Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Year In Review


2010-2011 was, without a doubt, the best year yet for AHA!  To make amends for not updating the blog often enough… here’s a summary of everything we did condensed into one epic post.

October 2010:
AHA was delighted to collaborate with Badger Catholic to co-sponsor a debate between Dan Barker and Dinesh D'Souza on the topic of “Is God the Problem?” The event was a smashing success, to the point where the Memorial Union Theater (which seats 1,400) became so crowded that many students had to be turned away at the door for safety!

 (Photos courtesy of Ingrid Lass)
Debate Highlight:
Dinesh: “You always ask for evidence.”
Dan: “Well excuse me!”      


Debate Lowlight:
D’Souza, in his closing remark, accuses Dan of being a “wounded theist… obsessed with denouncing God.”  In perhaps the most idiotic argument of the night, Dinesh deftly observes that there are no books like “The Unicorn Delusion” - and wonders why atheists don’t just ignore religion like they do Unicorns. *facepalm*

Thumbs up for flawless logic!

February 2011:
AHA became one of the founding members of MadCOR – the Madison Area Coalition of Reason.  MadCOR is an umbrella organization designed to coordinate the efforts of freethinking groups based in Madison and across the state of Wisconsin.  Other founders included the Madison Skeptics, Humanist Union of Madison, and Verusono.  At a meeting in April with Fred Edwords (National Director of the United Coalition of Reason), representatives from these groups began to formulate plans for the official launch of MadCOR – which is coming soon!
Yours Truly with Fred Edwords.
March 2011:
In conjunction with a speaking tour organized by the Secular Student Alliance, AHA brought journalist Ted Cox to campus to discuss his shocking experiences as an undercover atheist at a Christian gay-to-straight “therapy” camp.  This event was co-sponsored by the LGBT Campus Center, one of the most important resources on campus for the LGBTQ community.  We are thrilled to be their allies, and hope this event is the first of many collaborations between the atheist and LGBT movements on campus.

Event Highlight: 
Ted demonstrates "the motorcycle" - a position designed to provide the fatherly male embrace you were apparently deprived of as a child... or some kind of bullshit along those lines.
What? You don't feel less gay?
April 2011:
AHA spearheaded a large interfaith panel discussion on the topic of “Gender, Sex, and Marriage.”  Student representatives from a wide variety of religious student organizations on campus participated: the Diamond Way Buddhist Center, Latter-day Saint Student Association, Madison Unitarian Universalist Young Adult Campus Ministry (MUUYACM), UW Student Impact (Campus Crusade for Christ), and Hillel.  The panelists had an illuminating discussion - and some amicable disagreement - on controversial issues such as homosexuality, contraception, gay marriage, women’s rights, and masturbation.     

Panel Highlight:
After the panel, a member of the audience approached me and asked what atheism and agnosticism are.  At first, I thought she was looking for a clarification on the fuzzy lines between agnosticism and “weak” atheism.  Actually, she had no idea what either term meant!  This realization - that some people don’t even know what atheism is at all- can be shocking to those who have been involved in our movement for a long time, but I think it’s illustrative of how important our outreach efforts are on campus. 

May 2011:
AHA embarked on a new initiative with the Lubar Institute (for the Study of the Abrahamic Religions) in response to President Obama’s “Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge.” Dozens of religious student groups on campus are also participating, in what will be a year-long series of interfaith events.  I’m glad to report that the UW's proposal is very inclusive of non-religious students, and I applaud all of the staff of the Lubar Institute for genuinely being committed to including atheists under the sometimes troublesome “interfaith” umbrella.  Stay tuned for more information on AHA's contribution to the program, which will include a secular symposium on "The Importance of Church State Separation."


Conclusion:
One of AHA’s long term goals is to “foster a greater degree of mutual understanding between atheists and people of faith.” This past year, we've made great strides towards developing positive relationships with just about every major religious student group on campus.  In doing so, we’re not only raising awareness about what nonreligious people think, but are also ourselves learning a lot about what our fellow students believe- and making new friends along the way.   

As a result of all of these accomplishments, AHA was awarded the 2011 “Best Cooperation" award by the Secular Student Alliance. It's truly an honor to have our efforts recognized by the SSA. 
Check it out! 

Booyah.

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