20 February 2013

Collegiate "student secular organizations"

Excerpts from an essay at Salon:
Secular groups on college campuses are proliferating. The Ohio-based Secular Student Alliance... incorporated as a nonprofit in 2001. By 2007, 80 campus groups had affiliated with them, 100 by 2008, 174 by 2009, and today there are 394 SSA student groups on campuses across the country...

The Secular Student Alliance provides its affiliate groups with support and materials, including banners, pins, and informational materials with titles like What Is An Atheist?, a brochure with cheerful graphics and information about the identities of secularists, including “non-theist,” “freethinker,” and “humanist.”

Oddly enough, in the geography of on-campus student groups, atheist organizations fit within the category of faith-based groups like the Campus Crusade For Christ, which recently (and controversially) changed its name to Cru. At Stanford University, the Atheists, Humanists and Agnostics (AHA!) register with the Office For Religious Life, just like Cru, and are a member of Stanford Associated Religions...

The Secular Student Alliance is essentially a support network for the autonomous atheist, agnostic, and humanist student groups that choose to be its affiliates. The rapid growth of the SSA is analogue to the general growth of the American secular movement. Atheist groups were once fringe organizations that didn’t get along. That began to change around 2007, on the heels of bestselling books from atheist authors like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. Suddenly, the movement had leaders, a sense of direction and a common purpose. Today, the Secular Coalition For America is an umbrella lobbyist group for a number of once-competing groups, including American Atheists, the Council for Secular Humanism, and the American Humanist Association.
More at Salon.


  1. Still stuck on the idea that atheism is a faith? Stanford is a private university that provides resources for religious groups. Apparently the secular groups figure that it makes sense to use the university's resources to provide counter-religious or non-religious social options for Stanford students.

    1. Still stuck on the idea that atheism is a faith?

      Um...No. Never was, really.

  2. I attended a public state university in small town in the Bible belt. One day, I took part in an event in the main student center. Essentially, a large group of students were asked to stand on one side of the room while an announcer called out various personal traits. Depending on whether or not those traits applied to you, you stood where you were or you walked across to the other side of the room. The event was intended to showcase how we're all unique individuals but can have a lot in common with each other regardless.

    It began with simple traits like "male" or "female" and food preferences in which large groups of students were clumped together. Eventually, the topic of religion came up, primarily focusing on subsets of Christianity. Finally, they called for "atheists, agnostics, and people with no religious affiliation." I was raised Christian but generally considered myself at least an agnostic by that point in time, although I had never really openly discussed it with anyone. I hesitated a moment and then pushed through the group of students that I was standing in and walked across to the other side. When I turned around and looked back, I realized I was standing alone.

    It ended up being a positive experience and helped me to realize that it's ok not to have faith and that I (probably) won't spend all eternity burning in hell as a result of my beliefs. Although I came to accept that it's ok not to be religious long before I ever met other people without faith, I think that secular organizations can be a positive thing on campuses.

  3. As a "Person of Faith", I have no problem with anyone believing whatever they choose.

    What I have never understood, is why such a large number of people find it so important to challenge something they are so certain doesn't exist.

    They will curse God, or those that believe in Him, mock, ridicule, all because .... what? I'm ignorant? weak?

    Although I have my own beliefs, I've never felt compelled to confront or argue with those of other religions.

    I honestly believe that everyone feels compelled that there is something greater than just "this".
    Regardless of who is correct, people feel it, they know it, and some of them cannot stand the thought of actually having to one day answer to a higher power.

    Every religion has it's sects and denominations. Some are a little weird, and some are flat-out nuts. But that's because each consists of people; And people can misinterpret, or even purposefully abuse religion.

    1. "What I have never understood, is why such a large number of people find it so important to challenge something they are so certain doesn't exist."

      It's incidental really. People challenge religion because so much nonsense comes about because of it. Amongst other things, many religions teach people:

      -to believe themselves irredeemable sinners for being born homosexual, bisexual, transgender or intersex.
      -to refuse blood transfusions for their children, resulting in their (justified, in their minds) children's deaths.
      -that they are being watched every moment of their lives, and thus must act morally (i.e. externalising the moral compass instead of being inwardly compelled to do so by inherent, or even taught, human decency)
      -not to wear condoms, ever, despite knowingly spreading deadly diseases
      -i could go on, and there are more heinous crimes committed in the name of religion than i have mentioned here, but i especially feel for the plight of LGBTI people born into religions which class them as broken and needing fixing. Almost every single sect of every single religion has a preoccupation with sex, making this problem pervasive through time and through geography. We should have outgrown it by now, but i digress....

      The argument isn't with you, or other people who follow certain religions, or even your or anyone eles's concept of god: it's with religions themselves. Anyone who "curses god" as you put it is just out to elicit an emotional response from people who disagree. It's a regrettable human trait that argument often breeds malevolence, but it's down out of spite and frustration (for the most part, i hope), at what is seen as a mental virus, claiming a monopoly on morality and causing people to hate others or themselves. People argue because they are sick of nonsense. They want to fight it. People want to hurt what they want to fight. They can't hurt ideas. They can hurt you. It's unfortunate, but the reasons should be clear why it happens.

      'I honestly believe that everyone feels compelled that there is something greater than just "this". '

      As for me, so for all. Not me, matey. And personally, i am continually enthralled and amazed by the majesty and sheer enormity of the universe you so casually dismiss as being merely 'this'. I could take offence at such a demeaning description of my world view, but I don't, you've got your thing, it works for you, great.

      On the subject of correctness, no-one will ever be correct. No-one knows anything in the sense you are trying to imply that they do. People of faith like to claim absolute knowledge, it's a comfort they seek externally, and claim internally, but it isn't real. No-one knows. The way you see it, people "cannot stand the thought of actually having to one day answer to a higher power." Not a worry for me, if one does happen to be about, great. In fact, the more the merrier, it would be marvellous if there were a whole pantheon of them, as far as I am concerned. Isn't it an equally applicable postulation to say that perhaps people who insist on "knowing" that god(s) exist(s) cannot stand the thought of actually being essentially completely self-determined, and ultimately utterly alone in the universe?

      In short, don't play the victim card. It does not fit.

    2. What I have never understood, is why such a large number of people find it so important to challenge something they are so certain doesn't exist.

      I've never understood why people of faith so often lack so much confidence in their "faith" that they get all worked up, and are completely shook when they're confronted with the notion that some people simply aren't religious.

      Also, I don't see how people of like minds getting together is a "challenge" to religion, in less of course religious people are extremely insecure in their fait.


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