What we're about

"The most formidable weapon against errors of every kind is reason. I have never used any other, and I trust I never shall." —Thomas Paine (1737-1809) American revolutionary, pamphleteer, and atheist, "The Age of Reason"

Had enough of astrologers, psychics, homeopaths, and spirit channelers? Yearning to talk with someone rational for awhile? Meet up with other local skeptics for some refreshing and sane conversation.

If you've got some kind of event or opportunity that's commensurate with what we're about (as described below), we'd love to hear about it and publicize it to our 1000+ members. E-mail your idea to RichardSRussell@tds.net and we'll either schedule it or explain why not.

What is a skeptic, anyway? It's someone who lives by the Missouri state motto: "Show me!". Does some claim seem too good (or amazing) to be true? Well, that's because it's probably not. Having an open mind isn't the same as having holes in your head.

OTOH, doubting everything makes you a cynic, and suspecting everybody makes you a conspiracy theorist. Skeptics who ARE shown something are willing to accept it. A couple of cases in point:

(1) Even little kids notice that the east coast of South America and the west coast of Africa look like jigsaw-puzzle pieces that should fit together. DID they, at one time? In the early 20th Century, skeptics scoffed at the idea. "Just coincidence", they said. And rightly so. There was no known mechanism for how anything that big could be moved. Then Alfred Wegener showed evidence that continental drift had definitely happened, and later Arthur Holmes explained how plate tectonics was the mechanism behind it. With those in hand, skeptics were convinced.

(2) For most of human existence, people believed the Earth was only a few tens of thousands of years old. Skeptics concurred. If the Sun were made of wood or coal or petroleum, it couldn't possibly keep burning for much longer than that. But there was all this other geological evidence that indicated the planet was millions, if not billions of years old. What to believe? Skeptics openly admitted they didn't have the answers. But as soon as we discovered the amazing amounts of energy that could be produced by nuclear fusion, the source of the Sun's longevity was revealed, and skeptics settled in on the proper scientific answer.

We skeptics take our cues from people like the Nobel-winning physicist Richard Feynman, who pointed out: "I have argued flying saucers with lots of people. I was interested in this: they keep arguing that it is possible. And that's true. It IS possible. They do not appreciate that the problem is not to demonstrate whether it's possible or not, but whether it's going on or not."

In other words, "show me".

Upcoming events (5)

Shadow Network

Online event

THIS WILL BE A VIRTUAL MEETING CONDUCTED OVER ZOOM!!! Our May program will be based on the 2019 book "Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right", by Anne Nelson. It describes a web of interconnected organizations working largely out of public view to influence America in the direction of Christianity, entrepreneurialism, and libertarianism. Coordinating all of these disparate groups is the Council for National Policy, which doesn’t operate EXACTLY like a corporate board of directors calling all the shots but which certainly does expect most of its followers to fall into line with its top-down decision-making. A list of the book’s chapters provides some sense of its scope: (1) In the Beginning: Texas; (2) The Birth of the CNP: Washington; (3) Lords of the Air: The CNP’s Media Empire; (4) The News Hole in the Heart of America; (5) Money People; (6) Fishers of Men: Electoral Stratagems; (7) Ideology 101: The CNP’s Campus Partners; (8) Koch, DeVos, Soros: Donors, Politics, and Pastors; (9) The Obama Challenge; (10) Data Wars; (11) The Art of the Deal: New York, June 21, 2016; (12) “The Miracle”; (13) Midterms; and (14) “Democracy in America”. In her introduction, Nelson give us a dramatis personae divided into categories: the fundamentalists, the political operatives, the media, the money, heads of organizations, and technology strategists. As atheists, we are probably most concerned with the ways in which the shadow network is being used to advance the cause of Christian Dominionism in what’s supposed to be a pluralistic democracy, but we ignore all of their fellow travelers at our own peril. Nonetheless, tonight’s program will concentrate on the shadow network’s religious agenda, which ironically uses techniques derived from hard-headed rationalism to promote its totally irrational agenda. It’s not necessary to have read the book in advance, but it wouldn’t hurt. And it’s worth your while. For a quicker read, check out the 2017 article from The Daily Kos: https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2017/3/19/1645081/-The-Vast-Right-Wing-Conspiracy-is-real-and-it-is-called-the-Council-for-National-Policy The Atheist Lounge will tackle this subject on, as usual, the last Thursday of the month at 7 PM, beginning with a short presentation, followed by plenty of moderated open discussion after that. NOT as usual, however, we'll be conducting it over Zoom. We'll send out a link to the meeting around noon on the 28th to everyone who's RSVPed before then.

The Summer of Our Lives: Evolution and Shagging

Online event

THIS WILL BE A VIRTUAL MEETING CONDUCTED OVER ZOOM!!! A link will be sent out at noon on the day of the event to everyone who has RSVPed before then. June is the traditional month for weddings, which, as Christian fundamentalists continually assure us, are required as part of God’s plan for the procreation of humanity. As is so often the case from such sources, this gets it laffably backward. Left to our own impulses, we humans would breed like bunnies, starting as soon as puberty sets in and keeping it up as long as, well, we could keep it up. The main thing that marriage does is slow the whole process down, as the participants are expected to take the time to jump thru various socially imposed hoops before they can get to the fun part. And even then it’s not just welcome to all, ahem, comers; oh no, you’re supposed to stick to just the Biblically approved arrangement. And, according to the TBs’ favorite piece of fanfic, based on the practices of Solomon (wisest man of antiquity and much beloved of Yahweh), that’s strictly limited to one man and no more than 700 wives and 300 concubines. So, since God is supposed to be all-powerful and could just make as many people as he wants any time he feels like it, why did he set up this fascinating process of needing nooky to propagate the species — a process which, by amazing coincidence, is what every other vertebrate on the planet also uses? Fortunately, the complete story is available in “How God Invented Sex”, a 13-minute animated video from DarkMatter2525: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdKzpV7sa10 You are encouraged to watch the video ahead of the discussion, which will get into a cost-benefit analysis of sexual vs. asexual reproduction, the proper place of sex in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and how religions establish and maintain control over people by making them feel dirty about what everybody knows they all do all the time. The Atheist Lounge will tackle these questions on, as usual, the last Thursday of the month. The Zoom meeting will start at 7 PM with a short presentation, and there'll be plenty of open discussion after that.

Deathbird + Discussion

Online event

THIS WILL BE A VIRTUAL MEETING CONDUCTED OVER ZOOM!!! A link will be sent out at noon on the day of the event to everyone who has RSVPed before then. Life. Death. Love. Madness. Environmentalism. Tragedy. What it means to be human. And an audacious reappraisal of one of our oldest myths. Harlan Ellison’s powerful, compelling, Hugo-winning novelet “The Deathbird” has them all! In a departure from the norm of food, drink, chit-chat, and a brief presentation on the month's topic, July’s Atheist Lounge will open promptly at 7 PM with a dramatic reading of “The Deathbird”, performed by a dozen volunteer actors from the local science-fiction fan community. During the presentation, only the readers' microphones will be live. We'll let the audience in on the action after that's over, in the form of a moderated discussion of the themes in the story. To minimize background noise, tho, the Zoom Master will keep most people muted except those who've raised their electronic hands in the Zoom chat box. Don't worry, we'll show you how it's done before the discussion gets rolling. NOTE: This presentation was scheduled well before anybody ever heard of coronavirus. No commentary on current events was intended or should be inferred.

Words To Live By

Olive Garden Italian Restaurant

VENUE CHANGE TO OLIVE GARDEN EAST!!! We were watching this movie (“Book Club”, if you must know) in which one of the characters was signing up on a dating site and encountered a question about her “life motto”. It proved to be a stumper for her, but we immediately started thinking of words of wisdom we had encountered in our own lives. Skipping right past the very wisest words ever — “Yes, dear!” — there was a lot of jostling for second place. So we thot it would be interesting to get a bunch of folks in the same room and go round it (at least once) sharing our own personal words to live by. No real presentation this month, it’s more like an open-mic night. Your own words to live by needn’t be original with you or even particularly succinct. Maybe it’s a story or a poem. Just something that resonated with you once and that you keep returning to as well worth remembering. Here’s an example of a somewhat longer form that — who knows? — may become your own new watchwords on life: RULES FOR MEN 1. It's important to have a woman who helps at home, cooks from time to time, cleans up, and has a job. 2. It's important to have a woman who can make you laff. 3. It's important to have a woman whom you can trust and doesn't lie to you. 4. It's important to have a woman who is good in bed and likes to be with you. 5. It’s very, very important that these 4 women do not know each other. As usual, order food and drink at 7 PM, and we'll kick off the words of wisdom about 30-45 minutes thereafter.

Past events (552)

Eclipses

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