Atheists ‘auction souls,’ raise money for Secular Student Alliance

Brittany Wagner

“Send an atheist to church!” a student yelled at passersby, while pointing to eight cash-filled mason jars on the West Mall. 

The Secular Student Alliance hosted its first Soul Auction from Wednesday to Friday in which they set out eight jars representing various religions: Baptist, Islam, Mormonism, Catholicism, Church of Christ and non-denominational Christian for donations. They also had a jar for Hell and a write-in jar for religions not represented.

Students donated money to the jar of their choice, and the SSA plans to respectfully attend a service for the religion that receives the most donations. 

The money will be put toward club fees and to the expenses of hosting “Friendly Atheist” Hemant Mehta, an author who became famous when he sold his soul on eBay, to speak at a meeting next semester.

According to SSA president Matthew Folts, a social work senior, the auction raised $107.72 in total and Hell pulled the most donations with a 33 cent lead over nondenominational. As a result, SSA will attend a service at the Austin Stone, a local nondenominational church, which received the second-highest donation. At their meeting following the service, they will host a discussion to reflect on it.

“The more that we interact with [religious students] and the more that we understand ‘we have different beliefs, but we don’t hate you for it, and hopefully you don’t hate us for it,’[the better],” Sorrell said. “We just want to foster that understanding with religion, with religious people, with religious orgs.”

Emma Sorrell, SSA secretary and aerospace engineering and women and gender studies junior, said SSA is the place for secular students to come together and build a community like one they may have lost when they left religion.

“During orientation, I walked past like forty Christian orgs … and it was a little alienating because you think UT is this big liberal college, you think, ‘Oh there’s going to be atheists everywhere,’” Sorrell said. “So we’re just kind of one little secular boat in the sea of religion.”

This story has been updated since its inital publication. Hell pulled a 33 cent lead over nondenominational, not 33 percent.