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Let me open my first SSA post with this quote from a book that everyone should read. It is Meditations for the Humanist: Ethics for a Secular Age, by A.C. Grayling. I find myself often rereading the book and revisiting his notes on speciesism (pages 83-5). Anyway, on to the quote:

“There is a parallel between our excuses for maltreating apes and those for maltreating fellow humans. We locate a difference that we find threatening, or that we despise; we thereby make the other fully Other, so that we can fully close the door of the moral community against him, leaving him outside where our actions cannot be judged by the same standards as apply within. Racism and speciesism are thus the same thing – they are myths about who belongs and who is alien.”

This idea is, in fact, what caused me to really question my religion for the first time. At a young age, maybe twelve, I asked my family’s Catholic priest what happens to animals when they die. I had heard plenty about heaven and hell, but only in the context of rewarding or punishing humans. I thought of my tabby cat and wondered what would happen to her after she died. The priest responded without hesitation: “Animals go to hell because they have no souls. Only humans who are faithful to God can go to heaven.” He assured me that it was alright, because they’re only animals.

Why would God decide not to give animals souls or the mental capacity to understand scripture, then punish them for not having it? I was afraid to pursue the answer to this question at the time. In high school, a friend of mine came out to me as gay, and the parallels began to show between speciesism and discrimination of all kinds. It had taken me sixteen years to figure out that justifying discrimination had been an integral part of my religious indoctrination. The cause of a lot of historic tragedies, such as the Crusades and the Holocaust, suddenly became more clear.

How would the world be different if we treated others with mutual respect, regardless of how remarkably different they are from us? Without a deity to justify discrimination, I find it natural to consider myself equal in worth to other animals and humans.

If anyone has time, this paper called Religion, Speciesism, and the Past and Future of Ethics Toward Animals is an interesting read.

I’m curious about everyone’s thoughts on this subject. Because I’m constantly thinking about or interacting with animals at work or home, I feel like my intense focus on this issue may be too narrow.

— Christina Thoele


Unjustified Pessimism and Accusations

So there has been a quote attributed to Ben Stein makings its way around the internet in various forms. The quote claims that the “world’s going to hell” and that this is related to secularism or Christian’s getting “pushed around.” As about.com explains Mr. Stein did say some of these things, but much of the quote is added. I think the “quote” (see what I did there) is however indicative of how many people feel. The amount it has been spread through email and on Facebook in various forms would certainly seem to indicate that this is the case. I would like to counter this notion that the world is so terrible and “going to hell” and the belief many people seem to have that the bad things that do happen are somehow related to secularism or a lack of Christianity. To be clear I will be referencing the top article from here. I shall start with this whole “going to hell” business.

I would just like to start by saying that I have an app on my iphone that has a database of all the exoplanets discovered so far and notifies me whenever a new one is confirmed. There are so many awesome things about that sentence. Let’s start with the exoplanet bit. We have discovered planets orbiting other stars! According to my app as off 1-12-2013 there are 855 confirmed exoplanets, and we are discovering more all the time. We are finally getting some real data on that question likely as old as humans (and possibly older) are we alone? Someday soon we may even be able to get some evidence of whether there is life on some of these planets! The rate of new planet discoveries is truly amazing. Just earlier today my app let me know that five new planets had been discovered.

Now let’s turn to the device and how it receives its information. There are millions of people around the planet with near constant near instant access to a powerful computer and a mind boggling huge (not to mention rapidly growing) body of information a.k.a. a smart phone connected to the internet. I think this is bound to have all manner of uses, and we are really just getting started in discovering what is possible. Computers, phones, and internet connections are becoming faster and more powerful every year.

It’s not all about the science and technology either. You may have heard of the so called rise of China and other developing countries. China’s economy has grown by an average of 10% over the last thirty years! To put it another way China’s GPD per capita (adjusted for inflation as it always should be) is more than 39 times what is was in 1970. I think the rapid economic growth of China and other developing countries over the last few decades represents one of the largest and most rapid improvements in human well being in history. Millions of people around the world are becoming engineers, entrepreneurs, scientists etc. instead of engaging in subsistence farming. I would hardly call that “going to hell.”

I think I have covered well enough why I think the world is not “going to hell” and is in fact awesome and getting better. I would now like to address this particular part of the article

“Billy Graham’s daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her ‘How could God let something like this happen?’ (regarding Hurricane Katrina).. Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said, ‘I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we’ve been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?’”

 According to about.com this was actually in reference to the 9/11 attacks. As far as I can tell the way that it was incorrectly portrayed seems to imply that Mrs. Graham is saying that Hurricane Katrina is a direct result of secularist actions. I find this not only ridiculous, but incredibly insulting. The logical conclusion of what she says would seem to be that secularists are responsible for the death and destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina. Does this mean that secularists or atheists should feel responsible and guilty for the deaths caused by the 9/11 attacks or Hurricane Katrina? That would seem to be the logical conclusion. Is the implication that God will not protect counties that have too many atheists or don’t have enough discussion of religion in every public setting? God seems to have treated the Chinese quite well in spite of the Communist Party’s explicit atheism. To be clear this is not intended to be an attack on Ben Stein or Mrs. Grahm. It would be easy to find a poorly constructed argument someone made on the internet and to make them look ridiculous. That is not what I am trying to do. I am addressing this article because I think it resonates with many people, and it gives me something specific to counter rather than some vague idea such as a loss of “values” or “spirituality.”

Perhaps I am too optimistic about the future. It is entirely possible global economic growth will slow, natural disasters will get worse due to climate change, or some unpredictable event will truly make the future worse, however I think much of the pessimism is unjustified and based on vague notions that have little or no basis in reality. These ideas that bad events and trends are somehow related to secularism, atheists, or too few mentions of the almighty in the public sphere are particularly frustrating. I wish those that held these views would explain what exactly they mean. Perhaps in doing so they would realized that it doesn’t really make much sense, or maybe some good point would be revealed that we could actually discuss (you can probably guess which I think is more likely). I think that as long as we continue to invest in science, technology, our fellow human beings, and promoting secularism that collective Minnesotan, American and global human well being will continue to improve, and maybe people will realize a more secular world isn’t so bad after all. It’s gonna be the future soon, and I can’t wait.

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Why by Paul Larson **Bonus post 3


I am an atheist; a practicing atheist.  “There is no God” is not a truth statement for me, it is a working hypothesis.  It has been my goal for the last nine years to falsify this hypothesis.  After nine years of reading whatever I can get my hands on from both sides of the argument; talking with hundreds of people about their personal beliefs; attending Bible studies to gain the church perspective; and discussing the topic with several pastors, as well as educated Jewish and Islamic individuals, I have yet to find any evidence that compels me to reject, refine, or rewrite my hypothesis.

For the 25 years prior to my goal, I would call myself an apa-theist, apathetic to the subject of religion as a worldview.  Then two world events occurred that were responsible for my transformation from apathetic to zealot: the 2003 fall of Baghdad, and the 2004 Red Socks win of the World Series; two world events that resulted in riots, destruction, and pillaging.  If 90% of the people on this planet believe in some type of god, then why did I not see it in their actions?  This is what compelled me to find out why the Bible has had so much influence over so many people for so many years.  I was determined to read the Bible cover to cover.  I did.  I still had no idea why that book has had so much influence over so many people for so many years.  It was obvious to me they had never actually read the book.  Prior to reading it, I considered it a book of etiquette: instructions for how people should treat one another.  After reading it, there is no way that book should be used as a source of morality for humanity.

I read it looking for the “God” that was supposed to be out there, revealed through His word (the book makes no sense this way).  But instead I found a book that appeared to be written by groups of people at different times throughout history to explain and understand the world around them.  The second time I read it cover to cover I did so with a better understanding of the history behind the book, as well as paying close attention to who said what to whom, and the connections throughout the book – Old testament to New and New to Old.  It made perfect sense that time through.  My third reading was done in a Bible study at a church.  My goal was to gain an understanding of the church perspective.  That was interesting and disheartening at the same time.  The greatest bit of information came from the Bible study; the understanding of one word in the book of Genesis unlocked the entire book for me.  My fourth focused read through was to collect information for a book I hope to compile someday.

My goal now, as a practicing atheist, is to understand “why;” why do people believe what they believe.  It turns out it has very little to do with whatever Holy Scripture they profess to believe in, and more to do with what makes them feel good.

I am an atheist, a practicing atheist.  I am also a son, a brother, a husband, and a father.  I am a friend, a neighbor, and a firefighter of 20 years (because it is the right thing to do).  Being an atheist simply means I do not believe in a God, or gods…that’s it.  It does not mean I am an amoral individual that can now destroy, rape, and pillage any and every one and thing that come my way.  Knowing my life and future depends on me and my choices, places the responsibility exactly where it belongs…on MY shoulders.  I developed my moral code from the example shown me by my parents and my life experiences.  I give my life purpose.  I believe in humanity’s ability to direct its own future away from destruction and suffering.  Empathy and education will be the forces that drive this movement.  Let’s all make a choice.  We are all where we are today because of the choices we all made yesterday.  Let’s all make better choices today so we can all end up in a better place, together, tomorrow.

Live a good life.

Over the next day, please consider donating money, sharing our blog or using the hashtag  #SSAWeek. For more info please visit http://www.secularstudents.org/ssaweek or to donate here. Thanks for your support, and see you soon!



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Paul Larson

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Humanism by Mike **Bonus 2


I have spent quite some time advocating rights for people who claim that my very existence represses them. For years I have listened to the feminists and men’s rights activists rightly accuse each other of being short sighted, the Christians, Jews, Muslims, and atheists fighting for their place (or lack thereof) in the legal system, African-Americans and Latinos complaining about imbalances of scholarships they feel they’re owed, and have heard race and poverty issues confused countless times. It would appear we all want to help, but gaps are not being bridged by people picking and choosing which injustices are more worth fighting for.

Individual movements are incredibly easy on an individual level, but they can be beyond frustrating for legitimate humanists. Now, don’t get me wrong: I acknowledge that complex issues do require specialized study, and I have absolutely zero issues with people who have dedicated themselves to solving problems that require additional attention. My concerns address the people who provide unequal advocacy to different people under the guise of ‘tolerance’ and put up barriers against those who don’t identify with their cause. Everyone’s rights are everyone’s responsibility. Humanism (by its very nature) is the absence of these ridiculous titles which advertise the idea that some rights are more worth fighting for.

We need to accept that a non-homogenous society will always have imbalance. We will never have perfectly distributed rights, we will never be free of social stigmas, and there will always be advantaged and disadvantaged groups. It is best to think of society as a massive and varying scale with many arms. Having different numbers of people stack weights on their specific arm (in nearly blind response to others) will not be an effective way of staying close to balance. Humanism is the attention to all arms, to all people, and will ultimately be the best way for society to cohesively function.

Over the next day, please consider donating money, sharing our blog or using the hashtag  #SSAWeek. For more info please visit http://www.secularstudents.org/ssaweek or to donate here. Thanks for your support, and see you soon!

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Mike Pyka

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My First Date with The SSA


In the beginning, there was them and us, well, so I thought. They, the Secular Student Alliance (SSA) and us the Believers but now I have learned that we are all human. I was on my way for some serious prayer that probably consisted of “Please Lord, I need that ‘A’” or “Father, I need a new roommate, this one you sent just isn’t working out.” I was with other students from my university when I noticed a booth that reads “Secular Student Alliance” and noticed other brochures on the booth that read “Atheist.”  I couldn’t believe that the school had given them permission to reserve the booth, well; they are Atheist, why do they have that right, it’s scary! I quickly texted my Christian friend to come over so she can meet the unbelievers, the godless people, the Atheists, the Ones that don’t love Him and so we can question them together. We walked up to the booth to ask if they were really Atheist and a man greeted us with a smile, answered my question, “yes.” I was shocked, AN ATHEIST! I chatted for a short time, and then I told him that I had to go and pray for prayer request from my bible study group. Then his Atheist friends caught me before I left and said “Can you pray to God to get me a brand new red car?” That prayer request made me furious, I thought no, I will not ask God to give you a new car, you don’t believe in Him….what was he thinking? (The Atheist guy that asked me to pray for a new car is now my boyfriend).

When I showed up late to the prayer room I told my Pastor about the booth and the Atheists, he suggested we pray for the Atheists first, then for the prayer requests. After we were done praying I thought this prayer was wrong, if someone wants God, they have to open their heart to Him then we can pray for them. That was the last time I prayed for a non-believer, a godless, a Atheist, the Ones that don’t love Him. After that day, I found myself discussing with the SSA about God almost every day, especially with an active member. He was always questioning everything, asking me why I believe this verse when this verse contradicts it….well, I answered it the best way I could.

I was a born again Christian, a strong Believer, I was the Real Christian with one weakness, I did not believe in hell. Along with that weakness other questions lingered in my mind, why did God seem so violent, why is there so much violence in the bible? I then found myself asking the active member, why would God do this? How can he be so violent? I couldn’t ask my Christian friends, they were already worried that I was spending too much time with the Atheists.  As time passed, I questioned God and it seemed as He stopped communicating with me, or maybe I didn’t believe in Him anymore. Then again, I became angry with Him because He ignored me, and because he was violent, and a liar, and a cheater, and a deceiver, I’m not talking about Satan, I’m talking about God.

After a few meetings with the SSA, I understood their point of view; I began to questions for myself. Now, I know where I stand, I know who He really is, the main character from a book called The Holy Bible. I began to attend the meetings of the SSA without worrying that God is watching me. I then became friends with the members of the SSA and decided to add the SSA as my Facebook friend, and this all stemmed from the first day at the SSA booth.

So, over the next day, please consider donating money, or at least sharing our blog and hashtag  #SSAWeek. For more info please visit http://www.secularstudents.org/ssaweek or to donate Visit here. Thanks for your support, and see you soon!
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Myra Guillen

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I saw this on my Facebook feed:




With the title “Karma is a b****”.  


Now, Im all for teh lols But the issue I have with karma is that it is so widely held as true in our culture. Just to make myself clear, there is no evidence, no proposed mechanism, no science, no statistics, or anything more than a cool idea and some anecdotal evidence to support the concept of Karma. For some reason, people think that karma is an actual thing, and the it is based in natural laws. ITS NOT. Its a comforting thought, but outside of Reddit, Karma is the same religious dogma as any other belief not founded in the real world. 


Now, you might ask, what is the harm in believe in karma? its just a cool idea that what comes around goes around, right? 


Well, honestly, NO!. Karma has been used for generations to make the devastating poverty and economic inequality present in india as acceptable. IT SHOULDN’T BE. Yet because people believe that the bad things that happen to you, such as starving to death, are because of bad things that you have done. That is idiotic. IT makes me incredibly angry that people are just sated with the incredible poverty located in india, because of such an idiotic,yet cool sounding, idea. 


I knew shouldn’t have taken that apple 3 lives ago.



That being said, my own objection to the concept of karma is a bit more selfish. I hold the same beliefs as Lois from Malcolm in the Middle


Hal: Wait a minute, Lois. Where are good people rewarded and bad people punished?
Lois: Right here on Earth, if I have anything to say about it.


I cannot count the number of times I have seen someone been cheated, slighted, or even treated rudely, and they didn’t do anything, because “Karma will catch up to them”. Guess what, IT WON’T!

Bad people can go through life and not be corrected, because no-one is correcting them. You cannot simply count on the universe to balance itself out, because it won’t. You have to be the one to fix something. If someone cheats, call them out on it. If someone isn’t being fair, call them out on it. If you don’t, they will keep doing it. 


Just like any other religious dogma, it is never put to the test. Greta Christina wrote: 


even the most stubborn political ideology will eventually crumble in the face of it, you know, not working. People can only be told for so long that under Communism everyone will eat strawberries and cream, or that in an unrestricted free market the rising tide will lift all boats. A political ideology makes promises about this life, this world. If the strawberries and cream and rising boats aren’t forthcoming, eventually people notice. (The 2008 election was evidence of that.) People can excuse and rationalize a political ideology for a long time… but ultimately, the proof is in the pudding.
Religion is different.
With religion, the proof is emphatically not in the pudding.


….There is no pudding, no proof — and no expectation that there should be any. And there is therefore no reality check, no self-correction, when religion starts to go to the bad place.




And that is the issue. WIth karma, there is no reality check at all. People simply trust that things will work out. Im here to tell you, they will not. YOU have to be the one to fix it. YOU need to work to make things better. It has to be YOU!


Speaking of things you can do to make things better, have I introduced you to #SSAWeek?


So, over the next day, please consider donating money, or at least sharing our blog and hashtag  #SSAWeekFor more info please visit http://www.secularstudents.org/ssaweek or to donate Visit here. Thanks for your support, and see you soon!





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Me, Ben SweaterVest Blanchard.

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On Homeopathy



So, one of my members posted this to our group wall…. 

“Of course homeopathy works. That’s why we buried Bin Laden at sea… to cure terrorism.” -Reddit user ‘ImNotJesus’

He rocks. That being said, I have very few more words on homeopathy. Besides the fact that it has been consistently proven ineffective, as well as completely inconsistent with modern science, I have just one thing to say to homeopaths. I am going to state this clearly and simply, and feel free to comment as you wish. 













For clairifaction, please visit http://www.1023.org.uk/ or even http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeopathy



Now that I have gotten that clear, lets all enjoy a bit of Tim Minchin!



This is my favorite work by Tim Minchin



So, over the next day, please consider donating money, or at least sharing our blog and hashtag  #SSAWeekFor more info please visit http://www.secularstudents.org/ssaweek or to donate Visit here. Thanks for your support, and see you soon!





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Me, Ben SweaterVest Blanchard.

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