Affiliate Group of the Week

Affiliate Group of the Week: Secular Student Alliance at George Mason University

April 28, 2016

This week we’re excited to highlight the Secular Student Alliance at George Mason University, home of former CFI Outreach intern Zach Ashton. However, in the spirit of successful leadership transitioning, Zach made sure the new group president, Michael Thompson, was able to talk with us. Read on to see what Michael has to say about why the group got started, his group’s most impressive activities, and where he sees the secular movement going in the future.

First, please introduce yourself. Where you go to school, graduation year, your background. What’s your “atheist/secular conversion story,” if you have one? I’m Michael, a junior and information technology major at George Mason University. My secular story isn’t particularly unique, but like many others I had doubts about the claims of Christianity for many years. My junior year of high school, I finally sat down and read the Bible to see if it would restore my faith or give me a better understanding of God. Needless to say, it had the opposite result.

How did your group get started? What year was it founded? Was there a specific event or incident that motivated you or the founders to create the organization? The SSA at GMU has been around for quite some time! We’ve had years of inactivity, but about three years ago, Alex Krupp stepped up and got a lot of secular people together to reform GMU’s SSA into a much larger community of people. At the time (and even now) there were groups for every type of religion imaginable but there was no campus group or community of secular people. President Krupp, alongside a few others, felt that had to change.

What are some events that your group holds or some activities that your group has been involved in? Which are your favorites? In the years since our founding, we’ve held a ton of events. Some, like our Baptize an Atheist event, were used to raise money for charity. Others, like our Young Atheist Convention, were made to promote secular ideas and spread useful information. We’ve historically worked with others as well, just this year co-hosting an Environmental Festival in North Plaza right near the core of our school.

Group photo of SSA at GMU

Talk up your group. What’s something that you’ve accomplished that you’re really proud of? Our most ambitious project was, without question, the Young Atheist Convention held last year. For that event, we got together a ton of secular speakers, a comedian, and invited people from many different schools (and the greater community) to meet up and hear how to become active as a member of the secular community. We’ve also done a lot with the non-secular community at Mason, from putting up Ask an Atheist tables to setting up tables right across from campus preachers to show that we exist and welcome anyone to join us or ask about whatever they’d like to know.

What do you see as the mission of your organization? GMU’s SSA was originally created as a place where secular people could go and hang out with other like-minded people. To this day, as the only secular student group at GMU, that remains our single biggest goal. Our other goals include promoting the separation of church and state and communicating with other groups to develop understanding of the secular community.

How did you hear about CFI On Campus? How have you worked with CFI On Campus in the past, and how do you hope to work with us in the future? CFI is a group that we’ve heard a lot about from members of the SSA at GMU. Former executive board members, like CJ, used to invite us out to local CFI meetings. While we haven’t worked much with CFI in the past, rest assured we have a lot of promotional material from CFI and will gladly assist in “fostering a secular society” at GMU.

What is your vision for the secular movement? While the secular community has come a long way, I envision a secular movement in the future that’s much more active and vocal about speaking out against the use of religion in government and law. We’re now a significant number of people in the US, yet we still have scores of politicians justifying everything from discriminatory laws to miseducation in science with pseudo-intellectual religious views. If we can foster a bigger sense of community and activism, I know we can end these battles for everyone’s benefit.

 

 

About the Author: Stef McGraw

Stef McGraw's photo
Stef McGraw is a Campus and Community Organizer at the Center for Inquiry. She has degrees in philosophy and Spanish from the University of Northern Iowa, where she first got involved in the freethought movement through the University of Northern Iowa Freethinkers and Inquirers

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