Dave Niose, the President of the American Humanist Association, has some excellent advice at Salon about what secular students ought to do. He goes into more depth in his piece, but here are the bulletpoints:
- [Stand] up for what’s right
- Identify openly
- Talk about the concept of religious identity
- Join a national group
- Join or start a local group
- Remember your secularism when it comes time for ceremonies
- Question friends who “drift back” insincerely
- Defend all secular identities
- Speak up and take action
- Learn about secular issues and be prepared to discuss them
I know the Secular Student Alliance pushes for just about all of these things when we interact with our affiliates. #7 may be the toughest — confronting a friend who slides back into religion for the wrong reasons — but it may also be the most important. There was a time when meeting a middle-aged atheist was hard to find because getting married, having children, and joining a church were often intertwined. But that’s no longer the case. You don’t need religion in those areas of life and there are plenty of secular alternatives.
Dave closes with this optimistic vision of the future:
My prediction is that some of today’s secular students will someday follow Congressman Pete Stark of California as openly atheistic and humanistic national legislators. They will also be community leaders, business leaders, diplomats, engineers, lawyers, and doctors. And they will be openly secular in their world view, joined by many others in their communities and around the country.
It’ll take some time, but I think we’re heading in the right direction.