Frequently Asked Questions

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SURE: Reason, Science, and Secularism:


Why 'Scientific Understanding and Reason Enrichment'?

Aside from being a somewhat tongue-in-cheek acronym, our group name represents the principles that we think should have a higher standing in today's society. We stand for scientific understanding because there is rampant mistrust and misconception of science today (especially when on the topic of evolution) that stems directly from a misunderstanding of its principles. We stand for reason enrichment because our reasoning is an invaluable tool for examining the world and universe that too many have allowed to atrophy.

Is this some kind of a science group? Do you do science projects?

No, this is not a science group. Many people see 'Scientific' in our name and stop reading, thinking we sit around and do science projects. We emphasize science because the scientific method is the most important tool we have to learn more about the world and universe, and hold it to be far above faith and superstition as paths to learning, but as a group, we are UCSB's organization for nonreligious students.

Why does UCSB need a secular group like this?

The ideals represented by SURE are very closely related to the ideals of the university environment - a university is meant to open the minds of its students to new ideas and concepts, and to challenge them to think critically about their preconceptions and beliefs. Some more of our goals for UCSB are as follows:

  • We want to act as a safe place for nonreligious students to discuss their personal philosophies with each other without fear of facing discrimination or pressure to believe in anything supernatural.
  • We want to be a community of nonbelievers, providing a much needed social support for nonreligious students on campus. The many religious groups on campus provide a similar support system to their members; we want to do the same, without the stipulation that the student must be religious.
  • We aim to be a group of activists advocating for the separation of church and state and rational inquiry, ideals that are common to many, not just atheists.
  • SURE also wants to fulfill its members' desire to do good for our community by performing service around the area, including beach and creek cleanups, helping at homeless shelters, and other volunteer work.
  • We want to dispel the misconceptions about atheism, secularism, and science, and educate people about what we really stand for.
  • We want to help people see the benefit of a good understanding of science, and gain a better appreciation of critical thinking and secular reasoning.

What do you do?

SURE is meant to be a group of students who come together to form a community of nonbelievers. At our weekly meetings, we often talk about current events and hot topics important to the secular world, but we also like to have movie nights and barbecues, and many of our meetings are devoted to just "hanging out." We host film screenings and bring speakers to UCSB to highlight our more serious secular views, but we also have movie nights and parties where we can focus on the social aspect of the group.

Who can join?

You don't have to be a dedicated atheist or agnostic to join SURE - we encourage anyone interested to come to our meetings and see what we're all about. It should be kept in mind, however, that SURE's main goal is to provide a community for the secular students of UCSB, and that many of our discussions may be off-putting to religious visitors.

Reason, Science, and Secularism:

What is atheism? Agnosticism? Secularism?

Atheism is the lack of belief in any gods. This is the only unifying principle behind being an atheist. This lack of belief may come about through deliberate choice, or from an inherent inability to believe literally incredible religious teachings, and is almost never based on an ignorance of religious teachings.

Agnosticism is the idea that one can never know anything as certainty, often specifically referencing the idea of a god. The term does not necessarily imply that the existence of a god is as likely as not; in fact, many atheists also consider themselves to be agnostic, since they contend that it is intellectually dishonest to say that one knows anything with absolute certainty.

Secularism often goes hand-in-hand with atheism and agnosticism (but is very often expressed by religious people as well), and is one of the ideals on which SURE was founded. Secularism is the view that religious considerations should be excluded from civil affairs and public education - SURE has recognized that it is essential that the wall of separation between church and state be as strong as possible, and that all too often this wall is compromised.

What is science?

Science is a very simple, robust process that's used to examine the universe. Simply, it is the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena. It is an evidence-based process that relies on a pragmatic approach to discovering the explanations behind the mysteries of the universe.

If you don't believe in God, what brings meaning to your life?

The misconception that not believing in a god automatically leads to nihilism is quite widespread. In reality, hardly any atheists/agnostics/etc feel like their lives lack meaning; in fact, most formerly religious people describe their "deconversion" into nonbelief as an eye-opening to the true beauty of the world and universe. Secular people don't need a flatly defined "objective meaning" of glorifying a god to find plenty of meaning in life: loving one another, volunteering, protecting civil rights, donating to charity, finding a fulfilling job, etc.

If you don't believe in heaven or hell, what is your motivation to be good?

Atheists and other secular people have the same motivation to do good as do all other people of sound mind, but unlike many religious people, they would say that this motivation comes not from a divine intelligence, but from evolutionary and societal pressures. This argument gives more credit to religious people than simply not wanting to anger a god and spend eternity in hell, or please a god and go to heaven.

Isn't America a Christian Nation? Why are you going against the founding principles?

The United States of America was founded on secular principles, and this is a big part of what makes it special. America's government was the first in the world which was set up with a separation of church and state - many Christians today claim that the USA was founded on Christian principles, but history shows that this is simply not true. There is no mention of being a Christian nation in the Constitution or Declaration of Independence, and many of the founding fathers were Deists, opposed to Orthodox Christianity and the supernatural.