Should the MU have a chapel?

ChapelKevin Zimmerman, a 3rd year graduate student at ISU in Human Development and Family Studies, will make a brief presentation (about 15 min) at our meeting on Sept 17 about the chapel in the Memorial Union (shown here). He has prepared a letter to introduce his ideas, which you may find below.

As Kevin mentions in this letter, this is not the first time that this issue has been raised. In August 2007, Professor Warren Blumenfeld wrote a letter to the Daily  (reprinted after Kevin’s letter for your convenience) that caused a minor controversy but did not result in removal of the religious symbols.  Some students took the opportunity to respond and express their views (two letters of differing opinions reprinted after Dr. Blumenfeld’s for your convenience, you may find more at the ISU Daily).

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Weekly update

Meeting minutes from last week’s meeting are up on the blog, we need your input! Share your opinions and ideas in the comments.

On Tuesday and Wednesday 10am – 1pm we’ll have an “Ask an Atheist Booth” in the Free Speech Area between the Library and the Hub. Set up is 10-10:30, tear down 1-1:30. The goal is to let prospective club members know that our club exists. We will also show people that atheists are friendly and approachable, and it will give people an opportunity to ask us about atheism, secularism, etc. Sign up at the Facebook event. I hope we can have at least 2 people there at all times. We particularly need people to commit to help set up and tear down.

On Wednesday at 7pm, we’ll meet at Olde Main for our first social night and $1 pints. We’ll stay on the restaurant side so underagers can join us. Facebook event. Comment on the FB event if you need a ride.

On Thursday 7pm-8pm our regular meeting will be in the Memorial Union Gold Room (2nd floor, near Multicultural Center). We’ll watch a 1/2 hour talk by PZ Meyers then discuss the potential benefits and drawbacks of militant atheism.

On Saturday, 6am-8am the Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers will have a booth at the Des Moines Downtown Farmers’ Market at 101 E. Locust St. If you’re down in Des Moines, stop by and say hi!

Weekly update for Jan 26

We will discuss the ubiquity of prayer at our meeting on Thursday Jan 29 at 7pm in room 3219 of the Memorial Union. As many of you may have noticed, President Obama’s Inaugural Day began and ended with prayer. In his inaugural speech, President Obama said “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers” (USA Today). He also included at least one each Muslim, Jew, and Hindu in his prayer service (US News note the description of Rev. Sharon Watkins’s sermon). However, all four religious leaders who spoke at the Inauguration were Protestants (Beliefnet). What do you think about President Obama’s choices of words and religious speakers? What do you think about the number/type of prayers offered at the inaugural events? Does this say anything about our President, or about our society?

Sunday Feb 1 is another Sunday Brunch 11am in the Heritage room of the Union Drive Marketplace on campus. Brunch is all you can eat for $8.75 for students and non-students.

Please see the AAS Google Calendar for more upcoming events, such as seminars and workshops from the Wesley Foundation and the belated Winter Solstice Soiree from the Iowa Secularists.

We are getting ready to order AAS shirts for this semester. The shirts are light blue with “The ISU Atheist and Agnostic Society” on the front and “The deepest sin against the human mind is to beleive things without evidence. – Thomas H. Huxley” on the back (see the AAS shirt page for images). They are $15 each and help to fund AAS events. Please email isuaas at gmail dot com with your name, phone number, and shirt size no later than Monday 2 Feb so we can get the shirts ordered quickly. Apologies to those who already put in requests – we didn’t get enough requests to place an order, so you will need to resubmit your request.

Looking for answers in Genesis

What follows is an approximate transcript of the 20 Nov 2008 AAS meeting, at which Jim, a Christian and ISU alum, spoke with us about alternative interpretations of Genesis. It is by no means complete, and if you remember any particularly interesting parts that were left out, please comment. All hyperlinks and comments within brackets were added by AAS to help readers understand the background behind this discussion.

There are many views on genesis, including: theistic evolution, young earth creationism, and old earth creationism [which has many subsets, including framework theory and day-age]. Jim considers himself an old earth creationist. [Answers in Genesis, a well known creationist group, is known for young earth creationism.]

Creationism is not black and white. It follows a biblical script but prevalent ideas in society and science also impact how creationism is thought about.

Today’s young earth creationism was started by Henry Morris and John Whitcomb in 1961 with their book called The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Implications that looks scholarly but isn’t [for examples of how it isn’t, see Talk Origins]. The book is essentially flood geology and was originally a 7th Day Adventist view. The book took the Christian community by storm.

Young earth creationism tells that the length of the day in Genesis was iron clad but there isn’t any literature on it. Religious leaders teach that their flocks should go deep into bible, examining it for themselves, but also tell them to take genesis literally.

Jim grew up leaning about young earth creationism. He didn’t get enough science in school to know about the true age of the earth. Learning about the age of the earth would have caused problems for his faith because if genesis is wrong, then maybe the rest of the bible is wrong also. It just didn’t make sense – could thousands of scientists be wrong? or was the problem with one man’s interpretation of the bible?

The bible written in the midst of many deities being believed in. It was not mainstream. The Old Testament was oral tradition originally, needed to be memorized so it was fairly simple, easily distilled to one main point: “there was one god and he created things” that was easily distinguished from the many different creation views that existed at the time. A more detailed story of creation would not have been so easily passed from person to person.

Until recently, one problem with biblical studies is that different translations of the original Hebrew and Greek were not available to most people. Today, with the internet, the Hebrew is available so people can interpret the words for themselves, instead of relying on one or another English translation. Because of this and because of organizations like Reasons to Believe who are attempting to unify the biblical view of creation with modern science, the age of fighting over creationism is going to end. [While Reasons teaches that the age of the earth is approximately 4.5 billion years, they reject the theory of evolution so are considered old earth creationists.]

If we examine the Book of Genesis verse by verse then we see how it matches with what is known by modern science. [Jim uses the New American Standard Bible because he believes it most closely matches the original Hebrew.] Since learning about this way of interpreting Genesis, Jim taught a 10 week class at his church on old earth creationism. Continue reading

What does Obama think about SOC?

Separation of church and state (SOC) is a major issue for secularists. That’s why we invited Gordon Fisher, Iowa lawyer, volunteer with the Obama/Biden campaign, and former chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, to speak with us at our Oct 23 meeting.

Surprisingly, the most lively conversation was on education. The idea suggested by a club member was: should we spend less on struggling students and more on the gifted?

Gordon is willing come out and speak to us again after the election. He asked to be added to our mailing list and was invited to come to future meetings, along with his wife, Monica. His blog on Iowan and national politics is Iowa True Blue. He will get back to us on Obama’s stance on three topics: the defense of marriage act, federal funding of boy scouts, and flag burning.

Here is approximate transcript of the Q & A…

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