Kimberly Winston of the Religion News Service just released her article on the rise of high school atheists. I’ve been doing research on the subject for the past month for my book and this only confirms what I’ve been finding:
There were about a dozen such [high school atheist] clubs at the beginning of the 2011-2012 academic school year, a figure that rose to 39 in 17 states by summer break. The clubs are student-led, with [the Secular Student Alliance] providing information and guidance only upon a student’s request.
Some clubs are in states with high levels of “nones” — people who claim no religious affiliation — such as New York, Washington and California. But some are in the buckle of the Bible Belt: North Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas all have at least one high school with a club for atheists.
And more are forming. Students at 73 different high schools have requested “starter kits” since January of this year, according to SSA.
I’ll admit I was shocked to see this, though:
Steve Gerali, dean of the theology department at Grand Canyon University and an expert on ministry to youth, said he is concerned that some administrators favor nonreligious clubs over religious ones.
“My perception is that an atheistic club is a little bit more welcomed than a Christian club,” he said. “I think administrators need to understand that to speak about no God is similar to speaking about a God. So it is, in fact, a religion even though it is anti-religion.”
That’s news to me. I didn’t realize it was soooooo hard to be a young Christian, what with multiple youth groups within a 0.000001 mile radius, and after-school Bible studies run by any of the various Christian clubs at your school, and being in the religious majority… must be tough.
The upshot to the article is that Winston quotes a couple of students who didn’t have much of a problem establishing an atheist group at all. Their administration treated them like they would anybody else. That shouldn’t be news, but I’ve heard so many stories going the other way that this was a pleasant surprise.