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May 18 15

Event: 2nd June – Ash Pryce – How To Talk To The Dead

by Dave Powell

deadash

This interactive look at a history of talking to the dead will feature an array of magical treats including levitating tables, ectoplasm manifestation and spirit communication.

Part magic show, part comedy, part rational inquiry this fun show has regularly packed venues at Edinburgh Fringes.

Ash Pryce promises Ouija Boards, Spirit Slates, Spirit Communication, Stopped Pulses, Spewing ectoplasm … and more.

Ash Pryce is a performer and director based in Scotland. He has written and staged several skeptically themed shows looking at myths & legends, ghosts, psychics and mediumship as well as producing full plays ranging from Faustus to more contemporary original shows in Edinburgh. He is the founder of Edinburgh Skeptics, the newly started History in the Pub Edinburgh, and runs what is believed to be the worlds first skeptical ghost tour every Fringe. He lives just outside of Edinburgh with his three Degus, one of which holds a grudge against him.

“Ash Pryce is a naturally funny guy and won’t allow his audience to be bored” “Very entertaining” – edfringereview“

Please note. This is a skeptically themed show and not intended as an actual demonstration of mediumship or psychic abilities”

Tuesday 2nd June

Sunflower Bar – Belfast

Doors at 7:30pm

Tickets £5 – Available at the link below.

 

Jan 15 15

Event : 24th Feb – Michael Marshall at the NI Science Festival

by Dave Powell
As part of the NI Science Festival Belfast Skeptics are proud to present Michael Marshall.

Lifting The Lid: Ongoing adventures in the world of pseudoscience

NI Science FestivalMichaelMarshall

It’s easy to think of pseudoscience existing in a glass case at a museum – something to be examined and critiqued from a safe distance, but not something to touch and to play with. Using examples taken from his own personal experiences in skepticism, Michael Marshall will show what happens when you begin to crack the surface of the pseudosciences that surround us – revealing the surprising, sometimes-shocking and often-comic adventures that lie beneath.

Michael Marshall is the Project Director of the Good Thinking Society and the Vice President of the Merseyside Skeptics Society. He regularly speaks with proponents of pseudoscience for the Be Reasonable podcast. His work has seen him organising international homeopathy protests and co-founding the popularQED conference. He has written for the Guardian, The Times and New Statesman.

Date : 24th February 2015

Time: 8pm

Venue: Sunflower Bar (map)

Tickets: £5  Available at the link below

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Jan 8 15

Vigil “Je suis Charlie”

by Dave Powell

Belfast shows support for the victims of the Paris shooting. Whilst some of the cartoons may be of dubious taste, and in my view not a particularly worthwhile piece of satire, nobody deserves to die for expressing their views. To quote James O’Malley (@psythor)

Ultimately every other right – whether it is to “bear arms”, own property or have religious beliefs of our choosing (and so on) stem from the right to speak freely, and express new ideas. Which is why, on balance, free speech deserves our priority over everything else.

Read his full piece here.

Chris Steadman also has an interesting piece here where he explores the idea that you don’t have to support Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons to support free expression.

Apr 7 14

Video of March Event – The New Age and Native America

by Dave Powell

Feb 27 14

March Event – The New Age and Native America – The dissent of spirituality at Hopi

by Dave Powell

This months talk is by Dr Nick McCaffrey

Dr Nick McCaffrey will look at the relationship between Native American religiosity and the appropriative aspect of New Age spirituality. Drawing upon his own anthropological research at Hopi he will present examples of the ways in which indigenous culture has been idolized by contemporary spiritual seekers, and explore the reasons why the majority of Hopis, like many other contemporary Native American communities, are opposed to the appropriation and commodification of their culture.

Where : Sunflower Bar Belfast

When: Monday March 3rd

What Time: Doors at 8pm Talk starts at 8.30pm

Dec 2 13

The Sunday Assembly Belfast (On a Monday)

by Dave Powell

Today is the inaugural meeting of The Sunday Assembly in Belfast (Yes I know it’s a Monday). The Sunday Assembly is often referred to as an “AtheistChurch” or “Godless Congregation” much to the chagrin of some fellow non-believers who seem reluctant to acknowledge anything remotely positive about the idea of a church regardless of what is being discussed (or preached) inside. The fear is that if people attend “AtheistChurch” then this will give ammunition to Theists who want to paint Atheism as a religion or a competing belief system. It should be made very clear that Atheism is not a belief system, it is a specific answer to a specific question : Does God exist ? There is no dogma or commandments to adhere to and no obligation to get up early on a Sunday morning. And it could be argued that if you are looking for an alternative world view then humanism already ticks that box. So why the need for The Sunday Assembly? Yes, there may be issues in the way it presents Atheism but the idea of community and getting together with people who share common values with you shouldn’t be under valued. We are social creatures and just because we have a problem with religion doesn’t mean we shouldn’t acknowledge any of the positive aspects, and that is what I think The Sunday Assembly is trying to do with its goals to celebrate life and help others. I had the pleasure of listening to Chris Steadman give his “Faithiest” talk at the black box a few weeks back and he believes we should be involved in multi-faith initiatives when it involves subjects of mutual concern to believers and non-believers alike, such as global poverty. If people value being part of a community why would we want to take that away from them? Acknowledging that one is a an Atheist can be very liberating for people but it can also leave them distanced from close knit church communities and all the social support that comes with that, so if people see worth in these projects who are we to say that there is none? I for one will be attending and singing from the same hymn sheet, especially as that hymn is likely to be don’t stop me now by Queen.

Jul 23 13

July Event — Matthew Collins, 24th July, Sunflower Bar

by Phil O'Kane

Our speaker this month will be Matthew Collins. Matthew may be familiar to some of you as the resident geek on BBC Northern Ireland’s Great Unanswered Questions, where he inhabits the famous wicker chair with his trusty lap-top interjecting pearls of wisdom from the world wide web. Matthew is also a stand up and we are very lucky to see him preview some of the material he will be performing at this years’ Edinburgh Festival. An academic with a love of science, puzzles, beards, big words and the game of thrones. I think you’ll agree a perfect match for an audience of skeptics.

Put the date in your calendar:
Facebook Event
Wed 24th July
Sunflower Bar (65 Union Street, Belfast) [map]
8.00pm

Jul 5 13

Event – Matthew Collins – Puzzled

by Dave Powell

The Sunflower Bar (Map)

Wednesday 24th August 2013

8pm

Facebook event page

Our speaker for this month will be Matthew Collins.

matthewcollins

Matthew may be familiar to some of you as the resident geek on BBC Northern Ireland’s Great Unanswered Questions, where he inhabits the famous wicker chair with his trusty lap-top interjecting pearls of wisdom from the world wide web.

Matthew is also a stand up and we are very lucky to see him preview some of the material he will be performing at this years’ Edinburgh Festival. An academic with a love of science, puzzles, beards, big words and the game of thrones. I think you’ll agree a perfect match for an audience of skeptics.

Mar 27 13

Social Media Activism

by Phil O'Kane

There’s no simple answer to this quandry: does liking or sharing a status or image on Facebook do anything for the cause?

It’s nothing like Kony 2012, the viral campaign published in March 2012 by American charity ‘Invisible Children’, but how many people believe they are making a difference by sharing a video online?

Yesterday the Human Rights Campaign shared an image which quickly went viral on Facebook and Twitter:

The image, which is in support of marriage equality, has been spread through Facebook shares, and by people and organisations making it — and variations — their profile picture/avatar.

While it’s important to support causes, it is unlikely that such ‘online activism’ will scare governments into taking any action one way or another.

We at Belfast Skeptics support LGBT rights and marriage equality — we don’t need to change our avatar for a day to show that. We support many issues and causes. What about all the other important issues?

However, Solidarity is important. Knowing that friends, people you respect — even brands — support a cause is important.

While marriage equality is going to be rolled out in England, Wales and Scotland in the next few months, it is unlikely to happen in Northern Ireland any time soon. We’ll be trailing behind as usual. And so much more needs to be done than simply ‘armchair slacktivism.’

Raising awareness is great.
But let’s do more than simply change our avatar for a day.

Mar 20 13

A call for atheist activism in Northern Ireland for women’s rights.

by DavidC

On Tuesday 12th March a proposed amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill, described as ‘entirely inappropriate’, ‘tacked on’ and ‘ill-thought out’, fell when it failed to gain cross-party support. This amendment was pushed by the unlikely partnership of the DUP and SDLP, and while I wouldn’t usually go out of my way to attack such surprising unity, in this case I and many others felt we had to. This amendment aimed to further curtail the rights of women in Northern Ireland by making abortion illegal outside of NHS premises.

Now what does this have to do with atheism, agnosticism, scepticism, secularism, etc.? At first it would seem not a lot as the vast majority of labels which the irreligious community tend to use describe only that, we lack a belief in the existence of deities. In many cases (though not all and it is in no way part of the definition) this extends to lacking a religion or any belief in the supernatural, and embracing the scientific method, as well as the vast majority of scientific knowledge. This is where I find the link.

In watching the debate I was appalled at the utter disregard many of the MLAs had for scientific understanding, not to mention their inability to grasp basic human biology. At one point an SDLP MLA was corrected on his spewing of nonsense, had it broken down and explained for him; his response, “Ah, well I don’t accept that.” That was seen as a win for the SDLP MLA. At various points MLAs even broke out into Christian sermons, quoting the bible and calling each other’s religiosity into question as a way to win an argument.

Even if we just look at this rejection and wilful ignorance of logical reasoning and evidence, there are grounds enough for sceptics (whether they prefer the C or the K) to be annoyed by this and pursue a course of activism. Likewise, secularists should be cringing and banging their heads upon tables in unison at the idea of not only religious groups having power over legislation, but that our political leaders personally and willingly bring it into this debate; turning a medical matter which they want to twist into a criminal one, somehow into a holy crusade.

Then I suppose the question remains, why call on the wider atheist community (by which I mean ‘a-theist’, lack of a belief in the existence of deities) to become involved? One argument I have heard against this is that anti-choice, so called ‘pro-life’, atheists do exist and that the atheist community must embrace them as well, unless we want to drive them away and reduce our numbers. Well likewise I’m sure that there are racist, homophobic and more widely sexist atheists too, but most atheist groups will have standards enough to say ‘change or leave’.

What I am suggesting is not a redefining of the word ‘atheist’, the religious do that enough for us, but rather that we use our numbers to affect positive change which would seem to fit the ideals of secularism and scepticism. If anything, this positive activism would attract more people and allow them to come out of the atheist closet than it would drive away. Plus, they’d likely be individuals you would rather spend time with over the bigots. If you want to see an example of a movement like this I’d suggest Atheism Plus.

I’d like to ask all atheist groups, no matter their focus, to support women in this effort to extend free, safe and legal abortion to Northern Ireland (I’d also love to see those in the south get involved as well). In doing so you’d be standing alongside the vast majority of medical and scientific evidence, that the limit should be set at 24 weeks and that women do not need to be ‘protected’, but should instead be trusted with their own bodies. I’m sure this argument could be extended to other causes as well and I warmly welcome that.

 

David Campbell