Why we need to help young atheists


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.

Today, learning more about atheism is nowhere as difficult as it used to be. Between the bestselling books by the New Atheists readily available at your local library or downloadable on your Kindle, the pro-atheism billboard campaigns waged by many national atheist organizations, and (of course) the Internet, our viewpoints are ubiquitous. A young atheist could be sitting in a pew at church with his family while reading about how wrong his pastor is on a smartphone.

Written By: Hemant Mehta
continue to source article at washingtonpost.com


  1. I read religion’s demise in this article. Twenty years ago you would not have seen the intimation of such an article in any newspaper let alone the Post.

  2. I liked the bit about:

    “For all the talk of this generation’s apathy toward religion,
    imagine how much more seriously students would take the subject if they
    were given the opportunity to talk about their beliefs with students
    who disagreed with them

    That’s the sort of forum groups like the Secular Student Alliance and Center for Inquiry On Campus
    want to provide their affiliates at high schools and colleges across
    the country — and the sort of forum that is frequently opposed by
    religious administrators.”

    Yeah, talking, dangerous.


  3. …rules that didn’t seem to apply to the school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes

    FCA starts early with programs in junior high school.
    More reason to be pleased that SSA is growing – hopefully nip the indoctrination in the bud.

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