Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christopher Hitchens 1949-2011

Tonight, we have lost one of the very few people in this world who could rightly be called a legend.

Christopher Hitchens, the reporter, the raconteur, master of the written world, passed away after fighting esophageal cancer for a year and a half. Since the very first time I encountered his writing with his expose on Mother Teresa, he has been one of the strongest presences in my mind whenever I write, whether for blogs or in my own prose; vigorous, unbowing, doggedly seeking the truth no matter how deeply it may have been buried. He never stood back from controversial subjects, instead meeting them head on in order to make sense of them for his readers.

Born in the aftermath of World War II and the subsequent dissolution of the British Empire, he could not have had better timing for which to witness some of the most tumultuous decades in world history. At Oxford, he was deeply involved with the protest movements of the 1960s, and began his writing career in student publications as a result of his activism, in which he excorciated the military-industrial complex and "the unaccountable corporation," issues we still deal with today. He later moved to the United States in order to work for the New Statesman and The Nation amongst other illustrious independent outlets, during which time he traveled across the globe in search of the truth. War zones were no issue for him; the military junta in Greece, the Six Day War in Israel, various U.S. incursions into Central and South America, and the Bosnian conflicts were just a few of the issues that he went directly to the sources to cover.

As far as his political beliefs go, we can only see Hitchens as a consummate leftist, with some errancies: his support of the Iraq War at its start being the most major blip, but his support was not single-minded: he strongly condemned U.S. conduct at Abu Ghraib and at Guantanamo, going so far as to undergo waterboarding himself in order to verify it as a torture technique, despite denials by the Bush administration. He criticized the two party system of American politics, argued against the War on Drugs (against William F. Buckley, no less), and was a strong anti-Zionist, saying at one point "one must not insult or degrade or humiliate people... [I] would be opposed to this maltreatment of the Palestinians if it took place on a remote island with no geopolitical implications." Indeed, one of his favorite pieces of mine was one of his last, a brilliant analysis of Wisconsin's history of progressivism.

Other writers can speak to his famously acerbic writing style, or his prodigious intake of cigarettes and alcohol, but I don't really want to do that. I instead would like to raise my own glass of scotch, the last of the bottle, to one of the last greats of an institution that is dying, that being journalism. Certainly, I do not defend Hitchens on everything, as some other atheists might: he was human, perhaps incredibly so, and as such I disagree with him strongly on several issues. But without his writings, in particular Letters to a Young Contrarian, I would not have discovered the likes of Emile Zola, W.H. Auden, or Evelyn Waugh, all of whom I have since read and fallen in love with. I would not have half the knowledge or interest I currently have in world affairs, for it was he who brought them to life in such vivid detail for me. He, among others, made me wake up to the realities of the world and take notice, and as such I do what I can to address and fight against the injustices of it.

He was not the last of his kind though: others follow in his path, like Jeremy Scahill, Naomi Klein, Allison Kilkenny, Matt Taibbi, writers and journalists who forego the easy mainstream media path in order to discover what isn't being covered and bring voice to the voiceless. All is not lost with his passing; his legacy must live on with us, or not at all.

So here I sit, glass of scotch in hand, mind at the ready. The best way we can remember Christopher Hitchens is by doing our damnedest to make the world a better, more just place. We can do that not by valorizing him, but by analyzing his work and giving credit and criticism where it is due. Such is the way of the world; unfortunately, it shall never be fully positive, at least not in our lifetimes. But we can sure as hell give it a kick on its way.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Send an Atheist to Church

This is the schedule based on who showed up at the last meeting. If you can help at any of the times, please let me know, either by commenting, or writing on the facebook page. Thanks!

Monday Nov 7
11:20-12:55
Andrew
Emily
12:55-2:30
Nathaniel

Tuesday Nov 8
11:20-12:55
Emily
12:55-2:30
Danielle
Emily

Wednesday Nov 9

11:20-12:55
Andrew
Emily
12:55-2:30
Nathaniel

Thursday Nov 10

11:20-12:55
Emily
12:55-2:30
Danielle
Emily

Friday Nov 11

11:20-12:55
Joshua
Scott
12:55-2:30
Scott
Nathaniel

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Meeting Minutes 10/27/2011

Secular Social!
It's still Carl Sagan themed and it's still November 4th
The address will be sent out via Facebook Message so please rsvp! Thanks!

Door Monitors:
900 - 1000: Joshua
1000 - 1100: Arthur
1100 - 1200: Nathaniel
1200 - 100: Emily

Send an Atheist to Church 11/7 - 11/11
We have (so far) three potential places for our fundraiser for JumpStart:
St. Vincent de Paul
DePaul Hillel
St. Ita's

We will also be tabling between 11/7 - 11/11 in the Student Center

Also, Remember that there is an intercollegiate panel on Carl Sagan on November 12th at Northwestern's Downtown Campus

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Shower the Secular Student Alliance with Your Love

So, I've never been a fan of Reddit. Too many encounters with r/atheism's (is that what it's called? I am such an old man) sexist trolls. However, my opinion of it may be changing.

The Secular Student Alliance, our parent organization, made the front page of that particular subreddit today thanks to Kenny Flagg, a tobacco-chewing rogue and a leader of the Freethinkers at the University of North Dakota, and in a short space of time its Facebook page has gone from ~6,000 likes to over 14,000.

Why is this important? Because the Internet is a powerful thing. And the SSA are among the most valiant crusaders for truth, justice, and candy in the world, and they deserve every bit of the acclaim. Even more importantly, they announced today that they have been given a $20,000 matching offer from Ron Verstappen, and every new membership they get goes towards that offer; that's a lot of money on offer for the organization. They could do so much more awesomeness with that kind of cash.

So what can you do, courageous DAFTers? Go like the official SSA Facebook page. If you're a Redditor, upvote the article; there are a lot of Christians and other mean types downvoting it, and we can't let them win. Finally, and most importantly, if you can, please become a member; it's only $10 per year for students. In fact, we will make this announcement: show a DAFT officer proof that you have become an SSA member, you will you get into next Friday's Secular Social for free. And for the first person who does it, I will act as your personal bartender all night long. I am completely serious. I will be at your beck and call, the Jeeves to your Wooster, the Alfred to your Bruce Wayne. Do you really want to pass up that chance?

Go forth and conquer.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Why, American Cancer Society, Why?

Guess what, everybody? The atheists are blowing up the Internet again.

This time, though, it's not our own in-fighting. This has to do with the American Cancer Society.

Now, at my high school, and maybe yours too, every year near the end of the term there was a thing that happened called the Relay for Life, a fundraising event for the American Cancer Society. I was too busy being an unpopular misanthrope to ever participate, but essentially what would happen is teams of students would form and raise money to be entered into the event, and then spend a night on our track/football field hanging out and participating in non-competitive relay events for the cause. I seem to remember it being cold and rainy every year, but those involved kept on keeping on to cure cancer.

A few months ago, Todd Stiefel, the founder of the Stiefel Freethought Foundation, a philanthropic organization that provides finances to various secular causes like Camp Quest, Reason Rally, and the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, offered to make a matching donation $250,000 to the American Cancer Society so that secular groups all across the world could participate in the Relay under the heading of the Foundation Beyond Belief. This meant that half a million dollars would be going to the American Cancer Society.

But, this never came to be. Phone calls went unanswered, e-mails were ignored. Stiefel relayed this to AlterNet:

Reuel Johnson of ACS was completely disinterested in the matching gift. He made no effort to try to gain the money and attempted to ignore that the offer was even made. When I brought it up to him, he referred to it as merely "fine" and then started complaining about how it was a hassle to ACS to have to try to track the challenge. Of course, it should not have to be a hassle; they have an automated system to track team and individual performance. I don't know why he acted like this, but something clearly was amiss.
Stiefel was given a whole host of flimsy excuses, none of which held water, to deny them participating under the Foundation Beyond Belief banner. Now, the ACS was still happy to take the money, just as long as there was no overt atheist presence in Relay for Life.

If you want the rest of the story, go read Greta Christina's post over at AlterNet.

The ACS is never going to come out and say "we didn't want these dirty atheists representing our name." They'll continue to throw out the legalese and procedural nonsense. The only conclusion to be made seems to be that the ACS is well aware of the stigma associated with atheism in America. We are not well-liked here, that is not up for debate. But, the only way to change that is to do things like these massive activism campaigns, showing people told all their lives that nonbelievers are evil and immoral that we're actually kind, conscientious members of society, just as generous with our money and time as religious institutions have been for decades.

In the end, the ACS turned down a huge chance to help swing public opinion in a better direction for us. Let's hope that the next organization that Todd Stiefel and Foundation Beyond Belief choose to support are more open-minded and less skittish when it comes to our movement.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Meeting Minutes 10/10/2011

Meeting Minutes October 10th 2011

Thank you to everyone who came out tonight to participate in our We Are Atheism Project. Our pictures will be uploaded to our tumblr

Emily will be posting about t shirts very soon, stay tuned!

Upcoming Events
SerĂ¡h Blain at University of Chicago from 6-9PM
Tree of Life Screening with Interfaith, October 27th
SecSocSag November 4th
Send an Atheist to Church November 7th - 11th

Dan from NUSHIFT wants to host a Carl Sagan themed panel discussion on November 9th so please contact professors who would be interested in talking about physics or astronomy!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Meeting Minutes 9/27/2011

Hello Everyone!

If you missed our meeting, we discussed the dates for a few events:
Reason Rally will be March 23rd - 25th, depending on interest we may have to individually coordinate rides etc. (website)
Greta Christina on March 2nd (website)
Send an Atheist to Church is tentatively scheduled for November 7 - 11th. More information to come!
SecSoSag is on November 5th

We also brainstormed ideas for other events and awareness raising activities we want to do. Please check out The Atheist Project if this is something we want to pursue!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

DAFT Meeting Dates

The e-mails and meeting days have been calculated! We tried to best accommodate as many people as possible. With that, here are the meeting days/times for the 1st quarter:

Tuesday, September 27th, Munroe 116, 6:30-8
Monday, October 10, Munroe 116, 6:30-8
Wednesday, October 26, Student Center 325, 6:30-8
Monday, November 7, Student Center 316, 6:30-8

Facebook and orgsynch events will be made a few days prior to the meetings as reminders.

I would also like to remind everyone to sign up for OrgSynch.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Meeting Minutes

September 12, 2011

The DePaul Alliance for Freethought (DAFT) had its first meeting yesterday in the Student Center! Andrew gave welcoming remarks and recapped our events last year as well as tentative speakers and events for this quarter, including Jamie Kilstein and Secular Social! Arthur also proposed a Spring Break trip to Washington D.C. for the Reason Rally. We would also like to welcome Traci Schlesinger as our faculty advisor.

After introductions, we assessed when people would be able to meet:

Monday – 37
Tuesday – 25
Wednesday – 25
Thursday – 13

If you were unable to attend please email us at daftdepaul@gmail.com with your availability!

We will keep you posted about our next meeting via Facebook and OrgSync. Speaking of which, please sign up for our group on OrgSync

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Year Begins!

Hello everyone!

Yes, the time has come, and on Wednesday we all have to go back to being responsible adults. For those jaded upperclassmen like me, chin up, and for the new freshmen, you too will one day know our pain.

Don't worry, though, because DAFT, like Gandalf atop a brilliant white stallion, is ready to charge into the dark horde of homework and the Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse department. Here are a few dates coming up next week to kick off the year:

September 11th, 11 AM - 4 PM: The Involvement Fair!

We will be tabling at the Lincoln Park campus along with a couple hundred other student groups, in order to welcome new freshmen and get them involved in the community. We will have lots of shiny secular swag, delicious things to eat, and best of all, the triumphant return of Sell Your Soul for an Oreo!

September 12th, 6-7:30 PM: Our First Meeting!


The very next day, in Student Center 315, we will have our first meeting of the year. We will be giving a small presentation on what DAFT is and what we stand for, as well as previewing our events for the coming term. We will also be setting our meeting dates for the rest of the quarter, based upon our members' schedules. The rest of the period will be dedicated to introductions and general hobnobbing. Feel free to bring snacks!

The most important part of this is the meeting dates: we want to make sure that everyone who wants to be involved can be, so even if you cannot attend, please send an e-mail to daftdepaul@gmail.com with the days of the week that you would be able to attend meetings this quarter. From there, we will set a regular schedule that will be posted on this blog, as well as our social media outlets.

That's all from DAFT HQ. Hope to see all of you very soon!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Academic Freedom and Scientific Research

As a recent chemistry graduate on my way to a Ph.D. program in the fall, I know too well about the pressures on the scientific community to conduct research whose fruits provide direct benefit to society and abandon those that seemingly do not. Among the latter are projects like the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) and the search for the Higgs boson and other subatomic particles using the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. The average layperson unversed in the nuances of scientific inquiry simply raises an eyebrow at the mention of such projects and asks, "What's the point of that?" or "Shouldn't we be building faster computers or finding a cure for cancer?"

Don't get me wrong. Faster computers and cures for cancer and other diseases would certainly improve standards of living dramatically. That is not to say, however, that "useless" projects such as SETI and the LHC would not. Society at large wants to streamline scientific research, directing interest and funding toward what is foreseeably applicable and useful. The curiosity of scientists into the fundamental heart of nature by means of basic research should be discouraged.

They forget that these scientific principles, from which we benefit by their medical and industrial applications, come from basic research. The undeniably important technological advances we have come to depend on and take for granted in modern times come from research that was once branded as "pointless" and a "waste of time."

Take, for example, the laser (which stands for light amplification by the stimulated emission of radiation). When it was first developed by Gordon Gould, no one thought it would ever have any application whatsoever. Today, the laser is everywhere! Computers, CD and DVD players, certain surgical innovations such as bloodless surgery, and barcode scanners just to name a few applications all would not function without it.

Another example is James Clerk Maxwell’s investigation into the properties of light and electromagnetism in general. His four famous differential equations describing light’s behavior elegantly united electricity and magnetism, which were previously thought to be independent entities. Like Gould, Maxwell’s discovery was deemed as inconsequential or otherwise ignored, denounced as yet another useless pet project of a nerdy scientist.

Maxwell’s research has dramatically shaped modern civilization. We use radio waves and microwaves to easily transmit information across vast distances in short intervals of time. This broad application to telecommunication has irreversibly connected the far corners of the globe through radio, television, telephones, and the Internet. Radio waves are also used in radar, which the British used to defeat Nazi U-boats. Contemporary applications include air traffic control, nautical navigation, and meteorological prediction. Scientists in the early 20th century used electromagnetic radiation to probe the atom, leading to the development of quantum mechanics, a revolutionary and fascinating field with astounding applications of its own.

I close with a quote from Carl Sagan:

Maxwell wasn’t thinking of radio, radar, and television when he first scratched out the fundamental equations of electromagnetism; Newton wasn’t dreaming of space flight or communications satellites when he first understood the motion of the Moon; Roentgen wasn’t contemplating medical diagnosis when he investigated[…]“X-rays”[…]Fleming wasn’t planning on saving the lives of millions with antibiotics when he noticed a circle free of bacteria around a growth of mold; Watson and Crick weren’t imagining the cure of genetic diseases when they puzzled over the X-ray diffractometry of DNA (The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark).

These scientists were simply allowed to satisfy their curiosities, pursue basic research, and publish their findings. The numerous wonderful applications followed shortly thereafter.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

T-Shirts

So as a little present to myself for surviving 5 weeks of Teacher Boot Camp (and after enduring the occasional disingenuous comment from ASU staff in my 'No God' t-shirt), I redesigned a DAFT t-shirt using the same 'riff-on-fraternity' theme. I figured I'd repost the design here in case anyone wants to order one for his or her self. I ordered a girly version:


Custom t-shirt printing at CustomInk.com

But a less feminine/unisex version would look like this:


Custom t-shirt printing at CustomInk.com

Of course, no one should feel restricted to order a particular color-- confusing the public always amuses me.

Enjoy!

Monday, July 4, 2011

My Last Post: A Clarification

So, if you didn't notice yesterday, I kinda lost my temper at Richard Dawkins. In my passion, it came out less as a simple critique of his position and more as if I was calling for his head.

I want to clarify that.

I do not mean to make the suggestion that Richard Dawkins is now somehow irrelevant because of his views on feminism. His comments on Pharyngula infuriated me, do not be mistaken, and he has certainly lowered himself in my estimation. But, the fact of the matter is that his scientific work has served to educate millions upon millions of people in the facts of evolution, natural selection, and rational thought in general, including me. That can not, and never will be, discounted by any serious critic.

But, despite his reverential position in our movement, and in fact precisely because of it, he must be criticized when it is due, something that he, as a champion of peer review, must certainly be aware of. And I did so, in my own sweary, pinko way. And my criticism stands; our movement has, in my opinion, begun to stagnate. And yes, I know I'm a radical shouting expert, but the best movements always are such. Thus, I promise, in my term as DAFT's president, I will always push us to move beyond the Four Horsemen, without forgetting them, into new ways of thinking, into new areas of activism and helping our fellow man. That, right there, must always be at the heart of any social movement that seeks to make positive change, as I believe ours seeks to. Are Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and Dennett awesome? Yes, without question. But they are not the end-all-be-all of secular thinking. We need to give the same attention we give them to the Amanda Marcottes, the Sikivu Hutchinsons, the Annie Laurie Gaylors, the Susan Jacobys of our movement.

As for ElevatorGate (or whatever the Internets are calling it now), Hemant Mehta puts it perfectly:

I don’t think most of us are disputing the big issues here.
Elevator Guy put Rebecca in an awkward situation and he should have known better than to do that. He’s not necessarily a rapist or sexist, but he’s definitely ignorant.
The fact that some women and men don’t see this as a *HUGE* deal doesn’t make them stupid or misogynistic or anti-women. But I hope everyone at least recognizes the way situations like this *could* escalate (in worst-case scenarios).
No one saying you can’t flirt with women. But understand that if your flirtation isn’t returned, the thinking on the other side may not just be “I’m not interested.” It might be “I’ve had guys hit on me (or a friend) like this before and it ended badly.”
We ought to be cognizant of that.
 Succinct and simple. The guy was an asshole, and forgot his manners entirely. I don't believe Rebecca Watson was outside her rights to call him on it, and point out that this behavior is unacceptable. Maybe she could have put things better, but, hell, that can be said in every situation. Men, I just want to point out, very quickly, that just because you believe Elevator Guy didn't have foul intentions doesn't excuse his behavior. At all. And the fact that you believe Watson was overreacting? Read some goddamn Audre Lorde and bell hooks already.

Before I end this post, I would really like to thank everyone who posted on Facebook, Tweeted me, or texted me to ask about the post and discuss the issues I raised, especially Scott, a member of DAFT, who raised many important questions and who, I think, should be teaching a class on how to respectfully conduct a debate. I absolutely love, LOVE being called on what I write or say, because frankly, my big mouth combined with my history of brain surgery and prefrontal cortex issues tends to lead to me saying silly things. As long as I am President of DAFT, this will never be a group that has one unchallengeable viewpoint, because our movement is so unique. I would like, of course, for everyone to be as lefty and radical as me, but I know that won't happen. All I can ask is for every member of this group, every reader of this blog to question themselves and their views, and to inform them with scholarship before blithely dismissing the trials of other people, as Professor Dawkins did. If we can all do that, well, I think we can well and truly make some change. More than President Obama could ever dream of.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

In Which It All Comes Tumbling Down

Sometimes, events happen that shake the foundations of things that you hold very near and dear to your heart. I have always known, since I first read The Blind Watchmaker, that Richard Dawkins is a very intelligent man, a brilliant scientist, and an incredibly eloquent speaker. But, as things turn out, he's kind of a privileged dick.

To make a long story short, recently at an atheist conference Rebecca Watson, who writes at the excellent Skepchick blog, was approached by a man in an elevator at four in the morning, who asked her back to his room for coffee. Regardless of the purity (or lack thereof) of his intentions, it was a very poor move on his part. Cue the uproar: many people responded to her post saying that she overreacted, others shot back at them pointing out, rightly so I believe, that Watson was well within her rights to feel uncomfortable in this situation.

In one of these posts, written by PZ Myers at Pharyngula, the Richard Dawkins, he of God Delusion and Four Horsemen fame, posted this:

Dear Muslima
Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and . . . yawn . . . don't tell me yet again, I know you aren't allowed to drive a car, and you can't leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you'll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.
Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep"chick", and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn't lay a finger on her, but even so . . .
And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.
Richard
And later...
No I wasn't making that argument. Here's the argument I was making. The man in the elevator didn't physically touch her, didn't attempt to bar her way out of the elevator, didn't even use foul language at her. He spoke some words to her. Just words. She no doubt replied with words. That was that. Words. Only words, and apparently quite polite words at that.

If she felt his behaviour was creepy, that was her privilege, just as it was the Catholics' privilege to feel offended and hurt when PZ nailed the cracker. PZ didn't physically strike any Catholics. All he did was nail a wafer, and he was absolutely right to do so because the heightened value of the wafer was a fantasy in the minds of the offended Catholics. Similarly, Rebecca's feeling that the man's proposition was 'creepy' was her own interpretation of his behaviour, presumably not his. She was probably offended to about the same extent as I am offended if a man gets into an elevator with me chewing gum. But he does me no physical damage and I simply grin and bear it until either I or he gets out of the elevator. It would be different if he physically attacked me.

Muslim women suffer physically from misogyny, their lives are substantially damaged by religiously inspired misogyny. Not just words, real deeds, painful, physical deeds, physical privations, legally sanctioned demeanings. The equivalent would be if PZ had nailed not a cracker but a Catholic. Then they'd have had good reason to complain.

Richard
So, we are to think, if we follow the Great Oracle, we should totally ignore the plight of women in the Western world because others have it worse off.

About that.... um, no. That is the sort of relativism that infuriates me, and manages to completely miss the point. It completely misses the point that 1 in 7 women in the United States alone have been the victims of attempted or committed rape during their lifetimes, and the ratio becomes 1 in 4 before the age of 18. Add to that the fact that the conservative part of our country, and even some of the liberals, seem all too ready to put the onus of blame onto the victim rather than the attacker, we have a culture here that is built to oppress women, in the workplace as well as on the streets.

This is the reality, not hyperbole. Professor Dawkins is absolutely correct that female genital mutilation is a horrific practice, it does not give us the right to blithely pass off the issues, even if they are not so nightmareish as those he speaks of, that women are faced with every single day. And the fact that he thinks he can is unbelievably arrogant and offensive to me, as it should be to anyone who seeks for equality to exist someday.

This has brought even further into perspective a problem I have recognized with the secular movement recently. For the past six or seven years, ever since this has actually become a social movement, we have been all too happy as nonbelievers to band together and snicker at the religious, watching our YouTube clips of Dawkins, Hitchens et al and referencing all of the atrocious writings in the Bible and, occasionally, the Koran. I will not say that this has not been incredibly important for us; as one of the most ostracized and loathed groups in this country, solidarity and community are essential to our wellbeing, as they are with any minority group. But, this has led us to think that that is enough, and it simply is not. Theological and historical arguments are all well and good, but there must be more if we are ever to make the kind of change we want to see. Hence, we MUST become more aware of issues of social justice, feminism being one of the most important.

I mean, for fuck's sake, it's about damned time we did something different. The more we sit at our conferences, in our basements, snickering at the silliness of Jesus wafers, the more we enable our ostracization. It is only once we make it a priority to make the world a better, more equal place will we truly come into our own. We have the voices; the Jen McCreights and JT Eberhards and Amanda Marcottes are already, I think, pushing in this direction. I do not consider myself anywhere near as eloquent or intelligent as them, but I hope that we can kick the asses of the Dawkinses and start making our own new leaders, because frankly, the old white men are getting boring.

So, that's my statement. I think that Dawkins and Hithcens have, in terms of leading this movement into a new realm, have passed their expiration dates for the moment. (I reserve judgement on Harris and Dennett). Are they still brilliant scholars? Yes, but that is not enough when they are so clearly out of touch with issues like feminism.

So, it is here that I announce my support for McCreight/Marcotte '12: A New Way Forward. Or something like that. I bet they can make up a catchier slogan.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Summer Update

Hey everyone,

I hope you all are having a lovely break so far. I, personally, have done nothing but read and drink. And travel a bit. It's been excellent.

Anyways, as you go about the warmer months, I have a couple of updates for things to come.

1. I have added several more awesome secular and political blogs to our list on the right. You really should check all of them out; I think there are a lot of varied and fascinating views represented now.

2. I am currently putting together my plan for our operations next school year, relating to who I want to bring in next year as guest speakers, event ideas, and my general philosophy as to what I think our aims should be. I am going to write a blog post sometime in the next week or so codifying this, especially regarding our values and activism.

However, this will be a post about my opinions; I want everyone who is involved with DAFT, regardless the level of your involvement, to help shape the direction of the group next year. So, if you know of someone you want to come speak to us, or want to do something new or make an existing idea better, PLEASE talk to me or someone else on the executive board! I am out of town until the 5th, but I would love to exchange ideas via e-mail or the phone until then. My personal e-mail is atripp277@gmail.com; if you want my phone, send me a message and I'll reply with the number.

3. If you haven't already noticed, DePaul has enabled the replacement for Demon Direct, which is now called OrgSync. Please go to the website and register as a member of DAFT on there. Just like last year, our membership numbers on OrgSync will have a big say in what kind of SAF-B funding we can receive. You can do this at https://orgsync.com/cas/depaul-university. We will pester you mercilessly until this happens, so please do it sooner rather than later!

That's all I have for now, but there will be more in the next few weeks. Continue to enjoy your time off, or if you haven't started to do it yet, get with the game.

Andrew

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The DAFT Constitution

Photo Credit Mark Aparece


Hi heathens!

In order to be eligible for OrgSync, DAFT was asked to present a revised draft of the constitution. The following resulted from a meeting of the executive board in mid-May. Please read over it at your leisure. Any suggestions or questions are welcome in the comments to this post. Thanks!



DePaul Alliance for Free Thought
Constitution

I.      Organization
a.      This organization shall be called the DePaul Alliance for Free Thought.
b.     DAFT exists for four primary reasons:
                                               i.     Provide a community for atheists, agnostics, humanists, and skeptics at DePaul University.
                                             ii.     Work to promote a positive view of non-belief on campus
                                            iii.     Educate the DePaul community about secular beliefs
                                            iv.     Advocate for the presence of logic and reason on DePaul’s campus
II.    Membership
a.     Membership will be open to any student, faculty, or staff member at DePaul.
b.     Individuals become members of DAFT by showing up to a meeting and joining the organization via OrgSync.
c.     Membership means that individuals are permitted to vote on organizational issues and staff DAFT events.
d.     A member who is exhibiting inappropriate behavior or who fails to promote a safe space for other members may be removed from the organization by a majority vote of the executive board.
                                               i.     If the executive board moves to evict a member, the President will notify the member via e-mail with a brief explanation of the board’s decision.
                                             ii.     Members who are removed from the organization are not eligible to re-join.
e.     Each year, members will be asked to pay a $5 due to be deposited in the organizational bank account. This due is completely voluntary.
III.  Leadership
a.     The executive board will consist of at least the following four positions: president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer.
                                               i.     These positions are elected positions. Candidates win by a majority vote of the members.
                                             ii.     The president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer serve an annual term, at the end of which they are eligible to run for re-election.
                                            iii.     In the event that one of the above four positions is no longer able to carry out their duties, an emergency election will be held if interested candidates are available.
b.     The president may appoint other executive board positions such as chairs or liaisons as she or he sees fit.
IV.  Meetings
a.     The executive board schedules all meetings at the beginning of the year.
b.     DAFT will plan meetings on alternate nights of the week to accommodate students with schedule conflicts.
c.     At the beginning of each quarter, the president will poll DAFT’s members to determine which nights work best for the membership.
V.   Advisor
a.     DAFT will have a staff advisor who is available to consult with members of the group.
b.     The advisor is welcome at all meetings and events.
c.     The advisor’s primary duty is to serve as a consultant and to assist in completing documentation for events as necessary.
VI. Statement of Non-Discrimination
a.     Membership in DAFT is open to all students, staff, and faculty regardless of gender, age, belief or non-belief, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or major.
VII.                 Finances
a.     DAFT will maintain a bank account.
b.     The treasurer and president are responsible for the maintenance of the bank account.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

DAFT Update

Hey y'all!
  • DAFT will be honored this Wednesday, June 1, 2011 with the "Most Improved Student Organization" award at DePaul's Leadership & Involvement Celebration. Congrats everyone!
  • The last meeting of the year will be this Thursday, June 3. We will hang out, eat pizza, and watch the remainder of Dawkins' BBC documentary "Root of All Evil?" It's a potluck, so please bring snacks!
  • Secular Social 2 was a great success! If you have pictures to share for the blog, please e-mail them to daftdepaul@gmail.com. Thanks for a great night, everyone!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Friday: Secular Social 2!

Hey friends,

If you're interested in purchasing tickets to Secular Social 2 online, please use the link below. The Secular Social will last from 10:00pm to 1:30am this Friday, May 27. Roci B has generously agreed to host us; her house is located just off of the Francisco Brown Line stop.

You can buy tickets for the DAFT Secular Social online through our PayPal link:








Tickets are $5 plus a $0.30 online processing fee. Ticket purchase includes light refreshments. After purchasing, your name will go on our guest list. Cocktail attire required for entry.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Warning: Angry and Insulting

Possibly the most angry post you'll see from me. I would, once again, stress that these are MY views, and should NOT be considered the views of DAFT or anyone else for that matter. I take full responsibility for this post.
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Recently I've been browsing the internet. I'm sure you've all heard of the May 21st rapture theories of Harold Camping. For those of you who don't know- he's some old guy who decided it's a good idea to read the bible as a history book and pulled a few numbers out of his ass and deducted that the world will end May 21, 2011. Now, when I first learned of this, I brushed it off- like any other cult-like apocalypse prediction; you know, “another rich guy who lost his mind” kind of thing. But in the recent weeks I’ve seen billboards, busses, ads, and flyers pertaining to the doomsday stupidity. This is all very expensive advertising, but once again I threw it away.

Though, Today I read an article off of CNNMoney (http://money.cnn.com/2011/05/19/news/economy/may-21-end-of-the-world-finances-harold-camping/?section=money_latest). In the article it mentioned that the market value of Family Radio is 72 million dollars. This enraged me. I’m sure all of can imagine what 72 million dollars looks like. I want you to imagine that pile of money… now set it on fire. That is what Family Radio has done. They have 72 million dollars, money that can be used to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and educated the impoverished.

But, I guess helping people isn’t something they’re into. How silly of me to expect better of a fundamentalist religious group. They don’t care about pushing intellectual limits. They don’t care about making the world a better place to live. All they care about is themselves and their message. These groups don’t spread love, mercy, peace. They spread hatred and fear. Selfish and insane. What pathetic excuse for a human life. To have access to so many resources, access to so much money and use it to spread a message of fear, it's simply insulting.

I cannot stress this more. It is the minority of religions that control global shifts in social and economic power. It’s the minority Christian groups, like the fundamentalists off of Family Radio, that get the media attention due to their extreme views. They have the power, the attention. The extremists from every religion are the ones who get the attention, and they control all the positive and negative outcomes that result from such views. Buildings destroyed, doctors killed, children stoned, gays abused. This is not opinion. This is undeniable fact. The extreme minority gets the attention and consequently has the power and control.

[I would also like to point out that Atheists are subject to the same thing. Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris- they get all the media attention, rather than atheists like Chris Stedman. I’ve never even heard of him before he came to DePaul. I do not agree with him on many things, where I do tend to side with Dawkins and Hitchens, but just evening out the playing field and playing devil’s advocate here. ]

In conclusion, something has to be done. Ignorance like this is harmful and cannot be accepted. Some beliefs are NOT okay to be tolerant of. Some ideologies are hurtful to too many people. I hope eventually that this kind of brain-washing and rubbish can be halted- being replaced with a secular view, education, and global-views of humanism.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

DAFT T-Shirts

Hey y'all! I was a bad girl today and when I should have been doing my homework I drafted a design for a DAFT t-shirt.


T-shirts are $15 each and are printed on an American Apparel Jersey T. I have to order them in the next day or so to get them in time for the end of school, so if you want one I need you to text me or e-mail me your size immediately but no later than 8pm tomorrow to guarantee you get the size you want. DAFT's e-mail is daftdepaul@gmail.com. You can pay on Friday with cash in person at Abby Hafer's lecture.

Thanks folks!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Secular Carnival Duty Sheet

Hi heathens! If you're signed up to work the Secular Carnival, the following is a list of duties and shift times. If you have any conflicts with what is listed below, please e-mail me ASAP at daftdepaul@gmail.com.

DAFT's Secular Carnival Duty Sheet
5/12/11
DePaul Quad
Ask An Atheist Free Speech Face Painting
Tim L (12pm - 2pm) Danielle (11am - 1pm)
Marcos C (3pm - 4:30pm) Erica B (11am - 2:30pm)
Jenn K (3pm - 4:30pm) Moira (3pm - 4:30pm)
Stone A Heathen & Debaptisms Pictures with Mythological Figures
Douggernaut (11am - 4pm) Brandi (11am - 2pm)
Scott D (11am - 3pm) Trevor (11am - 1:30pm)
Emily M (1pm - 3pm) Arthur (1pm - 4:30pm)
Brandi (2pm - 4:30pm)
Creationist Excuse Bingo Grilling
Mark A (11am - 1pm) Steve A (11am - 1pm)
Samantha R (11am - 2pm) Dominic M (11am - 1pm)
Alex W (1pm - 4pm) Andrew (1pm - 3pm)

Just as a heads up, the weather on Thursday is calling for "possible thunderstorms." If that's the case, we will be modifying our hours. Please e-mail me your phone number at daftdepaul@gmail.com if I don't have it already.

Thanks friends. See you Monday!

-Brandi

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Better Late than Never

Hey guys!

Before I start, I would like to point out that the views presented in this post do not directly reflect the views of DAFT- they are my own and should not be generalized as the view of DAFT. Also, please excuse the terrible video quality and miserable production value- it was done on my webcam instead of my camera, didn't have time to upload a massive file.

I made this video the day of the news, so it's rather old, but still relevant. My opinion has slightly changed from the video, though. The one correction I would like to make is celebrating death. I'll make the shortest edit I possibly can:

Why do we celebrate a man's death? What is achieved? If one attains solace through revenge, then the death of Osama should be considered JUST that: a revenge killing... Because not much more is being achieved. Is his death any bit productive to the people he killed? I understand the circumstances, and I understand that there might not have been a way to capture him alive, but to celebrate the death of another human being is not exactly right. It's dehumanizing for both parties- to be so callous as to enjoy death. I may agree that his killing was justifiable, to some extent even ethical, but to celebrate it makes us no better than those who celebrate the suffering of our own nation.



Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Meeting Minutes 4/21

  • As some of you know, Hank Streeter of CDM is stepping down as our faculty advisor for next year. We thank him for his contributions to DAFT and wish him the very best. Dr. Traci Schlesinger of Sociology has agreed to be our faculty advisor for the 2011-2012 school year. Thanks to Erica B for working that out for us.
  • DAFT is looking for faculty to become members of our organization. Members have signed up to distribute literature in the English, Philosophy, Sciences, and Education departments. If you know of a faculty member who might be a good contact for us, please e-mail daftdepaul@gmail.com.
  • DAFT is holding elections for its e-board positions for the 2011-2012 school year. If you would like to nominate someone (including yourself) please fill out the form on Demon Direct at: http://depaul.collegiatelink.net/Community?action=getSurvey&orgID=32808&surveyID=8381 Nominations are due APRIL 30!
  • Dr. Abby Hafer of Curry College will be at DePaul May 20 to present her talk UnIntelligent Design: Why Evolution Explains the Human Body and ‘Intelligent Design’ Does Not. May 20, 2011 in McGowan South Room 108, 7:00pm. You can read more about Dr. Hafer on the SSA website at: http://www.secularstudents.org/abbyhafer
  • The Secular Carnival will be presented on the DePaul Quad May 12. Scheduled activities include Ask an Atheist, Free Speech Facepainting, Stone A Heathen & Debaptisms, Photos with Mythical Figures, and Creationist Bingo. If you are interested in staffing a particular table, please fill out your availability on the Doodle at: http://doodle.com/s2ssrbbpph6xu5g4
  • A big thank-you to Greg Gibbs and the staff at Chicago Bagel Authority for hosting the meeting after-party. We look forward to seeing you all again soon!
Thanks kids! Stay tuned for our next meeting May 9th in LPC Student Center Room 315 from 6pm - 7:30pm.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Take Back The Night

Hi everyone,

I want to point out from the off that I don't feel entirely comfortable writing this post. I am a privileged white male; that is simply a fact. Thus, writing something like this, about something that I will never have to deal with, makes me feel like more than a little bit of a fraud. There are many more people in the DePaul community and probably just in DAFT who know more about this issue or who can put these things better than I can. However, this is an issue that I believe is unbelievably important and one that does not receive anywhere near enough coverage. So, here I go.

What I want to talk to you about in this post is safety. Now, usually when you hear a statement like that it's from some awful Republican senator about to make a case for why we should illegally detain and torture more Middle Eastern people. Instead, I want to talk about upholding basic human rights.

There is an event taking place on April 28th on the DePaul University's Lincoln Park campus called Take Back The Night. It is an awareness-raising march, speak out, and vigil for women who even in this day and age suffer every day from the threat of sexual violence in their communities. Women, far more than men, are killed for the mere fact that they are women, viewed by their assailants as weak and thus as easy targets.

While you may not have heard about it, killings and related incidents occur at epidemic proportions all across the world. And that, quite frankly, is a travesty. This is no longer 19th century London of Jack the Ripper stories. We should have long ago reached the level of enlightenment where women are no longer viewed as inferior to men. The fact is, however, that we have not. It is only through our voices, through our presence, that we can send a message that this kind of behavior can no longer be tolerated. There is power in numbers, in protests, in the right to assembly, regardless of what the political, business and media establishments want you to believe.

There is much, much more to be said on this issue. If you yourself have something to say, make your voice heard by joining us in Lincoln Park on April 28th, beginning at 4:30 PM by the statue of Father Egan at the DePaul Student Center. Also, make sure to check out the Clothesline Project on the Quad beginning at 10 AM that same day. Full details of the event can be found here or go to takebackthenight.org to learn more.

Make the bad guys know that they cannot win using their tactics of terror and intimidation. Stand with us and make it happen.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Why DAFT Deserves Most Improved Student Organization

Hey folks. There are less than twenty-four hours left to nominate DAFT for Most Improved Student Organization as part of Student Life's "Leadership and Involvement Celebration." Composing our nomination has realized what kind of strides DAFT has made this year and it makes me really proud to be president of this organization. I leave my nomination essay below for you all to read.

If you haven't already done so, please nominate us at http://tinyurl.com/dpuawards. It only takes a few minutes. DAFT is a rock star organization and we deserve the recognition. Thanks for being awesome!

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Atheists doing Interfaith service? Agnostics attending church? It happens at DePaul. Humanists like these are the core of the DePaul Alliance for Free Thought, DePaul’s official organization for atheists, agnostics, humanists, and skeptics. In one year, DAFT has become a recognizable presence and a rich contributor to the intellectual life of our university. Through our guest speakers, service, and collaborations we have demonstrated a dedication that makes DAFT the ideal candidate for Most Improved Student Organization.

DAFT continually faces one overwhelming challenge: at the nation’s largest Catholic university, how can we build cooperative relationships as atheists and agnostics? We begin with an integral Vincentian ideal: embracing the inherent dignity of every person. In our activities, we never belittle religion. Instead, we encourage dialogue through events like (F)a(i)theist: How One Atheist Learned to Stop Hating Religion, a presentation by Harvard Interfaith Fellow Chris Stedman. Stedman delivered his talk to a diverse group of religious and secular students about including the non-religious in interfaith dialogue, an objective we strongly support.

DAFT exists for three reasons: to provide community for non-religious students, to advocate skeptical inquiry, and to promote a positive image of atheism/agnosticism on our campus. DAFT has combated the isolation secular students feel at DePaul through regular meetings. Membership is open to all, regardless of religious identification. We have advocated skeptical inquiry by hosting Dan Barker, former minister and president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, to give a free lecture on his journey to over 100 students, faculty, and community members. Our membership includes DePaul’s brightest student leaders, including merit scholarship recipients, Dean’s List awardees, an RA, a Chicago Quarter mentor, a Dialoguing Demon, and a Transition Leader.

We contribute to DePaul through our commitment to collaboration. (F)a(i)theist was a joint effort with Interfaith. We co-sponsored a discussion on the afterlife with V&L House and DePaul A.V. Club. Our Send an Atheist to Church fundraiser, in addition to raising just under $100 for JumpStart, brought us to Hillel’s Shabbos service. We co-sponsored a vigil for the Japan earthquake victims with Feminist Front and sent a representative on the Interfaith retreat. We have also extended a friendly hand through PB&J with the SSA by giving away free sandwiches to students.

As a group, we have evolved from the DePaul Secular Student Alliance, founded in Winter 2009 with no budget and a meeting attendance of less than ten people, to a group with 81 registered members, two additional e-board positions, a bank account, and frequent grants from the SAF-B fund. Our blog receives 300 hits a month and we will be responsible for bringing in three distinguished guest speakers this year. We are consulted regularly by the DePaulia and have had papers written about us by local high schoolers.

We owe a big thanks to DePaul and Student Life for the support they have given us. We look forward to continued growth, proving to the world that it is possible to be an atheist and still love attending DePaul University.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Meeting Minutes 4/11

  • DAFT Members: We encourage you to participate in Take Back the Night, an event organized by fellow student organization Feminist Front. Take Back the Night is an annual day of "raising awareness about sexual violence and violence against women." Take Back the Night happens Thursday, April 28. The schedule of events is listed on their Facebook page.
  • There are a couple of exciting opportunities for atheists to share. The Freedom From Religion foundation is sponsoring their annual scholarship essay contest. The FFrF is presided over by Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker, our speakers from earlier this year. Top prize in each category wins $2,000. The Foundation Beyond Belief is also looking for interns. The exclusively-online internship will last through the summer.
  • Any interested DAFT member is welcome to sign up for the Secular Student Alliance's national conference. Several DAFT members are already attending. More information can be found at http://www.secularstudents.org/2011con.
  • The Secular Carnival will be held on Thursday, May 12. If you're interested in working it, please add your availability to our Doodle: http://doodle.com/s2ssrbbpph6xu5g4.
  • Secular Social 2 (SecSo Dos) is Friday, May 27th. If anyone is interested in performing (stand-up, magic, and music acts would be awesome) then please e-mail daftdepaul@gmail.com.
  • Greg Gibbs, owner of Chicago Bagel Authority and awesome atheist, has invited us for some post-meeting festivities next Thursday, April 21. CBA is BYOB (for those of legal age). Stay tuned for a special promotion for DAFT members.
  • Elections will be held at the end of the year. If you are interested in running, please e-mail Brandi at daftdepaul@gmail.com.
  • DAFT discussed its goals for interfaith involvement at length. We are eager to continue to work with DePaul's faith groups on service-oriented projects. Members decided that DAFT should designate an "Outreach Committee" to help create opportunities to interface with interfaith.
  • DePaul Student Life is now accepting awards for its Leadership and Involvement Celebration. There are several awards that DAFT deserves, especially "Most Improved Student Organization." Please nominate DAFT by filling out the form at www.tinyurl.com/dpuawards.
Photo Credit: You Care What We Think

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Meeting Minutes 3/31

Hi heathens! Decided to do a little template change for spring. The following was discussed at our meeting on March 31:

  • Icebreaker of the Meeting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uX-Aldx-LM0&
  • We have a new facebook group. Please add us!
  • Arthur is always looking for contributors to the DAFT blog. If you're interested in writing a post, please e-mail him at arthur.robotics [at] gmail [dot] com.
  • Save the date! Secular Social 2 will be held on May 27.
  • Arthur is looking for a DAFT member or two to join him at the Interfaith retreat. The cost is an all-inclusive $25 (scholarships available). Arthur will be giving a talk on his love of science. If you're interested in going, please contact him at the above address.
  • Members were polled on the accessibility of Monday/Thursday DAFT meetings. It was decided that meetings will continue to be held on alternating Mondays and Thursdays.
  • DAFT has decided to tentatively postpone its plans for a faculty discussion panel until Fall 2011.
  • The Secular Carnival for JumpStart will be held the first weekend in May. The planning committee is still forming-- if you're interested, please send an e-mail to daftdepaul [at] gmail [dot] com.
  • Registration is open for this summer's national Secular Student Alliance conference. Any member of DAFT is welcome to attend and help represent us. The SSA has instituted a deal where five people can register for $100, so if you want in on that talk to us and we can make it happen. For more information, check out the SSA website.
  • We participated in fellow SSA affiliate UNI Freethought's "This is what an atheist looks like" project. Our pictures are featured in the slideshow, linked at the bottom of the blog post.
Thank you to everyone who came! We'll see you at our next meeting April 11.