NOSHA

New Orleans Secular Humanist Association

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Another Skeptic's Cocktail Hour

  • When: Monday, July 25, 2016 @ 6:30 pm
  • Vine and Dine, 141 Delaronde Street, New Orleans, LA view map

It's been a while since we gathered for cocktails and superb small talk and this sounded like just the place!

"It's clear from the gourmet sensibilities of the menu, eclectic wine selection, and old world style atmosphere that this is not your typical hole in the wall New Orleans neighborhood joint."


It's just steps away from the Canal Street ferry landing and serves cheese boards, global small plates and gourmet pizza. According to the website, "...the wine bar is nestled all the way in the back of the building, away from the hustle and bustle of the day, with no distracting televisions or loud music to disturb you."

Because we will be a group, please bring cash for payment as they don't offer separate checks. Here is the menu. Also, please arrive on time - we will not be seated until everyone in our party is there.

As a courtesy to the other attendees and the restaurant, please be sure that your RSVP is accurate as of the afternoon of this event. Be conscientious and let us know if something changes!   


 

Heathens Who Lunch!

  • When: Thursday, August 04, 2016 @ 11:30 am
  • Martin Wine Cellar, 3827 Baronne Street, New Orleans, LA view map

It could have been "Happy Heathens Who Lunch!" or "Hungry Heathens Who Lunch!", but you get the idea. Many secular humanist groups across the country have a lunch get-together, so we thought maybe this would be fun to try. It won't work for everyone's schedule, but maybe someone can attend who otherwise doesn't have a chance at our other socials.

They have sandwich and soup specials for lunch. We'll post the link to the August menu as soon as it is available.

As a courtesy to the other attendees and the restaurant, please be sure that your RSVP is accurate as of the morning of this event. Be conscientious and let us know if something changes!   


 

The Science of Sign Language

  • When: Thursday, August 11, 2016 @ 7:00 pm
  • Jefferson Parish Library, 4747 W. Napoleon Ave., Metairie, LA view map

"NOSHA Science Night" PRESENTS: The Science of Sign Language


NOSHA Member, Jennifer Kuyrkendall, has 30 years of experience in the deaf community and will present an interesting presentation on deafness and the background of sign language.

She will identify various types of deafness and cultural norms, contrast the differences of signed languages around the world and list the current research regarding cognitive impact on visual spatial language anomalies. In addition, she will also highlight current scientific research being done on the human brain and sign language usage.

Kuyrkendall works in the USDA's Office of the Chief Financial Officer for Civil Rights and Conflict Management as an ASL Interpreter, EEO Specialist and Special Emphasis Programs Manager. She has also been a freelance ASL interpreter for the past 11 years.

Sign Language Interpreters may earn CEUs at this presentation. Please contact Jennifer directly at Kuyrkendall@gmail.com to sign up.


 
 

Taking on the Tough Stuff of History: New Orleans and the Domestic Slave Trade

  • When: Saturday, August 20, 2016 @ 3:00 pm
  • Jefferson Parish Library, 4747 W. Napoleon Ave., Metairie, LA view map

Between 1808 and 1865 more than one million enslaved men, women, and children were forcibly moved from the Upper to the Lower South, where the expansion of sugar and cotton production created high demand for enslaved labor. New Orleans, home to more than fifty slave markets in the antebellum period, was the nexus of this trade. 

Join The Historic New Orleans Collection curator Erin Greenwald as she discusses New Orleans, the domestic slave trade, and THNOC’s award-winning exhibition “Purchased Lives”.

This event is free and open to the public, so bring a friend!


IMAGE: Slave Auction; ca. 1831; ink and watercolor; The Historic New Orleans Collection, 1941.


 

BOOK REVIEW: Witchcraze: A New History of the European Witch Hunts

07/25/2016
The literature, both scholarly and fanciful, on the European witchcraze is voluminous and of uneven quality. It was a pleasure, then, to find a work of scholarly quality that stands out for its unusual perspective. Historian Anne Llewellyn Barstow has studied the phenomenon from a much need feminist perspective in Witchcraze: A New History of the European Witch Hunts.

There is far less here, than in many other studies of the same phenomenon, about religion and beliefs about witchcraft, and a lot more about the roles of women and men, and changes in the social and economic structures of Europe during the worst years of the witchcraze (1550-1750). Barstow sets the number of persons executed for witchcraft during that time at roughly 100,000, a lower figure than some other historians, and admittedly an estimate from incomplete sources. This does not mean she casts the witchcraze in a more positive light than others. In fact, she shows that a very large percentage of the accused and executed were women, and is careful to demonstrate the cloud of fear under which European women lived for those centuries, the nearly absolute lack of fairness or objectivity toward the accused, and the sexual sadism of the processes of interrogation and execution.

Why that time and that place? Barstow takes a multifactorial view. The roles and opportunities for European women had been narrowing for centuries (and would continue to narrow until well into the 19th century). The early rumblings of Capitalism were actually increasing the gap between rich and poor, and women who owned property but had no male protectors became especially vulnerable. Two religious movements, the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation, generated a drive toward orthodoxy that included formal control of sexual expression as well as of religious doctrine. Increasingly centralized religious and governmental power meant more intervention by authorities into local and private interactions. Witchcraft came to be seen as not merely heresy, but as a crime against the state.

In a brief but fascinating analysis, Barstow points out that the era of the witchcraze corresponds roughly with the age during which Europeans enslaved Africans. This is no coincidence. Barstow writes (pp. 159-160):

“We need to see the similarities between all women in a patriarchal system and all persons in an unfree status . . . . free women and slaves of both sexes fell into many of the same categories in the eyes of early modern European men. Neither had control over what they produced, other than in exceptional circumstances, and their labor could be coerced. Both were seen by the law as children, as fictive minors who could be represented in court only by their masters/husbands. Both could legally be beaten, debased, and humiliated. When mistreated, both were impotent to gain help from others within their group, nor usually could their families help them.”

For readers interested in what early modern Europeans thought witches actually did and why, Kramer’s (ca. 1486) inquisitorial handbook Malleus Maleficarum (Hammer against Witches) is indispensable. A similar insider’s view of the Salem witch hunts can be found in Cotton Mather’s (ca. 1692) On Witchcraft. But the Malleus and On Witchcraft are products of their respective times and places, making no attempt to place paranoia about witchcraft in a social and historical context. Anne Barstow’s Witchcraze helps make sense of the nonsense.

Witchcraze: A New History of the European Witch Hunts, by Anne Llewellyn Barstow (1994). Pandora/HarperCollins; ISBN 0-06-2500049-X.

~Jim Dugan

 

BOOK REVIEW: Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From?

07/13/2016
In Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From?, archaeologist William Dever grapples with the disconnect between biblical texts and the material remains of the ancient cultures of Canaan. Dever’s perspective is scholarly, based on a knowledge both of the contents of Hebrew scripture -- what Christians call the Old Testament -- and of what digging in the dirt can still turn up from biblical times.
Dever’s book focuses mainly on the origins of the Israelites, the Children of Israel who, according to the Bible, were enslaved in Egypt, escaped by divine intervention, and conquered the lands of the Canaanites in and around what we would call Israel today. Biblical lore emphasizes the distinctness of the Israelites, separating them ethnically and religiously from the peoples of both Egypt and Canaan. Scholars have long realized that the lines of descent must be much blurrier than the Bible seems to say. The Hebrew language is close kin of the languages of Canaan, and contact between Canaanites and Egyptians was frequent and prolonged.


Experts disagree with one another on many details, yet there is a mainstream consensus about the broad strokes. Dever’s opinions fall well within that consensus. The book of Exodus, describing the escape of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, and the book of Joshua, describing the Israelite conquest of the land of Canaan, are literature, not history. The plagues inflicted upon the Egyptians were meant to emphasize the miraculous, and attempts to find scientific explanations for them are a waste of time. The desert ecology of the Sinai peninsula, in which over a million Israelites supposedly wandered for 40 years, simply could not have sustained a sizeable population for any length of time, nor is there any archaeological evidence that such a population ever lived there. Cities of Canaan fell, but at different times and by different means rather than all at once. There is evidence of a rapid population increase right around the transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age (broadly circa 1200 BCE), but there is no evidence of a sharp cultural break. In fact, what can be unearthed seems to emphasize the cultural continuity of the later population with its predecessors. The Israelites seem to be insiders, an integrated part of the milieu of western Semitic peoples, cousins of Moabites and Phoenicians, rather than foreign invaders.

Readers interested in biblical archaeology will find the book illuminating. It is especially useful for its survey of the various attempts by archaeologists to synthesize an understanding out of difficult and sometimes conflicting sources of information. Less archaeologically minded readers will want to skim over such details, paying more attention to the last two chapters, where Dever summarizes his own perspective.

As archaeologists sometimes do, Dever here criticizes some of his colleagues. He is especially critical of Israel Finkelstein who, with Neil Silberman, wrote The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts (Free Press, 2001). I have elsewhere reviewed The Bible Unearthed, and although there are differences in detail, the books agree about more than their author’s might care to admit. Both are worth reading.

Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did they Come From? by William G. Dever. Erdmans Publishing (2003). ISBN: 0-8028-0975-8. 

~Jim Dugan

 

American Humanist Association

American Humanist Association
 What an amazing day! Thanks to all of you humanists, atheists,...
5 June 2016 | 12:23 am