Lyz Liddell on the young atheist movement

My boss, Lyz Liddell, has written a guest post for Skeptic Money on the young atheist movement.  If you’ve ever trusted me on anything, trust me now when I say you need to drop whatever it is you’re doing and go read it.  It will renew your hope for the future.

Here’s my favorite part.

The Big Comparison: Cru v. SSA
Let’s talk about culture wars.  In a lot of ways, Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) is the cultural competition for the SSA.  We have similar organizational models and we’re both based around a worldview.  So let’s take a look at how we’re doing:

Annual Budget:


It’s clear that Cru has the lead on funding.  And that helps them in a lot of other ways, including this one:

While Cru has the cash to fund three staff members per campus group, the SSA is running at about 33 groups per staffer.  Both take into account the supporting staff at the national level.  A rough guess of campus organizers to groups is that Cru has about 1:1, while the SSA is running at about 78 groups per campus organizer.  Oof!

But here’s the bottom line:

Cru has a massively larger budget, the majority of the U.S. population to draw from (76% Christian), an organized political voting bloc to give them politicians and laws and supreme court justices in their favor.  But they are losing in the cultural war.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • christophburschka

    That’s clearly because universities are wretched hives of godlessness and villainy, as conservatives will not tire of pointing out.

    I think congratulations are in order. Also, seventy-eight groups per organizer? Do you even sleep sometimes? You’re doing an awesome job!

    • John Horstman

      Well, our campus’s student-run coffee shop does describe itself as “The Mos Eisley Cantina of UWM”…

  • FireInTheNight

    Hey JT, not sure if you reply to comments here but I would like to get your take on this one if you can spare a minute. Liddell’s post really is quite hope inducing and encouraging but at the same time, I am also seeing articles like this one:

    You are right there in the midst of it as a leader and organizer in the SSA so I’d really like to get your take on this specifically. How are these 2 articles related? On the face of it and to an “outsider” like me, they seem contradictory. Are they just both overstatements of each side and the truth is somewhere in the middle? Or are they not related at all and I am just missing the point for lack of additional information and understanding of how these organizations work? Hope you’ll find a moment to reply.

    • JT Eberhard

      We are operating within the law. Groups like Good News Clubs are skating it (and/or breaking it).

      Also, we are in schools to allow atheist students to gather. We do not prioritize anything over the curriculum (the way evangelism-based groups do).

  • anteprepro

    So, 1100 groups for the KKrusaders (stated in comments over there), 365 for the SCA, they have 3300 and 11 (!) staff respectively. So, given their budgets, The KKrusade spends 450k per group OR 150k per staff, while the SCA has 2800 dollars per group OR 90k per staff. Guess evangelism is a bit more of an expensive business, huh?

  • hypatiasdaughter

    Did I read 500 million dollars correctly? Did I misread some zeroes some where?
    Holy shit – where is that kind of financial support coming from?

    • anteprepro

      Where do you think? Churchies. Among the more conservative believers, the Kampus Krusaders are one of their favorite “charities”. They are fighting the good fight by spreadin’ DA WORD on those godless, librul college campuses, after all. For those who listen to right-wing shock jock talk radio and get all their news from Fox News, it is obvious how this route could make them feel like they are making a difference. Fighting to keep those defenseless kids who are technically adults from sinking into the clutches of Satan, via partying and atheist professors. The Krusade is also fortunate because it has the most name recognition, especially among the older evangelicals, and so it gets money from people who don’t even realize that their might be alternatives and people who don’t realize that Kru is increasingly worthless and is far more pathetic than it used to be. Even with the ridiculous amount of cash it apparently has funneling into it. I suspect either that they are incredibly incompetent, or are the higher-ups are making out like bandits. It’s probably both.

  • John Eberhard

    Kudos to Lyz for doing a great job and to the SSA for its growth. However, a special commendation to YOU based on your position as high school specialist during this exponential growth:
    “We’re seeing increased growth in high schools, with our number of high school affiliates tripling in the past year”.
    Since you have held that position for 15 months, surely there is something here going beyond correlation and into causation.
    Go you.

  • Monster

    I hope both clubs use there money and time wisely to teach the students love and respect for their fellow man. Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of clubs. I don’t know that ssa nor cur does, I guess I’ll have to look them up. It would be cool if the two clubs could have a mixer and neither side was allowed to try to persuade the other, just have a nice time together.