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Executive Corner Piece: The Rise of the Nones is an Opportunity, Not a Victory

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August E. Brunsman IV is the Executive Director of the Secular Student Alliance. This essay is part of a series we called our Executive Corner Pieces. These are generally published the second Tuesday of each month and give you a little insight to the thoughts of our Executive Director. 

augSince the 1930s the percentage of Americans claiming no religious identification has risen from around 5% to over 16%. These folks without a religious identification are called “Nones.” A 2013 study focusing only on college undergraduates found that 33% of them had no religious identity and that 28% identified as “secular” (as opposed to “religious,” or “spiritual”).

And it is certainly the case that the “secular movement” is building momentum. At the Secular Student Alliance, 2014 was our most active year in our fifteen-year history, with our students holding more debates, featuring more speakers, and educating their communities more than ever before, and we are so proud of them! We are clearly reaching more students than ever.

I’m not satisfied.

I want us making connections with the millions of students who don’t resonate with religion. I want to hand them all a model and a vision for what it looks like to be joyfully, passionately, and intentionally secular. I want them to tell me what they want and need and how we can make the Secular Student Alliance better and our movement more useful.

Secular Student Movement Update 3/12/2015

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Every week, the SSA prepares a summary of what the secular student movement is doing. To hear this update and news from the secular movement, tune into the SCA's National Secular Movement Update every Thursday at 12PM ET.

Presented by Kelley Freeman, Communications Associate at the Secular Student Alliance

The Secular Student Alliance is working with the Interfaith Youth Core to put on a webinar about engaging non-religious students in interfaith initiatives next Tuesday, March 17th, at 1:00 pm EST. How are Atheist, Agnostic, Secular Humanist, and “spiritual but not religious” students finding community on campus? How is this demographic engaged in matters of value and worldview orientation? In what ways can staff and faculty allies be hospitable and welcoming to these students, particularly around inclusive language and shared activities? Join this conversation, led by staff members from the Secular Student Alliance and the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), to engage in these core ideas. This event is also sponsored by the NASPA Spirituality & Religion in Higher Education Knowledge Community and the ACPA Commission for Spirituality, Faith, Religion, and Meaning. For more information, and to register for this webinar, check out ifyc.org/webinars. 

We also have a write up on our website about a recent staffer's experience at the Interfaith Leadership Institute in Atlanta this past January.

This past weekend was the ACPA—College Student Educators International's conference—in Tampa, Florida, where Director of Campus Organizing, Lyz Liddell, held a Secular Safe Zone Facilitator training. There were seven new Secular Safe Zone Facilitators trained who are very excited about putting the program into place on their campus. Lyz also lead a workshop on religious privilege, which had awesome attendance and participation. To learn more about our Secular Safe Zone, visit http://secularsafezone.org

We wanted to remind you that information about our annual conference has been released and that we are looking for exhibitors interested in tabling. SSA Con is an amazing opportunity to interact with over 300 student activists from around the country. Interested in tabling or otherwise advertising with us for the conference? Check out secularstudents.org/advertising.

Recap: Cara's Experience at IFYC's Interfaith Leadership Institute

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Cara Zelaya is the Southeastern Regional Campus Organizer for the Secular Student Alliance. She is currently based out of Atlanta, Georgia. At the end of January, Cara attended the Interfaith Youth Core's Interfaith Leadership Institute in Atlanta. The Interfaith Youth Core is a Chicago-based non-profit founded by Eboo Patel whose mission is to make interfaith cooperation a societal norm. The Secular Student Alliance has paired with them on a myriad of projects, including an upcoming webinar!

I am delighted to report back from the Atlanta Interfaith Leadership Institute, hosted by Interfaith Youth Core. The Secular Student Alliance was able to table at the event and engage in several conversations about the role that secular people can play in interfaith cooperation. Throughout the span of the three day conference, over 200 attendees were able to gain better understandings of prominent world views, as well as discover and strengthen best practices on how to successfully work together to form a more peaceful and cooperative future.ili

Throughout the event, diverse people of faith showed a key interest in learning how to be more inclusive of the secular community. Significant time was spent discussing the strength and courage of interfaith leaders of years past. Among the interfaith leaders discussed, prominent atheist A. Philip Randolph was acknowledged and praised for the role that he played in the American Civil Rights Movement. 

The general demeanor of the organizers and attendees was one of warmth and welcoming. Several students from Secular Student Alliance groups were at the Interfaith Leadership Institute, including members from Stetson University, Colgate University, and the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Our students gained valuable skills and made friendly connections to bolster their organizational prowess back on their campuses. 

The Interfaith Leadership Institute was particularly special for me personally as it spent a significant portion of time celebrating the city of Atlanta. During the opening ceremonies various talks centered on the strength of Atlanta as a city, and the interfaith power and organization prowess displayed in Georgia's favorite son Martin Luther King, Jr. This celebration of progressive southern identity is often overlooked, and to see that at the forefront of a conference that was not exclusively, or even largely, catering to Southern peoples was wildly important. 

Secular Start Up: March Monthly Update

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Secular Start Up is the finest (and only) official video advice series from the Secular Student Alliance, put on by our Communications Associate, Kelley Freeman, and our Regional Program Manager, Gordon Maples. It originally started in August of 2013, when neither of them even lived in the same state.

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