Atheists are becoming increasingly more welcome in Christian organizations such as FCA, YoungLife, youth groups and church services.
Everyone comes to these get-togethers with high expectations for entertainment and excitement, but not all attendees are coming for the same reasons, namely, God.
According to the National Post the number of teens that believe in God went from 54% to 36% from 1984 to 2008, while the number of atheists rose from 6% to 16%.
This statistic proves that the number of high school-age atheists is on the rise; Leesville is no exception to this rule.
Natalie Cox, sophomore and self-proclaimed atheist, stopped believing in God when she was in the seventh grade. Despite this, Cox regularly attends Christian organization, Younglife, with her friends. “I go to YoungLife for the people,” said Cox. “The only weird part for me is the sermon… I sit through it and act respectful, but in my mind it just doesn’t make sense. The sermon isn’t interesting for me because I can’t relate to stuff I can’t believe in.”
While Cox attends these Christian meetings for her own social reasons, other Leesville atheists are left with less of a choice.
Kelton Sutton, sophomore and atheist since age 11, finds himself under unusual circumstances. “My dad is a preacher, so I go to church every week,” said Sutton. “I also play in the church band, but I’m playing because I love music, not for God; I feel there’s a separation between the two for me.”
While Cox is open about her views with her family, Sutton has a problem being able to share his opinions with his family. “I’m scared to tell my dad that I’m an atheist. He would probably freak out. My mom knows, but she still makes me go to church with her because she thinks it’s awkward sitting alone.”
From personal experience, the way that atheists act in Christian situations is more than acceptable. In November, I took a weekend trip with Leesville’s YoungLife club to Windy Gap, a YoungLife-sponsored Christian camp.
When these self proclaimed atheists found themselves participating in the worship services that Windy Gap offered, they were not shy of singing and dancing to Christian songs, and remained courteous throughout sermons and testimonies.
Not once did I see one of these atheist students acting inconsiderate towards their Christian peers or leaders.
Although some may consider these atheists hypocritical, most Christians consider atheist attendance completely acceptable.
“I have no objection to atheists coming to hang out with us!” said Ally Bass, Christian and leader of Christian organization FCA. “I would much rather have atheists in a Christian setting than anywhere else. They need to know that Christians don’t hate them, and we don’t want to shove Christianity down their throats.”
Bass has one message to people of all religions, and those who lack it: “Christians are fun! Come hang out with us, religious or not!”