College Atheist Groups on the Rise

The Daily Orange newspaper at Syracuse University had a front page story yesterday about the rise of college atheist groups:

The number of secular student organizations on college campuses is on the rise, with a 42 percent increase from last year, according to the Secular Student Association. Syracuse University has been home to a secular student organization since 2009.

“The outlook for secular groups is really promising,” said Jesse Graf, communications director of SSA. “We’re noticing a lot of growth, both on campus and in support of students.”

The number of national SSA-affiliated organizations grew to 225 this year, compared to the 159 last year, Graf said. There are usually 25 to 30 members in each organization, he said. As these groups gain more prominence, students are stepping up to support each other and their beliefs, he said.

Nice job, Jesse Graf! (And welcome to my world, Jesse Galef.)

It’s true about the rise of atheism on college campuses, though.

Not only are we spreading to high schools, we’re getting to the point where students go to college expecting there to be an atheist group there. It’s a dramatic (and pleasant) change from even a couple years ago.

I wonder how many people are truly excited at the possibility of us going so mainstream like this. We’re no longer so hard to find on campus… is that always a good thing?

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Joel Wheeler

    True Believers will spin this as a wordly trend, surely to be short-lived. Unlike other worldly trends, however — rock music, haunted houses — this one does seem inherently resistant to co-option…

  • http://www.secularstudents.org Jesse Galef

    What do you mean, “Welcome to my world”,
    Mr. Hermant Mheta?

  • Ali

    This is a GREAT thing!

    Love hearing news like this.

  • Mike G.

    Yay for Secular Students! This is great news, in fact, yesterday I started ‘recruiting’ for my very own group at the University of New Mexico. We’re the first and only out there! Good luck to the others around the nation!

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    is that always a good thing?

    Of course it’s a good thing. Kudos to everyone with a part in helping this happen!

  • sailor

    You will also notice the headline on the same page: “Few Youth Interested in Election”
    Is there a connection? Atheism is a logical thing to be, but religious preferences or rebuttal while important, are not as important as the day to day things that need to get done in life. Managing your country by electing suitable leaders is one of them. The papers say only half as many youth voted in this election as last.
    So I take the atheism thing as somewhat good news, but if youth cannot even be bothered to vote, their beliefs are really not going to matter much in terms of the world’s affairs. This is also an election in which youth should be galvanized, because whether they get a job or not when they graduate may depend on the government they have as a result. I would like to think that those youth that did vote were the atheists, but I wonder?

  • RG

    @sailor – Voter turnout is always much lower during non-presidential voting cycles. It’s usually 25-50% lower anyway.

  • sailor

    RG, yes, but the reports I heard said the proportion of young voters and black voters went way down compared with the number of old white voters. In other words the 25-50% was coming out of these demographics not across the board. This is also quite normal, the midterms are often decided by AARP members who always vote.

  • S-Y

    Oakland University still has no secular/atheist sort of group; disappointing. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time/resources to go and try to start one.

    As for the high school I used to go to, it’ll never happen for a long time. Most of the non-religious in the area seem to seldom discuss the topic and don’t seem to care to get involved with the community, perhaps due to lack of interest and/or the fact that we don’t have as many people/groups here who try to shove religion down everyone else’s throats.

  • muggle

    This is great and I’m wondering if my daughter’s school has a chapter (it probably does) but it’s kind of a moot point. She’s a busy single mom who goes to school full time and works part-time and doesn’t even look at what organizations are on campus.

    She also didn’t vote. :( But I admit, I didn’t either until I was 28, a year older than she is now. So, since she has in the past, she’s one up on me. There’s a bit of feeling like our votes don’t even count too that she’s had since the hanging chad debacle in Florida.

    I got to admit I didn’t even feel like I had after voting this year. There’s just no way to see that your votes are even recorded on the electronic machines. And I still have to write the Board of Elections to protest the lack of privacy I found. When I called the local Board of Elections, the person even said there’s no secret ballot and I was not left with the feeling that my comments were passed on. I also suspect that if I write, it’ll just be laughed at and tossed. It’s kind of hard to be confident these days that voting does matter. But me? I’m going to vote regardless because it’s too important a right to forfeit.

  • muggle

    the midterms are often decided by AARP members who always vote

    I resemble that remark!

  • Ben Finney

    I wonder how many people are truly excited at the possibility of us going so mainstream like this.

    What do you mean by “excited”? That seems a strange word to use. If you just mean “happy”, then yes, I’m very happy that atheist groups are increasing in location density.

    I wouldn’t describe myself as “excited” by it, though; it’s not something that agitates me, but something I find intensely satisfying and I want more of it.

    We’re no longer so hard to find on campus… is that always a good thing?

    Why would it not be a good thing?

    Since a great number of atheists report they were for many years under the impression that there were no other atheists in their local area, and cite that apparent isolation as a significant factor in suppressing their views on the topic: yes, I’d say it’s overwhelmingly a good thing that atheists are easier for each other to find.

    I also think it’s a very good thing that it’s easier for people who don’t self-identify as atheist to find atheist groups. There is safety in numbers: the more normal it becomes to find an atheist group, the less danger there is from religionists marginalising atheist views and the greater consideration must be given to them in assessing the demographics of an area.

    If you think there are downsides, please explain.