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Richard Dawkins: An Appetite for Wonder (Presented by Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics at Stanford)

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In October 2013, Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics at Stanford was able to host Richard Dawkins thanks to a project grant from the national SSA. This article summarizes the experiences of that event for the group. 

This October, The Humanist Connection: Serving Stanford & the SF Bay Since 2012, AHA!@Stanford: A Secular Student Alliance Affiliate Group, The Secular Student Alliance, The Stanford Undergraduate and Graduate Student Councils, CFI On Campus, and The Richard Dawkins Foundation For Reason and Science collaborated to bring our event, Richard Dawkins: An Appetite for Wonder, to Stanford University's gorgeous campus in Palo Alto, CA. The event was hosted at Stanford Business School, primarily coordinated by AHA!@Stanford, the student community for Atheists, Humanists, Agnostics, and the non-religious at Stanford, and The Humanist Connection, a non-profit that supports AHA!@Stanford and provides resources, programs, volunteer events, and meetings for non-students, alumni, staff, and faculty at Stanford.

West Virginia University hosts a Secular Safe Zone Training!

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SSA affiliates and members are doing awesome stuff on their campus all the time.  We brag about their work here on our website through the Brag It Up series.  If you or your affiliate group has done something awesome, Brag It Up!

This post is written by Sean Banerjee, a member of the Secular Student Alliance at West Virginia University, about his experience hosting Secular Safe Zone Coordinator Andrew Cheadle-Ford for an Ally training at his school.

In 2013 the Secular Student Alliance announced the formation of the Secular Safe Zone program. The purpose of the program is to help create safe spaces where secular students could question, criticize and discuss topics that are important to them. At the Secular Student Alliance at West Virginia University (SSA-WVU) we aim to help raise awareness on secular issues as well as create a positive and healthy secular community within the university. During the 2013 Secular Student Alliance conference in Columbus, five of our members successfully completed the training program to become the first five Allies within the state of West Virginia. 

In going through the training, we quickly realized the benefits the program would offer to students across the country. As students, we have little to no information regarding who is a friend to secular students on campus. This lack of information often alienates students with no reassurance that the university administration, staff, and faculty are versed in the needs of secular students. Sadly, the secular community lacks any truly well-defined symbols that are worn by the masses to identify themselves.

WVU SSA
Andrew Cheadle-Ford with participants in the first ever Secular Safe Zone training held by a campus group!

Shortly after the July 2013 Secular Student Alliance Conference, we spoke to the Secular Safe Zone coordinator, Andrew Cheadle-Ford, on whether it would be possible to bring the training program to West Virginia University. On October 27, after many months of planning, we became the first affiliate group to hold a Secular Safe Zone training program on a university campus. The workshop attracted twenty members, ranging from faculty, staff, and administrators to students and community members. Following the successful workshop, WVU currently has the highest number of trained Allies of any campus. As a student organization and members of the university community, we are proud to raise awareness on the issues faced by secular students.

Texas High School Relents, Allows Atheist Club After Lawsuit Threats

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Austin, TX - After a contentious six-month struggle narrowly avoiding a lawsuit, James Bowie High School has decided to allow senior Nick Montana to form his club. The group in question? A secular student alliance, which would provide a community for nonreligious teens. Principal Stephen Kane had repeatedly refused to approve the group at his school, but school attorneys ordered him to relent after Montana reached out to two national secular nonprofits, the Secular Student Alliance and the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The organizations declared the school's change of course a victory for atheist equality.

"We're thrilled that Nick gets justice, but it shouldn't be controversial for atheists to want to form communities of their own," said Jesse Galef, spokesperson for the national Secular Student Alliance. "America's youth is becoming less and less religious, and we're ready for some friction as society comes to terms with that."

NPR Featured One of Our Student Leaders!

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Dear Friends,

Earlier this month, NPR interviewed Daniel Muñoz, one of our student leaders at the University of Texas, for a feature segment on leaving religion. As the SSA's Regional Campus Organizer for Texas, I wanted to pass along Daniel's thoughts on not only growing beyond faith but also growing a secular community. Daniel's parents raised him Catholic, but at fourteen his growing understanding of science and philosophy led Daniel to reconsider the beliefs of his parents.

TSH
Daniel at a counter-protest with his group at the University of Texas

Being able to find a secular community, both in-person and on the internet, greatly helped Daniel as he came out as a non-believer. As Daniel noted in the interview, “people my age feel so much differently about atheism than they used to because you can go onto the internet, you can hear what atheist thinkers have to say, you can be involved in a virtual community, you can see that we don’t have horns: we’re not crazy.”

As more and more Americans come out as secular, societal attitudes about atheism are shifting, especially among young people. Daniel shared that he and many of his peers don’t need to have any sort of relationship with a god, though he sees some value in parts of religion, such as the community. However, when it comes to forming his own morality, Daniel has a different view on religions’ value.

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