Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Free Expression Cartoon Contest Winners Announced

As a contribution to the Center for Inquiry's Campaign for Free Expression, the Council for Secular Humanism ran a cartoon contest soliciting both amateur and professional work and judged by Pulitzer-winning editorial cartoonist Steve Benson. Yesterday the winners were announced. Below is the the winner in the professional category. You can see all the winners and runners up here.


Not a good Friday. (-ed)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ

In case any of you are not aware, I have a deep, deep love for Philip Pullman (the guy who wrote His Dark Materials) that extends well past a simple man-crush. So, anything new about Philip Pullman I will likely post on this blog, whether you like it or not.

Basically, whenever he says something, it's so well spoken it blows the mind. Many of you may not be aware that he has recently written a new book, with the same title as the title for this blog post.

You know it's good because it comes in two colors.

I haven't read it yet, since, when I preordered it, I assumed I'd have to wait till May. But ho! I then came up with the genius idea of going to the Amazon website for the UK instead of the US, and sure enough there it's already been released! So go, my minions, and order the book now!

Anyway, back on the subject. There was a recent interview in the UK with the Pull-man himself, and an audience member commented that the title is highly offensive towards Christians. Pullman's response is, needless to say, quite excellent.



"And that's all I have to say on that subject."

You the man, Philip Pullman. You the man.

SAAFe Sex: Catholic Pope Rebuttal on the Quad for a REALLY Good Friday

Welcome back from spring break! Hope you had fun, and we know you missed the weekly Thursday rendezvous with your fave AAF members (all of them!). This week, we'll be having our regular meeting in the Natural History Building, 7pm in Room 229. It'll be a free-form discussion on the topic of an upcoming panel discussion with the Christian group Navigators. Check them out here: http://www.illininavs.org/. They've been exceptionally great at communicating with us, as well as cosponsoring past debates. This week, we'll try to narrow down topics and questions that we'd like to pose to their group. This panel discussion will work both ways, as they will also be coming up with questions to ask our panel members. If you are interested in being part of this panel discussion, please email us back or come up to us after the meeting this Thursday. It's a great opportunity!
 
CONDOMS!
Just to make sure you guys are paying attention, this Friday we'll be passing out condoms with informational stickers concerning what the Pope recently said about condom use helping spread HIV. There's a ton of information on the internet right now about his comments, but here's an article for reference: Sydney Herald Article.
Anywho, we'll be out on the Quad from 11am to 3pm this Friday, and we überly (yes, über is now an adverb) need volunteers who are both passionate and informed on what the Catholic Pope has said and are ready to respond to people that will be asking questions (although if you're interested, but not currently informed, feel free to catch up before then). To sign up, check out our sweet excel sheet: Sign Up Sheet
 
Social Events Calendar: Mark these dates down!
Barcrawl has been set to Monday, April 5th; wear your shirts!
Hypothetical date for party is Friday, April 16th. It's not finalized yet, but keep it in mind.
Picnic at the Illini Grove has been set to Saturday, May 1st (the week before finals really start, so don't worry! You have time to make it. Or else).
 
Chicago Conference
GET TICKETS NOW for the Center for Inquiry Dangerous Nonsense conference taking place in Chicago on Saturday April 24th. Ticket prices go up on April 1st, so do it today (literally)! Our tentative plans are to drive up together Saturday morning so we take in some of the night life before returning Sunday. As usual CFI has lined up some great speakers. Don't miss out, and sign your name as soon as you sign up in our google doc so that we can keep track of who's going: Fellow Cool Conference People
 
SOCIAL NETWORKING
Just in case you don't get enough of us on Facebook Group:
or our Blog
we're also on TWITTER now, so follow us, just search UIUC AAF
 
Hope to see everyone this Thursday, enjoy the beautiful weather provided by nature, science, and atmospheric pressure!

~AAF

Monday, March 29, 2010

Can morality come from Science? Harris' TED Controversy



Sam Harris, stableboy of the Four Horsemen, has been elbowing his way back into the limelight lately. Before his recent new ager whack-a-mole Nightline appearance backing up Michael Shermer he gave a TED presentation on morality (above video). If you don't know what TED is you should stop reading this now and look down dejectedly. Harris' talk "Can Science Answer Moral Questions?" asserts the importance of science to moral questions like "how much should one tip a hooker?"

Or something like that. Harris' talk is pretty enlightening and insightful for a message so completely wrong. His wrongness has stirred up a bit of controversy as could be expected. In reply, he wrote a lengthy defense of his speech which is posted here. A brief exerpt-

Moral relativism is clearly an attempt to pay intellectual reparations for the crimes of western colonialism, ethnocentrism, and racism. This is, I think, the only charitable thing to be said about it.
Bam! Take that, moral relativism. What say you? Can science get us morality? Can an is give us an ought after all?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hitch cocked: "the rape and torture of children"


Christopher Hitchens discussed the most recent round of crimes and scandals with Bill Maher on his program which aired on Friday. Quipped Hitchens "what can you expect of an institution whose motto is 'leave no child's behind'.

More allegations of recently surfaced including those against Fr Murphy accused of abusing 200 deaf boys between 1950 and 1974 in Wisconsin. Complaints reached the Vatican in 1996, 20 years after the diocese knew about it. The then-Cardinal Ratzinger was in charge of the moral watchdog group that heard the complaint but never responded or in any way punished Fr Murphy who died two years later.

I can't help wonder how long all this will go on. How much cruel torment, how many harmed children will catholics or we as a society put up with? Here's the video.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Forces of evil defeated by meddling kids, again

This is a short video in which University of Illinois Chicago student Jason explains how he responded to the religious hate group, the Westboro Baptists, protesting on his campus. It's not as cheeky and fun as the previous story of this title but it's got heart, baby. Good on ya Jason. We should consider doing likewise if the WBC decides to come here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010





...part 1
.......Norman Borlaug




JESUS CHRIST or maybe the Dali Llama is the answer that you would get should you put the question to the average american "who is the greatest person to ever live?" (and I mean person not men, but lend me some visual leeway, willya). You know better though, you the 7 or so goodly atheists who read this space. You might say Charles Darwin, Abe Lincoln or Thomas Jefferson. Your guesses are impoverished but at least those people all exist. Existing makes it harder to be great. How can such a thing be decided anyway? Isn't that like asking if Gone with the Wind is better than Office Space?

One could argue for social, moral, philosophical, economical, political, artistic and scientific contributions when considering nominees. Which is the most important? Damned if I know, but this week I'm going with pure utilitarianism: the laziest standard. It spares me the Wind/Office Space conundrum. At least one in six humans on planet Earth owe their existence to one man: Norman Borlaug, father of the green revolution. In case you are wondering, Norman was not an atheist, he was a Lutheran. What he did though had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with science. It is a testament to the power of reason and economics and puts the relative good of religious figures in perspective.

Norman is one of the most decorated people you've never heard of. He won the 1970 Nobel peace prize, the Congressional Gold Medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom as well as Padma Vibhusan India's second highest civilian honor. He was called "the greatest man who ever lived" by Penn & Teller in episode 1-11 of Bullshit! (admittedly some of the inspiration for this series).With a PhD in plant pathology and genetics from the University of Minnesota in 1942, Norman set about increasing crop yields in Mexico. Norman worked diligently for years under difficult conditions to enhance the wheat output. He used genetic hybrids to produce dwarf and disease-resistance wheat that hugely increased output in the poor soil and in variable climate and altitude conditions.


Within a few years Mexico became wheat-independent and began exporting to other nations. This caught the attention of the US Dept of Agriculture, the Rockefeller Foundation and international agricultural bodies who then asked he do the same for India and Pakistan. Ultimately his techniques and strains of wheat revolutionized production in Pakistan, India, Turkey, Africa, latin america, and the middle east. The immediate effect when applied anywhere was a 2-4 fold increase in food production. There have been no major famines since the green revolution. Gregg Easterbrook wrote in the Atlantic Monthly Borlaug's methods have saved a billion lives. That's billion, with a B. It wasn't just about feeding the world's poorest people. Norman championed increasing the output of a given field in order to also prevent deforestation. You don't need to cut down forest if you can get more wheat from less land. For all of these reasons, Norman is the father of the green revolution. In the 60's agronomists predicted coming or prolongation of massive famines in India and elsewhere. They never came, thanks to Norman.

Going Against the Grain
Just one post back I linked to a video in which new ager Deepak Chopra blasts the abuse of technology as some sort of proof that science is epistemologically unsound or morally compromised. It reminded me of similar remarks from AAF members in recent weeks. The abuse of technology can rightly be ammunition against science with regard to its impact on society. Were I an ambassador of the atom, I would gladly answer for the purported crimes of science if I could also be credited its valor and beneficence. See you can't look at a piece of science's contribution to humanity in isolation. If you have a shred of integrity you have to take it all in. The truth is if you added up all the deaths in all the wars in all of history from swords, bullets, and bombs they wouldn't come anywhere near a whole number fraction of the lives saved or contingent upon the work of just one scientist: Norman Borlaug. When you add to that the agricultural innovations that came before and after Norman, plus the medical discoveries, plus the political revolutions made possible by the various iterations of information technology you realize virtually every person on earth has been in some way positively influenced by science and most of us probably owe our very existence to it.

In this series I'm going to talk about folks like Norman who remind us that science and reason make the world better; that progress is often measured in human lives and in their quality, not in adherence to a particular ideology or faith. Norman died in 2009. He is survived by one or two billion people whose life he made possible.

There's much more to know about Norman's fascinating life than I could here mention. Read more over at Wiki, check out this blogpost or dig up episode of 1-11 of Penn & Teller's award winning showtime series.

God Debate Returns to ABC Nightline








Does God Have a Future? Maybe, but isn't it the past and present that's the existential stumbling block for God? In a display of televised forensic idiocy unseen since the first Nightline Face-Off pitted the dynamic duo of Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort against petulant emo atheist neophytes from the now defunct "Rational Response Squad", new atheist super-friends Sam Harris and Michael Shermer square off against Deepak Chopra and Jean Houston. The topic is the role of science as either the killer or harbinger of God and Chopra/Houston enter the debate in the sense that my cat might enter the Kentucky Derby. The program aired 3/24, watch it online here.

Unlike other recent debates this one pits rationalist skeptics against new-age "woo woo" (to use Shermer's term) gurus, not religious apologists. Indeed Chopra has made his fame peddling hokey pseudoscience in books such as The Physics of Immortality and How to Know God. Harris rightly calls him out for deliberately conflating disparate conceptions of God for marketing purposes. Virtually all theists do this to some degree: in discussion with you the nonbeliever their god is some deistic/pantheistic synonym for 'universe' but come Sunday that same person knows Jesus Christ is lord and has a plan for you. Chopra exploits this mechanic shamelessly using pseudoscience to justify god so that he can sell books to Christians even though when asked, he will say his god is an undefined "endless potentiality" or similar claptrap. Chopra finds the Christian concept of god quaint and wrong but is perfectly willing to cash in on the confused demographic then pretend not to realize it when pressed by Harris.

ABC News' Dan Harris moderates so much as a feckless foil can. He amusedly plays up the role of the confused layman out of his depth as if narrating on America's Funniest Home Videos. He is thoroughly unable to direct the discussion in any thoughtful way or press any panelist on their more unsteady comments.

Shermer does his very best to bring reason and clarity to bear but it seems a fool's errand here. His opponents are so defiantly obtuse, as ready to spew nonsensical jargon as any tongue-speaking fundamentalist writing on the megachurch floor. He implores Chopra to "stop using fuzzy words" but fuzzy words aren't the problem so much as fuzzy thoughts. There's more fuzz than thought in the mental lint-trap that is newage philosophy.

Jean Houston is least well known of the four, but surely not as unknown as she deserves to be. She trades often on her association with bigger names, specifically Margaret Mead and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. On this occasion she re-tells the story of her childhood chance friendship with Chardin and it's clear how special, even mythical she believes this makes her. She gets the least airtime in this debate and of that very little can be parsed. She plugs her educational program based on "artistic learning" but most of what she says is the same incoherent babble you get from Chopra. For example in a dicussion segment about the future of social spirituality she remarks about having seen the ugliness, the religious violence Harris writes about then rambles off with:

I've been shot at[...]I don't want to see that anymore.. what I want to see is people coming together with a common theme which is at this point is the making of a much better world. We have the wherewithal in science, art, in poetry, in music, [...] what we do not have is the lure of becoming. I don't want to see just the put-down of the past I want to see the lure of what this world could look like given the fact that we bring these different kinds minds and not simply the experts because quite frankly when I'm around the world here's the dirty little fact, that nobody talks about 70-80% of people who are really doing the work tend to be women of a certain age you know who have that experience I'd like to see women and men and people from many cultures really begin to create a vision a lure of becoming to what this world can be and I think that might ultimately override the great fractiousness between old points of view
You might think it makes some sense when watching the video, but not really. One could take a stab at ideas she's trying to get at but here the fuzz reigns and not just in words.

Some of the better moments come after the debate proper when audience members question the panel. One such person is a physicist writing a book with Stephen Hawking who backs up Harris' contention that Chopra simply gets the physics wrong. When pressed Chopra retreats into consciousness mysticism as all such new agers do, since consciousness is mysterious you must accept any claim relating it to mysterious quantum effects.
In the end it is the emergence junkies like Chopra and Houston who prove to be so much less than the sum of their parts.

edit watch the debate in edited broadcast format at hulu (thanks Debstar)
(Thanks Bob S, for sending me the heads-up on this)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sorry ladies...

James Randi is gay.
Well, here goes. I really resent the term, but I use it because it’s recognized and accepted.

I’m gay.

From some seventy years of personal experience, I can tell you that there’s not much “gay” about being homosexual. For the first twenty years of my life, I had to live in the shadows, in a culture that was — at least outwardly — totally hostile to any hint of that variation of life-style. At no time did I choose to adopt any protective coloration, though; my cultivation of an abundant beard was not at all a deception, but part of my costume as a conjuror.

Gradually, the general attitude that I’d perceived around me began to change, and presently I find that there has emerged a distinctly healthy acceptance of different social styles of living — except, of course, in cultures that live in constant and abject fear of divine retribution for infractions found in the various Holy Books… In another two decades, I’m confident that young people will find themselves in a vastly improved atmosphere of acceptance.
It's an amazing testament to how difficult a decision it is to be open about one's sexuality that someone so public and critical as he would have waited so long to come forth with this information. My eyes are watery thinking both about the very fact that he even had to consider whether or not to share this information and that he finally felt safe enough to do so.

Via Lally.

Atheists you should know: Todd Stiefel

There was a nice little article in the Chicago Sun Times today talking about Todd Stiefel, and, seeing as how I had never heard of him before, I figured I'd do a quick write-up here so you can know all he's done.

After selling his family business for a mere $2.9 billion, Stiefel thought it wise to use his money to help better society. So, last month, he donated a measly $500,000 to the Secular Coalition for America, in addition to donating $100,000 to the American Atheists and $50,000 to the SSA.

And, we must correct a statement from a previous post: Remember the article about the AHA donating $20,000 to make a High School prom that lesbians could attend as well? Our bad, it was actually Todd Stiefel who donated the money.

So, my hat tips to you, Todd Stiefel, for not only donating large amounts of money to atheist organizations that are making a big difference for atheists everywhere, but being so humble about it as well. Your money will go far.

And, Mr. Stiefel, if you're reading this, I hear that a certain secular group on the campus of the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign is very very low on funds, and could use some money...

Just kidding.

Kind of.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Saudi Court to Execute Man for "Sorcery"


According to CNN World, Ali Hussain Sibat is to be executed in Saudi Arabia for the crime of sorcery. Perhaps ironically, Sibat was arrested by Saudi's religious police while on a holy pilgrimage to the non-magic kingdom. Sibat had a television program in his homeland Lebanon whereby he would tell the future for callers. I suppose this makes him a Lebanese Miss Cleo. When psychics ask to be taken seriously in our own country, I doubt this is what they mean.

Bear in mind, Saudi Arabia remains in "good buddy" status for America which nominally concerns itself with freedom and democracy. I suppose if North Korea had a little oil we'd have a Ben & Jerry's ice cream flavor named after them by now. It would be called Kim Jong VanILla Swirl.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Enjoy your break!

Based on my communications with people, it seems that everyone had very terrible weeks and that everyone is out of money, but will have more after break.

So! Take this opportunity to relax a bit before gearing up for the end of the semester. Enjoy!

And don't hate us if we send out an email with some updates on what's happening when we get back, since we're gonna be out tabling and will need some volunteers right when school starts up again.

As a goodbye present, I invite you to watch this video, via SMBC Theater:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"Cause it's witchcrAAFt!"- Frank Sinatra

Regular Meeting
Hope everyone is having a great day with this beautiful weather outside! Hopefully the sun stays out until this Thursday's meeting, at 7 pm in NHB Room 229! Our own Karthik Manamcheri will have a presentation entitled, "How Hinduism is a Detriment to Society in India," please support our member and attend. Afterwords, come out to Murphy's for our final farewell before break!

CFI Conference/AAF Roadtrip!
Get your tickets NOW for the Center for Inquiry Dangerous Nonsense conference taking place in Chicago on Saturday April 24th. Our tentative plans are to drive up Saturday morning so we take in some of the night life before returning Sunday. As usual CFI has lined up some great speakers. Don't miss out, and sign your name as soon as you sign up so that we can keep track of who's going here: https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0AqcKq0sWo-bmdFl6WEJoTzczeXJwWDNyOXhGU2NDMHc&hl=en

Spring Barcrawl
We're shooting for either Monday or Tuesday, April 5th or 6th, for our spring barcrawl. The lineup will be announced the week after spring break, but put in your vote for either Monday or Tuesday using this link, please: https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0AqcKq0sWo-bmdFgtUTIwa3VwYjA5OGcwaUNYdmdZTEE&hl=en

Good Friday: April 2nd Catholic Awareness
Per suggestions from our last meeting, we will be passing out free condoms with flyers describing the negative statements the Catholic Church (Pope) has made regarding condom use and the prevention of AIDs. Check out an article here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/mar/17/pope-africa-condoms-aids. This activity day will be out on the quad April 2nd (week after spring break) and should be regarded as both informational and educational. We will have a signup sheet when we get back from spring break. Any feedback on what should go on the flyer is welcome, please respond directly back to this email.

Have a great Spring Break!

Dangerous Nonsense

Hey AAFers! Looking for an outlet to enrich yourselves intellectually and steel yourselves against the forces of pseudoscience? Well, you're in luck, because CFI - Chicago is holding its first conference this April!

From their website:
CFI Chicago: Dangerous Nonsense - Exploring the Gulf between Science and its Impostors

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Location: 26th Floor - Conference Room
Address: 111 E. Wacker Drive Chicago, IL 60601

Center For Inquiry/Chicago is pleased to present its
first Annual Spring Conference!

Bunkum grows like a weed in American culture – whether it's climate change denial, conspiracy theories, or healing by prayer.  Some ideas are not only nonsense, they are dangerous nonsense, with serious implications for our lives.  In this age where misinformation can be spread more easily than ever before, understanding the role of the scientific process in human affairs is critical to our survival.  This conference will present top scientists in biology, physiology and physics, each of them gifted at explaining both the science and its impostors of their respective fields.  Join us and gain valuable insight into exploring the world through science and reason.



Contributing Speakers:

  • Dr. Massimo Pigliucci, professor of evolution and ecology, contributing writer for Skeptical Inquirer
  • Dr. Veronica Drantz, professor of physiology
  • Dr. Michael Albrow, physicist at FermiLab
  • Dr. Ron Pine, explorer, retired biology professor, and debunker of “Intelligent Design”
  • Dr. Dario Maestripieri, professor of evolutionary biology
  • The Mentalist 'Mystopher' and Carolee, “Serving Fork-Fulls of Magic and Imagination”
Included in conference registration:

  • Morning and afternoon coffee and pastries
  • Live magic show entertainment
  • Book sales and displays
  • Book signings by the authors
  • Panel discussion with our presenters
  • Plenty of Q & A time
More information can be found at the
Center for Inquiry Chicago website, here.

Most importantly, saturday night after the conference, we'll be having a tons of fun, as we are wont to do. Registration is $35 for students, but AAF members will be reimbursed 50%, making it a low, low price of $17.50! You can't afford not to go. But you have to act fast, as there are a limited number of spots available*!



*12 spots total, ~4 reserved for officers, so ~8 are up for grabs, though this is subject to change. Contact us if you plan on going

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

AHA Gives $20,000 for LGBT-inclusive Prom for MS Discriminated Students

According to the Examiner, Constance McMillan was told she could not attend her own prom since she had planned to bring her girlfriend as a date. Constance threatened to sue for unlawful discrimination and the school board responded by cancelling the prom altogether.

What happened next is the best kind of activism- the kind that combines fighting bigotry and promoting unity with partying. The American Humanist Association generously donated $20,000 to have an all-inclusive prom for the class. Keep the faith Mississippi and Texas: you're making atheists look better every day.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Woman dies from trying to get too close to God

I mean, I know it's nothing new and exciting, but it's always important to remember these kinds of things when people say that religious beliefs, even if practiced nonviolently, don't ever harm people.

The entire article is here, but I just want to show you a couple direct quotes from the article:

1. "The Polk County Sheriff's Office says it appears she died because of the fast. Deputies don't plan to file charges because they believe she fasted willingly and her family said she was mentally sound, Sheriff Grady Judd said."

I don't think it's usual for mentally sound people to starve themselves to death. Unless there are other factors going on, that make otherwise rational people do irrational, potentially harmful things...

2. "On Friday, her death baffled family members, Bartow residents and religious scholars."

Really? Baffled religious scholars? Maybe they missed the part where the Bible encourages starving yourself as a holy activity.

3. "Even Judd was surprised that a common religious practice went bad. 'I'm a god-fearing man, and I can tell you, God doesn't intend you to fast yourself to death,' he said."

What? Who has ever heard of religious practices going bad (potential rant)? But I'm glad that Judd here can tell me that God doesn't want his creation to starve themselves to death on his account. But in his holy wisdom he did manage to make it pretty confusing when he mentions people fasting, without food or water, for 40 days and 40 nights at multiple times in the Bible, considering not drinking or eating for that long would kill just about anyone.

4. "Lots of religions use some act of starvation as a part of their spiritual process," said Kristen Swenson, who recently published a book about how the Bible affects today's culture. "But most religions stress the importance of maintaining health."

Yes, because starving yourself is a great way of maintaining health.

5. "Everyone is just wondering why he didn't check on her," said Sarah Lovelace, owner of a flower shop near the church. "It's the talk of the town."

Maybe because, in a religious society, starving yourself is considered a pious and admirable activity until someone dies from it.

Well, I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Fasting is one of the religious practices that bothers me the most. I mean, seriously:

What kind of God would want you to starve yourself on his behalf?

And, of course, the answer is the Christian one.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Pledge Battle stalled by 9th Circuit


Atheist/lawyer/ER Doctor/Supreme Court petitioner and presumably night-time crime-fighter Michael Newdow's fight to get the "one nation, under god" pledge of allegiance removed from classrooms was dealt a set-back yesterday. According to the LA Times, the 9th Circuit appeals court said that the pledge is not unconstitutional because there is no federal law that requires it be said. This is a very peculiar legal response considering the Supreme Court has a long history of ruling in favor of free speech and religious freedom in many cases in which no federal law was involved.

If you don't know Newdow's name, you should. He is one of the greatest champions for the secularist cause of our time. He has been fighting such issues as the pledge, the unsavory slogan on our currency, and against Christian intrusion into the education system for years. He has endured a near-constant smear campaign from the right not to mention plenty of death threats.

Newdow has pledged to appeal the decision and I hope it the Supreme Court will hear it this time. That said, I don't personally want to see "under God" removed from the pledge. A better question than is this constitutional? is why is there a pledge at all? The pledge needs to go away, now.

I sort-of understand why it started- understand if not condone. It only got the "under god" and in widespread practice during the Red Scare and god was meant to indicate our separation from the communists. Everyone was wetting their pants over the looming threat of nuclear annihilation. That's our grandparents excuse, what's ours? The pledge, any such pledge, is a pitiful jingoistic stab at emotional indoctrination. It highlights, not obviates, the neuroticism of a nation's psyche. It is as transparent and insulting as it is feeble: we know you children are so stupid that forcing you to rotely recite a cloying loyalty oath will win your allegiance for the duration. Are we so frightened each generation will be poised to defect? Doesn't such an oath seem more fitting to a North Korea or a Soviet Union?

I say this as a former soldier and a veteran of war: the pledge of allegiance is not patriotism. It needs to stop, now. If we want our children to love America we should hand them an America that is worth loving, one without authoritarian demands of fealty.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It's so nice outside, I wanna go AAFroading in my 96 Nissan Sentra

MEETING
Hey all! Hopefully you're all fully recovered from Unofficial and ready to come back to Murphy's this Thursday. We have quite a few topics to talk about this week, and top of the list is the controversial Smut for Smut campaign, where students are trading porn for bibles. This should lead directly our newest idea for fundraising: selling communion wafers! Please bring any more ideas you have for fundraising or tradings like "Smut for Smut" or "Fiction for Fiction."  Volunteers should attend this week's meeting and speak up! The meeting will be held in the regularly scheduled room of NHB 229 at 7 pm. Then we'll be off to Murphy's to exchange Unofficial stories.

SPEAKERS
For more information about the smut for smut, check out some articles, including one from Hemant Mehta who'll be visiting us this Friday, March 12 in Noyes 100. He's a great friend of AAF and the author of "I Sold My Soul on eBay."

CFI Conference/AAF Roadtrip!
Get your tickets NOW for the Center for Inquiry Dangerous Nonsense conference taking place in Chicago on Saturday April 24th. Our tentative plans are to drive up Saturday morning so we take in some of the night life before returning Sunday. As usual CFI has lined up some great speakers. Don't miss out!

SOCIAL EVENTS
As soon as the weather gets nicer out (hopefully the week after spring break), we'll be going on our spring barcrawl! We'll ask around this meeting for what dates work for everyone. 

So we have an action packed week and we need full attendance and participation! Please stop in for the lively discussion followed by the Friday speaking engagement with Hemant!

Enjoy the amazing weather!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Dawkins: Australian for Godslayer


An atheist, rabbi and senator walk into a bar.. bartender says "hey, this should be a TV show." Richard Dawkins appeared with a panel on the Australian program Q&A today (yesterday, Australia time). He was joined by a rabbi, a psych professor, and several politicians.

In the hour-long program we get a cheeky moderator and some of Dawkins at his finest. This seems very timely as Australia has lately seen the rise of vocal Christian zealots. Australia has banned violence in video games such as Left 4 Dead as well as media depicting breasts that are too small. Australia, get it together will you? We know you want to be America south but there's already one of those and we can't spare any Christian nutjobs or corrupt politicians- we need them to keep reality TV and The Daily Show afloat.


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Italian Club for Flamboyantly-Dressed Men Implicated in Gay Sex Scandal, Shocks World

According to the Huffington Post,


The Vatican has been thrown into chaos by reports that one of the Pope's ceremonial ushers, as well as a member of the elite Vatican choir, were involved in a homosexual prostitution ring

The Pope was busy picking out new drapes for his office and could not be reached for comment. Read more at the
Washington Post, Guardian.co.uk, or the Huffington Post.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Democracy: Works Every Once in a While


It's shaping up to be a fantastic week for secular America. First, in the wake of an ethics scandal for New York Rep. Rangel, Pete Stark is the new head of the powerful House Ways & Means committee. The committee is in charge of all tax and social security-related legislation. In case you don't know Rep. Pete Stark (D-Ca) is the first and only openly atheistic Congressman in US history. Read more at FiredogLake.

Meanwhile, Texas voters have ousted the young-earth creationist whack-job that has been head of the state's board of education, namely Don McLeroy. Along with the loss of two other conservative members, the board's political leaning is no longer locked by Christian conservatives. McLeroy has been often criticized for heading up attacks on mainstream academic standards and is responsible for more than a couple instances of public media humiliation for Texas. The Texans for Science blog discusses the increasing disenchantment with McLeroy in recent years.

It may be premature, but it seems to me even the Bible belt stronghold that is Texas is slowly turning away from Christian zealotry at long last. This and other stories coming out of Texas in the last few weeks would have been unthinkable 10 or 15 years ago.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Atheist Students Trade Porn for Bibles

At the University of Texas the most obscene, disgusting material in print can now evidently be traded for images of people having sex. The group Atheist Agenda is trading pornographic material for the Bible, Koran, or any other holy text. They even got national news coverage from Fox-



"Trade you my Second Coming for yours"
Trading the Bible for porn is at best a lateral move. The Bible has porn in the form of certain psalms I won't mention in deference to our sensitive atheist readers and also a steamy 4-some between a hot virgin newcomer and a triune god.

The Christians are evidently upset. This blogger seems to liken it to the end of the world along with many of his commenters. I don't really understand why. Surely any person who willfully trades a Bible for porn isn't any kind of Christian anyway. Surely no devout person would be so tempted. It can only be harmful to the church if you believe that average people will choose sex over god. In protesting, this is exactly what the theists are unwittingly admitting to.

UnAAFicial's just around the corner!

Good afternoon! Hope everyone is staying in and preparing for Unofficial this Friday (please be safe and WISE about your decisions, we know you're smart enough). We are STILL having a meeting this week, with Jason Romero, past VP coming in to speak. The talk is called, A Postmodern Critique of the New Atheist Movement. The meeting will be on Thursday at 7 pm, back to our usual location at NHB 229. We'll head to Murphy's afterward per usual, but some might want to take it easy for Friday's festivities. 

Good news!
The Chicago conference, sponsored by CFI, has finally opened for registration! Go ahead and get a ticket now, before it's too late!

In other news, we'll be seeing Hemant Mehta in two weeks at Noyes, on March 12th at 7 pm! Please come ready with questions and a big welcome for one of our oldest AAF friends.

Meanwhile, we're in the midst of planning a possible panel discussion with the Navigators (check them out at http://www.illininavs.org/). In order to facilitate a discussion, we usually have a pre-meeting where we both draw up a list of questions to ask, and then each group chooses which ones would be most interesting to answer for the audience. This is not a debate by any means, but if you would like to be on the panel or have an idea of a reasonable question we could ask during the Q and A, let us know by shooting back an email. 

Also, the Navigators have invited us to attend an open Q and A with a creation science scholar, Dr. Charles Jackson, on Tuesday, April 20th, at 7 pm in the Union. If interested, we'll keep you all posted until then.

If you're not too busy (or hungover) this weekend, join us for a viewing of Alice in Wonderland at the Savoy Theatre, at 6:50. We're seeing it in 3-D! Tickets will be up online on the Savoy website late tonight, and you are responsible for your own ticket. I'd suggest buying it in advance. Some will be driving and others will taking the 100 YELLOW SOUTH bus over to the Savoy center. If you want to meet up with the busers (In case you were wondering, a "buser" is one who uses the bus. Don't look it up.), the bus leaves Illinois Terminal at 5:21 (we're getting there around an hour in advance for good seats). If you have any questions about this, send a quick email and we'd be happy to fill you in. Seriously! It's a good chance to hang out with all the cool AAF members and get to know us better.

As always, check us out at www.uiucatheists.blogspot.com and comment, comment, comment. It validates the officers' meager existences. There is interesting stuff being put up there!

Happy UnAAFicial!

Monday, March 1, 2010

The US "just not that into you" says SCOTUS to God

The Supreme Court declined to hear a case involving a 10 Commandments monument at an Oklahoma courthouse, letting stand a lower court ruling that it be removed. This is the latest in a series of defeats for god-as-basis-of-our-law Christians in as many years. The high court handles these on a case by case basis rather than making all such monuments unconstitutional because some displays feature the Decalogue as a mere element in an arrangement signifying historical influences and also presumably to limit the volume of whiny crying mail from broken, sobbing fundamentalists. source: newsok.com

Did I come on too strong?

Top 10 Zany Fatwas

The jury seems to be out on whether or not Islam is an inherently violent religion but it seems safe to say it is an inherently silly one. At least as silly as any other. A fatwa is an "Islamic opinion" issued by an Islamic scholar which is only sometimes a death sentence. In the case of number 5 on the list, though, it is. Yes, a a fatwa was actually issued to kill all mice including Mickey Mouse and Tom of Tom & Jerry fame. Seriously. You won't believe what number 1 is.
Check it out here, at listverse.