I wrote a piece for the Washington Post On Faith blog about why we need to help young atheists. Read it. Love it. Caress it. Share it.
Here’s the beginning:
Stephanie Kirmer attended high school in Kansas in the late 1990s, around the time the state was embroiled in a battle over teaching Creationism in science classes. She wrote letters to the editor of her local newspaper and testified in front of her school board to oppose the state Board of Education’s removal of evolution from the high school science curriculum. It wasn’t a very popular position for a high school freshman to take.
A few years later, when she joined the board of a fledgling organization called the Secular Student Alliance, she knew she wanted to focus on helping high school students. Not far removed from high school herself, she knew what it was like to become an atheist and feel like you were the only non-believer out there. She remembers the emails she received from students who, like her, didn’t know there was a growing movement for non-religious people. They would send her messages reading, “Oh my god, you guys exist! I’m the only atheist in my town!”
In response, Stephanie would send them reading material — books or magazines written from the atheist perspective. What surprised me was the way she prevented the potential problem of parents discovering the packages:
“We sent plain brown envelopes. I’m not making that up … There was no labeling on the outside to indicate what was in there. And if kids couldn’t receive it at their house, we’d send it to a friend’s house… It made a big difference for a lot of kids who didn’t otherwise have an outlet.”
In other words, books and magazine promoting science, critical thinking, and the idea that God doesn’t exist were treated no differently than issues of Penthouse.