Skyler Curtis is dealing with just that at Rising Sun High School in North East, MD.
He noticed that there were different groups in his school, including Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He was recently inspired by atheist bus ads and had the idea of starting a group called Fellowship of Atheist Athletes. He asked a teacher to support his cause and approached the school administration for approval. It seems that the school administrators were concerned with his desire to use the word atheist. Maybe they were afraid that this word A-T-H-E-I-S-T would cause problems. Perhaps they were right. It was agreed that the group would use the name “NonReligious Solutions” or NRS.I have to applaud the administration for not being complete jerks about the issue. When I was a senior in high school, a lesbian friend of mine tried to start a Gay Straight Alliance. Let's just say the Principal and administrators did everything in their power to stop us and doom the group to failure. I also have to applaud a teacher for being brave enough to sponsor the group. Many teachers are too afraid to be associated with controversial groups because of the alienation they may face from the rest of the staff.
But of course, that's where the nice part of the story ends.
Skyler got permission to put up flyers around the school. They only lasted a couple of hours before being torn down or vandalized. What did these horrible, antagonist heathen flyers look like?I'm pretty sure the thought process of his peers and community went something like "Oohh nooo! I can feel my faith crumbling because I know atheists exist! I better threaten him and act like a jackass before Baby Jesus cries any more!" And act like jackasses they did. In addition to the usually name calling common to high schoolers, Skyler has received threats:
I was told by a fellow peer that he would “Jack me up” and that he was not afraid of me because he was a “Crusader.”Christians at his school have made an Anti-NRS page on Facebook, and the migraine-inducing letters to the editor have begun:
- Either the daughter or parent is too ignorant to get the freaking name of the club correct. We can tell what kind of standard of intellectual integrity we're dealing with here.
- Official school clubs are allowed to post flyers. He didn't slap them around willy nilly without permission. If this person's daughter wants to start a Catholic club, then she will be able to post flyers as well.
- "I have God on my side and you'll lose." And apparently this guy has the emotional maturity of a 5 year old. Yippee.
And with these groups comes visibility for atheists. Students and parents are shocked not because this group is saying anything mean or against religion - they're merely saying that they exist. People are terrified of that. Knowing someone believes differently than you can shake your faith, or make you worried about the faith of your children. People aren't going to start accepting atheists until they realize that we're everywhere and that we're normal, moral human beings.
To Skyler, hang in there! There will be times where you take so much flack that you'll wonder if it's worth it. You have to remember that you're doing a wonderful thing and making your community a better place for atheists in the future.
If you want to support Skyler and the NRS, you can join their Facebook group.
(Via Skeptic Money)