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The Young Atheist's Survival Guide
Helping Secular Students Thrive
Nearly a third of Americans under the age of thirty have no religious affiliation, the highest in any recorded generation. In this growing segment of "nones" are many young Atheists who have faced prejudice in their high schools and communities for standing up for their constitutional right of freedom from religion.
You'll hear some of their stories in this book, whether they're protesting their school's public prayers at football games and graduations or sitting out the "under God" portion of the Pledge of Allegiance. These atheist students know their rights and have fought for them, sometimes at tremendous personal cost. Their examples serve as inspiration for all the young atheists out there who live in communities where school often feels no different from church and teachers are no different from preachers.
This handbook is a resource for parents, teachers, friends, and young atheists themselves. Hemant Mehta, "The Friendly Atheist" blogger at patheos.com, discusses how to deal with teachers and administrators who promote faith in public schools, handle the peer pressure and ostracism that may come with being an outspoken atheist, and create successful student groups that encourage conversation over conversion.
Patheos Q&A with Hemant Mehta
Mehta on why he wrote this book, who he hopes reads it, and the three people he'd most want to discuss it in a book club. Read the Q&A Here.
"The purpose of the book is not to point blame at specific religious people who are obstacles to atheists exercising their rights. The purpose of this book is to discuss the fact that those rights are attacked, period, and explore what we can do about it." Read the full excerpt here.
"A paean to young atheist heroes, sung and unsung, combined with a common sense guide to organizing in your local area, The Young Atheist's Survival Guide is the perfect handbook for an atheist teenager looking for direction, resilience, and pride."
—Zach Weinersmith, creator of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal
"The Young Atheist's Survival Guide will inform and inspire the secular and the religious alike. As young people today are increasingly identifying openly as nonbelievers and challenging longstanding societal assumptions about religion and secularity, Hemant Mehta provides valuable insight into this important phenomenon."
—David Niose, author of Nonbeliever Nation: The Rise of Secular Americans
"Is bigotry toward atheists the last socially acceptable form of religious prejudice? In his stimulating exploration of youth and atheism, Mehta documents numerous instances of hostility and institutional bias high school-aged students have encountered when they embraced conscience over conformity. The conclusion is clear: When freethinkers seek to express their beliefs or exercise their 'rights' in the same way as members of religious majorities, they are often stymied, if not by law, then by prejudice and social convention. Mehta offers a persuasive call to action, and his book should be of interest to all those who want to keep the public sphere open to all forms of belief and nonbelief."
—Katherine Stewart, author of The Good News Club
"A quiet revolution has begun in America's high schools: godless students are coming out of the closet and standing up for their rights.Since 2010, the number of Secular Student Alliance groups at high schools has grown fivefold.Mr. Mehta brings you their stories and helps you understand the unassuming courage and patriotism of these extraordinary students, teachers, and administrators."
—August E. Brunsman IV, executive director of the Secular Student Alliance
"The Young Atheist's Survival Guide is a true-to-life picture of what it's like to be a young atheist in our society, and a call to action—not just for students, but for parents, teachers, administrators, and freethinkers at large. We're standing on the edge of an unprecedented opportunity for secularism in this country, and Hemant points the way to get out there and make it happen."
—Lyz Liddell, Director of Campus Organizing, Secular Student Alliance
"All across the country, atheist high school students are bullied, persecuted and denied their legal rights, even by school administrators who should know better. But as atheism becomes a more influential and mainstream voice in our society, freethinking high schoolers are increasingly coming out of the closet and standing up for themselves, forming communities to support each other and advance the secular point of view. Hemant's book shows how it can be done with many inspiring examples of brave student activists."
—Adam Lee, author of Daylight Atheism
"Because the various religion organizations know they get most of their converts when they are young, they have done everything in their power, regardless of what the law allows, to convert buildings intended for education into a recruiting ground. For decades this has made life difficult for many atheistic students in public schools. However, with the rise of the atheist movement, some of those students are stepping up, pushing back, and creating clubs that serve as safe havens from judgment and bullying. After reading his book, I can think of nobody better than Hemant Mehta to tell their stories. The greatest hope for an increasingly secular American future is undoubtedly found in our youngest generation, and never before has it been presented with such brevity, clarity, and strength. A must-read for every atheist with children of their own, and for every adult who wants a glimpse of tomorrow's secular heroes."
—JT Eberhard, author of the blog What Would JT Do?
"Young atheists have been coming into their own in recent years, helping to shape a movement and the world around them. The obstacles they face are troubling, but their courage and persistence are so inspiring. Hemant Mehta tells their stories with unique clarity and passion. An important book and a brilliant read."
—Dale McGowan, Author, Atheism for Dummies
"In this book, Hemant provides a reality check about bigotry and harassment against atheists in schools, as well as a road map to alleviating these issues. America is evolving before our eyes, and our secular future will most certainly be delivered by today's young people. This book will help students understand what they face, and show adults where the students need help (they can't do it alone). In other words, Hemant's book is important. Read it."
—Dave Silverman, President of American Atheists