Saturday, August 21, 2010

First Baptist Church of Salt Lake City

The third Summer Church Visit of SHIFT took place at the First Baptist Church of Salt Lake City, located at 777 South 1300 East. We chose the location as our first foray into theism because it's website claimed open open open arms and love love love for all. I figured, hey, if your Jesus tells you to love EVERYONE and JUST LOVE THEM, I can probably handle your kind of Christianity. You know, sans judgment and condemnation here on earth.

Five people attended this church visit, in comparison to six at the Zen Center and five at First Unitarian, so while not many of our members were coming to the visits thus far, enough of us were able to wake up and venture out for the educational experiences that made it worth it to continue!

First Baptist Church looks large and old and daunting, up on the hill kitty corner from East High School. But it sure beat us where to enter the building! When we finally decided to head down a path toward what looked like some back doors, we did eventually find the sanctuary. We were welcomed by an elderly lady who asked us each our names, was very happy we had come, gave us free bottled water and a program, and informed us excitedly that there was a community potluck dinner immediately following the service and she really hoped we would come!

We entered a dimly-lit and expansive room with wooden pews. They weren't filled to the brim with people, either. Those who came sat pretty spaced apart, were predominantly if not all white, with I would guess a median age of 40. Probably 5-10 different individuals approached us to say welcome, shake our hands, and insist that we come to eat food with them following the meeting! They were certainly friendly and inviting.

However we joined First Baptist on a rather out-of-the-ordinary Sunday ~ their long-time pastor was leaving for a different church, and a new one would be joining their congregation (or rather coming to lead their congregation) in a couple of weeks. What we sat through during this meeting was basically a farewell service, with many religious and scriptural readings on various topics related to parting or taking leave.

The strangest part to me was near the end, when all the congregants turned to face each other for a few minutes ~ either singing or reciting, I forget which. But it was awkward to be making eye contact with people we had never met, who were saying words we were not joining in saying because they were quite religious and held no meaning for us.

We did not stay afterward for the "dinner." I would say that this was the most "Jesus-y" service I have attended yet!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Big Mind Zen Buddhist Center of Salt Lake City

SHIFT's second Summer Church Visit was to the Big Mind Western Zen Center in Salt Lake City. This was an eye-opening and very educational introduction to Western Zen Practice for all who came. We were asked to sign in a guest book outside the door, then, keeping our voices down because there were people "sitting" upstairs, we took off our shoes and placed our bags in cubbyholes just inside. Then were were told to go up the stairs, put our hands together and bow as we reached the top, and then sit, either on a mat on the floor or in one of the chairs lining the walls.

As we reached the top of the stairs (I forgot to bow) and found a seat, we saw around us a room full of people from all walks of Salt Lake City life, sitting in meditative thought. Many had their eyes closed, some were looking calmly about the room and smiling or nodding at newcomers, and all seemed to be practiced in yoga and steady breathing. It seemed to be a time of repose, to enjoy the summer sun pouring in through the windows. After about 10 or 15 minutes my body grew restless, and to keep focused I began silently repeating a mantra while we sat, something like, "I will take only what is healthful and good in to my body and mind."

After I believe half an hour, Genpo Roshi, who was sitting at the front of the room raised slightly above the people sitting cross-legged on the mats in front of him, rang a gong of sorts and called our attention to what came to be an introduction to, or lesson on, Western Zen thought and/or practice. I can best describe what he spoke on as guiding us through three ways of thinking . . . if any who were in attendance can explain these three ways, please do comment!

It was a calming, non-theistic discussion, where the Roshi listened to and repeated back what people in the room had to say, engaging everyone who felt they wanted to speak. And most impressionable to me, there was no use of "you" language, only "I" language ... in that, there was no sense coming from the leader of the discussion that "you should" do or think or see this this way, but rather, "I think," "I have experienced," I believe," etc. Then the people who responded or engaged in the discussion also used phrases like "I feel" or "I think." It was so personalized and yet example-setting. You wanted to be like them, or think like them, or feel what they felt, because they were just stating the way they were thinking or feeling, rather than saying, "This is how it is for everyone." Quite an amazing approach to teaching about peace and living a calm life.

The other positive things I noticed about the experience was the inclusion of people of color and people, as I mentioned "from all walks of life," some I recognized from the LGBTQ community as well, and the use of inclusive feminist language ~ Roshi would say "she" or "her" equally as often as he would say "he" or "him," even though he was speaking from a male perspective!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City

First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City was the location of the first Summer Church Visit for SHIFT - Secular Humanism, Inquiry and Freethought. Led by our Interfaith Liaison, SHIFT members have expressed interest in visiting various local churches and religious organizations around Salt Lake City, Utah this summer.

Our group regularly meets between 1:00 and 3:00 p.m. at the University of Utah's A. Ray Olpin University Union building. And this Summer of 2010, SHIFT members are congregating upon local churches with a fervor for learning! What do religious people actually believe? Why do people go to churches? What human needs or wants are filled by being a part of a congregation? If you are curious about these or any other questions regarding local religious sects, we invite you to learn with us!

First Unitarian is a bastion of liberal religion in Salt Lake City ~ over half of the congregation identify as Atheist or Agnostic. Many come from LDS backgrounds, and weren't finding the openness and acceptance in their congregations that they were seeking. Many come from Unitarian Universalist backgrounds and, whatever brought them to Salt Lake City, they have been grateful to find here an affirming congregation of like-minded citizens, concerned with social justice and free inquiry. So what makes them a "church," if many of them don't believe in a God? Their "faith" is predominantly in humanity, and in the power of humans to come together in congregations to make a positive difference in the world.

Our visit fell on the day of the last sermon given by Reverend Tom Goldsmith before First Unitarians would take a Summer Vacation ~ that's right, this church takes a Summer Vacation! During the Summer, they bring in speakers on various informational topics, every Sunday at 10:00 a.m., and their regular 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. services recommence in the fall. Reverend Goldsmith spoke with us two weeks ago about the BP oil spill and it's ramifications on our lives and our upcoming Summer. Following the hour service, comprised of quite a few musical interludes and thought-provoking readings, we enjoyed some coffee (or tea or hot chocolate) and took a look at their book table where they sold many educational titles, including "The Secular Conscience" by Austin Dacey, a speaker SHIFT welcomed to Salt Lake City this past year!

This congregation is the home of SHIFT's Interfaith Liaison ~ Elaine recently "signed the book" and officially joined this church, and looks forward to teaching in the Religious Education program offered there to children and teens, beginning this fall!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Miguel Santana and The Marien Revelation

SHIFT - be aware - an AWESOME opportunity has come our way! International author, Miguel Santana, is planning to come and speak with our group about his newest book, The Marien Revelation, on Wednesday, June 2 at 7:00 p.m. in the Union Theatre on campus. This discussion will be unlike any you've likely ever experienced - the book itself will blow you out of the water, and bring up SUCH fascinating discussion topics.

Please get a hold of this book, if you haven't already, and read it so that you can participate when the author comes June 2! Check out his website here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Good Without God?

You're Not Alone!

And, you may have noticed this greeting being posted on boards around campus, welcoming you to find out more about SHIFT ~ Secular Humanism, Inquiry and Freethought.

Thanks for checking us out!

We hope you will consider making a donation to keep this group going here at the University of Utah, but regardless of your financial situation, we encourage you to come to our General Sunday meetings at 1:00 p.m. in the Student Union, near the Ballroom. Ours is a diverse and growing community of Secular Humanists, Atheists, Agnostics and Freethinkers! Regardless of how you identify, all are welcome to join in our conversations in a rational and respectful forum.

Monday, March 29, 2010

FUNdraiser April 11

SHIFT is close to celebrating ONE FULL YEAR in existence! A special binder is currently being prepared to show off all that our group has accomplished in this time, including bringing you nationally-renowned speakers, engaging peer and community discussions and events, and being recognized by the University as "an important and valuable student group," as Student Group of the Month for January 2010!

This group has an amazing foundation and we encourage you to take this month of April to consider all that it has been and will be for you, and for the University of Utah campus for years to come ~ what an asset to our diverse community it is!

To commence the month of April as our 1st Annual Donation Drive, we are offering you the most delicious Baked Goods you can imagine! Please come on Sunday, April 11 at noon (before our regular general Sunday Meeting) in the Student Union near the Ballroom, to donate what you feel you are able to keep this group running smoothly, and to enjoy a lunch of champions!

Please RSVP on the Facebook Page if you would like to pre-order! There will be plenty for everyone, so, bring your family, your friends, everyone you know! See you Sunday!

Monday, March 22, 2010

March Madness

After ending February on the right note with our very successful Austin Dacey event, SHIFT has had several social events this month, with more to come. First, we had a bowling social on 3/7, during which we had great conversation and ate cookies and donuts, while bowling in the bowling alley of the Union Building. Next, on 3/14, at the suggestion of group member Jeff Jenkins, we celebrated Pi Day (seeing as mathematics are one of the few things in the universe that can be proven true) by going to The Pie for pizza. We gathered first at the Union for our usual Sunday meeting and left as a group at 1:59 (pi = 3.14159) for The Pie, where we ate delicious pizza and cheese pull-aparts, and enjoyed interesting conversation. Finally, in order to start Spring Break off right, we gathered on 3/20 in the Union Building theater for a screening of the movie Religulous, which incited much laughter and some enlightening conversation afterward. Many brought snacks to share with everyone, including some atheist cookies (square soft cookies with white icing and the scarlet atheist 'A' on them), provided by group member Zach Stevenson's aunt from her in-home bakery called Just Sweets Bakery, and they were great! This Saturday (3/27), some of us will be meeting at a local restaurant for a social lunch (exact time and location TBD), seeing as we will not be having our usual Sunday meetings until after Spring Break. I hope you can join us for lunch this Saturday (keep an eye on our facebook page for details) and for the great events that will take place during the month of April, including a combined social event SHIFT will be having with SHAFT, our sibling group from Utah State University, for which we will be having a picnic and enjoy other outdoor activities (specific date and location TBD, so keep an eye on our facebook page for details).

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Austin Dacey Lecture & Debate Saturday, February 27

Austin Dacey, author of The Secular Conscience: Why Belief Belongs in Public Life, and former Center for Inquiry representative to the United Nations, is coming this Saturday!

His lecture, called "Blasphemy: Hate Speech or Human Right? Inside the struggle for freedom of expression at the United Nations" will be held in the University of Utah Fine Arts Auditorium (375 South 1530 East) on Saturday, February 27, beginning at 4:00pm ~ the doors will open at 3:00, and seating is first-come-first-served, so come early to grab your good seats!

Following Dr. Dacey's lecture, he will be joined by local Salt Lake Community College Professor of Philosophy, Dr. Mark Hausam, for a debate entitled, "Is Morality Possible Without God?"

Don't miss this amazing opportunity! This lecture is being hosted by SHIFT ~ Secular Humanism, Inquiry and Freethought. It has been generously made possible by the exhaustive efforts of Co-Founder Jason Cooperrider, The Secular Student Alliance (one of our national affiliates), and The Humanists of Utah, as well of course by our participants Dr.s Austin Dacey (and Angie McQuaig) and Mark Hausam.

Donations are gratefully being accepted via cash or checks made out to SHIFT.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Secular Student Alliance Leadership Conference

I will be attending this conference to represent SHIFT. If anyone is interested in accompanying me, then please contact me for details.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Baha'i Interfaith Devotional

Yesterday at Plaza Fest, as the Interfaith Liason of SHIFT, I stopped by various tables and spoke with representatives of many Faith Groups on campus. I was so pleased to learn what they are doing to coordinate efforts with each other and engage the community in service for good!

I hope that many in our group can find the time to join them in their discussions and activities - in a respectful and engaging manner - so that we, as Secular Humanists, can become better represented among faith groups as community members focused on bettering humanity as well! We of non-faith have no good reason to disengage from our communities because of others' professions of faith in higher beings. I hope you agree!

This Thursday, January 28, 2010 I hope you will join the Baha'i Campus Association in their first Interfaith Campus Devotional of the Spring 2010 semester - the topic is "Economic Prosperity of Humanity," a discussion in which we very well can engage! This will be held from 7:30 - 9:00 pm in Room 319 of the Student Union Building.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Plaza Fest This Tuesday!

Are you interested in learning more about SHIFT - Secular Humanism, Inquiry and Freethought? Please stop by our table between 10am and 2pm this Tuesday, January 26, 2010! There will be snacks and handouts and plenty of good company to chat with about Secular matters. This event will occur in the ballroom of the Union Building on campus. Please help by manning the table for any amount of time or by just hanging out to chat with those who are and/or with interested passers-by.

Monday, January 11, 2010

SHIFT Happens

Every Sunday at 1:00pm! By the Pool Tables in the Student Union. And as this is the first Sunday Meeting of Spring Semester, there will be pizza and awesome company! Please join us, and bring everyone you know.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Event Report

I am pleased to report that "The Many Faces of Charles Darwin" lecture was a great success. Held on Friday, December 11, 2009 and hosted by SHIFT, The College of Science, and The Department of Biology of The University of Utah, Daniel Fairbanks' lecture was engaging and informative.

This event brought in the highest number of attendees to a SHIFT event held during the Fall 2009 semester - 22 persons total - and also brought in $45, donated by those who attended, to contribute toward our first Lecture Event of 2010! We are working on bringing in Austin Dacey, former Center for Inquiry Representative to the United Nations, on Febuary 27 at 4:00.

If you are able to contribute to the Austin Dacey event, please contact Elaine Ball at If you would like more information about Austin Dacey or how you might be able to help with this event, please contact Jason Cooperrider at