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In February 2009, I organized Harrisburg’s outlet for Drinking Skeptically – a casual, social meetup for those who value science and critical thinking. Drinking Skeptically has meetups all over the country (including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh) with the numbers growing every month. Originally begun in the UK as Skeptics in the Pub, it served as a new way to get like-minded individuals together in a comfortable setting. It’s been a great success as part of what I view as a growing skeptical movement.

There is plenty of overlapping territory between skepticism and atheism. Several PA Nonbelievers members attend Drinking Skeptically – Harrisburg.

PAN members are skeptical of not only god(s) but also spirits, angels, faith healing, miracles and special creation/intelligent design. We reject the religious claims that a “sky father” affects us humans partially because no good evidence has been presented for this while considerable evidence exists to support reasonable, alternative explanations for nature. Skepticism is a method by which we can look for confirming or disconfirming evidence in other aspects of life.

I’ve been a skeptic since about age 20 when my science-prone mind, curiosity about the truth and intellectual influences poked gaping holes in the validity of claims about ghosts, Bigfoot, UFOs and lake monsters. Ultimately, this epiphany led me to discard organized religion altogether. I’m now a secular humanist – agnostic.

Skepticism and non-theism are closely aligned but not mutually inclusive. There are nontheistic people who believe in an inordinate amount of new age goofiness. And, there are great scientists and skeptics who are people of faith. Harry Houdini is an example of someone who exemplified one who can be against fraud without being against God. He was a masterful debunker of psychics and spiritualist mediums while remaining respectful of his Jewish heritage.

I would be glad to ‘drink skeptically’ with other skeptics who accept religion. I think we all should be open to this for several reasons: Not all religious people are irrational – many are downright moderate and value science. We shouldn’t exclude via stereotype since we don’t like it when people do that to us. Exchange of ideas is good for everyone. Most importantly, we need allies to fight against teaching nonsense in schools, fraudulent health therapies, scams and magical thinking. If people wish to compartmentalize their faith in a separate area of the brain than the one that criticizes astrology, alien abductions and homeopathy, we can stand on some common ground. So, when you join us for Drinking Skeptically, don’t assume the entire group is of nonbelievers. It may be a diverse crowd in attendance enjoying some common doubt.

To pass on ideas or to get info on Drinking Skeptically events email idoubtit00(at)gmail.com (those are double zeros in the address) or visit the Facebook page for Drinking Skeptically – Harrisburg.

*This was originally published on the PA Nonbelievers blog and in PANViews.

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