A Freethoughtful Idea

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 www.secularstudents.org. 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’