Northwest Christian University is a small, strict, seriously Christian school in Eugene, Ore. where alcohol and premarital sex are forbidden and chapel attendance is required.
The school is also the academic home of at least one atheist — student body president Eric Fromm — who felt compelled to trumpet his atheism in Northwest Christian’s student newspaper, the Beacon Bolt.
“I was an atheist long before I came to NCU,” the senior explains in his essay. “I was baptized Lutheran, and raised Methodist, but as time went on I slowly came to the conclusion that God wasn’t real. For me, church was an empty ritual that I participated in so I could see friends, scripture was largely mythological, and Jesus was a great moral teacher, but he wasn’t God.”
The senior notes that he chose Northwest Christian because of the “solid” communications program.
Fromm, 21, then spends over 200 words brazenly judging his fellow students for not supporting his atheism while simultaneously complaining that they might judge him.
“Every day I’m burdened by the fact that my peers might reject me because I’m different from them,” he writes.
“Growing up in church I heard a lot of lessons about how Christians shouldn’t judge others, but it seems like some people slept through that lesson,” the student concluded—after just criticizing everybody else at the school.
Strangely, the students who knew about or may have suspected Fromm’s atheism never made a big enough deal about it to make it an issue in the election that resulted in Fromm’s student council presidency.
Michael Fuller, the university’s vice president for enrollment, told The Register-Guard that he has been aware of Fromm’s atheism for years.
“He’s a man of very high character and respect,” Fuller said. “He’s a great advocate for our student body, which is exactly what he’s supposed to be and do.”
While Fromm told The Register-Guard that he feared that students might reject him, or that school officials might try to bring his student council presidency to a premature end, those fears turned out to be overwrought.
Instead, the response on campus has been overwhelmingly supportive.
“I knew friends would be accepting, but I didn’t expect as much support,” Fromm told the Eugene daily.
The senior said he was also surprised to learn that religious believers have doubts about the existence of God.
“For the past couple years, I thought I was the only one,” the 21-year-old reflected.