Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Finally, Another Freethought Library Update!

It's been a while since our last update, but the Freethought Library project continues. Exciting news, too -- we're up to 72 books! A handful of these came from our awesome membership (thanks guys!), but we'd especially like to thank American Atheists for their generous contribution (I'm particularly excited about the many copies of the X-Rated Bible). Your support means the world to us! 

Here's an updated timeline of our progress...

Click here for a larger version.
Pretty cool, right? Of course, we're growing more ambitious with each passing day. Our updated wishlist is below. If you happen to have copies of any of the following books to spare, please consider donating them. Simply email us at illinissa@illinois.edu for more information, or give what you can to the Freethought Library fund by clicking the "donate" button in the upper right hand corner of this page. Help make our dreams a reality! ;)

On behalf of ISSA, thanks again!

Cheers,
Becca

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What ISSA Higgs Boson?


The weekly email of the Illini Secular Student Alliance!
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Illini Secular
Student Alliance
Greetings, Funky Freethinkers!
First and foremost, we would like to thank everyone who attended our Red Cross blood drive over the weekend! We beat the all time record that we set last semester, so the turnout was really extraordinary. Anyway, we have a lot planned for the near future, so read on!

Weekly Meeting
As always, this week's meeting will take place Thursday, March 1 at 7:30pm in Noyes 165 -- click here for a map. IMPORTANT: If you have signed up to go to the Reason Rally, please bring your  $50 to the meeting or give it to an officer beforehand.

On The Agenda
This week we'll be watching a newly released documentary on the elusive Higgs boson particle and discussing its implications for all of physics. It promises to be an engaging and accessible look at a very complicated scientific hypothesis. As always, we'll be adjourning to Murphy's afterwards to socialize and discuss.

Food For Freethought
Find a cure for that Unofficial hangover with ISSA this Sunday (March 4) at noon. We'll be departing from the circle drive of the Union to the Courier Cafe in downtown Urbana. The Courier Cafe is famous for its low prices and traditional American cuisine - you don't want to miss out!

EXCITING NEWS: We've just added a ton of new titles to the Freethought Library! Reserve a book now so you've got something to read over break. :)
~Upcoming~
The Reason Rally
(Saturday, March 24th)

The first event of its kind, and in our nation's capital, no less! Guests will include Richard Dawkins, Adam Savage, Tim Minchin, James Randi, Bad Religion and many, many others. Remember to pay your $50 by March 1st!
~Upcoming~
ISSA Barcrawl
(Tuesday, March 27)

Let's take an opportunity to socialize before classes gear up for the second half of the semester. We've yet to hash out an itenerary, so stay tuned for details. Be sure to scoop up a discounted $10 T-shirt if you don't have one already!
Freethought Library
Read our blog!
 Got something secular(ish) on your mind? BLOG ABOUT IT! Posts from members are always welcome -- simply email lliniSSA@illinois.edu if you're interested.
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Monday, February 27, 2012

The Pureblood Atheist

Last Sunday’s news that Richard Dawkins’ ancestors owned slaves came as shock to Christians everywhere. Although slavery was sanctioned in biblical times, Christianity’s recent revelation that slavery is wrong reveals Dawkins’ guilt in the matter. After all, God punishes future generations for the sins of their ancestors. The fact that this concept was used to defend slavery clearly isn’t relevant. The co-vice chairman of the European Pan-African Reparations Coalition is demanding for an apology from Dawkins for being born into such a family.

"The words of the apology need to be backed by action. The most appropriate course would be for the family to fund an educational initiative telling the history of slavery and how it impacts on communities today, in terms of racism and fractured relationships."

While this put Christians’ rosaries in a tangle, atheists had their own piece of startling news. Dawkins admitted on his blog to having an “unbroken line of six generations of Anglican clergymen” in his ancestry. The disappointing truth that Dawkins is a “mudblood” was only intensified by recent rumors that he is related to unicellular organisms.

Coincidence?
What are we to make of this? We need to find a pure atheist with solely reputable - and secular - ancestors to lead this movement. Such a paragon shouldn’t be hard to find. Although Dawkins hasn’t personally involved himself with slavery yet, he is tainted by the genes of those who did. However virtuous he may appear, he will always be part Anglican slaveholder. I also suspect there are murderers, thieves, fools, and bad-joke tellers hiding in his family tree. However, for those thinking a cruel and mysterious past gives the man more depth, don't be fooled, such a history with slavery is rather commonplace. He admitted, shamed at not having a unique back-story, "Almost certainly we are all descended from slave owners (and indeed from slaves), if you go back far enough, and you probably don’t have to go back very far". What will we discover next? Imagine the resulting scandal if we knew his great-great-great grandfather didn't believe in evolution.

However, there is a silver lining to this upsetting story. If we look far enough back, every theist has evolved from a common atheist ancestor. Perhaps liberal Christians can consider this "original sin". Still, it's hard to understand why a god would reveal himself to his creation a few thousand years before they would be capable of verifying his supposed miracles - but that point can be saved for another time. On a more serious note, figures throughout history have used family lineage to establish social hierarchies, and support racism - but today, through an understanding of evolution, we can find a basis for equality in common ancestry. A few years ago I read Darwin's Sacred Cause, which suggests the man was so passionate about his findings because he believed the idea of shared descent could end slavery.

Although it would have been nice for Dawkins to have the decency to be born through abiogenesis (leads to some interesting discussion) - and skip out on the sins of his forefathers - we have to face that he's only human, and Christian reporters have slow news days like the rest of us.

Friday, February 24, 2012

God's Unicellular Children

Dear reader, if you're like me, you spend a fair amount of time in your dealings with evangelical loonies and other undesirables wondering just how long their unshakable and unreasonable beliefs have been around. Were people in Darwin's day truly as shocked and appalled at the notion that man evolved from more humble primates as many people today seem to be, or has isolation (and, perhaps, inbreeding) further polarized our modern pugnacious religious fringe types toward madness? Well, let's talk about one the most polarizing debates today: abortion.

The question of when life begins is a sticky one: in all honesty, it's unlikely that any two people have quite the same answer, and if they do, it could well be for vastly different reasons. But chances are if you're reading this article, we could probably agree that life distinctly and certainly does not begin at conception. For our more conservative friends, however, this is one of their most vehemently held beliefs: as soon as Mr. Sperm and Mrs. Egg finish their sweet lovemaking, God rubs his jibbly bits all over that fertilized pre-zygote and hands it a soul, making it the same as every other human. I was wondering today where it was this idea came from. Has it always been held by the Church, or other religious institutions, or is it a contemporary viewpoint?

I looked to my favorite fairy tale, the Bible, for answers. Leviticus 27:6 was no help, because despite approximating the worth of almost every human as an arbitrary amount, there's not even a mention of people under one month of age. Could it be that they have no worth at all, when even senior citizens, who were the Biblical dead weight, are worth fifteen shekels? Exodus 21:22-24 wasn't any help, either. Despite the implicit assumption of women as property, you can reasonably punch a baby out right up until the moment its mother was due and get away with nothing but a fine. In Ezekiel 37:8-10, God's zombie warriors weren't alive until they took their first breath and moved on their own. My search continued in Job...but imagine my surprise when, in Job 10:18-19, the man himself wishes he had been aborted. Then I began seeing things everywhere! Ecclesiastes 4:1-3, where Solomon ponders the morality and necessity of abortion! Genesis 2:7, where Adam isn't alive until he begins breathing, and later in the same book, where a woman sentenced to die by burning is given no consideration for her unborn child! Why, in Numbers 3:15, the Jews themselves take a census, and they do not even deign to consider anyone less than a month of age as a person. It seems we've got some catching up to do.
What does Wrestlemania have to do with it? You'll find out soon enough.
Could it be, shocking as it seems, that the notion of abortion as abhorrently un-Biblical is a recent one? As this article notes, powerful players in the Christian community used to be much more open to discussing the semantics of life's beginnings. Some of them even supported the advent of federally-sponsored contraception and abortion. But sometime not so long ago, things changed. Johnathan Dudley, author of the esteemed Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics, notes that many evangelicals themselves were caught off-guard in the late eighties when right-wing preachers began spouting of the monumental heresy of abortion. It seems that the call to Save All Fetuses went unheard by most everybody until then. To put it in perspective: this Biblical mandate, this loudest and most bile-inducing of talking points, is younger than Wrestlemania. But why is this issue so important now? Why do so many Christians cling desperately to each and every blastocyst? That, dear reader, is a story for another time.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"The priest ISSA always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own." - Thomas Jefferson


The weekly email of the Illini Secular Student Alliance!
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Illini Secular
Student Alliance
Greetings, Sexy Secularists!
Now that you've (hopefully) recovered from Saturday's party, we've got a week full of education and service planned for you. Read on for details...

Weekly Meeting
As always, this week's meeting will take place Thursday, February 23th at 7:30pm in Noyes 165 -- click here for a map. We'll be adjourning to Murphy's afterwards to socialize and discuss.

On The Agenda
This week we will be joined by the notoriously fiesty Professor Seitz, who will be giving a no-holds-barred critique of religion in politics today. Bring a poncho - first two rows may get Santorum'd.

ISSA Bowling Night
We somehow acquired 30 "Buy one game, get one free" coupons, so we're throwing a bowling bash at 7:00 Friday night in the Illini Union Rec Room. Make sure you RSVP via the Facebook event page!

Bleedin' Heathens Blood Drive
WE WANT YOUR BLOOD! Last semester, ISSA had its most successful blood drive ever, and now the Red Cross is counting on us for even more! Come to the University YMCA on Wright Street from 11:00 am to 3:00pm on Saturday, Feb 25 to help out! 
~Upcoming~
Monthly Food for Freethought
(Sunday, March 4)

Every month we venture out past the boundaries of Campus Town to experiment with some of the more unique restaurants in the area. More details to come, but save the date!
~Upcoming~
The Reason Rally
Saturday, March 24th

The first event of its kind, and in our nation's capital, no less! Guests will include Richard Dawkins, Adam Savage, Tim Minchin, James Randi, Bad Religion and many, many others. We'll be making the trip and we'd love for you to come along! Interested? Please sign up here.
Freethought Library
Read our blog!
 Got something secular(ish) on your mind? BLOG ABOUT IT! Posts from members are always welcome -- simply email lliniSSA@illinois.edu if you're interested.
ISSAwear
Heathens gotta represent! Get your ISSAwear here.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Stand outside in the cold too long and you might become an ISSAcle!

The weekly email of the Illini Secular Student Alliance!
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Illini Secular
Student Alliance
Greetings, energetic empiricists!
We had a blast celebrating Darwin's birthday on the Quad this past Friday, but now it's time for an entirely different kind of party! Read on for details...

Weekly Meeting
This week's meeting will take place Thursday, February 16th at 7:30pm in Noyes 165 -- click here for a map.

On The Agenda
Have you heard about the proposed atheist temple? This week, we'll discuss strategy. In what respects should the secular movement mimic the institution of religion, if any? What things does religion get right?

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!

ISSA Part-ay
It's our first shindig of the spring semester, and we're going to party like it's 1999! No, really... NINETIES THEME! Get jiggy with your favorite heathens this Saturday, February 18th at 9:30pm. RSVP via the Facebook event page.
~Upcoming~
Bleedin' Heathens
Blood Drive
(Saturday, Feb. 25th)

WE WANT YOUR BLOOD! No, really... Every two seconds, someone in the US requires a blood transfusion. And roughly 20% of all blood used in transfusions is taken from college age men and women just like you! Do your part to help save a life! Details to come.
~Upcoming~
The Reason Rally
Saturday, March 24th

The first event of its kind, and in our nation's capital, no less! Guests will include Richard Dawkins, Adam Savage, Tim Minchin, James Randi, Bad Religion and many, many others. We'll be making the trip (how could we not?) and we'd love for you to come along! Interested? Please sign up here.
Freethought Library
Read our blog!
 Got something secular(ish) on your mind? BLOG ABOUT IT! Posts from members are always welcome -- simply email lliniSSA@illinois.edu if you're interested.
ISSAwear
Heathens gotta represent! Get your ISSAwear here.

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