On Thursday 25th February 2010 we held the second Freethinkers’ Night at 4 Points Bar and Restaurant at Centenary Park, Kampala. This time around we had twice the number we had from the previous event. Thanks to good word of mouth, a lot more people are finding out about Freethinkers’ Night. There were 20 attendees in total. A number of the attendees were actually believers.
The topic this month was “Miracle Healing – Fact or Fiction?”
We began the evening with a presentation of a documentary called “A Question of Miracles”, after which a debate kicked off on whether we could rely on testimonies of people that claimed they had been miraculously healed.
Interestingly, one of the invited guests that evening was Pastor Solomon Male, who, while a Christian, is a ‘skeptic’ of miracle healing claims, particularly those promoted by the mushrooming Pentecostal churches around the country. He shared his experience about how he began to view miracle healing claims with scepticism while he was under the wing of a well-known big-name Kampala pastor. He discovered that many church leaders actually fabricate miracle stories by bribing people to lie. In his many years as a pastor he has found that all of the claims he has encountered and has had a chance to investigate have been proven to be fraudulent. He was familiar with the placebo effect, and had good knowledge of psychosomatic illnesses, and how most of the miracle claims were explainable by the existence of such phenomena. He argued that ‘God’ heals people through medicine, and therefore Christians should be urged not to do away with it in favour of promises of miracles from quack miracle workers. He ended his speech with an appeal to the non-believers of Freethought Kampala to reconsider ‘God’ and Jesus Christ.
Pastor Male explaining how many pastors of born-again churches manipulate their flock
Though that night none of us felt compelled to start believing in ‘God’, we gave Pastor Male a standing ovation for what was an extremely valuable contribution to the success of the evening. We may disagree about the existence of a ‘God’, but we share a common love for humanity, and do not want to see vulnerable people exploited by shady religious figures. On that – we are on exactly the same page. His insights into the workings of these ‘miracle’ ministries was extremely beneficial to our understanding of a growing problem in Uganda. We were also impressed that throughout his speech Pastor Male never tried to belittle us non-believers, or patronise us (that honour was to be reserved for a later attendee who will be introduced in a moment). We wished all pastors were as cool as him.
We were later joined by Joseph Kabuleta, a sports writer with the New Vision, who came with guns blazing – ready to defend the Christian faith, with no kind words for atheists. He carried on for a while about how he had personally witnessed some form of miracle (regarding his formerly asthmatic brother). Neither we the non-believers, nor Pastor Male, were convinced that Joseph’s brother’s healing was miraculous, given a whole range of possible natural explanations that could account for it. Then we got into an argument about the existence of souls..and on and on it went…
We really had a good time..
..and we met many interesting people!
The next Freethinkers’ Night will be on Thursday March 25th 2010. The topic will be announced in due course. Thanks to all who came and made February’s Freethinkers’ Night a success. Extra special thanks go to the following Freethought Kampala crew members:
- Phillip for helping us with a projector and a screen
- Michael for taking the pictures
- Ritah and Hassan