AgASA sign

Meetings
Winter 2015:

Meetings:

Monday @ 6:10PM - 8:00PM

Wellman 125

 

Thursday @ 6:10pm - 8:00pm

Fielder Room (2nd Floor Memorial Union)

Everyone is welcome
Contact
agasadavis@gmail.com
Other Internet Resources
facebook
AgASA Blog: http://agasadavis.wordpress.com/

The Agnostic and Atheist Student Association, or AgASA is a campus organization with the purpose of fostering a community for the many agnostics, secularists, skeptics, and atheists at UC Davis. AgASA’s ideal community is inclusive: atheists, agnostics, and others of goodwill who would like to join. AgASA conducts a variety of activities, including social events, community service, regular meetings, and fundraisers, with the following goals:

* To generate opportunities to meet people and build friendships both within AgASA and with others in the broader UCD community. * To provide a safe environment for atheists, agnostics, and others to share ideas and concerns. * To promote collaboration for good works and activism to serve the disadvantaged and the oppressed. * To promote a favorable public image of atheists and agnostics, and public awareness and understanding of legal and cultural issues of significance to atheists and agnostics.

AgASA is not devoted to any particular school of thought. The group serves primarily as a meeting place for people who identify, for one reason or another, as atheists or agnostics. The meetings are discussion based and the organization has no agenda. What the group focuses on is a function of what the present individuals discuss. This is an important part of how AgASA functions.

There is currently no process for official membership in the Agnostic and Atheist Student Association. Generally those who consider themselves members are either members of AgASA's facebook group or regularly attend the meetings. The meetings are open to the campus, community, and beyond.

History

AgASA was formed in the Fall of 2001, shortly after the September 11 attacks, as a response to what was perceived as very aggressive and deceptive marketing on the part of some of the Christian organizations on campus. The group was founded by three people, all of whom have now moved out of Davis and on to other things. Founder, Bryce Kuklok, class of 2004, designed the official logo of AgASA to be a Jesus fish on a plate ready to be eaten. His reasoning in starting the organization was that there were no fewer than a dozen religious organizations present on what was supposed to be a secular public campus, yet there was no outlet for the godless, who were bombarded on a daily basis by the rhetoric and propaganda of faith based groups. The original intended name of AgASA was Aggie Agnostics, but in a move inconsistent with the reality of other student groups present on campus, Bryce was barred from using the term "Aggie".

The group's former president was Kris Fricke, who aspired to restart the club several times during the 2002-2003 school year. In the mid-winter quarter of 2005, Kris held a meeting and people actually showed up and were interested in getting AgASA going again! After officer elections and official affiliation with larger Agnostic and Atheist groups (such as Secular Student Alliance and Atheists and Other Freethinkers), the new board is excited to start having fun and meeting new agnostics and atheists hidden in the Davis community. Arash Khosrowshahi was a former Student Advisor.

Officers (2014-2015)

President:
Arthur Palomo
Vice President:
Danielle Buma
Treasurer:
Mathew Zhong
Event Coordinator:
Josh Paull
Media Coordinator:
Nina Tucker

Officers (2013-2014)

President:
Fran Munton
Treasurer:
Arthur Palomo
Event Coordinator:
Heather Applebury

Officers (2012-2013)

President:
Colin Deniston
keitarolove2573@hotmail.com
Communications:
Bill Terrie
whterrie@ucdavis.edu
keitarolove2573@hotmail.com (preferred)
Publicity:
Veronica Rodrigues
vrodrigues@ucdavis.edu
Community Outreach:
Ken Brewer
krbrewer@ucdavis.edu
Social Chair:
Jamie Leung
jamleung@ucdavis.edu

Officers (2011-2012)

President:
Joe Espena
jmespena@ucdavis.edu
Meeting Leader:
Eric Lowe
elowe@ucdavis.edu
wikilowe@gmail.com (preferred)
Communications:
Thanh Vu
thavu@ucdavis.edu
Treasurer:
Tom Louis
twlouis@ucdavis.edu
Public Relations:
Emily Cooper

Officers (2010-2011)

President:
Thomas Waters
twwaters@ucdavis.edu
Meeting Leader:
Eric Lowe
elowe@ucdavis.edu
wikilowe@gmail.com (preferred)
Event Coordinator:
Thanh Vu
thavu@ucdavis.edu
Treasurer:
Tom Louis
twlouis@ucdavis.edu
Social Chair:
Emily Cooper

Officers (2009-2010)

President:
Shiva Kasravi
skasravi@ucdavis.edu
Social Chair:
Elyse Green
elgreen@ucdavis.edu
Event Coordinator:
Thanh Vu
thavu@ucdavis.edu
Meeting Leader:
Samuel Won
samwon@ucdavis.edu
Treasurer:
Jenny Bernstein
jlbernst@ucdavis.edu
Secretary:
James Moore
jsmoore@ucdavis.edu

Events/Points of Interest-

If you are interested in past AgASA events you can find information about them at the group's blog: http://agasadavis.wordpress.com/

Photos-

Questions, Comments, Concerns, or Queries

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2007-11-25 19:07:14   I think it is worth nothing that the original Pledge of Allegiance did not contain the phrase "under God." See, e.g., The Pledge of Allegiance - A Short History. I make this comment because of the above rally, which says we need to "remove" the phrase "under God" from the Pledge. I think it would be more accurate to say that some would like to see the U.S. restore the pledge to its original, pre-Communist-paranoia, separation-of church-and-state version. —CovertProfessor


2008-01-18 03:40:51   meetings are during my lecture :( —fredchen


2008-01-21 13:28:31   How about working on a list of non-believers who have contributed to the world in the areas of helping the poor, caring for the sick, establishing hospitals, schools, orphanages, etc. or have made contributions to the creative arts, such as painting, sculpture, literature, musice, etc. Certainly there are some literary lions who have been athiests, how about some others? —christinecipperly


2008-03-30 17:37:31   Where were you guys when I was an undergrad? Oh how I needed something like this. I'm overjoyed that godless, secular humanists, such as myself, have something for them. —CurlyGirl26


2008-04-16 17:10:06   My hero, Ayn Rand was an atheist. She's a famous author and proponent of objectivism. —CurlyGirl26


2008-07-09 15:30:10   I think it's a great idea to trumpet the successes of atheists and agnostics, but what about pointing out that none of the wars, genocides, or other terrors perpetrated throughout history have ever had an atheist at the helm. Stalin's massacres are the only exception I can think of. —ArthurFrane

  • I think you are right about Stalin. I'm hard pressed to come up with another example. Also, I think I read somewhere that athiests comprise something like less than 1% of the convicts on Death Row. Have you ever noticed that all these rapists, murderers, child molesters, etc. all purport to have "found Jesus" and are all religious now? They always do that thing where they proclaim that they were lost and "saved" by the Loooooord! Somehow, I always find this ironic. —CurlyGirl26
  • I certainly agree that there are many wars, genocides, murders, etc done either as justified by religion (e.g. several current conflicts in the middle east and Africa) or instigated under other pretenses by people who are overtly religious (e.g. the current Iraq war), it cannot be said that atheists have never caused war or committed genocide. All Communist regimes are explicitly athiest and often antagonistic to religion. Thus, it is not only Stalin, but all Soviet, N. Korean, and Chinese actions are done by athiests. Tibetans would probably want to be added to the list of those oppressed by Atheists. Pol Pot, dictator of Cambodia and instigator of a million dead, was anti-religion and would probably be an athiest if I bothered to investigate enough to confirm that. Several other dictators almost certainly are, as well. Several members of the atomic bomb "Manhattan Project" were agnostic or atheist, whether the bomb is evil or not is debatable, but it certainly has become mixed up in religion since. It is still unquestionably true that religion has caused much suffering, and the religious are often willing to harm others more than their religion should allow. Although agnostics/atheists would probably be better on average, being a-religious doesn't mean that person will not commit atrocities —NotTires
  • The Wikipedia article on state atheism has several examples of what I call "atheist theocracies." For example, Pol Pot's regime killed religious people and destroyed Buddhist temples and artifacts. Muslims were forced to eat pork. Et cetera. All the horrible atrocities common to theocracies — repression of the freedoms of conscience, thought, speech, assembly, press, religion, nonreligion — have occurred in officially atheist nations. This is why I value the ideal of a secular state, a government that diligently works to makes sure that it does not favor, promote, or in any shape or form exert the slightest pressure supporting or opposing any religion or nonreligion (Teaching evolution does not count because it is a theory composed of a set of logical postulates supported by mountains of evidence. Teaching that the lack of evidence for god means that people should become atheists does count because it is nothing else other than an anti-religious attack.) —RaymondCrawford

2008-10-03 21:51:52   How do I join this club? —ThanhVu


2008-10-10 15:08:02   Hi. You don't have to do anything to "join" our club. Anyone is welcome to come to our meetings and events, be it once, or every week. We look forward to seeing you guys.

- Shiva, Event Coordinator —Shiva


2008-10-10 15:19:26   Hey all,

My name is Steve Owen and I'm your new contact with SSA. We would like to promote your upcoming Dan Barker event on the SSA website, but need some specifics: time of the event, where on campus, will there be a charge for admission or will it be free?

You can contact me at the following email: steve@secularstudents.org

Best, Steve Owen SSA Organizer Intern —SteveSSA


2008-10-10 20:17:51   Hi Steve, I sent you an e-mail with the details about the Dan Barker event. =) —Shiva


2008-10-20 11:27:34   My hero, Adam Carolla is a big atheist. He's a successful radio personality/comedian and, literally, a millionaire. I can't believe I didn't mention this earlier. —CurlyGirl26


2008-10-25 21:27:05   Dan Barker's California Tour: UC Davis When: Fri, Nov 14, 7pm – 10pm Where: UC Davis, California 123 Science Lecture Hall (map) Description: As part of the combined outreach of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Secular Student Alliance, Dan Barker will appear at UC Davis, hosted by the Agnostic and Atheist Student Association. The event begins at 7pm, but doors open to the public for seating at 6pm. Admission is free! For more information, visit: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=41199304438jlbernst


2008-11-23 19:57:00   Hey CurlyGirl26, I actually didn't know that about Adam Carolla, though I'm not surprised. I looked some stuff up and listened to a pretty funny radio bit he did about Atheism. We're doing a series next quarter and I know just which meeting to bring this up in. Thanks! —Shiva


2009-01-13 23:32:54   Voltaire also tried to destroy Christianity. There is now a Bible Society in the house that was his. —Michael777

  • Actually, that story has proven to be untrue. Besides, the point of your argument seems to be that people shouldn't infringe on the right of belief of others, so attacking these people would appear to be a bit hypocritical. —JoePomidor

2009-05-19 00:13:44   Just curious: did the artist create the AGASA logo (pictured at the top right of this page) on a Friday? —SolidSender


2009-05-23 17:07:40   SolidSender, I don't think many of the current AgASA members have much of an idea who created that logo, much less which day of the week it was created on. But what we do know is that it was very tongue in cheek. We now have a new logo. I'll work on uploading it now. —Shiva

  • I was one of the charter members (2001-2002 school year). While I do not recall the name of the original designer, I do remember that the original banner bearing the logo was in the possession of Bryce Kuklok, one of the original officers of AGASA, for quite some time. It may very well have been his design, or that of either Casey Davis or Margaret Lewis, also original officers. I also do not recall what day of the week it was completed, but I can confirm that it was indeed meant to be tongue in cheek. - Paul Amnuaypayoat

2009-05-24 10:45:23   We still have the original banner. That thing's an antique... —Shiva

  • Just was wondering if the artist who created the logo is a lapsed Catholic, since, you know, they are only allowed to eat fish on otherwise meatless Fridays. Whether they do the other days of the week would perhaps depend on the quality of the cuisine in the restaurants featuring Friday Fish Specials for the penitents. SolidSender
    • (Note: the above comment was somewhat corrected since this reply was made) You have it backwards. Roman Catholic tradition forbids the eating of meat on Fridays, and fish are an exception (they, along with rabbit meat, are not considered meat for the purpose of the observation). That's why the soup of the day is usually clam chowder on Friday and there are so many Friday fish specials (especially where there is a heavy Catholic population). It is a tradition rather than edict; the idea is to observe some kind of penance, and the definition now lies in the locale's Episcopal Conference. —Evan 'JabberWokky' Edwards, who isn't Catholic, but thinks cultural traditions are interesting.
  • Definitely food for thought, Jabberwokky. But why do the Episcopals have anything to do with Catholic diets? SolidSender
    • They don't. An Episcopal Conference is the name of all the Bishops in a given area within the Roman Catholic Church. In some respects they are similar to the autocephalous churches of Eastern Orthodox, except of course, Papal Decree always wins. Honestly, if you're interested in this kind of stuff (meaning AASA), it's worth learning about these organizations just because you'll come to realize they are outgrowths of tribes, nations and empires, often motivated by things similar to what motivates today's secular political and volunteer organizations. Of course, I'm a history buff, so I kind of come at it from that direction. —jw
    • Also, it occurred to me there's a possibility some people might not recognize that as an Ichthys, which is why the AASA emblem always bothered me: defining agnosticism and atheism as contrary ("dining on") or even in any way related to a Christan emblem seems to demean and belittle agnostics and atheists. It also either excludes Christian agnostics (and to a certain extent all theist agnostics) or implies that the group is devoted to Christian agnosticism. —Evan 'JabberWokky' Edwards
      • Well, if they put up the logo, that simply shows, perhaps, their short-sightedness in interpreting the logo. I've seen fish with the word "Darwin" squeezed inside the sketched body, as if consumed. Perhaps this logo is an elaboration in that symbolic direction in reverse? SolidSender
        • I think you might miss my point. It is that they are defining their group by a purported relationship to a particular religion rather than the quite excellent body of agnostic and atheistic works, most of which have nothing to do with that religion. It's a bit like a roleplaying club creating a logo of a deflated football. Okay, sure... many roleplayers might dislike football, but there is some overlap (a la Christian agnosticism), and you're now defining yourself as being a group merely opposed to a particular facet of something that is not really in direct opposition. Plus, they're merely selecting the flavor (sport or religion) that happens to be popular locally and at this period in history. It assumes an opposition which is antagonistic, and that rubs me the same way as the preachers with signs: "Your ideas are stupid, and I am not only right, I am invoking an image (hell, consumption of your icon of belief) that I will win in the end". There is no symbol here of the beliefs of the group, just a symbol of "this other team in our hometown is wrong, and they are going to lose to us". —jw
        • Your observation is relevant to group when it was founded but doesn't reflect the groups current members, meetings and activities. The current logo expresses dissatisfaction with religion in a much broader sense. ScottMorgan
          • And again, it is still implying that the club's identity is defined by religion. Is this an anti-religion club or a pro-agnosticism and atheism club? The new icon still identifies the group by the relationship to religion, and makes it look like the club is solely a conversion effort to "save the believers" with no interest in the actual subject of agnostic or atheistic ideas. —jw
  • jw: very interesting to follow your thinking in response to my comment above. I was making a little fun taking the image of a fish on a plate flanked by knife and fork literally. (and then the fish having digested DARWIN, which is definitely food for thought:) But you've gone much further, placing the intent of the the poster/creator of that image in a political context: namely how it symbolizes an attitude of "Us vs. Them." Which plays into the whole long sorry history of religious strife. I would have thought atheists or agnostics would have been more of independent thinkers, without depending for definition of their movement by others which its members declare they are against. I also agree that the new logo continues the "Us vs. Them" paradigm. SolidSender

2009-05-30 01:05:36   Looking at the history section of this page, it appears that the group was created as a response to the evangelical groups on campus. In that sense, the group's identity and (current?) mission appear to be defined as a counterpoint to the campus religious groups. In that context, it seems like a logo that shows the group as an alternative to the campus religious groups is appropriate for it. The old logo also makes sense, since the groups that evangelize on campus are virtually all Christian groups. —IDoNotExist

  • Yes. Which would define this group not as an group devoted to agnostic and atheist schools of thought (which would span certain religious schools), but as "atheist-agnostics and atheists against religion", which is a very different group. To go back to the example above, the difference between a roleplaying group that focuses on playing roleplaying games versus "non-sports fan roleplayers against football", who focus on trying to eliminate football. I'm just curious as to which it is... there's a big difference between identifying yourself as a group who is pro-something and focuses on it (and there is certainly a very wide set of excellent agnostic and atheist philosophies, writings and speakers to explore) versus a group that is anti-another group and focuses on combating them. The title of the group seems to imply the former, the logo the latter, and that split is what I've been wondering about since the beginning of this (now long) thread. What is this group? —jw
  • The Unitarians, the majority of whom are atheist and agnostic, pride themselves on inclusiveness and open-mindedness. No matter what a potential member's background—Atheist, Agnostic, Pagan, Catholic, Protestant, Jew, or any other denomination, or non-denomination—the Unitarian Church opens its doors for the purposes of questioning and discussion. The idea, as far as I understand it, after having attended some discussions and heard a few lectures out at their church on Patwin Road in far West Davis, is self-discovery. They seem to be so "pro-" that there's not much time left over for "anti-" SolidSender
  • I'm in no way an expert on this. But if someone is an atheist or agnostic (especially atheist), it does seem a little bit strange to me that they would want to go to a church, since that would imply some sort of religious belief. (It is my understanding that Unitarians are following a religion or some sort of religious belief system - correct me if I'm wrong.) But the definition of an atheist is someone who believes that there is no god. So why would they go to a church? In response to Jabberwocky's question, I'm wondering if there is actually an "atheist school of thought". The label "atheist" applies to anyone who does not believe in a deity by definition. That's a lot of people, and they surely don't all believe in the same thing (to do so would be more of a religion!), other than the lack of a deity. To use your previous analogy, this would be more like a group of non-football players, some of whom don't care whether or not anyone else plays football, some of whom played football in the past and then decided that they didn't like the game, and some of whom would really prefer it if football didn't exist at all. Of those, some might be role players and others might not, but there wouldn't be a uniform urge to role play among the non-football fans. :-) —IDoNotExist
    • You seem to not quite understand the distinctions between atheist, agnostic, theist and deist and how they relate and overlap. The fact that there are a large number of religious agnostics, not to mention non-theist churches like Christian atheism and many other similar philosophies, gives a reason to have a group that discusses such schools of thought. The fact that you are unaware of them pretty much shows that there is a probably a need for a pro-agnostic/atheist group that focuses on these subjects, educating people who are interested in these very deep subjects and the many forms of agnostic and atheistic thought. These topics have many excellent writings dating back centuries and also contemporary authors and speakers who are available to come to campus should a group like this one work on inviting them. The other option is for such a group to focus on countering theist and deist thought... the antagonistic, oppositional posture that also tends to exclude many people who would fit into the group were it simply pro-agnostic/atheist. My question is if they have such a posture as their symbolism and history seems to imply, or if they are focused on their own subject (and thus include the full range of agnostic and atheist thought). It is very simple: are they, as a group, pro-agnostic/atheist or anti-religion? Since there is a major difference between the two, not to mention quite a large number of schools of thought that fall into the overlap and are excluded in one case but not the other — plus the large number of people who are simply anti-religion with no interest in actual atheism or agnosticism — it is a fairly interesting distinction. —jw

2009-05-30 10:40:27   Could it not be both simultaneously? Although I'm not sure that it would have to be against another *group* to have the objective of countering the objectives of that other group. —IDoNotExist


2009-06-02 17:50:31   jw- Your observation about the current and former logo is correct in that it refers to religion. I myself wasn't very happy about that when we were sketching and discussing new logos, but this is what the majority voted on, so this is what it is. That being said, I wouldn't use the logo to try and decipher the purpose and intentions of the group because that's not what the logo was created to do anyway. It's just meant to serve as a visual representation of what most of us currently feel, but it certainly is not a definition for the group, and it can always be changed just like the last one was. To refer to your questions, we are not devoted to any school of thought. AgASA serves primarily as a meeting place for people who identify, for one reason or another, as atheists or agnostics. The meetings are discussion-based and there is no agenda in our organization. In this sense it's not possible to say what AgASA is "about" because anything goes. If AgASA were some sort of atheist activist or atheist educational group it would ceratinly be worth critisizing that true atheistic thought is so often overshadowed by or confused with antitheism — the distinction you pointed out regarding being anti-religion versus being atheist is valid. But since AgASA has no central mission it can only reflect what the members put into it at any given time. The fact that atheism is heavily involved with theism is a phenomenon that currently spans beyond AgASA. That is what the so-called "atheist world" revolves around right now, for better or for worse. But the point I want to emphasize very strongly is that if AgASA isn't focused on true atheistic schools of thought or on religious agnosticism, that's only because there's no one at the meetings talking about those things. But talking about it is as easy as showing up. That's how AgASA works. I'm definitely willing to discuss this further. - Shiva Currently Event Coordinator President during '09-'10 —Shiva

  • Excellent reply! It's detailed, honest and from an active member of the group, which is what I was hoping for. I'd be suspect if there were any claim that a agnostic/atheist student group at any US college didn't have at least a segment of antitheists, and it's not really a big deal; I was just wondering if there was any actual discussion of agnostic and atheist concepts (or at least the opportunity for such). I'm really glad the organization (at least in you) seems to recognize the greater picture, and if the functional truth is that the discussions seem to run in certain patterns, well, that's where the interest happens to lie. I was kind of getting an odd vibe from the iconography juxtaposed with the aims of the group, which is why I was hoping somebody from the group itself would answer my questions. It would be great if you could take your reply and rewrite it a bit and put it up into the top of the entry. It explains what the general mindset is in direct terms (the current writeup is a bit wishy-washy, probably to avoid complaint) and what to expect at a meeting, items that are very useful for both prospective members and also as a historical record to look back in a couple years at how the group has evolved. In short, you made clear the realities of the group, something that was frustrating me about the current writeup. Thanks again for taking the time to answer. —Evan 'JabberWokky' Edwards
  • A rewrite is a good idea for the historical record, if only to clarify what members of the group feel about their logo. It—to someone happening by this DavisWiki page—could appear at first glance to send an antagonistic message different from the clarification Shiva gives. —SolidSender
  • Thanks Evan. I will put up a re-write of my post somewhere up there as soon as I get the chance. —Shiva

2009-06-02 19:55:34   I'm an atheist and antitheist myself. The two aren't mutually exclusive, but they are not the same either, and I can appreciate someone bringing that up. By the way, can someone teach me how to post a comment in reply to someone else's, using the bullet-point? —Shiva

Place a " * " in front of the text. —IDoNotExist


2009-07-29 10:51:50   Atheists and Gnostics are right in most of their thinking

It has been common among religious believers to look with misgiving to atheists and Gnostics, and to think that they are mistaken; however, in many instances the opposite is the truth; some religious beliefs are not just irrelevant, but baseless. The “God” of main line traditions simply does not exist. I accepted the challenge of finding the One who may be recognized even by Gnostics and atheists: the Existence itself, “All-That-Is.” If something is there, that is God. Look at the book “Christianity Reformed From ist Roots - A life centered in God” (Amazon.com). I am confident that some of your friends will be relieved of the illusion, as I did myself.

Jairo Mejia, M. Psych., Santa Clara University Retired Episcopal Priest Carmel Valley, California

http://www.mbay.net/~jmejia/Grudzen.htm http://www.mbay.net/~jmejia/Churcher.htm

jairomejiagomez


2009-09-27 12:35:59   Dawkins is going to be in Berkeley in October. I already bought tickets. Just a heads up. —upisdown


2009-09-27 12:37:59   "My hero, Ayn Rand was an atheist. She's a famous author and proponent of objectivism. "

Your hero suggest that selfishness is a virtue. Not only that but that altruism is counter to reason. —upisdown


2009-09-28 11:21:40   *Do you have a comment about that or have you somehow countered that just by repeating it? —Shiva

I assumed that believing selfishness was a virtue was absurd enough to speak for itself. Altruism was naturally selected into humans so it must be at the very least somewhat beneficial so the burden of proof that it isn't lies on Rand supporters. It is a pretty short sighted ideology and most proponents haven't really thought it out (Much like religious people and their logically contradictory religions) because libertarianism put to any scrutiny falls apart rather quickly. Unregulated capitalism tends towards monopolies (There are several historic examples) which results in unchecked power. If you want to defend libertarianism I would be happy to have a nice and friendly debate over it. —upisdown


2009-10-04 00:45:17   No, it doesn't necessarily speak for itself. I'm not a libertarian and would do a disservice to both sides of the argument if I were to try and defend libertarianism. Furthermore, Rand wasn't a libertarian, but I don't necessarily wish to defend her either. What I will say is that I have read some of her work and much of it makes sense. Rand's idea that selfishness is a virtue is exactly the argument that you can't really love someone until you love yourself; that you aren't really giving anybody anything unless you assign value to yourself first, and she elaboreates on this quite clearly. Most people would agree with that notion and often do. But just because Rand literally calls it "selfishness," people run with the connotation that implies she believes self-indulgence and disregard are virtues (which she does not), and in my experience, most people who attribute her to this philosophy have never read her work. Rand's position on altruism is also very understandable. Capitalism isn't the only thing susceptible to corruption. Where there is altruism there is often abuse - just look at religion! Overall I'm not terribly interested in this debate because I don't have any burden of proof over my personal convictions and owe nobody an explanation. Like I said, I'm not here to defend Ayn Rand completely, but she's not as crazy or shortsighted as you think, and neither am I. Cheers. —Shiva

It is my understanding that the definitions for selfishness and altruism used by Rand were simply misused or twisted to fit her argument. For example the the concept of altruism under her definition was not practiced or supported by any major moral philosopher. Here are some quotes of her twisted version of altruism.

"The basic principle of altruism is that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value." (Lexicon, p. 4)

"The irreducible primary of altruism ... is self-sacrifice – ... which means: the self as a standard of evil, the selfless as a standard of the good." (Lexicon, p. 5)

"Altruism declares that any action taken for the benefit of others is good, and any action taken for one's own benefit is evil. Thus the beneficiary of an action is the only criterion of moral value – and so long as that beneficiary is anybody other than oneself, anything goes." (Lexicon, p. 5, emphasis on "any," "only" and "anything" added)

"Altruism holds death as its ultimate goal and standard of value." (Lexicon, p. 7)

Rand has created a doctrine of altruism to be at odds with her egotism and naturally knocking down this strawman makes egoism look good. However to be an alternative to egoism altruism has to be an ethical theory however that is not true. The term altruism simply labels practices, dispositions or motivations recommended by different ethical theories as appropriate for certain kinds of occasions. Altruism is not more of an ethical theory than is courage.

Rand's concept of altruism was entirely made up. It was a doctrine that was not held by any major moral thinker at the time and specifically the people she claimed were proponents of alturism such as Marx, Kant, Rawls, Mill, Spencer or Dewey. Not a single one maintained that that the interest of the individual are of NO importance, that service to others is the only justification for existence or that anything goes as long as one is benfitting other people than themselves.

Ironically even though Rand is a atheist she made a flimsy teleological argument for the reason selfishness was a virtue (a human's own life is the standard of value). These were based of outdated biological principals. Since this is the purpose of humans she supposes that there are no conflicts among rational people in a rational society which is wrong. But why does she suppose this clearly absurd argument?

I think the core of the answer can be found in the observation that if there are any genuine conflicts of interest, then her commitment to egoism would require her to endorse the violation of the rights that she also favors. Or, conversely, her commitment to rights would require her to endorse someone’s acting against his own interests.

Understandably, Rand did not want to be caught on either side of this trouble and so denied the premise that there was ever any conflict of rational interests. By denying it she could maintain both that each person should always serve his own interests and that rights should never be violated. Or so, at least, it appears.

Nonetheless, the claim that rational interests never conflict is pretty obviously false. Moreover, I think most Objectivists recognize that it is false. They show this by their willingness to interpret what Rand said about the lack of conflict between rational interests as true in context? – where the context is normal, non-emergency situations. What they say is that rational interests never conflict except in emergencies.

This, however, is not helpful unless there is some independent way of determining that some situation is an emergency apart from the fact that rational interests conflict there. Without that, the claim that rational interests never conflict except in emergencies just reduces to the claim that rational interests never conflict except when they do. True, no doubt, but not enlightening.

I don't think she was "exactly" saying what Buddhist preach that one must love themselves to love others (which is based on entirely different principals). In fact I don't think she was ever exactly saying anything considering how contradictory her definitions are. I think she was speculating a utopian reality in which everyone acted "rationally" (in their own self interest) and magically no one would have conflict with one another.

I have issue linking altruism with religion. I feel there is no inherent link between religion and altruism. In fact altruism is one the redeeming qualities of religion when it is actually practiced and it certainly does not have a monopoly on it.

(Unregulated) Capitalism is certainly not the only thing susceptible to corruption however nor did I say it was in my argument. This was a strawman.

As for libertarianism, while she may not have started libertarianism her work is most definitely used to support it. It is closely tied to libertarianism and the conservative movement such as Jesus (or his writers) is to Christianity. While Jesus may not have been a Christian "his" works played a major role in the movement. Often libertarians support her arguments without knowing what its contents are so I feel the critique of libertarianism is relevant and necessary. And I believe with this argument I can say both Ayn Rand and Libertarianism are crazy and short sighted. I try to avoid logical fallacies, ad homs in debating but I apologize if any slipped. I never intended to call or suggest you are short sighted or crazy. —upisdown


2009-10-24 12:59:05   I was able to relate to a lot of what Rand said because I had the experience of living in a society that was almost identical to the one she criticized. She grew up in one, too, in Russia, and I grew up in it in Iran, and maybe that's what it takes to realize that the altruism that she criticizes is not a philosophical construct that never existed, but a reality for many people. This is how I enjoy her work, and in no other sense, so I can't disagree with or argue with any of the things you've written because that's not my perspective or approach toward her work. What I will point out, though, is that judging by how much you've written, apparently your initial argument didn't speak for itself as much as you'd assumed, and that was what I was trying to get at in the first place. I was just hoping you would back up your argument. Thanks for doing that. —Shiva


2010-03-14 22:37:02   Has anyone thought about boycotting overtly religious corporations who donate to pro religious policies and leaders? It seems that if you want to effectively have a voice and ever hope to have an openly atheist president we need to avoid giving money to people who think that being an atheist should precluded from politics. If we let Republican and Religious people staff courts we effectively lose any hope of appealing to the rationality of our system.

Examples are Hilton Hotel(Donated a lot of money to prop 8 supporters), In N Out (Look at bottom of the soda cup and political contributions), Woodstock pizza (Bottom of the box and they are kinda phony since they have a the same "insert area" special for every different UC location.) I sure with some thought and research a great list could be created. If people actually follow the boycott it effectively stops cashflow into religious control and directs it to rational people.

We live in a capitalism more importantly than a representative republic so every dollar you spend you are voting so why vote against your own interest?

Just a thought. —upisdown


2010-04-09 06:51:18   As this page is in the #1 listing - Agnostic & Atheist - on the Spiritual Organizations page it prompts the question of why "Agnostic and Atheists" is considered spiritual since a significant portion of its participants don't consider themselves spiritual. Would perhaps "Spiritual Related" be a better category? (Also are all churches spiritual?) —BruceHansen


2010-05-13 14:01:15   Well, it's kind of our own fault, Bruce. Where would you categorize Non-Olive-Oil-Eaters but under "Olive Oil"? That's kind of a joke...In the Center for Student Involvement organization list we're listed under "religious." I guess we can't ask for our own category, but I wonder where the philosophy club is categorized. Maybe there should be an "ideology" category... —Shiva


2010-08-10 09:34:44   Is this mainly an undergrad organization, or are grads welcome, too? Very jealous that you guys got to meet Dawkins! :) —zombiek


2010-10-05 19:36:29   Zombiek, grad students are absolutely welcome. —Shiva