Tuesday, April 17, 2012

An End-of-the-Semester Freethought Library Update!

It's hard to believe it's been almost two months since our last Freethought Library update. This semester has really flown by, and we're already coming up on the one year anniversary of the project!

We've had a few exciting developments since February, beginning with a little promotion from the Friendly Atheist. The Hemant Bump -- as we like to call it -- brought in several monetary donations which made possible the purchase of some key supplies. We now have protective mylar covers on our hardcover books! These ensure that dust-jackets will not be lost or damaged and generally minimize wear and tear over time.

More importantly, we've received some exciting print donations! Authors Thomas Lawson and Jen Hancock generously sent us copies of their books, as did Sean Faircloth and Pitchstone Publishing. Lawson's Letters From An Atheist Nation: Godless Voices of America in 1903 provides a fascinating historical perspective, and Hancock's humanist guides offer a delightfully simple approach to personal ethics. Faircloth's Attack of the Theocrats: How the Religious Right Harms Us All and What We Can Do About It! has been a particularly exciting addition because of it's relevance to the current political climate. The poli sci buffs among us are pretty much lined up to read it. That said, Sam got his hands on it first and will be posting a review tomorrow!

Finally, the Reason Rally last month proved to be a thrilling opportunity for networking and soliciting potential future donations. We hope this means there's much more to come...

As always, donations of used or new books and would be greatly appreciated. Simply email us at illinissa@illinois.edu for more information or click the "donate" button in the upper right hand corner of the page to offer monetary support for the project. Every little bit helps!

Here's the updated timeline graphic, complete with pictures of the mylar covers and our new books.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Heads up! ISSA special event this week! (new meeting time & place)

The weekly email of the Illini Secular Student Alliance!
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Illini Secular
Student Alliance
Greetings, Skeptical Spectators!
We know how busy things get this time of year, but believe us when we say you won't want to miss this week's meeting. Read on for details...

We have a special event lined up for this Thursday called Talkmaggedon. It will be a roundtable debate featuring student representatives of various religious affiliations. They will be taking on the philosophical question called the "Problem of Evil" - in other words, why a benevolent god would allow evil and suffering. Talkmaggedon will take place Thursday, April 12th at 7:00pm in Room 2 of the Education Building -- click here for a map and here for the Facebook page. 

Officer Interviews
If you are interested in any executive or non-executive officer positions for the 2012-2013 school year, contact IlliniSSA@illinois.edu or get in touch with Franklin to schedule an interview. We recommend you bring a writing sample and a short list of relevant experience you may have, though a formal resume is not required.
National Ask an Atheist Day
(Thursday, April 19th)

In solidarity with groups around the country, we invite you to come out to the quad and help the severely confused get an idea of what it really means to be an atheist. Use our Doodle to sign up for a time slot!
Ladies' Night!
(Saturday, April 21st)

Candy, crazy movies, and late-night hyperactivity will all play a center role at this semester's Ladies' Night. Location to be announced next week.
Freethought Library
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 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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Friday, April 6, 2012

Bible Study time! Galatians 5:16-26

*NOTE: I'm not saying all Christians are like this, and I've tried to make that clear in my writing. I am also aware that this is Paul, not God, speaking. But most Christians treat the words of Paul as directly from God and therefore Truth regardless. If you disagree with this interpretation you aren't disagreeing with me- you are disagreeing with a Christian ideology that is frequently taught and practiced today.

I first learned about the idea of "Spirit nature versus sinful nature" during Bible study my Freshman year. At that time and since then I have brought it up with many religious people, and after conversing on the subject I always find myself very frustrated, if not angry. I don't use the word "hate" too often, but this concept is probably the one thing I hate most about Christianity. It is the worst combination of being a commonly held belief and having severely negative implications for the perception of non-theists around the globe.

Here's a brief summary of the idea: Before we are "born again" (accept Jesus in our hearts, become Christian, etc.) we only possess the sinful nature. Once we are born again we accept the Holy Spirit, and can then fight the sinful nature by filling ourselves with the Holy Spirit. So, if you don't want to lead a life of sin, you MUST be Christian. If you don't see why this view might be troublesome you aren't looking hard enough.

The problem only becomes compounded when we take even a short glimpse of what exactly Holy Spirit nature and sinful nature consist of. I'm taking a look at Galatians 5:16-26, for reference:

"16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[a] you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law."

Note the use of opposites here (Christianity tends to deal in absolutes, especially when compared to Eastern religions, which are much more complex in their understanding of the way the world works). On one side there is the Spirit, on the other side flesh. One is good (perfectly good, as a matter of fact) and one is bad. It is that simple. Guess which is which? Also note that last bit about being above the law when doing Holy acts. That's reassuring.

Next Paul kindly explains to us what he means when he says "acts of flesh," since, you know, if he was too vague people might interpret things the wrong way:

"19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God."

Let's start with the first one. What the Bible just told us is that acting on any sort of sexual desire is sinful. Sorry biology, the God who created you doesn't want you to act on those strong impulses he gave you (by having your body create testosterone and other hormones). Oh, and, sorry, but the only way to not act on those biological impulses is to accept Christianity and fill yourself with the Holy Spirit. And did I mention that if you do act on those impulses without accepting Jesus you're going to Hell forever? That's important. Like, of all time importance.

This may be controversial to say, but I think that one of the reasons it's sometimes so difficult to truly understand the commonly held Christian worldview for the nonreligious (and why that worldview causes so many problems in the eyes of atheists) is because, to put it simply, Christians have a very different perception of what is right and wrong. For them, things that are wrong are things that are sins. This might be acceptable, if the Bible wasn't such a crappy moral compass when read thoroughly. Selling your daughter to slavery is OK in God's book (unless he changed has changed his mind on what is sinful since the Old Testament, which as far as I'm aware is not something omniscient beings do too often), while two guys in a relationship enjoying  anal sex will earn themselves two free tickets to an eternity in Hell.

This does not hold true in an atheist world view for the simple reason that there is no rational justification to believe that slavery is more moral than consensual sex. And if a Christian agrees with this atheist worldview they would have to admit that not all sins in the Bible are bad (such as those that don't harm anyone involved), in addition to agreeing that the Bible is a document that contains laws that we should be actively opposing in any moral society.

Now let's take a look at the rest. The first passage specifies that without accepting Jesus and the Holy Spirit into your heart you ONLY have the sinful nature. Which means that this second passage specifically tells us that atheists are more likely to hate, be jealous, have fits of rage, selfish ambitions, and dissensions, among other great qualities (as quoted in the bible verse above). Although I think even Christians will agree that we tend to keep the witchcraft and idolatry to a minimum.

I might as well be this guy.
It gets even worse than that though. I have heard it argued multiple times that, without the Holy Spirit, we only do things for selfish reasons, or because of our sinful nature. So, let's say that, from my perspective, I live a good life: I had a family I loved and was loved by them, had good friends whom I was loyal to, donated a lot of money to good charities, and even donated my body to science upon my death. Again, I'd say that's pretty good, despite the fact I did it all without a belief in any sort of god. But to most Christians, every single thing I did in my life was done for sinful reasons. When it comes to how I will be judged at the pearly gates, I might as well have been a serial rapist for the past 50 years.

But seriously, you wonder why 55% of the country would never vote an atheist for President? It's because of this. This is what many Christians think we are, or at the very least are inherently more likely to be than they.

For no other reason than the fact that we have a different set of religious beliefs.

One last part here to touch on before Bible study finishes:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Ever hear a Christian sincerely ask something along the lines of, "If you don't believe in God, why don't you just go murder people and steal everything?" Those are usually the ones you respond to by saying, "You know, maybe it's best you stay a Christian..." It's scary that, for them, their religion is all that's keeping them from going on murderous rampages. Yet we know that isn't actually true- I doubt that before they were religious they murdered people on a whim. It was a belief they came to accept over time. And this is why they believe that. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, kindness, and goodness. To them it only makes sense that without the Holy Spirit you might as well just be murdering people.

"We Christians aren't perfect either," You may hear. "I don't judge others, that's for God," I've heard multiple times. But until you accept the Holy Spirit, in their eyes you're going to be hopeless, full of envy, full of jealousy, and full of hatred; in short a life doomed to sin.

And remember, it's not them judging you. It's just what they believe about people who are different than them.