A month or so ago, I had a student come out to me, as a budding atheist. I am not going to share any of his writing—it was an honor to have been trusted, and I will not violate that trust—but I do want to talk about it in the abstract for a bit.
I feel like it took very little effort for me to shed the religious shackles, and I never did have a lot of social pressure bearing on me, but upon reflection it did take several years, and I was at a place far removed from my old church, from my parents, and from the bible belt. There was very little pressure, one way or the other; conversely, there was very little support, one way or the other.
My student is in more or less the same community he has lived in his entire life, and now he feels he no longer believes; this is a far more difficult position than I was in. The people he would ordinarily talk to about such things are precisely the people he would not want to talk to. He has spent his entire life thus far with one variety of people, and has no one to lean on; he feels lost, like he’s the first or even the only one of his kind. He doesn’t believe in the things that used to bind him to his community, but feels some serious guilt about rejecting the worldview of his family and friends.
Cuttlefish University does not have a secular support group, or freethinkers group, or atheist group or agnostic group or any such animal. It does have (at least) six Christian groups, two Jewish groups and an interfaith group (official student organizations). I had not, until quite recently, really seen the need for a secular group (I frankly had not seen the need for the religious groups, either, since they could meet at their houses of worship), but now of course I have changed my mind. I may have to take a hand (well, a tentacle) in helping to organize one.
Those of you who have done so, or are members of student or other secular groups—any advice? What has worked? What has not? What sort of charter does such an organization have? And what questions am I not asking, that I probably should?