September 26th, 2011 | Posted by: Chris Stedman
The number of students who do not believe in a higher power is rising, but these students often ﬁnd themselves marginalized and struggle to gain acceptance on campus. Using data from the Secular Student Alliance, this article explores the interests of nonreligious nontheistic students, identiﬁes issues these students face on campus and offers strategies for accommodating nonreligious nontheists as part of a diverse student body.
In 2007, University of Northern Iowa student Cody Hashman identiﬁed a problem on his campus and decided to do something about it. “Cody noticed that when religious students come to college, they have all these groups to choose from,” said Cory Derringer, current president of the UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers (UNIFI). “That option really wasn’t there for nonreligious students, so he wanted to ﬁx that” (C. Derringer, personal communication, June 8, 2011).
The group started small — averaging five to 10 people at their weekly meetings for a few years — but in the last two years participation has surged, and they now see 30 to 60 attendees at their weekly Sunday brunch and hundreds at their larger events, with over 1,400 people attending their Darwin Week event series (Wilkins, 2011).
In this sense, UNIFI is not particularly unique. While one of the better-attended groups, UNIFI is just one of many nonreligious college student groups to experience signiﬁcant growth in the last ﬁve years (Niose, 2011). This phenomenon — increasing participation in nonreligious student groups on American college campuses — demonstrates that nonreligious nontheistic students are part of a diverse college campus. This article intends to help college administrations successfully navigate this new territory.
Please check out this article I co-authored with Lyz Liddell of the Secular Student Alliance, which is intended to help higher ed administrators, faculty and staff better understand and advocate for secular students. You can continue reading it in part at the Huffington Post Religion, and in full at the Journal of College and Character!
Recently, I was honored to receive an invitation to join the esteemed panel of the Washington Post’s On Faith. Please read and share my first piece — below is the beginning, and it can be read in full at On Faith:
In the wake of this national tragedy, many have speculated about whether violent rhetoric and imagery used by Sarah Palin and others directly influenced Saturday’s devastating events. We may never know if there was a direct link between Palin’s words and the tragedy in Arizona, but as Stephen Prothero eloquently argued this week, we shouldn’t hesitate to reflect on the impact of the rhetoric used by those with political influence.
As the news broke on Saturday morning, I was in the middle of writing about something Palin had written in her most recent book, America By Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag – specifically, her claim that “morality itself cannot be sustained without the support of religious beliefs.” Unlike the moral outcry inspired by her demands that “peaceful Muslims” “refudiate” the “Ground Zero Mosque,” her comments about the nonreligious were met with silence.
Sure enough, some on the political right are using this same logic to explain the actions of the alleged gunman, Jared Loughner. Said one right-wing pundit: “When God is not in your life, evil will seek to fill the void.”