Meeting and Reason Rally, American Atheist Conference Discussion

On April 4th, 2012 we had our bi-weekly meeting and got to hear about the Reason Rally and American Atheist Conference.Anna Biela gave a great presentation about her experiences, showing some clips of Tim Minchin and Richard Dawkins.

In my own experience, Reason Rally and the American Atheist Conference was an exciting life-changing time. The 12 hour car ride to Washington D.C. was really exhausting, followed by taking the Metro to the National Mall super early in the morning.The event lasted more than eight hours, with few breaks. Our dedication to the speakers and the cause of Reason Rally kept us through the rain.

Reason Rally proved to America the voice of the Atheist/Agnostic/Non-Theist movement. 20,000 people showed up to give their support, disprove stereotypes and create history. Respect for people to have belief or to practice their religion was encouraged, on the stipulation that they don’t impose it on other people. A point was made to the religious right in politics where we stood as a group, that Atheists are not all immoral by nature, that faith was not a virtue. The note that it is very possible to be an Atheist and a humanist was certainly made.

Speakers included Richard Dawkins, Adam Savage, Greta Christina and James Randi. Performances featured Tim Minchin, Bad Religion and Eddie Izzard. The message given was not to show disrespect for people themselves, but to critique religion itself. It’s still a fine line to understand where that sense of “live and let live” can work in reality, when legislation is constantly influenced by religion.

The Westboro Baptist Church made an appearance, standing on the side-lines of the Rally to provide much needed entertainment and debate. The crowd mimicked their hateful signs with their own: “God Hates Bags” and “God Hates Figs”. Everyone kept debates to verbal discourse and no physical altercations took place.

The media exposure appeared to be limited, as USA today misconstrued the event. Unfortunately, the media cannot seem to comprehend that comparing Atheist activities to a church just doesn’t make sense.The title for the paper claimed “Richard Dawkins preaches to Atheists, contempt for religion” which was just wrong on many levels. Fox news tried to argue that people need religion to understand right from wrong.The Atheist movement does not reflect religious rituals or necessarily have a patriarchal leader. The movement itself also features several minority groups.

The American Atheist Conference had a different tone, as it was a bit less recreational and more business. The theme was “Come out wherever you are”, encouraging non believers to be upfront about their non-belief. J.T. recognized that this can be a difficult thing to do in the context of society, friends and work. We got to see some great presentations by P.Z. Myers and J.T, along with Jessica Ahlquist receiving an awesome award.

The entire experience in Washington D.C. was both exhausting and exhilarating. It was inspiring to see all these groups come together and stand up for freedom from religion. It’s a great time to be an Atheist, Secular Humanist, Agnostic, Non-Theist, Free-Thinker.

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Ask An Atheist and Fiction For Fiction

Our club has been quite busy this year with events, and having several opportunities for representation. “Ask an Atheist” took place on both March 1st, 2012 and April 4th 2012. We welcomed students to ask questions and engage in intelligent discussion. “Ask an Atheist” helped create a safe and approachable space to learn more about Atheism.

In the spirit of discussion, “Fiction for Fiction” took place on March 28th, 2012. (Interestingly enough, the event was scheduled at the same time as the Purdue Housing Fair.) Students, staff and community members that walked by were invited to swap their religious texts for a fiction book. The event helped raise different perspectives on the “authenticity” of religious texts.

Purdue University Lecture: Jennifer McCreight, Indiana Theocracy- March 22

Purdue University Lecture: Jennifer McCreight, Indiana Theocracy

   Former Purdue Society of Non-Theists president, Jennifer McCreight, gave an open lecture at Purdue University. She is currently a PhD student in Genome Sciences at the University of Washington. Jennifer is also on the Board of Directors for the Secular Student Alliance, and an avid blogger (http://freethoughtblogs.com/blaghag). This event, titled “Indiana Theocracy”, took place on March 22, 2012 at WTHR, room 172, from 6:30pm-8:00pm.

I was really excited to hear about Jennifer McCreight visiting Purdue to give a lecture about Indiana and religion. I love learning about intersections of gender, culture, politics and religion. The lecture “Indiana Theocracy” was bound to incorporate all of those relevant social topics. The topics were then divided into categories, such as bad science, women’s issues, LGBT concerns and school politics.

   Jennifer started her lecture by providing some basic information regarding her association with Indiana. Having grown up in Muncie, she experienced living within the context of a white-collar community. Her family was not religious; rather they followed secular values and only cultural aspects of Christian holidays. For Jennifer, middle-school and high-school involved simple and calm discussions regarding religion.

Upon graduating high-school and starting college at Purdue University in West Lafayette, McCreight encountered a culture shock. Of the 40,000 people that attended Purdue, there was surprisingly very little representation for non-theists. Christian organizations were prominent and well spoken; what was an Atheist to do?

Jennifer took the initiative to start her own organization, known as The Purdue Society Of Non-theists. Then group is relevant to both students and community members alike. Indiana itself has a large population of Roman Catholics and Christians in general, with signs such as “Hell Is Real” to prove this existence. The Indiana state license plate totes the message, “In God We Trust”. People that have hardly heard of Indiana have the impression of an unimportant state filled with corn.

Jennifer decided to do some further research about the state, seeing what connections existed between the demographic and culture. She found a quote by Governor Mitch Daniels correlating Atheism with immorality, violence and un-American values. To further this ignorant notion, Daniels ignorantly declared that Hitler was an Atheist. Indiana Republican representative, Phillip Hinkle, was known to be against gay marriage. Yet he was ironically caught soliciting a gay prostitute on craigslist, using his public e-mail address!

The category of bad science was bound to invoke rage into the hearts of most technical minded people. Jennifer started with Senate Bill 89, an attempt to push creationism into the public school system by Senator Dennis Kruse. In trying to kill the bill, Senator Simpson amended it to add “Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism and Scientology” perspectives. House Speaker, Brian Bosma, finally killed the bill to prevent inevitable lawsuits that would have occurred. The bill was pushing for religious ideas to be taught in a public classroom, which was clearly unconstitutional.

Along with this notion of ignoring the separation of church and state, is the idea of school prayers. Once again Senator Dennis Kraus attempted to push for students to recite prayer in schools. The reasoning behind this was the following: “…In order that each student recognize the importance of spiritual development in establishing character and becoming a good citizen…” Thus, if you do not wish to recite the prayer you are automatically of bad character and not a good citizen.

Recently there has been quite a political uproar from the religious right, regarding women’s health issues. The political fights involving contraception have been referred to as a “war on women” by feminists. The issue of abortion is such a clear insight into gender discrimination regarding politics. In Indiana, House Bill 1210 declares abortions to be illegal after 20 weeks, while cutting state funding to Planned Parenthood. The Indiana definition of “human life” starts when a sperm fertilizes an egg. Doctors are required to tell their patients that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks, justified by “objective science”. Upon McCreight’s investigation into this statement, she found no citation or explanation of where that “science” came from.

To add insult to injury, Representative Eric Turner referred to accounts of incest and rape as abortion “loopholes”. He claimed that women could lie about their pregnancies in order to gain access to abortion clinics. This notion is just plain insulting to all women, especially to victims of such abuse. The mistreatment of women needing help regarding abortions doesn’t stop there. Pregnant Indiana resident Bei Bei Shuai was convicted for murder when she attempted to kill herself due to depression. Instead of receiving proper counseling and treatment, she was incarcerated.

In Indiana, the LGBT community faces challenges from residents and Indiana culture. The Girls Scouts were rejected by Representative Bob Morris, out of the ignorant misunderstandings found on the internet. Morris was convinced the Girl Scouts represented Planned Parenthood’s hidden agenda to infiltrate American youth. He also noted that transvestite boys should not try to join the organization, just like “real girls”.

Jennifer McCreight’s speak provided insight into how fundamentalist ideas of religion can affect public policy. Minority groups are certainly at risk for being oppressed by majority rules and ideas. Indiana culture is certainly infiltrated with such dogma, causing stigma for any that want to protest these set norms.

(Blogged by Rachel Tobias)

2012 Symposium at Purdue: “The Problem Of God: Is God A Moral Monster?”

A really intriguing event at Purdue coming up soon! Dr. Paul Copan will lead a discussion on the subject of God and the context of morality. This will be followed by some open microphone questions and responses afterward.The symposium itself will run for a few days, until February 19th. Here is a simple breakdown of the event.

What: Symposium: “Is God a Moral Monster? Good, Evil, and the Old Testament”

When: Friday, Feb 17th

Where: LOEB Playhouse (Stewart Center)

Time: 7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.

If you choose to attend on the weekend, Feb 18th and 19th have really interesting discussion sessions. Topics include:

1) “The problem of the church: A broken system of religiosity and hypocrisy”

2) “The problem of miracles: Answering skeptics and critics”

3) “The problem of origins: Does God know about the big bang?”

4) “The problem of faith in politics: Social justice, justice, and worlds colliding”

5) “The problem of the Christian treatment of homosexuality: What are the problems?”

6) “The problem of skepticism about God: How can knowledge claims regarding God be credible?”

This is a really great opportunity to immerse yourself in some intellectual discussion!

Here is the link for more information:

http://web.me.com/joewhitchurch/Site/Problem.html (Page 1)

Callout

This semester’s first meeting is our callout. It will be held in Physics room 203, at 6:30pm, and there will be pizza!
So invite all your heathen friends, and come have some ‘za as you learn more about our Society and what we have planned for this semester.