New Orleans Secular Humanist Association

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Heathens Who Lunch!

  • When: Thursday, August 04, 2016 @ 11:30 am
  • Martin Wine Cellar, 3827 Baronne Street, New Orleans, LA view map

It could have been "Happy Heathens Who Lunch!" or "Hungry Heathens Who Lunch!", but you get the idea. Many secular humanist groups across the country have a lunch get-together, so we thought maybe this would be fun to try. It won't work for everyone's schedule, but maybe someone can attend who otherwise doesn't have a chance at our other socials.

They have sandwich and soup specials for lunch. We'll post the link to the August menu as soon as it is available.

As a courtesy to the other attendees and the restaurant, please be sure that your RSVP is accurate as of the morning of this event. Be conscientious and let us know if something changes!   


The Science of Sign Language

  • When: Thursday, August 11, 2016 @ 7:00 pm
  • Jefferson Parish Library, 4747 W. Napoleon Ave., Metairie, LA view map

"NOSHA Science Night" PRESENTS: The Science of Sign Language

NOSHA Member, Jennifer Kuyrkendall, has 30 years of experience in the deaf community and will present an interesting presentation on deafness and the background of sign language.

She will identify various types of deafness and cultural norms, contrast the differences of signed languages around the world and list the current research regarding cognitive impact on visual spatial language anomalies. In addition, she will also highlight current scientific research being done on the human brain and sign language usage.

Kuyrkendall works in the USDA's Office of the Chief Financial Officer for Civil Rights and Conflict Management as an ASL Interpreter, EEO Specialist and Special Emphasis Programs Manager. She has also been a freelance ASL interpreter for the past 11 years.

Sign Language Interpreters may earn CEUs at this presentation. Please contact Jennifer directly at to sign up.


Taking on the Tough Stuff of History: New Orleans and the Domestic Slave Trade

  • When: Saturday, August 20, 2016 @ 3:00 pm
  • Jefferson Parish Library, 4747 W. Napoleon Ave., Metairie, LA view map

Between 1808 and 1865 more than one million enslaved men, women, and children were forcibly moved from the Upper to the Lower South, where the expansion of sugar and cotton production created high demand for enslaved labor. New Orleans, home to more than fifty slave markets in the antebellum period, was the nexus of this trade. 

Join The Historic New Orleans Collection curator Erin Greenwald as she discusses New Orleans, the domestic slave trade, and THNOC’s award-winning exhibition “Purchased Lives”.

This event is free and open to the public, so bring a friend!

IMAGE: Slave Auction; ca. 1831; ink and watercolor; The Historic New Orleans Collection, 1941.


BOOK REVIEW: Witchcraze: A New History of the European Witch Hunts

The literature, both scholarly and fanciful, on the European witchcraze is voluminous and of uneven quality. It was a pleasure, then, to find a work of scholarly quality that stands out for its unusual perspective. Historian Anne Llewellyn Barstow has studied the phenomenon from a much need feminist perspective in Witchcraze: A New History of the European Witch Hunts.

There is far less here, than in many other studies of the same phenomenon, about religion and beliefs about witchcraft, and a lot more about the roles of women and men, and changes in the social and economic structures of Europe during the worst years of the witchcraze (1550-1750). Barstow sets the number of persons executed for witchcraft during that time at roughly 100,000, a lower figure than some other historians, and admittedly an estimate from incomplete sources. This does not mean she casts the witchcraze in a more positive light than others. In fact, she shows that a very large percentage of the accused and executed were women, and is careful to demonstrate the cloud of fear under which European women lived for those centuries, the nearly absolute lack of fairness or objectivity toward the accused, and the sexual sadism of the processes of interrogation and execution.

Why that time and that place? Barstow takes a multifactorial view. The roles and opportunities for European women had been narrowing for centuries (and would continue to narrow until well into the 19th century). The early rumblings of Capitalism were actually increasing the gap between rich and poor, and women who owned property but had no male protectors became especially vulnerable. Two religious movements, the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation, generated a drive toward orthodoxy that included formal control of sexual expression as well as of religious doctrine. Increasingly centralized religious and governmental power meant more intervention by authorities into local and private interactions. Witchcraft came to be seen as not merely heresy, but as a crime against the state.

In a brief but fascinating analysis, Barstow points out that the era of the witchcraze corresponds roughly with the age during which Europeans enslaved Africans. This is no coincidence. Barstow writes (pp. 159-160):

“We need to see the similarities between all women in a patriarchal system and all persons in an unfree status . . . . free women and slaves of both sexes fell into many of the same categories in the eyes of early modern European men. Neither had control over what they produced, other than in exceptional circumstances, and their labor could be coerced. Both were seen by the law as children, as fictive minors who could be represented in court only by their masters/husbands. Both could legally be beaten, debased, and humiliated. When mistreated, both were impotent to gain help from others within their group, nor usually could their families help them.”

For readers interested in what early modern Europeans thought witches actually did and why, Kramer’s (ca. 1486) inquisitorial handbook Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer against Witches) is indispensable. A similar insider’s view of the Salem witch hunts can be found in Cotton Mather’s (ca. 1692) On Witchcraft. But the Malleus and On Witchcraft are products of their respective times and places, making no attempt to place paranoia about witchcraft in a social and historical context. Anne Barstow’s Witchcraze helps make sense of the nonsense.

Witchcraze: A New History of the European Witch Hunts, by Anne Llewellyn Barstow (1994). Pandora/HarperCollins; ISBN 0-06-2500049-X.

~Jim Dugan


BOOK REVIEW: Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From?

In Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From?, archaeologist William Dever grapples with the disconnect between biblical texts and the material remains of the ancient cultures of Canaan. Dever’s perspective is scholarly, based on a knowledge both of the contents of Hebrew scripture -- what Christians call the Old Testament -- and of what digging in the dirt can still turn up from biblical times.
Dever’s book focuses mainly on the origins of the Israelites, the Children of Israel who, according to the Bible, were enslaved in Egypt, escaped by divine intervention, and conquered the lands of the Canaanites in and around what we would call Israel today. Biblical lore emphasizes the distinctness of the Israelites, separating them ethnically and religiously from the peoples of both Egypt and Canaan. Scholars have long realized that the lines of descent must be much blurrier than the Bible seems to say. The Hebrew language is close kin of the languages of Canaan, and contact between Canaanites and Egyptians was frequent and prolonged.

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Jesus & Mo



11 May 2016 | 10:54 am