The Status Quo
The virtues of cooperative work (frequently referred to as interfaith) with religious groups are widely noted and assented to in the secular community. You can improve your community service by adding many more volunteers to the effort. Better still, you can humanize yourself to people who might hold a narrow, two-dimensional stereotype of atheists (and vice-versa). Eventually, through this, you might even diminish the discord between religious and secular people at scale.
Whenever we consider the question of school officials addressing matters of belief, we run into problems with where the lines are going to be drawn and whether or not it is okay for a professor or teacher to challenge the spiritual beliefs of a student. Just the thought of beliefs usually conjures up pictures of spirituality and other ways of thinking that many skeptics and freethinkers would call non-scientific or irrational. But is that the only way that we can interepret the idea of beliefs?
This past weekend I was lucky enough to attend the 2011 Secular Student Alliance Annual Conference. Among the speakers was American Atheist president David Silverman, and it was a speech I thoroughly enjoyed. His talk focused on inspiring us secular youth; emphasizing how we are the future, and how the future looks good. I couldn't agree more, and found the talk pretty inspirational.
The President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge is to advance “interfaith cooperation and community service in higher education”. On March 17, 2011, President Obama issued a challenge to college campuses, hoping to bring religious groups together to work on community projects. His reasoning is that many social issues are addressed by religious groups already – feeding the hungry, providing low-cost daycare, sheltering the homeless – and that combining efforts can only bring positive change. To his credit, President Obama used all-inclusive language, not leaving out the non-believers in our midst. The press release of the Interfaith Challenge, including video, can be found here, and the details of the challenge, including guidelines and program requirements, can be found here (.pdf).
We’ve passed the halfway point of summer. Class schedules are arranged, textbooks are ordered, summer internships are wrapping up and students are savoring the last weeks of vacation. The end is near. While this news may be good or bad, now is a crucial time to establish some building blocks for your campus group to work off of come fall. Below are a few important tips to keep in mind as you start packing your backpack: