Alrighty. So last week, before I got swamped with all the things for which I needed to study, I attended my first Freethinkers at VT group meeting! I enjoyed it, but I can now sympathize with all the other lady-atheists out there: I was the only attendee standing in the way of the meeting being a full-on sausage fest.
As someone who has a plurality of male friends, this was only a little bit uncomfortable for me. Honestly, given that I hang out with an all-male-but-me group every Saturday night, and practice fencing with a mostly-male group, I would say that most of the discomfort was the general novel social situation nerves.
That said, I wish there were more fellow-females* who showed up to these things, because there are so many female-specific problems stemming from religion. Yes, as a society, we all pay the price for the widespread delusion that is religious thought, and guys have their own male-specific problems. But if only guys show up, it seems unlikely that the ladies' problems will ever be discussed. Come on, ladies, let's represent!
As a first experience, though, I have to say that the Freethinkers were quite inviting, and that I loved the meeting, even if it did get tangled up in trying to grasp one fellow's idea of a deity, and also in a nonsensical (or so it seemed to me) explanation of the tenth dimension. From what I understand, the meeting topics are usually more structured, which I hope to see at the next one, as I expect it will make the majority of the conversation even more relevant to my interests.
I appreciated the egalitarian attitude displayed. A number of the attendees were not atheists or agnostics, and respect was largely displayed for everyone's faith or lack thereof. I also appreciated that the meeting wasn't spent bashing religion, or something similar (which I didn't expect, but some people to whom I mentioned the group seemed to think this would happen) -- much of the meeting was spent discussing environmentalism and our responsibility to try to keep the planet in decent shape.
Afterward, as a few of us stood around chatting, a few members of a Bible study group overheard us, and wondered if we could have a sort of official-unofficial dialogue between groups at some point. I was quite happy to see the polite and confidant manner in which this request was met with information about when the Freethinkers meet and an assurance that we welcome people of all beliefs provided that they respect our lack thereof. I hope that this dialogue happens, and that both sides maintain their dignity when it does.
I did hear one horror story about a previous iteration of the Freethinkers:
Apparently, tolerance is a longstanding tradition in this club, as a few years ago, many Christian students who objected to the group joined it in such numbers as to constitute a majority, and elected one of their own as the club's President. This faux-freethinker then proceeded to disband the club. Basically, all I can say to that is, "Dick move. At least my group isn't trying to keep anyone else from voicing an opinion."
*Yes, yes, I know, goodness gracious, I used the word "female" to refer to women -- but honestly, I'm still in school, so I sometimes have some trouble attributing the word "woman" to my frequently-immature behavior, and "girl" seems too condescending to me. And I can only say "lady" so many times before I feel like I'm putting on airs, so I'm leaving it up to you, O reader, to comprehend the fact that I am not using it as an insult.