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By:  Leslie A. Zukor

Christopher Hitchens and Leslie Zukor

When I was invited to have dinner with Christopher Hitchens, I jumped at the opportunity.  For the past several years, Hitchens has made a name as a provocateur, as someone who minces no words with regard to his personal views.

His latest target, as he wrote about in God Is Not Great, is the institution of religion.  When I had the opportunity to eat dinner with Hitchens, I was curious as to the validity of the book’s subtitle, How Religion Poisons Everything.

What came next I should have expected.  Hitchens comported himself with an almost narrow-minded disdain for all things religious.  Anything good that believers did was possible without religion, and everything else was the fault of the faith.

By the end of the night, I had tired of Hitchens’s dogmatic rejection of religion.  In a room full of scholars and educated people, he could have learned something from others’ experiences.  Instead, Hitchens clung fervently to his disdain for faith.

It was ultimately Hitchens’s dogmatism that proved to be his undoing.  Such a strident rejection of religion shared more than a little in common with the religious people he condemned.  In short, Hitchens is an atheist fundamentalist.

For more about the Hitchens dinner in Portland and my objections to his dogmatism, see the Portland Monthly Magazine’s website.

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After more than 80 years, the Oregon House moved to revise the Statute that says that public school teachers are forbidden to wear religious garb.  The objection was met by praise in some quarters, but others bristled with hostility at the allowance of expressions of faith in the classroom.  Read more.

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Freethought Books for Prisoners

Freethought Books for Prisoners

In the November 2009 issue of Freethought Today, the Freedom From Religion Foundation featured the Freethought Books Project.  The article, entitled, “Project Puts Freethought Behind Bars“, showcased the Reed Secular Alliance’s efforts to get non-theistic literature into prisons.

“It was neat to be covered in Freethought Today,” book project founder, Leslie Zukor, explains.  “That publication reaches a lot of eyes.”  And since the article’s publication, the RSA has heard from prisoners and potential Pen Pals wanting to benefit the project.

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A Humanistic Chanukkah

A child plays dreidel

Reed Secular Alliance President, Leslie Zukor, had the pleasure of attending a Humanistic Chanukkah celebration.  The event, which was put on by Kol Shalom Community for Humanistic Judaism, was a blend of traditional songs and and contemporary celebrations of our common humanity.

A Sunday School student acts in a play

“I enjoyed the Chanukkah party,” Zukor said.  “It was nice going to a Jewish event where one doesn’t need to say blessings mentioning God.”  Zukor took a number of photos at the event, two of which are showcased here.  Zukor hopes to continue to be active in the secular Jewish community.

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The Reed Secular Alliance is pleased to announce that Greg Epstein’s lecture is now online.  The November 19th talk centers around Greg Epstein’s new book, Good Without God:  What A Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe.  Below you can watch the unedited Humanist speech.

Unfortunately, the talk cuts out at the tail end of Epstein’s response to the last question.  Nevertheless, it is an enjoyable presentation, with interesting information about the speaker’s background and the influences on his Humanist development.

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Boxes of Freethought Books

Monday, November 30th, marked the Freethought Books Project’s second mailing of the semester.  The first mailing saw nineteen boxes of books distributed to atheist, humanistic, and freethinking prisoners.  While not as large, this effort led to more prisoners getting access to such literature.

The following is a statistical run-down of what was donated and to whom it was sent:

Prisoners: 10

Mental patients: 1

Literature:   55 books

22 different works

TitlesThe Born Again Skeptic’s Guide to the Bible, American Infidel:  Robert G. Ingersoll, Humanist Manifesto 2000, Forbidden Fruit:  The Ethics of Humanism, Atheism:  A Reader, Imagine No Superstition, Keepers:  Voices of Secular Recovery, One Woman’s Fight, The Mind of the Market, How We Believe:  The Search for God in an Age of Science, Science & Religion:  Are They Compatible?, Rhymes for the IrreverentPhilosophers Without Gods, Sense and Goodness Without God, God:  The Failed Hypothesis, The Fifth Miracle, Secular Wholeness, Like Rolling Uphill, The Portable Atheist, Why Atheism, Atheism:  The Case Against God, Affirmations:  Joyful and Creative Exuberance.

For more information on the Freethought Books Project, check out http://www.freethoughtbooks.org.

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Freethought Books for Prisooners

Freethought Books for Prisoners

On Friday, Hemant Mehta’s The Friendly Atheist blog featured the Freethought Books Project.  The November 27th article showcases Michael L’s letter to the Reed Secular Alliance, thanking the group for the books, especially the biography of Robert G. Ingersoll, The Great Agnostic.

The Freethought Books Project, started by RSA President, Leslie Zukor, has been around since 2005.  The Book Project gives atheist, humanist, and freethinking literature to prisoners, mental patients, and others in need.  For more about our efforts, go to http://www.freethoughtbooks.org.

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