AS MORE AND MORE AMERICANS RENOUNCE ORGANIZED RELIGION, BOISE STATE UNIVERSITY STUDENTS TAKE CENTER STAGE WITH A DEBAPTISM CEREMONY.
by Paige Thomas
from the College Report – HUSTLER MAGAZINE – January 2010
To white lacy garments required this time around, but a developed sense of humor wouldn’t hurt. With just a quick spritz from the spray bottle of “Unholy H2O” and a nice blowjob from the hair dryer labeled “Reason & Inquiry,” the debaptism of Boise State University freshman Mitch Brinton concluded. Wishing to undo a ritual he’d experienced at the ripe old age of eight, Brinton decided to take part in the debaptisms performed on campus by members of the Secular Student Alliance (SSA).
What led him there had been simmering since he was 16. Brinton’s girlfriend of five months called off their relationship, taking his passion and faith with her. Just like any other fine, young Mormon boy, Mitch had planned on going on his mission. But these newfound romantic feelings and the growing doubt about his faith led him, like so many others, to pick up the pieces of his smashed dreams, dust off his thinking cap and enroll in college. Brinton recalled, “Nothing could save me but myself.” From this realization came his dream to one day attend graduate school to study evolutionary psychology or neuroscience.
Brinton’s debaptism was performed by Alicia Clegg, the “Fund Master” of Boise State’s SSA chapter. Proudly wearing an upside-down missionary badge and handing out “Get Out of Hell Free” cards, Clegg remembered the closeness and community her former church provided. “I miss the events and the people,” Clegg lamented.
The following evening, SSA members gathered at a spaghetti dinner honoring the Flying Spaghetti Monster. (Embraced by nonbelievers, the fictional deity spoofs organized religion and creationism.) Of course, the main topic of discussion was the debaptism ceremony. Rebecca Ames, Clegg’s girlfriend and a fellow SSA member, was almost giddy with excitement about the “throngs of people who weren’t afraid to say something.”
The large turnout at Boise State University isn’t surprising. The Secular Student Alliance national organization reports over 160 currently affiliated groups—up from 100 in 2008 and only 80 in 2007. In addition, the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS)—evaluating almost 55,000 people—shows the decline of Christian Americans from 86% in 1990 to 76% today. This statistic might come as a shock to those who consider the United States to be a Christian nation.
Meanwhile, an Internet campaign in Argentina called No en Mi Nombre: Apostasia Colectiva (Not in My Name: Collective Apostasy) has been compiling names of people wishing to renounce their faith. Baptized as infants and children, they now consider themselves to be Roman Catholics in name only. The problem in Argentina is that these individuals are included in membership figures the Church uses to lobby for favorable legislation.
In a Time magazine article, Terry Sanderson—president of Britain’s National Secular Society—described why debaptisms and secularism in general have become so popular. “Churches have become so reactionary, so politically active that people actually want to make a protest against them now. They’re not just indifferent anymore. They’re actively hostile.”
According to the ARIS, “the challenge to Christianity in the U.S. does not come from other religions but rather from a rejection of all forms of organized religion.” This trend was confirmed when the survey reported: “The ‘Nones’ (no stated religious preference, atheist or agnostic) continue to grow, though at a much slower pace than in the 1990s, from 8.2% in 1990 to 14.1% in 2001 to 15% in 2008.” Luke Galen of Grand Valley State University and the Center for Inquiry cooperated for a follow-up study to analyze the characteristics of this population. It found that “among these characteristics, the demographic factor that most distinguished the nonreligious from the U.S. population as a whole was a high level of education.”
Nonreligious people want to be taken seriously, and they’re going about it with humor rather than violence. Smart, funny people seem to be pretty well liked, and the surveys all agree that atheism, agnosticism, humanism, secularism and free thinking are on the rise. The growing number of well-educated nonbelievers in this country should be a sign to the Religious Right that the silence of science is over. Bring out the hot gothic ladies and let’s worship the Internet!
Paige Thomas is a BSU sophomore majoring in secondary education. An “avid hip-hop fan, nerd, mommy, reader, joker, midnight toker and dog owner,” Thomas reckons, “I’m perhaps a bit of an iconoclast, my heart’s in a bind, and my laptop is attached to my fingertips.”
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