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Michael Fitzpatrick '12: The secret life of atheists at Brown

In a recent column ("The secret life of Catholics at Brown", Sept. 17), Herald columnist Kate Fritzsche '10 lamented the poor treatment of Catholic students and Christians in general by their atheist peers within the Brown community. As a closed-minded, disrespectful, Bible-burning atheist, I'd like to apologize on behalf of my fellow nonbelievers for our offensive, intolerant behavior.

In her column, Kate claims that it's always been cool to be non-religious at Brown. The fact of the matter is, it's all an act — a performance, if you will. We pretend to be cool and sophisticated because we are subconsciously quite insecure. We've secretly wanted to be friends with Christians, but we've often found it difficult to express ourselves in a way that isn't outright offensive to religious folk. So, if we ask you why you're fasting for Ash Wednesday, we aren't trying to ridicule you — we want to know if you'll let us fast with you, because we know that all the cool kids are fasting these days.
     I will admit, these petty rationalizations are no excuse for our misconduct. We really do have a lot for which to apologize. For one, it isn't fair for atheists to stereotype Christians when the stereotyping could just as easily go the other way around. Not all Christians are conservatives, but not all atheists are liberals. Some of us firmly believe in the virtues of the free market system, but we are marginalized because "atheists don't have beliefs." I can't tell you how many times I've cried myself to sleep over that fact.

Other stereotypes are not as forgiving: atheists go out of their way to get attention because they need it; atheists actually do believe in God, but just really like flirting with damnation; atheists can recite passages from "The God Delusion" the same way Christians quote Scripture. Each one of them is more bogus than the last. But when righteous, honorable men like former President George H. W. Bush and Charles "Chuck" Norris proclaim that atheists are unpatriotic, I still die a little on the inside.

I also apologize for our irrational fear that Christian teachings will pollute our scholarly pursuits. This really is inexcusable. If Christian students are willing to study secular philosophy, evolution and physics, then atheist students should be willing to stomach a biblical reference or two in their English classes. It's a shame that we lobbied to have "Paradise Lost", "Mere Christianity" and the Bible banned from the English department, all of the libraries and the shelves of the Brown bookstore. We're very sorry for that.

And speaking of classes, we would take more courses in religious studies if we could, but you know how nervous we get about taking humanities classes — without numerical data and objective analysis, the withered husks that are our souls may be exposed to the beauty that is the human spirit and we may be forced to confront the starkness of our godless existence.

But it's not just the academics department in which Brown University is obscenely biased against its religious students, especially its Christians. Come to think of it, Brown really doesn't offer enough programs and student groups targeted specifically at Christian students to promote solidarity and celebrate their religious views. It just isn't fair for Christians' selection of student associations to be limited to Athletes in Action, the Branch Christian Ministry, the Catholic Pastoral Council, Brown Christian Fellowship, College Hill for Christ, the Orthodox Christian Fellowship, the Reformed University Fellowship, the Unified Christian Body and the Brown Unitarian Universalist Undergraduate Group. On the other hand, atheists have an entire figurative buffet line of student organizations from which to choose: Brown Freethought, Brown Freethought, Brown Freethought and Brown Freethought, to name a few. If the University permitted us to start a chapter of the Agnostic and Atheist Student Association, well… that would just add insult to injury!

Ultimately, Brown University is a privileged place for those of us who happen to be atheist. We have certainly thrived in our patch of fertile ground. But there has to be room on the quad for students of all religious backgrounds: atheists, Christians, Muslims, Jews and even Scientologists. After all, our motto is "In Deo Speramus" — despite the fact that some of us don't exactly "speramus" in "Deo."

I suppose my point to the Christians is that, if you would be willing to forgive us, we'd love to have lunch with you at the Ratty sometime. If you save a seat for me, I'll save a seat for God.

Michael Fitzpatrick '12 swears that he does not burn Bibles.He can be contacted at michael_fitzpatrick(at)


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