How To Combat Atheism On Campus.

I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around a page I just found, on a site called “busted halo” (it’s for “spiritual seekers”). See, Cuttlefish University has, I think, 6 Christian student groups, two Jewish student groups, and an interfaith group. No atheist groups, freethinkers, secularists… So the question at the page puzzled me: “What’s the best way to combat atheism on a college campus?” (more after jump:) Cos, you see, I haven’t seen much. I have had students tell me of their loss of faith in private, because they didn’t want to speak up in class (even though it was relevant to class discussion) and invite criticism. (Certainly there are vocal atheist students as well, but the vast majority of the time, when I run into an atheist on campus they are surprised and relieved, feeling like there just aren’t that many of us around.)

So when Rev. Leo A. Walsh, S.T.D remarks:

Militant atheism is one of the worst forms of proselytism. It is definitely a belief system which seeks to impose its will on those who might have differing opinions.

I can’t help but think he’s projecting a bit.

To combat militant atheism on campus, do these four things:

1. Pray. Why? Because it works. Pray for the conversion of those who seek to impose a militant atheism on college campuses. Pray for the faculty and administration to be open to the initiatives of faith based organizations on campus. Pray, pray, pray.

Mind you, intercessory prayer does not, in fact, work*. But I agree with Rev. Walsh. I want them to pray. Don’t stop. And follow Matthew 6:6 when you do. I will fully support your right to do so.

2. Refuse to be irrelevant. A university environment is supposed to be one that welcomes the free exchange of ideas. In fact, your rights to this are guaranteed in the Constitution of the United States, as is your right to freely associate with other like-minded individuals.

Which, by the way, an atheist club would be doing. Why, again, are you fighting atheism on campus? What do you have against the free exchange of ideas?

3. Know your faith. As St. Peter says, “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope…” (1 Peter 3:15) A good starting point is Robert Schihl’s wonderful site:

Very good advice, given that atheists are likely to know more about your religion than you do. Make sure you read your bible! A good many atheists are atheists precisely because they have read the bible! But, you know, don’t stop there. Read about the history of your religion. Read about the history of other religions. Read about the psychology of belief. If your faith is opposed to Darwin’s theory of evolution, then by god read all you can about Darwin, and about evolution! Read about cosmology. Read about any science your faith brushes up against. Know your faith! You cannot know your own faith very well if you do not know the context in which you hold it. (By the way, although it sounds like I am advising this facetiously, I absolutely am not. This was the advice I got from my pastor some 35+ years ago; he firmly believed that knowing all these things would make one a better christian and a firmer believer.)

4. Intentionally engage the administration of the university in a constructive and polite manner. Get to know the folks in charge. When you are a real person, they have to deal with you as a real person. Often you can achieve much by showing that you are willing to work with them to achieve mutual benefit for all involved.

Again, I wonder what sort of campus he is referring to–at Cuttlefish U., christian groups are large and in charge. Mutual benefit for all involved might mean the formation of more groups–Muslim groups, Buddhist groups, and yes, atheist groups, so that information might replace misinformation. Like, say, Rev. Walsh’s view of atheists. I’d love to have lunch with him some day and correct some of his faulty notions.

Wow! It turns out, I agree with Rev. Walsh on all four points! Basically, it was by following very similar advice that I became an atheist in the first place.

*prayer… This being my blog, you run the danger of encountering verse.

With a million fervent prayers combined
It won’t be long until you find
The mighty force that lies behind
The simple-seeming prayer.

The “clasp your hands and kneel” routine
Holds powers that are unforeseen
By heathens (and by that I mean
You, too!), but which are there!

So when they say “I’ll pray for you”
Remember, it’s a heady brew–
The Holy Spirit must come through,
You must already know.

And whether they are priests in collars,
Pastors, Rabbis, even scholars,
Remember–Prayer, plus five more dollars
Will buy a cup of joe.


  1. Randomfactor says

    They left out the best way of combatting atheism on campus. Keeping their damned religions to themselves and not bothering atheists with it. That takes the wind out of atheists’ sails; we mostly want to live god-free and not even think about it.

    In other words, if they weren’t so bothered by atheists actually existing and all, we wouldn’t be so bothered ourselves.

  2. Makoto says

    I went to college in the bible belt, and believe me, atheistic thought was frowned upon, mocked, and so on, while Christian events were common and encouraged. Go figure. I’m sure many here can imagine the conversations revolving around which biology classes to take based on which focused or ignored evolution.

    I even tried the line of “maybe you should know what they (evolutionists) are saying so you know what you’re fighting and do it better”, but apparently even hearing the enemy was too much for some people. Oh, well…

  3. ParticleMan says

    As a college professor myself, at a large southern US state university, I have often made the same observation, e.g., tons of christian groups that have hundreds of active members and are very visible on campus and MAYBE 1 small, not very vocal athiest group. Most students wouldn’t put ‘president of campus athiest club’ on their resume (though I knew one brave student who did), but many will proudly put ‘Campus Crusade’ – even if they are just a participant and not a leader.

    The christian faculty club is no better. There is this perception among them that they are being persecuted and actively resisted. Quite frankly…I wonder what universe they are living in. I’ve never seen or witnessed anything resembling persecution of a christian for their beliefs on my campus.

    The main reason, IMO, for seeing christian leaders proclaiming the ‘athiest surge’ on campuses, is that it is an effective fund-raising strategy and an effective means to ‘rally’ your base. Twenty years ago, when I was active in campus christian groups (before I saw the light), this was the standard ‘selling’ point when asking people to give money. When you want to get people to band together, there’s nothing quite as convenient as a common enemy.

  4. The Lorax says

    How do you fight an enemy that has no defenses?

    Fighting God is like punching air,
    Naught of substance, but everywhere.

  5. says

    I don’t know about you guys but if someone starts praying randomly, I feel awkward and leave. Maybe that whole “pray and we go away” thing really does work…

  6. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    There is this perception among them that they are being persecuted and actively resisted. Quite frankly…I wonder what universe they are living in. I’ve never seen or witnessed anything resembling persecution of a christian for their beliefs on my campus.

    I’ve noticed that many of the majority, privileged Christians in the US feel persecuted. If I try to get them to explain how they’re being persecuted and who’s doing it, I usually get vague “no prayers in schools” and “no posting 10 Commandments in courthouses” but nothing really concrete. Although I did have one Christian tell me “you’re allowed to walk around free and breathe the air of God’s Country™, that’s persecution enough.” I did commiserate with him about how slack and lazy the Inquisition is these days.

  7. Cuttlefish says

    ‘Tis Himself-that last bit is just plain scary. It really speaks to the degree of christian privilege in our culture. Or maybe you just happen to know a real jerk.

    Man, I hope you know a real jerk.

  8. martha says

    “This was the advice I got from my pastor some 35+ years ago; he firmly believed that knowing all these things would make one a better christian and a firmer believer.”

    Yup. This was the advice my family and church gave me, pretty much from birth. They aren’t happy I followed it. I’m not happy they didn’t. About the worst thing my once liberal father said to me in the couple of years before he died was, “The trouble with you is you read all the wrong books.”

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