The Interfaith Youth Core, a group that supports religious pluralism and promotes dialogue about faith and service projects on college campuses, has long had a reputation for being antagonistic to atheists. While their staff and membership always included some people without religious faith and there’s nothing wrong with promoting cooperation and dialogue and service, IFYC would ignore the simple fact that many religious beliefs are simply harmful — in addition to being just plain wrong. While everyone supports respecting religious people, many atheists cannot, for good reason, get behind respecting certain religious ideas. IFYC prefers singing “Kumbaya” than face the reality of what religion has wrought.
It didn’t help that IFYC’s founder, Eboo Patel, compared drawing stick figures of Muhammad (an act of free speech) to screaming “Nigger” in the middle of Harlem, or strawmanned the New Atheists like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris by suggesting they were incapable of performing an “intimate act of mercy” for a dying religious person, or argued that Christopher Hitchens and Dawkins were primarily interested in “offending religious people” and not pointing out that religious beliefs often have no basis in evidence-based truth.
Despite the tone-deaf Patel’s obvious ignorance of the intentions of the atheist authors and his desire to slam notable atheists whenever he gets a chance (with the exception of the few he’s worked with on a regular basis, myself included), IFYC as an organization has done better in recent years with including atheists in their projects. They’ve even partnered with the Secular Student Alliance on occasion.
In a recent survey of its alumni — not a scientific poll, by any means, but a reflection of the people who graduated from their programs — IFYC revealed something astonishing: Nearly a quarter of the respondents were non-religious: