Common Ground Between East and West?

  • When: Saturday, April 18, 2015 @ 5:00 pm
  • Audubon Zoo, 6500 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA view map

* Please note the slight change in start from our usual time! *

Are the perspectives of East and West incompatible, or can there be a sharing of ideas toward common concerns? David Bernstein will share his research and observations.

This talk will focus on how dharma might be useful in deepening our (Western) understanding of authenticity. He looks forward to the necessary conversation with materialists, naturalists and like-minded skeptics.

David Bernstein is in his fourth decade as a meditator, his 14th year as a yoga practitioner and has a lifelong interest in philosophy. He participated in the New Orleans Wisdom Dharma Circle during its eleven years and has led the Saturday Philo Café, a philosophy discussion group, for the New Orleans Lyceum since 2010.


See Calendar for more information.

 

Join the Unholy Rollers at the 3rd Annual Game-a-Thon to Support NOAF!

  • When: Sunday, April 19, 2015 @ 3:00 pm
  • Shamrock Saloon, 4133 South Carrollton Avenue, New Orleans, LA view map

For the second year in a row, the Unholy Rollers are getting a team together to support the New Orleans Abortion Fund to help them raise money for the women who need their services.

Why a Game-a-Thon and not a Bowl-a-Thon you might wonder?  NOAF was turned away from a popular local bowling alley because they would not support this cause. Undeterred, they got creative and instead brought their fierce competition and thirst for reproductive justice to Shamrock for a beer/ping-pong, billiards, darts, and games tournament. Of course, there will be costumes and prizes!

Please feel free to donate to the Unholy Roller team here. Our goal is to raise $500.00.

To register with our team, fill out the form here and select "join a team" (just look for our name).

The whole idea is to have fun and help a good cause.

ABOUT NOAF: 
The New Orleans Abortion Fund (NOAF) was established in 2012 as a community-based organization rooted in social justice, with the purpose of challenging socioeconomic inequalities by providing financial help to people who cannot afford the full cost of an abortion.  With an average pledge of just $65, we are able to change lives in our community.


 

Skeptic's Cocktail Hour -- April

  • When: Tuesday, April 21, 2015 @ 6:00 pm
  • The Columns Hotel, 3811 St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans, LA view map

Before it gets too sticky out there, we must enjoy the clank of the streetcar and the evening breeze once again. The Columns offers small plates for everyone who would like a snack or you can just relax with something to drink. 

Cheers!

As a courtesy to the other guests and the restaurant, please make sure your RSVP is accurate. If you find out that you will or will not be attending even as late as the afternoon of the dinner, please update your RSVP, so we will be as close to the actual number as possible. Thanks for your cooperation!  


 

Stop Creationism in Louisiana --Senate Hearing on Bill SB 74

  • When: Wednesday, April 22, 2015 @ 9:30 am
  • Louisiana State Capitol, 900 N 3rd St, Baton Rouge, LA view map

We need your support to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act, the misnamed and misguided Louisiana Science Education Act, R.S. 17:285.1, which was passed by the Louisiana Legislature in 2008!

SB 74 has been introduced into committee, so we need a good showing in the hearing room. If you can't make it or are from out of state, you can follow the steps below to help.


Step 1: Tell your friends to take part in our day of action and share this event with them.

Step 2: Contact your state legislator or send them a personal message and ask them to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act or set up a meeting with your legislator and ask them to repeal this law. Use this link to look them up.

Step 3: Look for new information from  activist Zack Kopplin concerning more evidence of creationism being taught in Louisiana schools.

As with all legislative hearings, dates and times are subject to last minute changes.


See Calendar for more information.

 

Astronomy Day at the Zoo (Daytime)

  • When: Sunday, April 26, 2015 @ 10:00 am
  • Audubon Zoo Education Lawn, 6500 Magazine St., New Orleans, LA view map

The Pontchartrain Astronomy Society will be hosting an event for all Zoo patrons! Astronomy experts and telescopes will be available for public viewing of features on our nearest star called the Sun, along with astronomy and physics demonstrations by the UNO Physics Club.

IMPORTANT: Patrons must enter through the Zoo - Main Gate, and purchase a normal Zoo admission ticket to attend this special daytime event.

These are fun and educational family events, and everyone is welcome! Just bring your scientific curiosity!

There is no rain date scheduled. If the skies look iffy, we'll still be there.


 

May the Circularity Be Unbroken

04/13/2015
Pyramid of Skulls by Paul Cezanne
"All Scripture is breathed out 
by God", 2 Timothy 3:16 ESV

Have you wondered why so many people believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible, that the book is an “inerrant” document and all the tales, histories, biographies, and timelines are undeniably true and accurate? With just a little reading and reflection of the book, wouldn't it be obvious that there are too many inconsistencies, contradictions, and second-to-none tales of imagination and fantasy for anyone to believe? To understand why anyone would, it might be helpful to trace the origins of the idea and follow one possible thread of circumstances leading to it.

Karen Armstrong’s The Bible: A Biography follows a historical trail from what she believes is the origin to a period in the early Twentieth Century. Armstrong says that the claim of biblical inerrancy is a relatively recent phenomenon—really getting started less that about 150 years ago—and earlier interpretations (of the limited few who had the opportunity to read and evaluate the material) accepted the more realistic viewpoint that the Bible, while serving as the foundational narrative of Western religion, was also rich with allegories, mythical representation, and presented a morality play sui generis of good versus evil.

But in the late 18th Century, philosopher Baruch Spinoza claimed that the Bible could not have been of divine origin given the number of contradictions, and from that conclusion began construction of his “pantheistic” interpretation of the worldly order.

His criticism would become known as the “Higher Criticism” (later called “historical criticism”) and was taken up for study by other contemporaries of the age: "By the end of the eighteenth century, German scholars led the way in biblical studies and were taking Spinoza's historical critical method to new lengths…” (1) leading to the revelation ”By the nineteenth century, it was generally agreed by the scholars of the Higher Criticism that the Pentateuch was a combination of four originally independent sources.”(2)

These sources, writers or transcribers, would come to be designated J (Yahweh), E (Elohim), D (Deuteronomist), and P (Priestly) and are still the standard model for interpreting the different nuances of style and terminology of the Torah. Moses as the author was now officially debunked.

It didn't take long for the thoughtful among the devoted to realize that this was a problem—the sole foundation, the surviving written account and singular record and history of Judaism and Christianity was now shown to be error prone. And if one or many— each and every error contributed to devaluing the veracity of the whole. Making things worse, the results of these critical works was reaching a larger audience— people of modest means were by now beginning to have greater access to the printed word. Specifically, a work called Essays and Reviews published in 1861 by seven Anglican clergymen created an such an uproar that little attention was given to a work published two years earlier that would soon become the most formidable and durable challenge to the seven day creation of a young earth related in the Bible: Darwin’s The Origin of the Species. But “Darwin did not attack religion and at first the religious response was muted.”(3)

The challenge to the divine inspiration of the holy book now firmly defined, apologists for inerrancy scurried from the woodwork. Pastor Dwight Moody published Many Infallible Truths in 1895, nine years after founding the Moody Bible Institute; Archibald Hodge and Benjamin Warfield of the Princeton Theological Seminary worked together on an 1881 article about the inspiration of the Bible, and Warfield would later publish the book The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible. “The belief in biblical inerrancy, pioneered by Warfield and Hodge, would..become crucial to Christian fundamentalism and would involve considerable denial.” (4)

The foundation for perhaps the largest intellectual scam in the history of Western thought was now laid, brought about as a reaction from fear (rather than a result of a premeditated conspiracy)—a fear of a loss of trust in a fable-backed religion which had heretofore been such an easy and accessible method for gaining and maintaining power and control of the innermost psyche of a populace needing and searching for security in a tumultuous world. The gross circularity of the apologetic, buried in volumes of abstruse verbiage made it particularly offensive.

The beginning of the 20th Century opens with a widening web of anti-Enlightenment thought, with fundamentalist Christianity assuming an interdependent and participating role in cultural and political developments. Unencumbered by “empirical correctness”, fascist ideologies flourished, often using the fundamentalist assumption of a self-sovereign, Higher Authority as legislator, judge, and executioner. In the Age of Modernity, a population just recently introduced to the seemingly unlimited possibilities of progress through science and world peace from toleration and pluralism was now confronted with what Karl Popper saw as the paradox inherent within, set like a trap to reverse 300 years of achievement.


(1) Karen Armstrong, The Bible: A Biography (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2007)
(2) Ibid.
(3) Ibid.
(4) Ibid.

~ Marty Bankson
April 11, 2015

Distortions and Lies: The Truth Behind the RFRA

04/02/2015
The recent controversy created by Indiana’s peculiarly egregious version of a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) has finally brought public attention to the essential deceit embodied in such laws. I hope most voters can recognize the many lies embedded in and told about the various state and local RFRAs. A few examples:

Lie #1: Some religious freedom has been lost.
You don’t use the word “restoration” until after something has been lost, or at least is under a direct and present threat. But when pressed for details, no RFRA supporter can come up with a credible example of any such loss or threat. The plain fact is that religious freedom in America is as strong as it has ever been.

Lie #2: Churches or clergy will be forced to perform gay marriages. The freedom of churches and clergy to make religious choices about whose marriages they will or will not solemnize is well-established at law. RFRA-proponents raise the specter of clergy being sued over refusing to perform a gay wedding just to frighten the uninformed.

Lie #3: Businesses are being forced to “perform” or “participate” in gay weddings.  Pro-RFRA rhetoric often deliberately confuses the way support businesses relate to a wedding with the way clergy and churches relate to a wedding. Florists, bakers and photographers are businesses, not churches. They are not performing nor participating in a wedding. They are selling goods and services. They know that, aside from a joke, they cannot put up a sign saying “whites only” or “no Irish need apply,” and they know they can’t proclaim “no Catholics” or “Trinitarians only.” “Heterosexuals only” would be just as ridiculous and just as offensive.

Lie #4: Refusing service to a same-sex wedding is a religious issue.
There is, of course, no Christian prohibition against baking a cake for a same-sex wedding, nor delivering flowers, nor photographing a wedding, nor serving as pediatrician to a married Lesbian couple with a new baby. If anything, Christians are compelled to treat their neighbors with kindness and dignity regardless of religion. Refusing to perform such services is entirely political, not religious at all, and RFRA-proponents are trying to masquerade political action as religious belief.

Lie #5: RFRAs are about something other than same-sex marriage. The timing of RFRA legislation, coupled with the complete lack of any credible threat to religious freedom, makes it clear that these laws are about same-sex marriage. America is far from unified on this topic, but public opinion has shifted dramatically. Opponents of same-sex marriage have lost this battle in the culture war, and lost badly. RFRAs are a last-ditch attempt to deny to inevitable.

The blowback in Indiana has temporarily halted some RFRA legislation, but the movement will not stop here. There will be many opportunities to inspect RFRAs and related legislation for the lies outlined above, and for others as well. One place to begin is with Louisiana StateRepresentative MikeJohnson’s proposed “update” to the state’s existing RFRA. This bill will specifically eliminate state power to enforce non-discrimination laws, although it will be portrayed as something other than what it is.

How I Became an Atheist

04/02/2015
I was a child of the 1960s and a teenager of the 1970s, formed during a very global, progressive, and open-minded phase of U.S. history. I was a Protestant in a very mainstream sort of way, fascinated by all the spiritual currents of my era. I passed my Methodist catechism class while listening to George Harrison chant Hare Krishna. I read books on Edgar Cayce and reincarnation, the Beatles and Transcendental Meditation, Buddhism and Hinduism. As a product of the Age of Aquarius, I fully expected all these religious currents to somehow point toward a single, ultimate truth.

Even though Christianity dominated my upbringing, I was never prone to feeling that any one religion was right while all others were wrong. I had no inkling of the implications then, but my pan-religiosity, already contained the seeds of unbelief. My process from believer to unbeliever took decades, in many small steps. Never once did I experience a sudden stroke of revelation.

Collapsing a long process down into a few paragraphs, the first important step was realizing that all religions must be at least partly wrong. No matter how one tries to analyze doctrine, religions disagree with one another on important details, like the nature of the Self or Soul, what one must do in order to achieve liberation or salvation, and what one is to be liberated or saved from. If religions hold mutually exclusive opinions, they cannot all be right. The possibilities, then, are that there is one right religion, with all others being wrong, or that they are all wrong to at least some degree. 

...continue reading
 

BOOK REVIEW: Leaps of Faith: Science, Miracles, and the Search for Supernatural Consolation

03/31/2015
In Leaps of Faith: Science, Miracles, and the Search for Supernatural Consolation, psychology professor Nicholas Humphrey accomplishes a brief but thorough debunking of psychics, mediums, spoon-benders, and a whole host of supposedly paranormal phenomena. This is not a detailed examination of attempts to test and measure such phenomena, but a broad and philosophical view, pointing out the ridiculousness of the whole psychic show. Humphrey writes, “I think the search for the paranormal is all a big mistake. Sad to say, there has never yet been an authentic example of soul-power worth the name. The phenomena never pass muster. Their promoters always emerge with egg on their faces, with their hand in the till, or whatever other cliché suits the case” (p. 114).

The writing style is a bit chatty, and at first I worried this might become verbose. But his style quickly turned out to be disarming, as I found myself having picked up knowledge about theories of the paranormal without even realizing it was happening. This is easy reading that will make you think.

...continue reading
 

Atheist Eve Cartoon

Atheist Eve Cartoon
 Atheist Eve for June 2012: Update on Atheist Eve for Readers
2 June 2012 | 2:00 am
 
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What is Humanism?

Humanists reject superstitious beliefs.

Instead, we can make sense of the world using reason, experience and shared values.

We can make the best of life by creating meaning and purpose for ourselves, and choosing to take responsibility for our actions.

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2014 Wil Sinda's going away party
ricky-125 has added a photo to the pool:
2014 Wil Sinda's going away party