If the future rests in the hands of the youth, then it should be duly noted that today’s youth are distinctly progressive. No, I’m not referring to the widely publicized Occupy movement, instead I’m referring to the values of my generation. There has been no better time for the LGBT community; constantly winning small and large cases for political and social rights. Government, laws, policies, all of the things past generations have accepted are now being scrutinized and challenged as we defend our interests. The issue of abortion and the debate on whether or not it should be a government issue has received an abundance of attention from today’s voters. Education’s stance as a right or a privilege has spread like fire through out schools as students take up the call to act. Students are demanding that their voices not only be heard but that action is taken to accommodate the masses. However, we should return to the word “progressive,” which by definition as a noun means “a person advocating or implementing social reform or new, liberal ideas” but as a verb means “happening or developing gradually or in stages; proceeding step by step” (Google Dictionary). Although revolutionary, these victories are but small steps towards a better tomorrow.
As it becomes clear that the values of the past are not wholly unanimous with the values of the future, no movement is more feared than the secular community. Our generation will hold the first national rally for the secular community in American’s history. Secular Student Alliance (SSA) groups from across the nation are making a trip to Washington, D.C. on March 24th to partake in a celebration marking the progression the secular community has achieved. These students are future doctors, lawyers, politicians, writers, nurses, whatever career you can think of, chances are a student representative will be there.
SSA, like the Reason Rally itself, does not have a violent or anarchic agenda. The SSA at the University of Central Florida (UCF) has done nothing but educate the community and promote a secular lifestyle. SSA at UCF recently attended the Moving Secularism Forward conference at the Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport in Orlando, Florida. Held by the Center for Inquiry, this conference offered the students an opportunity to learn about current topics within the secular community: Stephen Law presented insight to his journal Religious Studies in which he explained some of his arguments against certain philosophies of religion, David Silverman highlighted the work that the organization American Atheists has done in order to fight for the separation of government and religion, and Daniel Dennett made a compelling presentation on his belief that one day secularists will achieve equality in both politics and society. SSA at UCF then took this knowledge and formulated the best way to present it to their peers. Tabling at the nations second largest university, SSA at UCF will have posters, flyers, stickers, buttons, all with information to educate and promote students about what it means to be secular.
No amount of secular paraphernalia can compete with the most important element of the SSA organization: knowledge. Educating people about the values of the secular community remains the best marketing strategy for SSA. Being such a large university, UCF has thousands of potential leaders each striving to do what they can to better the world. SSA at UCF boasts an organization full of these very leaders working to promote an environment that is free from (and argues against) dogmatism, bigotry, and superstition. Shayne Cheshire, a co-founder (along with Shane Furman and Jordan Chipps) of the SSA organization at UCF states, “The goals of our organization are to promote free inquiry and secularism in all aspects of life and to build upon a progressive community where individuals may exchange ideologies in a healthy environment. We advocate critical analysis and skepticism for all subjects and to rid society from the stigma currently associated against atheist, agnostic, non-theistic, or anti-theist men and women in our society.” Championing a cause which will only enhance our generations goal to promote acceptance and freethinking, SSA is teaching students to embrace a lifestyle free from the constraints of religion. Our campaign for equality–be it for gay marriage, legal abortion, or fairer taxation–must look to secularism to break the bonds which have been placed upon us by our predecessors. Moving forward we can only hope that organizations like SSA educate and promote these values so that one day we can truly live in a country which encompasses equality without compromise.
To learn more about SSA at UCF go to their Facebook page here: SSA@UCF
UCF’s SSA at the Moving Secularism Forward Convention.