FreeThought Fort Wayne

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Temporarily Closed For Renovations

Posted by Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg on January 9, 2009

FreeThought Fort Wayne will be undergoing renovations today so we’ve temporarily disabled comments so nothing gets lost while we shuffle things around. As soon as the new site is fully up and running we’ll turn comments back on.

Depending on how fast your ISP updates its DNS records, you should start seeing the new site later this afternoon. Hopefully no later than Sunday morning. We’ll see you all at our new digs shortly!

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FFW Top Ten Blog Posts of 2008

Posted by Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg on January 1, 2009

Father Time and Baby New YearIt’s New Year’s Day which means all over the internet you’ll be seeing top ten lists from bloggers of their most popular posts from the past year. Why should we be any different? Well, we are a little bit different in that this blog didn’t exist until last year. In fact, the first blog post here didn’t even appear until February 27th and that was just an announcement of our upcoming meeting. So really, this blog has only been active for ten out of the past twelve months. And if I recall correctly, FreeThought Fort Wayne itself didn’t even exist until late in 2007.

Yet we’ve come a long way in the past few months. We’ve produced 14 great episodes of our public access telvision show The Enlightenment Show, featured talks by author John Loftus of the popular blog Debunking Christianity as well as biblical scholar and author Robert M. Price. We’ve grown as an organization, had a variety of meetups in addition to our regular monthly meetings, developed a constitution and we’re about to elect officers. Additionally, we’ve taken this blog from nothing to almost 110,000 visitors, thanks to a couple of very popular stories and a couple of links from the most popular science blogger on Earth, PZ Myers.

So before we move on to bigger and better things in 2009, here’s a look back the most viewed posts of 2008.

And there you have it. Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church are always good for a big laugh, although I’ve got to say Mark Souder might have been more of a contender if he had made his ridiculous remarks earlier in the year. Of course, Andy Welfle’s deconversion story is not to be missed. 2008. What a year. And for FreeThought Fort Wayne, 2009 is only going to be better. No, strike that. It’s going to be fantastic!

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FreeThought Fort Wayne Meeting Notes 10/8

Posted by dystressed on October 8, 2008

The meeting was held at Mad Anthony on Broadway beginning at 7 p.m.

  • Andy started the business discussion by saying the paperwork had been submitted for the Adopt-A-Highway program. Our first tentative cleanup date is 11/2 at approximately 2 p.m. (This is subject to change.) The rules will be e-mailed to those on the mailing list.
  • The next discussion was a solicitation for Great Zoo Halloween volunteers to pass out treats to kids on 10/22, 10/28, or 10/31. Contact Andy if interested.
  • A suggestion was made regarding a place in Yuku groups or some other place on the main site where other volunteer opportunities.
  • Next was a discussion of potential group activities. Andy W is hosting a “Haunted” Downtown Walking Tour through ARCH on 10/25.
  • Alan said he will check on prices for doing a Courthouse tour.
  • Following that, Andy moved the discussion back to the organization’s finances. Theo offered to take on the cost of hosting the site for a one year term. Then discussion moved to accounting. Andy, Skeptigator and Theo will discuss and open an account to handle the funds and will be the tentative co-signers on the account.
  • Next was discussion of the latest Enlightnement Show. Andy thanked everyone for their help and encouraged those who hadn’t seen it to watch it online.
  • Discussion then moved to the order of the meetings. For the next meeting, scheduled for 11/5 at the Library, there is a set agenda.
  • Meeting 11/5  Tentative Agenda: Mighty will open with 30 minutes of business discussion. The presentation on the Creation Museum will continue, followed by demonstration of StumbleUpon and other web tools to increase blog post readers.
  • Theo will have bumper stickers and bookmarks at the next meeting. This was followed by discussion of having a store on Cafepress.com to sell FFW merchandise.
  • Skeptigator will add administrator privileges to blog posters, which will give the opportunity for posters to moderate comments and guard against Internet trolls.
  • Discussion concluded with tentative plans to see Roy Zimmerman in Indianapolis 10/19 and Richard Carrier on 10/26.

The meeting ended approximately 8:30.

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Community Focus: Waynedale Green Alliance

Posted by Skeptigator on October 6, 2008

I wanted to take a moment and highlight a local (Fort Wayne, Indiana) organization, the Waynedale Green Alliance. I’m not personally connected to the group however I do support their efforts to raise the environmental awareness of their neighbors.

The Waynedale Green Alliance, founded by April D. Langschied owner of A Brewster Smythe Concepts, mission is to bring the new “green” vocabulary to Waynedale and the Greater Fort Wayne area. They have published the Green ABCs and publish a bi-monthly column in the Waynedale News.

The Waynedale Green Alliance is currently working with the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department to bring the Green ABC’s to Fort Wayne residents and are set to have discussions with area schools such as Wayne High School’s Freshman Initiative.

They are scheduled to appear at The Good Life Show, October 24th-26th and are looking for volunteers. I would check out their website and let them know if you are interested in volunteering or getting involved in general.

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Thank you Dr. Price and John W. Loftus

Posted by Eye4Cards on August 8, 2008

I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Price for speaking for our group last night. I found it interesting and amusing, just like I do all of his stuff. I also wanted to thank John Loftus for taping a few episodes of our Enlightenment Show with Dr. Price. It is our best stuff yet. They are both setting the bar really high for us to try to keep getting fascinating and wonderful people to talk to our group. But hey, that’s what this group’s all about. I mean, when I think of what it is that would make me want to join a group like this, or even contribute to it myself, I think about the things I would want out of it.

I want engaging speakers that make us think about a myriad of things. So far, I’ve met two men and their lovely counterparts that I’ve already felt I’ve known a little from their books and blogs, and podcasts. I couldn’t ask for more and I’m looking forward to what’s in store for later.

I want local friends that I feel at ease with almost immediately. This isn’t normally an easy thing for me to find. This is probably my fault more than anything else. But I’ve never felt so completely at ease in such a large group of people before and it is refreshing. I told my wife after the meeting and pub last night about how therapeutic this whole experience has been for me. I look forward to reading our blog every day and am probably responsible for 2000 of the over 10,000(!) visits to our site to date. Alright, maybe not quite 2000, but it sure feels like it!

I also wanted to thank everybody that was able to make it last night. You all helped make it our biggest function to date, and I’m starting to sense a kind of group identity with our many varied and intriguing members. I felt bad because every time we have one of our meetings I can’t spend enough time with everybody and my attention goes in 10 different directions trying to take it all in. I guess that’s what the blog is for though. I had such a fun time last night that I ended up having a great roaming discussion with a couple of first timers I know well until almost 4:30 in the morning! It made my 11 hour work day go a little slower today, but it was worth it!

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Kitten of God in Dunlap Indiana. Jesus is spotted on the back of a cat

Posted by Andy D. on July 31, 2008

I wish this wasn’t happening in our state. If this is what a miracle is today, I can only imagine what the church could get away with during the dark ages. I don’t think the moderate religious believer buys this stuff like the virgin Marry toast or the Christ cheese doodle and it embarrasses them. I bet those owners of Sissy the kitten have been to or they will plan a trip to Ken Ham’s wonderland of the creation museum where the universe is only 6000 years old and dinosaurs and humans roamed the garden hand-in-claw.

As a cat lover, I really tried to look for a sign from god on the backs of my 2 cats. I didn’t see anything. One of them is even named Madonna. (I named her after the singer due to her attitude). Then it suddenly hit me and I did see a message appear long after I took the picture. Look at the bottom of the picture!

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FreeThought Fort Wayne’s August Meeting

Posted by Skeptigator on July 12, 2008

What: FreeThought Fort Wayne August Meeting
When: August 13th, 2008 7PM-9PM
Where: Main Branch, Allen County Public Library, Meeting Room B
Desc: August 13th will be mostly focused on discussing the then recent talk by author Robert M. Price. Bring a snack to share! As usual the discussion will be moved to a local pub. Public is always welcome

For more information, contact@freethoughtfortwayne.org

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Robert Price to speak for FreeThought Fort Wayne

Posted by Skeptigator on July 11, 2008

FreeThought Fort Wayne is bringing another speaker to the Fort Wayne, Indiana area. On Wednesday, August 6th beginning at 7:00PM, Robert M. Price will be giving a public lecture at the Downtown branch of the Allen County Public Library on his new book, Top Secret: The Truth Behind Today’s Pop Mysticism. Please read the book and come prepared to ask questions during the Question and Answer period.

For more information regarding Robert Price’s lecture in Fort Wayne or FreeThought Fort Wayne, please contact: contact@freethoughtfortwayne.org

Download the Flyer Here (PDF, 716KB)

About the Book

The following is an excerpt from the review of Robert Price’s book, Top Secret,

America may be the land of plenty, but in the midst of our Walmarts, enormous supermarkets, and other signs of material surfeit, it seems that many are experiencing a gnawing spiritual hunger. New religions, spiritualities, and religious therapies attract throngs of believers to megachurches, Yoga classes, and the bestseller bookshelves. The latest popular fad in spirituality is Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, which promises both success and spiritual fulfillment, and is endorsed by no less than Oprah Winfrey.

If you’re trying to make sense of all the offerings in this confusing spiritual wonderland, Top Secret is just the book for you. Noted religion scholar Robert M. Price examines the historical roots and the current appeal of today’s pop mysticisms. Critical and appreciative at the same time, Price applies his impressive background in theology and biblical criticism to put these trends in perspective. Among other popular movements and books, Price discusses:

  • Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose
  • Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret and New Thought
  • Helen Schucman’s A Course in Miracles and the popular works of Marianne Williamson
  • Deepak Chopra’s How to Know God
  • James Redfield’s The Celestine Prophecy
  • The Jewish Kabbalah, recently made popular by Madonna
  • Joel Osteen’s Prosperity Gospel and his popular Your Best Life Now
  • Diedre Blomfield Brown (AKA Pema Chödrön) and American-style Buddhism

Whether you’re a skeptic looking for a rational approach to understanding current religion or a seeker in search of a deeper, more informed understanding of popular spiritualities, Top Secret has much to offer.

About the Author

Robert M. Price is Professor of Biblical Criticism at the Center for Inquiry Institute as well as the editor of The Journal of Higher Criticism. His books include Beyond Born Again, The Widow Traditions in Luke-Acts: A Feminist-Critical Scrutiny, Deconstructing Jesus, and The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man. Forthcoming titles are The Crisis of Biblical Authority, Jesus Christ Superstar: A Redactional Study of a Modern Gospel, The Da Vinci Controversy and The Amazing Colossal Apostle

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Listen to a telephone interview with enhanced graphics with Robert Price about his book “Top Secret”

[blip.tv ?posts_id=1116808&dest=-1]

Posted in Events, FreeThought, Local, Religion, Skepticism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments »

FreeThought Fort Wayne July Meeting Information

Posted by Skeptigator on June 19, 2008

What: FreeThought Fort Wayne July Meeting
When: July 9th, 2008 7PM-9PM
Where: Main Branch, Allen County Public Library
Meeting Room B
Desc: July 9th is movie night. The movie is yet to be determined but will be approximately 90 minutes and will include a 30 minute discussion afterwards. Bring a snack to share! As usual the discussion will be moved to a local pub. Public is always welcome

For more information, contact@freethoughtfortwayne.org

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Fun time at Hope Missionary Church

Posted by Eye4Cards on June 16, 2008

I wanted to take the opportunity to thank Jon Baker and Hope Missionary Church for inviting Skeptigator and me to their church for a discussion with their youth group about atheism. It went very well. There were a lot of excellent questions posed by many of the young adults in the class.

All in all, this gives me hope for an open dialog between the religious and the non-religious.

Mr. Baker is trying to get proponents of different world-views to give lectures to his youth group as a way of exposing them to different belief systems. He already had a Muslim speaker and us. I believe a Hindu is next on the list with the possibility of speakers for Judaism, Buddhism and Christianity. This is a good idea that I applaud him for trying.

He asked us five popular questions in an attempt to study comparisons of the answers from the different groups. We didn’t actually follow the questions closely, but instead gave a basic overview of the branches of theism and non-theism along with some examples of positive atheist world-views such as secular humanism.

I decided to post my responses to Mr. Baker’s 5 questions since I didn’t have the opportunity to expand on them during the discussion:
1. If any, what is the goal/meaning/purpose of life?
If so, how is that goal/meaning/purpose obtained?

You will receive a different answer from every person you ask. That is how you know everybody’s meaning and purpose in life is different. There cannot be a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all answer, nor should there be. Even if the entire universe is random chaos and indifferent to life and existence, that does not mean you can’t find meaning in your existence or even that you have to. The fact is, if there were any place anywhere in the entire universe that was just right for life to come into existence, that is where that life would be; hence, earth. We should dedicate more time to figuring out where we are going and less time agonizing over how we popped into existence. Our origins are intriguing, but we do exist in the here and now and need to be more concerned with continuing and improving our existence than obsessing over why or how we exist.

It is up to you to decide what is important in your life and what it is that drives you and gives you a purpose. When you make the big decisions in your life those decisions should be based on what you think is important to you and what most excites and drives you. I have found the more I learn about life, the deeper my appreciation has become of the things that do give me meaning and joy.

It takes a lot of time and thinking and studying to develop your personal meaning of life. Trial and error and experience all help you figure out what is important. Everybody includes things like happiness, family, and friends as giving meaning and purpose to their lives, but not enough of us take the time and energy to find individual meaning. Too many of us are willing to settle for superficial meaning in God. It is much easier and more satisfying to believe we are the center of existence created by a God that has given us all of the answers, than to work to figure out our lives for ourselves.

2. If any, what is the divine/supernatural?

Anything that is supernatural is outside the considerable sphere of our collective knowledge about the observable and measurable reality of natural law. Anything that we cannot seemingly answer with a rational scientific understanding or that we cannot record or measure in any physical way is considered to be beyond nature or supernatural.

This pretty much covers:

Divinity: God(s), angels, demons, miracles, souls, reincarnation, astrology, animism, etc. Some belong in multiple categories like spirits and ghosts.

Paranormal: Ghosts, poltergeists, possessions, alien abductions, zombies, werewolves, vampires, ESP, telepathy, clairvoyance, etc.

Mythical: Fairies, ogres, trolls, witches, warlocks, elves, goblins, unicorns, pixies, sprites, cherubs, dragons, centaurs, gnomes, sphinx, giants, titans, etc…

Modern religions have slowly been distancing themselves from the supernatural as much as possible to remain relevant in the computer and information age of the 21stcentury. It is obvious over time how things that were once thought of as supernatural have become quite mundane after a scientific understanding of them.

Famines, pestilence, floods, lightening, the stars, earthquakes, volcanoes, a round earth traveling around the sun and the age of the earth are just a few of the things that have been explained with modern science.

Churches now refer to the Holy Ghost as the Holy Spirit. Churches now prefer the more friendly and harmless term spirituality over a loaded word like religion.

We now offer faith-based funding, not religious-based funding, to faith-based organizations instead of religious charities.

There is no longer a limbo for Catholic babies that die before they are baptized. This supernatural state of existence is no longer in acceptable fashion and has ceased to exist with a wave of the Pope’s scepter.

The supernatural is so unnatural and contradictory of everything we experience that all of the faiths of the world will never be able to agree on any of it. Even within a religion people can not agree on what is supernatural and divine, and what is superstition and hocus-pocus, so they fracture into competing sects. Even in Hinduism and Buddhism and Islam we find the all too human differences of opinion in the interpretations of scripture and revealed wisdom. These problems are all indications of why the supernatural is simply the imaginations and machinations of men in overdrive.

3. If any, what is evil/bad/wrong?

Atheism does not deal with matters of morality. Atheism is simply the lack of belief in a God or Gods of any organized religion. It is important here to note that a lack of belief in God does not mean a lack of moral standards. Belief in God is often associated with a monopoly on moral integrity with the assumption that to not know God is to not know right from wrong. If this were true, every atheist would be abhorrent in his or her behavior and prove morality is born from religion and is inseparable from God. This is not what we see. We see a group of people that are no more or less inclined to be immoral or to break laws than any other group. Atheists struggle with making moral decisions just like everybody else, but it is obvious not all atheists are out committing crimes with abandon, unconcerned for the results of their actions. I would say that for the vast majority of atheists it is quite the opposite. Without a God-given dogmatic, moral framework, atheists must take it on themselves to understand what is right and wrong behavior and why they should care about leading good lives.

So how do atheists understand morality? This question is much easier to answer than it seems. We use common-sense. We study philosophy, sociology, ethics, history and religion. We use empathy to see from others’ perspectives and to sympathize with their problems and needs. We make decisions based on all of the information available and based on the circumstances in every unique situation.

Most atheists understand you get what you give. If we all went around killing each other without concern, we wouldn’t last very long. But there is much more to it than that. We adopt natural moral frameworks that benefit all. Some of us are secular humanists, some are naturalists, some are Brights, and still others are something entirely different.

Everyone is capable of good and bad. It does not work to deal in absolutes. Life is too complicated for every act or decision to fall neatly into a category of Good or Evil, or right or wrong.

Just as our legal system allows for new laws to be made and for unwanted or harmful laws to be removed, people can learn, control and alter a moral framework based on careful, thoughtful observations of societies and a general consensus everywhere of basic rights and wrongs both in the legal sense and the moral sense.

4. If any, what is the afterlife?

The afterlife is the desire to exist forever. It is the desire to be reunited with friends and family and to love forever. It is the desire to see wrongs righted and transgressions against us punished. It is the desire to know all and to see how the rest of humanity and life plays out. In short, it is the desire to conquer death.

The afterlife is also what is promised to you for your obedience (or disobedience) to God in this life. It is the reward for doing everything that is demanded of you by your religion. It is also the threat used to keep you in line. Do what the God of our church says or you will fall from His and our grace and burn in Hell forever. It is your church’s trump card to every objection you have with your religion and your God.

Life is precious partially because it has a lifespan. That is why it is important to live your life to its fullest and to appreciate your one chance you get. It is unfortunate that not everyone gets a long life or even a chance at a quality life. Life really is not fair. But, if everything were equal there would be no variety and no individuality. If everyone lived forever, there would be no variety and no individuality. We all would experience everything and see everything and exist forever.

Death is the only equalizer. Everyone, whether they are rich or poor, happy or sad, good or bad, dies. The certainty of death makes the time you have precious. It makes you appreciate all of the good things in life while surrounded by all of the bad.

Religions cheapen life by saying this life is just a precursor to eternity. It makes this life seem less important somehow. It takes away our focus on making this reality a better place for everyone to live in exchange for only caring how to live now to make it into heaven for eternity.

5. If any, what texts are important?

All texts are important. Thoughts and ideas in general are important. Imagination, curiosity, and learning are what make humans so special. It is important to learn to think critically and openly. No book or text should ever be banned or burned because of its contents. If a book is truly offensive or ridiculous, then teach people why it is offensive or ridiculous and why we should not waste time reading it. Many people do not understand that reading and thinking about a taboo does not make someone more likely to commit that taboo; quite the opposite. It allows us to be better informed before we make a bad decision from not understanding why our actions would be wrong.

Censoring or banning thoughts or ideas hurts everybody. It is not enough to forbid your child or student from reading or seeing something you deem too offensive or dangerous. It is your responsibility to teach them why something is considered offensive and give them the resources necessary to figure it out on their own. Simply telling a child or student not to do something will only drive them towards it out of curiosity- without knowing why it is wrong. You cannot shelter people from everything bad or wrong and you really shouldn’t. Education is the best inoculation against eventual contact with life’s problems, not ignoring them or pretending they don’t exist.

Books and libraries (and the internet) are tools. Even the Bible and Koran are tools. A tool is something that is useful and beneficial to us. Just as most tools are useful, most tools can be misused and become harmful. It is the intent or the ignorance of the user that can make a tool dangerous. No tool need be worshipped or held in reverence. No book or doctrine deserves our worship. They are all man-made, inanimate objects that hold no supernatural powers or divine governance over us. They deserve a place in our history and wealth of knowledge just as all books do, but they too are books for our education and pleasure, not for holy reverence above all else.

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