It is not about proving people wrong,” he said. “It’s just about talking about beliefs and challenging others for why they believe what they do.”
Atheists are often misunderstood and the group is a way to establish them as freethinkers, Beers said. Recounting a story of a past tabling event in Dupont Circle, Beers remembered people crowding around and gawking at them.
“At one point a man came up and said, ‘I just wanted to see what an atheist looks like.’ People have this idea that we are devil worshippers or something,” Beers said.
The group has about 50 members and is connected with other D.C. community members and affiliate schools. Shelley Mountjoy, the president and founder of a similar group at George Mason University, helped Beers found the GW chapter. Mountjoy said the group at GW is unique “in that it’s about inquiry in general. It’s more than just religion, it’s about science, education and letting [people] choose for themselves.”
The organization’s main mode of influencing the community is through lectures. The most recent took place last month with Dan Barker, a famous atheist and co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Barker spoke about the topic “Losing Faith in Faith” to an audience of about 100 people.
For the future, Skeptics’ goal is to get a larger and more dedicated membership so that it can bring more speakers to the GW campus – hopefully about one a month.
Shortly after the Barker lecture, the group was contacted by MTV. Executives from the television station expressed interest in profiling Skeptics for a segment in their reality program “True Life,” an award-winning documentary series about young people and subcultures.
With this new development, Beers said he hopes to not only be able to spread the concept of “challenging one’s own beliefs” locally, but nationally as well.