UGAtheists Celebrate “Stone a Heathen Day”

At the University of Georgia yesterday, the UGAtheists celebrated “Stone a Heathen Day,” using some Bible verses to generate some buzz about their group on campus.

The idea came from the Pastafarians at the University of South Carolina. As UGAtheists president Randall Bourquin said to me, “They dreamed it up, shared it with me, and will be executing their own day on Sept. 30th.”

Here are some pics from the awesome UGA event:

So, how exactly does one “stone” a heathen?

With water balloons. (Obviously.)

Bourquin and other atheist students encouraged people walking in Tate Plaza to stone them according to the Bible’s commands.

Leviticus 24:14, a command from God to Moses, reads: “Take the blasphemer outside the camp. All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him.”

The UGAtheists laughed at their own self-condemnation.

“Jesus said, ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,’ but he said nothing about water balloons,” Bourquin said.

… Bourquin said one reason his group organized “Stone a Heathen Day” is because it is not easy to be an atheist in a community such as the one at the University.

“It’s pretty tough to extract sympathy from almost anyone,” he said. “It’s more or less socially unacceptable to come into a room and say, ‘I’m an atheist’ and get a pat on the back.”

What a great way to show some of the crazier stuff in the Bible. You shouldn’t take it seriously (or literally) here, so why should you take it any more seriously when it is used to justify bigotry and promote Creationism?

It clearly hit some nerves, too:

Butler Stoudenmire, a sophomore from Albany, watched Bourquin recite Bible verses and ask for the group’s punishment.

“They’re definitely poking fun at religion,” he said. “It doesn’t personally offend me, but they’re giving Christianity a bad name.”

Yes, it’s poking fun at religion. There’s nothing wrong with that. And if Christianity has a bad reputation, I’m pretty sure we can blame most of that on Christians themselves.

After one atheist student asked if Christian student James Wood would throw a water balloon at him, Wood declined.

“Behind that action I think is a sinful desire to get back at them,” said Wood, a senior from Marietta. “I don’t think Jesus would throw a balloon at them.”

Right. But Jesus would *totally* have banned gay marriage and voted for Sarah Palin.

One professor called out the atheists for using Old Testament cruelty:

Richard Elliott Friedman, professor of Jewish studies in the religion department, said any argument using the Bible — whether theist or atheist — requires extensive study.

“It’s not for amateurs to interpret the Bible,” he said.

Like that’s ever stopped anyone before. When Christians heed that lesson, I’m sure the atheists will follow suit :)

By the way, there’s a great picture of group member Daniel Brettschneider getting “stoned” in the UGA student newspaper. Check that out.

And look at the featured video on the paper’s website!

I love the beginning of the school year. All these creative atheists groups are out in full force, getting their message out, shaking up theistic sensibilities, and making me smile in the process.

(Pics via Lisa Lansing on Facebook)

  • Roxane

    The University of Georgia has come a long way since I was there in the early-mid 70′s! Go, you hairy dawgs!

  • TXatheist

    At first I was worried and then I realized it was about making awareness so I thought it might be getting an atheist stoned via smoking.

  • William

    Did the heathans provide their own papers, glass pipes or bongs to facilitate said stoning, or were they selfish and expect others to provide those items as well?

  • wright1

    Richard Elliott Friedman, professor of Jewish studies in the religion department, said any argument using the Bible — whether theist or atheist — requires extensive study.

    “It’s not for amateurs to interpret the Bible,” he said.

    Made me laugh so loud I scared my cat out of her nap. A real Old Testament type, professor Friedman. I’d love to know who, according to his Secret Bible Decoder Ring, can interpret the Bible…

  • http://blaghag.blogspot.com/ Jennifurret

    How hard is it to interpret “go stone someone”?

  • Reginald Selkirk

    I like the response that “we don’t take our own scriptures seriously anyway.”

  • «bønez_brigade»

    Good on ‘em! Public fun w/ old-time religion is badly needed in the South.

  • Lisa

    This event was incredibly fun. We surprised a lot of people, especially some student atheists who passed by because they had no idea an atheist group existed at UGA. What a great way to advertise our group on campus! I hope we can do it again next year!

  • http://secularshawshank.wordpress.com Andy

    Professor Friedman says it’s not for amateurs to interpret the Bible.

    That’s a laugh. It’s the idea of interpretation that’s the problem. The text says what it says. Apologetics and theology seek to muddy what should be a very clear pond: the text says what it says.

  • ckitching

    “It’s not for amateurs to interpret the Bible,” he said.

    I do love the Courtier’s Reply. It’s so versatile. “How dare you insult the Emperor’s new clothes! You clearly lack the sophistication/education to judge these ethereal new fashions!” The best part is that you can make it work for anything you don’t want to have to explain!

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com WMDKitty

    Someone mentioned getting stoned? I brought a pipe….

  • Jason Baur

    Of course, the notion that the laity could interpret the Bible without the aid of clerics/theologians was a cornerstone of the Protestant Reformation. But if understanding the Bible really isn’t that complicated, then the good professor’s years of theological training starts to look all a bit foolish, eh?

  • Richard P.

    That looks like a lot of fun.

    I can’t wait until they hold the crucify a christian day. Should be a good turn out for that.

  • http://theehtheist.blogspot.com/ the “Eh”theist

    This is an awesome idea. In future they may want to combine it with fundraising for a charity. Then some of the more squeamish christians and jews might join in.

    As for the religion prof, it is amazing that he thinks such a law is ok “because no one actually followed it”.

    crainium in rectum disease-big time

  • Jeff B.

    If it takes an expert to interpret this stupid shit, then get it out of my hotel room.

    Now I’m tempted to open my nightstand here at the Drury and memorize this fucker simply to possess even more worthless knowledge

    (might come in handy for Jeopardy)

  • Lysistrata

    I second “Eh”theist comment that could be joined with a fund raiser for charitable organization. X amount to through a balloon at an Atheist. What a great way to raise awareness and show we are interested in doing more than just proving we exist.

  • Richard Wade

    “It doesn’t personally offend me, but they’re giving Christianity a bad name.”

    Oh I see, their divinely inspired, perfect, inerrant, timeless, and universally applicable book has parts that are very embarrassing and defaming to Christians just by reading them aloud in public, even though Christians use the same parts to justify their bigotry, chauvinism, adoration of ignorance, and mayhem. So… just reading it aloud is not a proper representation of it?

    “It’s not for amateurs to interpret the Bible,” he said.

    Ohhhh, now I see. It’s all because their divinely inspired, perfect, inerrant, timeless, and universally applicable book needs to be interpreted. That’s why all the experts all completely agree with each other.

    Oh wait…

  • Hypatia’s Daughter

    Richard Elliott Friedman, professor of Jewish studies in the religion department, said any argument using the Bible — whether theist or atheist — requires extensive study. “It’s not for amateurs to interpret the Bible,” he said.

    Everyone who has ever been born faces judgment and punishment by God (or his followers) for everything we think, say & do…..but we are apparently unable to understand exactly what we should think, say & do without years of dedicated study? Seems God has very poor communication skills.
    But the best part is that he continues:

    The Leviticus verse that UGAtheists used referred to what Friedman called a very, very serious offense in the ancient world: cursing God. Readers today might consider the stoning punishment extreme, but it was part of the ancient Israelite culture, Friedman said. “Prisons weren’t invented yet, and fining isn’t enough,” he said. “It was either a fine or execution.”

    Well, I feel much better now. It would be just awful to have people fined willy-nilly for using the name of God in vain…

  • aerie

    It gives me hope for the future to see the young atheists out and about on a university campus, especially in the south!
    Just when I think the south is lost & irreparably damaged by religion, I see brave kids such as these and my hope is renewed! And it is *bravery* to be an out loud atheist in the south. It can have serious, life-affecting consequences. I don’t exaggerate when I say it’s downright dangerous in some parts.

  • Kevin S.

    For what it’s worth, Friedman wrote one of the more widely-used books using source criticism and the documentary hypothesis to explore the genesis of the Hebrew Bible. When he talks about not casually interpreting it, he’s coming from a scholarly (as opposed to religious) point of view. Conflating his voice with that of other religious demagogues would be a mistake, IMO.

  • Greg visiting Baghdad

    I recommend a duel demonstration–Campus Atheists and NORML having a “Stone and Atheist Day” while playing Bob Dylan’s Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35 .

    Both could hand out literature, and solicit donations for a worthwhile local charity.

    Water balloons, good. Pipes in public, still technically illegal (for now).

  • Christophe Thill

    “They’re definitely poking fun at religion,” he said. “It doesn’t personally offend me, but they’re giving Christianity a bad name.”

    … by reading aloud ugly Bible verses ! How dare they !

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Sometimes I feel that stoning mediums is just the thing we should do. Those crooks certainly need to be stopped. But then I remember that this would be totally barbaric and we live in a civilised society with rules and stuff. That and I’d probably miss and drop a rock on my own head or something. How embarrassing would that be to explain?

    Water balloons are much safer and funnier.

  • J Cole

    Richard Elliott Friedman, professor of Jewish studies in the religion department, said any argument using the Bible — whether theist or atheist — requires extensive study.

    “It’s not for amateurs to interpret the Bible,” he said

    So, what exactly qualifies one as a “professional” bible interpreter?

  • littlejohn

    Don’t forget “Suffer not a witch to live.”
    Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann would be well advised to stay in their homes that day.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    So, what exactly qualifies one as a “professional” bible interpreter?

    He does get paid for it.

  • Mike

    Richard Elliott Friedman, professor of Jewish studies in the religion department, said any argument using the Bible — whether theist or atheist — requires extensive study.

    “It’s not for amateurs to interpret the Bible,” he said.

    And it’s not for pompous professors to decide who can or cannot interpret…well…anything.

  • Scott

    It’s kind of cheesy to put words in peoples’ mouths. Christianity isn’t all evangelical literalism–the kid who didn’t think Jesus would throw the balloon isn’t necessarily a Palin fanboy or even opposed to gay marriage simply because he’s Christian.

    Likewise, when Friedman said amateurs shouldn’t interpret scripture, it’s silly to react like that’s a shocking thing for a Christian to say–it’s long been part of Catholic dogma, and most Jewish sects take the same stance, if I remember right.

    I’m all in favor of pointing out the inconsistencies and hypocrisies of religion, but let’s not go pretending it’s hypocritical when a religious liberal holds different beliefs than a fundamentalist.

  • Mike

    Likewise, when Friedman said amateurs shouldn’t interpret scripture, it’s silly to react like that’s a shocking thing for a Christian to say–it’s long been part of Catholic dogma, and most Jewish sects take the same stance, if I remember right.

    I don’t think anyone here was particularly shocked…

  • Hitch

    I don’t think any atheist would care for scripture if it wasn’t considered holy and literal by way too many.

    But if someone calls for literacy and then there are questionable passages one doesn’t have to be a life-long hermeneutic to ask pointed questions.

  • muggle

    Ugh, I’m not at all comfortable with this. Let’s not remind them of these barbaric laws, eh? Least they start following the examples of the Taliban.

    We already have Christian extremists who call for a return to literally stoning, etc. and no they’re not talking about in the United States. They’re talking about replacing the United States with a Christian theocracy. I don’t think they’ll have much luck with that but let’s let those who ignore these sections of their buybull do so, please.

    Click that last link in the topics section (1999 to present) if you want to see something truly disturbing.

  • http://n8chz.blogspot.com/ Lori

    Everyone must be stoned.

  • http://www.correntewire.com chicago dyke

    it bothers me a great deal that it’s so hard in some places to be an atheist, so this sort of thing makes me really happy to see. i’m sure it was here i read about it, but i’m reminded of the discussion about how many people may call themselves believers, but in truth are really agnostic or uncaring on the subject altogether. for every new member this group got from this action, 10 more who won’t join an atheist group but basically agree with its point walked by. it’s helpful to let them know they’re not alone, and show them they can come out and nothing bad will happen.

  • Aguz

    In defense of Professor Friedman, I must say that indeed, any ancient text must be analyzed in his original language. That’s why even now there’s many different translations and interpretation of Greek’s texts (i.e. Homer, Sophocles, etc). Even today we have to make a arduous job to translate from one language to other witch also involves interpretation. Plus the discussion about the meaning in the scriptures is an important part of Jewish traditions.
    Just saying.
    (Still, the video was hilarious)

  • Chris

    As with anything that happens on campus, events like these are likely to drum up some amount of controversy in the school paper the following day. When I read this response, I was left nearly speechless:

    This sort of behavior is part of the reason atheists have such a bad reputation.
    If they want to be respected, then perhaps they should stop persecuting others’ beliefs and just focus on their own.

    Read the rest – Red and Black: UGAtheists insult Christian Values

  • Barry Johnstone.

    Stone the flamin’ crows! I think Mr Friedman has his head so achingly far up his own arse that he can’t past the local dinosaurs!

  • http://twitter.com/auburntigerrich Rich Frangiamore

    This is fantastic.  Go Georgia!  I wish there was a group like this at Auburn while I was there (or, if there was, I wish I had known).

  • Peter Packiam

    Great good set up….Love it….Cheers to you Guys

  • paulalovescats

    “It’s not for amateurs to interpret the bible”


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