The Secular Student Alliance has become the most superb institution for promoting and supporting young atheists, at both the college and now high school level. This is more than just a campus group. The future of atheism rests in their hands, and they are doing more than any other organization on earth to actually increase the number of atheists who are out, active, and organized, while providing them with the informational and logistical support to be out, get organized, and spread the word. They are the money driving the best meme machine in town. I want you to support them. With money. Whether it’s just $10 (you can spot a tenner, surely) or $100. Or $500. Or $50,000 (yes, a single donor has ponied up fifty grand this very day). Oh, and yes, they are a 501(c)(3) charity.
If you aren’t already clicking here to donate and need some persuading (“Why the hell should I give money to the SSA? Who the frack are they?”), please give me a chance to convince you. Here’s why you should do it…
In just the last year or two the SSA has expanded the number of high school atheist groups from just a handful to over fifty nationwide, and growing. Fast. And that despite constantly facing opposition from school authorities. They have the clout and legal resources and know-how to help make it happen. College groups have likewise exploded under their care in the last decade, from a few dozen to over three hundred, all across the country, and again growing. Fast. The support of the SSA, whose resources have been brilliantly developed and managed so far, has also greatly increased their retention and continuity (one of the biggest problems for atheist campus groups, as the originators graduate and move on). Why do campus groups matter? They give atheism a higher profile and help us recruit more atheists where the market is most agreeable (the young, the learning). In other words, thanks to the SSA, we can now compete directly with Campus Crusade for Christ (which is trying to rebrand itself now as the supposedly hip Cru).
But as the SSA mission grows, the cost to continue this trend rises.
As any sociologist will tell you, grabbing the next generation is crucial to defeating religion and superstition. And the iron has never been hotter, with unprecedented numbers of youth abandoning churches or even religious affiliation and asking questions about what they should really believe and why. So dire has this problem become that religious orgs are creating a whole industry to try and fight what they now call the Youth Exodus Problem. And the reasons they are leaving are often reasons that lead to atheism–at the very least, reasons that show these seekers are much closer to our thinking on many issues, such as morality and science and questioning of authority (see Six Reasons Young Christians Leave Church and Five Myths on Why Young People Leave the Church). We need to appeal to them and bring them over. They are willing and ready to listen to us. The time is now.
But the expansion of campus groups serves an even larger need as well: it also creates islands of sanity and friendship and networking and information-sharing for already-closeted atheists who often feel or think they are alone. It connects them not just with local atheists but the whole national network of atheists and atheist literature and resources. It gets them meeting like-minded people and energized about atheist issues (atheist rights, secularization, and other humanist issues from free speech to social justice), growing our movement and its influence and diversity. (And yes, we are a movement.)
On every objective measure the SSA is making real, documented progress. Yet it remains far behind Campus Crusade for Christ, both in group number and size, and in budget. The CCC has an annual budget in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The SSA, only one million. The CCC has thousands of paid staff. The SSA, fewer than twenty. Recent events involving the gross oppression and bigotry against atheist high school students (like, but by no means only, Jessica Ahlquist) expose a real need for national organizations like the SSA to help support them, socially and legally. The opposition to atheist student groups in high schools has been exposed in several high profile cases (see The Challenges for High School Atheists for some examples). They need our help. Indeed, the high schools that don’t yet have atheist groups need it even more (because you know there are atheists there, when clearly they are everywhere else…and the statistics back this up). College groups matter as well, as that is where the most rapid growth and exposure is possible (adults having more freedoms).
I can also vouch for the amazing people running the SSA. Like JT and others have reported, they are an outstanding bunch who have done a lot of hard work that is much appreciated by students all over the country. I’ve been aware of this for years, ever since I met Augie for the first time (August E. Brunsman IV, Executive Director), and then I met Debbie Goddard [who liaisons with SSA for Center for Inquiry On Campus], JT Eberhard, and many other young, energized, totally cool weirdos making this thing happen. They are not only creating our future, they are already a snapshot of it. They are competent, dedicated, hard working, and as irreverent as being professionals allows them to be. I trust my money in their hands. They are turning it into movement gold.
And why now? Because there is a matching offer on the table, up to $250,000 (which might be renewed if the SSA can raise that). That means for every dollar you give, someone out there will give another. That means your donation is worth double what you pay for it. The goal set for now is to raise $100,000 by June 16, which will mark the end of what has become SSA Week, a ten day bonanza of tweeting and blogging, including several wild blogathons here at FtB and beyond, starting this very day. (I had been planning a plug for SSA for months already and was slated to do one later this month, but then I heard about this, and decided to get in on it. JT explains why a week became ten days.)
If you want to follow the many blogathons spooling up over the next ten days (some I’m sure will be a marvel to watch, aiming to blog every half hour for twenty four hours), you can check out the twitter feed at #SSAWeek and the evolving schedule at the bottom of the SSA Week promo page (the event will be capped by Jen McCreight’s amazing blogathon on the 16th, her post explaining why and what’s going on).
So get in on this. Support the fight for the future of atheism and against godist madness and superstition. Donate.