Some time back, I was an enthusiastic member of the local skeptics' meetup.  It was a chaotic, free form get together where people talked about, just about anything.  People got to know each other, discussed their experiences, and I felt a sense of community.

About a year ago, the meetup changed.  There was movement toward a more formal meeting, where people sat around one table and each person spoke in turn.  That change was largely instigated by one or two outspoken members who came to dominate the meetup.  When there were "side conversations", people were told to stop talking, it was too hard to hear the important people talk.  It was not said, specifically, that some people were more important than others.  Rather, some people were told to be quiet so others with "something to say" could be heard.

 

There are so many great conversations and interesting, kind, thoughtful, caring, intelligent, insightful, experienced people on Nexus.  Maybe what I sought was not monitored topic discussion, but rather flesh and blood, face to face, fellowship.  The fellowship here on Nexus means the world to me.  But it's still nice to explore the in-person aspect.  Shake someone's hand, see their expression, personal nuances that add additional feelings to being alive.  Make me know I'm not the only person in town who thinks this way.  And feel a sense of contribution to the local community.

 

I haven't been to the local skeptics meetup for about a year.  I attended a meetup yesterday.

 

It was still, just what I didn't care for - roughly 20 people sitting around a table, each speaking in turn.  Impossible to have a real conversation.  The moderator would ask questions that, I guess, were intended to illuminate certain topics. 

 

A lot of time was spent discussing agnosticism vs. atheism.  There were 3 self-avowed agnostics.  The moderator said, he was an agnostic because he does not have the arrogance to say if there is a god or not.   A pretty arrogant statement, I thought, but I didn't say anything.  A lot of that discussion went into the law of conservation of energy, with several people stating that it proves life after death  They regard their consciousness as a form of energy, so cannot be destroyed by death.  I wanted to say "compost" but did not. 

 

Another member was also convinced, his house was infested with poltergeists. The "spirits" moved pictures of the previous owner out of a box, and put them on the wall.  The previous owner was a bad guy with a lot of negative energy.  I wondered if the speaker was being spoofed, but did not say anything. Another member also noted experiences with poltergeists.  Their house was filled with the energies of prior inhabitants. 

 

There was talk about space aliens, and how humans may be different from other animals due to space alien influences, and religions may be vestiges of our confusing aliens with gods.  Someone said humans are special because we have self awareness, and animals do not.  There was no discussion of what self awareness is, why is it special, how we know other animals are or are not self aware, and whether all humans are self aware.  No skepticism.  I did speak up there and ask, how do you know that? and was pretty much brushed aside.

 

I left after about an hour.  This did not feel like fellowship or community.  It felt like a sunday-school composed of credulous, not-so-critical-thinking, so-called skeptics.   It was flesh-and-blood, but I didn't enjoy it.  I don't mean to criticize the folks who attended.  But the format and moderation left me feeling like this was clearly not for me. 

 

Some day I hope to wander around the country and meet more of the folks, who I meet here.  That will be the flesh-and-blood part.  I know, a gathering of the nonreligious can not be expected to meet my personal needs.   Just because other people self-identify as skeptics, does not mean they are. 

 

In a world containing billions of people, I feel very fortunate to find the folks on Nexus, diverse, likable, and interesting.  Thank Gore for the information superhighway, to find this needle in the human haystack.  No intention to attend another such meetup in my community.

 

(Illustration source Commons.wikimedia.org.  Gustav Doré English Bible, 1866.  They do not illustrate actual events or members at the Skeptic's meetup).

 

 

Views: 143

Tags: CFI, Gustav Doré, agnostic, atheist, bible illlustration, local, meetup, skepticism, sunday school for akeptics

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Comment by Jason Spicer on February 3, 2014 at 6:49pm

Yeah, we should get together. I'm in between jobs at the moment. I like to think of myself as independently poor.

Comment by Sentient Biped on February 3, 2014 at 6:27pm
Jason I miss you and Judith and the rest of your clan! I think that is what's missing! Didnt realize that was your ex brother in law.

Ah but you have to work. I was hoping you were independently rich. That would help a lot.
Comment by Jason Spicer on February 3, 2014 at 5:06pm

Sorry about my ex-brother-in-law, Daniel. I've explained to him that poltergeists are an argument from ignorance (and what that means), but he's convinced he experienced ghosts, even though I offered a couple of mundane possibilities off the top of my head. New age woo (and free market fundamentalism) is the curse of the atheist community. I wouldn't expect it at a skeptics' meetup, though.

I haven't gone to one of these meetups since about the time you stopped. Yes, you are actually that influential. OK, really I just got sucked into my job and never had the energy to go. Too bad it turned into a Roberts Rules of Order debating society. I also think there is value in just regular social gatherings with fellow atheists/skeptics.

Comment by Luara on February 3, 2014 at 9:54am

I live in a college town, people at a skeptics meetup would at least be better than that. 

conservation of energy, with several people stating that it proves life after death  They regard their consciousness as a form of energy, so cannot be destroyed by death.

The attribute in question is more like entropy, not energy.  Consciousness is a kind of organization.  And there's no law of conservation of entropy. 

So you might debunk such a claim by asking, if your room was tidy and it becomes messy, does something else magically become tidy, by conservation of tidiness? 

Comment by Sentient Biped on February 3, 2014 at 9:01am
When this meetup started it was much more free form. Interesting people and conversations, and no woo woo that I could see. Those people seem to be gone now. I hope other meetups in ofher places go better! But Not for me.....
Comment by Fran Stein on February 3, 2014 at 8:26am

Aw gee, and here I thought those people did interesting things at meet-ups. Lol

Comment by Glen Rosenberg on February 3, 2014 at 7:37am

Sentient Biped, well written and mysentiments in alignment with yours...

Comment by Michael Penn on February 3, 2014 at 6:38am

Good for you, Daniel. I would have gotten away from them also. A poultry ghost. Why would a ghost want to steal chickens?

Comment by Sentient Biped on February 2, 2014 at 12:52pm

I went to the meetup.com site and deleted my account.  I won't be back, and no use getting more spam.

Future, the poltergeist thing sort of floored me.  I was embarrassed for anyone who might be there for the first time.  And the discussion that death of the soul violates the 1st law of thermodynamics.  I thought, what?  really?  and....  well, not for me.

Comment by Future on February 2, 2014 at 12:45pm
When I think of 'skeptic', I think the opposite of someone who believes in poltergeists. Sounds like a confused crowd if you ask me. I think you're better and wiser than that. Good choice to leave them.

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