By Rachel Leland, Reporter
Last night the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Waco opened its doors to the Secular Student Alliance, an unchartered fledgling that meets weekly to provide a forum for atheist Baylor students.
The star of the event was Russel Glasser, a software engineer from Austin who also hosts the webcast “The Atheist Experience,” a 60 minute weekly where listeners can submit questions about religion, morality and life without God to be answered by Glasser and the other co-hosts.
Last night’s event wasn’t the first time the group hosted a guest speaker. Earlier in the semester, the group partnered with The Waco Humanist Society to host speaker Matt Dillahunty who co-hosts “The Atheist Experience” with Glasser.
Los Angeles Senior Eric O’Bannon organized the event after he met Glasser at “The Atheist Experience” conference in Austin .
Prior to the event O’Bannon suggested that attendees contribute five dollars each to cover Glasser’s travel expenses and the $150 fee the group paid to rent the venue for an hour and a half.
After introducing himself to the group, the speaker joked about the irony of him presenting in a church and asked three filled rows if there were any believers among the audience. One guest raised his hand, a gesture that amused all.
Glasser, who believes that atheism is growing in the United States, said that he didn’t think atheists were better than religious people.
“I’ve met some really nice Christians and Muslims in Austin,” Glasser said before talking about the Chapel Hill tragedy where an Atheist man shot and killed three Muslim students.
“Afterwards I saw an old Facebook post of his where he said that he was a fan of “The Atheist Experience,” Glasser said. “That was really embarrassing.”
Some students were not impressed with the speaker and felt that they had heard what he had to say already.
“I feel like what he said was an overview of everything that is said on the internet about atheism,” sophomore Azlyn Vaughn said.
Others like O’Bannon were pleased with Glasser’s talk and the group’s decision to host him.
“Russel was interesting. I really liked that he didn’t attack one religion in particular like Islam or Christianity,” O’Bannon said.
“I felt very privileged to be here because it’s a point of view and a conversation that I wouldn’t be able to have anywhere else,” Kingwood senior John Baker said. Baker is a Christian, but O’Bannon invited him to the group and he took the opportunity to engage with other students who hold different beliefs.
O’Bannon said that he wished the group had been able to find a venue earlier, but was grateful that the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Waco was able to host the group’s event.
The speaker left the group with strong words of encouragement noting the group’s many struggles as a secular student group at a largely Christian university.
“Make sure you are able to help out the Secular Student Alliance in any way you can because we need this bastion of heathenism in Central Texas,” Glasser remarked.