Atheists groups double in size on college campuses
The number of atheist or agnostic student groups on U.S. campuses has more than doubled in the past two years — from 80 to 162 — according to the Secular Student Alliance (SSA), the national organization for the secular student movement.
PZ Myers, an outspoken atheist and associate professor of biology at the University of Minnesota, Morris, suggested the growth could be related to authors saying that it is okay to be “godless.”
Kirk Wilcox, president of the Non-Religious, Atheist, Free Thinker and Agnostic Alliance, a registered student organization he helped start last semester, said he is not surprised campuses across the county are seeing increasing numbers of non-religious students.
“Over the years, it’s become more acceptable — people should be proud of who they are,” the Royal Oak senior said. “If you want to be a Christian and go to church, that’s fine, but there should be institutions for people who aren’t religious.”
Wilcox said Christians also are becoming more accepting of non-religious individuals.
Macomb senior Jake Barnett, NAFAA vice president, said there are various reasons for the increasing numbers of non-religious students, including education and the economy.
“When people are ethically and financially stable, it prevents them from exploring religious options and they tend to focus on themselves and others,” he said.
The rise of the secular student movement parallels that of the broader secular demographic in the U.S., the only population to have grown in every state according to the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey.
Studies consistently report increases among the religiously unaffiliated, with “under 30s” more prominent among atheists and agnostics than among religious respondents.
This year’s annual SSA [Secular Student Alliance] conference drew its largest-ever audience and featured keynote speaker and Pharyngula blogger P. Z. Myers, along with representatives from national atheist and humanist organizations.