Secular student group doubles number of global affiliates
February 10th, 2011
01:52 PM ET

Secular student group doubles number of global affiliates

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.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism

soundoff (53 Responses)
  1. Jeff

    It's nice to read some good news for a change.

    February 19, 2011 at 2:41 am |
  2. Muneef

    All the science that human knowledge has reached about the creation of the universe,heavens and Earth is nothing but a drop of water out of an oceans of knowledge that human science yet not has yet reached !!
    "Say (O Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) to mankind). 'If the sea were ink for (writing) the Words of my Lord, surely, the sea would be exhausted before the Words of my Lord would be finished, even if we brought (another sea) like it for its aid.'" [Surah al-Kahf 18:109 – interpretation of the meaning]

    And He also says:

    "And if all the trees on the earth were pens and the sea (were ink wherewith to write), with seven seas behind it to add to its (supply), yet the Words of Allah would not be exhausted. Verily, Allah is AllMighty, AllWise." [Surah Luqman 31:27 – interpretation of the meaning]

    As-Sajda sura 32:
    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    Allah it is Who created the heavens and the earth, and that which is between them, in six Days. Then He mounted the Throne. Ye have not, beside Him, a protecting friend or mediator. Will ye not then remember? (4) He directeth the ordinance from the heaven unto the earth; then it ascendeth unto Him in a Day, whereof the measure is a thousand years of that ye reckon. (5) Such is the Knower of the Invisible and the Visible, the Mighty, the Merciful, (6).

    Al-Hajj sura 22:
    And they will bid thee hasten on the Doom, and Allah faileth not His promise, but lo! a Day with Allah is as a thousand years of what ye reckon. (47).

    The question here is;
    Was the whole creation made at seven days of God dates or of what we reckon??
    Seven Days or Seven Thousand Years?  
    Al-Hajj sura 22: a Day with Allah is as a thousand years of what ye reckon. (47).
    As-Sajda sura 32: He directeth the ordinance from the heaven unto the earth; then it ascendeth unto Him in a Day, whereof the measure is a thousand years of that ye reckon. (5).

    February 15, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • Muneef

      Can science with all it's mathematics work out what those trying to explain by time difference?
      Al-Maarij sura 70:
      In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
      A questioner questioned concerning the doom about to fall (1) Upon the disbelievers, which none can repel, (2) From Allah, Lord of the Ascending Stairways (3) (Whereby) the angels and the Spirit ascend unto Him in a Day whereof the span is fifty thousand years. (4) But be patient (O Muhammad) with a patience fair to see. (5) Lo! they behold it afar off (6) While we behold it nigh: (7).

      February 15, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
  3. Muneef

    Boy with seven limbs:
    Are those signs to mankind from God to mean some thing or nature telling us that there is some thing wrong with the way we are living,the medication we take,the pollution and corruption to fresh clean air to breath,earth we feed from,pure clean drinking waters from (rain,rivers,springs,groundwaters),salt waters (seas and oceans).
    What do we expect in return but to change with it from generation to other.
    Thank you God for that you gave us and made us realize how lucky we were tobe normal and no one pointing and laughing at while you cry your life out as the boy in the picture...may God have mercy on his soul.Although not sure he a has a soul or Two??

    February 14, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
  4. Muneef

    Al-Isra sura 17:
    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    And say: My Lord! Cause me to come in with a firm incoming and to go out with a firm outgoing. And give me from Thy presence a sustaining Power. (80) And say: Truth hath come and falsehood hath vanished away. Lo! falsehood is ever bound to vanish. (81) And We reveal of the Qur'an that which is a healing and a mercy for believers though it increase the evil-doers in naught save ruin. (82) And when We make life pleasant unto man, he turneth away and is averse; and when ill toucheth him he is in despair. (83) Say: Each one doth according to his rule of conduct, and thy Lord is best aware of him whose way is right. (84).

    February 14, 2011 at 6:14 am |
  5. Muneef

    Al-Baqara sura 02:
    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    Alif. Lam. Mim. (1) This is the Scripture whereof there is no doubt, a guidance unto those who ward off (evil). (2) Who believe in the Unseen, and establish worship, and spend of that We have bestowed upon them; (3) And who believe in that which is revealed unto thee (Muhammad) and that which was revealed before thee, and are certain of the Hereafter. (4) These depend on guidance from their Lord. These are the successful. (5) As for the Disbelievers, Whether thou warn them or thou warn them not it is all one for them; they believe not. (6) Allah hath sealed their hearing and their hearts, and on their eyes there is a covering. Theirs will be an awful doom. (7)

    February 14, 2011 at 6:05 am |
  6. Muneef

    Think same is not bad and not good but at least will keep some balance from extremes...! But main thing is to get them to think good for the best of all rather than focusing on hating and insulting religious ones obstructing their ways.

    February 14, 2011 at 5:51 am |
  7. David

    May lightning strike you as you burn in HELL.

    February 12, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Magic


      "May lightning strike you as you burn in HELL."

      People who say things like that *are* Hell, personified.... in addition to being suspected of being psychopathically insane.

      February 12, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • Muneef

      Didn't know that there would be lightening striking In Hell ?? This must have been in some Hollywood movie !

      February 14, 2011 at 5:39 am |
  8. 3rdMLNM

    hey all athesist, agnostic friends here,
    who are frustrated with all organized different religions, their different imanigary false gods etc.,

    then here is the one and only true GOD,
    who created the Universe and His Word with perfect Mathematics (=Fibonacci Sequence, and Golden Ratio)

    please, see here:


    So He is indeed REAL; check it out, and truly know Him, and have a nice day, every day!

    February 12, 2011 at 8:51 am |
    • Gene

      Science: Here are the facts. What are the conclusions that we can make from them?

      Religion: Here are the conclusions. What facts can we find to support it?

      Your golden ratio "miracle" takes two arbitrary points and directions in order to try and support your religion. Also, if you actually try to measure the supposed distances instead of being a sheep, you'll notice that the ratio is actually 7688km / 4742 km = 1.6212568536... NOT 1.6180339887... (keeps going). Your "miracle" is off by a few hundred kilometers. Maybe you should move Mecca to prove your religion better!

      February 12, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  9. Joe Hern

    Secular thought and FreeThought, as well as atheism, is not any more a religion than not believing in Unicorns, ghosts, ESP, Pagan gods and goddesses, and the list is endless. If most people believed in Unicorns, while compelling by mere fact of the numbers of people who believed it, would it make your lack of belief in it a "religion"? Of course not. Also, if it were a religion than you'd have to call all philosophical and political views a religion. But...we atheists will allow out world view to be classified as a religion so that we can get the protections all other religions get. I

    And as an aside: All of the accolades goes to August Brunsman IV for having the initiative to start Students for Freethought here at Ohio State University over 13 years ago, then going on tirelessly to further the cause. He will accurately say he couldn't have done it without the help of an endless list of tireless others, but he did it just like the founders of any large companies or organizations get all the credit for having the vision. I'm proud to know August and to say "I was there when..." 🙂

    February 11, 2011 at 2:10 am |
  10. ed-words

    What would they do at their meetings, Sean NJ?

    Probably plan how they might counter the religious propaganda and politicking out there,
    and promote the rational life.

    February 10, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
  11. dogballs

    More and more people are awakening to the fact that organized religion is a bunch of bullshlt. Thousands of different sects all saying they are the one "true" religion, and that everyone else is wrong. Does this make sense? Clearly not. You believe what you believe because of how you were brought up as a kid, not because it is actually universal truth.

    This does not preclude the existence of a god, unified consciousness, universal spirit or whatever you want to call it, but people's interpretation of it is narrow minded and guided by the agenda of its founders.

    February 10, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
    • Ryan

      So, if organized religion is BS, then isn't organizing nobelievers as well? And if there is no universal truth or right and wrong, then why are you right? I say, you're wrong. Grow up and look in the mirror sometime: there may actually be people out there smarter than you.
      Bear in mind, faith that nothing is there is still faith. You can't prove God doesn't exist.

      February 22, 2011 at 4:21 pm |
  12. TheRationale

    It would be awesome if we made a "Thinking at the Pole" day which was on the day either before or after the prayer one. The festivities would include praising rational thought which has brought us all technology and science and knowledge and all of those wonderful things. We will be proud to wear the badge of reason!

    February 10, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  13. Magic

    Bravo, students!

    See, *this* is where we get our hope for mankind, the Earth, and the universe.

    February 10, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • hilltop

      The earth is convulsing and more humans have been killed in this past century than all of history combined. This is hoping in the hopeless.

      February 10, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • Magic

      Your Middle Eastern desert god has had over 5,000 years to fix it - and has no credibility.

      February 10, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • hilltop

      Mao & Stalin espoused your "philosophy" and became history's most prolific destroyers of humanity. Take christianity out of the world and you will also remove 95 percent of the charity work among the world's neediest. You couldn't handle a world like that.

      February 10, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Statlin and Mao espoused the "philosophy" of communism. Secularism, if I understand correctly, only limits religion in government/public sphere not personal life.

      February 10, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
    • Magic

      "Take christianity out of the world and you will also remove 95 percent of the charity work among the world's neediest."

      Christian humanistic charity work is greatly appreciated (not sure where your 95 percent figure comes from, though), but are they so shallow that they would not help their fellow humans if not for promises and/or threats from an imaginary being? Humanistic seculars can certainly figure out a way to take up the slack as Christianity wanes.

      Muslims are commanded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam, to give 2.5% of one's possessions (surplus wealth) each year to charity, generally to the poor and needy. The Shia double this to 5% of one's possessions. They usually serve only other Muslims however, but that's got to put a dent in your 95% claim.

      February 10, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • hilltop

      Secularism can indeed manage the affairs of public interest, but who will answer the deep longing in men's hearts for significance? Intellect, pleasure, fame, power, and wealth have been unsatisfying bedfellows.

      I pity the poor and broken in your world.

      February 10, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • Nonimus

      "who will answer the deep longing in men's hearts for significance?"
      Ah, the core weakness of the theistic "philosophy," the need for external validation and guidance. What deep longing? Are you talking about atheists then, because atheism and secularism are not the same thing. Mankind can and has found deep significance in his or her contribution to the planet, fellow man, family, community, intellectual pursuits, art, science, etc. What need is there of the supernatural.

      February 10, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • Magic


      "who will answer the deep longing in men's hearts for significance?"

      Secularism does not deny people the right to have their personal fantasies, as long as they are peaceable, non-invasive, non-aggressive or are not in some other way harmful to anyone else.

      February 10, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • NL

      Mao & Stalin?
      Bored answering that one, over, and over, and over... so I'll refer you to this site where you can read posts on this subject to your heart's content.


      February 10, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
    • NL

      "who will answer the deep longing in men's hearts for significance?"

      Poetry, art, philosophy... there are plenty of other outlets for humans to explore metaphysics and other deep thoughts.

      February 10, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
  14. Kevin C.

    I think these types of clubs will continue to sprout as people continue to logically deduce that God, if there is one, doesn't really care about us.

    Here's the proof that if there is a "God", he doesn't really care about our existence, or more specifically, our happiness / salvation: If there was a God that cared about our happiness, He would have made it easier to be happy.

    For those that argue, well the fact that it's hard to be happy shows the value of happiness and that he wanted us to work for it. Well, he could have made happiness really easy to attain - and if he's God, he's all powerful so he could have changed the principles of "value" to doing make things that are easy just as worthy. But He didn't. He wanted it to be hard and for some people to fail to reach happiness. Is that a God that cares? Yuck.

    February 10, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • neoritter

      Logic fail...

      February 11, 2011 at 11:47 am |
  15. David Johnson

    From the article:
    "An umbrella group for secular students says it has doubled it size in two years"

    I feel all warm and fuzzy!

    Cheers to them and to freethinkers everywhere!

    February 10, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
  16. SeanNJ

    I'm disappointed. The gay s.e.x article has 3500 comments. We have 11.

    C.rappy cat-herders. 🙁

    February 10, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • Nonimus


      February 10, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • Magic

      Yes, LOL... and I'll raise it one more.

      February 10, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
    • civiloutside

      Perhaps an indication that the religious are far more concerned with regulating people's se-x lives than in what people actually believe?

      February 11, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  17. Reality

    For opening of each meeting of the topic groups
    The Apostles' Creed 2010: (updated based on the studies of historians and theologians during the past 200 years)

    I might believe or do not believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven.

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say however that he was a mamzer)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
    ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.


    February 10, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  18. Doc Vestibule

    Organizing atheists and freethinkers is like trying to herd cats, but I certainly wish these kids well!
    The greatest drawback I can see is that groups like this will further the adsurd notion (held by religionists) that being irreligious is a religion in and of itself.
    But again, Kudos to these folk working to remove the stigma attached to secularism in America!

    February 10, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Normon

      Herding cats is not the problem. Milking, though...

      February 10, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • NL


      February 10, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • woodie

      Doc, I agree that an organization like this would be like herding cats...all that free thought, "who's on first?," etc. My question to you, however, is...how is this not like a religion in itself? Doesn't secularism have a thought-out, though diverse, view of how the world works, how we think, how we are to behave, etc.? Certainly it would be filled with people who hold various views, but isn't secularism itself just another form of religious expression?

      February 10, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      Nobody thinks "chess club" is a religious group. :-/ To be honest, I don't know what they would discuss at their weekly gatherings. Seems like a lot of meetings without much of anything new to discuss:

      President: "I call this meeting of the secular students to order. Anyone start believing in god this week?"
      All: "Nay!"
      President: "Alrighty then. Meeting adjourned."

      I suppose it does facilitate organizing people to work on a particular cause, like the Habitat for Humanity builds that are mentioned.

      February 10, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Wikipedia says, "secularism is the concept that government or other ent.ities should exist separately from religion and/or religious beliefs." which seems like a good definition. As such public policies, laws, and int.itutions would be based on facts, evidence, and reason as opposed to religious based ideology.
      Think ethics rather than morality.

      I would think the meetings would primarily be about educating the public on the separation of church and state and opposing religious encroachment on the public/government arena, e.g. creationism/ID in the science classroom, ten commandments displays in government buildings, school sanctioned prayer or religious activities. Although it might also include opposing government encroachment on civil rights, such as, banning personal prayer in school, banning student led prayer groups and meet-at-the-flag-pole groups, and banning Muslism garb. Secular is as much about the freedom of religious expression as it is about the establishment of religion, i.e. the separation of church and state.
      Think cross between Student Republicans/Democrats, the Science Club, and the Debate Team.

      February 10, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • LH

      That's a rather simplistic view. One could say the same about the christian groups.

      President: "I call this meeting of the Baptists/Catholics/etc. to order. Everyone still believe in God this week?"
      All: "Yep!"
      President: "Alrighty then. Meeting adjourned."

      February 11, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
  19. SeanNJ

    Pastafarians too? Ramen!

    February 10, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • wwajdblogger

      We Pastafarians search for images of Jesus in our pasta. If we find it, it will cure our stomach ills. See http://www.clickorlando.com/news/7882549/detail.html.

      February 10, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      Yes, believers in the Great Spaghetti Monster in the Sky!

      February 18, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  20. Normon


    February 10, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.