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Yesterday marked two years since launching the Freethought Kampala blog!

second anniversaryThe very first blog post was published on January 30th 2010. Since then, there have been 222 posts published (not including this one).

As of this writing, the blog has attracted 97,953 hits.

The following were the most read posts over the last 12 months:

Other highlights:

Let’s see what 2012 has in store for Freethought activism in Uganda.

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Last Sunday, the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Henry Luke Orombi, wrote an article in the Monitor called Uganda needs Jesus to end corruption.

The article deviates from the familiar defeatist attitude many religious leaders in Uganda have about corruption, where they urge Ugandans to rely on ‘God’ to save them from corruption, since, in their minds, all other approaches seem to be offering no solution because ‘Satan’ probably has his hand in it. The Archbishop instead appears to call for religious introspection:

The best our government can do – the IGG, the Anti-Corruption Court, laws passed by Parliament and enforced by our police and other agencies – is to give us moral and civil speed governors, external rules that are followed by us only because the police force or parliamentary investigative committees have been expanded to put fear into our hearts and ensure our compliance and proper behavior.

But, God said through the Prophet Jeremiah in the Old Testament, “The time is coming when I will make a new covenant…It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers….This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel…I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.”

In other words, my fellow Ugandans, we must acknowledge that the problem beneath our rampant corruption, witchcraft, child sacrifice, domestic violence, and immorality is the problem of a sinful human heart.

Only Jesus, whose laws of love are written on our hearts because he lives in our hearts, can solve this problem Only acknowledging our human problem of a corrupt heart will lead us to the ultimate and true solution to our problems – Jesus – because his name still means “he will save people from their sins.”

I guess what he’s trying to do here is to appeal to Christians to clean up their act by recognizing that they are ‘sinners’. Corruption is ‘sin’. So by accepting Jesus and turning away from such ‘sin’, then everything will be okay and there will be no more corruption.

Of course this is a rather simplistic approach to dealing with the problem of corruption in Uganda – one that does not take into account the cultural and economic realities on the ground (vis-à-vis our all-too-rapid transition from a historically traditional African society to a pseudo-democracy) that give rise to the conditions that make nepotism and patronage inevitable.

As for witchcraft, the Church is doing a rather fantastic job of promoting, and reinforcing extant cultural beliefs about its efficacy, isn’t it? With magical thinking as the driving force of Christian theology (and more so among the charismatics/born-agains), the church is very much complicit in validating the irrationality that is witchcraft in this country.

Anyway, this post isn’t intended as a point by point critique of Orombi’s article, but rather to bring attention to the fact that Peter Kisirinya, chairman of the Uganda Humanist Association, wrote a response that was published three days later, also in the Monitor, titled: Uganda is a Christian-dominated nation but why the corruption?:

The Archbishop suggests that belief in Jesus as Saviour is the only important thing. But evidence shoes that this belief alone is neither necessary nor sufficient to improve our society. The Archbishop says of Jesus that “he will save people from their sins”. But we are the ones who must save ourselves. If we pray, that is fine, but we must also act. If we believe, that is okay, but we must also be good. If we worship Jesus, fair enough, but we must also respect our fellow humans beings regardless of their religious beliefs.

Anyone can say they believe in any religion, but what matters is their personal integrity. Do they respect what is fair and just? Do they want to empathise and understand other people? Do they contribute positively to society? The world is learning that these are the important questions.

Whether we happen to believe in the divinity of an ancient Nazarene preacher is one thing and it is easy to say that you do. But can you truthfully answer “yes” to these questions? Would the people that know you answer “yes” on your behalf? It is not our faith which make us, it is our values and actions – and that is what Christmas is really about.

I have frequently been asked about the Uganda Humanist Association. I must confess that at this juncture there is not a lot that I know about them. They have a cool website – check it out.

christopher hitchens Author Christopher Hitchens dies after battle with cancer.

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In early October 2011, I engaged in a tour of the UK and Ireland to give talks on the topic: The Rise of Skepticism in Uganda.

The talk I gave in London for the British Humanist Association (mp3 here) was reviewed in The Guardian, by Matthew Cresswell, who was among those in attendance.

Atheist Ugandan works his magic on British humanists He wrote:

An atheist talkshow host and 12 "like-minded people" are attempting to tackle superstition, mysticism and witchcraft in Uganda. James "Fat Boy" Onen is an on-air presenter for Sanyu FM and a co-founder of Freethought Kampala. Through Facebook campaigns, newspaper articles and regular monthly meetings, Onen believes Freethought Kampala is providing the only rational platform for tackling superistition in Uganda.

This month, Onen has been speaking at events around the UK after being invited by the British Humanist Association (BHA). Addressing small gatherings, he said everyday Ugandans were over-reliant on a "mixed bag" of belief in black magic and Pentecostal Christianity.

Cresswell also talked to a researcher called Joanna Sadgrove, who expressed her doubts about my portrayal of religion in Uganda:

Commenting on the talks, Joanna Sadgrove, a specialist in African Christianity who has researched in Uganda for 15 years, said Onen did not capture the diversity of expression of religion in Africa. "There are religious leaders who capitalise on people who don’t have control over their lives. There are also Christians who are doing good works in Ugandan society and being part of a community of faith."

I wish to respond to Joanna Sadgrove’s comments.

Read the rest of this entry »

Lewes Skeptics

It’s my final talk in the UK.

Courtesy of Lewes Skeptics in the Pub, I will deliver a talk tonight at Lewes Constitutional Club on 139 High Street in Lewes, East Essex.

Starting time is 8.00pm

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Tonight’s talk is being hosted by the British Humanist Association at the Camden Head, 100 Camden High Street, London. Starting time is 6:30pm.

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University of Edinburgh Humanist SocietyGlasgow Skeptics

Just finished the talk at Edinburgh University, Scotland, courtesy of the University of Edinburgh Humanist Society in conjunction with Glasgow Skeptics.

Thanks to Ian for putting it together.

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I arrived safely in London yesterday, and travelled by bus to Cardiff, Wales.SDC11823Tonight will be the first of my talks, with Cardiff Skeptics in the Pub at The Promised Land, 4 Windsor Place, Cardiff, at 7:30PM.

This will be followed by talks in Dublin, Belfast, Edinburgh, London, and Lewes.

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