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. 


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.


HB 707 Emergency Community Meeting

  • When: Thursday, April 23, 2015 @ 7:00 pm
  • Kajuns Pub, 2256 Saint Claude Avenue, New Orleans, LA view map

EQLA and community partners are having an emergency meeting in New Orleans to discuss Louisiana's version of the "religious freedom" bills (known as RFRAs) that have been showing up all over the country -- HB 707. 

As you've probably heard, the RFRA controversy is heating up in Louisiana because it is becoming clear to community and business leaders that Louisiana's bill is worse than the ones we saw in Indiana and Arkansas

If you have questions, concerns, ideas, or a willingness to participate in the efforts to defeat this bill, come on down!

We have to work together because we can't beat discrimination without standing together and saying #NotMyLouisiana.


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.


Astronomy Day at the Zoo (Nighttime)

  • When: Sunday, April 26, 2015 @ 7:30 pm
  • Audubon Zoo Education Lawn, 6500 Magazine St., New Orleans, LA view map

Astronomy experts and telescopes will be available for FREE nighttime public stargazing!

Among other things, we'll be treated to a beautiful 1st Quarter Moon with fantastic views of lunar craters, mountain ranges, and ancient lava flows (no, we cannot see the lunar module landers from the Apollo missions).

We'll also be getting closeup telescopic looks at the planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter, along with many of Jupiter's natural satellites, and maybe even a few objects outside of our solar system!

IMPORTANT: No Zoo ticket is needed for the nighttime event. You will enter to the right of the Zoo's main entrance, through the brown iron gate behind the statue of Audubon, the same gate you enter to attend NOSHA meetings.

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

There is no rain date scheduled. If the nighttime event is a total gully wash, don't bother coming. 


BOOK REVIEW: Churchless: Understanding Today's Unchurched and How to Connect with Them

The Barna Group is a Christian organization that does sociological research for churches and other Christian institutions. One of their recent publications is Churchless: Understanding Today's Unchurched and How to Connect with Them. If you’re interested in how Christians see those who've left the faith and why, Churchless could be a fascinating read.

Christian organizations are painfully aware of America’s increasing religious diversity and secularism. Through reports like Churchless they get a better understanding of the large and growing percentage of Americans who have no church affiliation. Surprisingly, only about 25% of the “unchurched” are agnostics or atheists. A majority are Christian believers of various sorts, who have chosen not to participate in any formal church. The unchurched form an increasingly diverse group, slowly becoming less white and less male, while becoming more educated and more geographically dispersed throughout the country. Those leaving Christian institutions are making informed decisions, as they are experienced both with Bible reading and active church participation.

While the authors point to the many distractions of modern life as factors that contribute to increasing churchlessness, they are also willing to consider that churches are driving members away. A common complaint among the churchless is that they were unable to feel the presence of God in their church experience, and the authors point out that this is also a common complaint among active church members. They've also analyzed the attitudes of active church-goers along such lines as whether they see value in all human beings, even those of different faiths, or whether they see believers and unbelievers as having different intrinsic values. The Barna Group’s startling conclusion is that 51% of active church members are more “pharisaical” than “Christlike.” By these loaded terms they mean that many of those sitting in church pews fall short of the Christian ideals of tolerance and civility. This is not news to many of the unchurched, who have been trying for decades to get this message across to church leaders. That message may have more weight in a book like Churchless, because it is a criticism of Christians by Christians.

The writers seem to come quite close to, and yet to miss, the realization that many ex-Christians reject Christianity in two layers. The outermost layer for many former Christians who've become agnostics or atheists is doubt or denial of the existence of God, certainly a sufficient reason to stay out of church, but often not the whole story. Many non-believers have a second layer of criticism, which is that they would not want to be like many of the practicing Christians they encounter, even if they felt more certain that God existed. Whether that second layer of rejection is based in the ways many visible Christians and Christian institutions fall short of their own ideals, or in a deeper deficiency in Christian doctrine, is a thornier question not examined in this book.

Reading Churchless really brought home to me the vastness of the chasm that separates the Christian worldview from the worldviews of non-believers. The writers are unwaveringly certain that Christians “are the stewards of the truest story about humanity and God.” They use phrases such as “the presence of God,” “discernment” and “wisdom” as if they are unambiguously clear and identify tangible goods that churches can physically deliver. They never doubt that first-century scripture is still an adequate guide to the major life issues of people living in the twenty-first. Churches may find ways to reconnect with the churchless who still hold some faith. But I see little hope for them to reclaim the skeptics, as long as they continue to behave as if hopelessly vague buzzwords can be useful in the real world.

Churchless: Understanding Today's Unchurched and How to Connect with Them. Edited by George Barna & David Kinnaman. Tyndale House Publishers (2014) . ISBN: 978-141-438-7093.

~By Jim Dugan

May the Circularity Be Unbroken

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.

...continue reading

Distortions and Lies: The Truth Behind the RFRA

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.

...continue reading

How I Became an Atheist

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

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

New Episodes - The New Orleans Humanist Perspective
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I am a humanist because you don’t need a reason to be a good person.

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24 December 2013 | 11:59 pm
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The New Orleans Secular Humanist Assoc. Blog - Contemporary resources for atheists and freethinkers in Louisiana

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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.

It is important to act morally towards others, not because of a divine imperative, but because people have inherent dignity.

We have only one life, it is our responsibility to make it a good life, and to live it well.

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Gods are fragile things; they may be killed by a whiff of science or a dose of common sense. - Chapman Cohen

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