Q&A: Chris Munday of Secular Student Alliance
The following is an interview between Collegio reporter
and Chris Munday, president of the Secular Student Alliance (SSA).
The Collegio: What is the Secular Student Alliance?
The Secular Student Alliance is an organization that provides a safe harbor to those students who live their lives without belief in any religion, god or gods. We also are activists for human rights, with special attention to the right to be free from religion, specifically religious encroachment into our democratic government. We strive to maintain that wall of separation between church and state, as the founders of this country envisioned.
TC: I noticed that the name of the group adds “at Pittsburg State University.” Does that mean that there are other Secular Student Alliance groups in different colleges?
CM: Yes. There are currently 348 affiliate groups on American university campuses, and 60 affiliate groups in American high schools. There is a national organization that helps campus groups by donating supplies, and gives us access to their speakers bureau.
TC: Do you know who started the organization, when and why?
CM: The Secular Student Alliance of Pittsburg State University was started by myself (Christopher Munday) and a friend, Bryant Haymaker, in the fall of last year. We looked around campus and saw that there were a number of clubs that were religious in nature and realized that there was no social outlet for people with atheistic, agnostic or other nonreligious belief. Knowing firsthand the feelings of isolation, judgment and even contempt by friends and family that too often comes with “coming out” as a nonbeliever, I wanted to provide a social outlet and safe harbor for people where they could meet like-minded people and speak their minds without having to worry about being judged for what they believe.
TC: Who can join the Secular Student Alliance and what are some of the responsibilities of the people in the group?
CM: To be a full member of the Secular Student Alliance at Pitt State, one must be either a student or faculty. We do allow and encourage members of the community, students and faculty of other schools, and anyone else interested in helping us achieve our goals to join as honorary members. This allows them to keep up with what we are doing for the year, as well as allows them the same benefits of socializing with like-minded people. Full members are expected to attend our business meetings, as well as officers meetings if they are an officer. Members have the responsibility of upholding our club values and being good representatives of the club.
TC: How many students at Pitt State are involved with the Secular Student Alliance?
CM: There are currently 41 members of our Facebook group. However, typical attendance to meetings is around 10 to 15 members.
TC: What are the future plans of your organization, such as any events or ideas that you have coming up, and also, where do you see the SSA as being in the next year and years to come?
CM: The SSA is currently planning to send a handful of members to Skepticon, a convention geared toward those with nonreligious beliefs. We also are planning on hosting discussion panels on a variety of subjects, including the separation of church and state, as well as social acceptance vs. tolerance. I see the SSA thriving in the future. We’ve had an incredible response from students as well as faculty, not to mention the fact that Psychology Today recently released a study indicating that as a country develops, the less religious the population becomes. Another study done by the Pew Research Institute found that up to 60 percent of millennials identified as nonreligious. I think that the club will become less necessary as a social outlet as atheism and secularism rise, but will still be an important factor on this campus in the form of being a vehicle for social and political progress.