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The Ethics of Banning Circumcision at our August Get Together

German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the emergency Session of Parliment
German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the emergency Session of Parliament. They recently, by act of Parliament, overturned a court ruling that effectively banned circumcision for the city of Cologne.

On May 7th, Cologne, Germany completely banned circumcision in the entire city for patients not old enough to decide for themselves. As of July 21st, that ban was overturned.

For our Get Together on August 11th,  we’re going to look at the practice of circumcision. Our guest will be Norm Cohen, State Director of NOCIRC, the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers.

NOCIRC of Michigan is the state chapter of the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers. Founded in 1986, NOCIRC states that they are the center of expertise on circumcision.  They are a non-profit, 501(c)3 organization of health care professionals and children’s health activists

Norm Cohen has been active in the anti-circumcision movement at the state, national, and international levels as the Director of NOCIRC of Michigan since its founding in 1994.  He appeared in the 1996 documentary on male circumcision, “Whose Body, Whose Rights?”.  He has spoken before many groups and been interviewed by local and national newspapers, radio, and television.

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 take part.

You can RSVP for the Get Together at our Meetup page, at our Facebook event or our Google Plus event.

I hope to see you all there!

The Token Skeptic Wishes Us a Happy Birthday

Kylie Sturgess is a friend of the group and the host of the Token Skeptic podcast. She works with the Perth Skeptics in Australia and also writes for CSICOP’s Curiouser and Curiouser online column. She took the time to send us a birthday message that I had to share. Check out her blog. She also posted a birthday message for us there.

So We Had This Birthday Party…

MISkeptics members enjoying the second birthday party
A table of revelers at the Michigan Skeptics Second Birthday Party. Also you can see Lauren, the awesome waitress that has taken care of us for so many months now.

There are some times where you just have to sit back and smile.

My week had not started off too well. There was an endless chain of waiting in line and bureaucratic red tape that I had to spend several days to wade through just to get back to the beginning. By the end of it, (it is no where near finished) I was tired and really just wanted to either crawl into my bed or the nearest bottle.

But no! I can’t do that. We’re having our birthday party. Two years ago, we started the Michigan Skeptics Association in the hopes of creating a resource for skepticism and humanism in Michigan. Today we have a vibrant and diverse membership throughout the state and satellite groups starting in areas that cannot come to our monthly Get Togethers and events.

So I managed to shower off the last of the red tape and made my way to the birthday party. After all, I had the cake.

It’s been two years of hard work that we all put in together to make us what we are. A strong group of Skeptics and Rationalists working toward a goal of a fact based state. And as a group we are going to be more active in our communities. We will be there when anti-vaccination nuts try to convince people of their paranoia.

We’re going to go to school board and local government meetings where they try to dilute science and facts with drivel and we’re going to fight.

When we started this group, we pledged that we are politically neutral, and we’ve been true to that. We have members on all sides of the political spectrum. We can all agree, though, that fighting back against creationism and conspiracies in our schools and governments is an important matter that goes beyond left or right.

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L. Ron Hubbard’s Great Grandson Speaks Out About Scientology

Portrait of Jamie Dewolf
Portrait of Jamie DeWolf from his Facebook page

Recently, we shared an article telling the story of a young woman’s escape from Scientology. After reading the article, my wife came across the beat poet Jamie DeWolf. DeWolf just happens to be the great grandson of L. Ron Hubbard himself, and he speaks out against Scientology when he can.

“Some people think I’m just coming out of the gate, the start of my anti-Scientology career,” he says. But it was more than a decade ago, in 2000, that he first dramatized his family background. Today, however, he has a hard time looking back at that performance, saying that it was “an incoherent mess.” He had a lot more to learn about his famous great-grandfather and about Scientology. He’s been apt pupil ever since. But he’s rarely talked openly about it. (He also had a different name then. Born Jamie Kennedy, he has taken his mother’s maiden name, DeWolf, to avoid confusion with another comic named Jamie Kennedy.)

“I think it’s funny when people think I’m trying to cash in on the Scientology aspect, because I’ve actually kept away from it a long time because of the hassle,” he says.

After that first performance, his mother was visited by a couple of men claiming to be poets who were interested in his material. She got them to admit they were Scientologists. They subsequently branded him an “anti-religious slam poet” in a flier.

He tries to keep his family out of his act. He did not want it consuming his life. He will only talk about it by request.

“I had a really difficult time. How could I put this into one monologue?” he says. There’s a lot about Hubbard and Scientology to talk about: “Anytime anyone asks me about it, I tell them, are you ready to sit down and listen to me for an hour? There’s so much to it.”

Maybe in the future there will be a full one man show about his family’s infamous past. He has enough to put it together and he plans on doing it, but that is for later. Jamie did, however,  put together a monologue on his great grandfather for NPR’s Snap Judgment which became one of the most famous pieces to come out of the show and was the performance of the year.

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Ten Things You Didn’t Know about Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Isaac J. Harris is an atheist and skeptic blogger. He is an ex Jehovah’s Witness and has graciously agreed to write us a series guest posts about them. You can read more of Issac’s work at  his site, The Atheist Geek News. If you would like to become a guest blogger, let us what you would like to say at our Contact Us page.


10 Things You Don’t Know About Jehovah’s Witnesses

by Isaac J. Harris, The Atheist Geek

In the aftermath of several recent stories about Jehovah’s Witnesses, including the Candace Conti pedophilia court case and the DVD that launched the Sparlock Meme, I have been invited to do a series of articles about Jehovah’s Witnesses. I was a Witness myself for about six years and have been married to one for more than sixteen years. I am now a skeptical atheist with Witness in-laws (Everybody say it with me in their best Everybody Loves Raymond voice, “Thaaaat’s right!”) and very active in the ex-Jehovah’s Witness community.What is the good news of God's Kingdom Magazine cover?

Fair warning: so long as the Michigan Skeptics Association has articles about Jehovah’s Witnesses on its website, it’s very likely that Witnesses will come here and try to debunk any unflattering claims I make. It happens on ex-Witness sites across the web, and I doubt this site will escape their notice forever. Which brings me to the reason there are so many links on the page. By posting links to their own web site (and a few others) to support my claims, you will be able to see for yourselves that everything you read here is true.

And now, here are ten things you don’t know about Jehovah’s Witnesses.

10: Jehovah’s Witnesses Don’t Believe In The Trinity.

Jehovah’s Witnesses can be described as Arian, or at least Semi-Arian, in their view of God, Jesus, and holy spirit. But don’t panic: being Arian or Semi-Arian doesn’t have anything to do with the Nazis. That’s an entirely different sort of Arian.

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the holy spirit is actually God’s “active force,” or energy, not a person as Trinitarians might see it. It’s also something that doesn’t get capitalized in their literature, which is why I’m not capitalizing it here.

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It’s Our Second Birthday and You Are Invited!

A balloon saying "happy second birthday"
The traditional 2nd anniversary gift is cotton. But the traditional 2nd birthday gift is cake!

Two years ago, we started the Michigan Skeptics Association in the hopes of creating a resource for skepticism and humanism in Michigan. Today, thanks to you, we have a vibrant and diverse membership throughout the state and satellite groups starting in areas that cannot come to our monthly Get Togethers and events.

This month, we are celebrating our second anniversary. You are invited to come out and join us in celebrating the ascent of reason over misconception and pseudo-science. We’re also going to talk about the future and our plans for MISkeptics. Plus we’re going to have prizes and fun. Come one out and help us celebrate!

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.

We also have special guests and speakers that contribute to the conversation and/or debate.

Please be sure to RSVP on either our Facebook Event or on our Meetup page so I know how many are coming. That way I can modify the reservation if necessary.

I hope to see you all there!

Sam Singleton’s Atheist Revival is Coming To the Area

Sam Singleton's Atheist Revival Flyer. Click on Image for full size PDF.
Sam Singleton’s Atheist Revival Flyer. Click on Image for full size PDF.

The Sam Singleton Atheist Revival is coming to Maumee, OH!

For those of you that have not seen the Sam Singleton experience, he is a comedian that travels the country holding atheist evangelist  revivals. He is quite hilarious and very well spoken. He spoke at Skepticon IV and was very well received. He was most recently at the Imagine No Religion conference in Kamloops, Canada. The video is below:

Brother Sam will perform REVIVAL at the Maumee Indoor Theater, Toledo, at 7PM on Aug. 2. This show premiered at Skepticon last November, and was most recently featured

Tickets are $10 advance from Brown Paper Tickets, which is linked to the site. They will be $15 at the door–cash only.


Jehovah’s Witness to Pay $28 Million Over Repeated Abuse of 9 Year Old Girl & Keeping It Quiet

An Early Watchtower Magazine Cover
An early cover of the Jehovah Witness magazine “Watchtower”. It and it’s companion magazine “Awake” have been in print since 1879.

In 1995, Candace Conti was 9 years old and a member of  the North Fremont Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. There over a period of 2 years she was repeatedly molested by a fellow member of the church, Jonathan Kendrick.

At first glance, this appears as yet another instance of the sexual abuse of minors in a religious environment, but this has much bigger implications.  An opinion piece in the New Statesman news magazine and website is highlighting an important stance that was recently made in the political and law world. Are organizations that silence and hide sexual abuse culpable in the crime?

The jury in the case found Jehovah’s Witness at least partly at fault. They are to pay 40% of the $7 Million in compensatory damages and another $ 21 Million in punitive damages. Kendrick is to pay the remaining 60%.

Over and over again, we’ve had stories of Catholic bishops and other office-holders in the Roman Catholic church refraining from reporting allegations of abuse to civil authorities. Now, this unfortunate legal landmark demonstrates that this behaviour has occurred in at least one other religious institution, and that it won’t go unpunished when it is exposed.

Jim McCabe, a lawyer for the Jehovah’s Witness congregation, said that they plan to appeal the decision, contending that Kendrick was just a member of the North Fremont congregation, not a leader or pastor. He said: “This is a tragic case where a member of a religious group has brought liability on the group for actions he alone may have taken.”

Had the secrecy around Kendrick’s 2004 conviction not been put in place, that might have been a semi-valid point – demonising a whole faith and community because of individual incidents is absolutely not what this is about. That said, it’s the idea that a church-wide policy enforced the silence that is so disturbing. Traumatic as this case will certainly have been for many involved, part of me can’t help hoping that it sets a precedent and we see many more like it come to light, until every institution, religious or otherwise, understands that hiding things like this is much, much worse than exposing them – for everyone.

Alpena, Michigan Was Apparently The Start of The American Rebellion

This symbol I pulled from the site. I have no idea what it means.

I came across this simply amazing piece of woo-filled-tripe (tripe-filled-woo?) today. It’s from a website I’ve never heard of  before called the European Union Times. They had posted an article that I’m still having a hard time figuring out whether it’s satire. The headline reads: “380 American Rebels Reported Killed In Michigan Battle.” This article is a complete “cut and paste” from a site called Which is a home of genuine nutballery.

A shocking Federal Security Service (FSB) report circulating in the Kremlin today states that last week an “intense” battle erupted in the US State of Michigan between military forces loyal to the Obama regime and American rebels that killed at least 380 men, women and children who had gathered to oppose their nations slide towards a totalitarian dictatorship.

Just to verify this claim, I went to the FSB website. It is completely in Russian but with help of Google Translate I browsed and searched the site. There are no press releases or anything that turned up in a key word search containing “Michigan”, “Alpena” or “Obama”. If you can read Russian please check out the site and let me know if there actually is something about this on the site.

The article goes on to give a very detailed account of an attack that killed 380 civilians including bombing runs with 2000 lb laser guided bombs. I don’t know if you have seen what the impact of a 2000 lb bomb looks like, but it looks like this:

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