17 September 2014

Uberlândia Digital Meetup to Begin in Two Weeks

In New York I was constantly going to meetups, some even held at Meetup's headquarters. That was a great part of working in the big city that I've missed since moving to Uberlândia. Back in January of this year I had the pleasure of joining up with an English Speaker's group that, unfortunately, has gone on hiatus for the past few months.

Just a couple of months ago I received an offer to start a group on Meetup for free, as that company is looking to expand in the Brazilian market. Since what I miss most are professional tech meetups, I decided to start one.

Uberlândia Digital is scheduled to meet for the first time on Saturday, 4 October 2014 at 7pm, at Cafeteria VoZZuca located at Praça Rui Barbosa, 9, Centro. Though I write this post in English, the meetup will be conducted in Portuguese. All who work in or are simply interested in technology are welcome to attend. If RSVPs get out of hand I'll have to find a larger venue. Food and drink will not be served, though of course it can be ordered.

Be sure to click here to RSVP!

16 September 2014

The Shepherd's Staff in Brazilian Elections

As I mentioned yesterday, it's election season in Brazil. Unlike in the United States, it's quite common and even legal here for churches to endorse candidates. This first came to my attention in 2002, when I was a missionary in this country. A man I was studying the Bible with told me that his church, part of the Foursquare Gospel denomination, was going to have a big city-wide worship service in which the church's preferred candidates would be presented. It seemed impossible to me, until he showed me the flyer advertising the event. In fact, this church endorsement of candidates has come to be known as "voto de cajado" (shepherd staff vote), referring to the role of pastors as "shepherds" and their guidance being provided to lead the sheep into voting the "right way."

Brazil is a deeply religious, even superstitious country. Historically the majority has been at least nominally Roman Catholic, although African-based and Spiritist religions also have a long history in this nation. More recently, in the past few decades, evangelicalism and Pentecostalism have grown explosively, reaching perhaps 25% of the population in adherents. In this context, the influence of religion in politics has the potential of outstripping anything we've seen in the United States.

Interestingly, the Brazilian Association of Atheists and Agnostics (ATEA) has been putting up billboards asking people to vote not from faith, but through reason. Although it will definitely take more than a few signs to change an entire culture, it's a start.

To be clear, my problem isn't with people having a faith or even referencing their faith in making decisions, including those regarding voting. My complaint is against impressionable people simply doing as their religious leaders tell them, rather than thinking for themselves. Anyone who has read the Gospels would know Jesus would likely say as much.

That said, enjoy the photos below. Note that the translations and commentary are not mine.

15 September 2014

Election Season in Brazil

Campaign signs sprout up like mushrooms throughout the city.
It's political campaign season here in Brazil. When I lived here last time, from 2001 to 2003, the rules around how campaigns could be run were slightly less restrictive than now. At that time it was still permitted to hold campaign shows that were like music concerts, with gifts like t-shirts being handed out to attendees. People were also paid to allow the out wall of their house be painted with political messages in support of candidates and parties. These days, both of those practices and a number of others are forbidden by the country's election tribunal.

One thing that hasn't changed is the use of allotted TV time to get the message out. Here in Brazil, registered parties are granted an amount of airtime on TV and radio that is proportional to the number of votes they received in the last election. Some candidates have relatively long campaign programs, while others can barely get their name out before the time is up.

Of particular annoyance to me are the cars that drive around with recorded messages blasting out over loudspeakers. They are typically songs that include the candidate's number, to be used on election day.

Candidates do everything they can think of within the law to get attention, and this extends to the name they use to self-identify. They are permitted to use a fictitious name in propaganda, and some take this privilege to the extreme. As examples:


That's right. Osama Bin Laden, Jesus and Barack Obama are all candidates in various races around the country. Yes, it's perfectly legal, so far, to do so. In fact, it's practically an honored tradition.

2014 isn't turning out to be the most productive year for Brazil, and in fact it's reportedly entered a recession, so the elections are just one more distraction. Even so, it's good to see democracy finding its way forward in a country that has suffered under military dictators and autocratic rules since its founding over 500 years ago (Brazilians tend to count from when Europeans first arrived, as opposed to the U.S. custom of counting from the Declaration of Independence).

As for me, I'll just be glad when the elections are done and I don't have to hear some candidate's annoying jingle blaring in the street every 15 minutes.

See Also:
Barack Obama of Brazil Runs for Congress (NY Daily News)
What Keeps Brazil Back

14 September 2014

Non-Theistic Congregation in Louisiana Struggles for a Meeting Place

Note: Click here for an update.

In recent months I've blogged several times about non-theistic church-like groups. One that I had not yet mentioned in Community Mission Chapel, a group with a name that you might easily mistake for Christian. In reality, it's a humanist gathering that welcomes everyone without reference to a deity or religious faith. It meets in Louisiana, and since it's so deep in the U.S. Bible Belt you might think they'd encounter problems. Well, they have.

This past Sunday Community Mission Chapel was supposed to meet, but after two venues backed out, they scrambled to get into Sulpher High School. Unfortunately, though they thought the reservation was complete, it turns out that since they didn't start the process 10 days prior, they couldn't have the space. There seems to be more than red tape to this matter, however, as I've seen indications online that local 'believers' took steps to complicate matters for the humanists.

The group was not able to meet, and had to call off the event the night before. They will try again next month, and whether local Christians will be more Christ-like this time around remains to be seen.

See Also:
'Church' Options for Non-Theists