Humanism on the Move


Dec. 2, 2009

Atheist student groups are on the rise, according to the Associated Press. The AP reports that the Secular Student Alliance has seen college campus affiliates rise from 80 in 2007 to 100 in 2008 and 174 this fall. In addition, at least three universities have humanist chaplains, including Greg Epstein at Harvard. The AP story suggests that the rise in atheist student groups is due to an increasing number of young adults who don't believe in God or describe themselves as "not religious."

Pennsylvania Nonbelievers has decided to pursue legal action against the Chambersburg, Pa., borough council for refusing to display a sign that reads "Celebrating Solstice-Honoring Atheist War Veterans" near a public fountain.

The council had previously disallowed all seasonal decorations after the PA Nonbelievers asked for permission to display their sign. The council argued that either all displays must be accepted or none of them should, and removed an already established nativity scene from the fountain rather than permitting the nontheist group to put up their sign. But Carl Silverman, a board member of the PA Nonbelievers, said that if they did not pursue the issue it would imply that their main goal was to have the nativity scene removed-which is not the case.

"We didn't want to take Jesus out of the public square," Silverman said. "We want to put atheism in the public square."

Details about the suit will be released as they develop.

The United Coalition of Reason has helped fund a new advertising campaign in Baltimore, Maryland. "Are you good without God? Millions are," say the ads, which appear on four electronic billboards near Ravens Stadium. The ads, sponsored by the Baltimore Coalition of Reason, join several put up by other Coalitions of Reason the past month, including three Ohio cities and San Diego, California.

"It is often assumed that one can't be moral without belief in a deity," said Emil Volcheck, coordinator of Baltimore CoR. "In actual fact, we humanists, freethinkers, agnostics and atheists make moral issues and social activism primary. Now we'd like others to be aware of that."

The billboard campaign is coordinated with the release of "Good without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe," by Greg Epstein. Epstein will be speaking about his book in the Baltimore area this weekend.