Are you an SSA member?

Don’t forget that the Secular Student Alliance board elections are tomorrow! You have until 5pm EST on April 30th to get your ballot in. And if you’re still not sure who to vote for, a chat with all of the candidates and current board members will be going on from 3 to 5pm EST. Just click the “Voting” tab after you log in for a link to the chatroom!

Regardless if you’re a member or not…what sort of things would you like to see the SSA focus on in the future? Feel free to discuss below.

I must crush PZ…for the children!

Come on, you know you’re Team GHJJ – root for the underdogs!

Five awesome atheist bloggers are competing to see who can raise the most money to support Camp Quest!

Since one of those bloggers is the indomitable PZ Myers of Pharyngula, we have made two teams in order to make this competition more fair.

Team 1: Greta Christina of Greta Christina’s Blog, Hemant Mehta of Friendly Atheist, Jen McCreight of Blag Hag, and JT Eberhard of Zerowing21.

Team 2: PZ Myers of Pharyngula.

The first team to raise $5,000 for Camp Quest, or the team that has raised the most by June 1, 2011 will win!

What will the winning team receive? Bragging rights. Pure and simple.

You can help your favorite team win by donating through ChipIn to support the team of your choice. Early reports think PZ has this sewn up, so if you like underdogs, give to this ChipIn and help his competition. Or you can make help make the pharyngulation complete by supporting PZ’s ChipIn.

All contestants and contributors receive: the knowledge that they have supported a fantastic program for freethinking families and their children.

Read more in the post below about why you should support Camp Quest!

Camp Quest is an absolutely fabulous program for the children of freethinkers. If you want to help the future of secularism (and give me bragging rights), please consider a donation!

Gingrich’s nightmare is my dream

From Politico:

Speaking at the National Catholic Prayer breakfast, Newt Gingrich on Wednesday warned Catholics that Europe’s “crisis of secularism” — spawning a “government-favored culture to replace Christianity” — has seized the United States.

“The American elites are guided by their desire to emulate the European elites and, as a result, anti-religious values and principles are coming to dominate the academic, news media and judicial class in America,” he said in Washington.

Gingrich lashed out against the “secular pressures” that have led scientific publications to replace Anno Domini (A.D.) with the Common Era (C.E.), banned school prayer and struck out “one nation under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Aaaanndddd the problem is what exactly? Sounds fabulous to me!

Religious paranoia that they’re losing the battle: a sure sign the secular movement is doing something right.

Speaking of speaking…

One of the new speaking events I’ve added recently is Mensa’s Annual Gathering in Portland, OR. I was invited by the Mensa Atheists, who apparently have at least one of my blog readers as a member (hello!).

I’m pretty excited to give my Creation Museum talk to an audience that isn’t explicitly atheistic or skeptical. They’ll probably have heard less about it than a room full of atheists, and I’m curious to see how they’ll react.

But I’m also excited to poke around a non-godless conference for a change. It looks so wonderfully eclectic. My talk is at the same time as “How to Create a Successful YouTube Channel,” “Ireland and the Grail, or: Yes, Sophie, ‘The Da Vinci Code’ is Wrong!,” “Near Death Experiences 101,” and “Space Vanguard: How Some of Us Are Preparing for a Brighter Future.” And that’s not even the oddest stuff – you should really skim the program if you have the time.

Maybe I’ll be able to get some good ideas on how to improve our atheist conferences. I was told that Mensa AG has a 24 hour game room and that speakers can get free booze all day in a hospitality room. Are you listening, TAM and Skepticon?!

I’m now on the Center for Inquiry’s speaker’s bureau!

Which means…well, it doesn’t really mean anything new – I still probably would have spoken to your group if you asked. But now I’m in a database that people can skim for new speakers, so maybe some new people will find me!

Because, you know, I’m not already busy with a bunch of speaking events. There are five more future events that aren’t on that schedule yet because the details haven’t been completely worked out. Oi.

People ask me how I can do this while being in grad school. Answer: I have no freaking clue.

Is there going to be Boobquake 2?

Today is the one year anniversary of boobquake, an accidental internet meme that I created at this blog. I’m not going to retell the story since it already has a Wikipedia article, which is also evidence of how viral it went (that, and being mentioned on the Colbert Report).

I’ve heard the question hundreds of times by now. “Is there going be Boobquake 2?” This is almost always followed by a quip about “increasing sample size,” with the person grinning about how clever they think they are for thinking that one up. While I’ve answered the question hundreds of times by now, let me answer it one last time to make it crystal clear:


I’m tempted to leave it at that, but I’ll take the moment to explain why the streets are not being flooded with immodestly dressed women today (at least, not more than usual).

1. The hypothesis is no longer testable.

Sedighi, an Iranian cleric, originally claimed that immodestly dressed women cause earthquakes. The whole purpose of boobquake was to be a humorous lesson in skepticism – that when someone makes claims, we should test them. But Sedighi clarified his statement a month later:

“Some ask why (more) earthquakes and storms don’t occur in the Western world, which suffers from the slime of homosexuality, the slime of promiscuity and has plunged up to the neck” in immorality, he said.

“Who says they don’t occur? Storms take place in the U.S. and other parts of the world. We don’t say committing sin is the entire reason but it’s one of the reasons,” he said.

But, he said, “sometimes, God tests a nation. … (God says) if believers sin, We slap them because We love them and give them calamity in order to stop their bad deeds.”

“And those who have provoked God’s wrath, He allows them (to commit sins) so that they go to the bottom of hell,” Sedighi said.

So basically, sinning doesn’t actually correlate precisely with natural disasters, and God will hold off on striking sinful nations so he can send even more people to hell. There’s no longer any sort of cause and effect – God just willy nilly kills people. His claim is now unfalsifiable. Increasing the “sample size” would not matter.

2. There are plenty of other unskeptical things to poke fun at.

Sedighi isn’t the only person on the planet to make ludicrous claims. Why obsess over a stupid comment someone made a year ago, instead of keeping an eye out for new ridiculous superstitions? People are saying crazy stuff every day. So much more can be accomplished.

Not to mention, I think a lot of people liked boobquake because it happened to be poking fun at a Middle Eastern Muslim. White people and/or Christians have just as wacky of beliefs, and I don’t want this turning into something fueled by Islamophobia.

3. The joke is funny once.

Seriously, don’t beat a dead horse.

4. I don’t want to be forever just known as “boobquake girl.”

It’s sure to follow me around a bit – and that’s fine, it certainly was a cool experience. But I have so many more accomplishments. I’m pursuing my PhD in Genome Sciences at the University of Washington. I have published research papers, and more are sure to come. I’m speaking at dozens of groups and conferences across the country about atheism. I hope to write a book some day soon, which will hopefully be the first of many.

I’m not just a boob joke.

So please, I know you think you’re being witty when you ask me what I was wearing when Recent Earthquake X struck Location Z…but give it a rest. We have other skeptical battles to fight. Let’s not all turn into one trick ponies.

Christian pastor molests women to expel demons

In case I haven’t convinced you that feminism and atheism are natural allies on certain issues, here’s a particular horrifying example. A Christian pastor in South Africa is molesting multiple women under the guise of “banishing demons.” Some of the particular examples witnesses relay are so disturbing.

I just wish I knew what we could do instead of acting outraged. I guess we just have to keep up the effort of spreading skepticism and critical thinking everywhere, so frauds can’t get away with molesting women under the guise of religion. Sigh.

Let’s hope this is a non-issue…

But I’m wary. Every time I say that about someone’s personal religious beliefs, they end up becoming an issue. The newest potential cause for drama? The University of Washington (where I go to school) finally decided on it’s new President – Michael K. Young. The thing that set off red flags? He’s a graduate of Brigham Young University and devout Mormon (which is probably redundant to say).

Now, I know it’s entirely possible to be religious and not let your beliefs interfere with your job at a secular university. I don’t expect his first act as university president to be increasing the number of Mormon missionaries that hunt you down on Red Square, or to expand the campus LDS center that’s right by my building.

But when I read stuff like the following, I get a little worried:

In order to understand genuinely the world and all the things that we learn from secular sources, we should start the inquiry first from the perspective of the gospel and its basic truths. The rest of the world then begins to make much more sense. It isn’t so much that secular learning necessarily confirms the truth of the gospel in every instance, though I am frequently surprised with just how often it does exactly that, but rather that we much better understand the world and everything in it when we put the secular learning in a gospel context. In other words, if one first seeks the light of Christ and inspiration from the Lord, then inquiries about matters of science, politics, economics, history, indeed, society in general, are not only entirely acceptable, but likely to lead to a better understanding of the gospel and a stronger, not weaker, testimony. If we seek first the kingdom of God, then indeed all things will be added unto it.

Ah yes…the world makes so much more sense when you start with Mormon!Jesus. I’m sure all the non-Mormon researchers certainly appreciate that sentiment.

Please let the next 4 years be perfectly boring and free of blog fodder.

Truer words have never been spoken

From a student who attended the American Atheists’ National convention in Iowa this weekend:

The last thing you want to do at an atheist convention is to announce at the end of a session, “There is a provocative fundamentalist Christian protesting outside, DO NOT GO TALK TO HIM.” This means that half of the attendees will rush outside until Jesus returns.

Between crazy protesters, bar crawls with PZ, costume party dinners, and all of my godless friends being in one place, I’m really sad I didn’t go. Oh well, next year!

EDIT: I wish I could read everything on this guy’s shirt. I love playing the “How many horrible sinning categories apply to me?” game. If I’m under 50%, I lose.