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Student Voice Interview: UW-Madison


This article originally appeared in the SSA eMpirical No. 15 - Student Voice, Part I.

Campus Organizer interviews the group Atheists, Humanists & Agnostics at UW-Madison.

Your upcoming talk with Free Inquiry editor Tom Flynn titled 'The Real War On Christmas' sounds very interesting. Could you give our readers a little background on Flynn and his response to the Fox News 'War' accusation?

Flynn established himself as something of an authority on this issue with his 1993 book called The Trouble With Christmas. I haven't heard the talk yet, but my understanding is that while many liberals are inclined to laugh off the idea that there is a war on Christmas, Flynn thinks Christmas is a sectarian holiday that we'd best do away with. The promotional material says Flynn has done many media appearances in his role as the "Curmudgeonly anti-Claus" and he "will conclude the talk with his legendary deconstruction of Francis Church's famed 1897 'Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus' editorial ... including the parts most newspapers today won't reprint!" It should be fun.

Let's assume that your group were handed a check for $10,000. What would you guys want to do with this money?

Probably try to call in some really big name speakers... Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, James Randi, people like that.

Do you find that many of your members grew up in religious environments, or are many life long skeptics?

We've got a mix. Of our current officers, one (me) was raised in a liberal protestant background, one was raised completely secular, and one was raised in a hard-core fundamentalist background.

What is the religious climate like in Wisconsin?

What I see probably isn't representative, since I live in Madison, which is the reason Wisconsin is a blue state. From what I had seen in my own city, I was sure the gay marriage ban would fail, and Dane County rejected it by something like a 70-30 margin, but in the state as a whole it passed 59-41. Still, I am comforted by what I see on my own campus, because even if it isn't currently representative of the state as a whole, they represent who will be running the state eventually. On the other hand, Campus Crusade for Christ is one of the largest, most active organizations we've got and it includes a fairly heavy fundamentalist strain. But I think they're in the minority.

What SSA Services have you guys taken advantage of so far? Are there plans to apply for a grant, secure a speaker, attend the Harvard conference etc.?

Harvard conference?... hmmm, that's something I need to look into. Anyway, we'll probably be tapping the speaker's bureau next semester, though we need to decide how exactly in our end of the year meetings.

The SSA and Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard Joint Conference will be held April 19-22, as part of the Chaplaincy's 30th anniversary. A great list of speakers and opportunities are already planned, and travel grants are available through the SSA. You can read more about it here.

This article originally appeared in the SSA eMpirical No. 15 - Student Voice, Part I.

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