Americans have long known the television jingle, “What would you do for a Klondike bar?”
On Friday afternoon, members of Rekindle Reason, a campus atheist group, outdid Klondike. They offered Locust Walk passersby the chance to sign away their souls for chocolate chip cookies.
With a table and whiteboard on the Walk, group members claimed 13 souls in half an hour. Individuals “sold” their souls by signing a contract on a small piece of paper. In three hours, the group owned 79 souls.
Second-year computer science graduate student Christopher Imbriano tempted families visiting for Penn Preview Days: “Sell your child’s soul! These cookies are delicious, I had one!”
“Sell your dog’s soul!” College freshman Isaac Garcia, a group co-founder, added. When wind blew away the small, square contracts, Garcia said, “Oh, there’s the hand of God.”
Rekindle Reason co-founder and College freshman Emmett Wynn said, “The point of making a Faustian bargain for a cookie is that most people have never really thought about whether they have a soul. We’re trying to get people to think.”
University Chaplain Reverend Charles Howard, said the bake sale would be a positive event as long as it focused on creating further dialog.
“However,” Howard said, “I would advise Rekindle Reason to make sure the dialog remains respectful and not patronizing. The best interlocutors listen to each other without dismissing each other.”
He added, “Most of the students I’ve worked with have thought very hard about religion and whether there is a God.”
Co-founder and College freshman Seth Koren characterized the event as a humorous way to raise the issue of religious belief. He credited the University of Western Australia’s Atheist and Skeptic Society with inspiring the bake sale when they held a similar event.
One man got into a heated conversation with a stranger over the question of theism with one of them ultimately walking away.
But overall, Koren noted that most of those who saw or participated in the event were amused. “People can tell it’s meant to be absurd, and nobody’s been very offended.”
Group leaders said the event exceeded their expectations, and was great fun. Some soul-sellers had something to say about their transaction.
David Gregson, first-year graduate computer science student, said, “If there is a soul, we should be feeling different right now. But all I’m feeling is that delicious cookie.”
“Up until now, souls had zero nominal value,” second-year computer science graduate student Sunny Gupta said. Then he chomped on his cookie.
Classical studies professor Peter Struck did not sign away his soul, but he supported Rekindle Reason’s efforts to encourage free thinking.
College sophomore Alysen Vilhena also decided to keep her soul. “Souls are intangible anyway, so how could I sell it?”
Rekindle Reason had originally scheduled their bake sale for Wednesday afternoon, but rain forced a delay. “It was divine intervention,” Howard joked.Comments powered by Disqus
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