SkepSun #149 (08_02_2015)

On Freethought Radio Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker tell us about a Jesus sign on city property, “In God We Trust” on patrol cars, Ten Commandments on high-school property, atheists barred from Boy Scouts, and a Tennessee freethought proclamation proposed. After talking about fish, large and small–Melville’s Moby Dick and Rupert Brooke’s Heaven–Annie Laurie and Dan interview Nebraska State Senator Ernie Chambers about his recent victory overturning capital punishment in that state.  After Freethought Radio, Gordon Bonnet tells about a woman in Duck, West Virginia supposedly with a math degree who has calculated the that the author of the book of Genesis had less than one chance in 479 million to get the order of creation events correct without divine inspiration. Say what? Then, continuing with our portraits of the giants of Freethought and radical reform from this region in the 19th Century, we’ll hear about an extraordinary woman whom you’ve likely never heard of: Matilda Joslyn Gage. Dr. Sally Roesch Wagner, the foremost authority on Gage, enlightens about this amazing woman “lost from history.” Wagner is Founding Director of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation, which in 2010 opened Gage’s home in Fayetteville, NY to the public as an innovative museum. We’ll hear her talk from last year’s Ingersoll and the Reform Imperative conference held at CFI in Amherst, New York.

Matilda Joslyn Gage (1826-1898) from Fayetteville, NY: suffragist, Native American rights activist, abolitionist, freethinker.

Matilda Joslyn Gage (1826-1898) from Fayetteville, NY: suffragist, Native American rights activist, abolitionist, freethinker.

SkepSun #147 (07_19_2015)

On Freethought Radio, after Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor report on an FFRF state/church victory removing Christian crosses from a Texas county building, they talk with Catherine Dunphy, a Catholic seminarian and chaplain who abandoned her faith and author of the new book, From Apostle to Apostate: The Story of the Clergy Project, tells us about how this new group is helping to “Save a Preacher.” This summer we’re featuring Robert Green Ingersoll and the other freethinking luminaries of the latter half of the 19th Century from these parts, all of whom are themselves featured on the Freethought Trail, a collection of 60 sites in our region  Freethought and other radical reform movements of that era.  Today we’ll hear some outtakes from actor Richard McNally’s performance in the persona of Robert Ingersoll. A Monsignor from Scranton, PA is trying to get a nation-wide exorcism to happen in the U.S.A. you know, to expell all the demons.  Because, apparently, one of these worked really well in Mexico recently, or something. Gordon Bonnet of Skeptophilia will fill us in. Finally, in hour two, why is “The West” i.e. Western Europe and North America, the dominant world power?  Stanford Professor of History Ian Morris casts doubt on old explanations and with a data-driven approach attempts to measure “social development” over history and find explanations for it. Julia Galef, host of the Rationally Speaking podcast, delves into Morris’ method and conclusions, and asks: can we make causal inferences about history?

Robert Green Ingersoll, champion of Freethought, born in the Finger Lakes

Robert Green Ingersoll, champion of Freethought, born in the Finger Lakes

SkepSun #145 (07_05_2015)

On this Independence Day weekend Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker, co-Presidents of the Freedom From Religion Foundation celebrate the Supreme Court decision recognizing gay marriage, and the July 4 birthday of American songwriter Stephen Foster. They talk with FFRF attorney Katherine Paige about the Colorado Supreme Court nixing vouchers to private religious schools. Then they interview Brady Henderson, legal director of the ACLU of Oklahoma, about their state supreme court victory this week calling for the removal of the Ten Commandments from the state capitol. After Freethought Radio, Gordon Bonnet says  we need resist our natural tendency to surround ourselves with the like-minded in a piece from the Skeptophilia blog called “Leaving the Echo Chamber.” We’ll hear an inspiring outtake from Carl Sagan’s last interview before his death with Charlie Rose, from a YouTube video entitled “A Way of Thinking.” And in hour two, a real treat, we continue our profiles of 19th Century Freethinkers featured on the West-Central New York Freethought Trail with Melinda Grube, Adjunct Lecturer in History at Cayuga Community College who spoke at the Robert Green Ingersoll and Reform Imperative Conference held at the Center For Inquiry in Amherst, New York last year.  She will, at least at the start of her talk, “channel” first-wave feminist and Freethinker Elizabeth Cady Stanton, of Seneca Falls, NY as she leads us through Stanton’s extraordinary life.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902)  of Seneca Falls, New York. Feminist,  Abolitionist, Freethinker.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) of Seneca Falls, New York. Feminist, Abolitionist, Freethinker.

SkepSun #144 (06_28_2015)

On Freethought Radio, after co-hosts Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker report FFRF victories in Arkansas and Wisconsin and a complaint about a Florida sheriff who preaches in uniform, Annie Laurie analyzes what is wrong with the pope’s recent encyclical on climate change and what is right about South Carolina’s move to remove the confederate flag. Then they talk with Rita Swan, founder and director of C.H.I.L.D—Children’s Healthcare is a Legal Duty—about her decades-long effort to fight the religious medical neglect of children after she lost her own child due to Christian Science practices. Then on the Philosophy Bites podcast: Stoicism. William B. Irvine makes the case that this Greco-Roman philosophy that promotes avoiding needless anxiety, enjoying the world around us, and  remaining optimistic in the face of setbacks is relevant to us in the 21st Century. He talks with Nigel Warburton on the Philosophy Bites podcast. We’ll hear from Gordon Bonnet of Skeptophilia who has a look at the six alien species that are fighting for control the Earth, according some people who are clearly well informed. Then continuing with our Freehtought Trail series, we’ll hear a lecture by historian Christopher Cameron from University of North Carolina, Charlotte entitled “Frederick Douglass as antislavery campaigner, feminist, and freethinker.” An escaped slave, Douglass became America’s most prominent African-American critic of slavery in the South. He spent the most productive quarter-century of his life in Rochester, New York, where he is buried.

Frederick Douglass, Antislavery campaigner, Feminist, & Freethinker.

Frederick Douglass: antislavery campaigner, feminist, & freethinker

SkepSun #143 (06_21_2015)

This week’s Freethought Radio is dedicated to the memory of FFRF’s principal founder Anne Nicol Gaylor, who died June 14 at 88. Annie Laurie and Dan will play recordings of Anne, read from the New York Times obituary/article about her and then we read two of Anne Gaylor’s articles from her 1983 book, Lead Us Not Into Penn Station. Then, where did some people get the idea that the United States military training exercise called Jade Helm 15 really a covert operation to establish martial law in Texas? Can the governor of that state and action hero movie-star Chuck Norris be serious? Skeptoid focuses its skeptical eye at a very influential conspiracy theory of very recent vintage. Then: If you you’re a skeptical blogger, you’ll probably get some interesting e-mail. Gordon Bonnet of Skeptophilia does, and he talks about some of it. Finally in hour two of the show: you know about the wine trail, the beer trail and maybe even the cheese trail here in the Finger Lakes, but do you know about the Freethought Trail? In recognition of the summer solstice, we begin Skeptical Sunday’s “Freethought Trail” summer. Over the next few weeks, we will be playing recorded presentations from last year’s two-day conference at the Center for Inquiry in Amherst, New York that was entitled “Robert Green Ingersoll and the Reform Imperative.” It highlighted Ingersoll, known as the “Great Agnostic,” as well as other freethinking social reformers of the 19th Century from our part of New York state such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Matilda Joslyn Gage whose homes are featured on what might be the most educational of all our trails here in the Finger Lakes: the Freethought Trail.

Still relevant: Dresden, NY native Robert Green Ingersoll on a sign held up by the Westboro Baptist Church at the 2012 Reason Rally in Washington, DC.

Dresden, NY native Robert Green Ingersoll on a sign held up by the Westboro Baptist Church at the 2012 Reason Rally in Washington, DC.

SkepSun #56 (09_15_2013)

On Freethought Radio we hear a rare recording of H.L. Menken, America’s most prominent journalist between the wars and they honor an international heroine of Freethought, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. We hear the ex-Muslim Somali author of Infidel and Nomad, give her acceptance speech of FFRF’s “Emperor Has No Clothes” Award.  Then we hear an extended discussion between evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson, entitled “The Poetry of Science.”


Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Infidel