Saturday, May 14, 2011

Congrats seniors!

Congratulations to the graduating seniors among the UIUC godless. Those of you who have helped make this a great year for ISSA, and I think you know who you are, we will miss you. That said, we wish you well in your future plans and hope you continue ridiculing the fraudsters and eating babies in your new life.

Special shout-out to graduating ISSA officers Joanna Bridge, Ben Ostick, Rohit Ravindran, and Sam Shore. Thank you for all your hard work. You've made possible all the fun and great things we've been able to do. You will be missed. Now get out there and spread the atheist love.

~ISSA

Monday, May 9, 2011

Good news, everyone!

All the interviews have been done, and we are more than pleased to announce the ISSA officer team for next year:

Presidents: Franklin Kramer and Ed Clint
Vice President: Becca Tippens
Treasurer: Debbie Rapson
Outreach: Derek Miller
Social Chair: Christina Douglas
Media Chair: Emelyn Baker

Please join us in congratulating the 2011/2012 ISSA officers. This team, of distinction and excellence, building on the great successes of the past, promises to deliver the best year ever! 

We're going to be having open interviews for Secretary in addition to some non-executive positions at the beginning of next year, but if you're interested and want to talk about it before then feel free to hit us up and we can discuss what you'd like to do.

If you're going to be around and want to hang out with ISSA people during the summer, reply to this email or contact Franklin or Ed. To all those who are graduating, good luck with life, and keep in touch! Hope to see everyone still around next year!

~ISSA

Monday, May 2, 2011

ISSA on the Road: American Atheists!

I know it's been a week and it really should have come up sooner, but WE HAD AN AWESOME TIME AT THE AMERICAN ATHEISTS CONVENTION! AHHHHHH! So many phenomenal speakers (Tom Flynn nearly made me fall off my chair laughing at one point), plus time to reconnect with old friends and even make some new ones! I for one am still brimming with stories from that weekend. Of course, with finals approaching, everyone's been thoroughly swamped and it took us a while to assemble photos of our exploits. There are tons and tons (too many to post here), but here's my favorite of the lot.


You'd think, what with all of the awesome events we're constantly organizing and big-name speakers we host, we could arrange a slightly more accurate Last Supper, but we only had a few seconds to commandeer the AA stage. I was literally shouting out instructions as Dave Silverman approached making the face (I got a picture of him making it at me, later!). That being said... Not too shabby, huh? With a little photoshopping, you'd never know the difference!

Excuse me, Tennessee. Your bigotry is showing.

Hey guys, Becca here. We've got another guest blogger -- that's two in a week! ISSA member Ben Gass was eager to share his thoughts on some recent Tennessee legislature, and we're thrilled to have him! We love, love, love member contributions... Welcome, Ben!

I don't know why we are not used to this. Every time it seems this country takes one step forward, there is always some politician or state that is willing to take us three steps backwards. In this case, though, we are not merely taking three steps backwards – we are going back to the pre-Constitution days.

For those who have not heard, the Tennessee Senate has passed a law (House Bill 229 or Senate Bill 49) that would make it illegal for teachers to mention or encourage a discussion on homosexuality in the classroom before the ninth grade. While seemingly absurd on its face, it is worthwhile to mention a very specific detail – the bill does not outlaw a discussion on sexuality in the classroom as a whole. Heterosexuality is more than allowed as a topic of discussion. It is homosexuality that gets the proverbial axe.

Admittedly, I was absolutely taken aback. What could possibly justify such a bill? Unable to come up with any rational answers myself, I was forced to do actual research. The only non-Biblical answer to this question was that it enforces an “age appropriate” curriculum to elementary school students. Of course, this makes perfect sense, right? The office of Senator Stacey Campfield (the politician supporting this bill through the process) released a statement claiming “It's the family's responsibility and not someone with an agenda – one way or the other. The bill is neutral. We should leave it to families to decide when it is appropriate to talk with children about sexuality – specifically before the eighth grade.”

So, let's make a few points perfectly clear. Senator Stacey is claiming that:
1.) It is the family's responsibility and not someone with an agenda.
2.) The bill is neutral
3.) It should be a discussion between the family. (I know, points 1 and 3 are remarkably similar, but there is one subtle difference between them).

It's time to dismantle this claim, point-by-point.

First off, the phrase “family's responsibility” and “someone with an agenda” may as well be synonymous with a homophobic family. There are two possible outcomes, here. Either the family will decide never to bring up the subject with their sons/daughters at any point in time (after all, even mentioning the devil opens the gates to a sin-loving lifestyle), or the loving mother and father will give a fair and balanced discussion of the gay community. I can imagine the conversation now:

Son: Daddy, why are there some boys who like to play with other boys?
Father: You mean like...play football?
Son: No Daddy. Like...in each other's pants.
Father: Those people are called “queers”, and they are the reason that God causes natural disasters and gives little children cancer. You don't like natural disasters and cancerous little children, right?
Son: Right!
Father: So harass those queers until they stop being queer. Show them that the homosexual lifestyle not only affects them, but more importantly, it affects you and I directly!

….and so on. Of course, to say that all families in Tennessee would be so proudly ignorant is blatantly false. However, if the goal is to push society closer and closer to equality (at least on a legal rights level), then we cannot have stragglers.

The second point by Senator Campfield tears me up inside, though I'm not quite sure if it's from white-hot rage deep inside of me, or just from ROFLcopter'ing out of my apartment. This point is self-refuting on every level. How can a bill be “neutral” by allowing one lifestyle to be taught over another? That is exactly like saying that blacks and whites were equal in the 1950s – after all, they both had water fountains and bathrooms, did they not? Put simply, any bill that condones a discussion of one side of sexuality but not another cannot, by any definition, be neutral.

Now, for the very subtle difference of the third point. Maybe you were lucky enough (or unlucky, I suppose) to have this discussion with your family, but I never had such a talk with my family in grade school. I learned very practical and realistic lessons from my sexual education class in eighth grade. We discussed diseases, the use of protection, and alternative lifestyles. Sure, while we all giggled and smirked and occasionally yelled “EWWW!” (particularly at pictures of disease-ridden genitalia), no one was throwing a fit because we discussed homosexuality in the classroom. It was not a huge issue to my peers or myself. It is the families being the whiny, immature brats in this discussion. Most, it seems, are influenced by the myth that exposing your son or daughter to homosexuality may make him or her more prone to homosexual tendencies. (Luckily for them, it is a myth -- but certainly it's not the first they've taken so readily to heart). Rather, by censoring such views, the family is clearly hurting children, particularly those who might wish to outwardly declare that they are homosexual. I, for one, am profoundly grateful I went to a school where they taught us the facts rather than shielding our virgin eyes from such issues.

Of course, this entire point (and its rebuttal, in all fairness) is moot – sexual education does not begin in Tennessee until the ninth grade. What good does a bill do limiting a discussion on one aspect of sexuality if sexuality isn't even a topic normally discussed in the curriculum anyway?

Clearly, any secular argument for this bill can easily be blown sky high with just an ounce of critical skepticism and a little common sense. Let's get to the root of this. Yes, you know exactly where I am going – Leviticus 18:22. In case you are blissfully unaware, that is the passage so feverishly regurgitated by anti-gay, ultra-conservative politicians and their supporters. While I won't go into a long rant about the Bible as a whole (except to say that it is, arguably, the very reason that America is still having this and other nonsensical “attacks on the family”), I will go ahead and outline a simple methodology for silencing anyone who wants to shout Bible verses at you from the Quad (or, in this case, the town hall).

Give them a quiz. Name a verse, and ask them to summarize what it says. I personally choose John 3:16 (the whole “For God sent himself to save us from himself” clause), Genesis 1:1 (the one that tries to dismiss modern cosmology as a whole), and 1 Corinthians 13:4 (the one most often used at weddings). Why choose those passages? Well, they're the most common of them, and why make a troll look bad before you get to the root of the argument? Now, ask them what Leviticus 18:22 has to say. Chances are they already have it on their sign (the same one that condemns you to Hell, no less). The kicker – ask them what Leviticus 18:19 has to say (HINT: It's something along the lines of "it's evil to fuck a woman on her period"). Once they try to slyly sneak a peak at their pocket Bible, ask them about Leviticus 18:23 (HINT: Sex with animals is also bad, especially for the ladies). And after they can't give that immediate response, push them with an answer as to why they couldn't. After all, if the Holy Word is so Holy, then shouldn't they have known that one just as fast as any others? If, on the off-chance that they do get both of them correct, then ask them why they are not out protesting those acts (and yes, they do happen). Why don't they try and get legislation passed that censors any discussion of having sex during menstruation, or having happy-fun-time with your family's dog?

My point is simple: Don't let the hypocrites get away with being hypocritical. I knew from the second I first read the “Don't Say Gay” headline that it was religiously inspired. I will say I am slightly proud that Senator Campfield tried to put up a secular argument for it, but the bill would not be allowed to be passed again if it had a Biblical reason behind it. (I love it when the Constitution supersedes bigotry-inspiring legislation). If we want any shot at having a secular America (or at the very least a tolerance between religious and non-religious folks), we cannot sit idly back while religious views try and penetrate realms where they simply do not belong. Equality starts at the exchange of ideas. This bill, should it make it into Tennessee law, would destroy just that.