James Onen

Tuesday, October 11 2011 at 7:00PM

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James Onen

What's the talk about?

**--Please note that this event is being held at a venue in Edinburgh--**

An event held in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh Humanist Society (www.facebook.com/EdUniHumanists)

Irrational beliefs – such as the acceptance of the power of witchcraft – are pervasive across the African continent, and are not restricted only to peasants and the uneducated. In fact, nearly all of the educated African elite believe in the efficacy of witchcraft. It is hard to believe that given all the advancements in medicine and science in the last 500 years, most Ugandans (and indeed most Africans) today still attribute their misfortune and sickness to evil spirits and demons, courtesy of witchcraft. These beliefs benefit from the tacit support of mainstream religions (particularly the fast growing ‘charismatic’ forms of Christianity) which, while denouncing witchcraft as evil, fully endorse the view that it is efficacious. In their view witchcraft is seen as evidence of ‘Satan’ at work. Mainstream religions are also guilty of promoting a belief system that leads to:

Pastors conning thousands of believers by stage-managing fake miracles

Many HIV positive believers dying because they were abandoning ARVs based on unsubstantiated miracle testimonies

Making people believe that they have been bewitched or are victims of ‘generational curses’

The lack of a rational voice in this public conversation about what are spiritual matters prompted a number of local rationalists to come together and form Freethought Kampala, a club that seeks to promote reason, logic, science and critical thinking in a highly superstitious society. We host monthly meetings, and have many of our views published in the mainstream newspapers to be read by tens of thousands of Ugandans. We also have a strong online presence via a blog and Facebook page.

As a founding member of Freethought Kampala, James will give an insight into the experience of being a skeptic in a deeply superstitious society, including their fight against witchcraft in Uganda, the phenomenal rise of charismatic forms of Christianity in Uganda and its impact on belief in the efficacy of witchcraft, the politicisation of Religion, Spirituality, and mass conformity, the rise of skepticism in Uganda, challenges for skepticism in Uganda and the way forward from here.

**--Please note that this event is being held at a venue in Edinburgh--**