State of disbelief

On Friday, May 13, the portent of a lifetime of bad luck did not deter a snaking line of over 150 guests from passing underneath a ladder and entering the first annual University of Chicago Superstition Bash. Hosted by the Secular Student Association in the UofC’s Reynolds Club, the Spirit Week kickoff event was intended to be an irreverent reversal of rituals and a transgression of taboos. Mike Mei, a member of the association, was pleased with the turnout: “Either people want free food, or want to get into this stuff.”

Josh Oxley, the University’s Humanist advisor, welcomed attendees and encouraged them to throw salt over their shoulder or bite into toast imprinted with the image of Jesus. “We wanted to make people aware of how these superstitions and beliefs affect their lives,” he said of the night’s events.

If the “I Doubt It” stickers and various issues of the magazine “Skeptical Inquirer” (including the UFO special issue) strewn across the tables did not raise awareness, the improv group Occam’s Razor certainly did. For their last skit, the troupe acted out a courtroom debate on a topic fielded from the audience: the existence of God. The  lighthearted and whimsical trial ended with the judge’s decree: “The verdict here is guilty; how it pertains to this case is up to you.”

Though the intentionally ambiguous verdict left some onlookers unfulfilled, the homeopathic bar satiated even the most discerning audience member. Mocking the claim that water possesses memory, a bartender served water from various bottles of fine alcohol. Next to the bar, “power bands” were laid out for the taking, professing powers of flight, invisibility, and the ability to master economics problem sets. Attendees balancing heaping plates of Leona’s lasagna and salad, eagerly grabbed at the glorified rubber bands.

Alex Novet, president of the Secular Student Alliance, observed the crowd as he stood in front of a pixilated poster of Bigfoot. “This is great general publicity and outreach,” he said. “Over 50 percent of the campus identifies as atheist, so it’s great to get together and make our presence known.” For Novet, however, the bash was certainly about more than outreach and recognition–it was a time to let loose. “We atheists can have a good time,” he laughed, “instead of just sitting around and being skeptical.”

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