February 10th, 2011
01:52 PM ET
By Katie Glaeser, CNN
An umbrella group for secular students says it has doubled it size in two years, with 250 affiliates in high school and college campuses around the world.
"We're witnessing a major shift in our society,” Secular Student Alliance communications director Jesse Galef said in a Wednesday press release.
Founded in 2000, the Secular Student Alliance represents "atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, skeptics, naturalists, brights, Pastafarians, and many others," according the the group's web site.
Galef attributed the growth to more areligious young people feeling comfortable with publicly expressing their ideas.
“We used to go out and find them," he said Galef. "Now, they're springing up everywhere and finding us, asking to join the movement."
Randall Bourquin, founder and president of the UGAtheists at the University of Georgia, says it’s important for young people to have a group among whom they can share beliefs - or lack of them.
He says the nonreligious youth demographic has long been neglected.
“I thought about doing something like this in high school," Bourquin said. "It was just so outlandish, I would have been ousted."
It took Bourquin until his sophomore year in college before he felt comfortable enough to share his atheism. Now UGAtheists holds weekly gatherings and volunteers for Habitat for Humanity builds.
His group sometimes partners with religiously affiliated groups on campus.
Bourquin said one focus of this group is combating negative stereotypes about atheists.
According to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, a quarter of people under age 30 consider themselves atheist, agnostic, or nothing in particular.
"Our movement will continue to grow and empower more students to improve their communities,” Secular Student Alliance executive director August Brunsman said in the group’s Wednesday release. “The question is not whether we can get a group on every campus, but when it will happen.”
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