An entry as a request from
who asked for input on starting a secular student club. It's a big answer so I wanted to put it in my journal section.
The best resource for starting a secular student club is the Secular Student Alliance. www.secularstudents.org/
They are completely supportive and will assist with any resources you need.
Some tips from my experience:1) As soon as possible, start planning for who will replace you as president or club leader
Most new clubs discontinue after the founder leaves. It's easy to fall into the obligation to do everything in the club yourself but it's important to delegate. Encourage people to take a more active role in the club sooner, so when you leave there will be more people interested in taking over. I also would consider not starting a club in your freshman year. Get comfortable with your college first.2) Do not make the club solely about atheism or non-belief.
There is no fun sitting in a room talking about what you don't believe.
When you start your club, be aware of what your community and your members enjoy. Not every club meeting has to be deep debate about religious/philosophical issues. In fact, the less you concern your club with religion the better. Your club is not about religion; it's about your members and doing things without religious context. Making every club meeting into a secular agenda becomes either depressing or boring.
I started my Secular Student Club in northern California in a college town. Likely 90% of students, including myself, were pursuing environmental degrees. Therefore, a lot of our club activities involved volunteer work for environmental restoration. It was fun for us to hang out as a group and it gave us community service to put on our resumes; we also got to explore Northern California this way.3) Religious clubs and folks will approach you. It's okay, most are open and friendly.
This will happen surprisingly a lot. My club was not considered to be in a conservative area but nearly every school has one or two Christian clubs. Members or founders of these clubs will likely come to you if you are tabling in an open area. Perhaps naturally, they may expect you to be hostile. ( I only say this because that is what most have told me afterwards. )
Visitors to your table curious and there to learn about you. Most will explain what they think an secular club is. The most common question I got was something along the lines of "Are you an anti-theist group?" When this question was asked, I would explain that we are more of a social group for like-minded individuals. I would also show them examples from our upcoming activities that prove that our club is not full of militant atheists.
It's natural to expect some kind of resistance from religious folk. Like me, you may have had bad experiences living in religious communities or maybe you've just seen stuff on the internet. However, most visitors have their own misconceptions about non-religious folk (particularly atheists) and the general secular community. The best part is, they are visiting your table because
they have misconceptions and they're curious if they're right or not. You have the opportunity to change any misconceptions and it's a cool experience. Most visitors I got were really happy to learn we were not an anti-theist group and that we did community service and fun stuff like movie nights. I even had one mother, who was a Christian, say she was really happy her son, who was not religious, would be in a club like ours.
Also, many questions may come off as rude or disrespectful but always remember those questions are likely rooted in misconceptions and it's your chance to directly address them.
However, as I say this there were times were people wanted to start debates. One guy even started it when we were just chillin' at an art fair. Feel free to give your opinion and whatnot but if you really don't want to debate with random strangers then just invite them to your next meeting. They usually don't care that much to show.
Simply put, don't think that you'll always be forced to defend your club and treat questions as honest inquires and not as challenges.4) When using your club on your resume
It's difficult to decide whether or not to put secular club activities on your resume. If you live in a more Christian conservative area, employers may ignore your resume. Other employers specifically say do not put anything on your resume that relates to religion, political, race, gender etc etc, because they do not want someone later saying, for example, they were not hired because they're black and their resume said "Black Student Association" or something. In that case, your efforts at your club may seem to have no after benefit. However, most work places do not care although there are ways to better describe your club.
- I would not put "atheist" or "agnostic" on your resume. They're very jarring words (whether that is fair or not is beside the point). Plus, implying that you are atheist or agnostic is a meaningless description of yourself for a job. "Secular" is a good word. It's general and classy looking.
- Describe your club as something that benefits students. Your employer does not care about the values of secularism or the importance of separation of church and state. How did your club contribute to your school and provide positive social outlets.
- If you founded the club, what did you learn about organization, speaking, and leadership. Doesn't matter if you founded the Kittenz4Evah club, you learned something about organization, speaking and leadership that is gold for your resume.
There will eventually come a point where college clubs are a silly thing to put on resumes. I don't even put my old secular club on my resume cause it was years ago. All the skills I got were eventually replaced with more relevant experiences. So don't think that starting a club will be a permanent feature on your resume5) Enjoy your club
Yes, the meaningless last rule for everything. But seriously, clubs are meant to be fun. It's easy to get caught up in a mission but remember, it's a club. Maybe a religious club won't like you, fuck 'em, it's not their club. Maybe your club just wants to eat popcorn while watching Game of Thrones, fuck yea, it's your club.