Monday, August 01, 2011

Just Another Tiny Post

I got in late last night, and I had to work all day today, and I need to clean and pack everything I own tomorrow for the first of two moves in two(ish) weeks....

So here's a picture from this weekend as my apology for not writing about all the fabulousness that was this weekend!

We actually pulled a u-turn on the highway so that we could get a picture of this ridiculousness.

Abortion... stops a beating.

Somehow I don't think this is what they meant to say. Anyways, more on this, and everything else, later. Sometime. Seriously, I don't know how I manage to be so busy; it's exhausting.

Friday, July 29, 2011

SSA Conference!

Just a short post, as I'm leaving soonish and still need to pack (curse you, procrastination!), but I'm heading off to the Secular Student Alliance's annual conference in Columbus, Ohio today, and I am excited!

As far as what I hope to get out of this, I'd really like to learn more about how to make a group female-friendly... but not in a way that's just targeting females. I'd also like to hear any opinions on making to whole "ladies' issues" engaging to guys without resorting to "it might get you laid." Quite frankly, I'm of the opinion that most problems are "human issues," rather than men's or women's specifically, but there I don't run into a whole lot of agreement on this.

To put it frankly, how the hell do I get a (mostly male) group to talk about something like the proposed requirement for health insurance providers to provide birth control free of charge without having them think that the only reason it's important is because they're less likely to knock someone up if it's put into effect?

Also, how to run better events. How to strike the right balance between what some people want and what others disagree with. How to forge good relations with faith-based groups. How to figure out whether something's a rumor or not, and how to keep it from spreading while we find out (more on this later). And whether anyone knows if Rock Beyond Belief is actually going to happen (seriously, I want to go)!

All that said, I'm mostly excited to meet everyone else there. I mean, c'mon, it's a conference which, if I extrapolate based on previous experiences with the Freethinkers, will be full of awesome people. Also, the awesome speaker list.

And I can't lie; I really just want to hug PZ Myers.... he just looks so huggable!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Lipstick Feminism, or Why Dressing Like a Prostitute Still Promotes Sexism

I'm sure by now everyone and their mother has heard about the whole "Elevatorgate" thing, and the ensuing blogoshpere explosion over... well, everything involved (if you didn't – and I'll admit, I was in the dark for a while myself on this one – you can learn more about the whole controversy via Jen McCreight's blogpost on the matter or Greta Christina's great piece on why it's important, or really, just about any blog with any kind of opinions on atheism/feminism). Maybe you also saw Matt Dillahunty's awesome first (and probably only) go at drag this week on Atheist Experience.

With all that as a lead-in (and also because I feel like it), I figured now would be a great time to talk about how pissed it makes me when people either claim that feminists are manhating ugly women who need to get laid, or make the seemingly opposite claim that women embracing the culturally-prescribed social norm of looking hot will magically make misogyny a thing of the past.

Actually, now that I think about it, I really don't have to talk much about that first thing other than to say, "That's wrong, as well as stupid." Feminism opposes misogyny, but this is not the same as hating men; wanting to take privilege out of the equation doesn't mean feminists think males are inferior, but rather that we'd all like to be equal, thank you very much. Feminists aren't uglier than non-feminists any more than atheists are uglier than theists (though Conservapedia would have you think we're all fatties). Feminism is not restricted to females, just as advocating for gay rights isn't restricted to people who identify as LGBTetc. As regards to getting laid, well,  I doubt we need it any more desperately than anyone else, and certainly less than some!

Monday, July 18, 2011

I'm Still Alive, I Swear

Well, I am apparently ill-suited to regular updates in the summer. I suspect it's the lack of structure in my schedule; I feel like I have more time than I really do, so I keep putting things off. This is clearly something I need to work on.

Basically, this is post is just an update on my personal life combined with a promise of actual posts to come. I promise! I'll write something! Maybe even this week!

All in all, this summer has been completely awesome. It's also been busier than any summer except, perhaps, for the one prior to my senior year of high school. This summer, I have done the following:

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Giles County's Unconstitutional Ten Commandments Decision

I know everyone thought I'd been raptured, since I've been terribly neglectful of this blog for the last month, but I promise, I'm still here, and still in Blacksburg, even.

In fact, I'm still meeting up with the Freethinkers, and we are doing epic things this summer! Yesterday's epic adventure was our trip out to the Giles County School Board Meeting to show our support for keeping the “historical documents” display – the one that includes the Ten Commandments – out of public schools. This has apparently been an issue since at least 2004, and probably much longer.

Just to be clear, in my personal opinion, the Ten Commandments has no place in a display of historical documents that were instrumental in the formation of American law. In fact, 70% of the Ten Commandments aren't addressed at all in American law codes. Last I checked, we were still allowed to disrespect whomever we pleased, have whatever deities or idols (or lack thereof!) we care to have (in whatever order we want), party all day on Sundays, swear however we like, covet anything we damn well want, and, in many states, have sex with anyone willing and of age and sound mind (at any rate, there's no federal law governing adultery); only murder, theft, and bearing false witness are illegal on a federal level. Beyond that, I think I can go out on a limb and say that most – if not all – legal codes have always and still do include admonishments against murder, theft, and lying to get other people in trouble and/or cover your own ass. There is no real evidence or support for the claim that the Ten Commandments are historically significant in the codification of United States law.

On a related note, I'd like to put forth that if they wanted to put up something really old that influenced United States legal tradition (and probably legal traditions in much of the modern world), they need look no further than the Code of Hammurabi. It is the oldest recorded legal code ever discovered, after all, and it even covers murder, theft, and false witness.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

National Day of... Really, Guys?

So, I can't pretend I've actually been paying a whole lot of attention (what with studying for exams and writing end-of-term papers taking precedence over even my blog-reading addiction), but even I know that today was the National Day of Prayer.

A friend of mine put forth the opinion that given that today is Cinco de Mayo, the National Day of Prayer probably should've come afterward, so that folks could easily repent for their tequila-fueled transgressions.

Of course, I opined that the whole thing was planned on the fifth on purpose so as to try to offset some of the terribly unamerican partying that goes on. I mean, what's less American than celebrating a Mexican holiday?? We'll only encourage illegal immigrants like that! Clearly we should all get down on our knees and pray for those damn dirty Mexicans to get out of our country and stop doing the jobs no one else wants to do. Like construction. Or farm work. You know, all those unnecessary things that we couldn't possibly pay a fair wage for.

To be quite serious, though, government sponsorship of this kind of event is unconstitutional and divisive. I'd also suggest that the people in charge of this nonsense bone up on classics like the Treaty of Tripoli. Not that they'd actually give a damn about anything that didn't support their desire to push their beliefs on others.

And it's not that I've really got much hope left for politicians, especially any in the "moral" majority, but somehow my opinion of the government just keeps sinking and sinking. Oh well, I'm surely getting old and jaded.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the little protest at the Planned Parenthood here in Blacksburg. Because just praying for all the poor little bunches of cells isn't enough.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Temporary Leave of Absence

Hey, sorry for all the lack of posting that's going on.

And for the fact that it's going to continue until I've finished writing the billion papers I need to turn in, and studying for and taking finals. And acquiring a job.

I'm just really busy at the moment. I'll be posting again once the semester's over, and maybe I'll sneak something short in between then and now.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

More Information

As more information comes to light, I would like to restate that Mr. Alex Huppert needs help and support, not judgment and condemnation. Free@VT has extended our support to his family and friends, should they need it, and we hope for the best for Mr. Huppert as he faces a difficult period in his life.

At present, it appears that Alex's behavior may have been due to his taking a drug that he believed to be Paxil -- for which he had a prescription -- but wasn't.
More information is available in this follow-up article in the Virginia Tech Collegiate Times.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Today's Events: the Awesome and the Terrifying

Today was National (or International, depending on who you ask) Ask an Atheist Day. I planned and ran the Free@VT-sponsored booth here at Virginia Tech, and as one of my fellow participants said, the day was "99% totally awesome open dialogue, and 1% horrible obscene worst-case-scenario."

First, the awesome stuff. While the day started off slowly, we had a definite increase in interest and traffic as the day went on. By noon, we had a pretty much constant group of students around the booth, and several atheists who hadn't known about Free@VT had dropped by to pick up a meeting schedule or sign up for our listserv (including a student in the Corps of Cadets, who was feeling a bit out outcast in the military setting and was excited to hear of an atheist-friendly group on campus!). Even more delightful was the number of people who were actually asking us questions.

We had a veritable flood of students from some of the on-campus Christian organizations, most notably from Campus Crusade for Christ. Both sides of the discussion -- and, surprised as I was, it was, in all cases, a discussion, not an argument -- were very polite, and genuinely interested in having an open dialogue. Questions ranged from wondering whether we celebrated Christmas, to where we got our morals, to our thoughts on the origin of life and the universe, to whether we believed if Jesus ever existed, and beyond.

Perhaps a measure of the respect we were treated with was due to the fact that many of our volunteers were grad students, but I don't really think that's what it was. At Virginia Tech, there seems to be a high expectation from everyone, not just from the establishment, that others be treated with respect until they've done something showing that they're not worthy of that. Hokies, as a whole, are a family, and while we may disagree on some things, we try our utmost to be, at least, civil.

As I said, however, there was that 1% of the day that was heinously awful.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

It's My Birthday, Have A Present!

So, I just turned 21! Fear not, I'm safely in a bar somewhere having my parents buy me alcohol in a strange attempt at parent-daughter bonding, and this is being published automatically! (Assuming I do this right and it works...)

Because I'm awesome (and also because I wanted an excuse to post this up), here's an excellent Flash game, Tower of Heaven, as a backwards birthday present:

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Is it Our Duty to Come Out as Atheists?

I'm sure many of you know it, but just to set the stage for my discussion of this topic, last week was 'A' Week. Atheists have been encouraged to set their Facebook (and other social profile, I suppose) picture to the scarlet 'A' -- or, in a twist on the concept that I personally prefer, to take a picture of themselves smiling with a small sign saying that they are an atheist, and use that for their profile picture.

'A' Week is a strategy which I highly support.

'A' Week is an event in which I do not participate.

What gives?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Apologies for My Lack of Posts

I know there are a few people who actually check here, and I do seem to have some traffic on this blog, so I'd like to apologize for my apparent inability to post the last two weeks or so. It's not quite the end of the semester panic time yet, but it just dawned on me that all of my classes require an end-of-term paper, with length requirements ranging from four to ten-plus pages. Between that, my 21st birthday coming up this weekend, planning the Free@VT Ask an Atheist Day booth, and a mega-birthday bash to plan two weeks down the road, I've been a little swamped.

Please accept this xkcd strip, which you've probably already seen, but which is probably-maybe my absolute favorite of Randall Munroe's comics thus far, as my apologetic offering:

I used to ascribe to that sort of belief that everything is somehow less beautiful and mysterious once you understand it... and then I realized, when I learned about astronomy as a kid, I wanted to learn more, not just because I was thirsty for knowledge, but because knowing more about something made it more interesting, and more beautiful, and even more mysterious, because now I knew more questions to ask, and more topics about which to ask them.

And, of course, xkcd manages to put the idea succinctly into four panels of stick figures.

PS: I should have a post up for you sometime tomorrow, with any luck.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Response to a YouTube Evangalist

Today I received a message on my YouTube account from a Muslim evangelist. Here is the part of the message that wasn't a big long list of poor justifications for his faith:
“Hard questions for an atheist!
  1. were you created by nothing or did you create yourself?
  2. whats purpose of life?
  3. Apart from scientific evidence, what else would make you acknowledge the existence of God Almighty?” (sic)
    Furthermore, the video featured on his profile read as follows:
    “In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
    Questions an atheist avoids to answer correctly!
    1. Were you created by nothing or did you create yourself?
    2. Define the God you are rejecting?
    3. Do you believe in natural instinct? If so, how do they relate to Evolution?
    4. Are suffering from a God complex?
    5. Man is a worshipper by nature! Who do you worship?
    6. Everything we see around us has a purpose! Whats your purpose in life?
    Answer honestly, please!” (sic)

    Wednesday, March 16, 2011

    It's Women's History Month... So Get Back in the Kitchen

    As I'm sure you all know, since International Women's Day was just last week, March is Women's History Month. Now, deny it as some might, gender equality is still not as widespread as it ought to be, and I wholeheartedly applaud those who are bringing that fact further into the public spotlight.

    I appreciate the free self-defense classes that are offered to women (and men) on campus here at Virginia Tech. While in a perfect world, we wouldn't have to worry about having to defend ourselves, being able to do so is definitely an empowering skill.

    When I saw that the weight room in the gym was being cleared for a women-only session, I was totally jazzed. It's intimidating to walk into a room of sweaty dudes and try to figure out how to use some obscure piece of equipment. I think it's great that the gym took a day to make sure that the ladies on campus had a chance to learn how to use that stuff.

    I'm having a hard time, however, with how our cafeterias decided to celebrate Women's History Month. Don't get me wrong -- I'm glad they're acknowledging it. But... cupcakes?

    Tuesday, March 15, 2011

    To GodBlock, or to Educate?

    As a college student, I spend a lot of time studying on StumbleUpon. Recently, I came across this site for a religion-blocking web filter to protect little atheist kids from the terrible thing that is religious content on the internet.

    At first, I kind of laughed at it. Then I wondered whether anyone actually used it. Then I considered whether I would ever use it as a parent.

    The long and short of it is, "NO."

    As an atheist, I don't like the idea of indoctrinating children. I personally find the fact that many (if not most) children are brought up in a faith, believing that that faith is the capital-t Truth, and that to question that faith is to reserve oneself a spot in hell to be utterly repulsive. I am still angry about my own religious upbringing and the horrible guilt that I went through (and, in some cases, am still fighting through) as I left the Catholic faith. Indoctrination is a Bad Thing, capital letters and all.

    Friday, March 04, 2011

    So They Tell Me God is Good

    This is something that I'm sure many people struggle with, and it probably doesn't need my rant about it in addition to everyone else's, but it's been driving me up the wall lately, so here it is.

    Recently, a relative of mine suffered a terrible accident. I shan't be going into any specifics, but I do assure you, it was quite serious. Thankfully, they lived. They are now going through the traumas of understanding their prognoses and comprehending all the horrible consequences of what has happened. Again, I assure you, what they are going through is not anything that would be taken lightly by anyone.

    Through all this, the family has been receiving periodic reports of the process from my grandmother. These letters are basically outlines of the details of the dire situation. And they all end with the same tagline: "God is good."

    And with each and every correspondence, I wish to reply, "What the fucking hell do you mean by that? If your god were 'good,' they wouldn't be in this situation to begin with! Your god would have altered the course of events, or the laws of physics! This would have never happened! Where the fuck do you get off in proclaiming this situation 'good'?!"

    Thursday, March 03, 2011

    Queer Press Support Post

    So, Harding University's blocking their Queer Press from being viewed on campus. My hope is that if there're enough mirrors of the zine, they can't keep the message out!

    At some point, I may write about this fantastic piece of guerrilla journalism and how I admire the courage of those who produced it, but for the moment, well. I really think it speaks for itself.

    Wednesday, March 02, 2011

    Can We Rock Beyond Belief?

    **EDIT (part two):  Those fucking hypocritical, lying bastards. Rock Beyond Belief has been canceled due to what, from the evidence, I can only assume is Colonel Stephen J. Sicinski's utter lack of moral fiber (though I'm sure he'll claim that he is being "moral" by killing this event), lack of dedication to the defense of the U.S. Constitution (which, I hear, is one of those things you swear to defend as a member of the armed forces), and general self-righteous favoritism.**

    Thursday, February 24, 2011

    Why I Support Planned Parenthood

    Really, I have to be honest, I feel that most of this should go without saying to anyone who knows anything about women's rights or the state of health care and sexual education in the United States.

    Even without bringing a woman's right to sovereignty over her own body into this by arguing for the legality of abortion, there is no doubt in my mind that the Republican party is trying to whittle down women's rights with this legislation. Only a tiny fraction of what Planned Parenthood does is related to abortion, and the rest of it? Well, the rest of what they do just as clearly empowers women, but in much less controversial ways.

    Planned Parenthood provides birth control. They provide STD testing. They provide general health care and test for problematic conditions. They help improve women's body image. They provide care to pregnant women, and promote healthy relationships, and educate women about their sexuality and how to have a safe sex life. They even provide services to men!

    Tuesday, February 22, 2011

    Why We'll Never Reach Utopia

    With all that is going on these days, from the protests in the Middle East to the bill passed by the House to pull funding from Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers to the resistance against prohibiting unions in Wisconsin (of course, the Social Problems course I'm taking now and the Morality & Justice course from last semester may have a bit to do with my thinking as well...), I really have to wonder what it would take for governments to actually do what I've always been told is their job: Protect the people of the nation through law and regulation.

    The fact of the matter is, while this is a lovely utopian ideal, governments have never done this in a satisfactory manner. There is no government in the world that has ever been able to offer true equality of treatment. There has always been an unequal distribution of power, and those who possess that power are in no hurry to let go of any of it. Whether the imbalance is fiscal or political, it seems that the priority of equality and actually doing the job right has always taken a backseat to the priority of maintaining power.

    But would it hurt to try to get it right on occasion?

    Wednesday, February 16, 2011

    Equal-Opportunity Sausage Fest

    Alrighty. So last week, before I got swamped with all the things for which I needed to study, I attended my first Freethinkers at VT group meeting! I enjoyed it, but I can now sympathize with all the other lady-atheists out there: I was the only attendee standing in the way of the meeting being a full-on sausage fest.

    As someone who has a plurality of male friends, this was only a little bit uncomfortable for me. Honestly, given that I hang out with an all-male-but-me group every Saturday night, and practice fencing with a mostly-male group, I would say that most of the discomfort was the general novel social situation nerves.

    That said, I wish there were more fellow-females* who showed up to these things, because there are so many female-specific problems stemming from religion. Yes, as a society, we all pay the price for the widespread delusion that is religious thought, and guys have their own male-specific problems. But if only guys show up, it seems unlikely that the ladies' problems will ever be discussed. Come on, ladies, let's represent!

    Tuesday, February 08, 2011

    The Propriety of Evangelism

    It's no secret that I don't approve of religion. It is a system of lies that people tell themselves and others about the world, and these lies obscure their view of reality. Much as I would like to see religion eradicated, though, I know that in a free society, this is not likely to ever happen. This is because private beliefs are not something to be policed, and beyond my disapproval of religion, I disapprove far more of forcing belief (or disbelief) on the unwilling.

    It is when one's private beliefs start to spill out into one's public actions that religion becomes a cause for real concern. Many religions require their adherents to evangelize and spread their religion. Is this a violation of the rights of those they accost? In the United States, we have the right to freedom of religion. But do we have the right to freedom from religion?

    I would submit that we do, and that evangelism is sometimes in violation of this right to freedom of and from religion.

    Basically, to quote a sentiment that has already been seen all over the internet, religion is like a penis.

    Friday, February 04, 2011

    An Undiscovered World

    So, I read a lot of webcomics. I'm quite addicted to them, honestly, but as far as addictions go, it's one I'm okay with having. Instead of playing WoW or watching House, I sit in front of a monitor for thirty-five minutes or so a day and indulge in some visual stories.

    One of my favorites (as evidenced by the fact that it's in my second queue of comics -- I save the best for last) is Subnormality, which, as best as I can describe, is bit of an outsider's perspective on humanity and life, particularly if the Sphinx is involved. It is an excellent (if wordy) comic, and I highly recommend it.

    This week's strip made me think a great deal about the human experience and the way we live our lives. To summarize what I've understood of the much more eloquent Winston Rowntree, it deals with the way we create stories to make our lives more interesting. We are willing to believe fantastic things, just to make our world seem fresher; we are willing to look past what we know to believe that there are things left to be found.

    Wednesday, February 02, 2011

    Why I Disbelieve

    PZ Myers asked, and because I agree with the vast majority of what he ranted about and because it is something I have been working my way through lately, here it is. This is why I am an atheist.

    I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church. Most of my (very extensive) family is Catholic, and I can't think of a single one of my many aunts, uncles, and cousins who has admitted to being nonreligious. Certainly I am the only one in my immediate family. Because I grew up in a family that was so actively religious, I was very devout as a small child. I was certain that God loved me and had a plan for me.

    It wasn't, I think, until I was about ten and was told by my mother that the reason women couldn't join the priesthood was that we were more easily corruptible and generally didn't have the necessary leadership skills that I started to question things.

    Tuesday, February 01, 2011

    Sexual Miseducation

    So, I hear the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina is hosting a sex-ed film festival in Chapel Hill on February 19th. I wish that the sex-ed that I went through had been so enjoyable, as my friend assures me that "Saved!" is hilarious, and the other two films being shown don't look too terrible either (though perhaps not as amusing). It makes me wonder what kind of sex-ed the average American teenager gets.

    For me, sex-ed brings to mind my experiences in high school (It was called "Family Life" of course; sex is a dirty word and heaven forbid we expose our teens to that kind of linguistic smut!), where the teachers informed girls in their classes that boys had no interest in lasting relationships and that any sexual escapades would follow the lines of "wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am" and then end in STDs and pregnancy. I hear the boys were told that, should they have sex, they would be infected with every STD ever and their penises would shrivel up and fall off. Condoms were never mentioned, nor was birth control. I didn't attend some little tiny high school in the middle of churchland; this was at the largest public high school in a large school district.

    Monday, January 31, 2011

    In God We (Should Not) Trust

    "In God We Trust." That's the lovely message we get every time we save up quarters for laundry, or pay cash for our groceries. Schoolchildren are made to repeat the sentiment that all of our country is superseded by a divine power when they recite the Pledge of Allegiance every day.

    And some members of Congress feel that we don't remember it enough.

    As a nation that at least tries to maintain the appearance of opposing government-sponsored religion, the United States seems to be doing a poor job at keeping God out of government when Congressmen are sponsoring bills like this one:

    Sunday, January 30, 2011

    No Reason to Gather?

    As an atheist student from a strongly Catholic family, I have been looking for an atheist/agnostic/humanist/Pastafarian/whatever group to join since I began attending school here at Virginia Tech. I recently found out about the Freethinkers at Virginia Tech Group, and plan on attending their meeting on February 8th.

    In the long search for a group, however, I was surprised to find how many of my friends (atheist, agnostic, and religious) scoffed at the idea of a skeptical club. More than once, I asked people who I was sure would be interested in such a group if they'd heard of one on campus, only to hear that they thought the idea was ridiculous or unnecessary. People told me that atheists didn't need any groups, that since all that we shared was a lack of belief in something, such meet-ups would be silly. Why would people who didn't believe in something need a group session to talk about it?