Thursday, October 20, 2011

I can hear the echo from the silence....

It has gotten very lonely here on this little blog. :(

Reasons for this:

1.) Horus has been suuuper busy starting up another awesome group in Utah Valley. Similar to SHAFT up at Utah State and SHIFT at the University of Utah, there is now SHAAFT at Utah Valley University in - you guess it - Utah Valley! (I can't seem to find a website for SHAAFT - Horus, is there one? In the meantime, hopefully this will take you to the facebook community page.)

2.) j-dog is also super busy moving around and attacking his job and figuring out school. Oh, to be young and out and about figuring out life! So great. :) So fun.

3.) And where I was at least in Utah before, though not Utah Valley, I'm now no longer even in the state. So while I have so many great freethinker friends in Utah (and specifically Utah Valley), I can't mingle and mix with you like I could when I was a little closer. :'( And now I'm back in school, so I'm busy too. But not too busy to write occasionally.

However, past all of that, if there are any of you out there who do read this blog or are interested in reading more, would you also perhaps be interested in writing? I think it would be good for us to get some more atheist/freethinker/humanist/agnostic/whatever viewpoints out there. As long as you feel like you might have some common interests, send us an email and we'll see what we can do. (And if for some reason you don't hear from us....say we're neglecting checking our emails, leave a note in the comments.

Just remember, even if we're not on here writing, like-minded individuals abound in Utah Valley! They're out there! We're out there! You're not alone! Come and find us!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Dead ______ Day!

On Friday as one of my co-workers was heading out the door she said, "Happy Dead Bunny Day!" to which I laughed at.

She then stopped to explain that she had traditionally referred to Thanksgiving Day as "Dead Turkey Day" and had lately decided to extend that theme to more holidays.

Considering this, I then asked her, "What do you say at Christmas then?"

She paused for a moment and then chuckled and said, "I may be rude most of the time, but I've got a religious bone in my body somewhere!"

We chatted for a bit longer, talked about how she was Catholic, and then she headed out the door.

I should have amended what I'd said. I don't know what the best thing to say on Christmas would be, but from now on, according to this woman's holiday sayings, it seems very appropriate to wish you all a

Happy Dead Jesus Day!

 (I randomly found this photo online, but can take no credit for it at all.)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Atheism 101

Hello students! Welcome to atheism 101 where I, your brilliant instructor will attempt to teach you some basic facts about atheism. But first, what is atheism?

Atheism is a disbelief in gods. Quite literally an atheist may say, “I don’t believe in God.” However this usually means that they don’t believe in any gods, just like all the other gods a Muslim or Christian doesn’t believe in! Atheism on its own doesn’t mean anything else except a lack of belief, this does not mean they know there is no God, they just don’t believe.

However, they could be a Gnostic Atheist, meaning they don't have a belief in God, but also know there is no God, just like how many Theists will say they know there is a God. However, most Atheists are Agnostic Atheists, meaning that they just don’t know for sure. This is usually the case for Theists since most believe faith is tantamount in importance.

So now when someone says they are an Atheist you know what they mean by that statement, and you can now press whether they are Gnostic or Agnostic Atheists! Good for you!

This is a picture of the Four Horsemen, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens. This title wasn’t necessarily chosen by them but it fits in the Christian community who deem them as such. Of course, Jennifer Hecht, and Susan Jacoby were writing mainstream, atheistic material long before these guys, but since they were women they probably weren’t chosen by Christians to be the Four Horsemen.

Many people believe that these men are the de facto leaders and prophets of atheism, as if it’s a religion! This is an obvious stance of ignorance because if anyone listened to these four men they would realize that they do not agree on plenty of things, and in the DVD, The Four Horsemen, they actually argue back and forth some. They all may be more confrontational than the average atheist, but they certainly are not prophets.

And I must point out that Atheism is not a religion! This is absurd! Religions are belief systems that worship or revere a superhuman being or entity, particularly gods. In Atheism you can certainly assert that it has a belief system, but its belief is that there are no gods. This is the antithesis of religion, the prime opposite. Atheism a religion, please.

Atheism has its roots go back as far as religion! The most concise writings we have go back to the Indian subcontinent where Buddhism and Hinduism led some to not believe in gods, though they could still believe in the supernatural. Diagoras, Euhemerus, and Epicurus are all major atheist figures from classical antiquity as well. Before the bulk of the Bible was written there were writings denouncing the gods.

This will conclude Atheism 101. It should be noted that there are many other facets to Atheism, such as its rich history of great thinkers, the role of science, the theory of evolution, the debate on morality, and whether or not religion is good for the world!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How do you identify?

As we've already put out, as a group we are open to a whole slew of beliefs and perspectives. Which is pretty cool when you think about it.

Something we've come to realize is that it is pretty difficult to find some of these groups because they're flying pretty low under the radar. So, I'm going to attempt to compile a list and a possible method of entry for each group.

Utah Coalition of Reason: One of the newest up and coming groups, UCOR is meant to eventually be an umbrella group over a number of the atheist/humanist/freethinking groups in Utah. It is still very much in the works, but has the potential to be pretty awesome. On their website you can find many of the groups I'm about to list and various links to those groups.

Atheists of Utah:"The purpose of Atheists of Utah is to create a community for non-theists (atheists, agnostics, skeptics, humanists, freethinkers, etc.) and promote non-theism by various means..." Atheists of Utah is a non-profit organization and while I've been to a number of their events, I don't actually know a great deal about them. You can go to their website and become an official paying member, or if you're feeling slightly more low-key, you can join the facebook group. No hoops to jump through, nothing private. But there are weekly gatherings and good fun to be had.

Atheists of Utah - Ogden Sect:A branch of the Atheists of Utah, this is for anyone in the Ogden area. As far as I'm aware, there is just the blog/website, but for anyone up in that area, it has lost of potential.
Atheists of Utah Valley: Ok. Obviously, this is our main group. We have this blog and then we have two facebook groups. The first is a front group that is public and anyone can join. The second is a private/secret group that you'll have to contact one of the administrators to join. Basically, if you join the first group and then talk to one of the admins for that group and they're convinced you're not a Judas, they'll let you in. Not too hard, and ultimately lots of fun because the private group is littered with fun posts and links. Plus, we have regular parties and gatherings. At least once a week. This group consists of people between their late teens and early thirties. We welcome anyone and everyone, but it a group that is mostly socially bent, providing a network for students to meet some similarly minded people.

Humanists of Utah: Another non-profit organization, Humanists of Utah is actually part of a larger organization, the American Humanist Association. They "advocate humanism among our membership and the larger community."A pretty simple way to get started with this group would be to join their facebook group.
Salt City Skeptics: "Salt City Skeptics is a social group for skeptics, rationalists and humanists in and around Salt Lake City, Utah." They've got their blog, as well as facebook group and a meet up page. I've never done anything with the Salt City Skeptics, but it looks like it has potential.
Secular Humanism, inquiry and Freethought. SHIFT is a pretty cool group located at the University of Utah that meets about once a week to discuss various interesting topics. They've got their website/blog as well as a facebook group.

SHAFT: Located at Utah State University, this is a group that will again be found a little farther North than many of the others. They aim "to promote the ideals of scientific inquiry, critical thinking, secularism, and humanist ethics on Utah State’s campus."

Utah Freethought Society: "The Utah Freethought society is a non-profit educational organization that exists to provide a community for freethinkers in the Metro Salt Lake City, Utah area through educational, advocacy, and social activities."

There are a variety of other groups and organizations in the area that are similar to these ones, as well as hundreds of organizations like this nationally and internationally. More than anything it is important to know that these groups are out there and that you can choose to identify however you'd like.  While many of these groups overlap, some of them have their specific target ages and backgrounds.

Note: If there is anyone out there who knows of a group that might want to be recognized on an insignificant public forum such as this, let me know! Thanks!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Happening Now!

Hello Readers!

Guess where we're all at right now? The University of Utah!

All three of us (j-dog, Horus, The Heretic) are sitting downstairs in the Union building at the "Send an Atheist to Church" booth next to the billiard tables.

If you're in the area you should come and visit us!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Why Religion Isn't Good

Long post, I apologize.
A couple days ago I met a wonderful new person in the group and got into a small discussion with her. During the conversation we came to the point of whether or not religion is good or bad. She thought that it was inherently good and nothing seriously wrong, especially Mormonism. I disagreed, but didn’t have a chance to really explain, or felt that I had really thought it through. Either due to it being late in the evening and a lack of sleep, or that there were several conversations I was wanting to be a part of, we left it at that. But since then I’ve been thinking it over and decided to write it all down.

First, though, I need to explain that I don’t believe religion to be inherently bad. Certainly there are bad things about it, but I cannot say it is a root of all evil, the prime cause of suffering in the world, or that it makes good people worse. I only have to think back a year or so to when the LDS church paid my rent for two months, one month being from my bishops personal finances. For the church I’ve paid tithing in the thousands, so a little back is not a big deal to my conscience, but the bishop going out of his way, that was a big deal. I hated the fact that he had done that for me, and when I paid him back the next month, I paid with interest and told him to keep it. The moral of this is that I know firsthand that religious institutions, and religious people, are capable of doing fine things and being inspired by their beliefs to do so.

But, now that I’m done prepping the pillow time for the hammer fall. First, religion is exclusive, and you would be hard pressed to prove otherwise. Christians won’t be accepting of Muslim beliefs, and vice-versa, Buddhists can’t even accept others beliefs. They have the possibility of accepting each other, but beliefs are out of the question. A Christian is not going to say that a good and righteous Muslim actually has it all correct. A lot of Christians will say he is still going to hell, Mormons would say he is still going to spirit prison and may not go to any higher heaven than the telestial kingdom.

Furthermore, some beliefs are in complete contradiction to each other. It is truly an ignorant belief that all religious views are just spokes on a wheel. Most holy texts condemn the unbeliever or those of other faiths, some to death. Some have one, others more, Christianity has the ambiguously numbered trinity God. They all have different ways of how to be saved. Even reaching Nirvana is not possible without holding some very Buddhist beliefs and practices. You can’t believe in Christ and be saved by Allah or be reincarnated in Buddhism.

Being inherently exclusive religion then molds the way for opposition, sometimes violence. This is true of both Islam and Christianity, both of which have violent histories. By making a group an ‘other’ it makes it easier to treat that group as less than human. Differing beliefs work in this way, but also differing practices. Christianity has a history full of Christians attacking other Christians. The Westboro Baptists are a shadowy example of a more violent past.

Religion generally has been a tool by those in power, some aware of what they were doing, others using it by blind faith. It has led to wars, famines, epidemics, murder, sexism, racism, and plenty of other conditions common to man. The only reason religion would not be evil, is because any dogmatic organization can lead to these same problems. Religion is not necessary, but it certainly has and still helps these to occur.

The example given in conversation was the LDS church. Being that most atheists in Utah are ex-Mormon there will always be those atheists who despise the church unjustly, and those who still hold it high on a pedestal in a delusional way. I shouldn’t even have to explain how homosexuals, women, conditioning, and lies apply to the LDS church.

The LDS church heavily suppresses women, and discourages anyone from discussing the problem openly, especially feminist views. It is possible that the last decade will lead to the church being more open, as so many women begin to leave and while others talk openly online about their dissatisfaction. The LDS church, like Islam, was revolutionary for women when it came into the world, but like most religions Mormonism clings to the past, to old views and ethical standards, that no longer fit in the present world, and only seem to damage the majority who do follow them.

In a similar thread the church is an epitome of conditioning, the nice psychology word for brainwashing. The amount of recovery some ex-Mormons have to go through, the intense amount of thinking that must be changed, and the view that you could not survive outside of the church and that you could never be happy, are clear signs of a cult-like organization. The only reason Mormonism isn’t a cult (anymore?) is because it is so big and tries to get its members to be a light unto the world, therefore putting them in it, but not of it. This type of conditioning will lead to suffering as you are continuously faced with depreciation, falling short, and never being good enough. You can't live in the world and then be told to believe in things that just aren't true.

Homosexuals are one of the strongest examples of why the LDS church is not an overall good presence in the world. I have already written about where Utah stands in relation to gay teen suicide rates; generally over 3 times the national average, sometimes leading the country. Or how the LDS church has approached homosexuals in the past, how it still approaches them today (as to why the APA looks down on the church and one reason why BYU has struggled to make a good psychology program.)

Lies and sins of omission are also common. The church refuses to acknowledge the plight of the homosexuals in Utah, or the statistically disproportioned amount of homeless teens in Utah, where 2/3s come from LDS homes. The church has a strong history of hiding odd doctrines, and burying evidence that is not faith promoting. The papyrus scrolls dealing with the Book of Abraham are one clean example of how the church deals with things that ‘may be true but not useful.’

Though I use the LDS church as my example, also because of the conversation, this applies to essentially any faith. It is rare where we hear a friend or family member say that “beliefs and church are important, but friendships and family are more so.” Generally it is only those who don’t have such strong faith and devotion, or those who doubt, who will continue to be friends with those who are of the complete opposite in their outlook on the world, religion, or God.

Religion has been a prime motivator for bad in the world. However, it is possible that the root of the evils in the world simply come from inside us. I refuse to say that getting rid of religion solves our problems. Likewise, you cannot say that religion is the reason there is good in the world, most likely it is only a motivator, and I am unsure whether it is a prime one or not. Regardless, religion brings about good and bad, but in my experience it causes a lot more harm. The doubter will be hurt simply because of their lack of faith, while the believer will hold views that obviously lead to hurting others.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Don't Forget, This IS Utah.

While we are trying to stay focused on atheism and relevant material on this blog, I feel it important to inform all of you readers that most of us, given our current geographical location, come from LDS backgrounds and therefore may unintentionally be bringing snippets of our Mormon histories into the content of our writings. We may even stoop to write posts specifically about the relationship between atheism and Mormonism! For shame!

But never fear. While we are interested in many things Mormon in nature, we also recognize that there are many of you out there who don't necessarily come from a LDS background, or perhaps some of you who may have come from a Mormon background but no longer wish to discuss all things Mormon. So, to all of you, be warned that there probably will be some discussion of Mormon things, but that we're attempting to not smother you in too much of that.

On that note, don't forget that this is not a closed group exclusive to atheists. Horus mentioned this in the first post, but again, we're here as a group welcoming all who are non-religious or transitioning away from religion. Or even those of you who might be trying to understand someone close to you who is currently transitioning away from religion. All we ask is for you to help us create a venue that is open to free thought and inquiry.

Speaking of Mormonism and atheism...