Story and photo
By Brandon Richardson
An atheist, a Hindu, a pagan and a Native American spiritual follower walk into the English Lounge at the LAC and have a level-headed discussion about their beliefs.
While not a good joke, this was the scene during the 14th annual Spirituality Panel, hosted by the Pagan Club on Tuesday, Dec. 2. More than 60 students attended the panel, which consisted of four speakers: Hindu Arcita Dasa, atheist Robert Richert, Druid Vance Shaw and Native American spiritualist Adrian Novotny.
Adrian Urias, 25, a philosophy major, said, “There is a religious intolerance and people are literally dying and here we are, at a liberal arts college, openly discussing these things. We need to exercise the freedom to get together and talk about these things and not kill each other.”
Each member of the panel was allowed 15 minutes to introduce their belief system, followed by an hour of questions from the audience.
Dasa was first to speak and focused largely on the idea of karma. He said, “We have a saying in English, ‘What goes around comes around.’ This is a succinct form, or explanation of karma. Therefore, it behooves us to be very, very careful how we act.”
Novotny followed and spoke mostly about how highly Native Americans hold nature. He said, “Native spirituality consists of the recognition that nature is the source of all power and it is. When we live in the city, we give up a lot. What Natives say we give up what’s most important to us, and is a sin, a crime, a shame, is our connection to the Earth itself.”
Novotny concluded his time by singing a traditional Lakota healing song accompanied by a single drum.
Richert spoke next about how his beliefs exist without the existence of a higher power. He said, “Without a belief in god and the supernatural, it affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity. I reject faith as a pathway to knowledge. We should believe because we have good evidence to believe, not because it makes us feel good.”
He used the last of his time to recite a poem that he had written, which ended with the final couplet: “I don’t believe in gods, be they Christian, Muslim or Jew. Instead, I truly do believe in you.”
Shaw was the last to speak and focused on life after death and echoed Novotny’s views of nature. He said, “We believe that for every person or animal life continues. But if that isn’t true, that’s OK, because once you’re dead, your consciousness isn’t around anyways, so what difference does it make whether your soul continues or not? There’s no distinction between the spirit and the material world, it’s basically one.
The event was organized by Pagan Club Vice President Grecia Pizano, 20, who said, “I was thinking, ‘Oh, 60 that sounds like a lot, we’re lucky if 60 people even show up.’ That’s me not knowing how popular this event is. But we had a great turnout.”
More information regarding the panel or the Pagan Club may be obtained by emailing Novotny at firstname.lastname@example.org.