Tulsa Atheist Rendezvous

Tulsa Atheist Rendezvous grew out of the Atheists Meetup group in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We seek to provide an opportunity for those who self-identify as atheists to meet with one another for fellowship and to discuss matters of mutual interest. --Dan Nerren, moderator

Friday, September 29, 2006

October Activities Calendar

October 2006
Activities of Interest to Freethinkers

Sun., Oct. 1, 5pm to 7pm
Secular Singers at the Bradleys. All are welcome. We will focus on getting ready for our annual Human Light celebration coming in December to be held once again at the Bradleys.

Sat., Oct. 7, 7pm
Movie Night at the Bradleys, 6705 E. 54th St. Feature presentation: A Vision Shared: A Tribute to Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly. This documentary includes more than a dozen songs performed by Bruce Springsteen, Arlo Guthrie, Bono, Little Richard, Sweet Honey in the Rock and others. 72 minutes.

Sun., Oct. 8, 2pm
Humanist Study Group at Hardesty Library, on 93rd near Memorial. Topic: “The Evolutionary Psychology of Religion” by Steven Pinker from The Humanist magazine, Sept./Oct. 2006. Article to be provided by e-mail.

Sun., Oct. 15, 1pm
HAT Monthly Membership Meeting at Hardesty Regional Library. Program: “Scientific Creationism” lecture (DVD) by Edward J. Larsen from “The Theory of Evolution: A History of Controversy,” produced by The Great Courses.

Wed., Oct. 18, 11:20am
ALGAE (A Little Group of Atheists Eating), luncheon at White River Fish Market, 1708 N. Sheridan.

Sun., Oct. 22, 2pm
Tulsa Atheist Rendezvous/Tulsa Atheist Meetup
Plans are to see a movie at about 2pm then eat afterwards and talk about the movie. Times and locations will be announced later. To be kept informed of what’s happening, go to http://atheists.meetup.com/477 or www.tulsaar.blogspot.com.

Sat., Oct. 28, 11:30am
Food & Fellowship at Thai-Siam, 6380 E. 31st.

Sun., Oct. 29, 2pm
Geocaching adventures with Randy and Dan. Learn about geocaching at www.geocaching.com. We will start at Randy’s, go caching, and eat pizza afterwards.

Questions? Call Dan at 798-3629

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Freethought activities of this past week

Let me say from the outset that I had to miss most of the freethought activities of the past week. On Wednesday there was the monthly meeting of ALGAE at the White River Fish Market. I understand that there were five people there. I was at home busy working on an index.

Saturday morning Jan and I drove to Springfield to visit my parents. While we were away, there was a HAT Food & Fellowship gathering at a Mexican restaurant just north of downtown Tulsa. I heard there were about ten people at the F&F. Most of those at the F&F went to the open house at the new Tulsa Peace House following the meal.

We headed back to Tulsa Sunday morning and got back just in time for the Tulsa Atheist Rendezvous gathering at 2pm at Border's on 21st Street. There were six of us there. I read two selections from Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris. This book was just recently published.

It seems that (based upon our conversation today) many atheists in the Tulsa area are intimidated by the heavy Christian presence, so much so that they stay "in the closet" and do not let others know they are an atheist. If three percent of the population is atheist (as surveys indicate), then we have 12,000 atheists in the Tulsa area. We talked a bit about the stigma associated with the word "atheist." Some there expressed a desire to be more outspoken but admitted to being intimidated. We noted that some atheists are even afraid to use the word "atheist," preferring instead to use a euphemism. Many topics were discussed. I did not take notes. If anyone wants to append some remarks to this posting about what we talked about, please do.

The meeting lasted quite some time, about an hour and three-quarters. It seemed that we all did not want to leave each other's company this afternoon. The camaraderie was strong among this small band of atheists. At least I felt it to be that way. Before leaving and going our separate ways, we decided that for the meetup next month (October) we would go together to see a movie, perhaps an indie film at AMC20. After the movie is over we will go to the nearby Panera Bread for a meal and some conversation about the movie.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Believing nonsense

Mark Twain once said "Faith is believing what you know ain't so." The following piece is by Mark Pilkington and is from the May 27, 2004 issue of The Guardian. It gives some indication why so many people can so willingly swallow religious nonsense.


What would it take for you to distrust the evidence of your own eyes? Only seven other people, according to a study conducted in the 1950s by the psychologist Solomon Asch. Interested in the extent to which the pressure to conform affects our judgment, Asch devised a simple but devastatingly effective experiment.

The test subject sits in a room with seven other people. The experimenter shows them all an image of a vertical line, X, followed by three more lines, A, B and C, one of which is the same length as X.

The people in the room are asked, one at a time, to state which of the lines A, B and C is the same length as line X. The process is repeated several times during the session.

Initially, everybody in the room selects the correct line, but over the course of several rounds, the others begin to choose lines that are quite clearly not the same length as line X.

In fact, the other seven people in the room are in cahoots with the experimenter. Six of them are always asked to make their choices first, giving the test subject plenty of time to consider his or her own decision.

Despite the simple nature of the question, more than 35% of the people tested provided an answer that they felt to be incorrect. This has nothing to do with visual impairment: in control experiments, people chose correctly almost 100% of the time, and during the actual experimental sessions, test subjects would remark on how clearly wrong the other people in the room were.

Asch concluded that either the subjects didn't trust their own judgment when confronted with a number of opposing opinions, or they were uncomfortable voicing a conflicting opinion against a majority decision.

He concluded that, for them, being accepted was more important than being correct. Crucially, if even one other person agreed with the subject, then the subject was much more likely to make the right decision.

The experiment has been repeated since with similar results. In one version, 58% of pupils in a study agreed with the statement "the right of freedom of speech should be suspended when the government feels threatened". When questioned individually, all of them disagreed.