What Should Secular Students Do? July 13, 2010

What Should Secular Students Do?

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:

  1. [Stand] up for what’s right
  2. Identify openly
  3. Talk about the concept of religious identity
  4. Join a national group
  5. Join or start a local group
  6. Remember your secularism when it comes time for ceremonies
  7. Question friends who “drift back” insincerely
  8. Defend all secular identities
  9. Speak up and take action
  10. 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.

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  • L.Long

    Yes secularists will gain the upper hand when the temperature of the eternal depths of the pit drop below the critical temperature of solidified dihydrogen monoxide!
    The power of human stupidity is truly awesome!
    They are in deep lust of their delusions and will continue the good fight into ignorance.

  • aaaaaaaaaaaand, trolled.

  • Bill

    “The power of human stupidity is truly awesome!” @L.Long – you said it!

  • tim

    Replace ‘secular’ with ‘gay’ and you’ve got the secret gay agenda of the last two decades which is single handedly destroying the vast majority of rock solid god fearing marriages of straight couples everywhere.


  • Bjorn Watland

    I would say just joining organizations isn’t enough, you need to be active. You also need to be on their asses to make sure they are working if you are a donor/member.

  • Seems to me that #7 is just a recipe for being a dick. Yes, it’s fine to question friends who seem to be backsliding on their cherished principles…but this is a property and privilege of friendship that applies regardless of the person’s worldview. To make it specifically a “duty” of secularism treats people as means rather than ends in themselves…and that’s kind of the definition of being a dick.

  • Aaron

    I think tim is a poe. Ya?

  • Heidi

    Um, I think tim was joking. Thus the “/snark” at the end of his post.

  • Valhar2000

    Well, I’m not going to say these are bad ideas, by any means, but I will paraphrase what Larry Moran once said in answer to the Mooney Catastrophe: “My life is not a political campaign”.

    For example, if a friend of mine begins to slide into religion for the wrong reasons, unless it is a close friend, I’ll let it go: I don’t need that grief.

  • Claudia

    Defend all secular identities

    Ohh I am so wanting this. The terminology wars make me crazy, especially the agnostic vs. atheist divide, with one side saying atheists hold a positive faith in the non-existence of god and the other saying agnostics are just atheists without the courage of their convictions. I don’t think I’ve ever seen two groups more indistinguishable in their actual beliefs bicker so much over their names. I’m an atheist that used to identify as agnostic. Nothing changed in my actual worldview, I just came to a better understanding of the definition of each term. I can disagree with a self-identified agnostic (who, upon hearing my actual views, will believe I’m actually agnostic) but these debates get A-tiresome, B-bitter and C-sap our strength away from debates that actually matter.

    Done venting now.

  • muggle

    “what secular students ought to do”

    See this is exactly why I hate secular humanism or humanism of any ilk for that matter. It’s all about telling other people what they should do. All of these things are very personal and will affect the personal life of the individual student. So leave them the fuck alone to decide how they want to handle it.

    What’s with those claiming to be irreligious proclaiming dictates on high about what secular students or secular anybody ought/should do? That smacks of something else to me. Guess my disbelief isn’t strong enough to suit them despite having lasted the majority of my life now, 29 of 52 years.

    I am, however, definitely more irreligious than they. I fucking hate it when people tell other people what they should do.

  • Viggo the Carpathian

    I tend to agree with muggle, I don’t like dictates but I don’t think it was meant that way… suggestions for actions that might help combat religion would be a better way to describe it.

    All of these things will help but mostly a tireless campaign to educate and make sure the generations coming up have access to actual information and not the lies of religion. We will never see the demise of religion as it strangles humanity too tightly but we can hope that through education, many many generations from now it can be marginalized and treated with the scorn it deserves.

  • Neon Genesis

    I disagree with number seven. It makes atheists sound no different than when Christians bug atheists who left the church to come back to their religion. Do we really want to start proselytizing like they do? Shouldn’t grown college students be allowed to make their own decisions if they want to go to church or not?

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