It warms my heart to see young people embrace reason and critical thinking and declare themselves atheists. I have always valued learning and it is wonderful to see young people independently reach the same conclusion I have. It makes me wish I was able to do so earlier in my life. Alas, I’m from a different generation than those in college and high school today. Some things are easier for them and some things are harder, I’m sure. I will always be an avid supporter of college campus groups like the local Atheist Longhorns. Watching these sprouting seeds gives me so much hope for the future.
It’s doubly wonderful to hear from an outspoken young atheist who is a freshman in high school. Lucia Guatney recently finished her freshman year in high school and she has written a nice article on what it’s like to be an atheist high schooler, about her conversation with Richard Dawkins, and about how exciting that was for her. She even has her own blog. Wow. Go Lucia!
It was triply wonderful for me to notice that Lucia is going to the same high school that I did. It made me think about how the school has changed and how I’ve changed along the way. I think it was there that some seeds of atheism were planted in me. My best friend was an atheist, but I didn’t form an opinion on religion until much later. Perhaps I was fortunate to not be too immersed in religion in my youth.
I remember three high school teachers who helped to plant some seeds. One had us read about the Holocaust and think critically about convention and authority. Another helped me appreciate the Spanish conquest of the Americas and the fraud behind Guadalupe. A third (math) teacher pointed out that according to the Bible, pi is 3. Hats off to these fabulous teachers, wherever they may be.
I have to give a nod to the Secular Students of Rice University, my alma mater. While college freethought groups are now common, they were rare when I was in college and Rice didn't have one. I’d like to think that I helped to pave the way for them in some small way. When I was in college, I did some sparring with the Campus Crusade for Christ and Maranatha student groups. An acquaintance of mine from college looked me up on Facebook recently and gave me an unsolicited compliment about how brave I was to sand up to their viewpoints those many years ago. I don't think of myself as particularly brave.
It’s nice to look back on some of those early experiences and feel a connection to the next generation of young people who are poised to make their impact on the world. I have high hopes for them.