High School Atheist Group Quickly Branded as ‘Satanic’ and ‘Anti-Religion’

It’s not necessarily big news that high school atheist groups exist, but damn, it makes me happy when I hear about them :)

At Edward Little High School in Auburn, Maine, freshman Trevor Laliberte is quickly discovering how rewarding a group can be… and what young atheists are up against:

The Secular Student Alliance at Edward Little High School (Rahma Ali – The Eddies Echo)

The group has dealt with other students referring to the club as an “anti-religion club” and a “satanic group.”

“It’s giving people the wrong idea, because both of those things are far from what we’re about,” Laliberte said.

“It’s a good idea for kids to talk about doubts they have about religion,” [science teacher and advisor Dr. Andrew] Baca said, “It’s a place for them to talk about their the big issues. I agreed to become the advisor so I could help them organize and make it really happen.”

“After some help from the awesome people at the SSA, I figured out what I needed to do to make it happen,” Laliberte said. “Since then, it’s been really remarkable to watch the club grow, and its one of the most rewarding things I’ve done.”

Trevor is a freshman. He has years to make this group bigger and better, deal productively with the stereotypes, and change his classmates’ views of atheists. He’s already completed the toughest step. Now he just has to keep at it.

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.

  • Librepensadora

    Trevor’s surname is spelled the same as the French word for ‘liberty’: la liberté.  Happy coincidence.

  • MyScienceCanBeatUpYourGod

    Now come on guys, you can’t be Satanic AND anti-religious, because, you know, Satan is a deity from a religion? You can’t very well worship Satan if your whole point is that you don’t worship.

  • dcl3500

    I am in Auburn every weekend, run a booth at the flea market there selling wood carvings, and let me tell you, from my experiences there, there are not that many that will get on you for your beliefs or lack thereof.  Maine is one of the most open and non-judgmental places I have lived. 

    FWIW I carve crosses and they don’t sell, carve viking runes and they sell almost as fast as I can hang them up, go figure. LOL

  • observer

    Remember who you’re arguing against here…

  • http://noadi.etsy.com/ Sheryl Westleigh

     I’m in the Portland, ME, area and grew up near Lewiston (in an area so rural it considers Lewiston the big city) and the vast majority of Mainers just don’t care what you believe. However we aren’t immune to fundamentalists, I ran into some when I was in highschool who loved to tell me how I was going to go to hell for being an atheist (but God loves me). It’s amazing how a small group of bullies can make things so difficult even when most are supportive or just don’t care.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

     I admire these young and brave pioneers so much. GO TREVOR!

    I hope that young atheists who follow in his footsteps have a much easier journey, but I also hope that they will appreciate know how much courage, patience and effort he and other trailblazers had to muster.

  • WhiteBirch

    This is true, I grew up Fundamentalist about halfway between Belfast and Waterville. While I know (now) that Maine is pretty open about what people believe or don’t believe, there are plenty of rigid theocrats out there too. Enough that they can keep a kid like me so sheltered she never even realizes she lives in a comparatively progressive state. 

    Even in areas so rural they consider Lewiston/Auburn the big city (ah that makes me laugh Sheryl, we considered Waterville the city and it’s even smaller!)

    Good for the kids though, it’s amazing what they’re doing, and I wish them the best. 

  • Michael

    Probably he was just summarising the two most common accusations. Though I’m sure some people have claimed both in one breath.

  • A3Kr0n

    Wouldn’t most kids want to be considered anti-religious and satanic? I’ve seen the t-shirts a lot kids wear with the skulls, and the flames, and the monster trucks  ;-)

  • DougI

    Why do Christians automatically assume Atheists worship one of their gods?  I never understood that. 

  • advancedatheist

    Many French Canadians migrated to Maine. That sounds like a French ideological surname, however, like an ancestor adopted it out of sympathy with the French Enlightenment or the Revolution. 

  • advancedatheist

    You know, all these teen boys from christian families who join atheist groups will discover sooner or later that their parents’ clergymen lied to them about atheists’ swinging sex lives. They better not ask any of the girls in these groups out for coffee. 

  • Stev84

    Depends on the kind of Satanist. LaVey Satanists don’t actually worship Satan. Or anything else. It’s just a metaphor. But of course Christians wouldn’t know that.

  • C Peterson

    This isn’t an “atheist group”, which even the president of the club admits. (No SSA affiliates are atheist organizations.) Certainly, as a group of secularists, skeptics, and freethinkers, they might choose to be “anti-religion”, although they apparently haven’t in this case. Such a position might be consistent with the views of a majority of members. But “Satanic”? That’s just crazy!

  • Russian Alex

    Lack of imagination, I think. I’d even suggest that they are afraid of the idea that there is no god out there. Much more comfort in thinking that there is this loving father figure who will grant you eternal bliss, because you are the chosen and special one, yes you are, and throw all the other assholes into fiery pits of hell, where they belong. To try and imagine that there is nobody actually watching over you, nobody caring about your stupid life but yourself, that you will one day die and nothing will be left of you is a scary thing: it’s cold and lonely. And when you try to imagine what someone else believes, you automatically try to think like them. Thus, in their eyes, atheists must believe in something — because the alternative is simply too uncomfortable.

  • Arkieatheist

    Right, MyScienceCanBeatUpYourGod:!  George H. Smith in WHY ATHEISM asserts that Satan is a Christian (thoroughly believes in the Christian God) and that the Christian God also appears to be an atheist.  However, to believe in either is to be a theist, and not an atheist.

  • C Peterson

    I suppose that calling the group “Satanic” doesn’t necessarily mean that they are devil worshipers. The claim might simply be that anybody who doesn’t believe in God is being influenced or controlled by Satan. Silly, of course, but not as silly as believing that atheists actually worship the devil.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Nodtveidt David Lee Perry

    The same reason they insist that everyone says “Merry Christmas”… everything has to fit into their worldview or their brain short-circuits.

  • J Thompson

     How much to carve out the inside of a 25cm cube?

  • Mamasteph331

    The kids that are calling them Satan worshippers or accuse them of being anti-religion are just influenced by their uninformed parents as well as being too single minded to do any real research. I pity those poor young kids who do not seek truth but instead listen to the stereotypes

  • A Reader

    I have some cousins that live near Auburn. They’re really young, so hopefully those stereotypes will change by then! Sadly, I think that’s pretty similar to what you’d hear if an atheist group started at a lot of rural schools. Good luck to them! :) What they’re doing is brave.

  • Regulus724

    Great for them and brave to boot.  I teach chemistry in rural, central MN and if I tried to advise a club like this I’d be shunned, hushed and probably “encouraged” to not do it.

  • Kay

    good for these kids :) very bold and brave move on their part. At my high school we have a Kids For Christ Club but an atheist or satanist club isnt really allowed. And love all the comments about satanists worshiping the devil…even though most dont. The number one so called ”sin” is stupidity…so please get your facts straight. Or just be stupid…thats fine too… Have fun at church this sunday ;)

  • Greisha

    Maine?   Since when is Maine in the Bible belt?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rocky-Morrison/100001552602936 Rocky Morrison

    But they are anti religion.  Who ya kiddin?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Baca/841344599 Andrew Baca

    Hello, I am the science teacher mentioned in this article.   Trevor and the rest are a great bunch of kids.   They have only had a few meetings since this school year began and the club was created.   Everyone is invited to attend the meetings if they are interested in discussing religion, science, philosophy, humanism.   I don’t feel there is an anti-religion purpose to this group.   They want to have discussions.  Last meeting one student asked if the group is interested in petitioning the school remove “under God” from the pledge of allegiance.   As a group, they did not feel strongly on the issue and decided it was not something they wished to pursue.  Each student is developing their own belief system and have different labels for themselves (humanist, agnostic, atheist, spiritual but non religious).   Maine is more open to secularism, agnostics, and atheists than many other states.   Country wide, this is a group that is discriminated against.   In some states you are not allowed to hold office if you are an atheist.

  • http://www.facebook.com/charityjcampbell Charity Campbell

    …and how do skulls, flames, monster trucks have to do with anti-religion or satan at all?

  • Baal

    “In some states you are not allowed to hold office if you are an atheist.”

     Something like 7 States have a requirement for god belief in their State constitutions.  That is unconstitutional under the federal constitution however.  Assuming you could get the votes, no atheist can be denied office on that basis. 

  • Baal

    I always thought the christians should take up Satan more fully.  It would help them with theodicy.  Regardless, Stan, being a diety, is not on the atheist prayer list.  It’s almost like the xtians are willfully making stuff up or refuse to get the basics of atheism.

  • dcl3500

    Well I tried to reply from my phone, apparently it did not work.

    Not sure this is the forum for discussions like this, but if you try, even just a little bit, you can find me on the web and thus contact me.  Failing that, you can find me most weekends at the aforementioned flea market, generally carving something, assuming you are in the area of course.  
    Don’t look for me too early on Sundays though.  I generally don’t get in until after church lets out, not because I am in church, but because that is a great day to sleep in! :)

  • Mr La Liberty

    As Trevor’s father, I respect what he is doing and his beliefs.   We brought him up with the idea that there is a God.  We are not a religious family, I was an agnostic for many years.  I do believe there is a God today and I am very spiritual, not religious.   I can express how God works in my life, but I can’t convince and force my kids to believe the same things I do.   I am proud of Trevor, his explorations, and open mind.   He has accomplished many great things in his very short lifetime.  I also enjoy reading the many comments and the many open mind and kind comments from others!  Thank you Dr Baca for supporting the group, Trevor speaks very highly of you.

  • amycas

     Somebody obviously didn’t go to Skepticon if that’s what you believe…

  • eonL5

    I’m in Portland area, too (nice to meet you, Sheryl). My son has had no problem in middle school with his friends knowing he is atheist, and has no problem staying friends with religious classmates. I see little reason to encourage him to start up an atheist group when he gets to high school. Feel very lucky to be settled in Maine where for the most part religion just doesn’t matter. For the same reason, I see little reason, here, to start up an atheist meet-up group or other such thing. Other interest groupings are more helpful to me (cards, movies, whatever…) and they’re available. However, I bet Lewiston is more religious than a lot of Maine due to the Catholic influence of its French Canadian heritage, and the influx of African refugees resettled there by Catholic and other missionaries. Certainly it’s a great idea to have a group supporting HS students there who feel the need.

  • eonL5

    I’d like to meet Stan, though (chuckle).

  • eonL5

    Woo Mainers! Way to Represent!

  • http://noadi.etsy.com/ Sheryl Westleigh

     You’re right about the Catholic influence, though less so in Lewiston/Auburn than up in the county where my mom grew up. That area is far more religious and still has a sizable minority who speak French as their primary language (like my grandmother).

    I don’t know about other groups of African refugees in Maine but the Somalis are the biggest group and they are mostly Muslim . The reported harassment has a rather Christian flavor.

  • Derrik Pates

    Because it’s much easier to pretend that everyone really, deep down, agrees with you and is just in denial, as opposed to acknowledging that no, people really, truly do have wildly differing opinions.