On Tuesday, February 23, I received an email from Mike Demory tearing into the Atheist & Agnostic Society and calling us cowards for not accepting his invitation to debate the existence of God. This prompted me to look back at past emails to see what he was referring to. I found that on December 17, 2009, (during finals week) he had sent the email with his proposed idea to debate. On the same day, Anastasia sent an email that did not accept or deny his invitation, but rather informed him that it was a busy time for college students.
I quickly emailed Mr. Demory back to ask him for more information and to inform him that our group went through a Presidency change over break as well. On Wednesday, February 24, Mr. Demory’s article entitled “ISU club fails to address blasphemy questions” appeared in the ISU Daily and leveled similar criticisms to that of his email the day before.
As you may have assumed, the Atheist & Agnostic Society gets many emails from theists, some of which deserve to be taken seriously and others that do not. Mr. Demory’s original email fell into the latter category, so it was forgotten about over winter break. Why was his email overlooked? Between criticisms launched by him in the email and his Daily article, he has made the following errors:
He didn’t know the name of our group and mistakenly thought that a national website for student groups was our own.
Mr. Demory claimed that we participated in “Blasphemy Days” last September. This is also false. I wrote an opinion piece for the Daily and our website that discussed the value of free speech and the Blasphemy Day activities of the UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers.
Mike made the comment that we were unsuccessful in challenging evangelist Tom Short. In fact, we held a (mostly) silent protest when Tom was here last year, and the Daily covered it. You can read about it online.
He has said several times that we challenged people to a debate, apparently meaning in a formal setting, and have since backed out because we can’t support our beliefs. I am not opposed to the idea of a debate, but in the three years I have been a member we have never issued a challenge to engage in a formal debate. I have continually supported criticizing religion as a way of generating an open dialogue, but he ultimately accepted a challenge that was never proposed. If we were truly afraid and incapable of publicly defending our beliefs, then why would we have a weekly Ask an Atheist booth set up on campus when its purpose is to help initiate that dialogue?
Mr. Demory clearly has issues fact-checking, even when the information he needs is all available online. Maybe next time he should also wait longer than two hours for a reply before writing a factually incorrect letter to the editor. If he can’t take the time to fact-check anything about our group, then why should we waste time taking him seriously?