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Freethought? Maybe not.. PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Naomi Baker   
Tuesday, 25 August 2009 00:00

In 2008, I was encouraged to organize a skeptics group in Houston. Relying on the advice of friends from Denver, who had successfully started a similar group using the social website Meetup (www.meetup.com), I launched my site and have seen slow but steady growth. As discussed by Reed Esau on a Skepticiality podcast, it is often difficult to generate interest, keep the turnover rate low, and get assistance with organizing meetings. In Houston, matters are complicated in that the metropolitan area is 60 miles across in each direction and there is almost no public transporation except for limited bus service in the central area. People are reluctant to attend evening meetings when the location is far from the office and the drive home afterwards might be up to an hour long. However, the group is slowly growing and we've been able to attract some lively, engaged people.

I was therefore interested when I received, through the Meetup site, an email invitation to join a group that was forming closer to my area of Houston, labeled as a Freethinkers group. The organizer wanted to work on eliminating the ‘imposition of religious doctrine on Free-thinkers in the area," that the group was not against organized religion itself, and specifically mentioned the offering of Bible-as-literature classes in the local school district. Apropos of recent discussions in SWIFT on religion, I must state that, while I am agnostic, my passion in skepticism is directed toward the paranormal, alternative medicine issues, and illiteracy in science, so the particular focus of this group did not interest me, but I thought I might join in order to meet skeptical people in my neighborhood and possibly recruit new members for my own skeptics organization.

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Sam Harris and Bill Maher Discuss Religion PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   
Monday, 24 August 2009 08:49
On a recent "Real Time with Bill Maher," guest Sam Harris discussed – as you may have guessed – religion. It's an interesting exchange, you can watch it here through the wonders of YouTube.
 
A Major Victory for Reason PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Brandon K Thorp   
Sunday, 23 August 2009 00:00

The World Health Organization [WHO] has responded to a call from young medics and said that it DOES NOT recommend the use of homeopathy for treating HIV, TB, malaria, influenza and infant diarrhea. In an open letter to the WHO in June of this year, the group of early career medics and researchers from the UK and Africa asked the body to make clear that homeopathy cannot prevent or treat these serious diseases despite its growing promotion by manufacturers and practitioners. The Director General's office has confirmed that the responses from WHO departments (below) "clearly express the WHO's position." Today the Voice of Young Science [VYS] network, who coordinated the letter, has written to the health ministers of all countries to publicise the WHO's position, asking them to combat the promotion of homeopathy for these dangerous diseases.

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The Dark Side of Religion PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Bart Farkas   
Saturday, 22 August 2009 00:00

Without question most religions function within a framework that is fundamentally good, with much of the focus of teachings boiling down to being good to your fellow man (or woman) and being a decent person. But one has to be either naïve or in deep denial to think that there isn't a dark side to religions. Indeed, those jets flying into the twin towers had a religious component, and the Olympic bombing in Atlanta had a religious component, as did the tragedy in Waco, the Oklahoma City bombing, scores of abortion clinic bombings and nearly all of the conflict in the Middle East. To be sure, I'm not blaming these actions exclusively on religion, because it's people that do these things, not the religion itself. That said, religion does play a role in these events and the problem occurs when people interpret religion in such a way that it denigrates a particular group of people or encourages violence.

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Skeptics with Appeal PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Phil Plait   
Monday, 24 August 2009 00:00

We've had some wins and losses in the past year for skepticism. Some of these -- on both sides -- have been pretty big. Two of our big losses, for example, were Simon Singh's denial of his appeal to overturn an absurd UK libel ruling, and the firing of Chris Comer who did the horrifying act of trying to alert people about a science talk in Texas.

It turns out, the news may yet turn around for our two allies.

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