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The great debate between Skepticism and Atheism continues…

Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Still Have a Major Pedophile Problem?

Watchtower HeadquartersA lot has happened since I wrote What You Don’t Know About Jehovah’s Witnesses And Pedophiles back in 2013. In that article, I tried to raise awareness of a problem that has largely gone unnoticed by the general public and even many Jehovah’s Witnesses. The issue concerns pedophiles and the rules that make it far too easy for them to molest children within their congregations. One of the biggest problems is known as the “two witness rule.” This policy stops elders from acting on an accusation of wrongdoing unless two people witness the crime or the accused confesses. I doubt many pedophiles would molest a child in front of another person, so the two witnesses rule leaves the deck stacked in the pedophiles’ favor right from the start. The problem is made even worse because victims, and their parents, are forbidden from turning to law enforcement unless the elders find the accused person guilty. That’s right, they have to go to the elders before they can report the crime. If a victim does turn to law enforcement, they will be “disfellowshipped” (excommunicated and shunned even by their own families) which is the severest form of punishment a committee of elders can dish out. Meanwhile, the perpetrator is assumed to be innocent by the congregation and will be treated as a member of the faith in good standing. This is how all accusations of wrongdoing are handled within congregations, not just those concerning pedophiles. But the problems with this system are obvious.

At the time I wrote my previous article, Candace Conti’s court case against the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (the corporate entity behind Jehovah’s Witnesses) was the biggest news to happen on this front. Yet even then, most people have never heard of her and few know about the details behind the Society’s larger pedophile problem. You can listen to Conti’s experiences in her own words here.

In the United States, Silent Lambs and many others have urged the Society to change these rules. So far, they have refused. In short, yes, it’s still a major problem. But some interesting updates can be found below.

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Michigan Atheist Convention (12/06) in Ann Arbor

MichiganAtheists-150x150On Saturday, December 6th, the annual Michigan Atheists convention will be held at the Wyndham Gardens (formerly Clarion Hotel – same place as last few years), in Ann Arbor.  There will be a series of speakers/presentations starting at 10am.  Registration is $30, plus $16.50 for a private lunch.  However, the registration is  free for any organizers and student members of high school, college and university on-site campus secular organizations.

You can register by printing out this form (MICHIGAN ATHEISTS 28th ANNUAL STATE CONVENTION) and mail it in with your fee.  There is also a free reception on Friday evening from 7pm to 11pm for those who register.

The Wyndham Gardens is located at 2900 Jackson Rd, Ann Arbor, MI 48103.

The Michigan Atheists are a group that fights for the separation of church and state.  When Michigan policy-makers attempt to legislatively promote religion, the Michigan Atheists try to inform the secular community and mobilize an appropriate response.ClarionHotel-150x150

Michigan Skeptics Presents: Sam Singleton the Atheist Evangelist

Brother Sam’s show is called, “Cats, Sheep and Goats: The Taxonomy of Atheists, Believers and Preachers”

Michigan Skeptics is proud to present Sam Singleton in his return to Michigan.

Brother Sam is presenting his latest show: Cats, Sheep and Goats: The Taxonomy of Atheists, Believers and Preachers.

Brother Sam and his cousin Palmer have followed widely disparate paths, Sam becoming an atheist evangelist, Palmer remaining faithful to their holy roller upbringing. Palmer is the one member of the Singleton clan who has stuck by Sam. And Sam is exasperated that anybody so smart and decent can be so misguided. Palmer feels exactly the same way. Their conversations, as recounted in Cats, Sheep and Goats: the Taxonomy of Atheists, Believers and Preachers, are a fun-house-mirror view of relations between atheists and believers.

This will be the third time for MISkeptics to host Brother Sam. It’s a sell out every time. Get ready to laugh until it hurts. Sam Singleton is a force all his own.

Tickets for Sam Singleton are $15 at the door and $10 in Advance. You can purchase tickets online by RSVPing at our Meetup page, our Facebook page, or you can purchase the tickets directly by following this link.

Greta Christina to Speak in Grand Rapids and Farmington Hills.

CFI-Michigan is co-sponsoring this lecture with The Birmingham Temple Congregation for Humanistic Judaism.

Greta Christina will speak on her newest book “Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why”

Coming out is the most powerful political act atheists can take. But coming out can be difficult and risky. What are some specific, practical, nuts-and-bolts strategies we can use: to come out of the closet, to support each other in coming out, and to make the atheist community a safer place to come out into? What can atheists learn about coming out from the LGBT community and their decades of coming-out experience — and what can we learn from the important differences between coming out atheist and coming out queer?

She will be speaking in Grand Rapids on September 10th and in Farmington Hills on the 11th.

Greta will be speaking in Grand Rapids and in Farmington Hills

About the Speaker

Greta Christina has been writing professionally since 1989, on topics including atheism, sexuality and sex-positivity, LGBT issues, politics, culture, and whatever crosses her mind.

She is author of Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and of Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More, and is editor of Paying For It: A Guide for Sex Workers for Their Clients. She has been a public speaker for many years, and is on the speaker’s bureaus of the Secular Student Alliance and Center for Inquiry. She is a regular contributor to AlterNet, Salon, The Humanist, and Free Inquiry. Her writing has appeared in magazines and newspapers including Ms., Penthouse, Chicago Sun-Times, On Our Backs, and Skeptical Inquirer, and anthologies including Everything You Know About God Is Wrong and three volumes of Best American Erotica. She lives in San Francisco with her wife, Ingrid. She tweets at @GretaChristina, and has been writing about atheism on Greta Christina’s Blog since 2005.

Additional Details

Meetings are open to the Public

Cost: FREE ($5 Suggested Donation).

Click here to RSVP for the Grand Rapids lecture.

Click here to RSVP for the Farmington Hills lecture.

Location and times are in the RSVP.

 

AtheistTV Goes Live TODAY!

AtheistTVAmerican Atheists and the Roku – that little box that lets you watch TV through the internet – have forged an unholy alliance to bring us the AtheistTV network! The best part is that you don’t need a Roku to watch it. You can also get AtheistTV through their live stream starting at 7:00 PM tonight. I’m assuming they mean EST (I didn’t see it specified on their site either way).

Here’s what it says about programming for AtheistTV:

We have partnered with content creators in the atheist community to bring engaging and entertaining content to AtheistTV. We are working with experienced producers to develop new, original programming that will launch soon.
If you are interested in developing content or submitting existing content to AtheistTV, please contact us.
Current content partners include: the Richard Dawkins Foundation, the Atheist Community of Austin, American Atheists, The Friendly Atheist, and Keith Lowell Jensen.

I would suggest that anyone with a classy YouTube channel about atheism, skepticism, science, or anything else atheists care about contact AtheistTV about starting  a show for the network. Like most fledgling Cable channels, I’m sure they are hungry for new content.

Good luck to AtheistTV. Please don’t suck. 🙂 I hope people will check it out and give Roku a reason to keep it around.

EDIT: For those of you with a Roku, here is a direct link to add the channel.

EDIT2: A message from Dave Muscato, PR Director for American Atheists; “You don’t need a Roku to watch Atheist TV! You can watch online at http://www.atheists.tv as well!”

Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Believe in the Theory of Evolution?

The "Creation Book"Do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in the theory of evolution? As a former Jehovah’s Witness who once spent an inordinate amount of time researching their Creation Book, I can tell you that the official answer is a resounding no. (The book is officially called Life-How did it get here? By evolution or by creation? But it is commonly just called the Creation Book by Jehovah’s Witnesses.) This book is the Watchtower Society’s magnum opus on evolution. Yet it remains infamous for an abundance of bad science, quote mining, and an embarrassing habit of strategically leaving off parts of quotes so as to alter their original meaning. (Yikes!) Many people have written about the book, including Austin Cline at About.com. Even Richard Dawkins devoted a chapter to it in The God Delusion. Think what you will, but it’s clear that the Society’s Creation Book has gotten around.

The Creation Book was first published back in 1985. Now, after remaining in print for more than two decades, it is no longer being produced. That hasn’t stopped the Watchtower Society from writing about the theory of evolution, but nowadays, the organization chooses to keep it all pretty simple. When you consider how many ex-Witnesses left the Society after doing extensive research on books like this one, that’s probably a good idea.

So what else has the Society said about evolution in recent years?

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Nelson Mandela for our January Get Together

Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, Gauteng, on 13 May 2008.
Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, Gauteng, on 13 May 2008.

On December 5th 2013, at the age of 95, Nelson Mandela died. He was South Africa’s first black chief executive, and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election. He also served over 27 years in prison for his activism prior to that. The end of Apartheid in South Africa is credited largely to him. He was called a lot of things when he died, a hero, a savior, a great leader, a terrorist, a communist, and a murderer. But what was he really?

On Saturday, January 18 at 1:00 PM, we’re teaming up with Minority Atheists of Michigan to talk about Nelson Mandela. We will cut through the hype and hyperbole and learn the facts of his life and work. We will learn about the good and the bad and decide for ourselves who he was.

Our guest speaker will be Jamon Jordan. He is the Co-Founder and Facilitator of the Black Scroll Study Group. A local organization that researches any and all phenomena related to Black people.

Jamon Jordan Image
Jamon Jordan is the Co-Founder and Facilitator of the Black Scroll Study Group

They present their findings through educational materials for institutions to use in order to present data on Black/African history and culture that is frequently overlooked.

Come and join us for lively discussion, drinks, dinner and debate! This is a good event for Skeptics of Michigan to come together and discuss local, national, worldwide items affecting Skeptics. All are welcome to listen and participate.

You can RSVP for the event at our Meetup Page, our Facebook Page, or our Google Plus Page.

How Do Jehovah’s Witnesses View Women And Domestic Violence?

As with most things, Jehovah’s Witnesses will take their cues on women and domestic violence from the Watchtower Society. Before we dive in, a short review about a woman’s role at the Kingdom Hall is in order.

As I mentioned in a previous article, women who are Jehovah’s Witnesses are told to be in subjection to their fathers and then their husbands after marriage. Women may not teach in the presence of men or perform other duties reserved for men without wearing some sort of head covering as a sign of deference. They are not allowed to give public talks or handle microphones during meetings at a Kingdom Hall. Their only role in meetings is a public demonstration, given at just one of their five weekly meetings (fun!), where the sisters role play for a few minutes. (It’s not a fun kind of role play, so don’t even go there.) These performances were almost identical to a much dreaded part of my morning sales meetings when I worked at a local department store some years ago, except that men and women were treated equally at the store. And we got paid.

Elders are not supposed to talk to congregation sisters in private without a chaperone. This is usually another elder or, in some situations, a woman’s husband or father. I was told by at least three elders at my former Kingdom Hall that this was standard procedure and was intended to prevent sisters from crying rape or trying to “come on” to an elder. Because … you know … chicks, I guess. The elders were not required to do this when talking to a brother, however.

From Watchtower 11/15/91 page 21-22 paragraph 14

It is inadvisable for an elder to make a shepherding call on a sister alone. The elder should be accompanied by another elder or a ministerial servant.

From Watchtower 2/15/93 page 15 paragraph 12

In developed countries some have fallen into Satan’s trap by often being with a member of the opposite sex and without a third person present—such as regularly being in the confined intimacy of a car for driving lessons. Elders doing shepherding calls also need to exercise caution so as not to be alone with a sister when counseling her. Conversations can become emotionally charged and result in an embarrassing situation for both parties.—Compare Mark 6:7; Acts 15:40.

I’m sure some elders at some Kingdom Halls might be willing to bend these rules under certain circumstances, but this policy tells you a few things about the way Jehovah’s Witnesses view (and value) women. Not as much as the Watchtower article I’m about to discuss below, however.

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Michigan Atheist Convention (12/07) in Ann Arbor

MichiganAtheists-150x150On Saturday, December 7th, the annual Michigan Atheists convention will be held at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center, in Ann Arbor.  There will be a series of speakers/presentations starting at 10am.  Registration is $30, plus $16.50 for a private lunch.  However, the registration is  free for any organizers and student members of high school, college and university on-site campus secular organizations.

You can register by printing out this form (27TH ANNUAL STATE CONVENTION) and mail it in with your fee.  There is also a free reception on Friday evening from 7pm to 11pm for those who register.

The Clarion Hotel and Conference Center is located at 2900 Jackson Rd, Ann Arbor, MI 48103.

The Michigan Atheists are a group that fights for the separation of church and state.  When policy-makers overstep, the Michigan Atheists try to inform the secular community so that an appropriate reaction can take place.ClarionHotel-150x150

Tomorrow: The Michigan Skeptics Get Together!

Conzilla; the Mascot of ConClave
Conzilla; the Mascot of ConClave

This month we had to delay our regular monthly meeting by one week due to MISkeptics was requested to host two panels for the ConClave SciFi/Fantasy convention. Which was a huge success. Special thanks to Bria Crutchfield, Chris Clayton and Howard Scrimgour for their help speaking on the panels. We had lots of fun, and many new members joined. As an added bonus, we have been tapped to provide skeptic content to the up and coming North American Science Fiction Convention next year. The entire weekend was amazing. Thanks to everyone that came out for the convention and also those who came out for the SitP afterwards.

Kumare Poster
Winner of South by Southwest’s Audience Award, Kumare is an insightful look at faith and belief.

For tomorrow, Saturday October 19th at 1:00 PM we are going to watch Kumaré.

A provocative social experiment-turned-documentary, Kumaré follows American filmmaker Vikram Gandhi as he transforms himself into a wise Indian guru, hoping to prove the absurdity of blind faith. Instead, he finds himself forging profound connections with people from all walks of life — and wondering if and when to reveal his true self. Will his followers accept his final teaching? Can this illusion reveal a greater spiritual truth? Winner of South by Southwest’s Audience Award, Kumare is an insightful look at faith and belief.

Kumaré received fair reviews upon release. Many movie reviewers criticized Gandhi’s deception as immoral, but partially forgave Gandhi for realizing that the experiment had grown out of his control. Many compared the character of Kumaré and the deception by Gandhi to Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat character and film. Those who liked the movie, like Stephen Holden of the New York Times and Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, praised the film’s message of “finding the guru within.”

Come and join us for lively discussion, drinks, dinner and debate! This is a good event for Skeptics of Michigan to come together and discuss local, national, worldwide items affecting skeptics. All are welcome to listen and participate.

Admission is free. Donations are helpful. You are responsible for your drinks and food.

Please be sure to RSVP so I know how many are coming. You can RSVP via our Meetup Page or our Facebook Page.

I Look forward to seeing you all there!

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