Skeptic events

I think there’s a need to make the Skeptical position more visible in South Africa. I know too many people who happily believe in all manner of BS because they are never confronted with any contrary messages. People are showered with Verimark junk and pharmacies sell herbal and homoeopathic crap next to evidence based medicine.

I have only ever heard of one religiously themed debate at my former university (UP) with William Lane Craig, which I attended. Despite the fact that his opponents were incompetent in the art of debating it was still positive in that it showed people that there are alternate views out there and an open debate on these issues.

Can’t we as Skeptics try organise more debates, especially evolution/YEC and mount information campaigns highlighting the lack of evidence for the alternative practices that are all too common in our country? There are so many people that don’t even know that homoeopathy, energy bracelets and Verimark pills are unproven.

I’m not so sure I have the energy for something like that. My approach has always been somewhat laissez-faire.

As in “Julle moet fokken aangaan.”

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”…

Heh, I don’t have a single good bone in my body.

Oh, no, wait… that came out wrong ;D

if we actively go out to try and prove the woo is false, then how are we better/different from rhema church, or oom potato’s little shindigs, or angel conferences?
people will beleive what they want, and if they choose te believe crap, then that is entirely up to them.
there is a contingent of of militants and evangelicals here, and thats totally cool.
but im not going to spend my energy trying to convince people that the world is not magical, because they choose it to be so.
its not my place to go about picketing outside of churches (unless its a particular one, and they are doing something fucking insanely stupid), or psychics offices… that makes me no better than the jehova’s witness that knocks on your door.
and without invading people’s lives with pickets and pamphlets, how are you going to convince people to attend a seminar on what shit homeopathy is? or that god doesnt exist?
i really do believe, that a attitude of cela vie is better. once you push people to believe something else than what they are comfortable with, they will cling even harder to that false belief.
im no anthropologist, im just one of those who sit and observe a lot.
if someone has a seed of doubt, from their own mind, and decided upon their own arguments, then they will approach someone to talk about it, and then they will decide to let go, and keep going as per usual.

Invading peoples’ personal space and unobtrusively informing people are two different things. I’m not suggesting picketing outside of churches or pharmacies, just somehow raising awareness. The Skeptic Society in the US host lectures at UCLA by prominent speakers. They lobby congress to maintain the separation of Church and state, non-religious science education and mislabelled alternative medicine.

If someone buys simply slim out of desperation, knowing it has no scientific basis, then I have no problem. It’s all the people who have never been told that there’s a difference between “medicine” and “supplements” or whatever they’re required to classify it as.

I don’t know what sort of campaigning would be the most effective and realistic, but the voice of reason lacks exposure.

i think the idea of having information campaigns are great. problem is, we have jobs. in the us, those okes are most probably employed by Skeptic Society, and that is what they do.
we dont have that luxury.
and allso, i think we are still, ah, how does one put this nicely, … backward. the majority of our population are still believing in ancestors and witchcraft. and they simply have no interrest in hearing any different.

and no school would allow a skeptic talk to happen in schools. and since south african schools and unis still very much do the god-thing, it would be hard pressed to get in.
and get feet in there if you get a hall open.
steve does do talks about his book when/if he can. i attended a mensa one, and even they were uncomfortable with the anti-religion sentiment, which surprised me.

i think, that for now, we can do our pub meetings. and invite a friend. we dont have the numbers, or cash, to run a decent campaign. and i, for one, am too stupid to have anything constructive to say.
if you have someone influencial that is going to have something to say, then people might listen. joe soap wont get a word in edgeways.

The time thing is, of course, true. However, I think it would be possible to approach churches, and maybe philosophy and theology departments at unis, and encourage them to host debates and lectures. Like I said I attended the William Lane Craig debate a few months ago at UP and it was packed! They even set up a screen outside in the cold to handle the overflow from the hall. 500 people easily. While the debate was easily won by Craig I think the exposure to debate was a positive despite the outcome. Perhaps if a Skeptic or rational thinker society were more active and visible in SA we would have been able to organise more competent opposition. The churches and uni departments need to know who to call to organise these things.

To become more visible we need exposure. To get exposure we need money. To get money we need adherents. Dead end.

While I’m in agreement with your proposal, you know the saying about herding cats? I’m skittish about being vocal, I had to tread carefully in an apparent casual conversation with a colleague today regarding Noah’s ark and the parting of the red sea, and that was just a casual conversation about a programme on DSTV seeking scientific explanations of how biblical stories might have basis in science. Had to shut up in a hurry. I have’nt got the energy nor the strength for this though, and if thats construed as not having a backbone, well, so be it, I do have kids to support, and a place of employment is a dodgy arena for being too vocal.

As for other areas outside work, I’m anti-social on a good day, and so is my S/O, so while I’ll support atheist networks and charities, I’m not a front-liner at all.

I tend to agree with Andysor. Here’s a post I did today after Dan Dennet’s speech ay Tuft’s Univesrity and posted by Samuel H Kenyon on Think Atheist:
Dennet asks:

He listed three of his potential futures for religion, and mostly discussed the third possibility:
  1. Religion will sweep the planet.
  2. Religion is in its death throes.
  3. Religion transform into creedless moral teams (ceremony and tradition, but no doctrine).

Which do you think is most likely, and why? What could we do to help steer to that path?

My take on it:

Something just struck me while reading this post. #3 is certainly possible and we should not under-estimate the impact of the the past atheists found it very troublesome to discuss their views as they were spatially as well as socially isolated. The internet is busy changing all that and atheists on forums like these are able to debate, argue, promote etc ideas on religions, non-religion and mysticism.

To achieve Dennet’s #3 scenario will be difficult though…I foresee that #1 is going to be a big wave which will try to obliterate atheism through the deployment of the massive resources religions have at their disposal…this is atheism’s Achilles heel. We are not organised or able to muster the resources they can.

Our strategies (and they have to be formulated by people like Dennet, Dawkins etc) will require political will (might be the death knell for many politicians though), and use of the Internet to really publicise the dangers of religion. For example: some Xtian groups are touting the second coming of JC next year some time. This may be a great opportunity to use that as a platform to ridicule the notion through clever publicity which advertises his coming and when he fails to materialise, we can highlight the stupidity of these beliefs and grow support from especially marginal believers.

Atheism cannot compete with churches in a head-on confrontational approach. It needs clever strategies almost a guerilla-type of approach which is able to think like the enemy (SunTzu). At the same time atheism should be wary of being exploited by politicians such as totalitarians and communist states. Our hands as atheists are clean; let’s keep them that way.

I’m not the extroverted social butterfly either, nor am I a practised public speaker. The problem is that many people in our part of the world have had so little exposure to alternative viewpoints that they don’t accept its legitimacy. In my circle of Afrikaans friends I’m a real curiosity and none of them had ever met an atheist before they met me. Even if none of them are converted, that is not my mission. At least I know that they all realise that it’s possible to be a good, upstanding moral citizen without grounding your lifestyle in religion. The first time I met some of them they literally looked at me as if they were expecting to see little horns strutting out from under my hair or something. I know there are many more like them who haven’t yet been exposed to a “good atheist”. I think this lack of exposure applies to all woo-woo fields, not just religion.

BTW I just found out that my boss wants to buy a Balance Band from a co-worker dealing in the crap. I work for an engineering company. You would have thought that a scientific background provided some sort of protection… Guess who’s definitely NOT going to be taking one for Team-Skeptic.

You find woo in the strangest places and scientists, engineers and accountants are sometimes as gullible as the rest. I once did some process re-engineering consulting for a wellknown international engineering company and one of the Swiss partners asked if his daughter (billionnaires all nogal) could understudy me and the process. During her stay here (3 months) she wanted to do the ‘African’-experience and attend a seance in Soweto with a sangoma: WOW! The CEO (an Engineer and without being racist, a relatively young white guy) came to me and said that evil spirits will definitely create major problems and have already affected the life of the HR manager…pls desist! The CFO, a major woo agreed and they conducted prayer meetings to neutralise the juices.

well, at least people are moving away fom the outright religious, towards the more ‘spiritual’. i think thats better than bible bashing. maybe letting go bit by bit is allso good.
my boss, strangely enough, gave us all a copy of the zeitgeist movie, but he still believes in jesus and god? i was a bit gobsmacked, but okay.
his missus, who is our md, is totally into her angels, she pays someone to ‘talk to her dog’. her dog allso gets accupunture and lazer therapy. she loves him to bits, so maybe its just pure desperation.
she allso has this and that homeopathy mutis, and crystals, and whatnot.
it makes her happy, and gives structure to her life.

they all know im atheist, so the god loves you mails have eventually died down.

So you see GCG, there is a god! >:D

ja, the god of stfu! ;D

Laser therapy seems like a fantasic solution for the yapping mutt next door. Now where’d I put that mercurochrome…?

From my experience in Western Europe the more informed, educated and connected the population the more averse to religion they become. I still go to church on christmas eve as per tradition with my parents, but I don’t think either of them really believes Jesus is real. It’s an apathetic attitude, but it’s nice to take the winter walk and talk about how pathetic the sermon was afterwards. Of course some people in Norway (think around 10%) do identify with believing in a personal God, but most people don’t. The New Atheism, which is mainly a reaction to the situation in the US, is not necessary there as people don’t feel religion infringes upon anything in society.

In SA the situation is totally different from Europe, and probably quite similar to the more backwaterish US states. Of course there isn’t much of an apologetics movement here and people mostly believe with very little intellectual pondering. It’s mostly a lack of exposure to anything else. Informed Christians are very rare here. Unfortunately I think religiosity and argumentative skills are too often inversely related making constructive, logical conversation all to difficult. Seeing people being open about their atheism and experiencing their “goodness” is probably the most effective way to, at the very least, reduce prejudice in the workplace and public life.

The missis and I have a friend couple (if that’s the right description?) who are YECs and the lady lost one of her dogs and consulted a dog-psychic to help find the mutt. The dog eventually came back on its own accord. The MiL also gives her dogs homeopathic remedies which she swears works. Yet another acquaintance (who is a vet) is taking a course in pet iridology. So humans aren’t the only victims…

Nicely put. I agree. People in SA who are genuinely curious and do honest research into their religion usually end up in the skeptic tent. The ones who remain adamantly faithful are mostly lacking in hard-won knowledge and trying to use logic and critical thinking with them inevitably turns into ad hominum mudslinging. In my experience I have found many people who were surprised to find out, after knowing me for some time, that I’m an atheist. One guy even said, “Really? An atheist? I thought you were such a nice guy!”

Recently someone used that line, “Oh you’re an atheist? So you don’t believe in anything?” I replied, “I believe in beauty, and honesty, and truth, and integrity, and compassion, and respect … it’s only God I don’t believe in.” Non-argumentative is usually the best approach. Nice post Andysor :slight_smile:

"Really? An atheist? I thought you were such a nice guy!"
my response to that would be 'really? i thought you were straight! just goes to show, you never know....'