Blasphemy Day at Purdue

Wednesday the 30th was International Blasphemy Day, and Purdue was one of the many campuses where an event took place. What the heck is Blasphemy Day, you ask? Well, here’s the information the Society of Non-Theists had on the flyers we handed out:

Blasphemy Day International is a campaign seeking to establish September 30th as a day to promote free speech and stand up in a show of solidarity for the freedom to challenge, criticize, and satirize religion without fear of murder, litigation, and reprisal. The primary focus of the Blasphemy Day movement is not to debate the existence of any gods or deities, to promote hate or violence, or to insult or offend. Nor is it a movement of atheists – the tenets of one religion blaspheme against another if they disagree. The main objective of Blasphemy Day is to open up all religious beliefs to the same level of free inquiry, discussion and criticism to which all other areas of academic interest are subjected.

Why September 30? It is the anniversary of the original publication of Danish cartoons in 2005 depicting the prophet Muhammad’s face. Any visual depiction of Muhammad is considered a grave offence under Islamic law. The fury which arose within the Islamic community following this publication led to massive riots, attacks on foreign embassies and deaths.

So what did the we do? Like it stated, our goal isn’t to offend just to get our rocks off. And since Purdue is a fairly conservative campus, we went the safe route of just celebrating freedom of speech. We put up blank posters that anyone could write or draw on, with no censorship at all.When I set up the event at 9am, we had 6 starkly blank flyers. At 11:30 I walked by on the way to my next class, and they were already full. By 12:30 when I returned, six more posters had been purchased by a new member (a friendly theist, actually!) and were already filling up. By 1:20, we had a total of 18 posters up, and by the end of the day people were having a hard time finding space to write anything new.The messages ranged from politics, religion, and philosophy to potty humor, penis drawings, and internet memes. Some messages were deep, some were hilarious, and some were downright strange. Some I agreed with, and some I definitely did not. But that was the great thing about the day. I wasn’t offended if someone wrote about Jesus or Glenn Beck because our goal was to show everyone has the right to free speech, even if it’s criticizing others, including myself.Throughout the day we attracted quite the crowd. Many random students wanted to add their opinions, and many more just wanted to read what others had said. I didn’t hear a single negative reaction through the day. Everyone was smiling and saying what a cool event it was, and people were asking if we could leave it up for the rest of the week. Unfortunately we couldn’t, especially since we later found out taping things to buildings is a no-no.
Yes, I had about a 30 minute conversation with the police about tape (I guess that’s how I pantomime adhesives). I think I scared the crap out of my members, because they had no idea what I was talking to the police about for the longest time. Effectively there was a miscommunication between me and the people approving the event (they didn’t realize we were taping it to the pillars), so it ended up not being a big deal at all, especially since we only had an hour of the event left. Pablo, the Dean of Students who I know from doing club stuff for the last three years, basically just had to come and make sure it was okay.

Pablo: Tape, that’s it? Man, I was ready to march down here and defend you guys and your freedom of speech and it’s just about silly tape?

All we had to do was promise to clean it up, so all was right with the world!

All in all, I’d call the day a success! Who knows, we probably offended someone (I think our mere existence offends some people), but the most common reaction was very positive. Let this be a lesson to all the atheist activists out there – you can be outgoing and controversial while still being nice!

Tomorrow I’ll have time to photograph each of the signs, and I’ll post them here for your viewing pleasure. But other than that, what should I do with them?! Art exhibit? eBay? Wallpaper to cover the hideous wood paneling in my apartment?


Hey guys,

I just wanted to sincerely say thank you to everyone who left such nice uplifting comments on my last post. I promise I’m not quitting the club or blog or converting or anything. I’ve just been having a stressful week (which is an understatement*) and those letters were the final straw, you know? Much of what was said is exactly what I’ve repeatedly told friends and members, but I think I needed to hear it from someone else to make sure I wasn’t just deluding myself.

Now, off to go finish our poster for Blasphemy Day! I’ll give you an update later, assuming I don’t get lynched before the day is over.**

Also, I will hold you all to your offers of buying me drinks.

*So far I’ve had two presentations (one of which I woke up 10 minutes before I was supposed to be there), a big exam, teaching, organizing our Richard Dawkins trip, I lost both my debit and credit card, I got triple charged printing BD flyers because I’m an idiot, I had to beg people to volunteer for BD…and I still have 3 scientific papers to read in the next couple hours, BD itself, trying to finish my research paper for my lab, a genetics presentation Thursday worth half of my grade, my Physics lab report, and my final paper for my laboratory class which is also worth half my grade. I actually have had about 3 different blog posts I’ve wanted to make, but I think you can understand why I haven’t yet.
** The way this week is going, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Atheism Activism Frustrations


Sometimes, I admit, I have to wonder if what I’m doing is actually having any effect. Yesterday’s letter got me a little down, but after reading Greta Christina’s great post discussing what if the atheist movement actually succeeds, I felt a bit better. But there are now two more letters in the Exponent that illustrate what the atmosphere at Purdue is really like. Effectively, “stop criticizing us because Christians have the right to do and say whatever you want, but since you’re a mean poopy head atheist you need to shut up.”

Why do I bother?

I have devoted so much time, effort, and even money into developing the Society of Non-Theists, and while we’re a big active group, are we actually accomplishing our goals? We do one event that’s mildly controversial, and instantly we’re being called lazy, ignorant, zealots, idiots, biased… I’m not necessarily upset that people disagree with me, but I’m upset that people are so damned ignorant about it. You can tell from their letters that they either didn’t read our flyers, didn’t visit our website, or at the very list didn’t try to rub two brain cells together to understand what we were doing. They don’t even try to be intellectually honest. And I can write letters back, but even if they do get printed (which only some will), they’re not going to have any effect because these people are so closed minded. Even ranting here seems effectively pointless, since I’m just preaching to the choir. It’s all well and good that people pat me on the back for writing a well thought out argument, but does it matter if only non-theists and skeptics are reading it? Or that even if a theist did read it, they’d just ignore it?

Or how do we even go about planning events if one controversial one is going to totally ruin our reputation? People will see our tame Blasphemy Day event tomorrow and think we’re a bunch of jackasses. They’ll go on claiming we’re amoral or don’t volunteer, even though we have volunteered and have many more philanthropic events coming in the future. But they’re so set in their ways they’re not going to take the time to ask questions or read a website. They know we’re not doing those things.

Blah. Maybe it’s just Indiana, or just my campus, or just the US, but it’s getting pretty damned frustrating.

One thousand and one atheist blogs

Nope, not Dalmatians! The Atheist Blogroll, “a community building service provided free of charge to Atheist bloggers from around the world” that’s run by Mojoey over at Deep Thoughts, has finally grown to more than a thousand blogs! Who was the lucky number 1000? …Me! I say lucky because Martinpribble actually signed up before me, but forgot his url, so go check out his blog too (looks like he has some awesome rock climbing photos over there, if you’re into that).

I think I may possibly get new people stopping by, so let me awkwardly introduce myself. I’m a nerdy biology-loving chick trapped in Indiana and the president of my university’s student group for atheists. I like to draw silly comics, talk about sex (a lot), cringe at atheists behaving badly, behave masochisticly by visiting religious things like the Creation Museum, and of course (and predominantly), ramble about atheism and religion.

So…uh…hello blogosphere, interwebs, etc!

Non-theists just whiny brats?

I didn’t post earlier because I’m having a kind of sour day, mainly because I opened the newspaper to find this lovely letter to the editor:

Non-theists are ‘little more than a club of whiny brats’
Publication Date: 09/28/200

To the Society of Non-Theists:

All right guys, so apparently it is rude and bad for a man to come here and share his opinions with others who wish to listen. Oh, but I thought this was America, not North Korea.

And also, taunting said man with open mockeries of his beliefs is how you attempt to argue his opinions? I thought this was a college, not a kindergarten. You all seem like little more than a club of whiny brats merely exploiting the trend that in today’s “cool” society, it’s perfectly acceptable to prosecute and heckle Christians. Oh, you think I’m full of crap, and that you guys somehow acceptably embody non-theism and encourage tolerance amongst all peoples without merely harassing any single group? Why don’t you go pull your pirate and spaghetti bit in front of the Islamic Center all day (they are theistic, after all), and see how many people won’t see you all as bigoted assholes?

I’m all for open, equal debate, but the way your group goes about things is very childish and more anti-Christian than non-theist.

Josh Phillips

Junior in the College of Science

Sigh. I could write a book in reply to this, but yet again, I am limited to 300 words. I’d love to elaborate here, but I’m frantically studying for my Physics exam (electromagnetism is magic, MAGIC I tell you!) so here’s the letter I sent in reply:

Josh Phillips: First, I want to clarify that the quote of me saying Brother Jed was disrespectful so the Society of Non-Theists could be rude too wasn’t a misquote: it was a complete fabrication. I didn’t even talk to the reporter about Brother Jed, nor would I say something so immature. We had our Pastafarian Preaching planned for that day before knowing Brother Jed was coming. Furthermore, we never stopped Brother Jed from speaking – we fully support free speech, which is why we can talk too.

Now that that’s out of the way…Josh, I think you need to look up the meaning of “satire.” We were trying to look as silly as possible because that is exactly how fire and brimstone street preachers like Brother Jed look. One of our goals was to show that waving signs and yelling isn’t the proper place for civil discourse about religion. That’s why we preached the Flying Spaghetti Monster rather than atheism. The vast majority of our events are civil discussions or lectures on theism and atheism. However, it’s impossible to communicate with someone whose beliefs are based on emotion. Faith, by definition, is not based on evidence. We can present rational arguments until we turn blue, but that doesn’t matter to many theists.

As for your Christian persecution complex… You live in a country where you’re privileged that your religion enjoys the majority status. Someone disagreeing with Christianity isn’t discrimination. If Hindus made national laws outlawing eating beef, or Muslims changed our motto to “In Allah We Trust,” we’d be protesting them just as much. If you want to understand persecution, ask a Christian in China, a Bahá’ís in Iran, a Muslim in America, Hindus in Kashmir, Jews all over the world…I think having your feelings hurt will pale in comparison.

Not sure if mine will be printed – haven’t gotten a phone call yet. Apparently many other members sent in a response letter, though, so hopefully some reason will get into our student newspaper. Ironic how this happened right after one of my friends, who is a Christian, told Christians who claim persecution to stop their whining.

Contact: The Musical

Apparently a theater group has come up with the musical adaptation to Carl Sagan’s Contact. I usually either love or hate musicals, but I have to admit this one causes some giddy excitement. When someone asks me my favorite movie, I will unhesitatingly say Contact. I love it despite people harassing me for it or South Park teasing it. I first watched it with my dad when I was about 10, which was the same time I was super interested in everything space-related: I was in our elementary school’s astronomy club (yes, we had one) and was absolutely dying to go to Space Camp (parents wouldn’t let me though, sadness). I loved that movie so much that my dad bought me the VHS, and we probably watched it at least once a year. I’m sure after the fifth time he wanted to stab his eyes out, but what are dads for if not to suffer through things for their child’s enjoyment? The one theist I dated bought the DVD for me before I graduated so I could have it at college, and watching the love scenes between Ellie and Palmer (an atheist and theist, respectively) with him probably motivated me to give our relationship a chance (even though it eventually ended pretty badly).

But other than my emotional (and possibly irrational) attachment to the film, I’m still excited about the songs. Who doesn’t want this potential soundtrack about science and religion, the search for extraterrestrial life, and aliens that look like your daddy?

Blogging is serious business

It seems like I’ve been on a trend of ranty/serious blogging lately. While I enjoy reading the discussions that go on in the comments, they also start to drain on me after a while. So, here, have something silly:

Me: Will you take my picture? I want a before shot, while I’m still female
Friend: Sure. No, pose more girly.
Me: KayAmerica’s Next Top Model, I am not. I can totally imagine Nigel telling me that my hand looks like a claw or Tyra saying I’m not smizing enough (yes, I fully expect you all to shun me for watching that stupid show). Oh, and sunburn from our Pastafarian preaching, yay!

But then the clock struck 8, and instead of turning into a pumpkin, I turned into……a skeevy used car salesman! I mean, a male! Actually, with my hair down I looked eerily like Penn Jillette, which would explain my magic trick of making my D-cups disappear.

Yes, Friday night I held a drag party. I think that’s an acceptable excuse for not blogging.

Porn and Popcorn clarifications

When giant discussions/debates erupt in my comments, I’m generally more pleased than annoyed. I consider it a success that I have enough readers who care enough to keep checking back. Even when someone posts something trollish, or maybe just something I disagree with, I usually don’t have to take the time to reply because someone else will. But the comments from my letter to the editor about Porn & Popcorn have exploded, and I feel compelled to personally reply before the arguments get any sillier.

First, Donny Pauling, the ex-porn producer who spoke at the event found my post and has done most of the posting. To be honest, Donny, I really don’t need to say anything to you because your posts have totally proven my point. You retold the same stories you said at the event that show you and other horrible predators are the problem, not porn itself. You also show that you have absolutely no solid evidence for your claims, only emotional stories that may or may not have actually happened. Show me scientific studies by unbiased groups that show the same evils of porn you claim exist, and then I’ll take you seriously.

I’m not necessarily 100% pro-porn. I recognize that there are probably plenty of issues in the industry (just as there are with any industry). There are probably women who get tricked into doing it or who suffer negative consequences, and it may contribute to unrealistic body image expectations of women – but that doesn’t mean all porn is bad, or that porn itself is actually the problem. I would argue our society’s views on sex in general are the real problem. If we had comprehensive sex education, people would know how to properly use contraception, would know what real sex is like, would not use porn as their standard. Everyone would be able to recognize it as purely fantasy (a thing I think most people do anyway), just like watching a romantic comedy and realizing all relationships don’t happen like that, or a sci-fi movie and knowing aliens really haven’t invaded the Earth. And to argue that porn is the only thing presenting unrealistic images of women is laughable – have you ever watched tv, read a magazine, seen any advertisement? Unrealistic body images is a thing we need to confront, but the way to do that is not to demonize porn.

Oh, and Donny? While I usually don’t condone arguments devolving into caps lock and swearing, I’m going to have to agree with jemand:

WOMEN!!! WOMEN you FUCKING IDIOT DOUCHBAG! You are such a misogynistic prick… of COURSE you have to call them girls, because then you can dismiss and belittle their choices.

You deserve this reaction because you were acting like a total prick and provoking the commenters with your passive aggressive and misogynistic comments. The fact that you needed this as an excuse to give up on the discussion shows how your arguments don’t have a leg to stand on. You could have been the better person, ignored it, maybe even apologized for obviously causing hurt feelings – but instead you used it as an excuse to run and hide. Thank you, Donny – now I won’t have to have my inbox cluttered with your repetitive, long winded comments.

Miranda, who apparently helped put on the event, claims:

“You came to this event to make it into a joke, to try to provoke us and to cause debates.”

Really? Prove it. Where did I ever say that was my goal? I went with many club members, and I repeatedly told them to be respectful, to not shout things or interrupt, and to try to keep their giggling to a minimum as to not disrupt others. Nor did I want to start any debates or piss people off. I did want to ask questions since the event presented such gross misinformation, but of course, it didn’t allow for a Q&A session. When not able to do that, I decided to post my review on my own personal blog. If someone disagreeing with you offends you so much, either get some thicker skin, improve your arguments, or just avoid the internet altogether. And Miranda, you didn’t need me to make the event into a joke – it did that all on its own.

“But just because you disagree does not give you the right to take things out of context and spread lies about what was said.”

Both you and Donny have claimed that I spread horrible lies about the event, yet have failed to present any proof of this. The only thing Donny has pointed out was that I said a mechanic, rather than his buddy, said his God inducing electrical shock was a shock plug problem. I admit this tiny detail was wrong, but it’s also irrelevant to the point of the story. If that’s the worst I did, I’m ahead of most of the American media. I had a notebook that I was taking notes in, and many of the others who were there confirmed the quotes that I mentioned. Do I need to start bringing video cameras to events to prove what ridiculous things they’re saying? Actually, that may have been better. That way I could have just posted the video without my commentary, and then when hundreds of people reached the same conclusions as me, you’d have a lot harder time calling me biased.

“…but my questions is why can’t you accept us for our beliefs? You chose to believe in no god or in a god that is not involved, and that is your choice. I chose to believe in God and in Jesus, so why can’t you accept my beliefs and the beliefs of Stewart Cooperative and of XXXChruch?”

You can go on believing whatever you want. And I in no way want to ban Christian groups from voicing their opinions, a position I explicitly state in my letter. But that doesn’t mean that I need to shut up and accept whatever you’re saying. You have the right to state your opinion, and I have the right to say you’re wrong. If this was just some private event at a church or something, I wouldn’t bother – but you decided to present this nonsense to the entire student body. Not only that, but PSUB, an organization meant to represent all Purdue students, sponsored it. I have the right to go, and I have the right to say it was awful.

Video of my Creation Museum presentation

At long last, here’s the video of my presentation about my trip to the Creation Museum – yes, the one that Ken Ham is already blogging about. I do warn you, it’s long. My talk is about an hour and then there’s about 25 minutes of Q&A. The first couple minutes are a little rocky because I was kind of nervous, but then I get in my groove and I think it’s pretty good, if I do say so myself.

Overall I received very positive feedback, even from some of the theists in the room. As you’ll see if you watch the Q&A, Pastor Brent Aucoin of the Faith Baptist Church in Lafayette attended. He was nice enough to email me and ask if he could come to the event (of course he could!) and disclosed that he helped with the construction of the Creation Museum (and I can only assume he is the supporter that Ken Ham mentions in the post about my talk). He was very civil, and I thank him for that, but he did repeat the same creationist arguments that we hear over and over again. My favorite part is at the 1:09:00 mark. At the very least, watch it for my friend doing a literal *facepalm* twenty seconds later.

Though, the thing that made my talk totally worth it? My former Human Genetics professor (you can see her behind the Pastor) who’s 80-something, super liberal, intelligent, hilariously witty, a fan of Stephen Colbert, a non-theist, and a Holocaust survivor came up and shook my hand for about five minutes straight, saying how we needed more people like me who were brave enough to speak out against this stuff. Coming from someone I respect so much, that meant a lot.

Oh, and the tiny little blip about 50 minutes in isn’t us hiding something, it’s us changing the tape, haha.

Ken Ham blogs about my Creation Museum lecture!

I’ve hit the big-time, guys – Ken Ham, founder and head of the Creation Museum, is blogging about the talk I gave at Purdue last night. And of course, even though he wasn’t there, hasn’t seen any video, and has yet to put up the reports from his informant (the pastor who came), he’s already reacting to what I may or may not have said:

Of course it is no surprise this person mocks the Bible’s account of origins—she’s an atheist! And one of the mantras of these atheists is that they vehemently attack the Creation Museum because children visit and are challenged concerning what to believe about origins. Of course, what is no surprise is that the atheists want to indoctrinate children in atheistic evolution and that there is no God.

And it would be no surprise to you that they don’t complain about the thousands upon thousands of children who visit the secular evolutionist museums, including the specialist children’s museums across the country where they are presented with atheistic and evolutionary ideas as fact—with no suggestion there could even be a different way of looking at things. (At the Creation Museum, children and adults are told about different ways of looking at the same evidence, and, so, we present the evolution belief system, but we do take a strong stand on the biblical account nonetheless).

As you’ll see when I post the video tonight, I fully disclose at the beginning of my talk that I am a biologist and an atheist, so people in the audience know where I’m coming from. I also repeatedly mention that the Creation Museum does not represent all Christians.

Then he starts talking about the Indianapolis Children Museum:

In the very popular dinosaur exhibit, millions of years is presented numerous times as fact. But also look at the other sign—there are neither “good” nor “bad” values or beliefs—just different ones.

  1. Atheists today (like the one from Purdue University) claim Christianity is “bad,” that children should not be exposed to Christianity—but, of course, they can be exposed to everything else, and as far as everything else is concerned it is neither “good” nor “bad”—only Christianity is bad!
  2. This is indoctrinating children not only in atheistic evolution, but indoctrinating them to believe that morality is relative—that there really are no rules—one can do what one wants (except believe in Christian morality, of course).

I never claim Christianity is bad, or that you must be an atheist to believe in evolution – I explicitly say in my talk that many Christians believe in evolution. But tonight you’ll be able to see for yourself what I did and didn’t say. Unfortunately I’m stuck on campus until 8 or 9 PM, so it won’t be up until late tonight. Maybe I’ll send it along to Dr. Ham and see what he thinks after really hearing what I said.

I have a feeling he still won’t like it.

Oh, what is it with Creationists not linking to their opponents or mentioning them by name? He went out of his way to delete any instance of Jennifer McCreight (or even Jennifer), and didn’t link to the Society of Non-Theists’s website (wouldn’t expect him to know my blog). Sadness.