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10 Struggles of Being an Atheist at Cal Poly

Cal Poly is a secular state university, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a huge Christian presence on campus. I remember once as a freshman an upperclassman that was attempting to convert me to Christianity told me that Cal Poly was an unofficial Christian university. Potential problems with this characterization aside, it is not entirely false–and it’s definitely not a bad thing either. I have a lot of respect for Christians and, really, all systems of faith. That said, I am a pretty hard-nosed atheist. Here are some struggles that my fellow secular students will know all to well:

1. Getting that look when you have to “admit” it to your friends:

We’ve all had a serious, heartfelt conversation get awkward when someone brings up God.

2. Biology class:

Anyone else had a bio class with that kid who insists that evolution is “just a theory”? Yikes! That’s not how science works!

If something has attained the status of a formal theory, it’s survived any attempts to prove it wrong. Evolution is not going anywhere.

3. You never get to go on awesome retreats to Big Sur or Yosemite:


I’ll admit this one is kind of a bummer. Anyone out there want to go camping for nonreligious reasons?

4. Philosophy class:


Look, I’m sorry but the Ontological Argument is just not going to work. I promise people have tried; it’s just deeply flawed.

5. People laugh at your fedora:

I’m sorry but you deserve this one.


Please, please don’t be this guy.

6. Your Christian friends try to sneakily convert you:

Hey, whoa there I’m on to you. I promise I’m not mad at God–I just don’t think there is one.

7. Getting a good grade on a difficult test makes you wonder whether you’re actually wrong about this whole thing:

But you know it doesn’t actually work like that though.

8. People ask where your system of morals comes from:

There’re plenty of secular moral systems! And some data suggest that secular societies are actually safer and more tolerant:

9. You don’t understand why anyone would ever accept a religious system that thinks being gay is morally wrong or rejects a woman’s bodily autonomy:

Come on. LGBTQ+ rights and women’s freedom to choose are just plainly good. How are we still even arguing about this?

10. At the end of the day, you know that as good humanists we should be respectful of people’s freedom to believe what they wish, and that there’s no greater good than being able to connect and be close with your fellow human beings, regardless of differing metaphysical commitments.


Lorenzo is a Cal Poly SLO undergraduate Philosophy major and social justice advocate. He enjoys strong black tea and hiking on cold days. Though a student of logical conceptual analysis at heart, his interests also include feminism, social and political equality, applied ethics, and modern cultural theory.
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