in this series of posts). Though I couldn't make the actual conference last year, I was impressed with the organization and the work they do to meet the needs of Freethought, Rational Inquiry, Atheist, and Humanist student groups nationwide. This year, I decided to give up a few hours of thesis work and head to the conference -- here's a quick overview.
First, they had a great line up of speakers including well known bloggers like keynote speaker Greta Christina and the Friendly Atheist, Hemant Mehta. Also on the program were various student leaders from across the U.S. sharing lessons learned from successfully starting and growing their organizations. You can learn more about the speakers from the conference website (plus a few minutes chasing down names on the web). You can read more about the SSA, what they do, and check out their resources for students and for educators through the SSA website. Also, check out the SSA's Facebook Page, and look for videos of the talks and other conference events on the SSA's YouTube channel.
What is the Secular Student Alliance (SSA)?According to the "About" page on their website the purpose of the SSA is
...to educate high school and college students around the country about the value of scientific reason and the intellectual basis of secularism in its atheistic and humanistic manifestations.The approach they take is to
...offer students and their organizations a variety of resources, including but not limited to leadership training and support, guest speakers, discounted literature and conference tickets, and thought-provoking online articles and opinions.They also facilitate networking between these organizations by hosting meetings like their annual conference.
Now, it would be wrong to characterize the SSA as a group of firebrands fixated on getting a rise out of religious people. To the contrary, these folks seem to genuinely recognize the importance of mutual respect and to maintaining an open dialogue with religious individuals and organizations.
Why support humanist, freethought, & related student groups?Organizations like the SSA bring together like minded students to promote the open discussion of (sometimes taboo) topics with significant social implications. They work to protect the freedoms of non-religious individuals, and to support students who speak out against religiously motivated efforts to subvert science literacy, to rewrite history, to silence free speech, or to attack groups with opposing religious (or non-religious) views. These groups not only provide a support system for these students during school - but they prepare them to continue their efforts off-campus after graduation and to continue having a positive impact on their communities.
Finally, you may also be interested in learning more about the Secular Coalition of America (SCA) and the American Humanist Association (AHA). The SCA is an "advocacy organization whose purpose is to amplify the diverse and growing voice of the nontheistic community in the United States. [They] are located in Washington, D.C. for ready access to government, activist partners and the media. [Their] staff lobbies U.S. Congress on issues of special concern to [their] constituency." The AHA, in addition to promoting Humanist values, also publishes The Humanist: A Magazine of Critical Inquiry and Social Concern. Check out their websites for more information, or other ways to get involved.