Revolution #162, April 19, 2009
Religion and Morality—Atheism, and Communism
Sunsara Taylor Tour Building Momentum
Revolution correspondent Sunsara Taylor has been touring campuses around the country promoting Bob Avakian’s book: Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World—opening up lively debate and stirring up controversy about religion, atheism and communism wherever she goes. In recent weeks, momentum has been building, as Sunsara has been the guest on popular call-in radio shows and has spoken to overflow crowds on campuses hungry to wrangle with these questions.
Taylor’s tour has been sponsored by Atheist Clubs, religion departments, humanities departments and more at places like New York University, Columbia College in Chicago, and Atlanta’s Georgia State University. Panels have included—along with Taylor— “freethinkers”, professors of biology and philosophy, a Buddhist, progressive clergy who are deeply committed to social justice, and pro-capitalist atheists.
On April 7, she appeared at Columbia College as part of a program titled, “A Communist, a Buddhist, and a Priest sat down to discuss: Morality to Change the World—With or Without God(s)?” Bob Bossie, a Catholic priest and long-time activist for social justice; Professor Steve Asma, a Buddhist and philosophy professor; and Taylor debated and wrangled over whether religion is an obstacle or a pathway to emancipating humanity before a standing-room only crowd of over 250. Students asked probing and sometimes personal questions—one said the whole event had “touched a moral nerve” in her. One young man said the event, “was eye-opening for my own view of what I think morality should be and where it fits in my life. So it gave me more of a perspective to find my place.” The next evening, the “Best Church of God,” a satirical Chicago improv company, hosted a “spirited debate” where the righteous believers took on the blasphemous atheist in a battle of Good vs. Evil—all as a special fundraiser to benefit Taylor’s tour.
Last month at Georgia State University, as part of a panel with a reverend from a Black church and a founder of the Fellowship of Reason, Sunsara Taylor brought Bob Avakian’s provocative challenging of the enslaving mentality of religion right into the Bible Belt. The audience of 300 was thirsty for the sharp exchange that ensued. The audience got rambunctious and they got passionate, and a lot of them spoke up—both asking questions as well as interjecting and challenging the speakers. (Go to revcom.us for a report on this wild and wrangling discussion: “Correspondence from Revolution readers and distributors in Atlanta”)
Breaking the debate out into the broader mainstream, Taylor has been on two popular call-in shows on commercial Black radio—in Chicago and Atlanta. In Atlanta, the host challenged listeners: “We have a very intelligent young woman here—and now I want all of you preachers, Jesus freaks and holy rollers to call up, cuz she’ll have a word for you.” (The interview is available for download at http://sunsara.blogspot.com/).
Last November was when the tour really began to take off with an event at New York University hosted by the Atheists, Agnostics & Humanists at NYU and Equal Time for Freethought radio on WBAI radio. The event was a panel with other non-believers: “Morality Without Gods: An Exchange.” People were turned away from the packed room. Following the intense discussion and debate the audience demanded a second round which was held on March 3 of this year. (The first event can be seen on YouTube at youtube.com/watch?v=h-jDpdbVff4).
Through all these events, audiences have been stimulated by the amazing contention of perspectives, and at the same time genuinely inspired to see that people with widely different views, but a common interest in bringing about a future world fit for human beings to live in, could sharply engage these questions without it becoming antagonistic or disrespectful. And Sunsara has brought the perspective of a revolutionary communist into all this. People have come away from these events talking and wondering about all kinds of questions about religion, morality, science and communism and what all of this has to do with bringing about a better world.
Bring Sunsara Taylor
to your campus, organization, bookstore or town!
Organize a panel, bring together others
with strong views on these questions,
get her on the radio, and kick the debate much higher.
To arrange to have Sunsara speak in your area,
and for assistance in how to plan and organize events,
email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 917-520-6963
FLASH:On April 7, Librería Calíope in New York City hosted a lively book release event to celebrate the publication of the Spanish edition of Away with All Gods! ¡Fuera con Todos los Dioses! Desencadenando la mente y cambiando radicalmente el mundo, is stirring up interest among Spanish-speaking readers, including proletarians, youth, intellectuals and people influenced or involved in the powerful radical and revolutionary currents that swept Latin America in the 60s and 70s. Passages from the book were read aloud, including a dramatic reading of the bitterly ironic beginning of the book, “God Works in Mysterious Ways.” After the readings, discussion and debate broke out and there were refreshments and a toast to the release of the book. Plans are being made to promote the book in the Spanish-speaking community.
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