Author Zach Lorentz
Zach is the current Director of Public Affairs of the Secular Student Alliance at Missouri S&T. His interests include sexual freedom, reproductive rights, LGBT equality, and advocating for proper scientific education and understanding.
After a Pew survey illustrated rapid growth in religious skepticism among Millenials, CNN invited Jesse Galef, the communications director for the Secular Student Alliance, to speak about his employer and the demographic trend. What followed could have been a disastrous mud-slinging contest, but Jesse stayed positive and kept the discussion on point, despite some obviously loaded and inappropriately misdirected questions.
This interview demonstrates the great need for the Secular Student Alliance in the first place. Ignorance like this needs to be combated. One indirect way to accomplish this is providing a safe space for young adults to express their skepticism and rejection of traditional religious beliefs. This protection allows them to mature in their conclusions so they can better resist this marginalization and be living contradictions to traditional religion’s ill-informed assumptions. Additionally, with the exploding number of young defectors from religious belief, the SSA is absolutely necessary purely from a demographic standpoint; there are more than enough non-believers to fill rooms in every high school and college across the country, and the SSA helps them organize and defend themselves from ignorance.
I know this need from personal experience. At my university in central Missouri, I was among four founders of our SSA chapter in the spring of 2011. Another group tried to start their own SSA chapter while being completely unaware of our group, but we integrated the two and now members of both serve on the officer corps. Our combined group has done Ask An Atheist day (twice now); hosted a discussion on the definition of Secular; organized trips to Skepticon, Reasonfest, and the Reason Rally/2012 American Atheist convention; and most recently staged a protest of a National Day of Prayer breakfast hosted by the city mayor in our school’s student union.
Along the way, the national organization of the Secular Student Alliance has helped our group immensely. They have sent us promotional materials for our Ask An Atheist day tables as well as provided us with group starting and running literature. The national office has also created an Affiliate Leaderspace group on Facebook, allowing leaders from groups across the country to communicate directly and share ideas with each other and members of the national office. The employees at the national office have also been just awesome people, personally encouraging and advising the students very visibly on a regular basis.
If you are encouraged by the work the Secular Student Alliance is doing, please feel free to get involved with your local chapters. If your school lacks a group, start one of your own; the national organization is very able to assist startup groups. Even if you might not be a student anymore, you can still get in contact with local groups. From personal experience, having local community support is incredibly motivating to students, especially from older non-believers. Heed the advice of fellow contributor Bridget and donate your time to your local student groups.
Monetary donations are greatly appreciated as well. The Secular Student Alliance has launched #SSAWeek, a week of raising awareness and funds for the national organization. You can sign up to be an active supporter for $35, granting you voting rights in board elections. You can also check out the blogathons, livestreams, and crafts auctions various supporters are doing to raise money for the SSA. Jeff Hawkins and Janet Strauss will match all donations raised through Saturday up to $250,000, so donate now for double the impact! If you can’t contribute financially at this time, you can still tell your friends, neighbors, and anybody who you can force to listen about the great things that the Secular Student Alliance accomplishes. By supporting the SSA, you will help bring about rapid change in America by empowering a unprecedentedly faith-free generation.