Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Atheism: Questions and Answers

So SA got a bunch of emails from an English class in Chicago asking us about our religious beliefs. Apparently they’re doing some kind of project on religion, so Mike Mei and I gave them our answers on the condition that I could post them. Here they are; I’d love to know what you think! (Note: Yes, there is some overlap, which I warned them about, and yes they are fairly short. Whatever.) If you have other questions you want us to ask about atheist (or in my case, Jewish atheist) identity, please ask in comments! Similarly if you disagree with any of our answers. 

Click read more to see the questions and answers.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Weekly Updates 11/6/11

Hello, Secular Students!

Happy November! Here's your sixth week update for the Secular Alliance!

Meeting Reminder


That's right, our next meeting is devoted to science, specifically the science of bubbles. If you have ever wanted to know the answers to these questions:

  • What exactly is a bubble, anyway?
  • Can there be a bubble inside a bubble?
  • Can there be a square bubble?
  • What about an anti-bubble (a bubble that is a spherical layer of air with water on the outside and inside)?
Then this meeting is for you. We're back in our usual location, in the Uncommon Room, in the basement of Rockefeller Chapel, at the usual time of 6 pm, on Tuesday November 8th.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Weekly Updates 10/28/11

Hello, Secular Students!

Hope midterms are going well! We know you're busy, but there's a lot of great stuff coming up. And so, here's your fifth week update for the Secular Alliance!

Meeting Reminder
So far this year, we've had a fascinating speaker, some wonderful, intelligent discussions of what it means to be an "[insert label here]" and what that means, and a great workshop on rationality, and how we all tend to fail at it. But sometimes, you just need to relax and hang out, especially after (or during) midterm weeks. So, next meeting will be very informal: we'll hang out, watch fully YouTube videos about science, skepticism, atheism, and whatever else we find amusing, and just have a good time. We hope you'll join us! Same time (6 pm on Tuesday evening), same place (the Uncommon Room in Rockefeller Chapel, which is in the basement).

If you have a particularly good YouTube video you think we all ought to see, relating to the topics above, feel free to email it to us at

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Weekly Updates 10/23/11

Hello, Secular Students!

By now, you probably all know the drill, so without further ado, here is your SA update for fourth week!

Meeting Reminder 
Our next meeting will be Tuesday, October 25th, at 6pm in the Uncommon Room, in the basement of Rockefeller Chapel. To find us, come in through the front door of Rockefeller, turn right and go down the stairs. There are signs to the room, which is just down the hallway. We will be having a workshop to see how rational you are, and how to become more rational. We are also giving away our new Secular Alliance t-shirts, if you come to the whole meeting, and, on top of that, there will be homemade sugar and chocolate chip cookies. We hope you'll come out and join us.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Weekly Updates 10/16/11

Hello, Secular Students!

Here's your third weekly bulletin of the year:

Meeting Reminder:

The next meeting will be on Tuesday, October 18th at 6 pm in the Uncommon Room of Rockefeller Chapel. After the hectic and awesome nature of our last two meetings, we thought it would be nice for us all to hang out and get to know each other better. So we're going to share our stories, how we came to identify how we do, and then talk in small groups about labels and identities and what atheism, agnosticism, skepticism, humanism, freethinker and other categories mean or should mean. It'll be fun and relaxed, so come on out.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Serah Blain at the University of Chicago

In case you missed it, Serah Blain, of the Secular Coalition of Arizona, gave a talk on secular political activism last week during the weekly meeting. Watch the talk below. A transcript is provided after the break.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Weekly Updates 10/6/11

Hello, Secular Students!

This is the first weekly bulletin of the 2011-2012 school year! We'll be sending these out once a week on the Secular Student Plus listhost, to keep you up to date on what we've been up to and what events and meetings are coming up. So without further ado... here's your weekly update for second week!

Meeting Reminder

The next meeting will be on Tuesday, October 11th, in the Uncommon Room of Rockefeller Chapel. Serah Blain, of the Secular Coalition for Arizona, will be coming in to talk to us. She is one of the contributors of the blog NonProphet Status, and is involved working with LGBTQ youth and interfaith community service. After Serah's talk, we'll have a discussion on activism, politics, and what it means to have secular values or whether they even exist in a coherent way, in addition to whatever Serah talks about. It should be a fascinating conversation, so we hope you'll come. Additionally, after the meeting concludes, we will be taking a dinner trip to Cedars with Serah, if you want to hang out and chat. It's not club-sponsored (meaning we aren't buying dinner), but it will be a great opportunity to meet our speaker and your fellow secular students. We encourage you to join us if you enjoy the meeting.

You can also RSVP on the Facebook event here.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Musings from the RSO Fair

First Years visiting the SA table
Last Friday was the Registered Student Organization Fair, in which all the RSOs on campus advertise themselves to other students, bribing them with free food, free information, and listhost sign-ups. The Secular Alliance was no exception... we were out there as well, gathering new minions recruits.

Look at all the interest!
Now, in general, spending 4 hours sitting at a table attempting to attract interest over the other couple hundred RSOs is not my idea of a good time. But this RSO fair was definitely worth it. We got a broad range of responses from "Huh. I didn't know we had a Secular Alliance. Cool." to "I was starting to think we didn't have a group for atheists/agnostics/seculars/non-religious students" to "Hey, my peeps! Sign me up!" to "Is this ironic? Are all the Jews at this school atheists?" to "Why are you in the middle of the religious organizations?" A full page and a half of students (nearly 50 individuals) signed up for the listhost and took information about the first meeting. For a campus of around 5000 undergrads that claims to be approximately 70% secular, it's still a low number, but considering that the group consisted of 8 active members its first year and around 12 last year, this is a massive increase in interest. If even half of these new students stick around, we'll have tripled in size.

This is particularly exciting because this is the year we really hope to expand our presence on campus and in the community. We have great ideas for weekly meetings, and big plans for regular church visits, social dinners, community service, debates, and speakers from the secular movement. We want to get our name out there as a place for non-religious students at the University of Chicago to come and hang out. Sometimes, we'll discuss topics in science, critical thinking, atheism, politics, and personal identity. Other times, we'll watch silly YouTube videos with a secular slant. We hope to create a safe space where everyone can feel welcome and open to talk about religion (or a lack thereof), and fill the void left by a lack of religious community. And the more students who know about it, the better we'll be able to meet those goals.

Secretary Alicia and President Chana welcome you to SA
So, for those of you returning to the Secular Alliance, welcome back. To all the new potential members, welcome. We hope to see all of you at the first meeting, and throughout the year.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Welcome (Back) to UChicago!

Hello, Secular Students!

Welcome to Fall Quarter 2011! Hope your first week has gone well, and you're settling into life here at the University. We are really excited about the new school year, and wanted to send some updates and announcements.

  • Come see us at the RSO fair! This afternoon (Friday, September 30), from 3-5pm, in the Henry Crown Field House. 
  • First Meeting of the Year: Our first meeting will be Tuesday, October 4th, at 6 pm in Stuart 105. We'll be playing awesome games, eating delicious food, and generally having a good time, so come join us! After the meeting, we will most likely have a social event, details TBD. 
  • Second Meeting of the Year: On Tuesday, October 11th, at 6 pm in the Uncommon Room of Rockefeller Chapel, Serah Blain will be coming to talk with us. Who's Serah Blain, you ask? 
Serah Blain serves on the boards of the Secular Coalition for Arizona, the Arizona Coalition of Reason, and the Prescott Pride Center. The Executive Director of QsquaredYouth, a nonprofit organization that supports LGBTQ youth in Prescott, AZ and surrounding areas, Serah is also the organizer of the Prescott Freethinkers, a thriving community of nontheists in Northern Arizona that meets regularly for discussion, fellowship and fun. She also co-chairs the Secular Student Alliance at Prescott College where she is working on a B.A. in Engaged Humanism. Her current interfaith volunteer projects include hospice care, and faith outreach for the Prescott Pride Center. Serah has two children who are being raised to be conscientious, compassionate human beings. (copied from her blog, NonProphet Status
  • Church Visits: Our first event will be on Sunday, October 9: We will attend a service of the Living Hope Church, a protestant church that meets on campus. This is part of a larger plan to take groups of SSA students to various churches in Hyde Park. Pastor Brad Beier has offered to hang out with us afterward if we have any questions. We'll also head somewhere afterward to get coffee/lunch and chat about the service. The service starts at 11:30am, and we'll have more details about out plans at our meeting on Tuesday. 

That’s all for this installment. After the first meeting, we will start sending out regular Weekly Updates on the Secular Students Plus listhost, as well as posting them here on the blog.

In conclusion, this week’s quote is from Isaac Asimov:
“To surrender to ignorance and call it God has always been premature, and it remains premature today." 

Hope to see you later today, or on Tuesday!
~The UChicago Secular Student Alliance~
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Monday, September 19, 2011

Part and Whole: How Communities Large and Small Benefit Each Other

By: Chana Messinger

This is cross-posted (with a slightly different title) from my personal blog at www.fantasticastoria.blogspot.com


Why does the Secular Movement (or Skeptical, or Atheist, or whatever) exist? Well, that’s an interesting and complicated question, and people answer it in a lot of different ways. The different visions that people have for their own communities or the movement are fascinating, and I imagine that they come out of differences not only in personal expectations, but also experiences of social communities and religious communities and how those are compared. All this is to say that I’m often curious about Secular Student Alliance affiliates across the United States and how they see themselves and the services they provide. I expect that some focus a great deal on their own communities, on their schools and on the community that they can provide for their members, which makes perfect sense in a variety of contexts, including, for example, a highly religious institution where there are few resources other than those who are already in the group. For my group, however, I take a different tack, which is to see our group as part of and inextricably linked to the broader movement. The reasons for this are several.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Weekly Updates 5/27/11

Hello, Secular Students!

We're rolling out a new way of telling you what's going on. Presenting: your weekly bulletin from the UChicago Secular Student Alliance. We'll be sending out one every week during the school year to make sure you're kept informed. Enjoy!

  • We have a new exec board! Your officers for the 2011-2012 school year are:
    • President: Chana Messinger
    • Vice President: Alex Novet
    • Secretary: Alicia Bierstedt
    • Treasurer: Brian Green
    • Public Relations Director: Mike Mei

          Many congratulations to all of them.

      • Next Saturday, June 4th, City Year is partnering with the White Sox to service projects downtown, painting, planting, and building at a couple schools. If you’re interested in participating, we can try to get a SSA team together. For more details, you can visit their website here. If you’re interested in participating, you can sign up under the team name “UChicago Secular Students.” If you have any questions, please email Alicia.
      • The Annual Secular Student Alliance National Conference is coming up on July 28-31. Five of our members are going, and would love for you to join them. For more information, and to register, go here.

      Meeting Reminder
      Our last meeting of the year is Tuesday, May 31 at 6:15 in Harper 148. We’ll be hanging out, eating dinner from Thai 55 (first 15 minutes is just dinner; actual meeting begins at 6:30), and discussing next year. Please bring ideas you'd like to see implemented in the year to come! Hope to see you there!

      To give us an estimate of how much food we’ll need, please RSVP here.

      Reminder to execs: We'll be having a half hour exec meeting directly following the meeting. Please make sure you can stay.