Friday, February 11, 2011

Boston-area 2011 Darwin Day events

Cheers to Charles: Darwin Day pub night!
Meet up with a crowd of Boston Atheists and friends, to raise a toast to Mr. Darwin. Saturday, February 12, 8 PM, at Cambridge Common.

Boston Skeptics at the Museum of Science!
Saturday, February 12, 1-4 PM; buy your ticket and meet Liz Gaston inside the lobby -- look for the sign for the Boston Skeptics.

The Ledge screening at Harvard!

This film by Matthew Chapman stars Liv Tyler, Charlie Hunnam, Terrence Howard, and Patrick Wilson. Saturday, February 12, 6 PM, at Harvard Science Center, Hall C. Free and open to the public. Writer/director Matthew Chapman to attend.

Darwin Day Toast in Dorchester!
Saturday February 12, 8:30 PM at The Connection, 560 Dorchester Ave in Andrew Square. For questions contact William.

Matthew Chapman at Humanist Sunday Meeting!
A discussion on the role of science in American politics, at the Harvard Humanist Student Center at 12 Eliot Street, Harvard Square. Sunday, February 13, 1:30 PM. The meeting includes yoga, meditation, live music, and potluck brunch. Free and open to the public.

Lecture on biology and ID!
Abby Hafer, Professor of Anatomy and Physiology at Curry College, will deliver a talk titled "Biology and Intelligent Design: They Really Speak Different Languages." Saturday, February 26, 1:15 PM, at the Learning Center at Brookhaven, 1010 Waltham St., Lexington. Free and open to the public.

Please forward this list to interested parties. Visit for more events.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Free Thought Radio

One of my favorite weekly podcasts to listen to regularly is produced by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). The show is hosted by co-presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor.

Last week's show was really interesting; the discussion concerned Mitch Kahle, a SOCAS activist from Hawaii, . Click here to hear (in mp3 format) how he persuaded the Hawaiian senate to end prayer in their assembly.
This episode also focuses in on on prayers taking place during sessions of the Wisconsin State Assembly. They ask Jesus for guidance, which is unconstitutional, in addition to being a little silly.

What I appreciate most about the FFRF is its dedicated focus on the separation of church and state. Ours is a secular government, and in no way, shape or form should any religion (or absence of religion) be endorsed by our government. This principle acts to protect all citizens, including those who profess religious belief.

Why I listen to podcast on atheism and science.

I like to listen to atheist and science based podcasts. Lots of them. While I drive, doing chores and everything in between. There are so many podcasts on this topic that its hard to know which one to listen to. I will be sharing some of my favorite podcasts with a link to listen in and my comments.

Before I do though, I would like to share a little bit about my self. I was born in Honduras but raised in the Boston area. My family indoctrinated me in the Catholic tradition. I was a believer until my teenage years when my questions on the bible, and the nature of god, for instance, how can a good god kill everyone in the Noah's Ark story, were answered in a unsatisfactory manner. Simply saying god works in mysterious ways seemed like it didn't answer anything.

After rejecting the idea of god, I came to realize that it was easier to believe than not believe. That's why I like to listen to atheist and science based podcasts. I knew I didn't believe, but why didn't I believe? These shows have helped me form my arguments and ideas to counter those of theists.

I hope you all enjoy.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Quote of the Week #1

So my friends tell me about how their god talks to them, and they feel His presence inside them. I want to ask them, What? That's incredible! The creator of the UNIVERSE is literally INSIDE you? Did you shit your pants?!?"
A comment on the epistemic and existential mismatch between the scale of human experience and the purported scale of the Christian god, which I overheard new BA member Aaron S. at the other end of the table while about 25 of us enjoyed the Latin-themed brunch at Tavern in the Square this morning.

Boston Nonsense Watch: New Acropolis Boston

There are signs throughout town for an outfit called  Acropolis Boston; they make regular appearances on the T and on bulletin boards in places like Porter Square. These ads invite you to discover ‘the secret to happiness’ or ‘the meaning of life’, via free seminars based on the wisdom of ancient philosophy. Looks like this is a local chapter of a larger organization, called New Acropolis. According to the website,
New Acropolis embraces and promotes principles of union inspired by such philosophies as Pythagoreanism, Neoplatonism, Theosophy and others, which in their time brought about real progress in civilization.
The mascot used in these ads is an inoffensive and amusingly pensive orange fish. Fun! The descriptions of their seminar topics are appealingly eclectic: Confucius, Aristotle, Buddha, Pythagoras, Bruno, Plato. My interest piqued, I decided to look into the history and activities of the group, and see if the information I could find would square with the benign, inviting tone of their ads. What I discovered is that the educational activities of this independent school are only a portion of their mission, and that New Acropolis Boston is part of a worldwide network. Similar facilities can be found in cities and countries around the globe. I also learned that New Acropolis has been labeled a cult by some governments and scholarly researchers.

If you’re thinking about popping by their center in Porter Square, and seeing what they’re all about, it’s a good idea to start with some questions. I thought of a few, which you’re welcome to use:
  1. TITLES. Why did the founder of the organization, Jorge Ángel Livraga Rizzi, title himself Supreme Commander of the worldwide New Acropolis organization? Are the opportunities good for new members to be promoted quickly?
  2. SPIRITS. Were the “Masters” that spoke with Mr. Livraga, to guide his spiritual development, real or imaginary, and in either case, why did they have the same names and personal histories as the spiritual beings that inspired Madame Blavatsky to found the esoteric religion of Theosophy? Is New Acropolis really just New Theosophy? Were Confucius and Pythagoras Ancient Theosophists?
  3. MONEY. After the free seminars are over, what financial obligations do members of New Acropolis have to the organization? Are members still the primary source of funding for the World Commander’s private collection of ancient artifacts?
  4. PROTOCOL. Is it preferable to be an “Axe-Bearer” or a representative of “the 3 Living Forces,” if we are to follow the instructions the World Commander left in his will to be followed during his official funeral ceremony?
  5. MARTYRS. When Mr. Livarga said to a group of New Acropolis officers, “We too need martyrs! I want Acropolitan martyrs!”, what sort of martyrdom did he have in mind? Do the staff teaching philosophy at the Cambridge or Boston Centers for Adult Education, also want martyrs for their cause? Is martyrdom a more important part of understanding the meaning of life, or the secret to happiness?
  6. LABOR. When Mr. Livarga said, “I make people work and make Acropolis until they are too tired to think of anything else,” what kind of work was he referring to – solicitation of funds, or manual labor of some kind?
The facts I refer to above – the founder’s weirdness; the Theosophy hidden behind a front of mainstream philosophy; the claims the group makes on members’ time and money – can all be verified with a little straightforward Googling. For that reason, I haven’t hot-linked to any of the sources I referred to myself when putting together this short article. My purpose here is to provoke your curiosity, and to gently challenge the benevolent, “normal” image the group projects through its advertising campaign. Without speaking to the motivation or beliefs of any given member, I can state with conviction that the organization started by Mr. Livarga in 1957 has a deeply weird and often malevolent history: shades of L. Ron Hubbard's Scientology, certainly. That doesn't mean that Acropolis Boston isn't chockful of folks who are just interested in expanding their knowledge, and exploring the history of ideas and of ideas in action.

If you’d like to learn more, do your searches and you’ll find lots of information to consider. And if you’re just interested in learning about ancient philosophy, renew your library card -- for free! Though I can't promise you won't run afoul of the secret esoteric cult that runs the BPL system. 

Boston Nonsense Watch, a free service of the Boston Atheists, examines woo-woo, pseudoscience, and dangerous religion.