Tuesday, February 28, 2012

AHA Emails #16: Jesus Camp

Hey Madison Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics,
Here's whats up...

Meeting #16: Jesus Camp
What: We'll be watching the first half of the great documentary "Jesus Camp" and talking about it
When: Tomorrow, Wednesday, 7 P.M.
Where: 155 Van Hise
Why: I didn't feel like planning a whole meeting this week, so we'll do this instead
Wow: Yeah I know... it'll still be fun though!

While you're at our meeting, you should totally pick up one of our Official AHA Shirts! They're running out, and for a limited time you can buy them on sale for the low, low price of $15!
And as usual... we'll be hanging out at The Rathskellar at Memorial Union after our meeting at 8pm. Also be there for that because we have a fun time.

Also, AHA is designing a website right now for an event and it's just awful.
If you have experience in web design and want to help us out, please send us an email.
We'll give you a free t-shirt, or maybe a pie? Or a hug? Whatever, if you want to help, let me know!

Come to our weekly trivia night!
We need your help answering questions on books, movies, sports, and all the other stuff that they throw at us. It's fun!
Team Trivia on Mondays at 8pm at The Tipsy Cow (map!)
1st place team gets a $30 gift certificate! Think of all the nachos I could eat with that!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Death: A Short Story

Peter's eyes slowly opened and for the last moments of his life, saw his family before him. His wife, Susan, sat on a chair by his side holding his hand, while everyone else stood with somber faces around his deathbed.

"Pete..?", said Susan with hesitation in her voice. Peter let out a light wheeze and smiled.

"I'm still here, honey" he said with a light squeeze of her hand.

Peter raised his eys and glanced around the room. His eyes locked with each of his four children, and then with each of his eight grandchildren. He gave a contented sigh and said with a half smile, "You guys don't have anything better to be doing now?" His grandchildren responded with tear-soaked laughs before wiping their eyes. Everyone felt the urge to say something, but Peter seemed like he didn't need to hear them talk, their presence was enough. Susan gave a sideways glace to the bedroom door.

"Honey, Father Mark is outside in the kitchen… He'd like to come in and talk to you."

"Why? I barely know him." Peter said, perhaps a little too forcefully.

"Please, he'd like to read you your rights."

"What, am I under arrest?" Peter deadpanned, causing his grandchildren once again to burst into awkward laughter.

Peter's youngest son knelt beside him and said quietly, "Jeez dad, just go ahead and talk to the guy for a minute. It'll make mom happy."

"No." Peter said strongly. "Try to understand, please. I want to end my life feeling proud of all that I've done, feeling proud to be with my family in my final moments. You all know who I am, and that I am not a religious man. What I most strongly believe is what I see in front of me right now, and what I feel to all of you. When you miss me and wish I were back with you all, don't just imagine that I'm in a better place. Instead, feel happiness at the times we spent together. I do not fear death because of possible punishment from a God. If he really does love us and made us, then he'd apprecaite all that I've done in my life. What I do fear in death is that I will never be with you all again. But be happy because in my short life, I got to enjoy it all with you."

Peter's daughter wiped her eyes, and Susan gave him a reassurring squeeze of his hand. Susan looked into his eyes and saw his life slip away. She tried to take comfort in his words, but still worried that he might not join her for an eternal life in heaven. If only he had accepted Jesus...

From his throne in Asgard, one of the nine worlds of the great tree Yggdrassill, Thor let our a ferocious roar and grasped his hammer in anger.

"Why must they continue to defy me?!" yelled the true, supreme ruler of all, Thor.

"It is most unfortunate, my Lord" Loki stammered from the throne to Thor's right.

"I agree" Thor said, calming down. "I have done so much for them. I gave them life, I protected them for every rogue god who has tried to smite them. They used to worship me as I had commanded. They provided sacrifices and toasted my name, but now they spend their days worshipping these false gods. Those charlitans convinced the simple people of earth to stray from me, the one true God."

Thor stroked his long beard thoughtfully.

"Sending humans to the world of the dead is so taxing to me; Hel is an awful place to go when they could just as easily be here enjoying paradise in Asgard."

Thor lifted his cup and paused. "At least I won't have to for much longer. To Ragnarok!"

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

AHA Emails #15: Weak Atheism vs. Strong Atheism

Hey Madison Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics,
Blah blah blah midterms. Take a break from them and hang out with AHA.

Meeting #15: Weak Atheism vs. Strong Atheism
What: A discussion on whether atheists should support "strong atheism" or "weak atheism" (or as the other sides would call them, "jerks" or "wimps")
When: Tomorrow, Wednesday, 7 P.M.
Where: 155 Van Hise
Why: There are two ways to be an outspoken atheist. Which are you?


While you're at our meeting, you should totally pick up one of our Official AHA Shirts! They're running out, and for a limited time you can buy them on sale for the low, low price of $15!
And as usual... we'll be hanging out at The Rathskellar at Memorial Union after our meeting at 8pm. Also be there for that because we have a fun time.

Quick! What actor/actress was in both "Thank You For Smoking" and "Batman Begins"?!
If you answered Katie Holmes, then hey! You seem good at trivia, come to our weekly trivia night! (If you answered Aaron Eckhart... nice try, but incorrect) (And if you don't know entertainment stuff, that's cool too because we need help in science, music, and sports too)
Team Trivia on Mondays at 8pm at The Tipsy Cow (map!)
1st place team gets a $30 gift certificate! Think of all the nachos I could eat with that!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

AHA is a massive lightning rod...

...For lightening!

(or)

We get mail.



As is becoming a relished tradition for AHA, we recently sent out a campus-wide mass email to advertise what we are all about. I’m sure many readers already spotted the message, but for those of you who live in a hole (totally cool - I respect wannabe hobbits), here is what the email said:

- - -
Subject: No God? No Problem!

Are you an atheist, agnostic, skeptic, pastafarian, or
otherwise nonreligious student?
Yup? Then come join Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics at
UW-Madison this Spring!
We're the only secular student group on campus!
Come to a meeting to experience:
-Guest Lecturers
-Charity Events
-Volunteering
-Interfaith Discussions
-General Socializing
-Fun Times

Last semester, we discussed Indoctrination, Death, Morality,
The War on Christmas, Atheism in Public, Philosophy of
Science, Atheism & the Law, and Church-State Separation...
check us out to see what else we have in store!

Our meetings will be every Wednesday at 7 PM in 155 Van
Hise, and we hope to see you there!

Want more info on upcoming meetings and events? Join our
email list by simply sending a blank email to:
join-aha@lists.wisc.edu
And be sure to check out our Facebook group:
http://www.facebook.com/groups/2201752582/
And our blog...:
http://wiscatheists.blogspot.com/
And our Youtube channel:
http://www.youtube.com/user/wiscatheists

This message is sent from a UW-Madison RSO once a semester
from a UW generated list.
You will not receive additional messages.
Funded in part by the Associated Students of Madison. ASM

does not necessarily endorse the beliefs or actions of this
organization.
- - -

Pretty innocuous stuff, right? No invitations to baby-eating parties. No recommendations for pentagram-friendly interior designers. We didn’t even mention how glorious it is to sleep in on Sundays, or try to rub in our mad team trivia skills. Perhaps the most offensive item in the entire message is the subject line – and believe me, we took strides to pare that down from a hip-hop-inspired alternative. (We got 99 problems, but - You get the idea).

The email resulted in our group picking up 60 new subscribers, and a noticeable increase in participation at our 2/15/2012 meeting. That’s awesome - Thanks to everybody for getting involved! We're looking forward to many good times in the future.

As expected though, we still got some funny responses in our mailbox. Because really, where would any self-respecting secularist group be these days without a little hate mail and proselytizing from the peanut gallery?

We collected 72 responses over the course of ~24 hours after sending the mass email (not including some prank replies from AHA officers). I am a big fan of visual data presentation, so I thought I’d break down the emails into a friendly chart. Categories of responses are given with their respective numbers of responses.


LEAVE ME ALONE!

Obviously, most people just want off the darn mailing list! Sorry, but we’ve got to reach the student body somehow - and in case you didn't notice that bold part at the bottom of the email... You are not on any lists. So save yourself the stress of running to the panic room and sending "unsubscribe" messages to us the next time you see an AHA email. The only way you get on our list is by subscribing to it (again, as indicated in the original email).

Within the requests for removal, things broke down into three categories:


Responses ranged from mundane (“please unsubscribe me from your list”) to more elaborate replies explaining their reasons for wanting absolutely nothing to do with us. Sometimes their responses included bible verses and proselytizing. Sometimes they included guilt-tripping:

“To Whom It May Concern:

As a Christian receiving this email, I would like to say that it is hurtful to me. I know that I do not have to take part in your activities, but it hurts me to know that everyone on campus is receiving this email and being exposed to the idea of atheism. Christian groups do not send out emails to every student, so I believe that your group should not either. I saw that we will not receive additional messages from this group during this semester, but please consider not sending any out at all throughout the following years.


I hope you can see where I am coming from. For those who are unsure about religion, this email may persuade them against God and prevent the Holy Spirit from working in their hearts. Please take my point of view into consideration in the future when you are sending out emails.”

Duly noted. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who aren’t you and don’t share your beliefs. There are also a lot of people who (as this response points out) are undecided, and might be interested in entertaining all possible options regarding their beliefs or lack thereof. This lets them make an informed decision – and we want their decision to be as informed as possible.

PISSED


We also received a number of the replies from people who were simply pissed off. This is how I visualize their reaction to our email:


I know religion is a hot button issue, but please don’t have an aneurism on our behalf:

… “Fuck you.”
… “dont ever send me a fricken email on athesists again, your going to hell if you dont believe in God and thats that”
… “you are a disrespect to humanity.”
... "never email this to me again. this is infringeing on my rights. get bent. "

I happen to love a well-argued thesis, so the "athesist" moniker is simply inaccurate. But, if I had to choose, I’d rather be an athesist than a bigoted "agrammarist."

This person was particularly peeved:

“I'm not exactly sure how I got on this list, or why their is even an atheist emailing list in the first place. Regardless of whether or not I believe in god, what I don't believe in is organization's who use "forced" religious beliefs to push their own agenda. Anyways, I find your group ineffective and pointless. If I don't enjoy attending the monotonous cycle of the church, why the hell would I want to attend something where we talk about not believing in god. At least being a member of the church doesn't come with the social status an atheist has. For me, I prefer to keep my religious beliefs to myself, or those who are close to me. Why does it matter to you what I do or don't believe in? And maybe your purpose is to "help" and provide a safe place for those who are confused about religion, well that's ridiculous. You are just shaping people the same way any church does. Either way, I ask that you please stop emailing me your junk, I am not interested.

Thank you."

For somebody who isn’t interested, they made a pretty big investment in their reply. Here’s my main problem with the logic in this one: The author first finds it necessary to insult the social status of non-believers, indicating to me that they personally wouldn’t be comfortable holding such beliefs because of how others would view them. This is cowardice, plain and simple – they clearly state that they find church membership preferable to the social status of atheists out of vanity. But then they have the audacity to claim that it is “ridiculous” to provide a safe environment for people who have the guts to defy the social stigma they just identified. In essence, they are condoning the social condemnation of a group because they are uncomfortable with the social condemnation that the group faces. *facepalm*


PROSELYTIZING

We got few straight up bible-thumpers and apologetics fans. Submitted for your (dis)approval:

… “John 3:18 (: SMILE GOD LOVES YOU!”

… “Please consider reading Stanley Jaki or Stephen M. Barr. I am praying for you and hoping that we will all come to see the light of Truth in God's good time.”

… “Ill tell you about Jesus if you would like !:)…”
…Please don’t…

…”Jesus told her…,"I am the reserection and the life. Those who beleive in me , even though they die like everyone else , will live again.”
…Ahh crap, you’re doing it anyway

…“They are given eternal life for beleiving in me and will never perish".

…Perish – Hmm, I like pears…

…“John 11: (25-26)

… Well, at least you cited your sources.


POES


The “Poe” category contains all messages that are prime examples of Poe’s law – They are so wrong, so outlandishly irrational, so batshit crazy that we honestly can’t tell if the person is joking or not. The level of crazy in such messages blurs the lines between what is real and what isn’t. Scary – but hilarious. Some examples of messages in the Poe category:

Poe Response 1:
“FREAKS!!”

Takes one to know one! And yes, that is all the person had to say. This could also qualify as a “PISSED” reply.

Poe Response 2:
“Whaaat? What a sad, pathetic group of losers. Funny how they discuss “indoctrination” but they don’t think that what they’re doing is indoctrination. Stay away from those meetings so you can avoid the lightening bolt when it strikes!”

Pure gold – Seriously, we ought to stuff this in a vault somewhere and let it accrue interest. I’m wearing a tin-foil lightening rod hat to the next meeting in celebration of this email. This reply earns Poe status primarily because I don’t know who the person thought they were speaking to. The reply was sent to AHA, and not to any other recipients… So, who are they warning about “lightening” bolts? Personally I think AHA can be en-lightening, but it’s all in the eye of the beholder, I guess.


Poe Response 3:
“No, I'm not an atheist so stop sending me these emails. I've gotten 0 emails from Christian groups on campus and 2 from atheist groups....thats really messed up. I guess thats what you get from the liberal stronghold that is Madison. #Idon'twanttoliveonthisplanetanymore”

Nice #hashtag, braaah. Actually, I’m kind of concerned for this person’s well-being. Empathy aside though, this person is either misinformed or being dishonest, because we know that at least two religious student groups sent mass emails to the student body this year. Madison is fortunate to have an outlet for the irreligious to feel comfortable and safe – the same cannot be said for many other cities across the nation. If providing a safe environment for differing viewpoints is troublesome for you, I suggest you do find a way off of this planet, because openness and equal representation in society are growing themes in social spheres around the globe. I hear that commercial space companies are looking for test-astronauts – Godspeed.

Poe Response 4: "
Don't ever send me an email again. Words can't describe how disappointed I am that there are groups like these. Especially if you're doing things like a "War on Christmas." I hope you turn your beliefs around quick before it's too late. I better not get anything from this group again."

Okay. First - we're not waging a war on Christmas. Some of our members love celebrating Christmas - it's a cultural thing that many people enjoy because of the time they spend with their families. We discussed the way in which fundamentalists and conservative religious-types tend to label secular opinions about the holiday as a "war on christmas," We also talked about the massive, media-led crusade to commercialize the holiday. But I know it's much easier to imagine us lobbing grenades of blasphemy into Santa's sleigh, and protesting nativity scenes in Christmas camo. (Um, holiday party theme for 2012, anybody?) Looks like we're going to have to keep disappointing you by actually talking about stuff that you'd rather sweep under the rug.

LOVE THY HEATHEN


I want to wrap up with some of the positive responses we got. This kind of stuff is encouraging, and I want to commend those who took the time to reply to us with insightful questions or comments instead of religious talking points, scripture, or hate. We made a media contact, and received appreciative responses from a number of like-minded folks – Thanks!

Here’s a provocative question contained within one of the responses (in meme format):


As a skeptically minded person, I also found the following reply to be insightful - though it indirectly flirts with Pascal’s Wager:

“It is OK to question God, but do not forget to question yourself.”


The final friendly message I’d like to share is pretty moving to read, and ought to bolster our sense of purpose in AHA. We want to promote a society in which the following situations NEVER arise:

“Thanks for sending this. I really wish I could come, but unfortunately I am stuck being a closet atheist due to pressure from family and friends. Perhaps next year. Keep up the good work :)

So to all of those who question the “need” for us to send mass emails – The words above should suffice as an answer. Maybe next year will be the year that it is safe for non-believers to step out and speak up. Realistically though, it probably won’t – and that should motivate the egalitarian in us all. There needn’t be a stigma associated with atheism, humanism, agnosticism, secularism, or any “ism” that doesn’t pander to one of the thousands of religious beliefs in this world. We need skeptical questions to be asked of our cultural beliefs, and the reasons we hold them. We shouldn’t sideline those who are willing to forward such questions. By the way, if you want to meet some of these people who do stand up and question religiosity – we’ve got you covered.
AHA Meetings: Van Hise 155, Wednesdays at 7:00pm. See you there.

- Brian

The Problem of Minor Inconveniences

100,000 people found this worthy of sharing on Facebook, perhaps you've seen it:


Me: God, can I ask You a question?
God: Sure
Me: Promise You won't get mad
God: I promise
Me: Why did You let so much stuff happen to me today?
God: What do u mean?
Me: Well, I woke up late
God: Yes
Me: My car took forever to start
God: Okay
Me: at lunch they made my sandwich wrong & I had to wait
God: Huummm
Me: On the way home, my phone went DEAD, just as I picked up a call
God: All right
Me: And on top of it all off, when I got home ~I just want to soak my feet in my new foot massager & relax. BUT it wouldn't work!!! Nothing went right today! Why did You do that?
God: Let me see, the death angel was at your bed this morning & I had to send one
of My Angels to battle him for your life. I let you sleep through that
Me (humbled): OH
God: I didn't let your car start because there was a drunk driver on your route that would have hit you if you were on the road.
Me: (ashamed)
God: The first person who made your sandwich today was sick & I didn't want you to catch what they have, I knew you couldn't afford to miss work.
Me (embarrassed):Okay
God: Your phone went dead bcuz the person that was calling was going to give false witness about what you said on that call, I didn't even let you talk to them so you would be covered.
Me (softly): I see God
God: Oh and that foot massager, it had a shortage that was going to throw out all of the power in your house tonight. I didn't think you wanted to be in the dark.
Me: I'm Sorry God
God: Don't be sorry, just learn to Trust Me.... in All things , the Good & the bad.
Me: I will trust You.
God: And don't doubt that My plan for your day is Always Better than your plan.
Me: I won't God. And let me just tell you God, Thank You for Everything today.
God: You're welcome child. It was just another day being your God and I Love looking after My Children...
REPOST if you Believe in HIM ♥


The conversation continues...


Me: Hey, God? I've got a few follow-up questions for you.

God: Anytime.

Me: What about really evil stuff? You know, like rape, and genocide, and slavery. Is all that suffering also part of your master plan?

God: My son, haven't you heard? I can not eliminate all the evils man creates on Earth, this would infringe on your precious gift of free will!

Me: So then what about natural evil? Earthquakes in Haiti. Tsunamis in Japan. Hurricanes in New Orleans. No free will involved, what's stopping you from preventing these?

God (Embarrassed): Errr... well... the thing is... that you have to understand... I work in very mysterious ways, alright?

Me: Cancer? Really, we could have done without that. And that parasitic worm you made - the one that can only reproduce in humans, and makes us go blind? That was a total dick move.

God (Becoming agitated): Just trust me, I have a plan! Don't make me send you Hell...

Me: You're a real asshole, God.

God: SILENCE, BLASPHEMER

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

AHA Emails #14: Sex and Religion

Hey Madison Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics,
If you're one of the many new members of the AHA email list, welcome!

I'm Mike Ramuta, the President of Atheists, Humanists, & Agnostics @ UW Madison.

As you may know, we are the only secular student group on campus and are dedicated to: providing a supportive social network for the non-religious student community, raising public awareness about the misconceptions surrounding nonbelievers, enriching the campus by sponsoring educational events/speakers and through collaborations with other student groups, and participating in volunteering/social projects to help make the world a better place for everyone. If that sounds like fun to you, then you should get involved!

Now that introductions are out of the way, lets turn down the lights and turn up the Barry White! Our meeting this week is on...
Meeting #14: Sex and Religion
What: A discussion on premarital sex, pornography, circumcision, and all else related to sex and religion!
When: Tomorrow, Wednesday, 7 P.M.
Where: 155 Van Hise
Why: Because it's the best way to celebrate Valentine's Day?

While you're at our meeting, you should totally pick up one of our Official AHA Shirts! They're running out, and for a limited time you can buy them on sale for the low, low price of $15!
And as usual... we'll be hanging out at The Rathskellar at Memorial Union after our meeting at 8pm. Also be there for that because we have a fun time there.

Want even more AHA? (of course!)
Then come with us to Team Trivia on Mondays at 8pm at The Tipsy Cow (map!)
1st place team gets a $30 gift certificate! Think of all the nachos I could eat with that!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

AHA Emails #13: Buddhism and Atheism

Hey Madison Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics,
Spring semester is finally moving along, and we've got a lot of stuff going on. Check it out!

Meeting #13: Buddhism and Atheism
What: A discussion of what Buddhism is and why we would be interested in it
When: Tomorrow, Wednesday, 7 P.M.
Where: 155 Van Hise
Why: Because it's interesting!

Also on Wednesday...
The Student Org Fair!
We'll be in a booth in the Kohl center talking about our club and trying to get new members.
It's from 5pm to 7pm so stop by and say hello!

Want even more AHA? (of course!)
Then come with us to Team Trivia on Mondays at 8pm at The Tipsy Cow (map!)
1st place team gets a $30 gift certificate! Think of all the nachos I could eat with that!
So help us win and answer sports questions because last night we did not do well with those...