My earliest memories of religion are experiences with harassment. Living in communities where Christianity was the norm, I was openly nontheist when I was young. Other people didn’t want me to be that way. I got nasty notes in my locker telling me to accept Jesus or else. There were taunts on the playground. Even my public school teachers lectured me that I should be going to church. All the while, local Christian groups pushed their religious rituals into public events, so that everyday I had to stand apart from the crowd.
As an adult, I’ve learned to deal with these challenges, and I’ve moved to a community that is more accepting of cultural diversity than most. However, it’s not easy to be a young secular person in most places in America. In many places, Christians don’t merely have cultural dominance. They control local governments and public institutions, and as been recently seen in Greece, New York, they often use that power to promote their own religion to the exclusion of others, and to marginalize atheists and religious minorities.
Secular Safe Zone is a network that seeks to help people who are moving into a secular identity. The group explains, “Secular Safe Zone is working to build a network of Allies to provide community and support to non-theists around the nation. To accomplish this, the Secular Safe Zone program trains Allies and Facilitators to create safe spaces for non-theists and encourage acceptance, understanding, and tolerance. Allies are also trained to recognize and respond to issues of discrimination, harassment, and bullying that non-theists may come up against.”