Atheism on Rise: Secular Student Alliance, Secular Coalition of America

The month of March has brought interesting news on the front of religion in America today. The National Journal’s cover article highlighted what they call the "Rise of the Godless." The American Religious Identification Survey found that the number of Americans claiming no religion is on the rise. Both instances highlight a growing lack of religions affiliation and belief in America’s youth.
The American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) (PDF) also found that a movement towards claiming no religious affiliation is "a general trend among younger white American." The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reported “people not affiliated with any particular religion stand out for their relative youth compared with other religious traditions."

What is contributing to this growing trend? One theory is the effect of new technologies in reversing (to some extent) the Spiral of Silence. Research has long shown that those individuals who possess opinions that are in the minority or fear reprisal from the majority are less likely to voice that opinion. More recent research supports the belief that the internet allows individuals to seek out others like themselves and find support for their less popular or recognized beliefs and opinions. As young people are more prone to utilizing the internet for social networking, support, and research this may partially account for the larger number of young, non-theistic Americans.

The National Journal profiles a growing faction of non-religious youth – the Secular Student Alliance (SSA). Their motto is "Mobilizing Students for a New Enlightenment." The SSA’s chapters have grown from 42 in 2003 to 129 this year and they currently have a network of over 14,000 students. Their mission is "to organize, unite, educate, and serve students and student communities that promote the ideals of scientific and critical inquiry, democracy, secularism, and human based ethics."

So what are these Godless youths up to? The SSA’s blog reports on many chapter activities around the country. The Atheists, Agnostics and Freethinkers of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign recently sent eleven of their society along with nineteen Campus Crusade for Christ members to New Orleans for relief work. The students respectfully disagreed on religion while putting aside their differences to work together and help others. The secular students are determined to improve the image of themselves and their beliefs through outreach efforts such as these.

The National Journal highlighted some SSA members who have a lot to say about the role of religion in our education and policy-setting bodies. When a student complained to one chapter in Texas about her microbiology professor offering extra credit for attending Bible study, the group went to the head of the biology department in a successful effort to put an end to such practices. The same group is now rallying support to expel creationists from their posts on the Texas Board of Education.

Politics is also playing a role within this growing faction. Paul Starobin writes

"There is no question that the religiously unaffiliated, the Godless included, are a pronounced Democratic bloc. In 2008, 75 percent voted for Obama, compared with 78 percent of Jews and 54 percent of Catholics, according to the exit polls. In interviews, activists in the secular movement are as apt to say they are libertarians as to say they are liberals; in terms of party affiliation, however, there appears to be a consensus that the Republican Party has formed an alliance with the Christian Right that is all but unbreakable. By no means do the Godless activists fully trust the Democratic Party, yet they see no other practical alternative for accomplishing their political objectives. So their strategy, logically enough, is to become a weightier presence inside the party."

The question "how political should we be?" has also risen within the membership of the SSA. The answer seems to be “it depends on the issue.” When the issue involves a debate centering around separation of church and state, the answer is obvious – get involved, be vocal. But other issues are more complicated. Some pro-choice organizations are hesitant to align themselves with atheist and agnostic groups for fear they will further alienate the opposition who mistakenly already thinks that pro-choice is a Godless stance on the part of all those who land on the pro-choice side of that fence. But the SSA does report a generally successful involvement with many local GLBT groups and their efforts.

Other non-religious groups such as the Secular Coalition for America, of which the SSA is a founding member, also seek a voice in politics. The Secular Coalition for America is an

"advocacy organization whose purpose is to amplify the diverse and growing voice of the non-theistic community in the United States."

Their mission is to

"increase the visibility of and respect for non-theistic viewpoints in the United States, and to protect and strengthen the secular character of our government as the best guarantee of freedom for all."

Why do we need such a body? Cenk Uygur over at The Huffington Post writes

"there is a minority group in America that is a bigger percentage of the country than blacks or Hispanics. But they are often ignored or derided in public. Almost no politician would ever admit to being one. And they are given no voice in the public arena. They are the non-religious."

The question "how political should we be?" has also risen within the membership of the SSA. The answer seems to be “it depends on the issue.” When the issue involves a debate centering around separation of church and state, the answer is obvious – get involved, be vocal. But other issues are more complicated. Some pro-choice organizations are hesitant to align themselves with atheist and agnostic groups for fear they will further alienate the opposition who mistakenly already thinks that pro-choice is a Godless stance on the part of all those who land on the pro-choice side of that fence. But the SSA does report a generally successful involvement with many local GLBT groups and their efforts.

Other non-religious groups such as the Secular Coalition for America, of which the SSA is a founding member, also seek a voice in politics. The Secular Coalition for America is an

"advocacy organization whose purpose is to amplify the diverse and growing voice of the non-theistic community in the United States."

Their mission is to

"increase the visibility of and respect for non-theistic viewpoints in the United States, and to protect and strengthen the secular character of our government as the best guarantee of freedom for all."

Why do we need such a body? Cenk Uygur over at The Huffington Post writes

"there is a minority group in America that is a bigger percentage of the country than blacks or Hispanics. But they are often ignored or derided in public. Almost no politician would ever admit to being one. And they are given no voice in the public arena. They are the non-religious."

The question "how political should we be?" has also risen within the membership of the SSA. The answer seems to be “it depends on the issue.” When the issue involves a debate centering around separation of church and state, the answer is obvious – get involved, be vocal. But other issues are more complicated. Some pro-choice organizations are hesitant to align themselves with atheist and agnostic groups for fear they will further alienate the opposition who mistakenly already thinks that pro-choice is a Godless stance on the part of all those who land on the pro-choice side of that fence. But the SSA does report a generally successful involvement with many local GLBT groups and their efforts.

Other non-religious groups such as the Secular Coalition for America, of which the SSA is a founding member, also seek a voice in politics. The Secular Coalition for America is an

"advocacy organization whose purpose is to amplify the diverse and growing voice of the non-theistic community in the United States."

Their mission is to

"increase the visibility of and respect for non-theistic viewpoints in the United States, and to protect and strengthen the secular character of our government as the best guarantee of freedom for all."

Why do we need such a body? Cenk Uygur over at The Huffington Post writes

"there is a minority group in America that is a bigger percentage of the country than blacks or Hispanics. But they are often ignored or derided in public. Almost no politician would ever admit to being one. And they are given no voice in the public arena. They are the non-religious."
cont'd below



http://www.futuremajority.com/node/5533

Views: 6

Tags: activism, activists, atheism, nonbelievers, politics, secular, students, youth

Comment by Denita on March 23, 2009 at 4:31pm

Organizations such as the SSA are producing another generation of vocal activists who are no longer afraid to demand that their point of view be respected.
Quoted entirely from LindsaySmithHayes's blog
The Young and the Godless
Lindsay Smith-Hayes has her Masters in Communication and currently works for a non-profit in Denver, Colorado. She has long been a Future Majority ally and we are grateful to promote her first post. --Sarah

Kids, you are the wave of the future and I commend you!

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