Friday, 30 September 2011

The rise of scepticism in Uganda: leading Ugandan sceptic James Onen speaking in London on 12 October

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Ugandan sceptic
James Onen
Regular readers will know that there are thriving humanist and sceptical organisations in numerous African countries, including Uganda, where our readers have for several years supported a successful humanist school.

Those of you who are keen to learn more about the brave and fascinating fight against superstition in Africa may be interested to hear that James Onen, a leading Ugandan sceptic who runs the Freethought Kampala blog, is in the UK and Ireland in October, when he will be speaking in several cities.

The London event is hosted by the British Humanist Association, and will take place at the Camden Head pub in Islington on Wednesday 12 October at 6.30pm:
Irrational beliefs – such as the acceptance of the power of witchcraft – are pervasive across the African continent, and are not restricted only to the uneducated. It is hard to believe that given all the advancements in medicine and science in the last 500 years, so many people still attribute their misfortune and sickness to evil spirits and demons, courtesy of witchcraft. These beliefs benefit from the tacit support of mainstream religions (particularly the fast growing ‘charismatic’ forms of Christianity) which, while denouncing witchcraft as evil, fully endorse the view that it is efficacious. In their view witchcraft is seen as evidence of ‘Satan’ at work. Mainstream religions are also guilty of promoting a belief system that leads to:
  • Pastors conning thousands of believers by stage-managing fake miracles
  • Many HIV positive believers dying because they were abandoning ARVs based on unsubstantiated miracle testimonies
  • Making people believe that they have been bewitched or are victims of ‘generational curses’
The lack of a rational voice in this public conversation about what are spiritual matters prompted a number of local rationalists to come together and form Freethought Kampala, a club that seeks to promote reason, logic, science and critical thinking in a highly superstitious society.

As a founding member of Freethought Kampala, James Onen will give an insight into:
  • the experience of being a sceptic in a deeply superstitious society, including the fight against witchcraft
  • the phenomenal rise of charismatic forms of Christianity in Uganda, and its impact on belief in the efficacy of witchcraft
  • the politicisation of religion, spirituality, and mass conformity; and
  • the rise of scepticism, challenges for scepticism, and the way forward from here.
Onen will also be speaking at the following events:

Thursday 6 October - Cardiff (Cardiff Skeptics in the Pub)

Sunday 9 October - Dublin (Dublin Skeptics in the Pub)

Monday 10 October - Belfast (Belfast Skeptics in the Pub)

Tuesday 11 October - Edinburgh (Edinburgh/Glasgow Skeptics in the Pub)

Thursday 13 October - Lewes (Lewes Skeptics in the Pub)
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