Saturday, October 31, 2009

Monster Mash Fun Run

Today 6 SCUSA volunteers attended the Monster Mash Fun Run in Houston, TX.  There were three events: a kids run, a 5K, and a 10K run.  Even though we all had to get up at an 'ungodly' hour, the event was lots of fun and we got to see some great costumes!  

Picture: Rob, Lynne, Noelle, Keith, Malika, Mathias.

Our volunteers helped set up the drink station at the finish line as well as staffing the one mile drink station for the 5K and 10K races.  After the event, we went to IHOP and had brunch.  Pictures of some of the great costumes will be up soon on our website.  Thanks to the volunteers for their contributions!

The highlight of the day was the sumo wrestler (see picture) staffing the drink station with us. He kept us entertained by adapting popular R&B songs to our task, which was to call out 'Water' or 'Gatorade' to the runners.

The lowlight of the day was at the start of the 5K race when, after a moment of silence for those in uniform, we were subjected to a prayer.  We were very surprised when this happened but perhaps we shouldn't have been, because it is Texas after all!  I personally felt uncomfortable and excluded during the prayer and I thought that it was inappropriate because of the diverse crowd.  Some of the other volunteers seemed to feel uncomfortable as well.  I think I will write a letter to the organizers of the race to let them know how their prayer made me feel - not on behalf of the SECULAR Center, because that is not really part of our mission, but just as an individual.

Thanks again to all the great volunteers and we hope to see you at future events!

Monday, October 26, 2009

They Think; Therefore They Know? Part 3

As non-believers, there are at least two questions we can (and do!) ask ourselves to distinguish whether something is fact or opinion:

1. Is this true all the time? Math will always give you the same answer, and so will chemical reactions. Those are proven facts. But opinions can change with time, personalities, and other factors.

I think that astrology is interesting and fun. But does astrology predict someone's entire personality and attitudes based on the date and time of their birth? Astrology has exceptions, which doesn’t make it fact.

2. What's the evidence? Is this thought provable time and time again through experimentation or analysis of data? Is the evidence secondhand, like stories passed down through generations? We don’t allow for hearsay in our court system, so why should we when evaluating religion or the existence of god?

The Native American stories and African creation myths may tell how the rabbit got his twitchy nose or the turtle got his shell, but we know that they are not fact. It's the same with the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic myths about god. There may have been a person named Jesus who lived 2000 years ago, but is there proof that he came from an omnipotent, all-knowing god? Only stories – no scientific facts.

These thoughts bring to mind a quote that will be featured in the next SECULAR Center Newsletter:

"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?"
- Epicurus; Greek philosopher, 341 BCE to 270 BCE

Check back next week for an analysis of this quote according to the questions proposed above!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Atheist Blogroll & Winter Solstice Party in Houston

SCUSA's blog has been added to The Atheist Blogroll. You can see the blogroll in our sidebar. The Atheist blogroll is a community building service provided free of charge to Atheist bloggers from around the world. If you would like to join, visit Mojoey at Deep Thoughts for more information.

Also, we had a very productive meeting today regarding the Houston Freethought Alliance Winter Solstice Party in December. We are working on finding a venue for December 12th! Please save the date, and contact SCUSA if you'd like to help plan the party! We have various committees you could participate on including Entertainment, Food/Drink, Logistics, Fundraiser (for Camp Quest), and Decorations.

Thanks for supporting SCUSA!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Social Networking

Yesterday and today we joined some social networking sites including Twitter, Digg, YouTube, and we made a new fan page on Facebook. We also added a page to our website for social networking so that people can see everywhere we are and everything we are doing in one easy place!

This isn't related to volunteerism, but today I also watched a fascinating talk by cosmologist Lawrence Krauss on YouTube from the AAI 2009 Convention. If you have any interest in dark matter, how our universe was formed, and how the universe will die, please watch it! It's quite long, about 1 hr, but it was totally worth it. H/T to Brother Richard's Life Without Faith blog for mentioning it.

Thanks for your support of SCUSA!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Atheist Nexus Conversation

Recently I read a blog post on Atheist Nexus from an atheist in Sweden who expressed that "I do not understand why there is such a grand hullabaloo about being an atheist'. He went on to express that it shouldn't be a big deal, that we should focus on other parts of our personalities, 'the important parts'. Here is a link to the blog post:

This post disturbed me and I wrote a lengthy response detailing my experiences with being an atheist in Houston. I was never active in the atheist community until I moved here, but now I am extremely active and I encourage others to be active as well. I would like to share with you some of the reasons why I am active by copying my response to the blog post:

"In the USA we don't have the luxury of atheism as part of the culture, especially where I live in the Bible Belt state of Texas. People assume that I am religious and go to church. When I first moved here 5 years ago, people would ask me which church I attended as a matter of conversation. Usually this would happen at work in a professional environment.

I run an organization called the SECULAR Center. We do volunteer work in our community, and we are non-theists. A few months ago we called a nursing home to offer our help, and they told us that only Christians could volunteer there. There is such a pervasive mistrust of atheists here that they didn't even want us to perform harmless activities like playing games with and reading books to the senior citizes of the home. I explained several times that we don't discuss religion while we provide our assistance, but they were not willing to have us.

You might think by my experiences that I live in a small town in the country, but I don't. I live in Houston, TX. We are the 4th largest city in the USA, last I checked the listings. This kind of attitude is pervasive here and us atheists struggle every day being confronted with religion and religious assumptions in our communities. Atheists are the most mistrusted group in America, according to a recent report that I linked to and discussed on my blog at

There is an e-mail going around cyberspace that I've received about taking away 'Under God' in our pledge of allegiance. The subject line is 'If you Agree, Forward. If you don't, Delete'. The e-mail goes on to list reasons why it's good to have 'Under God' in the pledge and discuss religious reasons for doing so. At the end of the e-mail, it says something like, Anyone who complains that we shouldn't have God in the pledge should just SIT DOWN and SHUT UP!!!. Imagine how you would feel if someone told you to sit down and shut up for expressing your opinion. To me, it doesn't feel very good - it feels like my opinion does not matter at all.

I really wish that atheists around the world, whether we live in areas that we are a minority or whether we live in areas that we are fully accepted, would come together to further the atheist movement. We form communities around atheism here because it helps us feel less alone and it allows us to discuss our viewpoints and ideas in an accepting environment. It is encouraging to know that somewhere in the world, atheists don't face a daily struggle to be accepted as ethical and contributing members of society. "

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Humanists of Houston Meeting and HFA Newsletter

This weekend I attended the Humanists of Houston Gathering. Bob Finch, a former professor of Mechanical Engineering, gave a talk about Darwin's life. It was both interesting and informative. Did you know that Darwin took about 20 years to publish his 'Origin of Species'? Also, the death of his daughter from scarlet fever is one of the events thought to have solidified Darwin's lack of belief in god.

While I was at the HoH meeting I met with Jim, who has been editing and publishing the Houston Freethought Alliance Newsletter for the last few years. Jim would like to transition the responsibility to someone else, so SCUSA has agreed to take over the newsletter. We thank Jim for all his hard work on the newsletter! If anyone has any submissions for the newsletter, please send them no later than a week before the 1st of each month. We are excited about continuing all the great content of the newsletter while giving it a SCUSA twist and including pictures, comics, and other interesting additions.

By the way, I've finally figured out how to add the option for people to subscribe to the blog by e-mail. Yay! This means that you don't have to have a google account to follow the blog.

Thanks for supporting SCUSA!

Monday, October 19, 2009

They Think; Therefore They Know? Part 2

‘The context of our society’ is important because we label things to help us understand them. For example, we know that 2+2=4 because we choose to, but even if we were to change the names, 2+2 would always be 4. We know that water is made of one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms. We could call them different names, but the equation would remain the same.

The religious have defined a being that is omnipotent and omniscient and call it ‘God, Allah, Yahweh’ and many other names. The vast majority of people in modern society understand this definition when we speak about a god. A god can perform any task and knows everything there is to know. This is a definition in the context of our society, but is it fact or opinion?

There is a very real difference between facts that are provable using the scientific method and other experimental methodology and opinions, which can change from moment to moment and person to person. The religious community has mistaken their opinion about the existence of god as fact - there must be a god because I believe there is? Not likely and not provable as fact (even though certain religions have people dedicated to skewing scientific evidence in order to try).

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Atheists Overwhelmingly Mistrusted in America

According to this article, from Psychology Today, Atheists are still the most hated/mistrusted group in America. The article is dated August 2009 and quotes the most recent survey about this subject (from the American Sociological Review).

I think the primary reason we should volunteer in our community is because it's fulfilling and gratifying to know that we are helping others. Assisting someone less fortunate than ourselves makes us feel good because we can provide something for them that they wouldn't otherwise have. It also reminds us that we are fortunate to have a roof over our head, food to eat, a good education, or a family that cares about us. Some lucky few have all of the above.

But as Atheists, Humanists, Freethinkers, and other non-believers, there is a side benefit to getting out in our community and talking about it. We can combat the perception that we are amoral and evil. We can combat the perception that we can't be trusted. We can combat the perception that we only care about ourselves. We can combat the perception that all we care about is attacking religion and religious beliefs.

We can do all this by simply getting out into our community and making a difference for those in need. We don't have to brag about it or advertise it, but we can share our contributions with our community. We can make a difference in the world.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Calling all Artists!

SCUSA is holding a contest for our 2010 secular calendar! We are looking for photographs, drawings, cartoons, and other 2D media submissions. All qualifying page ideas will be entered into a drawing to win a free copy of the calendar. Submissions from kids are welcomed! We want this to be a very diverse, fun, and entertaining calendar so don't be shy (but please do make it family friendly)!

Please submit ideas to no later than October 25th. Artists will receive credit for their submissions on the calendar if they would like.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

An Atheist's Thoughts About Counseling

Today one of my friends on Facebook posted something about going to pre-marital counseling with their Priest. It got me thinking about counseling in general.

My semi-Catholic partner and I have also been going to counseling prior to getting married this fall. I say semi-Catholic because he identifies as Catholic, but only attends church when his mother is in town, he doesn't think everything the Pope says is correct, and he doesn't believe I am going to hell for being an Atheist. Since we are not religious, we see a secular counselor. We have discussed financial expectations (ie how we will spend money), child-rearing expectations (ie teaching kids about religion), and marriage expectations (ie whether we have any preconceived ideas about marriage).

The point is, I started wondering how many people think that counseling is only for the mentally ill or for couples with serious problems? I realized that I haven't told many people that we are going to counseling for fear that they will think we are having issues. Of course, we do have issues, but there is nothing to be ashamed of about that. Every couple has things to work out at one time or another, and a counselor can be a great way to faciliate. It doesn't mean that the couple can't do it themselves and it doesn't say anything about the viability of the couple.

Counseling is not just for the mentally ill. Pre-marital counseling is not just for the religious. Perhaps if more people aired their differences and expectations in pre-marital counseling sessions it would help combat the high divorce rate. And wouldn't that be a much more logical solution than turning to religion or god? In fact, I might go so far as to hypothesize that maybe one reason religious folks have a lower divorce rate is because of their pre-marital counseling. Now there's a religious-based idea that may make sense!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Halloween Run/Walk Volunteering

Please join the SECULAR Center from 6-10am on Halloween morning for our most fun event yet! We will be volunteering at the Monster Mash Fun Run in Sugar Land - they need our help with the following activities: manning the registration table, running course setup, runners aid stations, handing out water, and cheering the runners/walkers on at the finish line.

The great thing about this event is that for each of you who donate your time at this event (up to 30 people) the hosts will make a donation to SCUSA. We could be eligible for up to a $500 donation! This is a wonderful way that you can help us begin our own atheist volunteer programs in the Houston community such as tutoring students, computer education, and support groups for those who have recently joined the Freethought movement.

The best part about the run is: you can dress up! Volunteers are encouraged (but not required) to dress up in family-friendly Halloween costumes for the event.

Please visit our Events page for RSVP details.

Monday, October 12, 2009

They Think; Therefore They Know? Part 1

Have you ever had a discussion with a religious person who simply assumes that because he or she believes in god it is a proven fact? The conversation does not include ‘I believe’ or ‘I think’ - it’s all about ‘God says’ and ‘God does’. It’s important and healthy to challenge the assumption that a belief is a fact. This will help remind believers that not everyone sees things the way they do. In this article, I will provide a method for critical analysis of a statement in order to determine whether it is provable scientific fact or opinion. I then apply this logic to a famous quote about god.

In today's world, fact and fiction are two very different things. We understand that television and movies are fictional, except for documentaries and perhaps reality shows. But fact and opinion are also widely different - in the community of people free of supernatural belief. The definition of fact for the purposes of this article is “a pragmatic truth, a statement that can, at least in theory, be checked and either confirmed or denied”. In the context of our society, what we know as provable facts are very different from individual opinions.

Check back next week for Part 2!

Freethought Day, etc.

Happy Freethought Day! Freethought Day is celebrated by secularists to mark the end of the Salem Witch Trials. For more information and history about the holiday, go to or In honor of the day, I am going to start a series of posts of an article about critical thinking.

Each week on Monday, I will post a part of the article. I will continue this for 5-7 weeks until the article has been posted in its entirety. The article is titled, They Think; Therefore They Know? The title is an adaptation of a famous quote, by Rene Descartes, usually translated in English as "I think, therefore I am".

Sunday, October 11, 2009

SCUSA, HCOF, and Camp Quest Texas

Today I went to the Houston Church of Freethought monthly service ( along with several others who are involved with SCUSA. Several presenters told stories of different creation myths including several Native American myths, a Norse myth, a Hindu myth, and others.

Representatives from Camp Quest Texas were at HCOF today to announce a T-shirt contest and kick off Houston fundraising efforts. SCUSA will be organizing fundraising in Houston for Camp Quest, so if you would like to donate or have any fundraising ideas, please contact us! Soon we will have a link to Camp Quest on our webpage as well as information about the fundraising activities. We are going to be competing with Dallas, San Antonio, and Austin to see who can raise the most funds for CQTX. Please check back for more!

Tomorrow is Freethought Day! In honor of the day, I am going to start a new series of weekly posts which will explore critical thinking and will analyze a specific quote which will be featured in the next SCUSA newsletter.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

SCUSA Media Appearances at AAI Convention

While at the AAI Convention, I was able to participate in several press events to talk about SCUSA and AAI. It was my first experience in front of cameras, and once I got over the nervous jitters I was excited to talk about SCUSA and AAI.

The first media event was a short interview on Friday afternoon for a documentary about Atheism. The documentary's goal is to show Atheists as normal people who are good, moral, and tries to combat the misconceptions about Atheists, which is very much in line with SCUSA's mission and vision. During the interview, I spoke about SCUSA's purpose, what we are trying to accomplish, and why we are needed. I'm not familiar with a website or title for the documentary yet, but once I get more information I will post it.

The second interview I did was with Joe (moJoe) from Atheist Nexus and the Chariots of Iron podcast. We discussed AAI and the Ambassador Program for about 1 minute before the conversation deteriorated into them teasing me about zombies (which I strongly dislike). You can view the video on the Atheist News page at

Finally, I participated in the Dogma Free America live feed on Saturday night during the Atheist News party. People go online and ask questions to the interviewees live and we answer them. There was more teasing about zombies, but I did get a chance to get some good information out to the public.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

AAI Convention Follow Up

I attended the AAI Convention this weekend in Burbank, California and had a great time! The weekend was packed with great speakers including Richard Dawkins, Bill Mahr (who received the Richard Dawkins award for Religulous), PZ Meyers, Jerry Coyne, Eugenie Scott, and many others.

My main role during the conference was as the Ambassador Director and Texas Ambassador for AAI, so I met many members of AAI and members of AAI's Affiliate groups. I also met with most of the other AAI Ambassadors and we had some great times getting to know each other as well as a productive meeting on Sunday to discuss the Ambassador Program.

However, I also had the chance to get some visibility for SCUSA and to make some important headway for our organization. AAI has agreed to partner with SCUSA, which means that we now have an important and well-known international organization in our corner! AAI will be promoting us as an Atheist charity and we will have visibility on an international level.

I'm looking at getting a booth for SCUSA at the AAI conference in Melbourne, Australia next March which will be our first international conference. Stay tuned for more on this as I work out the details! Thanks for your support of the SECULAR Center!