Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My subject line ideas are mISSArable.

Hello again, my fellow heathens! Hope you've all had a good first week of classes. Last week, we bombarded you with info about ourselves, so this week, we want to get to know you guys. (And have you guys get to know each other!) This Thursday, September 2nd at 7PM we will be splitting up into smaller discussion groups so that we can learn more about each other and talk about important issues in the atheist world. Afterward, as usual, we'll be heading to Murphy's for the usual food, talk, and optional drink.

This week's meeting (and all subsequent others) will be in 
Mechanical Engineering Building 253.

Map: http://www.fs.uiuc.edu/ada/0112.html

Upcoming Events:

Merry Atheists @ Merry Ann's!

For those who couldn't make it last week, come join us Sunday at 11AM for brunch at a charming 50's style diner.

Map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=106+S+Gregory+St,+Urbana,+Champaign,+Illinois+61801&ll=40.10688,-88.222052&spn=0.001861,0.002934&t=h&z=19

Sunday, September 12: ISSA Cookout
Come join us for BBQ and fun in the outdoors! We will update you on the time and place as details emerge. Mark your calendar (or check out ours)!

ISSA on the Web

ISSA Blog     http://uiucatheists.blogspot.com

Facebook    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2252245006

Flickr Photostream http://www.flickr.com/photos/uiucatheists/

Email: UIUCAtheists@gmail.com

Hope to see you all at the meeting!


The 7 Words You Can Never Say In Heaven

I don't usually write fiction, let alone cutesy religious crap but I had to write something for class today and this was it. -ed

It was a paperwork snafu that left a confused, post-life George Carlin standing before the pearly gates of heaven. Imposing fence, annoyed guard and everything’s white- this must be the ultimate gated community, he remarked to Peter, his brow indeed shuffling with annoyance. In reality, Heaven was actually more the ultimate bureaucracy, and Carlin’s file had been misplaced by some low-ranking seraph. Even Jesus had been forced to extend his stay in upstairs reality, because the only official who could approve the transfer paperwork went on vacation for 12,000 years. That only seems like a long time when you aren’t eternal, or as in Jesus’ case, if you just told your friends “hav 2 martyr brb”. God didn’t particularly like it this way, but things just weren’t the same after the angels unionized. His Holiness would have intervened, but one time a guy named Luci went on strike and He never heard the end of it.
            George was overcome, like all new arrivals, with the overwhelming peace and serenity of infinite love. Just like that first time you had some Ben & Jerry’s, George thought to himself. His body seemed aglow as if pure distilled joy now coursed through his veins, his mind his own and at one with the reaches of the cosmos, intimately knowing their elegant mysteries. Know where I can get some Cherry Garcia? George asked one of many Mormons sitting nearby in the Jesus H. Christ Memorial Park. Evidently Utah had had it right, but it still seemed smug that Joseph Smith was always playing golden plate-frisbee in the park. The Crucifix fountain just seemed unnecessary; water should not be coming out of there. All this was acceptable though; after all, there was still the bliss. George didn’t even mind the explanation for why there would be a Jesus Memorial Park, which made absolutely no sense to him:  He died an earthly death for mankind, and the event is here commemorated, George was told. …oh, and by He, I also mean Me, added God, wrapping up His coherent, sensical explanation. Thank God for the bliss. That was enough. At least, it was for a few thousand years.
            Hey, you know what I miss? George casually asked his mormon pal Ted Bundy one millennia. Anticipation. Ted agreed, remembering his earth-bound life. He had loved the feeling of anticipation, especially when meeting new women. Every day was great in heaven, but tomorrow was no different from today, so there was nothing to ever look forward to. What about taking your shoes off after a really long day to cool on an ottoman, while you melted into your couch and just savoring the “Aaahhhhhh” of the moment? There were no “long days” in heaven, no sore feet, no achy muscles. Never a moment’s pleasure in their reprieve. George went on, I miss scratching an itch, a really good one that was just driving you crazy, in the middle of your back, then you bite it just right with your fingernail! And I remember this time  I gave a homeless guy my sandwich, that felt good, the way his eyes softened and seemed to say, “Is there beer too?” Ted wasn’t listening, still reminiscing fondly about his former life and lady-killer reputation. What about rooting for the little guy, the baseball team that wasn’t quite as good but tried twice as hard because they wanted it so bad? Wasn’t it great if they won, and still pretty great even if they lost?  There’s no competition here, everyone already won their game eons ago. All that was nothing though.  I got it... what I miss the most is the jokes. Teddy, did you ever hear my “Seven Words You Can Never Say on TV” bit? See it used to be you couldn’t say shit, piss, fu- Ted, an upstanding if dead Mormon, cut him off. You can’t say those words! George asked, Why? Am I on TV right now? his face twisting in astonishment. No, those words would offend people, you’re not even supposed to be able to utter them. Sort of like asking German people if their grandparents used to be extra-snappy dressers. George's eyes flitted back then forth. So I still can’t use the seven words or tell any funny jokes because people might be offended? The FCC only tried to fine me, not purge my soul of humor! Why does anyone want to be here? Ted responded, blase, Oh you know, the bliss and to be close to God... Ted trailed off before George continued. Look, I enjoy those ultimate frisbee games as much as anyone, but it hardly-
And anyway you're wrong, Ted interjected. You can say all those words on TV, people on earth got over that stuff long ago. In fact they invented whole new genres of profanity. You don't even want to know what 'splorking' means. George’s spleen exploded from pure incredulity. But not here?, he questioned, excitedly. Ted was nonplussed. This is heaven. Perfection doesn’t grow or change. Only people down on Earth do that.

Friday, August 27, 2010

AAF Officially Renamed to ISSA, the Illini Secular Student Alliance

AAF was born again, or reincarnated if you prefer, last night which marked the official start of the year for us. After much discussion the officers resolved to adopt the moniker Illini Secular Student Alliance, or ISSA (Ice-uh).
AAF was founded on March 14th, 2007 by Chris Calvey and Bharath Gudivada, filling a campus secularist void. Thanks to the hard work and leadership of Chris and Bharath and their successor officers Ashley Carter, Peter Ho, Franklin Kramer, and Julia Mititelu, AAF quickly blossomed into a top notch RSO with a dedicated membership.

It's a great honor to be steward over this remarkable group. We, the current board of officers, strive to continue the tradition of growth and excellence in part out of our respect for the founders and others who made it what it is today. It is for that reason we now change our name, a superficial but necessary step in the evolution of the UIUC atheists. All that said, it is still with a heavy heart that we dismiss a cherished tradition.

Placeholder logo
New Name, Same Great Atheism Taste
Why ISSA? Why now? Some have felt "AAF" was aesthetically underwhelming and in some situations unwieldy. "AAF" has been and is a great description of our group's constituency but perhaps not the sexiest initialism. It is also sometimes argued that "AAF" is not memorable, hampering our publicity efforts. More importantly, there have been problems of identity. On our own campus there is already an AAF, the advertising federation. Nationally, there are other organizations known as "Atheists, Agnostics, and Freethinks (AAF)" which is more irksome as we become a presence among secular campus groups nation-wide. We may have had to start calling ourselves "AAF at UIUC" or similar. Adding "Illini" makes our group distinctly UIUC.

It bears stating that we are not changing the name in an effort to modify or soften our image. The loss of the word atheism, for example, is very unfortunate and we tried without success to incorporate it into a shiny new badge. Words like atheist will remain prominent in all of our descriptions and literature.

This will cause confusion through this year, at the very least. There is no avoiding it. No doubt we shall all at times continue to say AAF and it should not be held against the speaker. In dealings with our blogger and extra-campus allies, this is a situation that will get worse before it gets better. Have faith though- it will get better. Much better.

ed & co.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Atheists, Agnostics & Freethinkers: First Meeting this Thursday!


Greetings fellow atheists, agnostics & freethinkers. AAF, now in its fourth year, is the premier campus group for students who cherish and promote the values of science, reason and secularism. We will have our first meeting this Thursday, August 26th at 7pm in the Talbot Lab Building room 103.


Map to Talbot:





On the agenda

Since this is an introductory meeting, you will get the privilege to meet our auspicious team of officers! We will also provide an overview of AAF, including the ideals of the group and its goals. We will show you what we have done in the past, and, more importantly, all the things we are planning to do this year. Finally, we will tell YOU how to get involved. AAF needs you! There is a wide variety of ways you can help make AAF better, and ensure the smooth execution of our plans for world domin- uh... plans for outreach. Yeah, outreach.


After the meeting we adjourn to our home tavern Murphy's, as is our tradition. If you are under 18 feel free to come along, as they don't usually card at the door that early. We welcome everyone able to stop by, regardless of whether or not you plan to drink. It's a great chance to get to know us, your officers, better! We're pretty cool, or so we like to think.


Where to find AAF on the Intarwebs

AAF Blog     http://uiucatheists.blogspot.com

Facebook    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2252245006

Flickr photostream http://www.flickr.com/photos/uiucatheists/

Email: UIUCAtheists@gmail.com


What's coming up:


Merry Atheists @ Merry Ann's!

AAF will meet every Sunday at 11am for brunch at Merry Ann's Diner, an awesome 50's style diner located at 701 S. Gregory in Urbana, near Krannert.

Google map: http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=106+S+Gregory+St,+Urbana,+Champaign,+Illinois+61801&ll=40.10688,-88.222052&spn=0.001861,0.002934&t=h&z=19

(It isnt marked on the google map because the location is brand new, but it is where the map says "Blues BBQ") If you can't make it Thursday come meet us Sunday!


Your Humble Servants

Edward Clint     President

Mat Rayman     Vice President

Ben Ostick      Treasurer

Sarah Connor   Outreach Chair

Audrey Jonas   Social Chair

Karthik Manamcheri Activism Chair


Hope to see you all Thursday! If you absolutely can't make the meeting at 7:00 feel free to join us for a cool drink at Murphy's starting at 830ish.


Monday, August 23, 2010

"No religious test shall ever be required..."

House Candidate Wynne LeGrow
The United States Constitution has always made clear the demarcation between religion and government. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment springs to mind for most people when broaching the subject. Perhaps equally important, at least in theory, is Article VI which prohibits any religious test from being imposed as a qualification for public office. Currently, out of 535 elected representatives in the House and Senate, there is one open atheist: Democratic Rep. Pete Stark from California's 13th Congressional district. That's about .002%, a far cry from the estimated 15% of Americans that describe themselves as non-religious. Fortunately, a new challenger has appeared.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Federal Court Strikes Down Yet Another Univ. Speech Code

FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, reported today that the Third Circuit appeals court ruled that the speech policies of the University of the Virgin Islands are unconstitutional. Here is a snip.

FIRE Vice President Robert Shibley said. "The Third Circuit's decision today reinforces yet again the decades of legal precedent striking down codes that violate the First Amendment rights of students at public institutions like the University of the Virgin Islands. For the many public universities and colleges that somehow haven't gotten the message yet, let me be clear: Maintaining speech codes violates the law."

Indeed, universities have such as the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have been fighting a losing battle against the first amendment for decades now. Public schools feel political pressure to ensure an "inclusive" and "tolerant" campus. Administrations write labored, illegal speech codes for the same reason we Americans like to have things like a War on Drugs or War on Terror: we've no idea how to render abstract concepts into reality so we write them into slogans on paper and let sympathetic magic do the rest. Surely if we wage war on drugs, drugs will go away and if we outlaw mean thoughts, then mean thoughts will also go away.

It is often said in this space that no one has the right not to be offended but it has not before been said by a federal judge: [...]desire to protect the listener cannot be convincingly trumpeted as a basis for censoring speech for university students. -Judge D. Brooks Smith

Chalk one more win up for free speech.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Christian Science Monitor on the Collapse of Evangelicalism. Wait.. what?

Christianity. It always seems to need one more revival. The inevitable and impending deterioration of virulent Christianity is something Michael Spencer and I agree on. His op-ed appearing at the CSM isn't unusual, were it not authored by a devout Christian and found at such a site. His observations are largely sound, but hardly prophetic at this point. Here the atheist may take the high or the low road. I'll take both.
      For years I've argued with academics, professors, secularists, theists and the media at large that the evangelical movement had begun to implode and little could stop it. I was generally referred to the megachurch phenomena, documentaries like Jesus Camp and the Bush double-term presidency as contrary evidence. Ironically, all of these actually support my contention and now even Christians are pointing out the end is near: the end of pentecostal madness. Granted, Spencer and the CSM are definitively liberal anti-tongue speaker variants of Christian but it was always the liberals who most strenuously argued with me up to now. The low road is eminently satisfying: I told you so.

     Insufferable gloating aside, there are lessons articulated here we need to learn. From number one on Spencer's 7 fatal sins of the evangelical church: Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. This will prove to be a very costly mistake. Evangelicals will increasingly be seen as a threat to cultural progress. Public leaders will consider us bad for America, bad for education, bad for children, and bad for society. Secularism and political liberalism are frequently seen as the same thing, even by secularists. The marriage seems like a good idea. Secularism is itself a liberal movement and secularists find themselves with political liberals on most of the key issues: abortion, foreign policy & use of military force, separation of church and state, the rights of homosexuals and some other minorities and so on. The problem is that even assuming the liberal stance on our issues never changes, political edifices take on a life of their own and start looking out for their interest not what is right. Political liberals will gladly turn against atheists when our two agendas conflict. Furthermore, it just isn't necessary. We can champion specific causes (gay rights, stem cell research, superlative science education) and oppose specific events without building an ideology around it. We don't need to be a political entity to engage in politics. 
     The political machine looks fast and expedient. This is why the petitioner against Dr. Ken Howell sent his email to the LGBTA along with the administration rather than to the man himself. It worked too, politicizing the issue by invoking the discrimination card got Dr. Howell fired immediately. Until the backlash against those politics reversed that decision while a politically neutral "your services are no longer required" would not have been overturned. Even if it had been successful, that would not have made playing politics ethical. Throwing our lot in with liberalism is a seductive notion, but it will not take us anywhere we should wish to go.