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Atheist radio show at UTSC attracts listeners worldwide

The internet radio program, Godless, began airing in January 2009 on UTSC's Fusion Radio.

by Rob Wulkan

The atheist and freethinker movements have been picking up steam nationwide and across the world. There is also growing interest at UTSC, with a noteworthy addition to this outspoken community being a radio show titled Godless, which began airing on UTSC’s Fusion Radio in January 2009. It is the only show of its kind at U of T.

The name Godless evokes a reaction from most who hear it, and that's exactly the purpose behind the chosen moniker. The term, brought to light in popular culture by right-winger and controversial figure Ann Coulter through the titling of one of her books, was initially used as a pejorative label. The hosts of the show, however, wear the term as a badge of pride.

“Atheism is a lack of a religious world view. There's no dogma or ritual that surrounds it. In fact, the only thing that atheists by definition will have in common with one another is the mutual lack of belief in a God,” says fourth-year mathematics student David Leaman (known as 'Dave' on the air), co-host and founder of the online show. “My own personal brand of atheism is one that embraces evidence-based and logical reasoning along with the scientific method. Using these tools, I've come to the realization that the evidence for the existence of God just doesn't hold up. The idea that applying modern methods of inquiry to the 'big questions' should be a bad thing is actually pretty laughable.”

There were two driving reasons behind the creation of the show, according to Leaman. The first was the result of a large gap in representation on this campus. Although there are a wide range of religiously based clubs and organizations, there is no place for atheists and freethinkers to gather communally at U of T Scarborough, he says. Godless is there to let them know that they are not alone.

“The second reason is that I was just pissed off,” he muses, citing local examples such as a religiously based anti-evolution display that was found in the Student Centre that he says was chock-full of misinformation. Another broader issue relates to medicine, he notes, when some parents let their kids die rather than seek proper medical treatment because of their unwavering faith in prayer and 'natural' remedies (see Episode 19 of Godless, titled “Alternative Medicine.” (See the web site listed below.) “I felt compelled to speak out against the atrocities and the misinformation that was out there in the world,” states Leaman.

Show topics have included subjects such as blasphemy, losing faith, and homosexuality. Striving to deliver a radio show that fosters discussion, the hosts encourage listener feedback both on the air by phone and chat, as well as off the air via e-mail and the contact form on their web site.

“Listener feedback is important to us, and we do our best to address questions and criticism on air,” says Leaman, who notes that it is important to get a diverse range of views. The show often brings in guests for interviews. Recent guests have included Professor Michael Inzlicht of psychology at U of T Scarborough, who talked about his research on religion and the brain, and Professor Larry Moran of biochemistry at U of T’s St. George campus, author of the science blog “Sandwalk.” He discussed the incompatibility of science and religion.

Over the past several months, the show has been well-received, with an average of more than 200 listeners per episode. The show has also attracted international attention, with people tuning in online from as far away as Kuwait and Australia. Godless is believed to be one of the most successful shows in Fusion Radio's history.

Asked if there has been any negative response to the show, he notes that posters advertising the show on campus bulletin boards have been routinely torn down. “It's a sad state of affairs when free speech is endangered even on a university campus,” says Leaman. “But it just reaffirms the need for this type of programming to break the stigma surrounding atheism. Targeting atheists is no different than targeting Muslims, Christians, or Jews. Hate is hate, and it cannot be tolerated.”

That being said, all feedback received by the hosts of the show via e-mail and otherwise has been very supportive. “Even those who disagree with us do so in the form of a respectful dialogue,” he said, “and that's what the show is designed to evoke.”

Interested listeners can tune into Godless every Friday from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. on www.fusionradio.ca.

Archives of past episodes, show notes, links and contact forms can be found on the show web site at www.godlessradio.ca. For subscription services, simply search “Godless Radio” in the iTunes store.

Rob Wulkan is the co-host of the Godless radio program. He is a 2009 graduate of the University of Toronto Scarborough.




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