The Demon-Haunted World

Science as a Candle in the Dark

The Secular Alliance book club will be reading The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan as our first pick of the fall semester. In it you’ll find his useful “Baloney Detection Kit” to carefully evaluate new evidence before accepting its implications. Also within is the story of the invisible, heatless-fire-breathing dragon, which no conceivable test can actually detect. Is it worth even saying it exists? Through analogy we can better understand the scientific method and what its findings entail. It’s a great book that’s sure to bring great discussion, so join us later in September for our first meeting.


Religious Liberty or Religious Coercion?

Much of the media coverage of the Religious Right today is focusing on their portrayal of “religious liberty” and how the government, abortion proponents, and “the homosexuals” are infringing upon it. But who is oppressing whom? Are the rights of gays and lesbians to get the recognition and benefits of marriage being oppressed, or is it the “right” of the religious to have the laws mirror their convictions the true loss?

We’ll be exploring ideas of religious liberty throughout September, but our headline speaker is Rev. Steven Baines of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. We’ll also be examining the recent Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act, including the book What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense which was cited by Justice Alito in his dissenting opinion. Through examining these resources we will better understand the “religious liberty” ideal as a tension between groups and their competing rights.

Join us at our weekly Sunday meetings to talk about these issues and more as we prepare for an active fall!


Change the World… with Science!

You may have seen some of our chalk around campus, especially one with the words Change the world with SCIENCE. What does this mean? It’s tricky because “science” doesn’t tell us what do do or how to behave. Scientific methods simply provide background information on issues, and the decisions are left to other methods, like politics, activism, and social movements. Sometimes, however, science provides us with compelling reasons because there is so much data pointing in a similar direction that the lines are obvious. There are some obvious lines today, like that one species has been able to affect an entire planet on a scale never before seen with global climate change. Another is that social institutions like marriage have changed many, many times throughout their history such that there is not “one way” or “originally-created” version.

The Secular Humanist movement believes in real change brought about by the hard work of many people—people who aspire for a world of equality, freedom of thought and speech, and sustainable living. We found our actions on the obvious lines of science applied to human need, including those in future generations. What sort of world are we creating for them? Are conditions going to be better or worse than they are now? What’s more pro-life than concern for global human suffering, future human suffering, and achievement of an equitable society?

You too can be a part of this movement. We have a lot of exciting programs for you to jump into. Just come to our callout on September 5 at 6pm in Fine Arts 015 to find out more. The Secular Alliance is the group to be in if you want to make a positive impact on the world without the divisiveness of rigid ideologies. We do good things because we can rationally see they are good, not because someone tells us to.

Touched by His Noodly Appendage

Flying Spaghetti Monster Strikes Again

You may have noticed some changes to We’ve been touched by his noodly appendage and blessed with a new website! Aside from the new look, you can still quickly find out about our events and read engaging blog posts on our themes for the semester. And we have an exciting event planned for the fall that will be announced at our callout and posted here, so come back and stay informed!

William Lane Craig on facts, tracts, and things abstract

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of the SAIU. For a longer version of this post, see the Nothing Is Mere blog.

I’m grateful to Alex Rosenberg and William Lane Craig for taking the time to respond to my post, “Fact-checking the Craig-Rosenberg debate“. I edited in a few of Rosenberg’s comments from correspondence, but Craig’s public reply, “Fact-checking the fact-checker“, is more in-depth, and deserves a response in its own right. I’ll single out two points for special attention: historical methodology, and the idea of immaterial causation.

Scripture and scholarship

Craig writes of my

[...] breezy dismissal of N. T. Wright’s scholarly work because Wright is “a Christian apologist and bishop” and of the work of New Testament historians in general because they are allegedly Christians [...]

I didn’t dismiss Christian scholarship. What I wrote was:

Craig doesn’t note that most New Testament scholars are Christians. (Are we to take it as evidence for the truth of Christianity that a lot of Christians happen to be Christian?)

Now, of course being a Christian doesn’t make it impossible for you to evaluate Christianity in a fair and skeptical way. I believe very strongly that the Earth is round, but that doesn’t mean that I’d be hopelessly biased in a debate with flat-Earthers. Agnosticism does not imply objectivity, and objectivity does not imply agnosticism. If anything, we’d be worried if most New Testament scholars weren’t Christians, since that would suggest that the historical evidence tended to make people less religious than the general populace.

But it’s also worth noting that Christian orthodoxy is not generally considered by historians the only possible objective interpretation of the evidence of the Gospels. And appealing to scholarly consensus here is misleading inasmuch as it has the guise of an appeal to independent authorities, as opposed to authorities who already came into the field accepting Christianity.

The charge was not that being Christian invalidates one’s scholarly work on Christianity. It was that, in the context of a debate with non-theists, it’s misleading to appeal to the authority of historians qua historians without mentioning that most of them came into the field already accepting the conclusion for which you’re arguing. (From childhood, no less!) Continue reading

Bloomington Atheist Happy Hour [Under 21 Welcome!]

On the first Friday of every month, the Bloomington Atheists group meets up at Player’s Pub for Atheist Happy Hour. Drinks are had, food is eaten, and chat happens. You don’t have to be an atheist to attend.

Feel free to drop by anytime between 5:30 and 7:30ish! We’re always at a big table in the back room with the pool tables. If you need a ride to Player’s Pub (424 S. Walnut, on Walnut between 2nd and 3rd street), email and we can arrange one.

Dead week with SAIU

The SAIU Community Center will be open for studying on the Thursday of dead week. There will be free pizza, desserts, soda, coffee, and tea.

You can come as early at 6pm and stay as late as midnight!
The times when fresh pizza will be available are limited, but the rest will be available the whole time.

To get to the community center,  go up the Student Activities Tower elevator (located across from Starbucks) to the fifth floor, we’re in room 577.


Bow to your new leaders!

The ’13-’14  leadership for SAIU has been selected! After the President, Secretary, and Treasurer were elected by popular vote on April 7th, they  selected three individuals to carry out a semester term as small group leaders. All new officers will be sworn in at the end of year potluck on Sunday, April 21st. If you would like to read more about what each of these people will be responsible for, you can read information here. Additionally, there are four appointed positions which SAIU’s current president, Jessika Griffin, selected with recommendations from SAIU at large.


Orion Day studies both the natural and social sciences, and he will be leading the SAIU in further outreach and advocacy for secular issues.


JT Stewart studies psychology and sociology at IU, he enjoys music, art, and analyzing everything.


Katie Russell studies human development and family studies at IU, she is very interested in sexual health and reproductive rights.

Reflection Leader

Allen Quaderer studies geology at IU and will lead this small group during the summer of 2013.

Action Leader

Brooke Lange studies communications and culture and journalism at IU, she is happy to have a hobby aside from sneaking out to fight crime every night.

Support Leader

Rachel Van Nostrand studies human biology at IU, she is excited to help build a community to provide support to secular students at IU.

Quidditch Captain

Brienne Strohl studies philosophy and is very interested in rationality activism.


Plastic Jesus has been with SAIU for about a year. Previous SAIU president, Carly Casper, found Jesus during her summer travels and donated him to the SAIU. Plastic Jesus will be the face of SAIU for the ’13-’14 academic year.
Worldview: who the hell knows

First Lady

Scott Setchfield has been selected, appropriately, as the SAIU First Lady. Scott will support Orion along the way and be a pretty face for us to admire. There are rumors that his arms are almost at First Lady Michelle Obama standards.

Overseas Correspondent

Aubree Allen will be spending the summer of 2013 abroad in Croatia, and visit many other countries along the way. Aubree was SAIU’s service director for two years and is an enthusiastic vegan. If she doesn’t die of starvation in countries that mainly eat seafood and do not have appropriate soil to grow vegetables, then when she returns she will share her experiences with us all!

A year in review

My final official day as SAIU President is April 21st, at which time we will swear in all the new officers at our end of year potluck. I wanted to go over all the wonderful things SAIU has accomplished this year and thank all of you for a wonderful year!

Left to Right: Jessika Griffin, Orion Day, Alishba Zarmeen

May ’12 – July ’12

We kept the group alive throughout the summer with regular discussions and movie viewings. Check our events calendar in mid-May for updates on the summer activities for 2013. Summer activities draw a smaller group of people, and are great for those of you who don’t have much time to participate during the school year.

In June, myself and Orion, Outreach Director, travelled to the Center for Inquiry Student Leadership Conference in Amherst, NY. We picked up Alishba Zarmeen on the way, founder and President of Earlham Humanists. SAIU was also awarded Best Online Outreach for 2011. Continue reading

End of year potluck

Come one, come all to celebrate a wonderful year with SAIU.

The location is TBD. We’re looking for somewhere with a grill that is free (which is incredibly difficult). Follow the facebook event page for updates.

If you have a grill and are willing to work with us to host the event send a message to

We will also swear in the new officers.