Happy Ostara A Brief Overview of Paganism Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser Secuality and Secularism with Dr Darrel Ray ILSTUSSA is officially a proud CFI on Campus Affiliate!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

"Steubenville: The Protestant Work Ethic, Moral Capital, and Sexual Assault"

A discussion regarding a recent sexual assault incident in Steubenville, Ohio and how the religiosity of the small town affected the treatment of the situation, ILSTUSSA member Donald Hoover provides his take on the relationship between Protestantism and sexual abuse.

(Trigger warning: sexual assault)

"Why Individuals Believe in Physics or the Supernatural"

ILSTUSSA member Donald Hoover expresses his views regarding how people perceive the physical world verses supernatural concepts and why they tend to perceive them in these ways.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Atheists: The Invisible Minority

Post originally by Nick A. Nichols. Additional works by Nick can be found on his official website.
If you have ever seen me walking around campus, then you can learn a lot about me from first sight. It is clear than I am white male. My collection of shirts with Computer Science, Mathematics, Star Wars, and Firefly references also makes it clear that I am a nerd. The way I talk tells you that I am from Central Illinois, but a crucial part of my identity can’t be seen. It is a part of me that seems to be brought up or encountered less frequently in conversation than my Québécois heritage. Atheism is that crucial element of who I am that is nearly invisible.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Two Mondays with ILSTUSSA

ILSTUSSA has been very busy the last couple of weeks! Last Monday's meeting was the "Sex and God" Part I presentation, this Monday was a cohesive open discussion night, and we are currently in the middle of our bake sale for CISAR!

A full room at last Monday's meeting!
One of our busiest events so far this semester happened last Monday, February 11 in our normal meeting place (Schroeder 117) - and we were packed! Over 30 people showed up to see special guests from the ISU G-Spot and former club president Eric Saindon present the first part of a two part series on the relationship between religion, secularism, and sex. To kick start the night, Jim Almeda from ISU's  Health Promotion and Wellness Department and G-Spot SWAT member Ella introduced the "G-Spot" program at ISU. The G-Spot is a booth that can be found at many locations on campus that has a variety of free condoms, lubricants, and informational pamphlets regarding student health. Ella, as a SWAT (Student Wellness Ambassador Team) member, explains that the SWAT members manning the booth are always open-minded and promote being sex-positive (a recurring theme throughout the night). After Jim and Ella share some stories and answer questions regarding the G-Spot, Eric Saindon was introduced for the second portion of the evening. Eric presented some video clips of Dr. Darrel Ray, an important figure in the secular movement who has spoken at many events and conferences, including Skepticon 5, where some ILSTUSSA members got to see his speaking in action. Eric discussed a few of Dr. Ray's philosophies and also introduced his book that has had a significant impact on Eric personally. Coming up on Monday, April 29th, Dr. Darrel Ray will be visiting ILSTUSSA on campus for Part II of our Sex and God series! He will be presenting his talk, "Sex and Secularism." All students, staff, faculty, random homeless people, etc are welcome to attend this FREE event!

One week after that eventful night, ILSTUSSA had a much more casual meeting this Monday, where we simply had an open discussion. Most of the meeting's discussion focused on how open different people are with their beliefs, and many people shared personal anecdotes and experiences with having certain beliefs in a society with a multitude of differing beliefs, attitudes, and philosophies. The night was overall very relaxed and positive, and everyone listened to each other's perspectives respectfully.

Finally, COOKIES AND PUPPIES, YAY! This Monday and Tuesday is ILSTUSSA's bake sale for CISAR (Central Illinois Small Animal Rescue), a local no-kill shelter. We are selling a variety of cake mix cookies, brownies, puppy chow, cookies 'n' cream puppy chow, vegan chocolate-espresso-oatmeal cookies, and classic chocolate chip cookies in the Stevenson lobby from 10AM-2PM. All proceeds go to CISAR, so stop by and grab a snack for a good cause before we sell out tomorrow!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

ISU Pride - Spirituality Event

I was invited to attend Pride's meeting on spirituality. For those of you who don't know, ISU Pride is our school's student group devoted to LGBT students and their allies. Pride used this definition of wellness for the meeting, and handed everyone a "Wellness Wheel."

Pride felt that many of these aspects, such as social and intellectual, are taken care of pretty well by ISU, but that perhaps a person's spirituality can be overlooked. Since several religions, a path many people use to become spiritual, are less than friendly to the LGBT community, we talked about spirituality from a less religious and more personal perspective. How do you connect to your fellow students? What makes you feel refreshed and relaxed? What makes you feel like you've helped someone? These were the sort of things we focused on as a way to express our spirituality.

We started out with this video, which set the tone for the evening: finding things in common, and thus, finding connections with other people.

I then talked about my own spirituality as an atheist. I mentioned how I think it's amazing that, rather than being created to do a certain job, humans train themselves to do what needs to be done. Whether it's building someone a house, learning all one needs to learn to become a doctor, or risking your life as a police officer to keep your town safe, people rise up all the time to help their community. To me, making sacrifices and working hard to help other people because of compassion is much more impressive than if someone had been created specifically to do something.

We opened up discussion, and others shared their own experiences. Some people had found pride in teaching, some had found peace in their church. Some felt spiritual spending time with their loved ones, while some felt spiritual sitting alone under a night sky. While no two definitions were the same, any time someone spoke, you'd hear at least a few other people say they could relate. Just in sharing how we connect with others, we made connections with the people in the room! I think it's safe to say, it was a very positive experience for everyone involved.

I was thrilled to be a part of this really cool event, and look forward to doing more with Pride in the future!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"A Day at the Creation Museum"

ILSTUSSA kicked off February with a fascinating narrative from ISU alum, Christopher Cornell, for the first event of the month this past Monday. 

On their way to their honeymoon, Christopher and his wife, Brittany, realized that the "Answers in Genesis" Creation Museum (see creationmuseum.org) was on the way, so they decided to drop in for a visit. What may have began as lighthearted site-seeing quickly turned into a "nightmare at the museum," as Chris, who earned his BA in Political Science in '09, explained their experience to the group. 

This museum, the size of a huge mall or, let's say, mega-church, is located in the middle of nowhere (aka Petersburg, Kentucky). Chris and Brittany showed up just a few minutes after opening and the parking lot (think Six Flags) was already filling up. 
I picture it sort of like...



When suddenly!


Once inside, Chris and Brittany were through the looking glass and plunged into a sea of white (with a very small representation of any other ethnicity) in a gigantic room depicting a "Young Earth Creationist" understanding of early history: dinosaurs and humans coexisting peacefully. The museum was speckled with signs explaining how the universe is somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000 years old, all of creation was made by the Judeo-Christian God (as vegetarians), and evolution, science, human reason, etc, are all lies from the devil. Of course, Chris didn't leave out the particularly offensive signage posted in the museum, which supported philosophies including:


Brittany noted that this theme was recurring through the entire museum,
and was (rightfully) bothered by how women were consistently described as inferior to men. 


And them-governmental-schools-are-lying-to-your-helpless-kids-ism!

After some researching, Chris found some unfortunate statistics that help explain the popularity of the museum and the ideas it promotes:

(Ask for citation, if you're interested!)

Nearing the end of the adventure, Chris describes the final phase of the museum: a world without Christianity, where human reason, critical thinking, modern science, gay marriage, graffiti (see photo below), gender equality, and freedom of religion take over! Sounds awful, clearly. An exhibit in this portion of the museum demonstrates the evils of a world without God, where a group of people appear to be smoking a ton of weed and watching porn. Chris's friend, he laughs, asked if the museum was simply displaying a typical Thursday night. 

Chris and Brittany, mentally exhausted, snuck out of the very last portion of the museum, which Brittany explained was essentially a thirteen minute version of "Passion of the Christ." The couple, luckily, made it out alive.

The meeting concluded with a few minutes of questions, comments, and conversation regarding Chris's insightful (albeit slightly depressing) presentation. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Winterfest 2013 and Pizza Party

This past Monday, January 28th was an eventful and exciting day for the Illinois State Secular Student Alliance! To begin, we managed a booth for Winterfest 2013, ISU's spring RSO recruitment fair, from 3-6 in the Brown Ballroom of the Bone Student Center to help establish our group's presence on campus. 

Our booth was totally decked out with all of the following:

  • -stacks of informational secular brouchures
  • -a bulletin board covered in secularists, pizza, and random goodness
  • -stickers, buttons, and pens branded with non-religious organizations and sayings
  • -a tri-fold poster showing off our SSA and EVEN MORE SECULAR PEOPLE!
  • -an official Secular Student Alliance banner
  • -candy!
  • -a bunch of secular people to man the secular booth and talk about secular things
Did I say decked out? I meant absolutely spewing secularism. (See photos below) 

Secular tri-fold and stash of candy!

Blurry secular stickers and brochures!

Co-Vice Presidents showing off our secular banner and bulletin board!

This wonderfully non-religious setup produced both positive and negative reactions from passerby. On the positive end, we had about ten new students and faculty members excited to see us and interested in joining our group who signed up to receive email notifications. Several people commented that they knew of others who would be similarly attracted to our SSA, promising to help promote ILSTUSSA to more people on campus. Ten or so others stopped at our booth to chat, some voicing interest without signing up for emails, but taking our brochures of FAQs and upcoming events nonetheless.

However, some people were much less enthusiastic. This unfortunately is typical when the commonly misunderstood  "A word" gets tossed about in a community where the religious presence seems to drown out secular values. One group of people seemed particularly offended by our booth. A person from the group, shocked, exclaimed "Oh, this is definitely not for me," and pointedly added a "bless you" before moving on to the next tables. Many other Winterfest participants casually walking by would instantly show a face of concern, disgust, or confusion once they notice our secular setup. At a nearby table, an adult (possibly faculty member?) working another booth would inspect our setup, wearing a disapproving facial expression. 

While this treatment is unavoidable in our current society, Winterfest 2013 was an overall fantastic event. As an RSO just getting started, each person who saw our booth will help in spreading awareness of the secular movement that is happening across the world, throughout our nation, and especially on Illinois State University's campus!

After tearing down from Winterfest, members took a quick break before reconvening at our weekly meeting room, Schroeder 117 on ISU's quad at 8pm. Here we had a casual meeting consisting of about 15 people (most of which were regular attenders). We relaxed with pizza, soda, conversation, and a few artistic depictions of domestic cats on the whiteboard. (See photos below.) Wrapping up the night, we concluded the meeting with a simple get-to-know-everyone game (more photos below!). We split up into two teams, whose job it is to learn only the basic information about fellow team members. People would individually draw a question out of a box and his/her team would have to guess that person's answer to the question. To spice things up a bit, awkward questions were thrown in, including, "What do you think when you stare into the eyes of the team member next to you," and, "I have the most fun by myself when I..." 

Which came first, SSA cat with poops or Darwin fish with bubbles?

More cats (meowing about secularism)! 

Most of Team One

Most of Team Two

Jack, (yellow), staring deeply into the eyes of Eric (grey)

Just hanging out, having a good time!

The get-together ended around 9:30, concluding a very busy, very secular, and very successful Monday for ISU's Secular Student Alliance. 

Look out Monday and Tuesday for our bake sale to raise funds for CISAR (Central Illinois Small Animal Rescue, a local no-kill shelter), as well as our regular weekly meeting Monday night!

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