Saturday, July 31, 2010

Well adjusted sluttiness

There is an excellent post up at Feministe on sluttiness. I don't have much to add since I just kept going "THIS" while reading the post. Go read it right now. Emphasis mine:
I’m telling you this because sluthood saved me. Sluthood gave me the time and space to nurse a shattered heart. It gave me a place where I could exist in pieces, some of me craving touch, some of me still too tender to even expose to the light. Sluthood healed the part of me that felt my body and my desires were grotesque after two years in a libido-mismatched partnership. Now I felt hot, wanted, powerful. My desire and enthusiasm was an asset, not an unintended weapon. Even now, with more time passed, now, when I am actually ready for and wanting a more emotional connection, sluthood keeps me centered. It keeps me from confusing desire and affection with something deeper. It means I have another choice besides celibacy and settling. It means I won’t enter another committed relationship just to satisfy my basic need for sex and affection. It gives me more choices, it makes room for relationships to evolve organically, to take the shape they will before anyone defines them.
This is post 38 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

New condom released by Trojan

This is sure to be the start of a new sexual revolution:

PRINCETON, NJ—Contraceptive manufacturer Trojan unveiled its new line of “No One’s Pleasure” condoms Wednesday, the first prophylactic specifically designed to intensify sexual dissatisfaction among bitter and resentful couples.

“We’ve always offered consumers a choice when it comes to protection, and we wanted to give emotionally distant partners an option that suits their lack of intimacy,” said Jim Daniels, vice president of marketing at Trojan. “That’s why we’ve developed the only condoms clinically proven to exploit performance anxiety, heighten discomfort levels, and prolong the petty arguments that allow couples to bicker needlessly all night long.”

There's a lot of science behind it too!While it's a great advance it sexual technology, hopefully I'll never have to use them.

This is post 37 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Cafeteria Judaism

This is a guest post by Mark Webster. Again. His credentials this time include being a big Jew.

There has been a lot of talk about Cafeteria Christians of late, but there has not been much talk about my people, the kings and queens of double-think: Jews.

As a background, I grew up in a mildly religious home...which was, for the most part, fueled by my own desire to be more religious. I went to Jewish overnight camp for four years and day camp for six years before. I learned how to not just read my torah portion for my bar mitzvah, but actually learned how to read torah, chant the services, and a multitude of other things that now feel highly irrelevant to life as it stands.

For Jews, it is not merely a desire to follow only the laws that make sense to us, but how to interpret the laws such that we can still live our lives with the least amount of “change.” This post will delineate a few of the more major loopholes that Jews have found over the years.

1. Shaving:

In the bible, it specifically says, “27 Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.” Obviously, in modern day society, not only would this interfere with eating, but make you look RIDICULOUS!!! (Like this!)

Perhaps it was obvious to modern day Jews that this was not the face that people wanted to have associated with their religion...so they made a loophole. “G-d says this is the preferred way, but this is totally a kosher way to cut your hair and not look like a disgusting troll!”

2. Food

There is an old joke that goes something like this:

A young, talented rabbinical student would leave immediately after school every single day. Not even a word, just leave as quickly as possible. The rabbi, after a few weeks of being puzzled by his best pupil's behavior, decided to follow him. The rabbi kept as quiet as possible as he followed the young man to a McDonalds, of all places! He watched in dismay as his student entered the premises and ordered a bacon double cheeseburger! Just as the student was hungrily putting the unkosher meal to his lips, the rabbi yelled,

“For the love of god, stop!”

The pupil looked most confused, “What's the problem, Reb Harris?”

“Are you shitting me?! Look at what you're eating! You couldn't possibly get any more unkosher if you tried!”

The young man thought for a second, smiled and said, “Oh, but it's completely okay! You taught us!”

“What?!” The rabbi was furious, “I have never said anything of the sort!”

The student rebutted, “Ah, but, it was observed by a rabbi!”

~~~

I'm bothered most, I think, by this hypocrisy. I know so many Jews who, when I enter their house, they scrupulously have two sets of...well...everything. Dishes, pots, sinks, and even refrigerators—and then go out to dinner and have a cheeseburger.

What is their excuse? They aren't at home. I think that so many people feel that the home is where sanctity is important, so they don't feel it's as necessary to follow this outside of their house, or perhaps, they relish the chance to eat the unkosher food outside of the home.

3. Sabbath taboos

Now we get into some of the more bizarre loopholes that I have encountered, funny, all of them surround the most holy day of the week...the shabbos (sabbath):

1. Lifting things (eruv)

In the bible, it specifically talks about not being able to carry things around on the sabbath...which would mean everything from carrying keys in your pocket to a tissue would be, well, outlawed! Which is, at least, inconvenient, and, at most, ludicrous!

But we are a crafty people, and have come up with a way around this. If you take a piece of string, and wrap it around your neighborhood, you are free to break this law because...well, I don't have any clue. Honestly, this one has baffled me since day one. Why does a piece of string...or a wall, for that matter (which is what the string is used to represent), prevent god from getting pissed at you?

2. Turning on and off lights (timers)

Many Jew folk I know also have their lights on timers during shabbat because there is also a prohibition for CREATING THINGS...which includes creating...and destroying light. So, as a measure for you being able to function at night without having to spend the night with the lights on, we have decided to employ the use of timers on our lights. This allows us to have the lights turn on and off at reasonable hours BY THEMSELVES so we don't have to, which means we aren't breaking the laws of shabbos because we didn't do it...except...who set the timer in the first place? Why doesn't that count?

My question is...why make the loophole in the first place? Why not just redact the laws that we find so...uh...stupid? You KNOW you aren't going to follow the rules because they're asinine...otherwise you wouldn't have made the loophole to begin with!

This is post 36 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Squeamishness

From formspring.me: Is there anything you would encounter in your studies that you feel you might be squeamish about*?

There's a reason why I'm not becoming a medical doctor. Well, one reason. I am very squeamish. I've always hated dissecting things in biology classes, no matter how much I logically tell myself why its worthwhile. When we had to dissect the fetal pig in AP Biology, I just drew everything while my partner gleefully ripped into our subject. Thankfully the only thing I had to dissect in college was potatoes, so I survived my lab classes.

I'm surprisingly okay with bleeding, but I hate hearing about injuries. Stories about breaking bones or destroying organs in a number of spectacular ways really freak me out. I have few stereotypically "girly" qualities, but one of them is flailing when people get graphic about medical situations. I hate being surprised by random injury photos in blogs.

And for some reason, I'm especially squeamish about wrist related injuries. I've never hurt my wrists, but they just seem like such a fragile part of the body. One cut and you're doomed. A couple years ago my grandma fell and broke her wrist, and her doctor reconstructed it using cadaver bones and a giant metal contraption that stuck out of her wrist. She would gleefully come up to me, take off the clothe covering, and go "Look, I have a machine gun arm! Pew pew!"

Little did she know I already had a wrist-phobia, so seeing metal jutting out of it was not the most pleasant experience.

Do you have anything in your studies or work that make you squeamish? Or just particular things that make you squeamish in general?

*I think I may have interpreted this question too literally. Oh well, it's late.

This is post 35 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Welcome to Blag Hag After Dark

The likelihood of me making inappropriate sexual posts has just increased by an order of magnitude. Hooray! To kick it off:
Yay atheism.

(Via PostSecret)

This is post 34 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

I've lost my mind

Mark: What do you call a melon who can't get married?
Jen: A cantelope
Mark: No, GAY
Me: What do you call a man who sucks another guy's cock?
Mark: Gay?
Me: CANTELOPE
Mark: WTF

This is funny to me. That should illustrate how little sanity I have left. I have started to drink coffee mixed with white russian mix. No, this will probably not solve my problems.

Also, the internet on my computer keeps blipping in and out, so I've had to go downstairs to use my dad's. After suddenly starting sneezing and losing the ability to breath, I remembered the cat sits right next to my dad's computer. Cry.

This is post 33 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Dealing with condescending religious friends

From formspring.me: I have a friend who condescendingly asks me to "explain to him why god isn't real". I am not a confrontational person, and I don't know how to say my part without stepping on his toes. Should I just be straightforward with him...almost harsh or avoid it?

You should do whatever you feel comfortable doing. If you're not a confrontational person, you don't have to confront him. Politely say something along the lines of "I don't feel comfortable discussing a personal issue like religion because I don't want it to come between our friendship. I don't ask you about your beliefs, and I would appreciate it if you don't ask me about mine." If you want, offer to give him resources that will explain what atheist thinks, and say something like "I don't want to debate, but if you want to understand my position these do a great job."

I know why you may feel like you have to "say your part" since we're in a minority and constantly stress how vocal atheists need to be - but you've done your part. Simply admitting you're an atheist does more good than you may think. You don't need to be an expert debater on top of that, especially when it seems someone is just looking for a fight.

Can anyone suggests particularly good summary pieces about atheism? Or maybe other advice you would give?

This is post 32 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

I get more weird emails

Though these formspring.me questions are much more important, so I'll actually answer them:
How do you stop a bear ( grizzly) from eating a baby? Need an answer asap.
Obviously this bear is an atheist. Your only hope is to offer it something it wants even more, like definitive proof that God does not exist. Good luck.
I suspect my coworker is a bear. As someone who studies biology, how can I tell for sure? She is always playfully caressing me and leaving large gashes. She invited me over for fish and a movie. My parents would never approve of a bear daughter-in-law.
My friend Spelios offers his expert bear advice: "Paint your front lawn like an endzone. If they can't enter it, they are likely a Bear."
How do you get a bear to quit calling you after you sleep with it to stop it from eating a baby? I'm afraid simply ignoring her calls could lead to a mauling. Follow up biology type question, can a human and bear have a child together?
My friend Mark offers his expert bear insights: "Apologize and tell the bear that you prefer twinks."

As for having a child together, I'm afraid it's true. How else do you think we get talking bears like Yogi, Fozzi, and Ditka?

This is post 31 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Why so many kids are confused about evolution

Well, this explains everything....Speaking of which, WHO'S TOTALLY EXCITED FOR POKEMON BLACK AND WHITE?! I know I'm a consumer whore, but those games are like crack. Indeed, I do have the compulsion to catch them all. Let me cling onto one last childhood memory!

This is post 30 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

I get weird email

Well, technically they're formspring.me questions. But they're still bizarre:
Do you feel the urge to post a picture of yourself every time you ovulate?

What is your mean and standard deviation of the number of days between ovulation?

Did you start to ovulate on June 17? The picture of yourself online induce lots of signals in my ovulation-detection Bayesian neural net. Please let me know if you do because I'd like to know whether to reward or punish my neural net.
...I think this guy's neural net needs to be punished for not picking up on what questions are socially acceptable.

Oh wait, it's the internet. Social norms, lulz.

This is post 29 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

How should men approach and participate in feminism?

Question from a reader:

"I recently had a rather disastrous experience where I attempted to engage a group of feminists in an amicable discussion, where I tried to present a male perspective on the issues they were raising, in the hopes that they would either point out where I was mistaken, or take the perspective I presented into consideration. I was rather violently accused of attempting to tell women how to be feminists, and that I was a horrible sexist monster.

Maybe my approach was not proper, or maybe they were simply jerks. But even going in I understood that this was a sensitive issue and tried to brooch it carefully. I would really appreciate it if you, a person I've come to look up to, and a feminist, would make a post about how a man should go about participating in the discussion, or if we should even try."

First, a disclaimer: I am but one feminist, and a "new one" at that. Not all feminists may agree with me, but this disclaimer fits perfectly with the advice I'm about to give:

Listen.

This may seem like obvious advice, but a lot of men fail at it. They may think they're listening, but in reality they're not. Hearing sound and not interrupting women is a good first step, but is still a lot different from actively trying to understand what they're saying.

Now, I'm not trying to point the blame finger at men. Plenty of men are good feminists, and plenty more genuinely try to understand. It's just human nature to go into these sorts of situations on the defensive. I know when I'm called out for saying something sexist or racist, my first instinct is to defend myself. But more often than not, when I step back and calmly think about the situation for a while, I realize I was in the wrong.

And that's hard to admit. When we see ourselves doing something that doesn't fit in with our perception of ourselves, we generate cognitive dissonance. "I'm not sexist, so of course I didn't say something sexist!" And that's an uncomfortable feeling. But if men want to participate in feminism, that's something you'll have to get used to in the beginning. You'll be amazed how many little sexist things you unconsciously have picked up from society, and it can be rough getting over that at first.

Now, to listen, you have to have someone to listen to. I sprinkle my blog with feminist issues, but like I said, I'm no expert. My blog is probably "Feminism Lite" for you guys - a good start, but just the appetizer. My advice is to lurk around feminist blogs.

This is exactly what I did when I first started getting into feminism. Most importantly, don't stop reading a blog just because they write one post you disagree with. Or many posts you disagree with. The first time you hear an argument, you may be too defensive to be able to honestly assess it. Sometimes I had to hear an idea many times from multiple angles from multiple people applied to multiple situations before I really understood the logic.

And a key word here is lurk. Assume that while you are still a feminism n00b, you are going to say some pretty n00bly things that you will later be embarrassed by. In a perfect world feminists would swoop down, coddle you, and inform you about all things feminist. In the real world, it gets real fucking annoying after a while. Imagine how you feel when some theist rehashes the same ol' creationist argument that has already been debunked a thousand times. You get pretty annoyed, right? And most people will attack and tease them, rather than reply thoughtfully.

The same thing is true of a lot of feminists. We get tired of hearing the same old bullshit from the patriarchy, so some of us are on short fuses. So read a lot, and comment rarely at first. Increase your comments as you increase your understanding. If you do comment and think you're about to say something stupid, you probably are. And if you still feel compelled to post that, add disclaimers and actually try to be nice about it. Misguided But Nice Dude will be better received than Pompous Jackass.

Here are some blogs dealing with feminism I enjoy, with asterisk indicating ones that also frequently talk about science or atheism. I still don't agree with everything they say, but again, it's a learning experience, and not just about mindlessly agreeing with everyone:

Evil Slutopia
The Fat One in the Middle *
Female Science Professor *
Feministe
Feminisnt (NSFW)
Geek Feminism Blog *
Greta Christina's Blog *
Pandagon *
Violet Blue (NSFW)
Womanist Musings

And since this is all about listening... Ladies, what advice would you give men on how to approach and participate in feminism? Specific tips? Blogs to recommend?

This is post 28 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Nothing's too hard for God

The newest comic from Something Positive seems strangely appropriate for my blogathon:
If you're not reading SP, I command you to start now. And read all the back story. I've been reading that comic since I was 13, and have yet to be disappointed.

This is post 27 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Secularism and LGBT issues Know no Borders

This is a guest post by Mike Brownstein, political science graduate student and blogger at Politics and Pucks.

At the SSA conference last week, Greta Christina said one thing that has been on my mind all week. She said that the secular movement is the first political movement where she has been a part of where she felt that people had her back on LGBT issues. As an ally I take this as a great compliment. One thing that atheists and LGBTQ individuals share it is a sense of pride about their causes and communities. In many cities around the world, LGBTQ communities share this pride with parades and a variety of other events. In some places it is very warmly received. For example, the Stanley Cup made a visit to the Chicago parade. However, in some places LGBTQ events are met with stark religious opposition. One of these places is in Israel.

The pride parade in Jerusalem is one that continues to be starkly opposed. In years' past, the parade has seen its members severely insulted, and murder is not uncommon. Most of this opposition comes from the very religious nature of the city. This year, deputy Mayor Yitzhak Pindrus suggested the city run a "donkey parade" alongside the pride parade as a counter-protest. Pindrus claimed he wanted to show the "bestial nature of the pride march". Luckily, the municipality was not in favor of sponsoring this. Although this idea was shot down, counter-protest occurred. Organized protests had posters that claimed that homosexuality is a voluntary disease, "sick perverts, leave Jerusalem", and even a parade of puppet donkeys. Having been to Israel, this doesn't surprise me. It is one of those major cities (similar to Cincinnati, OH), that has a conservative mind set. It should be expected for the religious symbolism, but at the same time, hate like this is unacceptable.

If there's something to take from this, it is that LGBT as well as church-and-state issues exist globally. Israel, like the United States, has problems with ignorance on issues of LGBT and religion. Although America's problems with religion are different, the similarity with Israel is sometimes sickening. The religious institutions there are very entwined with the government too. Even in another highly democratic country exist the same religious conflicts.

Something else that we should take into consideration, is that the LGBT community is our ally and vice versa. After hearing Greta Christina's speech I'm even more convinced that our groups should be supporting one another. For one, there is considerable overlap between the communities. Not to mention the Purdue Society of Non-Theists are a part of the Queer Student Union. We should be using that to our mutual benefit, because we are fighting the same people about similar issues. As an ally, I'm proud to be a part of the secular movement, and happy that my LGBT peers feel safe that people like us exist!

This is post 26 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Sassy Gay Friend helps Eve



Why has no one introduced me to these videos yet? I'm convinced it's some sort of conspiracy. There's no other explanation why an enormous fag hag like myself hadn't seen them yet.

I picked the one with Eve since I figured you would appreciate it, but they're all hilarious. Check out the Sassy Gay Friend with Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Hamlet, and The Giving Tree.

This is post 25 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Pole dancing classes offered to girls 9 and up

This story has officially broken the Feminist Analyzer in my brain (no, it doesn't come standard - you have to get in installed and make sure to keep it updated). A fitness center in Canada is offering pole dancing class for girls ages 9 and up, and even younger for private lessons.

I'm mentally flip flopping between both sides. My thought process is going something like:
"Aaaugghhh who would let little girls pole dance?!"
"What's the problem? It's good physical exercise!"
"What's the problem?! Pole dancing is associated with a sexual and oft-exploited activity, and minors shouldn't be doing it."
"They don't think of it as sexual - it's just like playing on a playground. You only think it's bad because society has conditioned you to think that way!"
"I mean, why should we be honing the pole dancing skills of little girls? Isn't that just going to encourage them to do something they're good at when they're older?"
"Nothing is wrong with pole dancing if an adult chooses to do so of their own free will."
"But why not spend that money signing them up for a sport? Or some geeky science thing? Increase those skills!"
"Listing other choices is irrelevant."
"But pole dancing is inherently erotic. Even if the children think about it innocently, the reaction from others will negatively effect them."
Maybe I would be able to think about this more if I hadn't been blogging for nearly 12 hours straight. Gah, I give up. What do you think? Feel free to discuss in the comments.

This is post 24 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

New art contest: Celestial soul portraits

My sister-in-law Erin has linked me to what must be the most fabulous thing to ever grace the internet: Celestial Soul Portraits! An artist will do a "magical" portrait of you by taking "normal" photos that represent "the real you," getting "your unique essence," and "transforming" it into a Celestial Soul Portrait (his use of quotes, not mine). ...For a small price of $150. But don't let that bother you, look how fabulous they are!

and
I'm dying. They're so horrible they're awesome. It's like Lisa Frank got high on shrooms and discovered Photoshop. I love it.

Your challenge: Make me your own Celestial Soul Portrait! Do a self portrait, do one of a celebrity, do one of me - I don't care. The most creative/lol-tastic/well-done one will win a doodle from me.

The only rule is that you should link to both the before and after photo for the full effect. Oh, and from what I've seen so far, I think "your unique essence" has to somehow include rainbows. Use caution when "transforming" flamboyant gays - their portraits may result in blindness and/or diabetes.

This is post 23 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Results from my modern art contest

A little while ago I challenged you guys to write the best summary you could of the painting I did at age 2 that would make it worthy of an art museum.Here are my favorites!

Most creative interpretation: Chabneruk
"Genius rarely shows itself in a pure, elementary form. But the early work of Jennifer McCreight demonstrate the instinctive, pure emotion of an artist yet unaffected by trivialities like form or training. Her famous 'watercolor hanging in my bathroom that I did at age 3' - the title underlining the naive importance of the work - has fascinated generations of young atheists-to-be, symbolizing the struggle to overcome ancient systems of belief. The central piece, washy in its definition, is mostly though to represent the respective deity. The red center symbolizes the conflicts every religion brings with itself, gradually weakening towards the green rim - a sign of the positive possibilities religion might bring. This contrast of a strong, violent center towards the soothing outher ring has also been a topic in Dan Brown's new bestseller "Watercolour", where protagonist Robert Langdon deciphers McCreights secret code. The points that move towards the edge of the painting represent the people that left their religion and their way to freedom - leaving the frame of the painting. McCreights work is currently exhibited in the Center of Modern Atheistic Art in New Town."
Most lol-worthy: Annie
A consideration of Jen McCreight’s watercolor, “I named my cervix Rob Bior.” McCreight’s early work denounces toddler conventionality by breaking the color spectrum at the third level. The metamorphic deprecation of “Roy G. Biv” to “Rob Bior” boldly illustrates this artist’s youthful abandonment of the unwritten “Preschool Principle”. McCreight’s obsession with her own cervix haunted her work well into her preteens. Other examples of this fixation include “My cervix is like a camera lens”, a bold multi media exhibit, and “My cervix hates you!!!!”, which is an exemplary example of the modern use of charcoal on dry dog food. The original of this replica is housed in the lavatory of the McCreight family estate.
Best inspiration for a new piece of art: Matt
Here we have a watercolor ripe with political satire from Jennifer McCreight in her typical avant garde Post-Toddlerist style. As one can plainly see, the picture conveys the anger the artist feels from her frustrations with potty training and being denied by her mother the fundamental right to eat dirt. Bold in her defiance of typical artistic norms, she uses amorphous concave shapes as a method to display her imagery breaking with strict adherence to geometric and mathematical principles popularized by M.C. Escher. One may be familiar with Jennifer's more recent artwork such as her recreation of Georges Seurat's, "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Grande Jatte" by means of vajazzling Martha Stewart.
And the winner is... Stephen!
The "painting" "entitled" "the watercolor hanging in my bathroom that I did at age 3" stands in purported postironic metacontext as a subliminal representation of Neo-Foucauldian sexuality contrasted with the hegemony of the religiopatriarchal discourses that typify the extradominant, self-perpetuatory narrative of spiritual immortality. Introspective re(cap)itualtion of the painting's historiography demands that we make a choice: either accept the privilege of a Pre-Raphaelite objectification of the biological as "G/god-deposed" interrelative to the broader Leftist mythological discourse, or reject hypertrivial assertions of hierarchical dominance /en rejoivivant/, which typifies and creates a counterpublic expression of modern /Dasein/, as counterrevealed in analysis by Heidegger. Of course we must not and cannot unprejudicially disregard the Derridian supplementarity called by the work within it's own subtextual, self-referentiality. The drawing (re)presents the "cell" as deemed by imperialist Western "biological" standards and recuses itself of those standards by both reifying itself as its own creation, but by suggesting its status as part of a larger social organism, recreating and allegorizing the struggle of the global proletariat against multicultural capitalism, contra Lacan Overall the work succeeds in drawing together and unifying diverse /narratif(ve)s dehors l'hors-texte/ and challenges our assumptions about the state of our privileged day-to-day lives.
Congratulations, Stephen! You've won a doodle from me. Comment here with your request.

Thanks to everyone who participated!

This is post 22 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Dealing with death

From formspring.me: How do you personally come to terms with "having to close the book before it reaches the climax"?

For anyone who's confused, that's a line I use in a post earlier today for describing death.

And to be honest, I don't have a very satisfying answer. I just kind of... don't think about it.

That doesn't seem like a good method, but it's the best one I have. Obsessing over death can be paralyzing, and I used to fret about it way too much when I was younger. But one of my mantra's in life is "Don't worry about anything that may happen that you have absolutely no control over," and I've learned to apply that to the issue of death as well.

Since I've done that, I've been significantly happier. It just does not help to stress about the inevitable. I will die. You will die. We can take actions to increase the probability of that happening when we're much older, but we can't achieve immortality (at least not yet). Wasting the precious time we do have on our planet worrying about the inevitable seems like a shame to me.

People often give atheists a hard time, saying that our outlook on life is bleak because we think this way. They say even if we enjoy life and aren't all committing mass suicide, the lack of an afterlife is just too dreary for them to ever be an atheist. There may be many good arguments against religion, but that comfort alone is enough for them to believe.

To an extent, I think they're right. Certain ideas about the afterlife are very heartwarming. Like I said before, I'd much prefer reincarnation over ceasing to exist. Even heaven would be nice. That's an area I think atheists really need to work on if we're to deal with our growing numbers, and keep them growing. We need psychologists, philosophers, poets, artists - whoever - to come up with equally comforting but true messages about atheism.

But to be honest, I was much more depressed, worried, and stressed about death when I was an agnostic and deist. Basing my philosophy on unknowns just led to constant pondering - no, obsessing about death. I'm not saying all agnostics and deists are this way, but it just did not work for me. "Nothing happens when you die" was a much more comforting message to me than "You have no idea what happens when you die, so constantly freak out about which outcome is actually right."

Thinking about death still makes me a bit melancholy. I've been lucky to not lose anyone extremely close to me yet, and I do worry about how I'll handle it when it happens. The Flaming Lips have a line that goes, "Do you realize that everyone you know someday will die?" It still gets to me whenever I hear that song because, well, it's not exactly a cheery thought. But then I think of some of the religious people (granted, a minority) who are actually happy when people die. Who rejoice when their love ones pass away because they think they're actually in a better place. Who can't wait for death themselves. I rather know the truth and appreciate the true loss and sadness of a friend dying. To deny that, to me, is more terrifying than death.

This is post 21 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Just in case you haven't rage punched your screen yet today

...here you go. Transcript:
"When I decided to homeschool my six year old son, I told him we were going to do "Dinosaur Week". Which turned into "Dinosaur Month"... at the least! We watched "Walking With Dinosaurs" and a lot of other documentaries. He's a pretty smart kid, too, so even he ended up saying "Ok. Scientists say that God isn't real. They say earth is a kajillion years old. They say that people and dinosaurs weren't alive at the same time and that a lot of dinosaurs could have died from a big flood, but that The Flood didn't happen. WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?!". He gets really upset about people not believing in God - as in he doesn't want them to go to hell and he can't believe people can ignore God all around us. Every time we watch one of those dinosaur things, he gives a big, overly-dramatic sigh whenever they start talking about "millions of years" or evolution.

One that really cracked him up was where they theorize about reptiles evolving into humanoid creatures. Good grief! And they teach most of this stuff as FACT in schools!!!! I can't believe it. Neither can a six year old. So WHY is it so accepted?!!?

I teach him what makes SENSE. NOT what science textbooks say. I also teach my kids to question what they are taught - especially what they learn in school. It's really not fun at all having a bunch of junior scientists in the house when 99% of science seems to be atheistic."
*brain explodes*

Yes, because if something doesn't make sense to a 6 year old, it's obviously wrong. That's also how we've disproved gravity and economic policy and algebra. Ironclad logic.

...I ...I'm not even going to bother refuting everything Random Internet Creationist Parent has to say. It's really not going to accomplish anything other than make me weep for humanity. Seriously, it kills me that little kids are being brainwashed like this. Is he one day going to wise up, and then have to deal with the crushing social stigma of leaving your family's religion? Will he become trapped in this mindless acceptance of unthinking religious dogma and never have the skills to do anything more than flip burgers? Or even more terrifying, will he go on to be your child's biology teacher?

Auuugghhabbbbllllhhh. Should have saved this post for night so I could relabel it as a scary ghost story.

And yes, it was painful for me to type those periods outside of the quotes.

This is post 20 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Welcome to Atheistopia!

Loving County, Texas is the only county in the US that does not have a single religious group:...What? That's because the whole county only has a population of 67? Oh, well then. They have plenty of space if we all move there, then! Just think, a place for all the ostracized atheists in the US. Need to run away from fanatically religious parents? Sick of being the town atheist? Have I got the place for you!...What? It looks like this? Oh, well then... It looks so, uh, quaint. The kind of place you'll learn to love, especially if hordes of atheists take it over. I mean, just imagine how awesome it would be to never have to worry about accidentally offending religious people, or creationism being taught in schools, or religious laws being passed. If we bought enough land we could take over the local government!

...What? Libertarians already tried to do that and failed? Oh, well then... ...poop.

Libertarians, always dashing my dreams.

(Via r/atheism)

This is post 19 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Creationist hijacking lessons in Queensland, Australia

On one hand, it's nice knowing the US isn't alone in its appalling understanding of evolution. On the under hand... WTF, Australia:

Fundamentalist Christians are hijacking Religious Instruction (RI) classes in Queensland despite education experts saying Creationism and attempts to convert children to Christianity have no place in state schools.

Students have been told Noah collected dinosaur eggs to bring on the Ark, and Adam and Eve were not eaten by dinosaurs because they were under a protective spell.

Critics are calling for the RI program to be scrapped after claims emerged Christian lay people are feeding children misinformation.

It's bad enough children are being fed religious garbage that will only muddle their real scientific education. But when parents opt to have their children removed from this program (which they have the right to do), the children are often ostracized and discriminated against. Here's just one unfortunate example:

A parent of a Year 5 student on the Sunshine Coast said his daughter was ostracised to the library after arguing with her scripture teacher about DNA.

"The scripture teacher told the class that all people were descended from Adam and Eve," he said.

"My daughter rightly pointed out, as I had been teaching her about DNA and science, that 'wouldn't they all be inbred'?

"But the teacher replied that DNA wasn't invented then."

After the parent complained, the girl spent the rest of the year's classes in the library.

Removed for being too bright and inquisitive. If that doesn't show the true nature of creationism, I don't know what does.

I do like photo and caption the article uses, though:"The only time man has walked with dinosaurs - in the Jurassic Park films."

Journalism Win.

This is post 18 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

"Easy A" is not destroying the atheist symbol

I like the blog Atheist Revolution, but I think Vjack may have missed the boat this time:
Look at the trailer for the upcoming film, "Easy A" and imagine what this could do to the meaning of a favorite atheist symbol. If this ends up being a hit, people will likely mistake our symbol some sort of odd promotion of the film. Admittedly, almost nobody outside the atheist community seems to recognize this symbol, but now they might assume we are die hard fans of this flick.
Here's the trailer for "Easy A":



Vjack makes it clear that he knows the scarlet A stood for adulterer long before atheists chose to use it as our symbol... so then what's the problem? We co opted it because it was a symbol of religious persecution. If this movie helps publicize that, then good for it! The general public is way more accepting of sexual promiscuity than atheism anyway - it doesn't exactly hurt our cause to be associated with it. Hell, we already are.

From the trailer alone, I'm actually kind of excited about this movie. Taking a dig at judgemental religious people? A strong willed female standing up for sexual women at her own risk? And doing that because it's the right thing to do, not just for personal gain? I'm having a geekgasm over the possibility of feminist teen movie!

This is post 17 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Another universal law

From the consistently wonderful SMBC:
Hilarious, but it's also real research. Read more about how robots evolve to lie here. And if you want some biological examples, I've discussed dishonest signaling in deer and fiddler crabs in a previous post.

This is post 16 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Want more skeptical atheist women? Defend us

People in the skeptical and atheist movements often ask, "Where are all the women?" We're here, but we're still a minority. The next question someone will ask is, "How can we get more women to feel welcome?" Greta Christina hit the nail on the head during her talk at the Secular Student Alliance conference:

Defend us.

I don't mean you have to act like our knight in shining armor, swooping in to save us frail women when someone says something particularly nasty. Implying that we can't defend ourselves is belittling. But joining us in calling shenanigans on sexism helps us feel welcome.

For example, Greta commented on why GLBT people felt so comfortable in the atheist community. Whenever she would read something homophobic in a forum or blog comments, a swarm of straight allies would descend to rip that idiotic argument to shreds.

When you're in the minority, it helps to know that even the majority has your back. For one, it gets tiring being the only one defending a certain topic - and when you're already in the minority, you can devote a considerable amount of time and effort to its defense. For once Greta didn't have to lift a finger, and that felt good. But more importantly, it lets you know that you have allies. It's a lot easier to feel comfortable in a community when you know others got your back.

Life isn't quite as pleasant when you go around assuming all men are misogynistic pricks. And the vast majority of feminists do not believe that, despite our man-hating stereotype. But that stereotype is so persistent because there are women who are on their guard - I'm sure we've all met at least one by now. But when you think of it, it makes sense. When all women see are either misogynistic men or silent men, it's easy to incorrectly lump the silent ones with the misogynists.

The same thing happens with Christians. Christians who are homophobic, misogynistic, and downright nasty are in the minority. But when pro-gay, feminist, friendly Christians are silent, we wrongly assume that the silent ones are the same as the unsavory ones. It means a lot to see a Christian group actively defending gay rights because it makes gay rights seem less like a secretive minority agenda.

And the same holds for women. The more men rip apart sexist arguments without needing prompting, the more comfortable women will feel. I love it when a sexist asshole comments here and is absolutely obliterated by my blog readers - it makes me feel safe in my community.

Now, I don't mean you should blindly defend everything any woman ever says. Women can be wrong too, and yes, even women can say sexist things sometimes. But I do recommend counting to ten before calling out a woman as saying something sexist. I've seen a lot of comments here and elsewhere who think they're calling out sexism, but are actually pretty damn sexist. If you feel like you need to brush up your knowledge on sexism, I'd recommend the Feminism 101 FAQ.

I think PZ is an excellent example of an ally. For example, take the end of his post on the Girls Gone Wild "implicit consent" debacle (emphasis mine):

As you might guess, skeptical women are clear that this was a violation, and they can reasonably feel threatened by such a decision, but even worse — they can feel threatened by fellow skeptics and rationalists who react inappropriately to this case. I was left feeling rather queasy about the discussion on the JREF forums. A good number of people did respond appropriately, deploring the decision, but quite a few others react by either making jokes about breasts (way to make women welcome, guys), or by legalistic analyses that justify it in various ways, which all boil down to the "she was asking for it" defense, with a bit of the "she was too greedy to ask for so much compensation" argument.

Look. It's simple. Violations of personal liberty are wrong. There is no reasonable excuse to justify pulling someone else's clothing off in public, against their will. There is no reasonable excuse for profiting off such actions. Don't even try to defend it, accept it and move on. Don't make jokes about the inherent humor in assaulting women. Don't make it easier for women to be made uncomfortable in the presence of men.

[...]There has been a lot of discussion of "dicks" in the skeptical community lately, where "dicks" are people who are rude and brash. I think we've been using the wrong definition. If you're someone who does any of the above, or who thinks with a pretense of calm rationality that we can justify what happened to that woman, then you are a DICK with capital D-I-C-K.

So, men, if you want more women in the skeptical and atheist movement? Call out the dicks.

This is post 15 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Apparently dancing = rip my clothes off!

I have no idea how this story eluded me for so long, since it's the type of thing I generally get ten million emails about. A woman is suing Girls Gone Wild for using footage of her shirt being pulled off against her will in one of their videos...and lost the case:

But Patrick O'Brien, the jury foreman, told a reporter later that an 11-member majority decided that Doe had in effect consented by being in the bar and dancing for the photographer. In a trial such as this one, agreement by nine of 12 jurors is enough for a verdict.

"Through her actions, she gave implied consent," O'Brien said. "She was really playing to the camera. She knew what she was doing."

Told of that reasoning, the tearful woman said, "I was having fun until my top was pulled off. And now this thing is out there for the world to see forever."

[...] Stephen Evans of St. Louis, her lawyer, argued Thursday that Doe never gave consent — and even could be heard in original footage saying "no" when asked to show her breasts shortly before another woman suddenly pulled Doe's top down. Evans said the company usually gets women to sign consent forms or give verbal consent with cameras rolling.

Yes, "she was totally asking for it" was successfully used as an excuse in a court of law. What. The. Hell. Since when has dancing been consent to rip clothes off a woman? While she's saying "no"?! It doesn't matter how flirty she was being or how sexy she was dressed - that is not consent for what GGW has done.

This is the same bullshit argument people use to defend rape, and now a court has actually accepted it. For the sake of women across the country, I hope they try to overturn this ruling. The last thing we need is people getting off for sexual assault or rape because the woman was showing cleavage at the time of the crime.

This is post 14 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Don't confuse the Secular Student Alliance for internet porn

I know some of you donors may have been perplexed:Secular studs, indeed.

(Hat tip to Martin for pointing this out (and for donating!))

This is post 13 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

What religion would you be?

From formspring.me: If the atheism thing didn't pan out, what religion would you be?

I'm going to assume this is a hypothetical world where any religion I wish to be true actually is. My first instinct was to say Greek mythology, since I've always been a fan of the stories. But upon two seconds of reflection, I realized that would kind of suck. Being a Greek goddess would be fairly awesome, what with all the magical powers and transfiguration into animals and crazy debauchery, but being a human worshipper would suck. Just think about it. Gods constantly interfering in your business, placing bets on what you do for their own amusement, randomly choosing you as a mate against your will, punishing you for being intellectually curious...yeah, maybe not the best belief system.

I do really like the idea of reincarnation. I'm the kind of person who is sometimes paralyzed by over analyzing choices. Even the tiniest stuff we do can have lifelong consequences. For example, if I would have chosen to major in art at IU instead of biology at Purdue, I would be such a different person. I would probably be more religious, less skeptical, and of course have a totally different set of friends. I would have never created this blog, or traveled across the country for biology conferences. But at the same time, what experiences did I miss out on by choosing Purdue?

I see reincarnation as a way that I could experience everything in life. Maybe I chose to be a scientist in this life, but I could be an artist in another. Maybe a musician in the next. I want to keep experiencing humanity as much as possible. To me, that's why death can be so scary - your experiences are done, and you never know what happened after you were gone. What events marked human history? What did we learn about the universe? It's like opening a good book and having it snatched away before you get to the climax.

But I wouldn't want to necessarily live forever, and especially not in paradise. Paradise sounds boring to me - what's life if it's always perfect? If I reach that point where I've seen it all and my curiosity has satisfied me, I'm happy to blip out of existence. Or reach Nirvana or something. Blipping out of existence is my preferred term.

There are a bunch of religions that believe in reincarnation, but unfortunately I don't know enough about most of them to say which I like the best. If I could just tack reincarnation onto secular humanism, that would be good enough for me.

Though I do have to say, Pastafarianism doesn't sound that bad. The Eight I Really Rather You Didn'ts offer fairly sound moral guidance, every Friday is a holiday, most holidays involve extreme amounts of silliness, and there's a stripper factory and beer volcano in heaven. What more could you ask for?

So, if you had to pick one, what religion would you be?

This is post 12 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Blagging protips from ERV

If you read Pharyngula, you're probably up to date on Virginia Heffernan's random diatribe about Pepsigate and various ScienceBloggers (If you don't read Pharyngula...what?). Instead of joining the pile of people who are debunking all of her factually incorrect statements, the always amusingly insightful ERV decided to share some of her "Blagging Protips":
Go outside and ask 100 people who PZ Myers is. Who Dave Munger is. Who Mark Hoofnagle or GrrlScientist is. If you get one damn person whos like 'Oh! I read their blog!', then I will be shocked. We are a very specific niche of people on the internet. Normal, average NYT readers have no damn idea who these people are, and Heffernan did not give them links to figure it out, or links to posts so her readers could make their own decisions about the blog posts she was demeaning.

...Lets be honest. Its painfully obvious that this article is just Heffernan using PepsiBlog as an excuse to bitch about online personalities at ScienceBlogs she personally doesnt like for some reason. She knows absolutely nothing about science or science blogging. So Virginia Heffernan is the journalistic equivalent of a 16 year-old girl bitching about treefrog1985 and TheRock33 on livejournal in 1999.
Hey, as someone who was once a 16 year old bitching on Livejournal, I'm offended! If anything Heffernan's rambling was more similar to my 13 year old word vomitting on Xanga.

Go read the rest of ERV's post for more hilarity and (seriously) useful blogging tips.

This is post 11 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

How to pick up women, according to the Bible

Are you an atheist who's had dating problems? No wonder! Didn't you know all the dating advice you need is in the Bible? Why, here are some obvious suggestions for finding a woman that you probably never thought of because of your blaspheming ways:
2) “Lay hold on” a virgin who is not betrothed to another man, and have sex with her, but afterwards pay her father a sum of money. Then she’s yours. (Deut. 22:28-29)

4) Find a man with seven daughters, and impress him by watering his flock.--Moses (Ex. 2:16-21)

5) Purchase a piece of property, and get a woman as part of the deal.--Boaz (Ruth 4:5-10)

6) Go to a party and hide. When the women come out to dance, grab one and carry her off to be your wife.--Benjaminites (Judges 21:19-25)
You can read the rest of these woman-finding tips here. As for finding a man... sorry, the Bible doesn't give many more tips other than "sit and wait until a man buys/rapes you." Don't we have it easy, ladies?!

This is post 10 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Delegation: An Economical Approach

This is a guest post by Mark Webster. Yes, I'm allowing periodical guest posts so I can do things like shower and eat - no whining. Because he's a math educator, Mark nerds out about why we should delegate tasks - something I suck hard at.

For those of us who did not attend the SSA convention, we heard Lyz Liddel and many others talk about the importance of delegation—specifically talking to those student leaders out there who had difficulty with the task.

Lyz's suggestion, and rightly so, was for leaders to delegate tasks to their members and other officers...even if it meant that they wouldn't do *as good* of a job.

Why?

Of course, the reasoning is fairly simple. One person simply cannot do the job alone.

If the job is only getting done by one person, there are two highly likely situations:
1. The person will get burnt out by the job and the club will dissolve because they were the only person doing anything.
2. The person will graduate and the rest of the club will be lost without them because nobody showed them what to do and will dissolve.

Of course, perhaps I'm being melodramatic, but in a situation where we are still working on getting well-established student organizations all around the country, it's difficult to see groups struggling when they should be thriving.

“This is an appeal to emotion!” you might grumble at this. Which is absolutely right. But, I can see how, as skeptics, we might want to see some proof that this is actually the case. Good on you all.

The Proof

For the proof in our pudding, we must turn to Economics, that one class we slept through in high school. Now, I am by no means an Economist, but I did take an introductory Micro-economics class in high school AND one in college, so I feel perfectly qualified to talk about it.

Imagine the club were run by two people. In some situations, this is actually the case. When starting out a group, we aren't going to be able to have six or seven officers. I know in the case of Purdue, in order to be a legal group on campus, a group must have one office designated “President,” and one designated “Treasurer.” Let's assume this for our “theoretical group.”

Let's also think about what it takes to actually keep a group like this running:

People to come to meetings and populate events and Money to fund said meetings and events.

Now let us assume that the person designated “President” is an experienced and qualified individual. Perhaps he has been on the executive board of a few clubs in high school so he has excellent leadership. Maybe he was a student council member in charge of the fund-raising for his class, so he knows how to milk money out of pretty much everybody. Perfectly capable of running a fledgling student group.

Let's talk about Mr. “Treasurer” now. He is a young able-bodied individual, but he has had absolutely no experience in any of these affairs. He wasn't particularly active in any groups back in high school, and he doesn't know a bake-sale from a raffle, but he met up with President on facebook, and they decided to start a group together.

I'm sure every one of you in the shoes of President would at least take a minute before handing him anything important for the group. He has no experience at all. He doesn't know what he's doing and any of his first couple attempts are going to be slipshod at best. Let's throw some example numbers out there.

Let's say, in one day, President could recruit 10 members compared to Treasurer's 2 and President could raise 300 dollars compared to Treasurer's 30. If you had to pick someone to do each task individually, who would you pick? C'mon, be cold and analytical! I'll even add a chart for you:


President

Treasurer

Fund-raising (in dollars)

300

30

Recruitment (in people)

10

2

Of course, President is anywhere from 5 to 10 times as efficient as Treasurer for ANY of these tasks, so we would pick him for both tasks.

We call this “Absolute advantage.” As in, President has the Absolute Advantage over Treasurer for both of these tasks.

However, now we must think about “Opportunity Cost.” How much does it cost for President to spend time raising that 300 dollars? Some of you are thinking “What does he mean...cost? Isn't he MAKING money?”

Well, yes. President is, indeed, making money, but for every dollar he is earning by fund-raising, he could be using that time to recruit people, and vice-versa. He can recruit 10 people in the same amount of time it would take him to raise 300 dollars. That is to say, for every person that he recruited, he could have made 30 dollars...and for every dollar he raised, he would have ended up with 1/30th of a person instead. Same for the Treasurer.

Time for another chart:


President

Treasurer

Opportunity Cost for fund-raising (in people)

1/30th

1/15th

Opportunity Cost for recruitment (in dollars)

30

15

So while it is true that President had an absolute advantage in both fund-raising and recruitment, his opportunity cost for recruitment is twice that for Treasurer.

It stands to reason, then that recruitment is a job best delegated to Treasurer. Perhaps, he won't do as good a job as President would, but if they each do the job that they have the lower opportunity cost for, they will be more productive together than if Treasurer just sat around and did absolutely nothing while President did all the work.

Now, of course, all of this has been based on the idea the the President will be best at everything, which is certainly (and thankfully) not usually the case, so it behooves you, oh leader of your student group to seek out and foster those members and officers in their strengths (and relative weaknesses). Find the ones who can get the job done...whether or not they can do it as efficiently or as well as you can.

This is post 9 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

It's Greek to me

My mom just sent me this to aid in my Blogathoning, with the note "Believe it or not, that first word is "Bob" in Greek..."
I'm half Greek, though you may not realize that from my name - Jennifer McCreight doesn't exactly have the same ring to it as Crissoula Papadapolopolis. My Papou (Grandpa) was born in Greece, and my Yia Yia (Grandma) grew up there. Since we live about ten minutes from them (think My Big Fat Greek Wedding), I've been raised in Greek culture. Except I've always failed at one thing:

The language.

My family tried to teach me. When I was little Yia Yia taught me little things - how to count, names of body parts, names of food - but I've forgotten almost all of it from disuse. I visited Greece when I was 12, and they bought me what was effectively a "Baby's First Book" in a last ditch attempt to teach me Greek. At that point I could read Greek letters but had no idea what the words I was saying meant. Now I can't even do that much.

Looking back, I wish they had taught me more when I was younger able to absorb it. My grandparents were effectively my daycare service, so they could have easily talked Greek around me while my parents spoke English. And then I would have had some of the pronunciations that are specific to Greek that I simply can't do as an adult. My grandparents and mom still giggle when I fail to say "gala" (which means "milk") correctly. I can't do the guttural "g" it requires.

My dad and I even have purposeful bastardizations of certain phrases we can't pronounce quite right:
"To your health" - stinygiasou - skinny asses
I know the pet names - my grandparents calls me koukla ("little doll") and my mom calls me zuzuni ("little bug" - don't ask). I picked up the inappropriate words too - I probably know more Greek synonyms for poop and fart that I do useful phrases. I can still say some things out of rote memorization: "I love you," "Good night," "You're welcome." My Yia Yia and I even have a little script we go through on the phone:

Yia Yia: Ti kaneis? ("How are you?")
Me: Kala ("Fine.")

But I don't know how to say anything else. I don't know how to admit I've had a bad day, I'm sad, I'm angry... Which is oddly representative of my relationship with my grandparents. I love them so much that they're not allowed to know I'm not fine sometimes. I don't want to upset them, which is why they're probably the only two people on the planet who don't know that I'm an atheist.

Odd how language represents that.

This is post 8 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

Surving a religious college

From formspring.me: Do you have any advice for surviving college at a very high theist density school?

Start a secular group.

I can tell you from personal experience that it makes life on a religious campus significantly more enjoyable. It's worth whatever amount of time and effort you have to put into it. While I had made friends prior to starting our group at Purdue, the vast majority of my current friends were made because of our club. It brings like-minded people together. And if you're feeling overwhelmed by a high theist density school, I assure you other people are too.

But don't just take it from me. Here's a excerpt from a review of the Secular Student Alliance conference by Coltara Cady, a new leader in the student freethought movement:
The conservative area of Northwest Arkansas often leaves me feeling alone amidst a sea of indoctrinated blind faith where I rarely find conversations of any depth and often feel hesitant to let people know what I think out of fear of condemnation. I avoid commentary when told things such as 'bless you', 'god provides', 'you've been blessed', 'why weren't you at church this Christmas', and other such assertions with a politeness that condones the continuance of their assumptions. I can remember an instance when I corrected a woman on my ankh not being a cross when she happily informed me that she was “also a Christian” and liked my “cross” and was met with almost immediate coldness and disregard: her entire personality did an alarming one-eighty. All I said was “oh, it's not a cross – it's an ankh”. I stated nothing more when I easily could have pushed the topic further, such as noting that the symbol was representative of humanism and my love of Ancient Egypt, as well as that it predates the use of the crucifix as a religious symbol by at least five thousand years. It is more likely even older.

...This step into the world of activism and networking with colleagues in critical thinking have filled me with the fire to stand up for myself and evidence-based reasoning. It has given me the fuel to keep my confidence aloft. It has given me the strength to pursue my goals and fight irrationality and injustice. Every penny I spent on this trip was worth it. I feel enriched and stronger as a person, truly emblazoned and full of the drive to make a difference. For some time I've considered the thought of leaving the area to more accepting grounds, but now I know that NWA needs me and there are others like me who need the support and assurance I have gotten this past weekend. I will not abandon them in such a time of change and growing awareness that skeptics of all kinds do indeed exist alongside the religious.

Not only is it worthwhile for personal reasons, but you'll be doing a world of good for your community. Just imagine how many people are too afraid to question their beliefs because of their overwhelming popularity.


Now, I admit starting a secular group can be difficult. It does take a bit of time, so finding at least one other person to help you can be a start. But you don't have to have particularly lofty goals for your group, especially not at the start. Even five people getting together monthly for coffee is a success. You don't have to be bringing Richard Dawkins in your first week and have 500 members.

Of course, you may not want to start a group for personal reasons. Maybe you're not out to your family, and you'd like to keep it that way for a while - totally understandable. Maybe you're at a religious institution that can't officially approve your group. Try finding a local non-student group on RichardDawkins.net or MeetUp. That may satiate your non-theist needs, or maybe even network you with another student who can be the figurehead for your group.

You should also contact the Secular Student Alliance. They'll be able to tell you if someone has started or has thought of starting a group on your campus already. And if not, they'll be able to help you start your own group. They are a resource you should be exploiting!

And if all else fails...at least you have the internet. Read atheists blogs and be a part of the virtual community. It may not be as good as meeting in person, but it really does help keep your sanity in check.

This is post 7 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.