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A Freethoughtful Idea

Brandon Seger

Brian walked through the door with a heavy sigh. School was out for the day; he was home. Unfortunately, there were plenty of assignments that needed to be finished for his classes, including chapter notes for Biology, study questions for English, a translated paragraph for Spanish, and a monologue for Drama. He would indeed be busy that night. Brian walked in the computer room in his house and dropped his heavy backpack on the carpet floor, and proceeded to take out the trash, among other chores.

Once Brian had completed his chores, he did not feel like initiating work on his assignments. His parents would not be home for another hour and a half. He estimated that completing the assignments might take more than that amount of time. Instead, Brian decided he would check his e-mail and some other miscellaneous things on his computer. Brian walked into the office room of his house, where a new Dell computer was sitting on a polished oak desk.

He booted up his computer and eagerly connected his DSL modem to the Internet. He checked him Hotmail account, where there were only three new messages, all of them advertisements for a number of websites. Bored that none of his friends or family members had e-mailed him, he proceeded to the discussion forum at the Internet Infidels website, where he had been a regular attendee since the previous summer.

After making a few posts under some threads, he noticed a link advertisement at the top of the web page. There were three on the page before him. One, a link for the Hereticards website, the next for the EvolveFish website, and the third for the Secular Student Alliance organization. This was the first time he had seen any link relevant to school and the secular community. Interested in the website, he clicked the link, and the browser soon displayed the black-background and blue-text website of Among the profusion of links on the website, the "High School" section caught his attention. At the website brought to him by clicking the link, he read some information about starting a freethought group on campus.

After reading it, an idea sparked in his young mind. He found it to be a brilliant idea, to start his own freethought club on his own high school campus. He looked further at the SSA website and saw that there were a few freethought high school groups listed, some in California, his home state. Since his increased interest in the nonreligious community began the previous summer, he decided he would do his part in the community and initiate his own freethought club.

Certain thoughts formed in his mind. Of course, he knew that he lived in a mostly religious Southern California community, but there were bound to be some nonreligious students at school, out of a rough one thousand and five hundred who attended it. There were even five people at his school that he already knew where atheists like him, so he also developed the idea that there would be enough people to start this club. The only thing that troubled him, of course, was possible rejection from the school's administration.

Brian shut down his computer, and began on his homework. He was enthralled by this new course of action he would soon take, and could not wait until the next morning when he could learn how to start the club.

* * *

The bus pulled up the student loading zone in front of his school, and began discharging its occupants. Once Brian was off the bus he immediately proceeded to the head office building of the school. Although the day had just begun, he knew it was going to be a day of good weather. The sky was clear, the sun shinning bright as it hung just above the horizon, the dew on the lawns sparkling in the sunlight.

Brain walked through the door of the administration building, passing a group of students who were waiting in line at the nearby payphone. Once he was in the building, he saw a sign dangling from the ceiling that had arrows pointing to the appropriate places, including "Principal's Office," "Activities Director," "Counselor's Office," etc. Brain was not sure which one he needed to go to in order to discover how he could start his club. He decided that he would ask his sophomore counselor what office he would need to see. He entered the counselor's office and saw that the counselor was diligently typing some document. After inquiring her of where to find out where to start a club, the counselor directed him to the activities director's office.

Brain walked into the director's office and discovered no one was there. Brain glanced at his watch and saw that there were only seven minutes left until the bell would ring for first period. He was eager to learn how to start his club, however, so he would wait in the office until the bell rang. Pulling up one of the chairs present in the office, Brian sat down, patiently waiting. He scrutinized the room, viewing all the decorations in the room as well as the abundance of paperwork lying on the director's desk. One object sitting on the desk had caught his attention particularly, though. Next to a framed picture of what he assumed to be the family of the director, he saw a plaque lying on the desk, and printed on it was a Biblical verse.

This seemed like bad news to him. Now knowing that the director was obviously a theist, he was a bit worried about presenting the idea of beginning a freethought club to the director. He had experienced before how most of the religious people he knew had a bitter reaction to nonbelievers, and he feared that, once presenting his idea to the director, that the director would instantly reject it. Nevertheless, he would see how it would turn out, and he continued to wait for the director.

After a couple of minutes of sitting, the activities director finally entered the office. She came in, sat down then asked, "Can I help you?"

Brian, without aplomb, responded, "Uh-yeah, how do I start my own club?" After presenting this inquiry to her, Brian was afraid the director would directly ask him what club he wanted to make.

"Well, we have a form here," the director reached for the nearby filing cabinet, pulled out the top drawer, and grabbed a packet from inside, "All you need to do is fill this out and turn it in back to us."

The director handed Brian the packet, and he put it in his backpack. He glanced at his watch and saw only a minute was left before it was time to go to first period.

Before Brian was about to thank the director and head out of the office, the director asked, "What kind of club were you thinking of creating?"

Precisely what Brian had feared. He of course did not want to reveal to her his real ideas for a club, so he responded, "Oh, I don't know. Just wanted to look at this packet and see what needed to be done to start my own club." Brian feared more that the director would inquire into the matter.

Fortunately, the director acknowledged Brian's answer and went to sit at her desk. Brian thanked her, and left for first period, as the bell had just rung. He would look at the packet later.

* * *

"Ok class, as soon as you finish, turn the papers into the tray at the side of the room," Brian's Biology teacher had just informed the class, referring to the heart anatomy assignment the class had been working on for most of the period. It was third period, just before lunch, and Brian had been sitting with two of his friends working on the assignment.

The class was finishing up the assignment, and students were walking over in bulk to the side of the room to turn the papers in. After Brian had placed his paper in the tray, he returned to his desk and pulled out from his backpack the club form. As he did this, the bell rang, and the flood of students exited the room for lunch break. Brian did not follow behind, for he was not hungry, and he was not thirsty since he had a bottled drink at his side. He was more concerned with reading the form he needed to fill out for his club.

Laying the paper on his desk, Brian began reading the first page. On the first page was a list of all the procedures and requirements for starting a club. The first item listed was one that came as a shock to him: know of at least 15 students who are interested in joining the club, and these 15 people must sign a petition. He was unhappy to discover that even the first requirement of starting the club would be difficult for him. Brian was only familiar with five people who were nonreligious among 20 or so people he knew socially. He also thought about the amount of people who are nonreligious at his school. There were 1,500 students at his school, and he figured that there were bound to be at least fifteen nonreligious students among them, but it occurred to him that finding these people might be difficult. The first thing he would need to do, of course, is to inquire his five friends if they would be interested in joining his club. Though Brian had five nonreligious friends, based on how he knew them socially, some of them didn't seem to be the kind of people interested in activities such as this.

The other major requirement he saw was to write an initial constitution for his club. This was the one requirement that he was actually interested in. He had some ideas for such a constitution. Brian flipped a couple of pages through the packet and saw there was a sample copy of a constitution from another club, and he would use that as a guideline. He had figured that some of the people to join his club would not agree with what he would write in the constitution, but he read further in the packet that the club would also meet, once the club has been approved, and write the constitution as a group. There were other miscellaneous details found on the first page in the packet, such as procedures in sending the constitution to the ASB office, but the fact that he needed fifteen signatures from students who were interested in such a club had preoccupied his mind.

Then there was another necessity: finding a teacher to advise the club. This was fortunately going to be the easy part, as Brian's Biology teacher was an atheist and he would probably be interested in being the club advisor. Just a couple of months earlier the evolution chapter had taken place, and Brian had many after class conversations with his teacher about the whole issue. Brian grabbed the packet, lifted from his seat and walked over to his teacher, who was checking his e-mail on the computer at his desk.

His teacher was a native from India. He was a tall, slender man, with oily black hair that shined easily under the ceiling lights, and dark skin. He had lived in India for all of his schooling life, but moved to the United States when he received his Ph.D. in order to become a high school teacher.

"Hey, Dr. Panjab, would you like to be the advisor for a club I am making?" The teacher looked up from the monitor on his desk at Brian, diverting his attention to him.

"Making a club, are you? Cool, well let me see what you've got there," replied the teacher with his Indian accent, as he took the packet from Brian's hands. The teacher flipped through the pages, glancing at what Brian had written. When the teacher discovered the kind of club Brian was starting, he was amazed.

"You are making a nonreligious club? Ha!" the teacher exclaimed. "Are you sure you want to do this? I mean, do you know what kind of reaction you might receive?" The teacher was giggling as he said all of this.

"Yeah, I'm aware of that. But I think it would be cool. If religion can be on school campuses, then the nonreligious should have their share of clubs as well. I know a good amount of people here who are nonreligious." Brian replied, hoping that his teacher was still willing to be the advisor, despite the comments.

"Ok, well, sure, I'll sign it. At least, so you can get the club off the ground," the teacher told Brian. He took the paper and retrieved a pen from a pocket on his shirt and signed his name on the form. The teacher handed the form back to Brian, who thanked him and walked over to his backpack where he placed the form inside.

Now that Brian had accomplished the first step, he was interested in finding people to sign up. Brain put on his backpack and saw on the wall clock that ten minutes were left of lunch. Just enough time to ask the first person to come to mind.

* * *

Walking into the campus library, Brian felt a brief chill. He had walked clear to the other side of the campus from his Biology class to the library, and it was ninety degrees out, but the air conditioner was on full power in the library. Brian looked through the many tables in the library and saw that his friend Anne was reading a book. He walked over there to get her signature.

"Hey Anne." She took notice of Brian's presence and closed the book. < p>"Hi. How's it going?"

Well, if I can recall from overhearing you one time in English class, you are an atheist, correct?" Anne nodded, unsure of why he was asking her this. "Oh good. Would you be interested in joining a club I am creating? It's a freethought club."

Anne smiled after hearing this then replied, "Oh cool. What a novel idea! Heh, a freethought club is quite foreign to this city, isn't it?"

"Ha, yes it is," Brian chuckled, "I need you signature. I have to collect fifteen to start the club."

"Fifteen? I hope you can find that many people who will be willing to sign, because I only know a few other nonreligious people, including yourself." Precisely what had troubled Brian.

Anne took the packet and signed her name on the sheet. Brian thanked her and walked out of the library to find more people.

* * *

It was now fifth period (Geometry class), just after lunch. Everyone was working on an assignment, when Brian turned to the student behind him with the name of Richard. They were both fairly good friends, and in one discussion they had a few weeks earlier they both mentioned to each other that they were atheists. This was the second person Brian knew was an atheist at his school, so he would now ask him to join.

"No." was the reply Richard gave Brian when asked about the club.

"Why not?" Brian retorted, not sure why his friend would not join even though he was one suitable for the club.

"As I understand it," Richard continued, "the colleges don't like to see that. I mean, I don't want to be disapproved from a college because a religious professor, or whoever, is reading my application and sees I was in a nonreligious club."

"Nonsense. They wouldn't do that. That's pure bigotry. I've never heard of a person who was not approved for the reason you speak of."

"I'm not so sure. You know as well as I do that atheists are not well-accepted people in this country. I've received nasty comments from religious people before when they discovered I was an atheist."

"Yeah, but I don't think that would extend as far as to effect your entry into college," Brian replied.

"Well, I'm not going to take the chance. I was nearly yelled at when I revealed to my parents that I was recently deconverted. I really do not wish to see this when trying to apply for a college."

Brian acknowledged Richard's reply and pursued no farther. He wasn't going to force anyone to do anything. It had bothered him that there would be a shortage of people who would join the club, and his hopes waned even more when one of those few atheists refused to sign.

Two more periods passed and the end of the school day had come, and it was time to board the bus. Sitting on the bus as it headed to his neighborhood, thoughts were spinning through his mind. He had now confronted every nonreligious person he knew and asked them if they would join, and only four signatures sat on the sheet of paper he possessed. Brian knew of no one else to turn to. He also decided that he would not go up to random people and ask them if they would join, because he assured himself that he would run into someone who happened to be religious. The religious people has always been distasteful toward him when his atheism was revealed, and this fact convinced him not to confront any more people about the issue.

Though he was unhappy to arrive at this point, he had given up. With his concern with the school's administration rejecting his club, and the severe lack of people to join his club, his ambitions to start a club had failed.

* * *

Later that evening, Brian was sitting at his computer, conversing with a friend over a chat program. His friend was from Pennsylvania, and had met him at the Internet Infidel's discussion forum.

"Man, this sucks. I tried to start a freethought club on my own campus. I simply couldn't find enough people to join. I only know a handful of atheists at my school."

"Really?" his internet friend typed in return. "How unfortunate. I imagine it is difficult to try and do that. I know a friend who lives several miles north of me, and he ran into some trouble when he started his club. The only difference was that he succeeded. I guess all the circumstances were in favor for him."

"I see. Heh, if only I had his success.

"I know one thing you can at least do. Go to the Campus Freethought Alliance website and register with their organization as an individual. That is what I have done. When you register, you even get a brown box every other month that contains a magazine, some pins, and a newsletter."

Brian was happy to discover this. "Wow, I didn't know you could join as an individual member. I think I'll go over to the website and register now. Thanks for letting me know!"

Brian's idea for a freethought club may have failed, but that still did not prevent him from joining a secular organization, which is what he has basically wanted in the beginning. Brian loaded up Internet Explorer, went to the Campus Freethought Alliance website, and registered.

* * *

Two weeks passed since that day he joined the CFA as an individual, and the brown envelope arrived in the mail. Brian opened it, and poured the contents on the coffee table. There was a magazine, Free Inquiry, as well as a newsletter, and there were even two pins that had freethought logos on them. He took one of them and pinned it to his left backpack strap.

Next, he began reading through Free Inquiry. He was about to go out to dinner with his family, so he could only briefly glance at the pages inside. However, the last page of the magazine caught his interest in particular. It was a list of all the groups affiliated with the Council for Secular Humanism. At the top of this page, there was a paragraph that contained information of how to start a local group.

It was indeed hard for him to start a club on his high school campus, but if he started a city-wide group, there were bound to be more people who would join the club if he could ever make one.

Now knowing that it would be possible for him to start a local group, new ambitions were born within him'



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