Monday, October 28, 2013

Light the Night Walk

By Ryan Campbell

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is a global organization that works to promote awareness about various blood cancers such as the two aforementioned and others such as Hodgkin's Disease and Myeloma. They hold events globally that are called Light the Night Walks. These provide the opportunity for members of the community to come together, raise money, and walk with others who care as much as you do about the prevention, and hopeful eventual cure for these diseases that are far too prevalent. The age groups varied from toddlers being pushed in strollers, to elderly people strolling along, but they all had one thing in common: they all wanted to see blood cancers eradicated.

The organization for the UNCG Atheist, Agnostic, and Skeptic Light the Night Team was done by one of our vice-presidents, Grace Shaughnessy, who was our the team captain. Overall, we helped raise $366.15, all of which went to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Then came the walk.  On October 19, Julia Alexander, Jennifer Ethridge, Grace Shaughnessy, and myself went to the Greensboro Country Park where we got to walk around the lake there and see the beauty of all the different colored lighted balloons shining a light on blood cancer. As our president, Julia Alexander, said: "Light the Night was such a humbling, moving experience. As we started out on the trail, it first went uphill and around the curve, following the lake. As we reached the top and looked back, the sheer amount of lit balloons was breathtaking. It was a beautiful, moving, inspirational yet devastatingly sad scene all at once." The beauty that Julia here is mentioning cannot be fully depicted in this photograph but it will have to do.
All of the points of lights that can be seen here are balloons that people carried if they raised enough money, out of all of us, Jennifer was the only one who raised the allotted amount but to the rest of us it was not about that, overall it was about being a part of something that is just so moving and heartbreaking at the same time and being able to be part of such a force for good that will change the face of cancer in the future. It was a great experience and I for one, as I am sure others are as well, looking forward to this event next year.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Speaker Dan Linford Discusses: Are Science and Religion Compatible?

 by Christi Sevits

Last Thursday, September 17th, our group hosted speaker Dan Linford. Linford is a physics graduate and is currently pursuing a graduate certificate in philosophy, studying the history of atheism as well as how science and religion interact with each other . His topic was "Science and Religion: Are They Compatible?" His talk consisted of a PowerPoint presentation and a Q&A session in which members of the audience, no matter their opinions on his conclusions on the topic, could get their unanswered questions addressed.

Unfortunately, I cannot provide any personal thoughts, as I was not in attendance. The overall turnout was good, with many of our members in the audience. Some even had dinner with Linford beforehand and mingled with him afterward to make him feel welcome and to take advantage of the opportunity to talk with him on a personal level.

Linford also came to our meeting the next evening to provide some afterthought to his speech and participate in our group's discussions. It was great to have a speaker here that is also a student, like most of us. It makes it easier for the audience members to relate to a speaker when the speaker shares a common background with them.

For more information on Dan Linford, you can go to his website to find out more! 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Hungry to Help: Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser Attracts Many

by Christi Sevits

On the 19th, our group held a spaghetti dinner at College Park Baptist Church to raise money for both our group and one of our favorite regular organizations to volunteer for, the Out of the Garden Project. The dinner was a huge success. We raised $215, around $80 of which went to us, $115 to Out of the Garden, and $20 to the church sexton for allowing us to use the church's kitchen.

Out of the Garden works hard every day to deliver food to children who are on free or reduced lunches so that they can eat on the weekends, when food security is less guaranteed for them. We wanted to give back to Out of the Garden as thanks for all of the work they do. Many of our group members volunteer for them at their warehouse on a bi-weekly basis for two hours at a time to support the cause.

Preparation began at 1 P.M. We gathered and sorted all the ingredients, chopped vegetables, prepared salads, ensured we had change at the ready, and made signs directing people to the dinner - all before we started cooking! Every volunteer played an important role in making the dinner happen. There wasn't a person there who lacked enthusiasm. I contributed by chopping onions and tomatoes, and while the former was a teary process, I always enjoy an opportunity to help out low-income families like my own. I'd gladly do it again tomorrow.

Thank you to the many volunteers who helped make the success of this dinner possible. We not only have some extra money to use toward future group projects, but confidence that we were able to help Out of the Garden continue working toward its charitable goals. Way to go, everyone!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Success at the Carolinas Secular Student Summit

by Christi Sevits

This past weekend, four of our five officers and a new member attended the 3rd Carolinas Secular Student Summit, a conference where secular students from across the Carolinas come out to meet each other, exchange ideas, and learn new ways to strengthen and increase the activity of their campus' group.

In all, there were fifty registered attendees, some of which ended up not making it. Schools that were represented (other than UNCG, of course) were UNC Chapel Hill, UNC Pembroke, College of Charleston, Apex High School, and the conference's host school, NC State.

There were many excellent speakers in attendance that really galvanized us. Dr. Darrel Ray, author of Sex and God as well as The God Virus, led a workshop on leadership as well as a special session that was easily the most popular segment of the conference, called Sex and Secularism. Local freethinker Todd Stiefel also led a presentation on leadership. Secular Student Alliance's Regional Coordinator for the Southeast region Gordon Maples provided tips on how Secular Student Alliance (SSA) can help your group with basically anything - event planning, requesting funds, booking speakers, and how to get a group started. Harry Shaughnessy of the Triangle Freethought Society, which is located in Raleigh,  provided useful tips on how to successfully fundraise. SSA Volunteer Network Coordinator for the Southeast Kelley Freeman offered advice on good social media practices.

Students were also included in the speaker line-up. President of the NC State SSA chapter Nick Freeman, Vice President Jackie Fitzgerald, and Max Nielsen, the principal plaintiff of the Nielsen v. Lex/Rich School District 5 lawsuit that is challenging the constitutionality of graduation prayer, offered their own insights into what makes a successful secular student group.

The responses from the attendees in our group were overwhelmingly positive. "I would say that the conference was a fantastic way to spend my weekend. Not only did I get to reconnect with people I have met before, I also got to meet new and amazing people. It was wonderful to hear and discuss about all sorts of topics regarding to secularism and how to grow as an individual and as a group, and as a community. It was a great weekend and I cannot wait for the next one," group secretary Ryan Campbell recalls. 

President Julia Alexander agrees, exclaiming, "It was just a fantastic, wonderful experience meeting and connecting with so many new people, both in collegiate groups and off-campus groups. I came away not only overflowing with ideas, but an inspiration, motivation, and can-do attitude to get them done, where before I felt a little overwhelmed with getting things done. I will probably want to continue coming to these even after I graduate."

The huge success of the summit this year left us anticipating an even greater time at the next one.  Those of us who went will never forget the experience and look forward to encouraging more members to go next year -  it'll be more than worth it!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Greetings, Heathens!

Welcome back returning members and welcome aboard to all the newbies! Hopefully everyone had a good summer. It's time for another exciting academic year for the UNCG Atheists, Agnostics, and Skeptics! We began the year with the annual Fall Kickoff event this Tuesday, where UNCG's many student organizations set up tables with information about their groups. The event was a huge success for our group: we received an amazing 42% increase in sign-ups, equating to a few dozen new interested people! Our table included literature from notable secular organizations, such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) and Center for Inquiry (CFI), a tri-fold explaining who we are and providing answers to common questions that secular people get, and a bowl full of condoms to promote safe sex.

So, what does the group have in store for you this semester? Our first event will be a game night on Monday, August 26th from 7-9 P.M. Bring your board games and cards to the Jackson library main floor (in the huge area where all the DVDs are) for a night of casual gaming.

Our second event is a spaghetti supper at the College Park Baptist Church on Thursday, September 19th starting at 5 P.M . Prices will be $3 for kids, $5 for adults, and $8 for an all-you-can-eat plate. 60% of the profits will go to a local food assistance program for needy families, the Out of the Garden Project. The remaining 40% will go to our group to fund future fundraisers and speakers. We definitely have plenty more events planned, so please attend our meetings to check us out if you want to get involved.

Our first meeting will be held this Friday in the EUC Phillips room from 7-9 P.M , which is on the first floor. Pizza and cookies are expected, as are lots of conversations. We look forward to meeting everyone!

- Christi Sevits, co-Vice President

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Protesting the Good News Club

by Christi Sevits

This past Saturday, local freethinkers from the Forsyth Area Critical Thinkers (FACT) organized a protest of the Good News Club at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem. The Good News Club is a fundamentalist evangelical Christian group that's active around the country. From their website, their proclaimed goal is "to evangelize boys and girls with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and establish (disciple) them in the Word of God and in a local church for Christian living." Their target age group is 5-12 and they mainly evangelize in public schools to get kids to convert their "unchurched" friends and family members. 

Another way they proselytize is by holding carnival-like events with a catch. In order to play the best games and ride the best rides, the children are told they're evil, Hell-bound sinners (among other deprecating things). A quote straight from their materials reads, "The heart, the real you, is sinful from the time you were born. Even the good things you do aren't good enough. The bible says those things are like filthy, dirty rags. Filthy rags either need to be thrown away or washed"  (from Lesson 2, page 17). What kind of crazy "morality" is this and why is it necessary to scare kids with it? If this is Good News Club's idea of spreading "good" news, I'd hate to know what the bad news is.

Some of our members showed up to the protest to voice their opposition to the Good News Club. Bobby Littlejohn and Ryan Campbell were two attendees.

"I found it fun. I enjoyed the protest. Didn't really seem to me that we affected anyone but many people did look at us, many with confused looks. I think the confusion was from the fact that most parents bringing their kids to the event did not know that it was religious," said Ryan. That's exactly the problem. Unsuspecting parents are mislead into thinking the group is harmless, with all the bounce houses, popcorn, and fun activities.

Bobby, too, enjoyed going. "The only thing I regret was that when people came up to talk the conversation would end up being about religion and how they know that God exists. Even if I was a Christian I would have been out there to protest, because I don't think it's [right] for a group to tell kids they deserve to go to hell unless they believe in your religion," he commented. 

Raising awareness about the Good News Club's harmful messages to kids is an important step toward ensuring that kids are taught to love, not hate, themselves and people who don't hold a Christian worldview.