Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Planning Meeting Minutes

On Wednesday the 28th, we had a formal planning meeting for the group's future, particularly the next semester. I took the following set of notes:

Jen began by asking about administrative issues like meeting time and frequency—for example, the types of events we're going to program, and how often. We started by talking about day of week. Holly suggested we vary the time, e.g. meet one day and time one week and another the next. Victorine and Abbey added that Sunday at 2 is a problem because it's in the middle of everything, but when Jen asked for alternative times, there were no objection to keeping any Sunday meetings at 2.

When Jen raised the issue of the type of meeting to have, Mitch said he was looking for social events to meet people who're nontheists, and talked about the experiences of another atheist group, which has a happy hour every week. Holly added that NYC Atheists has the same kind of event every other weekend. Mitch volunteered to run the happy hour, and pitched the idea of going to Radio Perfecto's, which has a happy hour with reduced prices.

Holly suggested the Institute of Earth Science's series on evolution and DNA, which is geared toward its religious consequences. Mitch suggested Neil DeGrasse Tyson as a speaker, while I talked about my dropping the ball on Fred Whitehead, who was going to speak to the group about the history of American atheism but canceled after I couldn't give him more details; Holly talked about Philip Kitchener as another possible speaker.

Mitch talked about Atheism Awareness Week, or Atheism 101, as possible events we could do; Alex added that a more controversial, and more enticing, name could be Reality Check. Mitch said we could encourage people to come out as atheists by filming them for the Blasphemy Challenge. I connected it to the idea of activism, and Victorine added that the club was obscure and needed to advertise it more. Holly added and told the story of Korean Campus Crusade for Christ girls who asked her to come to Bible study, and when she said she was an atheist, they asked her, "So you haven't heard of Christianity?". Amelia added that CCC is very well-funded and has a strong national infrastructure.

Holly talked about making a more aggressive publicity campaign for speakers, noting that the reason I said we didn't invite speakers before is fear of low attendance. Wilson added that the SSA could give help with promotion and funding. When Mitch passed around a list of speakers and topics they could talk about, Amelia started to rave about Randall Balmer, an Evangelical Christian who's vehemently against intelligent design and for separation of church and state. Jeff added that we could have Jill Shapiro speak to us about evolution in general. I asked who to contact because different speakers have different focuses, and we agreed to get everyone if possible.

When I raised the issue of publicizing, Holly mentioned professionally made fliers and said that sending the fliers a week before would help ensure people would see them in time. She and Mitch added that we should release a schedule of all speakers for the spring semester. When Jen mentioned the idea of a debate, Amelia and Jeff said they would be interested in it; Holly added that the Veritas Forum often sponsors debates, albeit lopsided ones. Wilson said the SSA could help by providing manpower for fliering, lend speakers who may be ex-priests or ex-ministers, and give some grants.

On the subject of planning meetings, we agreed to just make ad hoc planning meetings. Jen asked which frequency to have discussions at, and we unanimously decided to drop to one every two weeks; in other words, we'll have two discussions and a planning meeting every month. Holly asked when the next time we can have a social event is; we haggled over days, and decided on Friday the 7th at 7 pm at Radio Perfecto [addendum 12/5: we're actually meeting at Max Café; Radio Perfecto lost some of its appeal after a fatal shooting].

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Secular Society and Its Enemies: A Center for Inquiry Conference

On November 9th-11th, the Center for Inquiry hosts a conference called The Secular Society and its Enemies.

Speakers will include Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Alan Dershowitz, Peter Singer, and Michelle Goldberg.

From the event's website:

The 2007 Conference of the Center for Inquiry-New York City will take place at the New York Academy of Sciences at 7 World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan, overlooking the World Trade Center site and construction site of the Freedom Tower, on November 9 - 11. Renowned speakers, scholars, and media personalities will meet to discuss the future of reason and secularism in an America and a world increasingly divided by religion.

Themes will include:

- The Age of American Unreason
- The Next Islamic Enlightenment
- Science and the Public
- Student Freethinkers Speak Out
- Secularism through History: from Spinoza to JFK
- VIP Reception and Awards Presentation (with the International Academy of Humanism)

Student registration is 99$. The event will take place at the New York Academy of Sciences, 250 Greenwich St, 40th Floor, Manhattan.

Next Meeting: The Presidential Election, 2pm, 11/11/07, Lerner 501

Come one, come all, to CAA's next meeting. We will be discussing The 2008 Presidential Election on Sunday, November 11th, at 2pm in Lerner Hall 501.

Should candidates' religious beliefs matter? Will we ever have an openly atheist president? Want to bemoan the fact that three Republican candidates don't believe in evolution? Come share your thoughts.

Past Meetings

In reverse chronological order:

10/28/07: Religion and Gender, in 501 Lerner Hall

10/14/07: The Atheist Movement, in Lerner East Ramp Lounge

10/7/07: Secular Spirituality, in 501 Lerner Hall

9/30/07: Secular Morality, in Earl Hall's Schiff Room

9/3/07: First meeting, in Math Hall: informal discussion of what the club should be and telling of personal stories.