Metro State Atheists

Promoting Science, Reason, and Secular Values

Metro State Atheists End of the Year Newsletter

This year Metro State Atheists has accomplished a great deal. We won the Metropolitan State College of Denver(MSCD) Student Involvement and Leadership Award; the Student Organization of the Year 2009.   These events and our professionalism is what lead to this honor.  These two semester have been very busy for us and we apologize for not getting out newsletters for the latest semester.  Below is a summary of our numerous events and activities, in approximate order of there happening.


Click on the event to read a brief summary.


Also, change has come to Metro State Atheists.  Chalmer Wren,  now the former Vice President of Metro State Atheists,  graduated from Metropolitan State College of Denver May17, 2009 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry with a minor in Biology.  He was accepted to the Applied Chemistry Ph.D program at the Colorado School of Mines where he will be a T.A. over the summer.  He will be missed as an officer of Metro State Atheists, but he will still be involved with the group as Co-Founder, Director of Events and Treasurer Advisor of the newly formed group College Atheists of Colorado.
This means we are looking for new officers.  Open positions are Vice President, Treasurer and Representative; for information on these positions click here.





Biologist Paul Z Myers
In November 2008 we hosted our first big event, which was a lecture by popular blogger, evolutionary biologist, and secular activist PZ Myers entitled “The War Between Science & Religion.”  A synopses of the event was published in the Center For Inquiry’s October 2008 edition of the Campus Inquirer.  The event was also mentioned by MSCD’s online news production, The Met Report.  PZ Myers is author of the popular science blog known as Pharyngula.



Vote No on 48 Campaign

The year of 2008 saw what was the most historic election in the history of the United States thusfar.  Although the presidential election of 2008 overshadowed most of the other issues in our state, one ballot initiative could not go overlooked. Amendment 48, also known as the Personhood Amendment, would have made a fertilzed egg a person under sections 3,6, and 25 of the Colorado State Constitution.  The implications of this amendment were appalling and we wanted to fight it.  So, we teamed up with Protect Families, Protect Choices to oppose Amendment 48.  We set up two info table about two week prior to the election to get the word out, while do so, 9 News spotted us and asked if one of our officers would agree to do a live interview online.  Joel Guttormson agreed to do the interview.  When asked why our group opposed the measure, Joel was concise and accurate in explaining the pitfalls of the Amendment.  Then, the pro-48 person was interviewed.  She agreed with what Joel had said regarding the pitfalls of the Amendment but said she was voting for it anyway because it outlawed abortion.  On November 4, 2008, Amendment 48 was defeated in stunned fashion with a near 3-1 margin.


Separation of Church & State Rally


In September of 2008, Vice President of Metro State Atheists, Chalmer Wren, was one of numerous guest speakers for a
Rally for the Seperation of Church & State on the steps of the Denver capital.  organized by Denver Atheists and Freethinkers.  Additional speakers included Lucia Guatney, Victor Stenger, Marvin Straus, Brian Graves, Groff Schroeder, Mike Smith, and Richard Berg.





Astrobiologist David Grinspoon


In October, we hosted a
lecture by author and curator of astrobiology at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, David Grinspoon.  David is author of Lonely Planets: The Natural Philosophy of Alien Life .  Although David was scheduled to speak about the Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission, he instead spoke about astrobiology and planetary science in general.  David  was also kind enough to donate his time for this event.  More information about David can be found at is website www.funkyscience.net.



Don’t Believe in God?  You’re not Alone


In November of 2008, the
Colorado Coalition of Reason (COCORE), put up 11 billboards with the phrase, “Don’t Believe in God?  You’re not alone”.  This resulted in a what we considered a media frenzy given the lack of media attention we get as a movement.  Joel Guttormson stepped up as the unofficial spokesman for COCORE in this matter and was interviewed by Channel 7 News on November 13th prior to them actually going up and then again on November 17th once they were up.  Then, Joel was interviewed by Bill Johnson of the now disbanded Rocky Mountain News.  We received some hate mail, mostly from Christians but we all got encouraging emails from Christians, Joel was phoned by a sympathetic theistic Jew and we also received a blog comment and phone call from someone on the east coast.   Joel also wrote an article about this and other events in the CFI Campus Inquirer in January. All-in-all, the campaign was a success, and we’d like to thank COCORE for their activism and support.



Author Victor J. Stenger


In October 2008, we hosted a
lecture and book signing by the New York Times best selling author and retired physicist, Victor J. Stenger.  Victor was kind enough to donate his time for this particular event.  Victor spoke about the content of his 2007 book, God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist. Afterward, Victor stuck around to sign copies of his book that we were selling to raise funds.  An article about the event was written for the The Metropolitan by Nicole Queen but never published.  Nicole sent us a copy, though, and it can read here.


Sam Singleton Atheist Evangelist


In what I can only described as a theatrical comedy performance, we arranged to host “
Sam Singleton Atheist Evangelist: Patriarchs and Penises.”  More information about Brother Sam can be found at www.samsingleton.com.



Bob Enyart’s Radio Show

In January of 2009, Joel was interviewed by Christian radio talk show host Bob Enyart.  You can listen to the interview here.  After listening, you can read Joel’s and Chalmer’s commentary about the show.


CFI’s 12th World Congress (Bethesda, MD April 9th-12th)

In April 2009, Joel, Chalmer, and Faculty Adviser of Metro State Atheists, Norman Schultz, attended the Center For Inquiry’s 12th World Congress in Bethesda, Maryland.  Among the numerous guest speakers were ncluded magician and skeptical investigator James Randi, evolutionary biologist Michael Ruse, NASA climatologist Drew Shindell, philopher and author Barbara Forest and professor of psychology Richard Wiseman . Additional information about this event can be found at www.centerforinquiry.net/worldcongress. This endeavor was funded the MSCD’s student travel program.  We would like to thank MSCD, specifically Angela LeValley for making the trip possible.


Colorado Skepticamp 2009


In may of 2009, we hosted and provided catering for Skepticamp, a skeptics barcamp style conference.  This event included more than a dozen speakers, including presentations by Metro State Atheists’ President, Joel Guttormson, and Vice President, Chalmer Wren, on a plethora of topics including global warming, homeopathy, and Saturn.  More information about Skepticamp can be found
here.


The National

A Denver-based reporter for The National, a United Arab Emirates (UAE) English newspaper, contacted Metro State Atheists via email requesting an interview and photo of Joel and Chalmer.  They were told the article would be similar to the one done by the New York Times some time earlier. She interviewed both Joel and Chalmer and both of them were quoted in the article along with others in our movement.

Evolvefish.com

Late in the fall semester, Metro State Atheists received a grant from the Secular Student Alliance (SSA) to purchase merchandise to sell for fund raising purposes.  This merchandise was provided to us by fellow COCORE member Evolvefish.com.  We are happy to say that so far, the effort has been a success and we have sold a good portion of the merchandise and are poised to re-order some of our more popular selections.

By Joel Guttormson and Chalmer Wren

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May 21, 2009 Posted by | Metro State Atheists, News, Newsletter | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Metro State Atheists: Making noise, making a difference in Denver

Metro State Atheists: Making noise, making a difference in Denver
by Joel Guttormson, Metro State Atheists at MSCD

Many things happen during a college semester: mid-terms, finals, work and…activism?  Yes, activism!  That is the case for us, Metro State Atheists (MSA), an affiliate of the Center for Inquiry.  Besides the classes, work, and other academic responsibilities that we endure, we participated in some secular activist activity that put me in the spotlight both locally and nationally.

Not many can argue that 2008 wasn’t a historic election, not only for the entire country, but also for Colorado as we hosted the 2008 Democratic National Convention.  However, that wasn’t the only history being made—at least trying to be made—in Colorado.  Amendment 48, or the Personhood Amendment, was on its way to become the first legislation in the United States to not only completely ban abortion but also redefine the term “person”: “to include any human being from the moment of fertilization.”  When our group became aware of this initiative early in the summer, we immediately knew that we had to do all we could to prevent this from passing.  That is just what we did, come the fall.  We contacted the political group “Protect Families Protect Choice,” to offer our support, and they responded by giving us informational material as well as yard signs, stickers, etc.  We then had two informational tables set up two weeks out from the election urging people to vote no on Amendment 48.  This caught the eye of our local news, Channel 9, which was in the process of doing stories on the different amendments on the Colorado ballot.  They asked to interview me about Amendment 48 the next day on campus as a part of their series that aired live online.  Come November 4th, Amendment 48 failed miserably, much to our pleasure.  We’d like to think we had a hand it its demise, seeing as we worked quite hard on campus to that end.

Next, without much warning, came what would turn out to be the most media coverage we have ever received.  MSA is a part of the Colorado Coalition of Reason, or COCORE, which put up 11 billboards in the Denver metro area and Colorado Springs.  The message was similar to those seen elsewhere around the country.  The billboards needed only eight words, “Don’t believe in God?  You are not alone,” to ignite a controversy that took two local newscasts (11/13/08, 11/18/08) and a half-page opinion article in the Rocky Mountain News to clear up.  The fervently religious were utterly offended that such a message was allowed in Denver.  The story received national media attention when the Channel 7 news story made its way onto CNN.com.  We saw our first hate mail ever, from Christians no less, calling us evil and full of hate.  I got phone calls too!  However, instead of being mean-spirited phone calls, they were supportive.  A man from South Carolina called me, telling me that he appreciates what we are doing and asked me, as a fellow atheist, if there were any similar organizations such as MSA or COCORE in his area.  Another call was from a Jew lending his support to the cause.  This project was a great learning experience and we enjoyed the huge amount of media coverage it got.  It made more of an impact that we could have hoped for in our wildest dreams.

The last and most recent event wasn’t really an event, so to speak.  After rediscovering my cousin Becky via Facebook, I learned that her pastor is Bob Enyart who appeared on the same newscast as I regarding the aforementioned billboards.  She told me that ever since she told Bob that I was her cousin, he has been wanting to have me on his show on 670 AM, KGOV.  She then served as a go-between to make the proper arrangements for me to be on the show.  In short order we arranged a date and time.  I appeared on Bob Enyart Live on January 7th, 2009.  We talked about atheism, the billboards, and about how I became an atheist.  This was an advantageous interview as Bob has offered to advertise our events to people of an opposing viewpoint, which we believe is critical to our cause.

In closing, I’d like to stress the importance of organizing.  Although the task of secular activism and attempting to effect change can be tough, and at times seem impossible, it can be done, even if it’s just change at the local level.  Think big, but take baby steps.  The American Revolution wasn’t born, fought, and won in a day.  We need to stay vigilant, learning from every victory and, perhaps more importantly, from every defeat.  When a minority is fighting a majority who commands all the power and resources, it amplifies the importance of cohesive, organized goal-oriented activism by many orders of magnitude.  Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  I believe this is insufficient and passive.  You must not only be the change but also be willing to work for it.  Thus, I appeal to you all: work with us, fight hard, and we can bring about the change necessary to make this country what it once was!

Joel Guttormson is President of Metro State Atheists and a theoretical mathematics major, linguistics minor at Metropolitan State College of Denver.  Joel also volunteers for CFI as a campus regional coordinator.

April 20, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Center For Inquiry | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Metro State Atheists In The Rocky Mountain News

Joel, President of Metro State Atheists, was interviewed by for an article in the Rocky Mountain News regarding the the Colorado Coalition of Reasons secular billboards.  The article, qouted below, was written by Bill Johnson.

The message is but eight words divided into two short sentences set against puffy white clouds on a blue and black background.

One of the men behind the billboard message says his life has been threatened because of it, which seems an odd thing since those doing the threatening all profess to be Christians.

Just eight words:

“Don’t believe in God?” the upper left of the billboard reads. “You are not alone,” the lower right says.

I have no idea how many times I have passed the sign in the days since it went up at Colfax Avenue and Quebec Street on Nov. 17, but I never noticed it until someone pointed it out the other day.

I don’t get the fuss. And yes, I appear to be alone in this.

The billboard is one of 11 in Denver and Colorado Springs paid for by a group that calls itself the Colorado Coalition of Reason, a self-described coalition of “freethinker, atheist and humanist” groups.

The sole purpose of the ads, the group maintains, is what it says: to let other freethinkers, atheists and humanists know there is a group out there for them.

Two of the 11 signs were supposed to go up in Fort Collins and Greeley, the group said. This was so until the moment the media company that owns the two billboards read the message.

The hate mail and nasty, threatening phone messages began almost immediately.

Much of it has been directed at Joel Guttormson, who mostly has been serving as a spokesman for COCORE, as they call it.

Twenty-two and a Metro State junior majoring in theoretical mathematics, Guttormson also is president of the Metro State Atheists, one of the 11 groups that make up COCORE.

“It’s been kind of wild, kind of outrageous,” he says of days since the billboards went up.

“It has been mostly Christians who’ve been calling and e-mailing,” Joel Guttormson said, “which is strange since the message is not directed at Christians or anyone from any religion.

“You know, if you see an ad for migraine medicine and you don’t have a migraine, why would you care?”

Almost all of the feedback, he said, has been from people who say the billboards denigrate Christians. He says he still has no idea how that is possible.

“We are not out to anger people,” Joel Guttormson said. “I don’t know why people think that. So much of it says we are evil and that we hate everybody.

“Have you seen the billboard? Tell me where any of them mentions evil or hate. Why is everyone so mad?”

John Matson, of Denver, was so mad after seeing the Santa Fe Drive sign that he dashed off an angry letter to the billboard’s owner.

“It is a despicable act to allow that sign,” the 60-year-old man said in an interview, “and for just a few pieces of silver.”

He went on COCORE’s Web site, and it made him even angrier, John Matson said. It is trying to gather, he said, “a constituency of what I call mob rule.”

“I know they’re atheists, and my opinion is they want others to believe the same thing. The billboard misrepresents their purpose,” he said. “Their agenda is wolf-in-sheep’s clothing political. Why don’t they just say it.”

Yes, he is a Christian, John Matson said.

“I also understand free speech. And I can also stand up and tell them that they are wrong.”

He has yet, he said, to hear back from the billboard company.

That is about the tone of much of what he has heard, Joel Guttormson said. He saves each call, files the e-mails in a folder.

“I read them, put them away and forget about it,” he says. “My sister keeps telling me I need to watch out for myself.”

He began investigating religion and faith early on, he said, and by high school he was a confirmed atheist.

People ostracized him. It is rare now that he even mentions it outside of his group, he said.

“I don’t tell people at work. I keep my mouth shut.”

Atheism, he said, scares people, the mere possibility that God doesn’t exist.

He remembers one woman running away from an event his group sponsored, “saying that if she listened to us, she would go to hell. I just sat there thinking, ‘Wow! We’re really that awful?’ ”

He is braced for the next few weeks. It is what he calls the radical Christians that are making the most noise, Joel Guttormson said.

“I’ll spend more time defending this than anything else,” he said. “I’ve already learned that anything we do is not going to satisfy them. Anything we do or say is only going to make them more angry.”

I had only one more question:

Have the billboards, which will remain up through Dec. 14, worked?

“We’ve gotten fairly good response from a lot of like-minded people, including some people from out of state who heard about what we are doing,” Joel Guttormson said.

“The cool thing is we’ve even had some Christians step up and defend us. They know our message is no more offensive than one that reads:

“Believe in God? You’re not alone.”

To see the original article, click the on this link.

November 29, 2008 Posted by | atheism, Censorship, Christianity, god, Interview, News | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments