Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"Oh yes, It's Ladies' Night and the feeling ISSA right." - Kool and the Gang

The weekly email of the Illini Secular Student Alliance!
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Illini Secular
Student Alliance


Greetings, syllogistic schoomates!
We're now within $30 of our fundraising goal for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society! Please share our fundraising page and read on for details of the coming week...

Weekly Meeting
This week's meeting will take place this Thursday, Nov. 1st in the second floor multi-purpose room of the Hillel Center at 6:30pm. NOTE THE CHANGE IN TIME/LOCATION! Click here for directions.

On The Agenda
This week, we're going to Building Bridges' meeting on "Biblical Self-Defense" -- an event aimed at equipping LGBT students with biblical material to defend their sexual orientation. It promises to be a fascinating evening. Plus, LAST CHANCE TO GET YOUR CLUB SHIRTS before next week's barcrawl!

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 godless cohorts better!

Ladies' Night
Us godless girls gotta stick together -- that's why we planned a sleepover just for the ladies! Join us this Saturday, Nov. 3rd at 8pm at Morgan's place in Urbana for bon-bons, bonding and non-theism! RSVP via the Facebook event page
Fall Barcrawl
(Monday, Nov. 5th)

Remember, remember
the fifth of November... Or try, at least! Join us for drinks, karaoke and more! RSVP via the Facebook event page.
Have you seen our blog?
Member posts are always welcome! Email us at 
lliniSSA@illinois.edu 
for more information.
Heathens gotta represent! Get your ISSAwear here.
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Confessions of an Insecure Atheist

I was at the top of the food chain in elementary school.  I aced my classes and I dominated recess football and basketball.  Everyone liked me and by fifth grade, I was thoroughly convinced I was better than everyone else.

I fell behind in my classes shortly after starting middle school because I didn't think I good grades required effort.  I went through puberty before everyone else and got bad acne.  I was still good at sports, but not dominant.  My peers made fun of me because I was socially awkward.  Despite all this, I was still convinced I was “better” than everyone else, but it was not because I was actually better in a conceivable, recognizable way—I convinced myself I was better than everyone by being more politically knowledgeable.  And by being an atheist.  In my head, being a self-righteous democratic atheist made me a sophisticated individual.  Basically, I became an atheist because I was deeply insecure.  Atheism filled this insecurity by allowing me to criticize my peers and win arguments I had started just so I could make fun of the person I was arguing with.

It wasn't until my sophomore year of college that I realized I could never be a theist simply because denouncing atheism would put me on the same level of sophistication as the rest of my peers.  I was motivated by my lust for superiority to research just how right I was and how wrong everyone else was.  I acquainted myself with David Hume, Thomas Jefferson, the atheistic essays of John Keats, various existential authors, religious psychology, contemporary ethics, and formal logic.  I learned more than I could ever possibly hope to learn in four years of college.  Looking back on it, though, I realize I spent all that free time “studying” atheism because it made me feel smarter than everyone else.

Yes, I equate religions to cults and do not see any difference between the definitions.  And yes, I believe religion keeps us from fully understanding morality by both not allowing us to justify all actions down to what has intrinsic value and encouraging “faith” over rationality.  But now I am wise enough to know atheists do not do good deeds simply for the sake of doing good deeds; in every action there is always significant egoism, which, more often than not, plays a larger role than our knowledge of morality and self-utility.  We atheists might attempt to convince the religious we are not egotistical and, if we do attempt this, I beg the religious not to believe us.

The more approachable and humble we atheists are, the more the religious folk will listen to what we have to say.  This creates quite the dilemma, as we have so much fun tearing others’ beliefs down for self-gratification, yet the endpoint—our goal—of a secular world requires severe restraint against our desire for superiority.  For this reason, I will attempt to side with religion in the majority of my future posts.  So watch out, atheism—I’m 99% sure you’ll still win in the end, but I’d like to make things interesting.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"Mingling religion with politics may be dISSAvowed by every inhabitant of America." - Thomas Paine

The weekly email of the Illini Secular Student Alliance!
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Illini Secular
Student Alliance


Greetings, energetic empiricists!
What an amazing week! Thanks to our Light the Night walk for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, we're now within $100 of our $2K fundraising goal! Please spread the word or help if you can, and read on to find out what we've got in store for you this week!

Weekly Meeting
This week's meeting will take place Thursday, Oct. 25th at 7:00pm in 1090 Lincoln Hall. Click here for a map. 

On The Agenda
Last week, we discussed candidates' ratings on secular issues. This week we'll tackle the question, "Should the secular movement create a unified front on issues that are not exclusively secular?" It's quite a contentious subject at the moment, so you won't want to miss it!

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 godless cohorts better!

Cafe Freethought
Join us this Sunday, October 28th at 1pm for a nice brunch at Aroma Cafe in Downtown Champaign! We'll meet at the Illini Union Engineering Side bus stop at 12:45 to catch a Green there. RSVP via the Facebook event page.
Ladies' Night
(Saturday, Nov. 3rd)

Us godless girls gotta stick together -- that's why we planned a sleepover just for the ladies! Join us for bon-bons, bonding and non-theism! RSVP via the Facebook event page.
Roadtrip to Skepticon
(Nov. 9th - 11th)

Nothing beats an ISSA roadtrip! Join us as we travel to the largest sec-
ular student conference
in the US! Sign up to
carpool with us
, and be 
sure to register via the Skepticon website!
Fall Barcrawl
(Monday, Nov. 5th)

Remember, remember
the fifth of November... Or try, at least! Join us for drinks, karaoke and more! RSVP via the Facebook event page.
Have you seen our blog?
Member posts are always welcome! Email us at 
lliniSSA@illinois.edu 
for more information.
Heathens gotta represent! Get your ISSAwear here.
Not diggin' it? Click here to unsubscribe.







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Monday, October 22, 2012

ISSA Lights the Night: A Personal Reflection.

Saturday night was something special. After months of planning, we finally held our main fundraiser for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society, and it was incredible. Planning Champaign-Urbana's first ever Light the Night walk proved to be a great challenge, but came as a huge success. For those who could not attend, I'd like to talk about how it went, how we overcame some of the many obstacles in our path, and also some of my personal thoughts looking back on how such a wonderful event came to be.


When I first really learned about Light the Night, way back at the SSA conference in July, I knew I wanted to be a part of the fundraising walk. But it was here we had our first real setback. The closest registered walk to our university was located in Chicago, too far away to go to the actual walk. We decided to press on and signed up as a virtual team. Normally these teams, lacking the official resources such as Light the Night's signature illuminated balloons, T-shirts, and predetermined walking routes, fundraise almost entirely with smaller events such as BBQ's or general fundraising. As important as those are, both ISSA and I wanted to do more. So we decided we would disregard the norm and organize our own Light the Night walk in Champaign, something that had never been done in my time at the university.

While the lack of organizational infrastructure that came with organizing a virtual walk meant some disadvantages in terms of the on-the-ground support and the guarantee of a large attendance, it came with the advantage of the freedom to do our own thing and the creative license to make this walk our own. Lacking the illuminated balloons, we decided glowstick bracelets would be just as cool. When people started showing up in the evening, before the walk, we got to hang out on the quad and socialize together with music playing (most of which themed around walking) and food ready to eat (we had sandwiches graciously donated by Silver Mine Subs).

By eight o’clock everyone was having a great time all decked out in glowsticks; it was time to get things moving. I got up and gave a brief speech on what the LLS does, the services they provide, and how every donation made is matched by the Stiefel Freethought Foundation. I then had the honor of introducing the Mayor of Champaign, Don Gerard, to speak. He thanked everyone for attending, and spoke prominently on how being a good person is not dependent on what you believe, but on getting out there and doing good works to back up your beliefs; a philosophy I hold near and dear to my heart.


From there we started walking. It was a relatively short walk around the campus, but for about 20 minutes we were one group, all together for a common cause. To be a part of that group was such an incredible feeling. After finishing our walk, giving away prizes (many thanks to Maize Mexican Grill, Beef Stand, and Fat Sandwich for donating gift certificates), and thanking all who came, I felt a wave of pride rush over me, watching an event that I planned and organized (with endless help from the other officers) come to a successful close. After counting everything, at the end of the night we had raised $330. We are now approximately $200 away from our $2,000 goal.


Speaking as one of the leaders of a secular student group, looking back on this walk gives me an impression that means more to me than the number of attendees or the money we raised. The Illini Secular Student Alliance at that moment was more than an organization with a common nonreligious identity, it was a community.
We came together to help an essential organization through both this Light the Night and the month long Hug an Atheist campaign. In order for events such as these to come together, a Secular Secular Alliance has to be more than just a Facebook group with a weekly meeting. There needs to be a common bond of friendship between its members, a bond that drives them to attend meetings even though the topic may not interest them, or spend four hours in the cold asking for donations, even as their voice grows hoarse from shouting. It is being a community which allows groups like ours to pull off such incredible events. 

And I am so thankful for the community we have with the Illini Secular Student Alliance. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Much Ado about De Botton

It’s been some time since the “de Botton fiasco” – enough time, I think, for us to look back and analyze it without too much bais. To recap, Alain de Botton was the man behind the "Atheist Temple" idea, and the book Religion for Atheists.


It was the most outrageous idea in the atheist community in recent memory, but it was no joke; it was the realization of de Botton’s strange philosophy that has ended up harming our community’s image. The National Post highlighted some of the key points to his philosophy in this article. While disagreeing with de Botton's comes naturally to me, this excerpt from his visit to Toronto last March especially irked me.

He said we should approach religion like the local Chinese all-you-can-eat: Grab a plate, he said, and choose. “We naturally pick and mix when it comes to music and literature,” he said, so why not for existential questions?
It’s true that some degree of variance of belief exists within atheism, but our existential ideas tend to have something in common – they aren’t derived from faith-based ideas. While religion provides answers to life's questions without evidence, atheism makes us understand that true answers only come after more questions. For example, while Christians assert that free will exists because "God gave it to us," atheists have to consider: What does it mean to have free will? Can free will be achieved artificially? Are determinism and materialism consistent with the concept of free will?

De Botton went on to say, "I like Christmas carols. I like the atmosphere of old churches. I like religious works of art. I like the idea of pilgrimage, fasting and feasting," and without these structures we would be in a "wasteland."
However, there’s a difference between appreciating religious works and appreciating religion itself. I have no issue with someone saying the Parthenon is beautiful and awe-inspiring, but if they then go on to say we can find answers to existential questions in Greek mythology, I’d raise an eyebrow. It sounds open minded to pick and choose from different religions, but at the heart of religious concepts is delusion. 

Ideas such as, “don’t commit murder”, shouldn't be considered religious; they’re logical conclusions based on sociopolitical constructs backed by human nature. Even if one were to claim these ideas were solidified by religion, the fact remains that they were, at some point, introduced by philosophers and sociologists long ago - regardless of from whom the concepts originated. So please, appreciate the disappointingly minute touch of beauty religion has added to our world - but never claim that we should rely on delusional constructs in our modern era.

The article continued, “On the question of God’s existence, [de Botton] said atheists 'circle around [it] almost obsessively,' but it is not the most important question.

An atheist is someone who doesn’t believe in any gods, so inherently it’s something that unites us regardless of our other existential beliefs. It’s kind of like saying, "Christians circle around this idea of Jesus almost obsessively." Of course they do, it's the theme that unites Methodists and Catholics and Jehovah's Witnesses. Either de Botton didn’t understand atheism, or he was trying to play a foolish middle ground.

It’s important to keep an eye on de Botton, and on those who propose similarly ridiculous ideas. Ever since last January, when the media got wind of the “atheist temple” fiasco, Christian newspapers and blogs have been using it to say atheists need religion. As the atheist movement takes hold we should keep this in mind, and choose our words carefully so they won't be misrepresented or used to reinforce the already numerous stereotypes about atheists.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Don't mISSA this week's Light The Night walk to benefit the LLS!



The weekly email of the Illini Secular Student Alliance!
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Illini Secular
Student Alliance




Greetings, philanthropic freethinkers!
This is the week! We're wrapping up our fundraising efforts in the Foundation Beyond Belief's campaign to raise $1,000,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society! Here's how you can get involved...

LLS Fundraising on the Quad
We'll take to the Quad from noon to 4pm this Wednesday to do our final "Hug An Atheist" event for this semester -- $1 for awesome atheist hugs to raise money for a great cause! We hope you'll drop by to hug or be hugged, and/or join our fundraising team.

Weekly Meeting
This week's meeting will take place Thursday, Oct. 18th at 7:00pm in 1090 Lincoln Hall. Click here for a map.

On The Agenda
We're continuing our month-long examination of secularism and politics leading up to the election! This week, we'll be learning about local and national political candidates' positions on various issues of secular interest.

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 godless cohorts better!

Light the Night Walk
Join us this Saturday, October 20th at 7:30pm on the Quad for our own Light the Night Walk to raise money for the LLS. Food will be provided by Silver Mine Subs, and we'll be giving away prizes to random participants, including gift certificates to the Beef Stand, Maize Mexican Grill, and more! The cost will be $5 per person, with all proceeds to benefit the LLS. RSVP via the Facebook event page


Cafe Freethought
(Sunday, Oct. 28th)

To thank Aroma Cafe for helping with our LLS fundraising efforts, we'll meet at their location Downtown Champaign for a late brunch! Details TBA.


Ladies' Night
(Saturday, Nov. 3rd)

Us godless girls gotta stick together -- that's why we planned a sleepover just for the ladies! Join us for bon-bons, bonding and non-theism! Details TBA.



Have you seen our blog?
Member posts are always welcome! Email us at
lliniSSA@illinois.edu 
for more information.


Heathens gotta represent! Get your ISSAwear here.


Not diggin' it? Click here to unsubscribe.







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