High School atheists in the Washington Post

Yesterday a fantastic article ran in the Washington Post highlighting the high school program at the Secular Student Alliance.

Administrators at Melbourne High School in Melbourne, Fla. rejected an atheist club twice on the grounds it was “too controversial.” Students at another Florida high school were told by administrators that no religious clubs were permitted — despite the existence of a school Christian club. And at Houston’s La Porte High School, the principal denied students the use of the word “atheist” because “it could disrupt the educational process.”

Welcome to the life of many high school atheists.  All of these administrations received received a firm talking to from me.  All of them but La Porte caved, and La Porte will cave too, either the easy way or the hard way.  Helping these students is what I get to do for a living.  I’m so lucky.

Later in the article was this quote.

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.”

Is it hard being part of the majority?  Is it a burden?

Boy, did Steve Gareli ever come to the wrong place for sympathy.

I think the difference in degree of difficulty in forming an atheist club vs. a Christian club in the United States can be best summed up in the case of Brian Lisco at Stephen F. Austin High School in Sugarland, TX.  Again (surprise), the formation of a secular club was being stifled, this time by an administrator dragging her feet.  USA Today told the story of that fight.

“Brian Lisco, 18, a senior Stephen Austin High School in the Houston suburbs, found his efforts to form a club were delayed for three months by one hurdle after another. At one point the principal said he could have the club — if he just called it a Philosophy Club and did not affiliate with the Secular Student Alliance.”

You can bet that when the Fellowship of Christian Athletes applied for school recognition that they were not asked to call themselves a philosophy club.  You can also bet that they were not forbidden from affiliating with their national headquarters.  You can bet they weren’t told they’d be too controversial, or that using the word “Christian” would disrupt the educational process.

Seriously, what planet does this guy live on?  Because it’s not this one.

And now atheists are a religion?  The lack of a religion is a religion?  I suffocating also the same thing as breathing?  What’s more, we’re a religion that’s anti-religious?  That’s pretty keen.  We’re like vegetarian cannibals, or racist supporters of civil rights.

That anybody could voice such an absolutely ridiculous opinion is a testament to the ability of Christians to massively delude themselves (as if believing someone rose from the dead 2,000 years ago wasn’t already the last nail in that coffin).

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.

  • Irreverend Bastard

    Boy, did Steve Gareli ever come to the wrong place for sympathy.

    He can find sympathy in the dictionary. It’s somewhere between shit and syphilis.

  • http://faehnri.ch/ faehnrich

    I love when Christians act like they’re being persecuted, then say this is a Christian nation.

  • Mike de Fleuriot

    For these oppressed Christians, Austin Cline made a great list of their privileges. I am sure you all have see it or parts of it before.

    Christian Privileges for Holidays & Holy Days:

    * Many stores take the Christian sabbath into account
    * Most Christians don’t have to work on their holiest days
    * Christians can assume they will see TV specials and hear music related to their holidays
    * Christians can erect Christian holiday displays without fearing vandalism
    * Christians expect to be greeted with references to their holidays (Merry Christmas)
    * Christians can ignore and be ignorant of other religions’ holidays
    * School events will probably address Christian holidays

    Christian Privileges in American Culture:

    * When traveling, Christians can assume they’ll find churches of their denomination
    * It’s easy for Christians to find a religious site to marry
    * Christians easily find Christian movies, radio programs, and TV shows
    * When someone talks about or thanks God, Christians can assume it’s their god
    * Christians will find Bibles in their hotel rooms
    * Christians have many Christian charities to donate to or get assistance from
    * Christians needn’t worry about finding foods to meet religious dietary requirements

    Christian Privileges against Discrimination and Bigotry:

    * Christians can assume that they won’t be discriminated against because of their religion
    * Christians can assume that their opinion won’t be ignored because of their religion
    * Christians need not worry about moving to a place where Christians aren’t welcome
    * Christians rarely encounter groups that exclude Christians
    * Christians don’t worry about revealing their religion to parents, friends
    * Christians can discriminate in ways not otherwise allowed & avoid members of other religions

    Christian Privileges in Schools:

    * Christian children will see other Christians in lessons about history
    * Christian children will participate in events relating to Christian holy days
    * Christian children will find or easily start school clubs dedicated to Christianity
    * Christian athletes are encouraged by Christian coaches
    * Christian children might avoid being exposed to foreign religions
    * Public school space is often shared with Christian churches
    * Christians can easily find private schools that cater to their religion

    Christian Privilege, Fear, and Security:

    * Christians can wear Christian clothing or jewelry without fear
    * Christians can promote their religion on cars or houses without fear of vandalism
    * Christians don’t have to educate their kids about persecution for their own protection
    * Christians can ignore the language and customs of other religions without censure
    * Christians need not worry if their religion will hinder their professional ambitions
    * Christians don’t have to worry about hate groups dedicated to wiping out Christianity

    Christian Privileges in the Community:

    * Many communities have names with Christian origins
    * Christians can assume that most neighbors & coworkers are Christian
    * Christians have directories of Christian-owned businesses
    * Christian businesses can hire all Christians without trying
    * Christians can criticize Christianity & Christian Privilege with more authority than non-Christians and without their motives being questioned
    * Christians can assume that almost anywhere they go and anything they do, they’ll feel normal

    Christian Privileges with Christianity:

    * Christians aren’t expected to speak for all Christians or everyone in a denomination
    * Whatever Christians do, they need not worry that it will reflect poorly on Christianity
    * Christians easily shop for items related to Christianity, even in specialty Christian stores
    * Successful Christians aren’t told that they are greedy because of their religion
    * The word “Christian” is treated as a label representing the best human attributes

    Christian Privileges in the Law:

    * Where relevant, laws take the Christian sabbath (Sunday) into account
    * Laws & regulations come with built-in exemptions for Christians & Christian beliefs.
    * Christians can assume that most politicians are Christians who represent Christian interests
    * Christians can criticize the government or society without being labeled cultural outsiders
    * Christians can assume that politicians won’t attack their religion
    * Christians assume that government prayers will be Christian in nature (they usually are)

    I seriously think that they might be mistaken about being oppressed.

    • cag

      Christians will find Bibles in their hotel rooms

      Atheists find them also. Sometimes they are not in the same shape when the atheists leave.

  • http://www.atheist-faq.com Jasper of Maine

    Is it hard being part of the majority? Is it a burden?

    You shouldn’t mock parallel dimension people from Opposite-Reality World.

  • San Ban

    @Mike de Fleuriot:

    I agree with most of that list, but why perpetuate the labeling of children as “Christian children?”

  • anteprepro

    Yes, I suppose that atheistic clubs are so very welcome. That explains why my (former) university, in a relatively godless chunk of this country, which happens to have a Kampus Krusade, 6 other explicitly Christian clubs, 3 clubs explicitly set up for other faiths, and an “office” that was set up in the center for student development specifically to deal with your “spiritual” needs (i.e. direct you to the nearest desired religion), has no atheist/freethinker/humanist organization. The closest thing we had to an atheistic club was the Objectivism club. Fuck that noise. Rand worshipers make Jesus freaks look sane by comparison.

  • Stephen Burrows

    I’m a teacher at a high school in Maryland. I know plenty of students at the school who are atheists and have many questions. Keeping church/state separate are difficult, I suggest they form a group and contact the SSA. Just wondering if you have any advice for teachers to remain separate yet involved. I think you know what I mean.
    If there is anything I can do from a teacher point of view, advocating, speaking, helping out, please let me know.



  • John Horstman

    And now atheists are a religion? The lack of a religion is a religion? I suffocating also the same thing as breathing? What’s more, we’re a religion that’s anti-religious? That’s pretty keen. We’re like vegetarian cannibals, or racist supporters of civil rights.