The Fall 'Crawl This Tuesday, November 1st is our first barcrawl of the year, and you won't want to miss it! In addition to the obvious activities, we'll be taking a group picture in our snazzy club tees. RSVP via the Facebook event page, and let us know ASAP if you still need a shirt!
Weekly Meeting This week's meeting will take place Thursday, November 3rd at 7pm. We will meet in Noyes 165 (click here for a map), though we may relocate from there.
On The Agenda It's Interfaith Game Night! Apples to Apples, Munchkin, Settlers of Catan and more! And all with our friends from the various campus religious organizations! It'll be a hoot... We hope to see you there!
ISSA at Murphy's After the meeting, we'll adjourn to Murphy's, as is our tradition. We welcome anyone and everyone who can make it, regardless of whether or not you plan to drink. It's a great chance to get to know your officers and godless cohorts better!
Does the Black Community Need God? A Debate on Race, Faith & Culture (Thursday, Nov. 10th)
The first ISSA event of its kind! Join us Thursday, November 10th at 7pm in Temple Hoyne Buell Hall 134 (also known as thePlym Auditorium) as journalist and renowned African American atheist Jamila Bey and famed former evangelical minister and alumnus of Oral Roberts University Carlton Pearson brazenly tackle the role of faith in Black American Culture, bringing rampant social stigmas to light and drawing from their unique experiences as noteworthy members of the black community. RSVP via the Facebook event page.
ISSA Blood Drive (Thursday, Dec. 8th) Yes, it's early, but you gotta start saving that stuff up, right? Right. Plus, a little heathen blood's bound to forever taint even the most pious of transfusion recipients... Save a life, condemn a soul! Details to come.
Professional god-spewer and bowtie enthusiast Brother Jed Smock has journeyed to UIUC hundreds of times (according to him) over the last three-ish decades, but he never got a reception like the one ISSA prepared for him Friday. In fact, on his own Facebook page he praised ISSA for our signage. He also reposted our photos and linked to our blog- what a swell guy. Now that the internets have calmed a bit, it's time for some recap, reflection and link round-up.
When it comes to movies, the role of God is both ubiquitous and erratic. Disregarding a couple extremely obvious films (Bruce and Evan Almighty come to mind), a lot of modern flicks seem to dance around the existence of a god, rather than ignore it or state openly the characters' view.
And it's funny, because the guy who played god twice is an atheist!
Looking through the rather extensive list of movies rooted in Christianity (The Prince of Egypt, Lawrence of Arabia, etc.), one of the most poignant examples in recent years is The Truman Show. The Truman Show is about a man (Truman) whose entire life is literally a reality show; he's unknowingly lived on a large TV set designed and conceived by one man. A man who, when he finally talks to Truman, is portrayed as a glowing light of evanescence, and happens to be extremely manipulative and insecure. Sound familiar? While many movies aren't quite so shameless in their portrayal of a higher power as distinctly Christian, the subtle implication of a Christian higher power is very widespread. Don't believe me? Ask the Barna Group, a major non-profit dedicated to film research. According to them, the existence of a god plays a 'major role' in about a fifth of all movies.
Let's not forget those non-fictional films like Jesus Camp, a stark documentary on born-again Christian youth camps, Deliver Us from Evil and Our Fathers, which both are documentaries on pedophile priests, and others. These films aren't meant to be entertaining or box office successes, nor do they attempt to convert viewers to atheism, but rather their goal is to reveal uncomfortable and true facets of modern Christianity which few people think about.
Additionally, over the past few years, we've also seen quite a few movies with characters who aren't afraid to question religion. Prometheus features a protagonist (Charlie) who is vocal about his lack of faith. Lisbeth Salander from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is dismissive of organized religion. My personal favorite example is Liam Neeson's character in The Grey, described by some as a 'bleak atheist parable'...the protagonist's disappointment with his faith is portrayed vividly and repeatedly. While I don't expect such characters to be in vogue for a long, long time, I think you should go, dear reader, and watch a fall blockbuster! Chances are good the main character won't spend too long harping on about their crucifix, and you may even luck out and get a chance to see the next 'bleak atheist parable'.
Christianity and psychics? There is a connection! James Van Praagh, a self-proclaimed "medium", says he's been able to speak with the dead since the early 80s. According to his website, "A psychic senses energy around the living people or objects. A medium not only senses energy, but is able to interface between the slower vibrations of the physical world and the much faster ones of the spirit world." On October 10ththis year, the James Randi Educational Foundation offered him a million dollars if he could prove his abilities through experimentation. The organization released this video recently, showing their experience.
Grothe explains, "This is a guy who is taking advantage of people's grief. He's not performing for entertainment, he's claiming he's giving messages from dead relatives. He gets people when they are at their lowest and sees them as his target market." Sound familiar? Christianity comforts believers by softening the harsh reality of death as well. Instead of promising communication at the moment, the religion promises a giant reunion postmortem. Christian leaders promise that death is a temporary state, and that the living and the dead will be reunited in the afterlife, presumably in Heaven. Except for pets. Pets go to Hell.
Dad, where is Grandpa right now?
Just like Van Praagh and his ilk, Christianity exploits our natural fear of death and instinctual grief when those around us die. Seeing dead relatives is a bonus added to the reward of Heaven. How many Christians would be pious if their doctrine lacked these deceitful comforts? With no system of reward and punishment, SSA atheists have proven that we don't need such convenient amenities to be moral or ethical. Many atheists ask me, "Why do you go to ISSA? I'm not religious because I don't want to go to church." Of course, ISSA is nothing like a church, but that's beside the point. We are ISSA members because we want to make a positive impact on the world, whether that be through advocating free speech or by raising money for an orphanage. Secular organizations like ours demonstrate that a class of people exists that can be - and can do - good, even without the promise of cake at the end of it all.
Because of the disproportionate numbers of redditors among our readership, I’m sure most of you will recognize this video and have seen it posted and reposted several times, but it’s one of my all-time favorites. Two years ago, I began tutoring in an elementary school. When I got to the class in the morning, they began with announcements like every school I’d ever been to, and then the nice lady said “please stand for the pledge” and I watched about twenty-five nine-year-olds stand up with blank looks on their faces and recite the pledge, which I hadn’t heard in at least five years. My first thought was “wow, that’s so much creepier as an adult”. And it is super creepy to watch a couple dozen little kids, with their cute little voices, recite mindlessly and monotonously a few flowery sentences that so clearly mean absolutely nothing to them. It’s early in the morning and they’re still half asleep and they look like zombies. No one cares. No one feels some grand sense of patriotism and shouts with vigor, “UNDER GOD!” like Fox-news pundits.
I was surprised, because I was under the impression that kids didn’t say the pledge anymore. I remember saying the pledge up through the eighth grade, but we never said it in high school. I assumed they had finally made it illegal or at the very least realized how silly it was. I mean, it’s the twenty-first century now, right? Doesn’t anyone else think this is a stupid waste of time? I was wrong, apparently. Adults still care about very silly things.
The Pledge in Illinois
The man credited with starting the movement to add "under God" to the pledge was Louis A. Bowman, the chaplain of the Illinois Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, who added it to the pledge at their meetings. He took this from a part of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address: "that the nation shall, under God, have a new birth of freedom". In 1954, President Eisenhower attended a church service on Lincoln's birthday and the sermon spoke of that same part of the Gettysburg Address, claiming that God was what made America a nation and ostensibly better than other countries. This was purportedly to distinguish America from certain Communist 'atheist' countries. The day after the sermon, a representative from Michigan introduced a bill to add "under God" to the pledge and Eisenhower signed it into law in June of that year.
After September 11, 2001, many states began encouraging the pledge of allegiance in schools in order to show unity and patriotism. In July 2002, Illinois Governor George Ryan signed a bill that "calls upon" students in public secondary schools to recite the pledge (public elementary schools were already required to recited the pledge). Apparently this wasn't enough and in October 2007, Illinois legislators passed the Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act, requiring a brief period of silence at the opening of every school day as "an opportunity for silent prayer or for silent reflection on the anticipated activities of the day". I remember a brief period of time during my senior year when we had the moment of silence. The principal was super into it at first and gave the whole spiel about reflecting on our day, yadda yadda yadda, and gave us several minutes of silence. It eventually became about three seconds of silence as the announcers and teachers just got bored of it. After the law was enacted, ISSA friend and atheist superhero Rob Sherman sued on behalf of his daughter, arguing that the law was unconstitutional. Two years later, a district judge agreed and placed a federal injunction on the law. In October 2010, an appeals court overturned the judge's ruling and the moment of silence was reestablished in January 2011. Sherman appealed the ruling, and last week the U.S. Supreme Court denied review of the case.
Rob Sherman, fighting the good fight.
A Teacher's Perspective
What I love about the “This is not a form of brainwashing” video is that it has little to do with the "under God" bit – forget the unconstitutionality of requiring children in public schools, paid for with tax dollars, to pledge allegiance "one nation under God", how is it right to make children pledge allegiance to anything?
Not a good way to start the day.
As a future social studies teacher, I find this incredibly abhorrent. I sit in a three-hour discussion class every week with twenty other future social studies teachers called “Teaching in a Diverse Society”. The future teachers in our class talk about how we’re not just going to talk about the history of white men and how important it is to include the histories of other cultures and having a global perspective. We say we’re going to address the needs and interests of all of our students, regardless of their race or ethnicity. How does the child of immigrant parents feel when they have to stand up and pledge that the United States is the most awesome country in the world? What about their parents’ countries? What about not just the nonreligious kids, but also the Jewish or Hindu students who aren’t idiots and know the “god” that the pledge mentions is really the Christian God? These kids get a daily reminder at 8AM that they’re different, that they don’t share the same white anglo-saxon protestant history as most of their classmates. America is a different country than it was yesterday, let alone in 1954 when ‘under God’ was added. Put in today’s context, the pledge is more divisive than unifying.
We also talk about how important critical thinking is in a social studies class and we learn about the Illinois Learning Standards in Social Science like that students should learn to solve problems “through a rational process” and should learn to “express ideas”. I don’t understand how that meshes at all with beginning the day by telling children that they must pledge loyalty to a country, even when it does something they think is wrong. What about all of the atrocities that America has committed against Native Americans and African Americans (and pretty much any hyphenated American) that they’ve learned about in their history classes? The eighth grade class I’m student teaching in begins at 7:50AM with the pledge everyday but they also spent a class period learning about the Troy Davis case and discussed whether they thought it was fair that he was executed (they came down on the side of “no, duh, grownups are stupid”). Right now, they’re learning about Jim Crow laws and the Civil Rights Movement and writing about “what gives laws meaning”, an assignment that teaches them that laws are not always right or fair and that you have the right to question them and even change them.
Children are quick to call out adults when they’re being hypocritical or unfair and you lose their respect quickly. They don’t think much about the pledge because they’ve gotten so used to it, but if you asked them, they’d say they think it’s stupid. I know we did when we were kids. We weren’t even bothered by the “under God” part, but there was always one kid who would goof around and refuse to say it just because he didn’t like being told what to do. Why do adults on the Christian right put so much effort into keeping it in the pledge when it doesn’t mean anything to the kids? All you’re teaching them is that adults are unreasonable and get in huge arguments about two little words. They should be learning that being a good citizen and being patriotic are not simply saying a pledge every day. You don’t obey laws because of the pledge of allegiance; you obey laws because it’s the right thing to do. Countries that make children promise loyalty to them are not worthy of that loyalty.
Another week, another meeting of your favorite heathens. And it's gonna be a good one! Read on for further details...
Weekly Meeting This week's meeting will take place Thursday, October 27th at 7pm in Noyes 165 -- click here for a map.
On The Agenda Did you hear? The infamous Brother Jed's coming to town! That's our cue to troll, troll, troll! This week's meeting will be devoted to making signs for his visit Friday afternoon. Music, markers, and an opportunity for creative expression -- who could ask for anything more?
Islam Awareness Week It's Islam Awareness Week, and our friends at the Muslim Student Association have some great stuff planned! After our weekly meeting, many of us will be heading to the Courtyard Cafe in the Union for the Hijabi Monologues, an event created for Muslim women to share their stories. Join us if you can!
ISSA at Murphy's After the meeting and/or Islam Awareness Week, we'll adjourn to Murphy's, as is our tradition. We welcome anyone and everyone who can make it, regardless of whether or not you plan to drink. It's a great chance to get to know your officers and godless cohorts better!
Trollin' Trollin' Trollin' ...That's what we'll be doing! As mentioned above, Brother Jed will be on the Quad this Friday, October 28th spouting his usual hateful/ignorant nonsense. Join us from 1 to 4pm for some good old-fashioned heckl--... *ahem*... polite debate. RSVP via the Facebook event page.
Interfaith Game Night (Friday, Nov. 4th)
Apples to Apples, Munchkin, Settlers of Catan and more! And with our friends from the various campus religious organizations! More details to come.
Does the Black Community Need God? A Debate on Race, Faith & Culture (Thursday, Nov. 10th)
The first ISSA event of its kind! Join us Thursday, November 10th at 7pm in Plym Auditorium (Temple Hoyne Buell Hall 134) as journalist and renowned African American atheist Jamila Bey and famed former evangelical minister and alumnus of Oral Roberts University Carlton Pearson brazenly tackle the role of faith in Black American Culture, bringing rampant social stigmas to light and drawing from their unique experiences as noteworthy members of the black community. RSVP via the Facebook event page.