Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Free-Thought of the Day

Salman Rushdie endured the wrath of blasphemy when Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran issued a fatwa for his death, following the release of his novel "The Satanic Verses" in 1989. Rushdie remains unharmed today, though 38 others have been killed in violence against those connected with the book, including his Norwegian publisher. Support ISSA and free speech by participating in International Blasphemy Rights Day tomorrow on the Quad!

“The idea of the sacred is quite simply one of the most conservative notions in any culture, because it seeks to turn other ideas – uncertainty, progress, change – into crimes.”

- Salman Rushdie

Blasphemy is not AdvISSAble

Hey all, it's that time again. This Thursday, September 30rd at 7pm we will be recapping International Blasphemy Rights Day and hearing out anyone who wants to say their piece. To help us unwind we will watch a bit of celebratory blasphemy (time permitting), then as usual it will be off to Murphy's.  

As always, we'll be in Mechanical Engineering Building room 253.

Help get the word out!
Tonight (Wednesday), at 7PM, we need your help setting up for International Blasphemy Rights Day. If you're interested in flyering, chalking, or making posters, meet up at the Union at 7!

Bar Crawl!
ISSA will be holding a bar crawl this semester. Just give us your Name and Shirt size, Pre-order now!

Blood Drive!
We will be holding a blood drive on October 1 at the Wesley Foundation Methodist Church. If you would like to volunteer or sign up to give blood, add your name to the appropriate spreadsheet. You must sign up so that the Red Cross knows how many people they need to staff the event.

Volunteers:

Giving Blood:

Tell us about your ideas!
If you want to give a presentation or lead a discussion, let us know! If that's not your bag, then maybe ISSA's official blog at http://UIUCAtheists.blogspot.com is the perfect venue to get your opinions heard. Comment on existing stories, or email us your own!

Upcoming Events:

This Week:
International Blasphemy Rights Day -- Thursday, September 30
International Blasphemy Rights Day takes place every September 30th, to commemorate the publishing of the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons. The purpose of this event is to set a particular day as a day to support free speech, support the right to criticize and satirize religion, and to oppose any resolutions or laws, binding or otherwise, that discourage or inhibit free speech of any kind [from Center for Inquiry]. We will have a table by the Union and various displays to mark the occasion.

Red Cross Blood Drive with Cru -- Friday, October 1
As previously mentioned, we will be holding a blood drive from 11AM-3PM. We will be co-hosting the drive with our friends, the Campus Cru Crusade for Christ (Cru). 

Merry Atheists @ Merry Ann's! -- Every Sunday
Come check out this fine nostalgic diner's newest location and brunch with your heathen pals this Sunday at 11AM. Merry Ann's is located near Krannert and the Canopy club.

Next Week and Beyond:
Curtis Orchard Trip -- Mid-October
Come out and celebrate fall with us! There will be apple-picking, pumpkin carving, and even a petting zoo! We hold this event every year, and it's always a lot of fun. More details to come.

Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) Annual Convention -- Halloween Weekend
This year's speakers include Dan BarkerJulia Sweeney and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. In addition, this will be a chance to meet and socialize with our excellent friends from sister campus secular groups such as UNIFIAHA!, and NUSHIFT!  Conferences are awesome and always a lot of fun, guaranteed. Let us know ASAP if you would like to attend, costs will be minimal for the first 12 people. If you would like to attend, you must register here by October 6!

_______________________________________________________

 

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


See everyone at the meeting!

 
Love,

ISSA

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

International Blasphemy Rights Week

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Free-Thought of the Day

This quote was one of the 25 Blasphemous Quotes published by Atheist Ireland, after the Irish Blasphemy Law became operational on 1 January, 2010.

“Also it has another name – The Word of God. For the Christian thinks every word of it was dictated by God. It is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies… But you notice that when the Lord God of Heaven and Earth, adored Father of Man, goes to war, there is no limit. He is totally without mercy – he, who is called the Fountain of Mercy. He slays, slays, slays! All the men, all the beasts, all the boys, all the babies; also all the women and all the girls, except those that have not been deflowered. He makes no distinction between innocent and guilty… What the insane Father required was blood and misery; he was indifferent as to who furnished it.”

- Mark Twain, describing the Christian Bible in Letters from the Earth, 1909:

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Free-thought of the day

This is a good one, should hold you over a few days at least. Some words from a book whose title and author helped to inspire Tuesday's proceedings.

"We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart."


-H L MenckenMinority Report (1956)


We shall not soon see his like.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

FIRE Rescues UG Student from Clutches of Persnickety Prig Bureaucrats

Don't mess with scooter-prone grad students
that look a bit like Michael Moore.
University of Georgia grad student Jacob Lovell probably expected to be ignored when a parking ticket led him to complain via letter about the lack of adequate parking on campus. Instead he got plenty of attention, in the form of charges of disorderly conduct, reported the RedandBlack.com a UG independent newspaper.

Evidently Lovell had used some colourful language as kids these days are wont to do when aroused. The university decided this amounted to being "threatening." According to the website Lovell said, I’m not exactly sure what they found threatening. I used a couple of curse words, but I did not intone violence; I think what they actually found threatening was that I dared to be rude and dared to criticize them. The charges against Lovell were dropped but only after FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, sent University President Michael Adams a letter explaining they had violated his rights.

The content of this case is somewhat trivial: a parking charge, a silly over-reaction. Still, it highlights the smug, self-important attitudes that haughty university boards tend to incubate in their administrators. Complaints with a harsh tone are grounds for criminal charges. What sort of small-minded Napoleonic imbecile makes such a decision? The kind that get hired and promoted at top-ranked universities. This would all slide too, until and unless a national watchdog agency like FIRE intervenes. As if tapping the school-heads on the shoulder and calmly saying "pardon me, you're completely full of shit. please stop. thanks" at which point, red-faced.. knowing their shame, they do.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Déjà Vu?

It has happened yet again.

Two young men in Georgia said Tuesday that the pastor of a 33,000-person Baptist megachurch, Bishop Eddie L. Long, had repeatedly coerced them into having sex with him.

“Defendant Long has a pattern and practice of singling out a select group of young male church members and using his authority as bishop over them to ultimately bring them to a point of engaging in a sexual relationship,” said a suit filed by one of the men, Maurice Robinson, 20. The other man who filed suit is Anthony Flagg, 21.

Bishop Long is an outspoken critic of homosexuality and has been called by the Southern Poverty Law Center “one of the most virulently homophobic black leaders in the religiously based anti-gay movement.” He is the author of a book titled “What A Man Wants, What A Woman Needs: The Secret To Successful, Fulfilling Relationships.”
It's the Ted Haggard saga all over again. Homophobic, hate spewing pastors taking out their repressed sexual feelings on victims within their own congregation. True, it is merely a lawsuit, and nothing has been proven yet. The parallels between Christian anti-gay dogma and pastoral sexual abuse are becoming clearer by the day, though.

Free-Thought of the Day

Here's more on blasphemy, in lieu of tomorrow's discussion on the soon-to-come International Blasphemy Rights Day and the role ISSA can play in promoting free speech!

“This crime called blasphemy was invented by priests for the purpose of defending doctrines not able to take care of themselves”

- Robert Green Ingersoll

Clever Wordplay ISSA Our Strong Suit

Hey all, it's that time again. This Thursday, September 23rd at 7pm we will be discussing International Blasphemy Rights Day, and what our club is doing to commemorate that day. Sarah and Mat will be leading the discussion. Afterwards, it will be off to Murphy's. Also, one more important note: ISSA will be holding a bar crawl this semester. Just give us your Name and Shirt size, so we can order enough!
 

As always, we'll be in Mechanical Engineering Building room 253.
Map: http://www.fs.uiuc.edu/ada/0112.html


Blood Drive!
We will be holding a blood drive on October 1 at the Wesley Foundation Methodist Church. If you would like to volunteer or sign up to give blood, add your name to the appropriate spreadsheet:

Volunteers:

Giving Blood:



OFFICIAL ISSA T-SHIRT DESIGN CONTEST ENDS SOON!
The T-shirt competition ends THIS THURSDAY. Post your designs (quickly!) to the facebook group. Here is the template. Immortalize your design in ISSA history!


Tell us about your ideas!
If you want to give a presentation or lead a discussion, let us know! If that's not your bag, then maybe ISSA's official blog at http://UIUCAtheists.blogspot.com is the perfect venue to get your opinions heard. Comment on existing stories, or email us your own!


Upcoming Events:
This Week:
Party! -- Friday, September 24
Join all your ISSA pals for a great time! More details here.
Merry Atheists @ Merry Ann's! -- Every Sunday
Come check out this fine nostalgic diner's newest location and brunch with your heathen pals this Sunday at 11AM. Merry Ann's is located near Krannert and the Canopy club.

Next Week and Beyond:
Minority Report: The Ends of Campus Freedom -- Tuesday, September 28
Explore the limits of academic freedom and the speech rights guaranteed by the US Constitution. Speakers include FIRE's Azhar Majeed, U of I's own embattled professor Dr. Kenneth Howell and ISSA's Ed Clint. See it all at 6pm in Room 1320 at the Digital Computing Lab.

International Blasphemy Rights Day -- Thursday, September 30
International Blasphemy Rights Day takes place every September 30th, to commemorate the publishing of the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons. The purpose of this event is to set a particular day as a day to support free speech, support the right to criticize and satirize religion, and to oppose any resolutions or laws, binding or otherwise, that discourage or inhibit free speech of any kind [from Center for Inquiry]. We will have a table by the Union and various displays to mark the occasion.

Red Cross Blood Drive with Cru -- Saturday, October 1
As previously mentioned, we will be holding a blood drive from 11AM-3PM. We will be co-hosting the drive with our friends, Cru. 

Curtis Orchard Trip -- Mid-October
Come out and celebrate fall with us! There will be apple-picking, pumpkin carving, and even a petting zoo! We hold this event every year, and it's always a lot of fun. More details to come.

Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) Annual Convention -- Halloween Weekend
This year's speakers include Dan Barker, Julia Sweeney and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. In addition, this will be a chance to meet and socialize with our excellent friends from sister campus secular groups such as UNIFI, AHA!, and NUSHIFT!  Conferences are awesome and always a lot of fun, guaranteed. Let us know ASAP if you would like to attend, costs will be minimal for the first 12 people.

_______________________________________________________

 

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


See everyone at the meeting!

 
Love,

ISSA

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Free-Thought of the Day

Happy "late late super late Monday - early Tuesday"! As always, it's worth the wait for all you night owls!

“It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”

- Mark Twain


More on the wickedness contained in the Bible at our weekly meeting, for Blasphemy Day is coming up soon!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Free-Thought of The Day

R.I.P GC , you were the best!

Religion easily has the best bullshit story of all time. Think about it. Religion has convinced people that there’s an invisible man…living in the sky. Who watches everything you do every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten specific things he doesn’t want you to do. And if you do any of these things, he will send you to a special place, of burning and fire and smoke and torture and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer, and burn, and scream, until the end of time. But he loves you. He loves you. He loves you and he needs money.
- George Carlin

Pope Compares Atheists to Nazis.


Amid the controversy surrounding his presence in Britain as a ‘State visit’, the Pope delivered a speech to Queen Elizabeth which was plagued with anti-secularist overtones. The Pope said –
"Even in our own lifetime, we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live. I also recall the regime’s attitude to Christian pastors and religious who spoke the truth in love, opposed the Nazis and paid for that opposition with their lives. As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a “reductive vision of the person and his destiny” (Caritas in Veritate, 29)."
It is evident that the Pope has completely lost it. Nazism never had anything to do with atheism. There is absolutely no reason why a world-view infused with rationality, skepticism and science would lead someone to commit genocide. Hitler was most certainly a Roman Catholic, and even if one entertained the notion that he wasn’t, the entire Nazi mission was fueled by the radical anti-Semitism that was a trademark of Christian bigotry against Jews being responsible for the death of their savior.
It may have been excusable if the Pope was merely ignorant, but that’s certainly not the case. This hate-mongering man has descended to a form of callous wickedness that may be unrivaled for the head of any giant organization. He already has blood on his hands, as his position against condoms has been responsible for the deaths of thousands in Africa. His protection of pedophiles within the Church is only becoming more apparent by the day. The homophobic propaganda that the Church spews is only surpassed by its position against abortion to even the most vulnerable women. It is a pity that the UK has entertained this man as a guest of the State – his character is repugnant at best, criminally maniacal at worst.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Free-Thought of the Day

Greetings, my godless brethren! Here is a quote from one of the greatest thinkers of the past, which addresses the inadequacy of ignorant bliss.

"The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality,
and by no means a necessity of life."

- George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950)

And speaking of drunken men, hope to see you all at Murphy's tonight!!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

AtheISSAm vs. Agnosticism: There can be only one!

Hello friends! It's once again time for the weekly run-down. Following up on last week's talk about definitions, this Thursday, September 16th at 7pm we will be learning more about agnosticism. Your President, Ed Clint, will be doling out the harshness and proving there is no god. After some Q&A we will head to Murphy's for socializing and such.


This week's meeting and all regular meetings will be in the Mechanical Engineering Building room 253.

OFFICIAL ISSA T-SHIRT DESIGN CONTEST CONTINUES!
The T-shirt competition ends at the September 24th meeting. Post your idea to the photos in the facebook group. Here is a template to help you out (or use your own if you prefer). Reminder of the guidelines:
  • Concept is most important, not visual perfection. Resident ISSA artist Emelyn can help polish your artwork to make it production quality.
  • Designs must include "ISSA" somewhere as well as "Illini Secular Student Alliance."
  • Design should be amenable to screen printing (relatively few colors total) and work as both a standard t-shirt and a girl cut Tee
  • Winner gets their shirt free plus the fame and acclaim!
Upcoming Events:

Merry Atheists @ Merry Ann's!
Come check out this fine nostalgic diner's newest location and brunch with your heathen pals this Sunday at 11AM. Merry Ann's is located near Krannert and the Canopy club.

Minority Report: The Ends of Campus Freedom -- Tuesday, September 28
Explore the limits of academic freedom and the speech rights guaranteed by the US Constitution. Speakers include FIRE's Azhar Majeed, U of I's own embattled professor Dr. Kenneth Howell and ISSA's Ed Clint. See it all at 6pm in Room 1320 at the Digital Computing Lab.

Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) Annual Convention -- Halloween Weekend
This year's speakers include Dan Barker, Julia Sweeney and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. In addition, this will be a chance to meet and socialize with our excellent friends from sister campus secular groups such as UNIFI, AHA!, and NUSHIFT!  Conferences are awesome and always a lot of fun, guaranteed. Let us know ASAP if you would like to attend, costs will be minimal for the first 12 people.


ISSA on the Web

See everyone at the meeting!
Love,
ISSA

Secularism gone rogue



It seems like the French are drunk over their notions of secular freedom. A law approved by the French Senate earlier today bans the wearing of any veils covering the body, specifically aimed at protecting women from the burqa and hijab. The French Parliament gave the following justification,
"Given the damage it produces on those rules which allow the life in community, ensure the dignity of the person and equality between sexes, this practice, even if it is voluntary, cannot be tolerated in any public place,"
And this law apparently has the support of a majority of the French population.
The French back the ban by a margin of more than four to one, the Pew Global Attitudes Project found in a survey earlier this year. Some 82 percent of people polled approved of a ban, while 17 percent disapproved…Clear majorities also backed burqa bans in Germany, Britain and Spain, while two out of three Americans opposed it, the survey found.
Shame on the French. They may be trying to battle religious dogma, but in the process are undermining a basic right of women – to wear whatever they want to wear. It is common for Muslim women to choose to cover themselves in a veil. One may never win the battle against religious oppression by restricting the freedom of expression – that is simply altering the type of oppression, not combating it. Subjugating women is something religious fundamentalists are good at - the French are simply following in their footsteps.

*************************************************************************************
Correction - The law does not ban the hijab. I misread it for the niqab ("a face-full veil that leaves an opening only for the eyes"), that has been banned

Free-Thought of The Day

Isn't it awesome when godlessness pervades your favorite TV show? Time for a light-hearted quote from House M.D! (It is kind of a depressing quote at the same time. If rational arguments don't work on them, are we just banging our heads against a wall when we try?)

"Rational arguments don't usually work on religious people. Otherwise there would be no religious people."

--House M.D. Season 4, Episode 2

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sounds about right.

Yesterday Hemant over at Friendly atheist made a post about a website that determines the demographics of any given website based on writing style and such. According to the site, Hemant Mehta's friendlyatheist.com is written by a female ranging in age from 66-100, that is personal and usually upset. Needless to say I was curious about the ISSA website so I decided to run it through. Here are the results:

Text analysis:
uiucatheists.blogspot.com is probably written by a male somewhere between 66-100 years old. The writing style is personal and happy most of the time.

Gender
Age
Mood
Tonality
I think this means we're friendlier than the friendly atheist, right? I wonder why it thinks we're so old though... Probably because we're so wise.

Free-Thought of the Day

Happy Sunday, heathens! Next time anyone asks you the foolish question, "How could you possibly be moral without God?", maybe you could quote the intellectual of the century.

"A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death."


- Albert Einstein

Sociologist: If you want safe streets, move to a godless neighbourhood.

Sociologist and B&W enthusiast Phil Zuckerman
Nick Cohen of guardian.co.uk says Societies without God are more benevolent. The observation that your big vacation is better aimed at Sweden than Syria is banal beyond mercy to the readers of this space and hopefully to anyone. Nonetheless anti-atheist lies about social corruption are predictably cropping up in England in advance a papal excursion to the rather secular nation.

To contest this madness Cohen cites the survey work of most excellent sociologist Phil Zuckerman. Some of his findings from last year include that atheists/secularists:

  • are concentrated in states with the lowest murder rates
  • have a lower level of prejudice against gays, women, and ethnicities
  • are less likely to beat their children
  • are more likely to be tolerant supporters of women's and gay rights.

Coming soon.. IlliniCoR. I promise.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Speaking of burning things with zeal- come to our cookout!

Just a reminder!
What: Annual ISSA fall cookout
Where: Scott Park Map Link. Click me.
When: Sunday, Noon till whenever
Why: Hedonistic revelry; affinity for fire, geometric foods
To what extent: uh this is getting a little philosophical here so I'll just say 'chips'
Tell me more about What: free food, drinks. Frisbee, football, frisbee football, getting stuck in the playground equipment, de-pastifying your skin by about 10%; throwing rocks at Mel's house optional.

Friday, September 10, 2010

On Burning Qurans


Florida pastor Rev. Terry Jones must be basking in the fame and attention. President Obama, Gen. Petreaus, Robert Gates, an elite FBI squadron and half the nations in the world have weighed in on this egregious situation – not to mention media coverage that follows this fanatical evangelist’s every moustache twitch. He has flip flopped on the event as much as he could – shortly after making an announcement on the ‘Early Show’ calling off the event, he gave reporters the following remark, "We are seriously, seriously, seriously considering not burning the Qurans.” How much more apparent can it get – this pastor is masturbating over all the anticipation and suspense that he keeps creating. Next time I want to be famous, all I need to do is piss on a hundred Bibles? Well maybe not Bibles, but Qurans should definitely do it.

Regardless, most Americans remain united against the ‘Burn a Quran Day’. In fact, prominent atheists and secular groups, such as Jerry Coyne, Hemant Mehta, and American Atheists have been sternly disapproving of it. In the midst of this pandemonium, PZ seems to be one of a few with the cojones needed to call a spade, a spade.


“The problem isn't a few books being burned; that's not a crime, and it doesn't diminish anyone else's personal freedoms. The problem is a whole fleet of deranged wackaloons, including the president of the USA in addition to raving fundamentalist fanatics, who think open, public criticism and disagreement ought to be forbidden, somehow.”
I tend to agree with him. The Quran is just a book. What PZ is talking about is a fundamental issue with religion - it gains unwarranted privileges that no institution should have. Pastor Jones is undoubtedly a crazed lunatic, and his reasons may be far from stellar. However, only one principle should trump this all – the right of stupid people to make stupid decisions, as long as they are legal. Instead of going ape shit over this, anyone who disagrees with the burning would probably be better off just shrugging and walking away. Of course, everyone including high profile critics such as Obama and Gates have the right to express their disdain over the burning (as much as Jones has in going on with it). The impact, though, of the leader of a secular nation making a political statement suggesting the repression of unpopular free speech may go well against the notions of living in a completely free country. It is true that Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan and elsewhere may find another reason to hate America and hurt Americans. Another reason out of a million. We are always going to piss off Islamic extremists - but the day we try to shun free speech in fear of their sensitivities, it might not be worth saving ourselves.

At the end of the day, the Quran does contain a violent philosophy that did, at its core, motivate the terrorists to carry out 9/11. Just saying, the pastor does have a point in all of this.

****************************************************************************************************************
UPDATE 9/14/2010 : Hemant Mehta has since clarified his stance on the issue - he agrees with PZ now. "
Just because you care so very much about a certain book, or a particular way of living your life, or a personal hero, or reciting a certain prayer… it doesn’t mean everyone else also has to take those things seriously. We can respect it or mock it all the same."

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hope your long weekend was not dISSApointing, this won't be!

(ohai Reddit!)


Greetings goodly unbelievers! Hope you enjoyed your day off. Are you a strong atheist? Perhaps an agnostic or antitheist? This Thursday, September 9th at 7pm we will discuss what these terms mean and some of the primary arguments which support them. None other than Phil Ferguson, President of CU-Freethinkers, will be on hand to school you in Atheism 101. As always we will adjourn to Murphy's afterward for some food, drink and conversation.

This week's meeting and all regular meetings will be in the Mechanical Engineering Building room 253.

OFFICIAL ISSA T-SHIRT DESIGN CONTEST ANNOUNCED!
This is your chance to help make the official 2010/11 and first ISSA t-shirt! You, the ISSA members, will vote on submissions at the September 24th meeting. Post your idea to the photos in the facebook group. Here is a template to help you out (use your own if you prefer). Some things to keep in mind:
  • concept is most important, not visual perfection. Resident ISSA artist Emelyn can help polish your artwork to make it production quality
  • designs must include "ISSA" somewhere as well as "Illini Secular Student Alliance"
  • design should be amenable to screen printing (relatively few colors total) and work as both standard t-shirt and girl cut Tees
  • winner gets their shirt free!

Got something to say?
What do you have to say? Did Dr. Laura's incomprehensible racism piss you off? Was there a really great (and somehow relevant) Daily Show clip that has to be seen? Do you think atheists are too mean? Too soft? Speak up! All ISSA members are encouraged to submit their own blog entries. Just email to UIUCAtheists@gmail.com

Upcoming Events:

Merry Atheists @ Merry Ann's!
Come check out this fine nostalgic diner's newest location and brunch with your heathen pals this Sunday at 11AM. Merry Ann's is located near Krannert and the Canopy club.




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

See everyone at the meeting!

- ISSA

Monday, September 6, 2010

Hypothesis and Conviction in Perspective


As far as dichotomies are concerned, the contention between scientific thought and religious dogma reigns as one of the most debated, significant, and longest-lived. In a recent New York Times article by a self-professed atheist, Cambridge Professor of Philosophy Tim Crane attempts to objectively discern the driving impetus behind both. Why are the number of religious followers greatly disproportionate to those who devote themselves to the scientific process? His argument is that the two currents differ in their fundamental construction, with one relying upon the rigorous examination of evidence and the other on the acceptance of 'mystery'. By these dissimilar modes of conception, science and religion assert truth in their respective spheres. Though Crane recognizes that historical claims of a religious nature are refuted by a distinct lack of evidence, he reasons that religion does not measure its significance by an empirical yardstick. Alternatively, he suggests that the studiousness and technical expertise demanded by scientific thought is largely undesirable to a mass audience due to time consumption and lack of 'meaningful' insights. Through this reasoning, Crane makes an effort to understand the structure of religious thought while allowing for the accommodation of both systems on the basis of their separate foci.

With all respect, it is my inclination to disagree with this argument in its entirety. In my perspective, both systems ultimately fail to provide the essentials: meaning and practicality. Many would then respond: "Well then what else is left?!" Whereby my response would be that the dichotomy of science and religion is, like all distinctions, false. Instead of attempting to reconcile the two by conceding that either functions according to its own conception of reality, we should recognize the similarity in their failures. Before elaborating, it should be clarified that my sympathies lie with the scientific method and atheism, but for reasoning most likely divergent from many and also possibly disconcerting.

At their most base, religious thought lacks intellectual flexibility while the scientific method does not possess inherent meaning. Although either can supply its manufactured goods, meaning and community in the former and evidence and adaptability in the latter, each furthers its own designs and seeks support for its worldview. To return to my previous negation of both systems, the reasoning follows that each was built with human hands and thus subject to the fallibility of perspective. If you confide in the existence of an absolute which may manifest itself in the face of a deity, an indestructible scientific law, or an active subject, then my argument will be rather inconceivable. Whether it be divine or mundane, religious or scientific, everything is subservient to perspective, and it is through our own eyes that distinctions are promoted, delineations formed, and boundaries forged. From this perspective, then, which predicates only on the notion that all structure derives from our own psychologies, any bias and its related conceptions are 'false'.

Thus we must turn to truth, that ageless subject of debate, the focus of innumerable energies, and the instigator of mistrust and disagreement. To understand truth according to my proposed view would be to not understand truth. Instead, the entire concept of 'truth' should itself be revealed for its falsehood, in that it merely denotes subjective preference, as the discovery of any 'absolute' truth would be contrary to the fallibility of perspective. To state this another way in the words of Friedrich Nietzsche: "There are no facts, only interpretations". 'Meaning' thus follows in the same vein, being a quite human concept, one overripe with subjective pretensions. Yet you may ask: "Even if the truth and meaning of all things can be seen as subjective, what then can be substituted for 'truth'?" And my response would be that 'truth' is not a question of reality or absolutes or mystery, but of utility.

Basing our judgments in terms of usefulness may seem unconventional or excruciatingly simple, yet the sole difference from our current and past reasoning is its universality. As evidenced in the scientific method, a hypothesis remains only if it cannot be replaced with a greater approximation of useful application. What discredits scientific thought from undying devotion is the tendency to hail it as the harbinger of absolute 'truths' about existence. It is for this reason that religious persons, who already acknowledge an absolute, disregard scientific argumentation. Yet science has been the foremost system to incorporate the condition of utility into its framework, with its means of betterment being the recognition of its own impermanent nature. On the other hand, religious justifications are arguably adamant on their claims of truth, however outmoded and inflexible they may have become. This friction between absolutes, however different they may be, sustains the contention between religious and secular thought and forms an artificial border between what would otherwise simply be people. By now if should be starkly apparent that my views are against a synthesis of religion and science, advocating rather another perspective that favors the re-evaluation of every proposition in the context of utility.

To many this may seem ridiculous and to some impossible, but if this inspired consideration, provoked discussion, or suggested a skepticism of all conventions, it was worth it. By never assuming or taking something at face-value, evaluating every idea and concept on the same scale, and recognizing the possibilities provided by intellectual flexibility, it is my hope that all borders and inconveniences will be overcome. In essence, there is nothing that should limit our perspectives and the construction of meaning on our own terms, for as one philosopher put it: "Any kind of meaning is better than no meaning at all".

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Religion Flourishes in World's Poorest Nations.

A recent Gallup poll has confirmed a well known trend – religiosity is by far highest in the world’s poorest nations.

Of course, it would be preposterous to assume that America follows this global trend – when is the last time we did anything in conformance with the rest of the world? We remain as one of the only rich countries to be majorly religious (our posse includes Italians, Greeks, Singaporeans, and oil-wealthy Persian Gulf nations). Amongst Americans, 65% say that religion plays an important role in their lives. Our rich counterparts in Europe and Asia are far more secular, with religiosity levels meekly surviving around the 30% mark.

But the bigger question at hand remains, why is there a correlation between poverty and religiosity? Gallup offers its explanation – religion may provide comfort and emotional security to those in the poorest countries struggling to make ends meet. Could this be a viable explanation, or merely a simplistic effort to dodge the inevitable (yet politically incorrect?) intuition of the horrendous ramifications that result from supernatural myths pervading a nations’ population?

Religion does more than provide emotional comfort to oppressed people – it fuels the cycle of ignorance, whether its effects are seen in education, health development, socio-economic decisions, or any of the vital factors that propagate development. When women rights are subjugated due to sharia law, or condoms are done away in accordance with orders from the Pope, development takes a step backwards. When homeopathy is seen as a substitute to medicine and swamis take the place of physicians, people die.

As further statistics and polls give us a better picture of how religion goes hand-in-hand with dire underdevelopment, it is time to push theology and doctrine to the back seat and push for secular progression and scientific education to help these countries back on their feet. After all, that was how centuries ago the Dark Ages was vanquished into the pages of Western European history.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Inter-faith Clergy Attack Guy in Wheel Chair.


As reported by CNN.com, world religious leaders fired back at Stephen Hawking today. Hawking wrote a book they haven't read but are pretty sure they won't like. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going, wrote the physicist in his upcoming title The Grand Design, provoking a rainbow coalition of godheads to leap to the defensive.

Non-physicist and head of the Church of England, Archbishop Williams corrected Hawking,  physics on its own will not settle the question of why there is something rather than nothing. Belief in God is not about plugging a gap in explaining how one thing relates to another within the Universe. It is the belief that there is an intelligent, living agent on whose activity everything ultimately depends for its existence. 


Science is irrelevant to religion, according to Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks who said Religion is about interpretation ... The Bible simply isn't interested in how the Universe came into being. It's hard to argue with that. The rabbi along with many other religious leaders don't care that the universe did not need a God to make it, and seem hurt by the implication their god is a 'god of the gaps' living in the dark corners untouched by the light of science. The details of creation are not important, they seem to say, God isn't necessary to explain life, planets or the universe. Our God is tiny and irrelevant.. a do-nothing, impotent voyeur helplessly watching the universe unfold of its own accord. Take that, Hawking.