Godless Grad Student

news and reflections from an active atheist and disabled graduate student

Archive for the ‘Secular Student Alliance (GMU)’ Category

Press Release: Godless Bus Shelter Ads along National Mall Launch New Coalition

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Godless Bus Shelter Ads along National Mall Launch New Coalition

Will Be Seen by Crowds at Jon Stewart Rally and Science Expo

For Immediate Release

(Washington DC, October 19, 2010) “Don’t Believe in God? Join the club.”

These words are part of prominent bus shelter ads near the National Mall in Washington DC that will be visible to pedestrians and drivers on Independence and Constitution Avenues for the next four weeks. Thus they will be seen by those who work in the area as well as visitors attending such Mall events as the USA Science & Engineering Festival Expo on October 23 and 24, the dueling rallies of John Stewart and Stephen Colbert on October 30, and the 35th Marine Corps Marathon on October 31 (miles 18 and 19).

The 67″x46″ bus shelter ads feature the words superimposed over an image of a blue sky and fluffy clouds. They were placed by the new Washington DC Area Coalition of Reason (Washington CoR) with $7,875 in funding from the United Coalition of Reason (United CoR).

Washington CoR is made up of 12 area groups which, according to its website, seek to “enhance the growth, visibility and acceptance of nontheists throughout the metro area” and promote “wider acceptance of a more rational view of the universe and a more compassionate view of those who live in it.” A complete list of the participating organizations and friends of the coalition can be found athttp://washington.unitedcor.org/node/7 . Members of these groups plan to march under a Coalition of Reason banner at the Jon Stewart rally on October 30.

The Washington DC campaign is also part of a national effort. Already this year there have been similar billboards and bus ads in Austin, Des Moines, Detroit, Louisville, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Jacksonville, St. Augustine, St. Petersburg, Tampa, Tucson, Sacramento, St. Louis, and Seattle. Last year there were United CoR-sponsored billboard, bus, and subway ads in 20 cities, including Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Houston, Tulsa, Phoenix and San Diego.

“The point of our nationwide awareness campaign is to reach out to the millions of atheists, agnostics and humanists living in the United States,” explained Fred Edwords, national director of the United Coalition of Reason. “Such individuals sometimes don’t realize there’s a community for them because they’re flooded with traditional religious messages at every turn. So we hope this will serve as a beacon and let them know they aren’t alone.”

Reaching out to the like-minded isn’t the only goal of the effort. “We also want the public to see that there are many humanists, agnostics and atheists living here as part of the community,” added Shelley Mountjoy, coordinator of Washington CoR. “We’re your friends, neighbors, coworkers and relatives. And like many people, we are leading quality lives: contributing to neighborhood and nation and living our values.”

“Being visible is important for us,” Edwords concluded, “because atheists and agnostics in our society often don’t know many people of like mind. Furthermore, if traditionally religious people can be open about their views, why shouldn’t we be open about ours?”

# # #

For hi-res images of the bus shelter ads, free for media use, see the right sidebar on this page. The exact locations of the bus shelters are as follows:

Independence Avenue, south side, 10 feet west of 12th Street, SW, facing east. This is in front of the Smithsonian Metrorail Station (Independence Avenue exit) next to the Department of Agriculture and the Knapp Memorial Arch and across the street from the Department of Energy. It doubles as a stop for the Open Top Sightseeing Bus.

Independence Avenue, south side, 90 feet west of 3rd Street, SW, facing east. This is in front of the Voice of America, across Independence from the Museum of the American Indian and across 3rd from the Department of Health and Human Services. It doubles as a stop for the 30s Metrobuses.

7th Street, east side, 30 feet south of Constitution Avenue, NW, facing north. This is next to the National Gallery of Art, across from the Sculpture Garden, catercorner from the National Archives and about a block south of the Archives-Navy Memorial Metrorail Station. It doubles as a stop for the Red Circulator Bus.


# # #

The Washington DC Area Coalition of Reason is a network of local groups that have joined together to increase the sense of community among like-minded people and to enhance the growth, visibility, and acceptance of nontheists throughout the Washington DC metro area.

The United Coalition of Reason is a national organization, headquartered in Washington DC, that works to raise the visibility and sense of unity among local groups in the community of reason by providing funding, expertise, and opportunities for cooperation.

# # #

For more information contact:

Shelley Mountjoy
Coordinator, Washington CoR

Steve Lowe
Media Rep., Washington CoR

Fred Edwords
National Director
United Coalition of Reason



march in a minute

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Wow!  I just realized it’s been a whole month since I’ve spoken about events that have taken place around DC.

I still haven’t been able to attend Beltway Atheists Happy Hours because they conflict with my school/work schedule.  However, we’ve had three in March… as usual, Tommy Joe’s in Bethesda, Mai Thai in Dupont Circle, and Joe Theissmann’s in Alexandria.  Christopher ran all three.  Aside from a banned member showing up at one, things were for the most part, fun and successful.

Beltway Atheists’ Charitable Works Committee cleaned our adopted highway (Rt. 7) for the first time this year.  (We’re obligated to clean the highway 4 times a year.)  Unfortunately I couldn’t make it due to illness.  On March 11th, Neil deGrasse Tyson came to GW.  The event was incredible!  It had been moved to March due to snow but we still had about 25 Beltway Atheists members among the 750 or so people who attended.

Gina Welch spoke at Politics and Prose in March as well… with short notice, many of us could not come but we do have a similar event on the calendar for April.

Our cultural event for the month was a trip to the Holocaust Museum… I was a bit disorganized but it was a powerful experience.

There were also a number of events on the Beltway Atheists calendar that I could not attend – all were on the topic of evolution:

– A panel discussion on ‘Religious Perspectives n the Science of Human Origins”

– A play celebrating Darwin’s impact

– A book discussion

– A film on the life of Charles Darwin

Among the more controversial events, WASH had a lecture on polyamory.  There were a number of objections before the event but it went on without incident.

Student groups at American University and George Mason University hosted Tom Flynn on March 22nd and 23rd… he gave a talk on “The Trouble With Easter” and it was very well researched and enjoyed by many.

Finally, for those of you who find the whole 6-6-6 thing interesting, Beltway Atheists reached the 666 member mark on March 26th.

Written by godlessgradstudent

April 3, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Darwin Day (Pasta?) Dinner

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UPDATE:  An edited version of this post was published in the Secular Student Alliance’s eMpirical.  I absolutely *love* the picture they chose to accompany the story. 🙂

Friday, February 12th, 2010 was the 201st Anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin.  Commonly called ‘Darwin Day’, it is a great chance for our community to gather to celebrate humanity and science.

At George Mason University, Student Activities will support one meeting per year with food and this was our chance to take that resource and make a great impact.  So, I filled out the necessary paperwork for a pasta dinner, another leader in our group made arrangements for a speaker, and the Secular Student Alliance (GMU) planned to celebrate Darwin Day with what would have been a fabulous pasta dinner complemented with a terrific speaker.

The weather had different plans though.  Snowmageddon ’10 hit and our pasta extravaganza became 15 pizzas.

In the end, everything worked out.  Our speaker was still able to make it.  People ate, drank, and had a good time.  The event was a success – in so far we define “success” as having the people who did come enjoy the event.

Nevertheless, as President of the Secular Student Alliance (GMU) this brought two questions to my mind…

1. Are we becoming too “religious” in our rituals to honor his noodly appendage?

As a result of a week of closures there was no time for campus catering to prepare the dinner we had planned.  Nevertheless, Student Activities did go our of their way to facilitate having some food that evening – specifically, Papa John’s Pizza.

I notified those signed up on Facebook and Meetup that we would have food – just not the pasta planned – so that they wouldn’t be disappointed when then arrived.  Ironically, pizza is actually more popular than pasta and had we marketed this event as a pizza dinner the student turnout likely would be higher.

A few people were extremely disappointed by the lack of pasta.  One of our student leaders pushed to continue with pasta through other means and in the end purchased pasta with their own funds to supplement the pizza.  The basis of the argument?  Having “truth in advertising”.

For what it’s worth, most of the pasta remained uneaten.

Personally, I was too busy running around at the last minute to participate in the debate.  With the changes came increased paperwork as well as the need for me buy soda, paper products and set up.  (The “pasta” dinner would have been fully catered and a staff member would have handled set up.)   Also, ordering pizza was not as simple as it sounds and we still have some outstanding issues with the vendor.

I understand the connection between the Flying Spaghetti Monster and “pasta dinner” and I don’t doubt that it would have been nice to have pasta but it’s more logical, in my mind, to do what is practical.  So, is this an issue?  Do we need to celebrate the FSM with pasta?  Should we have fought for pasta like other students fight for accommodations for their religious beliefs?  If so, it sounds like dogma to me.  The FSM is not a real religion and therefore we should be able to adjust our rituals as necessary.

2. Should an event be canceled, or rescheduled, in consideration of inclement weather cancellations earlier in the week?

We still had the guest speaker – Tim Farley from Whatstheharm.net – although we were significantly delayed in getting him to the event due to heavy traffic on recently plowed streets.  We also had less than half the turnout expected.

Student and community members who were off campus had no intention of coming on campus for a free meal when they had been home all week and were coming up on the weekend.  Students who were on campus didn’t get exposure to the advertising we would have normally done.   We had intended to have a kiosk at the Johnson Center (JC), a major building on campus.  However the JC and many other buildings we had hung flyers in were closed all week.

If we rescheduled, we would have had to find a new speaker as the 2/12 date happened to correspond with Tim’s travel plans.  Nevertheless, I feel that we should have chosen that route.  Of course we could have gotten pasta later but that isn’t the reason for my opinion.

A major part of holding an event is to build recognition of the student group.  Even people who can’t attend, see that there is a party with free food, a great speaker, and – most importantly – there is a Secular Student Alliance on campus!  This didn’t happen.  A few of our existing members did bring along friends but new faces were, by in large, absent from the event.

Also, at the end of the day I was left holding the ball.  There was, metaphorically, no one to toss the ball to because no one was anticipating drastic last minute changes.  Should one student leader struggle with paperwork, a bulk pizza order, a trip to the grocery store, and room set up by themselves on the day of the event?  For a student leader in a wheelchair, this was next to impossible.  I’m amazed that it all came together.  Although even for an able-bodied student leader I still would have recommended rescheduling the event.  This is too much work for one student to carry – especially in one day.

What is the best course of action for a student group whose event is affected by inclement weather?  In our situation, just because campus had finally reopened after a week of closures it didn’t mean that we needed to go through the event as planned.  I wrote this article because many of us feel the need to continue with plans despite the changes and to focus on the positive rather than contemplate the negative… sometimes our expectation to follow through despite bumps in the road becomes an obligation to charge on regardless of obstacles.  This doesn’t have to be the only option.

checking in…

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Wow.  It’s been a several weeks since I’ve posted… I almost forgot my password.

Many things have been going on.  The Secular Student Alliance a George Mason University hosted the movie “Flock of the Dodos” (1/25) and had a great turnout,  Drinking Skeptically – Richmond had a happy hour last night with a smaller turnout due to the weather, and tomorrow night Mason’s students are hosting a Darwin Day Dinner.

Beltway Atheists did have two other events (a Happy Hour and a Book Discussion) which were canceled due to the weather.

Written by godlessgradstudent

February 11, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Secular Student Alliance (GMU) first Spring 2010 Meeting!

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The Secular Student Alliance (George Mason University) had their first meeting of the semester yesterday… yes, on the first day back to classes!

We have an exciting semester to come.
1/25 – Movie Night “Flock of the Dodos” – 8 PM – SUB II Room 3 & 4
2/12 – Darwin Day Pasta Dinner – 6 PM – SUB II Room 5, 6, & 7
2/16 – February Meeting – 6 PM – JC DH Gold Room (Ground Floor)

In the works, is a “Meet the Local Groups” night in March.  Four off-campus groups are going to be visiting us one evening and giving a quick introduction to their group followed by a Q&A.  Also, in April we’re organizing a group trip to the American Atheists Convention!  Last year 3 of us went to the American Atheists Conference in Atlanta, GA and had an amazing time.