ACPA Reminds Us There Are No Atheist Students

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I just got a reminder from the student affairs folks at ACPA about an exciting conference call happening next week!

It’s called “Encouraging Religious Pluralism & Interfaith Cooperation: A winter holiday conversation.”

That’s right, this student affairs professional organization has a whole commission dedicated to spirituality, faith, religion, and meaning.

And what’s this conference call going to be about?

The end of the fall semester presents an opportunity for university staff to educate students about the many religious celebrations that take place at the end of the calendar year other than Christmas. However, finding ways to have meaningful celebrations that are inclusive of multiple faith traditions, while avoiding overly simplistic gestures can be challenging. This hot topics discussion will provide participants with the opportunity to learn about best practices and conversation on promoting religious pluralism and interfaith cooperation on campus during the winter holiday break.

As long as all faiths are included, no one will feel excluded right?

And who’s leading the call?

The Reverend Gregory W. McGonigle has served as Director of the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life (ORSL) at Oberlin College since 2008. He received his Master of Divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School in 2004, focused on academic chaplaincy, interfaith relations, and American religious history.

A Master of Divinity, of course.

Dear ACPA members,

There are atheist students on your campus. They might call themselves nonbelievers, freethinkers, agnostics, brights, secular, or humanists, or whatever, or nothing at all, but they’re there. They don’t identify with faith. They don’t identify with spirituality. They don’t identify with religion. Some of them have valid challenges to faith, spirituality, and religion to make. Believe it or not, they are capable of making meaning without any of the mystical stuff you keep triumphing. And they already feel ostracized on their campuses. Please stop ignoring them.



The recent issue of the Secular Student Alliance newsletter offers a debate on interfaith movements. I have to say I agree with Ed Clint (and Hemant Mehta) that interfaith movements, by definition, are contrary to the experience of nonbelievers. An interfaith community is one of different faiths, but of faiths, nonetheless. How could it be inclusive of people without faith who are intent on challenging faith?

As long as the focus is on faith, religious privilege will prevail.

Thanks for such a critical, progressive approach to creating inclusive campuses, ACPA.

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There are 3 Comments to "ACPA Reminds Us There Are No Atheist Students"

  • Buffy says:

    Silly you. It’s called interfaith. If you have no faith why would you be interested. Go start your own group for grumpy, faithless types who want to sit around and….what is it you types do again?

  • JeannetteMarie says:


    As an atheist I understand your point about the conference call. However, I believe that the Commission can also serve all students because it includes ‘meaning’. There are many non-spiritual ways that we, and students, can make meaning. I will be interested in seeing how this new commission includes atheists in their programming.


    • ZackFord says:

      “Can” doesn’t mean “does.” And just because “meaning” is tacked on the end doesn’t mean that meaning is ever considered independent of spirituality, faith, and religion. I appreciate your optimism, but feel it’s my job to be skeptical and hold their feet to the fire, especially if all that language is in their title.

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