Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens, 1949-2011

The loss of Hitchens is felt in a strangely personal way by freethinkers the world over, including many of us here in Greensboro, North Carolina. For all that he has inspired, for his brilliance and passion, for his fierce eloquence, we raise our glasses to Hitch one last time...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Science Marches On...

Once a month, the UNCG Atheists get together on a Sunday night to discuss recent advances in science and to watch a science-related documentary. As Carl Sagan wrote, science is "by far the most successful claim to knowledge accessible to humans." So the idea of these gatherings is to celebrate this method of understanding, promote its value within our community, and have a good time in the process! 

Last night, for this month's Science Sunday, about fifteen of us nestled in to the warmth of Robert Eldredge's home to snack on delicious voodoo cookies (courtesy of Lindsay Welch), and to watch The Cell: The Hidden Kingdom. The first in a three-part series on the cell from the BBC, this episode "explores how centuries of scientific and religious dogma were overturned by the earliest discoveries of the existence of cells, and how scientists came to realize that there was, literally, more to life than meets the eye."



The series was hosted by Dr. Adam Rutherford, who is a popular science broadcaster and editor at the the journal Nature.  And Rutherford, who has a degree in evolutionary biology and a PhD in the genetics of the eye, is also an open and outspoken atheist! Here’s an excerpt from an article Rutherford wrote for the Guardian entitled "Atheists: Stand up and be counted":


Part of the mission of the UNCG Atheists is to “organize, unite, educate and serve our community based on the ideals of scientific and critical inquiry, democracy, secularism, and human-based ethics."  Dr. Adam Rutherford’s career is thus far an inspiring example of how to advance these goals.

Lindsay and Robert made the delicious castle of cookies in the shape our spirit animals .



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More from Dr. Adam Rutherford:

Science, atheism & ironed trousers (Audio 12min 22sec), 3 Dec 2009: Rutherford on why 93% of scientists are atheists, depending on who you ask

Ever-increasing circles of science 15 Jul 2010: Can science explain everything? The domain of knowledge amenable to science has only ever changed in one direction: at the expense of all others

Science as a way of knowing 27 Nov 2008: A report on children's poor science knowledge may, in fact, be unscientific, but our future depends on evidence-based methods

Time for science 14 May 2008: We have allowed the debate on stem cells to be hijacked by religious groups. Instead, scientific evidence should be at the forefront of the debate

Devoid of intelligence 15 Apr 2008: By resorting to deceit to get their story, the makers of the latest piece of creationist propaganda [‘Expelled’] have done themselves no favours

Blind obedience 26 Mar 2008: Catholic opposition of stem-cell research is sacrificing relief from illness for the sake of an opinion. There is no discussion, just a diktat from on high

The right fight 3 Oct 2007: Atheists should concentrate on the battles worth fighting, such as instances where religion has undue political influence, or turn the other cheek.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Monkeying Around on Science Sunday!


For November’s Science Sunday, the UNCG Atheists screened an episode of The Life of Mammals (BBC).  Hosted by David Attenborough, this ten-part series is a magnificent exploration of the evolution and behavior of that remarkably variegated class of animals… mammals!  This class of vertebrate animals is characterized by “endothermy (internal regulation of body temperature, often known as warm-bloodedness), bearing live young (placental), and feeding their young with milk produced by mammary glands.”


Monkeys are differentiated from other primates in the following ways:

The cinematography of The Social Climbers is truly beautiful and mesmerizing. And David Attenborough’s narration is both poetically informative and highly accessible.   Attenborough is perhaps the world’s foremost film-maker of natural history, and has been at it for more than 25 years.  He is also a non-theist!  In an interview with Radio Times regarding hate mail and death threats from creationists, Attenborough stated that it never even occurred to him to believe in god, that the sermons he heard as a child sounded absurdly unbelievable, and that the cruel indifference of nature is “hard to reconcile with the notion of a divine and benevolent creator.”



The film instigated a spirited group discussion regarding the nature of the emotional lives of non-human animals (with ethical implications as to how one should prioritize non-human animal well-being), and whether there’s somehow more than a naturalistic explanation for ‘love.’

Good times!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Satanists masquerade evil with "festive potluck"



And our evil was a great success indeed! Everyone who showed brought something to the table. We had everything from two turkeys to casseroles of all varieties to home-made cookies and pumpkin squares. Even those who couldn't stay for long contributed a bounty! Awesome! It was a night of heathen antics, full bellies, and competitive Foosball. We wanted to sacrifice our captives to Cthulhu but it turns out that we're not very good at building fires. So instead we all expressed how grateful we are for each other and considered these words of secular grace:

"Let us enjoy good food and good drink,
And let us thank all whose efforts have set them before us; 
Let us enjoy good companionship, 
And let us each one be good company to the others; 
Let us enjoy ourselves, without guilt, 
But let us not forget that many are less fortunate." -George Rogers



We're a skeptical bunch.
Also, Vice President Jessica Gore produced this wonderful portrait of many in our group personified as a community of dinosaurs. As naturalists, we can only assume that after this picture was "taken," the strong devoured the meek's reward before an asteroid obliterated the unlikely collective . Happy endings are so sweet!


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Remembering the sacrifices of those who served

Veterans Day is an opportunity to honor our servicemen and women who have fought for our right to organize apart from religion.  So we feel immense gratitude to be among the honored when we spent Sunday night with Disabled AmericanVeterans, the official organization that provides tireless representation and service to those who sacrificed for our country.  With DAV, ten members of our godless group raised nearly $500 at two Golden Corral locations in Greensboro.


We would like to thank Joey Kirkman of Church Without Walls for presenting the opportunity, Jessie Carty of the Marine Corps and Commander Spencer for accommodating us, and the veterans who’s service won't  be forgotten including the atheists in foxholes in our own group: Phillip Drum, James Muldoon, and Scott Parker.

Pictured left to right: Thomas O'Connell, Bobby Littlejohn, Jessie Carty, Daniel Foster, Zach Webb

James Muldoon, Christi Sevits, James Gemperline, Ashley Mears (not pictured)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Reasonable Gratitude

Do you find that there are good reasons to be grateful for your own existence? Are you thankful that you were born in a time/place where you have opportunity to access food, shelter, education, internet? Do you find it inappropriate (or perhaps insane) to give props to the (nonexistent) Big Man in the Sky for coordinating/allowing eons of suffering in order that you might share in said 'blessings'?

Then come celebrate Thanksgiving this year with the UNCG Atheists, Agnostics & Skeptics! You don't need a god to be grateful, or to share in good food and fellowship.

We will be holding our Secular Humanist Thanksgiving potluck @ Dan & Josh's house. It's a POTLUCK, so everyone who comes should bring his/her own favorite dish to share. If you plan on attending, please e-mail us for directions and also to let us know which dish/drink you plan on bringing.

____________________________________________________


A Humanist Thanksgiving Proclamation

by Robert Green Ingersoll (1833–1899)

When I became convinced that the universe is natural — that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood, the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom.
The walls of my prison crumbled and fell, the dungeon was flooded with light and all the bolts and bars and manacles became dust. I was no longer a servant, a serf or a slave. There was for me no master in all the world — not even infinite space.
I was free:
  • Free to think, to express my thoughts
  • Free to live my own ideal
  • Free to live for myself and those I loved
  • Free to use all my faculties, all my senses
  • Free to spread imagination’s wings
  • Free to investigate, to guess and dream and hope
  • Free to judge and determine for myself
  • Free to reject all ignorant and cruel creeds, all the “inspired” books that savages have produced, and all the barbarous legends of the past
  • Free from popes and priests
  • Free from all the “called” and “set apart”
  • Free from sanctified mistakes and “holy” lies
  • Free from the winged monsters of the night
  • Free from devils, ghosts and gods
For the first time I was free. There were no prohibited places in all the realms of thought — no air, no space, where fancy could not spread her painted wings; no claims for my limbs; no lashes for my back; no fires for my flesh; no following another’s steps; no need to bow, or cringe, or crawl, or utter lying words. I was free. I stood erect and fearlessly, joyously, faced all worlds.
And then my heart was filled with gratitude, with thankfulness, and went out in love:
  • To all the heroes, the thinkers, who gave their lives for the liberty of hand and brain
  • For the freedom of labor and thought
  • To those who fell on the fierce fields of war
  • To those who died in dungeons bound with chains
  • To those who proudly mounted scaffold’s stairs
  • To those by fire consumed
  • To all the wise, the good, the brave of every land, whose thoughts and deeds have given freedom to the sons and daughters of men and women
And then I vowed to grasp the torch that they have held, and hold it high, that light may conquer darkness still.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Return of Science Sunday!


After a two-month hiatus, Science Sunday has returned!  The UNCG Atheists, Agnostics & Skeptics host these meetings in order to encourage scientific literacy in the broader community, and to celebrate how modern science continues to shape our lives. So often, scientific explanations regarding the nature of our existence are popularly perceived as dull or even damaging to the potential beauty and meaning of one's life. But this needn't be the case!  As evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins explains, "The feeling of awed wonder that science can give us is one of the highest experiences of which the human psyche is capable. It is a deep aesthetic passion to rank with the finest that music and poetry can deliver. It is truly one of the things that make life worth living and it does so, if anything, more effectively if it convinces us that the time we have for living is quite finite.

It is certainly true, however, that faith in the make-believe continues to give many people comfort when reality is at times cold, indifferent, or hostile. Yet while advances in our scientific understanding often confront us with many uncomfortable facts about our existence, we are also provided with much more effective tools for navigating through the indifference and hostility of nature.  To consider one simple example: A more scientific understanding of our existence highlights human transience and mortality, but at the same time allows for advances in medicine that make it possible to live longer and healthier. Modern science does tend to undermine faith as an existential crutch, but it also gives us a much more reliable support system for managing life's obstacles and opportunities.

At last night's Science Sunday meeting, we watched the documentary The Secret You (BBC Horizon).  This film serves as a brilliant primer on the contemporary scientific explorations into the nature of consciousness. In the religious culture of the Southern U.S., it is not uncommon to be bombarded with assertions that a creator god loves you, and will allow you to be tortured postmortem if you do not reciprocate said love. Arguments between theists and atheists tend to center around the existence of the supposed author of salvation/damnation: god.  This documentary, however, challenges our understanding of the assumed object of salvation: you!  What do you mean when you say "I"? What is the "you" that is supposedly loved? Is there a "you" that is separate from your body? from your brain? Does it even make sense to speak of an immaterial self, that could somehow persist once neural activity ceases? Are humans truly unique in having a sense of self? In The Secret You, Professor Marcus du Sautoy explores what modern science has to say about these questions... And the implications for some of our more comforting delusions are clear.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Blood Drive!



 On October 3, the UNCG Atheists, Agnostics & Skeptics hosted its second blood drive for the American Red Cross!  James Gemperline, a UNCG alumnus and active member of this group from its beginning, was the primary agent responsible for organizing the event.  This blood drive wouldn’t have been possible without all his hard work, as well as the support provided by our wonderfully godless volunteers. 

In addition to providing us an excuse to have fun hanging out with each other on a gorgeous autumn day, the blood drive also made a real difference in the lives of many people.  According to the American Red Cross, “one donation can help save the lives of up to three people,” and we had around thirty individuals give blood on Monday. Making a difference feels incredible!

Now I realize that our group of rag-tag infidels failed to first pray for the Blood Mobile to be miraculously supplied with blood (preferably type O negative), or for the gods to preemptively heal those in need of blood (so that events such as this aren’t even necessary). But it seems to most of us that metaphysical social constructs are no more reliable than placebos; and that if we want to see a more hospitable and compassionate world, then it’s up to us to make it happen.

You don’t need the approval of the gods to help your neighbor.


Friday, September 30, 2011

Happy Blasphemy Rights Day!

To all the godless, apostates & infidels: It's that time of year again...  

Blasphemy Rights Day!

The purpose of this most-holy of celebrations is to "set a particular day as a day to support free speech, support the right to criticize and satirize religion, and to oppose any resolutions or laws, binding or otherwise, that discourage or inhibit free speech of any kind.  The goal is not to promote hate or violence. While many perceive blasphemy as insulting and offensive, it isn't about getting enjoyment out of ridiculing and insulting others. The day was created as a reaction against those who would seek to take away the right to satirize and criticize a particular set of beliefs given a privileged status over other beliefs. Criticism and dissent towards opposing views is the only way in which any nation with any modicum of freedom can exist."


 

"Blasphemy is an epithet bestowed by superstition upon common sense. Whoever investigates a religion as he would any department of science is called a blasphemer. Whoever contradicts a priest; whoever has the impudence to use his own reason; whoever is brave enough to express his honest thought, is a blasphemer. When the missionary speaks slightingly of the wooden god of a savage, the savage regards him as a blasphemer. To laugh at the pretensions of Mohammed in Constantinople is blasphemy. To say in St Peter's that Mohammed was a prophet of God is blasphemy. There was a time when to acknowledge the divinity of Christ in Jerusalem was blasphemy. To deny his divinity is now blasphemy in New York."
-- Robert Green Ingersoll

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Atheist sworn in as SGA Religious Senator




UNC-Greensboro's Student Government Association now has more atheists than the United State's Senate. We congratulate freethinker and secular humanist Charlie Needham for his sweeping victory in the race for Religious Senator! Student government allocates funds to student groups, though Senator Needham stands firm in his impartiality. "I believe strongly in the separation of church and state," he said during the inauguration.





Monday, August 15, 2011

Cecil Bothwell: Reflections on the Separation of Church & State


On September 15, Cecil Bothwell will be offering us his reflections on the importance of the separation of church and state.  Mr. Bothwell is currently an elected member of the Asheville City Council, and is the author of  The Prince of War: Billy Graham's Crusade for a Wholly Christian Empire.


Clearly, the secularism of the federal constitution is at odds with the NC State Constitution's discriminatory clause against non-theists. Yet this very clause was cited to oppose the election of Cecil Bothwell (an open atheist) to the Asheville City Council in 2009.  The former president of the Asheville NAACP, as one example, challenged the legitimacy Bothwell's election purely on the basis of religious identification: “I'm not saying that Cecil Bothwell is not a good man, but if he's an atheist, he's not eligible to serve in public office, according to the state constitution.”


Bob Orr, executive director of the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law (and former state Supreme Court justice), has noted that North Carolina's Constitutional discrimination against non-theists is ultimately legally unenforceable: "the U.S. Constitution trumps the North Carolina Constitution... I think there’s any number of federal cases that would view this as an imposition of a religious qualification and violate separation of church and state."



So thanks to the secularism enshrined in our US Constitution (which is defended by essential organizations such as the ACLU and Americans United), Mr. Bothwell is not only serving in public office in the city of Asheville, but is now also running for US Congress (NC District 11).  


As an atheist who has been elected to public office, who has experience confronting both law and culture that discriminate against non-theists, his reflections on the importance of the separation of church and state are definitely something you don't want to miss!

The UNCG Atheists, Agnostics & Skeptics are proud to host this event on our campus (UNC-Greensboro, Graham Building, Room 212), September 15 at 7pm.




Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Science Sunday


      Join us one Sunday a month to discuss the week's science news and watch relevant documentaries.

The UNCG Atheists, Agnostics & Skeptics host these meetings in order to encourage scientific literacy in the broader community, and to celebrate how modern science continues to shape our lives.

     Check out our Events Calendar for specific dates/times.



"There is no other species on Earth that does science. It is, so far, entirely a human invention, evolved by natural selection in the cerebral cortex for one simple reason: it works. It is not perfect. It can be misused. It is only a tool. But it is by far the best tool we have, self-correcting, ongoing, applicable to everything. It has two rules. First: there are no sacred truths; all assumptions must be critically examined; arguments from authority are worthless. Second: whatever is inconsistent with the facts must be discarded or revised. We must understand the Cosmos as it is and not confuse how it is with how we wish it to be." 

                                                          Carl Sagan

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Students voice opposition to Greensboro city council prayer

Last year, Greensboro Mayor Bill Knight ended the moment of silence and dictated that council meetings would begin with an invocation. “I think this adds a very distinctly American quality and a very necessary element,” he said. Apparently Mayor Knight does not understand that America was not founded upon Christian principles or that government endorsement of prayer is a violation of the Constitution's establishment clause of the first amendment.

In order to reaffirm the separation of church and state, members of our group Joshua Deaton, Phillip Drum, Daniel Foster and the Greensboro Atheist Organization addressed city council at several meetings last year.

Mayor Knight ignored our call to reinstate the moment of silence. Perhaps elections this November will yield a public official that appreciates the importance of secular government.






Thursday, April 14, 2011

John Shook vs. Richard Howe: Does God Exist?


Dr. Richard Howe, of Southern Evangelical Seminary, and Dr. John Shook, of the Center for Inquiry, debated the existence of god at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro on April 14, 2011. The debate was co-sponsored by Ratio Christi and the UNCG Atheists, Agnostics & Skeptics.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Can there be good without god?

Here's the video of the January 27, 2011 panel discussion on morality between Ratio Christi (represented by Adam Tucker and Bill Pratt) and the UNCG Atheists, Agnostics & Skeptics (represented by Robert Eldredge and Joshua Deaton). The panel took place at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The event was moderated by Austin Cavanaugh, filmed by James Gemperline and edited/uploaded by Charlie Needham (all of whom are active members of the UNCG Atheist community).


Monday, January 10, 2011

Can there be Good without God?



We are excited to announce a panel discussion that will be held at UNCG in the EUC auditorium on Thursday January 27th from 7pm to 9pm. The panel will explore issues of morality and is cohosted with Ratio Christi, a Christian apologetics group on campus. Here is a map of the location of the panel and locations of available parking near by. If you are on facebook you can RSVP for the event here.


The panelists from Ratio Christi will be:


Adam Tucker: Founder of Ratio Christi and graduate from Southern Evangelical Seminary.

Bill Pratt: Christian apologist who blogs at
toughquestionsanswered.org and is working on his apologetics degree at Southern Evangelical Seminary

The Panelists from the UNCG Atheists, Agnostics and Skeptics will be:


Joshua Deaton: Got his first degree in political science from UNCG and is currently working on a second degree in biology. He studied to be in the ministry and his studies lead him to be an atheist.

Robert Eldredge: Current President of the UNCG Atheists, Agnostics and Skeptics. Robert got undergraduate degrees in Philosophy and Political Science from Guilford College and is currently working on a Masters of Public Affairs degree from UNCG.



Though this is called a panel discussion it will be formatted like a debate as follows:


  • Each panelist will have 8 minutes to give an opening statement
  • Each side will have 17 minutes to question and lead discussion with the other side
  • Each side will have 6 minutes to deliver a closing statement
  • There will be a 10 minute break were we collect questions from the audience
  • there will be 30 minutes set aside for audience questions submitted by note card.
  • Any time left over from the opening statements, cross examinations or closing statements will be given to audience questions.
If you have any questions about this event please email uncgatheists@gmail.com.