Secular Student Alliance Represented at the White House Again! June 9, 2010

Secular Student Alliance Represented at the White House Again!

A couple months ago, I was among the delegation from the Secular Student Alliance at a meeting with White House officials.

A couple days ago, the SSA’s Executive Director August Brunsman was there again, this time to discuss interfaith service projects on college campuses. (Greg Epstein, Harvard’s Humanist Chaplain, was there as well.)

“Our inclusion in today’s meeting is a welcome acknowledgement that secular students have been working to make a positive difference in the world,” said Brunsman. “As more and more students openly identify as nontheistic, we are taking a greater role in the charitable interfaith community.”

… “We are committed to increased cooperation with religious organizations for the betterment of society. But our actions will speak louder than our words.”

This event isn’t going to make as many headlines as the last time we went, but I think it’s still big news for atheists. The White House is listening to us and asking us to participate in these service projects (which many of our affiliates do anyway).

I know the “interfaith movement” has its critics among us (myself included), but I think it’s possible to work with people of other faiths toward common goals — and, separately, criticize their religious beliefs in a peaceful way — without being a hypocrite.

This White House meeting focused on working together, and I’m thrilled that the Secular Student Alliance was asked to participate.

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  • Hitch

    Great stuff. I agree that working together is possible. Humanistic values can be found in virtually all faiths and enlightenment is not incompatible with religion, it is just incompatible with intolerance and imposition.

    I have my gripe with how some interfaith people have reacted to secular concerns recently. Basically anything atheist do is framed as aggressive, especially any criticism of religion. But that’s really distinctly anti-enlightenment.

  • Aj

    It bugs me that religions claim charity and morals as if they were religious enterprises. Especially when it seems more about marketing than about helping people. If religions are cooperating with each other, it’s probably against us. If they start talking about “common values”, “tradition”, and “communities” you know it’s against us. We have different values like freethinking, we have broken tradition, and we are individuals.

  • Sellers_as_Quilty

    This reminds me: Even though the so-called “Office of Faith-based Initiatives” includes secular folks on its advisory council, it should be canned. At the very least, the president should reform it, changing its mandate and that silly name. Technically, the office doesn’t “fund religion” (it gives money to religious groups, which in turn use the money to provide services to local communities—with moderate oversight), but this misses the point. The point is: Why was it started in the first place? It was started (at the beginning of a conservative Bible-thumper’s administration) to begin chiseling at the wall between church and state. That was the intent, not to serve under-served communities. Not to mention that it suggests a preference for “faith-based” groups. Just like the “National Prayer Breakfast” implies that those who don’t pray—should. OK rant over.

  • This is certainly positive, although I must admit that I feel fairly discouraged with this president and his administration right now for reasons that have little to do with atheism. They are basically ignoring war crimes and even refusing to hold the Minerals Management Service accountable for the the lack of oversight that allowed BP to ruin the Gulf Coast. Some token gestures toward atheists are nice, but I’m still hoping for some justice.

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