Over the past few years the secular society of United States’ colleges and universities has grown in leaps and bounds.
This should come as little surprise to those who are watching the rise of the Nones throughout America. Most of these nones are part of the Millennial Generation, aka college students. Therefore, colleges who may have had little to no secular organization previously have now become a force to be reckoned with.
The Secular Student Alliance (SSA) is a nonprofit that was incorporated in 2001. By 2007, 80 campus groups had affiliated with them. This number grew to 100 by 2008, 174 by 2009 and doubled to a whopping 394 by 2013. Jesse Galef, communications director of SSA is positive about the continued growth of secularism on campuses:
We have been seeing rapid growth in the past could of years, and it shows no sign of slowing down. It used to be that we would go to campuses and encourage students to pass out flyers. Now, the students are coming to us almost faster than we can keep up with.
The rise of secular groups on college campuses has been in the works for a few years. In early 2012, presidential candidate Rick Santorum said, “the indoctrination that is going on at the university level is a harm to our country,” and went on to say that “62 percent of kids who go into college with a faith commitment leave without it.” Whether Santorum was right or not, his statement still shows acknowledgment of a secular mentality on college campuses.
This semester the Illini Secular Student Alliance , at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and one of the affiliates of SSA, has done little to shy away from its secular voice.
On February 12, they will eat cake to celebrate Darwin Day, and earlier this year, they performed “de-baptism” ceremonies to celebrate Blasphemy Day, attended a War on Christmas Party, and set up Hug An Atheist and Ask An Atheist booths in the campus quad.
Is the increase in secular students good or bad? Will this help to diversify campuses or simply pose a future problem for Christian students still weak in their faith?
Some Christian campuses are actually welcoming secular groups to form groups of their own. The Texas Christian University (TCU) is reaching out to aitheists and non-believers by forming the Free Thinking Frogs. Alexis Lohsem, the group’s leader, has seen dozens of students come out of the crevasses of campus.
“There’s a lot of students at this college who are growing up without any religious affiliation,” Lohse said. “People who apply different labels to themselves, you know, atheists, agnostic, a free thinker, a skeptics.”
Some students on campus are for it, and other’s are indifferent but not in high praise of the new secular affiliation. But one thing they all do agree on, “non-believers are more common than one might think.”