When I began atheist activism in the early nineties, I was in my early twenties, and always the youngest person in a roomful of seniors. Now there are more freethought groups and they can attract relatively younger members—they now include middle-age ones. Sometimes, in my early forties, at some events, I am STILL the youngest person in the room.
Recently, on another forum, an older atheist offered unsolicited help for any younger atheists looking for advice. Of course experience is invaluable. But it got me thinking that the teenage, twentysomething, and thirtysomething people who’ve made such a difference in activism in other areas of politics and culture have as much to teach the older set.
Nationally, the Secular Student Alliance (http://www.secularstudents.org ) and the Center for Inquiry on Campus program (http://www.centerforinquiry.net/oncampus/ , formerly the Campus Freethought Alliance), support college groups. Some school groups wouldn’t exist without them. But do twentysomething heretics feel much need to return the favor and go outside their age groups for freethought activism?
The offline groups I’ve dealt with lean toward my age or older, not younger. And national freethought conventions are still pretty gray. I’ve seen college-age people come once to the Meetups of groups of older members, then not come back. As I see it, they don’t want to discuss whole books or listen passively to slow, dry talks that have no accompanying media. Or be in discussions strictly controlled by organizers better known for seniority or enthusiasm than for moderation ability. Or focus on narrow or theoretical topics to the exclusion of interdisciplinary or practical ones. Or, on a purely social level, be limited to mingling with people of their parents’ age and older.
Freethought is growing throughout the whole population. But organized freethought will continue to stagnate or grow slowly without some serious influence from Generation Y (and eventually Z), and some serious change from those that preceded them. It’s hard for any movement to try for multigenerational membership. But I don’t think ours is trying at all.
Anyone younger got some advice for THIS older atheist?