America’s atheists had some heartening news this week for America’s Christians. Jesse Galef, spokesman for a national organization called the Secular Student Alliance, announced that “Christianity is so prevalent” on U.S. campuses that atheist students need refuges – what he calls “secular safe zones” – to protect themselves against it. Such zones have now been established on 26 American campuses, he said.
The safe zones are rooms or areas set aside specifically for nonreligious students, “where they can help build community, foster service projects and educate individuals about atheism.”
Atheists now see themselves as victims. They cite a 2006 University of Minnesota survey showing they face prejudice and distrust. It found that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants and gays. Few Americans would let their child marry an atheist.
Atheism takes some really determined believing
Now it is hardly surprising that the atheist needs a refuge, not only from Christianity but from the galling evidence presented by life itself. It is a challenging faith. An atheist must believe that by chance something hit our sun or otherwise happened to place our planet at precisely a position where liquid water could exist; a tiny fraction closer or farther away from the sun and it could not. By a million further astounding chances, life appeared. Then by an even more amazing chain of additional coincidences, that life turned into creatures like us and the vast multitude of species we see around us. All by pure chance.
Doubts must continually assail such believers. They need a place to be alone, to restore their spirits, safe from the bullying world without and the gnawing uncertainties within – a kind of chapel or monastery where they can have the advantage of mutual reassurance.
But what exactly does one do as an atheist?
Then there’s atheism’s other problem. What does one do as a convert to atheism? A Christian convert has the whole Bible and the teaching of his church to direct him, a Muslim convert has the Koran – or perhaps al-Qaeda. But atheism is, by definition, negative. There is no God – that is its only message. So where does he go from there? What is his task?
To oppose religion, of course. Secure in his “safe zone,” the atheist can plot the downfall of Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Mormonism, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Baha’i. But that’s about it.
Nonsense, he will say. He can do any number of good works too. Which, of course, he can, and many no doubt will. But these do not follow from his atheism, but from some other influence in his life. From Christianity, perhaps? “Go away,” he replies, as he quickly retreats into his safe zone.
- Atheist students use federal law to pursue same rights as Christians for ‘secular safe zones’,” Washington Times, Sep. 30, 2013.