A triumphant beginning!

Last night was the activities fair at UMM, where student groups try to catch the attention of the new students and persuade them to sign up. It was a mob scene with hundreds of milling people, and there in the middle of it … the brand new UMM chapter of the Campus Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists. Here are most of the current officers — the missing one was me, behind the camera.

Viktor Berberi, Collin Tierney, and Skatje Myers (and Richard Dawkins playing on the computer)

I was impressed. I expected they’d go over there and get maybe half a dozen to a dozen people to sign up, but instead they got more than twice my most optimistic prediction, and that’s drawing primarily from the freshman class. I think there has been a pent-up demand for this sort of thing, and the response was almost entirely positive. Collin mentioned that there were a few dismissive remarks, but otherwise, I think we can look forward to a good, large group of godless activists to be operating in Morris, Minnesota this year.

Only one problem: we’re going to have the first meeting at 7:00 on Thursday, and I said I’d buy all the pizza. I may have escaped a $15 million lawsuit, but the pizza bill may demolish all the money I saved.


  1. says

    Hark! Is that an “Evil atheist tempts naive students to give up their soul for pizza” headline that I can hear being written somewhere?

  2. Soren Kongstad says

    Definitive proof that the Evil Atheist Conspiracy is trying to seduce our young. Won’t someone please think of the children!


  3. Fer says

    Please check the C.A.S.H. forum. It is beign targeted by spammers and virus trojan web sites.

  4. says

    “PZ Myers is a Darwinist opressor who won’t let the glorious truth of God’s Creation be known. He has ten arms and eats Christian babies.” — Has Dawkins failed to raise our consciousness to such issues? PZ Myers doesn’t eat Christian babies but rather the babies of Christian parents.

    The same holds true for the EAC, they switched their BBQ from Christian infants to infants of Christian parents a year ago (if they existed).

  5. Randy says

    You’d think that someone like PZ with his vast atheist army could afford some better signage. Set up that paypal account so I can help pitch in for a giant 4-color CASH sign to attract the christian kids and suck them in.

  6. says

    And yet another reason for me to try to steer my kids towards Morris as they consider colleges.

    I am glad it is starting off well, now here’s hoping the momentum keeps up!

  7. MartinM says

    Shouldn’t that be called the UMM chapter of the Campus Militant Fundamentalist Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists?

    Drop the ‘Campus Militant.’ Then they can be FASHists.

  8. Peter Ashby says

    That will teach you for being pessimistic about reason in the young PZ. Consider it a lesson well learned ;)

  9. says

    Wow, if I’d been a little less anti-social in college, I could have been a FASHist – I love it!

    CASH is almost as good =) I’m hoping to visit a friend doing field work in your corner of the universe – hopefully I’ll get to stop in and do the pizza-purchasing for a meeting. I think I want a picture of PZ and I to put on my altar with my rocks and assorted beer labels from field camp.

    Congrats on the interest – I hope the turnout it good, even if it taps into your windfall.

  10. SEF says

    In the links section there are local and national links but not international ones. Eg:

    nor even this national one from which I’ve previously referenced an article:

    The miscellaneous links are somewhat sparse at the moment too. The Skeptic’s Dictionary is surprisingly absent:
    (and I have to mention this page if only for the cute mollusc!)

    Various sites have lists of fallacious arguments:
    even wikipedia:

    and a few have hints on how to spot the crazy people/stuff:

    or what to say to them:

    Some pages explain why people go wrong:
    http://web.archive.org/web/20030608172412/http://www.phule.net/mirrors/unskilled-and-unaware.html (the original link is dead)

    and even how they got that way:

    and since Skatje’s group is pretty much bound to attract or include some geeks and nerds (who are already getting it right but might nonetheless be insecure):

    There are further sites drawing attention to the bad points of religion (mostly specifically things in the Bible):
    and articles like this one here.

    There are additional holy book comparison links worth considering too (if only from the know-thine-enemy point of view as well as spotting the subtle differences between versions, including translation difficulties and errors):
    http://www.mechon-mamre.org/e/et/et0.htm (Torah in English)
    http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0.htm (and in Hebrew)
    http://www.hti.umich.edu/k/koran/ (a searchable Koran)
    http://www.islam.tc/quran/ (also known as the Quran!)
    http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/nhl.html (additional scriptures)
    http://www.watchtower.org/bible/index.htm (the JW version)
    http://www.jewishflame.org/ (the/a Jewish point of view)

    Reference sites which attempt to be neutral in reporting the prevalence of religions and their beliefs:

    and those are just a few of the items from my stock of interesting and useful links.

  11. Salt says

    I note the following from linked site above-

    Everyone is welcome to attend meetings or become a member — students, non-students, theists, atheists, conservatives, or liberals.

    * To create an open and friendly community for non-theists.

    PZ, given your hyper-sensitivity and vehement criticism of Creationists, I’d say your extending membership to theists is but to conform to some non-discrimination school policy.

    I do hope that some campus Creationists do attend, not so much for any true discussion but to raise your blood pressure till, perhaps one day, your head explodes.

  12. Vjatcheslav says

    Maybe you could break your word that you weren’t going to sue Pivar and return the favor.

  13. Shirley Knott says

    ah, the memories!
    Back in my well-misspent youth, I started some student organizations at MSU —
    Campus Crusade Against Christ
    Youth Against Christ
    The responses were amusing, including the incredibly timid local newspaper reporter who kept asking if I was sure I wouldn’t mind being identified as an ‘atheist’ in the article she was writing.
    The side-effect benefit of those names is that they collate ahead of the vile CC for C and Y for C organizations. We were always listed immediately prior to their listing in the campus lists.

    Shirley Knott

  14. MartinM says

    I do hope that some campus Creationists do attend, not so much for any true discussion…

    Not surprising. That would require them to have a point.

  15. Steve_C says

    The only thing anyone might suffer from if creationists attend is fits of laughter.

    They think they’ve won if atheists are incapacitated with laughter.

    Salt thinks we actually take their ideas seriously.

  16. ivy privy says

    Definitive proof that the Evil Atheist Conspiracy is trying to seduce our young.

    Ha, that’s nothing. Godless Cornell is:

    filled with
    perverts running things, and they are trying to make fags and dykes
    out of all of their students…

    That’s according to the Westboro Baptist Chruch.

  17. Reginald Selkirk says

    That looks like Sagan’s Demon-haunted World about 6 books down in the stack. Distinctive color scheme.

  18. CalGeorge says

    Hopefully the atheists, skeptics and humanists won’t start battling one another for control of the organization.

    Could get ugly.

    Good luck!

  19. Fnord Prefect says

    Apropos to spreading atheism… after helping a stranded motorist yesterday, I blurted out “just being a good athiest”. Not that I’m given to proselytizing, but it occurred to me afterward that maybe some of the wrongheaded perception of athiests as less generous or helpful is that we don’t genrally point out our beliefs while being altruistic. Not sure if that is good or bad.

  20. says

    Since some are speculating about my head exploding, let me just say this: it’s not MY group. Skatje and Collin put it together, wrote the constitution, and created the website. Not one word is from me. Viktor and I are the faculty advisors, not the faculty dictators, and the students have complete control over what they plan and do.

    Actually, I think I’m an advisor because I have the power to reserve rooms on campus, and because I have a license to drive the 15-passenger university vans, in case they want to make a field trip to the twin cities.

  21. Susan B. says

    As a college student myself, I’d advise you to keep in mind that most of those signups will never show up, and of the ones who do show up to the first meeting, you probably won’t retain all of them. It’s very encouraging that you’ve gotten so much interest, and hopefully you’ll keep enough to have a strong and growing presence on campus, but just remember that for a lot of students (freshman, especially), the initial enthusiasm causes them to sign up for far more activities and groups than they actually have any intention of sticking with, so your actual membership will go down.

  22. says

    Imagine the pizza shop that takes PZ’s order for that event: “I’d like an unkosher, haram pizza: lotsa pork and shellfish…now what is it Christians can’t eat? Each other before marriage! And a big side of aphrodisiac pizza. Extra asparagus and oysters!’

  23. says

    A club to “educate the University community”?! So basically you’ve created the UMM Science Club? Alas these evil days, when ID-lobbyists necessitate such actions, should be ours.

  24. says

    I told her spam would be a problem, sheesh.

    PZ, give Skatje a bonk on the head next time you see her, for not installing any anti-spam tools. She was warned. ;)

  25. Steve LaBonne says

    now what is it Christians can’t eat? Each other before marriage!

    Not after marriage, either. It’s missionary all the way, and only for reproductive purposes at that.

  26. Firemancarl says

    And wot kinda pizza is it? Is it a holy pizza ordained through the ministry of Jesus H.Kayrist? Is it accpeted by the Holy See?

    There is ONLY ONE TRUE PIZZA! And that dear friends is NY Style, anything less is an abomination unto the Pizza Gods.

    Or as my dad would say , when he played Sol Kopfshwindel on All Hit 96 KPKE in Denver in the mid ’80s ( imagine and old Jewish man saying this) “The only cheese to use is sliced cheese, sliced cheese!” DJ “Why’s that Sol?”
    “Because grated isn’t sliced no matter how you cut it!”

  27. says

    Let me just say to Salt that there /were/ a few creationists at the table. Matter of fact, we were seated almost directly across from one of the huge tables for the local Evangelical Free Church.

    Guess what we did, Salt. Yes, exactly. Our heads exploded at the mere sight of each other. It was a standoff no battle in the history of warfare has ever come close to. The roof came off the building a minute or so into the fight. PZ was lucky to escape with just that one photograph — and his life. I would be sorry to inform everyone that many innocent bystanders took the fall, but since I’m an evilution-worshiping atheist, I have no pity. Later that day I went to PZ’s house and took a few private pictures of his famed Wall of Creationist Blood that will be featured in the upcoming documentary Expelled.

    No, not really. The Evangelical Free Church was indeed almost directly across from us, but we just smiled at one another. The table to the left of the photograph featured above had another religious table. They were standing less than a yard away from us the whole time we were there. I won’t give another random description of bloody brawling because that isn’t what took place. Among others manning the neighboring table was a very nice young man who’d just come to UMM this year. We shook hands, talked about nothing relating to religion/evolution/atheism, and got to know each other.

    I detected a grand total of /two/ snide comments aimed in our direction the whole time we were there. The first was from some jock who turned to his buddy, pointed at our table, and whined, “What the hell is this shit?”

    The other time, a freshman I recognized approached the table and noted the article featured on my laptop about PZ — “A longer profile of yours truly,” which found in the upper left of Pharyngula’s home page. He asked, “So, is this guy arguing for creationists or evolutionists?”

    It was loud so I stood up and went around to the other side of the table. “He’s an evolutionist,” I said.

    “Oh,” the freshman said. “I wonder what he has to say about evolution and genetics.”

    “What to do with genetics?” I asked.

    “Well, I’m a Biochemistry major, and I just find it funny that [insert argument from credulity involving vague statistics about the small probability of a single-celled organism forming].”

    “The probability is /very/, /very/ small,” I agreed. “Just like the probability that you would be standing right here at this very moment is small… Of course, you’re standing here now, aren’t you?”

    He stroked his chin. “Have you taken any classes on statsitics?”

    “No,” I confessed with a shrug. “You’re much better off consulting Professor Myers. He teachers genetics and developmental biology for a living, right here in Morris, and I’m sure he’d love to meet you.”

    This seemed to frighten the freshman. He fell back on his lack of education regarding developmental biology and told me he didn’t want to discuss the issue with Myers because he was sure Myers would slaughter him.

    Later on, I /requested/ his email and name on the sheet so that we could send him information regarding the dates for CASH meetings. He just walked off! Oh, you have no idea how relieved I was, Salt. The thought of having a creationist (furthermore, a /biochemistry major/ creationist) attending one of our meetings was downright terrifying. That’s why I /asked/ him to come along, genius.

  28. says


    “Skaht-yeh” works just fine. Her parents are a little lazy when they pronounce her name nowadays, however. They just say “Skaht-cha” or “Scotcha”.

    I must express the frustration I felt when trying to learn how to say her name. I was getting so many mixed signals for the people who supposedly raised her. :s

  29. says


    The Latin is a result of laziness on our part. It’s just text filler. The remaining blurbs and photograph are actually finished, but the computer they’re saved on requires a better internet connection. Should be up in English by the afternoon.

  30. Hank Fox says

    Wicked good. I’m glad to see you all doing this.

    I do so WISH I’d had someone like you lot to talk to 35 years ago.

  31. says

    reginald selkirk…
    Nice link that. Sure helps to explain suicide bombers. But of course the Rabi is probably right from a personal point of view. If he didn’t have faith, he might not have been exempt from military service.

  32. Rey Fox says

    “I do hope that some campus Creationists do attend, not so much for any true discussion but to raise your blood pressure till, perhaps one day, your head explodes.”

    And you’ll know they are Christians by their love.

  33. Ian in Ohio says

    Tried to start a group like this during my last year in college. Completely bombed. Postmodernism, paganism, cultural relativism, and who knows what else were the dominant (‘intellectual’) trends on campus.

    Attended Oberlin College (OH)

    Best wishes for success at UMM.

  34. says

    Hey, you’re selling those cookies for souls, aren’t you?

    The Twin Cities CASH sells oreo’s for souls– people have to write their initials on a bead and put it in our “soul jar”… one day we’re going to do something with all the beads, but we haven’t decided yet.

  35. says

    Hey, you’re selling those cookies for souls, aren’t you?

    The Twin Cities CASH sells oreos for souls– people have to write their initials on a bead and put it in our “soul jar”… one day we’re going to do something with all the beads, but we haven’t decided yet.

  36. k says

    Free cookies/candy. Gets them everytime.
    And parents worry about drugs and alcohol, “Hey ma, I sold my soul to the evil Atheist conspiracy for a cookie!”

  37. says

    “Hey, did my Atheist Fliers make an appearance?”

    Yup. I don’t know which one was yours, but we flew one on 10 Myths about Atheism,” another about asking hard questions, and one about the definition of a free thinker.

  38. says

    I do hope that some campus Creationists do attend, not so much for any true discussion but to raise your blood pressure till, perhaps one day, your head explodes.

    Is that what happened to your brain, Salt?

  39. Chris says

    Heh, I originally read that sign in the background as saying “Campus Atheists, Skeptics, and Huguenots” :)

  40. Salt says

    You guys are hysterical.

    Is that what happened to your brain, Salt? – Is that the best you can do?

    They think they’ve won if atheists are incapacitated with laughter. – operative word; incapacitated

    Our heads exploded at the mere sight of each other. It was a standoff no battle in the history of warfare has ever come close to. – 2 Points for creativity.

    Actually, it could be beneficial for all except you guys are really no different from the Fundies, now are you? And likes repel, don’t they?

  41. Michael says

    I am glad to see another secular group being started at a university. I have helped start a secular group at Oklahoma State University over the summer. We have grown from 6 people at our first meetings over the summer to design the group to 26 people at our latest meeting last night.

    Hope you can enjoy the same.

  42. says

    And likes repel, don’t they?

    Is that why you hate us so much, why you can’t respond to anything except to throw more insults? Are you just like us?

  43. Steve_C says


    You act like we give a shit.

    We don’t. To think creationists showing up, to beat their bible, is nothing more than amusing, is a little sad.

  44. K. Engels says

    You know at this rate Skatje is never going to make a good ‘trophy wife’. She already has too much of her father’s ‘evilness’ in her. ;)

  45. Erp says

    The group web page needs some checking for html validation and accessibility. For instance the group’s spelled out name should probably be the

    heading instead of just an image and title.

    Any way good luck at the start up.

    The private university I’m staff at just had a series of sermons from the university chaplain on “What’s right about atheism”. The student non-theist group is currently not official (university rules require two student officers and they couldn’t find a second student willing to volunteer). However as the school year hasn’t started maybe it will be revived with some new blood.

  46. SueinNM says

    Shouldn’t PZ be disemvowelling salt? He’s only here to insult, mock and disrupt, not to make any sort of logical argument.

  47. says

    I haven’t posted up until now, but I read the blog regularly.
    Just wanted to brag that I have started the first atheist group on campus here at Northern Michigan University. I have a handful of supportive professors, but not many members yet. I hope this changes as I post fliers and put out e-mail announcements.
    I think it’s so important for students to start freethought/atheist groups because if my campus is any example, there are gobs of religious student organizations! There should be an alternative.
    I plan to keep the organization upbeat and focus on showing that atheists are moral and participate in community service, etc.

  48. Eric Paulsen says

    Hark! Is that an “Evil atheist tempts naive students to give up their soul for pizza” headline that I can hear being written somewhere?

    Posted by: DrFrank

    Funny you mention that. Some years ago I clipped an article from the Detroit Free Press about a Christian group that promised free pizza and a basketball game to inner city kids but instead forced them all to be baptized. Needless to say but the Hindu kids parents were less than amused and filed a complaint.

    At least with PZ I suspect there will be no abduction and coercion of the students… but I’ve been wrong before.

  49. says

    Reginald Selkirk: Yup, looks like it to me. One advantage to owning one’s own books is they always look more colourful than the library processed versions …