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High school freethought groups are so important in helping young people develop their skills in critical thinking. It’s one of the first places you can openly talk to other people about your atheism. It’s also tougher than starting a group in college, when you’re likely to have a few more like-minded people around you.

Lucia Guatney is just a freshman at Cherry Creek High School in Colorado.

But she’s started her own freethought group, attended a student conference (hosted by the Center for Inquiry), and met her own personal hero:

I went to my first CFI conference (The Secular Society and Its Enemies) last November in the splendid city of New York. I hadn’t a clue that meeting fellow student freethinkers could be so much fun. For the first time since I’d entered high school, I was in an oasis of thought with intelligent discussions taking place all around me. Not only were there speakers with fascinating subjects, but there was also the opportunity to talk to fellow student freethinkers and other attendees. Later that evening, I was in shock to find myself having dinner right across from Richard Dawkins in the Beekman Pub, and conversing about campus activities with all the other students at the conference.

About a week after the conference, I e-mailed Richard Dawkins because I felt the need to thank him not only for dining with us but for his books which had helped me appreciate science (“appreciate” being an understatement; more like “love passionately to death”) so much. He wrote back telling me that he had remembered who I was, and not only that…he told me that he’d been “bowled over” when I told him that I was fourteen at the time. I looked up the words in the dictionary—they mean “highly impressed”. Imagine how I reacted.

If you imagined me falling out of my chair and giggling madly, you imagined correctly.

I can’t wait to see what she accomplishes with her group in the next few years and what she’ll be able to do with that knowledge once she gets to college.

The article stresses two points that I think need to be repeated:

First, attending an atheist/Humanist conference when you’re young can change your life. It’s a chance (possibly the first chance) to be around people who share the same thoughts as you. When you feel isolated in your thinking, it’s the prime opportunity to realize you’re not the only one in that position. That’s a powerful thought. And groups like CFI and the Secular Student Alliance give students grant money to attend those kinds of conferences.

Second, it’s not difficult to begin a freethought group, even if you are in high school. You just need someone willing to take charge. If there’s a problem, CFI and SSA and other groups will help you out.

Kudos to Lucia for what she’s done so far.

Where are other high school freethought leaders like her?

[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]