By Tani Betchan-Hale
Growing up humanist, I have faced the fear of being shunned by my right-wing counterparts, but I have also had the wonderful opportunity of meeting the currant generation’s most liberated minds. Organizations like Camp Quest are a great escape from the conservative environment that I live around. At camp you can talk freely about your beliefs without fear of being shunned or losing important friendships. Some people can speak more freely in school because they have friends that are of the same mindset, but others might not speak out as much.
My parents are a big part of humanist community, and I have been going to liberal conventions since I was 2 weeks old (in a box under the table!). I have met some very important people: Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michael Newdow, Christopher Hitchens, Philip Pullman, Bill Nye, Steve Wozniak, Penn Jillette, Richard Dawkins, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and many more.
I have loved the experience, but even with Camp Quest and the American Humanist Association you don’t really have the same sense of community (especially if you are a kid) as people with a church do. That is the only part of having a religion I wish I had. Camp Quest and the AHA conventions only happen once a year. People that have a church have that sense of community every week.
I have friends that I have met through my parents’ group that are humanists but none of them go to my school. My friends that are humanists and I have stronger friendships because we are nonbelievers. I have one friend that knows I am a nonbeliever and accepts it, which makes our friendship stronger. I am not as open about my humanism at school as some of my friends are at their schools. I don’t know if that is because my parents are so active in the movement or something else. The values that my parents have raised me with are very similar to those of my religious friends. Living in Colorado Springs, the people here are a lot more conservative than people are in Seattle or San Francisco that makes being a nonbeliever even more difficult.
The people I have met at AHA, Atheist Alliance International, and Camp Quest have been nicer and more welcoming than the religious people that infest my home town. Being a humanist makes you a part of a bigger community like a religion without having to be brainwashed. Putting up with the crazies will always be a battle that we have to face, but if there is a chance that we can create an open minded world for the next generation, isn’t it worth it? I think so.
Tani Betchan-Hale is 12 years old and the daughter of Rebecca Hale and Gary Betchan, co-founders of EvolveFISH.com. She lives and attends school in Colorado.