An Atheist Group Forms at Presbyterian College

You wouldn’t think there are a lot of atheist groups at “religious” campuses, but a number of religiously-rooted schools have pretty diverse populations and they support the freedom for atheists groups like ours to thrive.

Now, there’s one more to add to the growing list.

Harrison Hopkins, a student who made news as a high school senior last year when he stopped a public prayer from occurring at his graduation, is now a freshman at Presbyterian College in South Carolina. One of his first acts? Starting a Secular Student Alliance group there :)

This group… will be for all of the agnostics, atheists, humanists, and any other freethinkers at Presbyterian College. We feel that a secular group at Presbyterian College would contribute immensely to the diversity on campus, and provide a community for the non-religious.

As of this past Sunday, they’re an official, registered student organization on campus!

That also means they can put posters up on campus. Knowing that other groups have had difficulties with their promotions, they’ve already anticipated the worst and are ready for it :)

Love it. You can find out more about the group here. I can’t wait to find out about the discussions they create on campus.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    The notation on the whiteboard says “replaced 3 times so far.” It seems to me that it’s time to be a bit more challenging to the vandal in particular, since it’s probably the same person each time. They should also write, “If you tear this down, you’re admitting that you are afraid of differing points of view.”

  • http://undeniably-atheist.blogspot.com shreddakj

    “Tearing down this sign means you are scared of atheists, your fear is irrational, we can help you cure it.”

  • Sulris Campbell

    how about “if you tear this down you tacitly admit your belief that god is afraid of some marked up paper”

  • NotStokedOnThis1

    What a dick.  Why go to a Presbyterian college if you’re an atheist?  We bitch and moan regularly about the religious going to a purely educational facility and preaching the gospel.  This jackass goes to a religious school and tries to preach the secular…  It’s silly, immature and strikes one as counter-active.  Not diggin’ this my atheist brethren, seems to me this kid is the very definition of a hypocrite. 

    • Anonymous

      In what way is he a hypocrite? At what point has he demanded different treatment for himself than for others?

      There is no equivalence between a school sponsored prayer at a public school, which is a clear violation of the 1st ammendment and an entirely voluntary student group at a private university. If he had tried to ban a religious student group at his high school you might have a point, but he didn’t and thus you don’t.

      The idea that the mere act of attending a religious college as an atheist and then dare to start a group for like-minded students is a “dick move” is frankly the kind of over-sensitivity you expect from the fundamentalists reacting to atheist billboards. So if there exists an LGBT group on a religious school campus to provide support and acceptance to queer students, does that make them dicks and hypocrites? Since when has the standard of being a dick been reduced to merely declaring you exist and grouping yourself when you are a minority? He’s not demanding the school become secular and there’s zero evidence he’s “preaching” anything at anyone.

      Should religious students at Harvard, Stanford, MIT etc. which are all secular schools refrain from forming groups in order to not be “jackasses”? I certainly don’t think so.

      • http://www.brookieblogs.blogspot.com Brookie

        Just want you to know that I am a Religion major at PC and am the president of our Gay-Straight alliance, which has incredible faculty support (including Religion professors and the Dean of Religious life).

        This is not a “church” school and definitely not a “Bible College”. We are a private, liberal-arts college AFFILIATED with the Presbyterian Church (USA). General Education requirements involve general survey New and Old Testament courses, but students are not required to sign a statement of faith or even agree with what is being taught.

        Being the president of a Gay-Straight alliance, I don’t feel at all like a dick (problematic sexist language!) or a hypocrite (which I know that you, Claudia, were not saying!). I feel like I am carrying out Jesus’ message of love, acceptance, and caring for “the least of these”. I feel absolutely right in what I’m doing and I know that God is happy with me. The Gay-Straight alliance here is nonreligious- even though we have the support of religion faculty and a few religious groups, we are a primarily secular group here for support and outreach. All are welcome.

    • ACN

      Occasionally, young people have families who force or coerce them to attend particular schools. Either by dangling purse strings over their head, or by threatening estrangement if they don’t stay “in the faith”.

      These young people recognize the power of a good education, and as long as said presbyterian school is accredited, they are taking advantage of the educational opportunities subject to the constraints that adults are placing on them.

      In such a case, forming an SSA is hardly hypocritical.

      • http://www.brookieblogs.blogspot.com Brookie

        Presbyterian College is a well-respected private-liberal arts school with a high graduate school acceptance rate and full accreditation. Thank you for recognizing that students who choose to go here realize the power of a good education- we certainly do, and know that PC is the place to go to receive it!

    • Jason

      I agree. It’s kinda like starting an atheist group at a church. Besides why would you voluntarily give your money to a religious institution. I’ve deliberately chosen non-religious schools for my continued education because I can’t abide their theology.

      • TheBlackCat

        That is great…if you have the money at 18 to pay for your own college education.  Not everyone has that luxury.

      • http://www.brookieblogs.blogspot.com Brookie

        Presbyterian College, while affiliated with the PC (USA), is not a “church school”. Monies given to this school support the mission of this school. Conversely, this school is supported by the PC (USA), but my tuition money doesn’t back them. Hope that distinction is helpful :)

        Obviously, if one doesn’t want to support any kind of institutionalized education, PC is not the place for that person.

        Having said that, PC encourages students to think for themselves and find their own paths. There are a number of students whose religious beliefs of lack thereof disagree with the PC (USA), and those students are warmly welcomed and are encouraged by the school as best the school can. This is why I spoke with the Interim Dean of Students personally on trying to get Harrison’s SSA chapter a Registered Student Organization- she was incredibly supportive and advocated his right to be here, not that there was any opposition.

    • http://www.brookieblogs.blogspot.com Brookie

      Harrison is not rude to go to a PC (USA) affiliated college and start a secular group on campus. There are already student groups on campus whose religious beliefs contradict those of the PC (USA) but they are still welcome- Harrison’s starting of an SSA is especially welcome. The PC (USA) champions community and inclusivity.

      Harrison’s group, from my student’s perspective, is primarily supportive and communal in nature. Who wouldn’t want to be with likeminded folk? I do, and that’s why I’m the president of the Gay-Straight alliance and why I’m actively involved in campus ministry. Harrison has every right to form an alliance of students who have similar beliefs or lack thereof, and he has a right to do so without being judged.

      He’s not preaching the secular. If anything, he’s teaching us a lesson that Christ first taught us (Christians)- love your neighbor, support your neighbor, do not judge your neighbor.

  • Michael

    I have to admit that I find it strange that an atheist has chosen to go to a religious school… though I would by no means go as far as some of  NotStoked’s statements.

  • Sbwaldron

    Love that it would have been easier for this guy to erase the “tear this poster down” scrawl than it is for the vandals to tear down the poster yet he does not. Its a much more powerful message to openly face differing opinions than it is to simply silence them.

    NotStoked – I hope you give this some more thought. Some people choose schools based on merit and reputation…

  • Sbwaldron

    Love that it would have been easier for this guy to erase the “tear this poster down” scrawl than it is for the vandals to tear down the poster yet he does not. Its a much more powerful message to openly face differing opinions than it is to simply silence them.

    NotStoked – I hope you give this some more thought. Some people choose schools based on merit and reputation…

  • Ricknelson8

    I am a graduate of this school and have given thousands of dollars over the years, but someone who acts in this “in your face” manner is not what I send money to this school for. I cherish my faith in Christian values and will not be sending them any money this year to educate troublemakers like this student. The Bible says “Blessed are the peacemakers”.


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