Team Highlights

Kiva Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and the Non-Religious

Friend Feed

Created by Edz


Created by Jim

Team Statistics

Created by Daniel R.

Kiva MFI Checker (for Firefox)
Created by Chris Means
Chrome version by Radu
Installation Instructions

*NEW* Comprehensive list of MFIs
Each MFI given a secular and social rating.

New to the team?
Read the Welcome to
the Team
Loan-A-Thon Dates:
January 1+2 (New Years)
April 1+2 (April Fools)
July 1+2 (near Muhammad Yunus' birthday and many national sovereignty celebrations)
October 31+November 1 (Halloween)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

New Years 2010 Loan-A-Thon

Our News Years 2010 Loan-A-Thon is coming up soon. Last year we had a very exciting Loan-A-Thon because Team Obama challenged us to a time-shifted Loan-A-Thon. We lent at New Years and they lent during Obama's inauguration.

This years Loan-A-Thon will take place during the 48 hours of December 31 to January 1st Pacific Time (although we are flexible since everyone is in different time zones). To participate in the Loan-A-Thon all you have to do is make a loan (preferably with new money you've added to Kiva specifically for the Loan-A-Thon) during the specified time frame and, if you like, post to the team message board to let everyone know you've participated.

Some team members make pledges in advance for how much new money they will be lending during the Loan-A-Thon to encourage others to follow their lead.

On another note, I think we should set our 2010 year-end lending goal as $3 million dollars in total loans lent.


Saturday, October 31, 2009

2nd Annual Halloween Loan-A-Thon

Our Halloween Loan-A-Thon has already started, so come and join the fun. This is our 2nd Annual Halloween Loan-A-Thon and and since last years Halloween Loan-A-Thon was our first ever Loan-A-Thon (suggested by team member Shaun/Chelsea) it makes celebrating this one extra special.

During Loan-A-Thons our members try to stretch themselves a bit beyond what they would normally loan and add some new money into the Kiva system. We cheer each other on and join in on the lively discussions on our team board.

For this Loan-A-Thon we are also engaging in another good deed for Kiva. We are participating in the America's Giving Challenge on Facebook. Read some background information on this challenge from Kiva.

Challenge Details:
WHEN: Halloween Loan-A-Thon [between 3pm October 31st and 3pm November 1st EASTERN time]
WHO: Our team members and Loan-A-Thon participants
WHAT: Donate $10 to Kiva using thru Facebook Causes:
WHY: Help Kiva win a daily prize and help give a big boost to the Overall challenge and help Kiva win $50,000.

By Peter

Thursday, October 8, 2009

PRESS RELEASE: Atheists Lead The Movement To End Poverty

I have written a press release to announce our team's accomplishment of lending $1 million:


Contact: your name here
Tel: your telephone # here
Email: your email here

Atheists Lead The Movement To End Poverty

In just over one year the community of Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and the Non-Religious (AASFSHNR) at have raised $1 million (USD) in interest-free loans to help end poverty. is a US non-profit organization that connects lenders with borrowers, from around the globe, who need a micro-finance loan. Peter Kroll, the AASFSHNR community team leader, created the community on August 28th, 2008 with the ambition to organize those who share his world view that "people should care about reducing the suffering of other human beings because we acknowledge the evolutionary fact that we are all one human family."

Kiva's co-founder Matt Flannery has put out his call that "now is a time for the world's privileged to demonstrate to the world's poor just how compassionate and resilient we are." The AASFSHNR community has responded, as well as many other communities and individuals. More than four years after Kiva's founding almost $100 million has been lent worldwide.

Micro-finance is the brain-child of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mohammad Yunus. Yunus realized decades ago, on a visit to a poor village in his country of Bangladesh, that the local people were caught in an endless cycle of debt caused by loan-sharks. He realized what a difference it would make by "removing the barriers faced by the poor so that they can unleash their creativity and intelligence in the service of humanity."

I would like to recruit volunteers from each major city to email or fax the press release above with your personal contact information to your local newspaper or tv outlet. I've received advice that it's good to have a local representative as most news stories are told with a local angle.

Remember, if the media contacts you, you are representing our team so stay positive and be friendly. Talk about the need to make positive change in the world, our teams friendly competitions, our constant goal setting and breaking, our fun loan-a-thons and the sense of community feeling you get from being a part of the team.

Spread the word.... feel free to send letters to the editors, email blogs and tell friends. Anyway to let the world know.

Team Captain

Kiva Atheists first to reach $1 million

On October 7th 2009 around noon PST our team of Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and the Non-Religious surpassed our year-end goal of lending one million dollars (USD)!

Congratulations to all team members new and old. We have now officially built a community hub for secular people on the Internet. By the time this year ends we'll have blown past our goal and 2010 will likely see a flood of new team members as our almost 6000 members spread the word amongst the larger online secular community.

Kiva posted their congratulations on the Kiva blog and Premal Shah, Kiva's President, stopped by our team message board with these words of congratulations:
Hi Everyone -

Someone just sent an email to Kiva's office about this team hitting the $1M milestone. On behalf of Kiva's staff, CONGRATULATIONS and THANKS for being such an amazing community of lenders. We're inspired!

- Premal

Premal Shah

Time to spread the word... Heather from our team has created a press release:
A Million Dollars of Micro Finance

One million dollars is a lot of money, especially for entrepreneurs around the world turning to microfinance institutions for loans. One million is the amount lent to these entrepreneurs by the team Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and the Non-Religious (AASFSHNR) at Through Kiva, anyone can lend $25 or more to an entrepreneur looking for assistance. When a borrower repays, the money becomes available to re-lend.

AASFSHNR, just over 1 year old, is the first group to reach $1,000,000. Despite the modest goal of $50k in four months, 10 days after creation AASFSHNR hit $10,000. As the loans were paid back, or new money was lent, the group total climbed faster and faster.

AASFSHNR is a fantastic example of the generosity of atheists and others who fit into the group’s theme. We don’t always agree when posting on the team forum, but we do work hard to fund loans. In addition to our group’s milestone, Kiva is fast approaching an even more impressive moment. Collectively, Kiva lenders have lent nearly $100 million around the world. I invite everyone to Kiva. While you are at it, you’re welcome to visit us heathens.

Heather (check the team message board for her contact info or send her a private message on

Hilton from our team posted about our milestone to his blog.

Exciting times....

Team Captain

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Welcome to the Team

Welcome to the Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and the Non-Religious team! You've found your way to the team blog. The team has three Team Captains: Pete, Jan and Nancy Somers.

This blog post is an attempt to bring you up to speed on some team knowledge that would otherwise take you a few weeks or months to learn by monitoring our team message board over at Kiva.

Want to know how to make your loans count for the team? You can't make any of your existing loans count for the team. You can only make new loans count for the team. During the process of making a new loan you will see a drop down menu where you can choose to count the loan towards this team.

There are no rules or guidelines for how and who you should loan to. The decision is up to you. Whatever decision you make you will be helping someone and that's what matters.

Some of our team members like to avoid religious Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs or Field Partners). For various reasons... maybe because some of those MFIs participate in religious evangelism or maybe because they contribute to the spread of false information. Some members of our team have sent emails to Kiva suggesting that Kiva have a new data field where the MFI information is displayed letting us know whether an organization is secular or not. They have said they will consider the suggestion but with no promises. In the mean time we have compiled a pretty good list of religious MFIs and a team member of ours, Chris Means, has created a plugin for Firefox (instructions) that highlights MFIs in your list right in the browser when you are surfing Kiva's loans pages.

Now that the serious business is over with let me tell you about some of the fun events we participate in. We have four annual Loan-A-Thons. On Halloween, New Years, April fools day and Mohammud Yunus' birthday. During our Loan-A-Thons we try and put new money into the system and have a fun and merry time making the world a better place.

Here is a schedule and description for each Loan-A-Thon (adapted from Joe's original summarization):
January 1st (New Years) - Make your Happy New Year by loaning capital to your fellow Humans who need it so that they can have their own Happy New Year!

April 1st (April Fools) - We're no April Fools! We will not waste our money tithing to a religious organization when we can do some actual good by lending capital directly to our fellow Humans who need it!

July 1st (Muhammad Yunus' Birthday and Many National Sovereignty Celebrations) - In honor of those throughout history who have thrown off the yoke of oppressive governments in July, we will lend capital to our fellow Humans who need it so that they can throw off the oppressive yoke of poverty! Also, we pay tribute to Muhammad Yunus's Birthday (June 28th) the Grandfather of Microfinance!

November 1st (Halloween) - The day after celebrating Halloween do something else to scare religious organizations! Lend capital to our fellow Humans who need it so that they can materially improve their lives and no longer need the false comfort provided by an irrational belief system!

Want to analyze our team's rise to the top by digging through some historical statistical data? Check out this cool Stats App by Daniel R. Many thanks to Daniel R for independently maintaining statistics of our teams performance and we owe him a debt of gratitude for it.

One thing to know about Kiva's system is that even though Kiva Lenders earn no interest on their loans, the Field Partner (MFI) charges interest. The reason they charge interest is so they can be a sustainable business or non-profit organization. The interest rates they charge sometimes seem high if you come from North America or Europe. However, there is good reasons for the high interests rates (which are much lower than the loan sharks in the respective countries). The reasons include, high inflation, high ratio between administration costs and loan amount, no collateral from the borrower, etc. Here is a good article (PDF) discussing high interest rates and MFIs.

Our message board at Kiva is not the only place to socialize with your teammates. Jim has created a Facebook Group and Edz has created a FriendFeed page that are more suitable for threaded discussions and multimedia links. A good place to find other Kiva discussions with the whole Kiva community is over at

It's important to remember when chatting on the team board to be respectful of your fellow teammate. We may not agree on many things but we do agree on the inherent worth of all human beings and that we should try to solve our problems using reason and not superstition. Oh and please don't spam.

Team Captain (1 of 3)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Kiva Atheists raise almost 1 million in 1 year to end poverty.

It's been 1 year since Kiva introduced team lending. is an American non-profit organization committed "to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty."

I've been a lender with Kiva ever since I saw Bill Clinton, on Oprah, speaking about how individuals can help relieve poverty. I've had many conversations with friends about whether or not there is a responsibility for middle class people in the developed world to help out, over and above what our governments give out in foreign aid, those suffering from poverty in the developing world. The tricky issue for me was if giving handouts really promotes long term societal improvements or if those handouts are just horded by a few and used to take further advantage of the poor. Also, I'd rather teach a person to fish... And that's why Kiva is so appealing. Instead of giving people welfare and the reduction in self-esteem that comes with it; you are giving people trust and the opportunity to take responsibility for themselves and their family.

Since joining Kiva I've read up on Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, the pioneer of the micro-finance industry, and the amazing work he has done in Bangladesh. There has been real tangible results in Bangladesh and I'm convinced his ideas can make a real difference in ending world poverty.

I first heard about team lending on, a forum managed by Kiva lenders. It's the premier place to discuss everything Kiva related. I immediately thought it was a cool idea and went to look for an atheist team. There was none! So I decided to start one and a corresponding blog to spread the message. I called our team "Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and the Non-Religious". I did this because I understand that those of us who do not adhere to any religion generally do not like to be labeled; and moreover we would never be able to agree on a single label. Richard Dawkins suggestion of "Brights" is an appealing label and idea but it still hasn't caught on. Without an inclusive group we ran the risk of splintering into a half-dozen small groups and no-one would notice our impact. Many people are not aware that our worldview is the third largest in the world behind Christians and Muslims and slightly ahead of Hindus. It's time to let our collective voice be heard!

Immediately people started joining the team. I set our first goal to raise $50,000 in loans in four months. Within the first ten days we raised $10,000 in loans. I realized at that point that collectively we could accomplish a lot more than I had predicted. One other thing I realized was just how many non-religious people were hiding in the woods only to come out when there was an appropriate place to lounge at Kiva. I guess when you know there's no superman coming to save humanity and you reflect on how closely related all humans are, you get a feeling that the more you contribute to the world the better it will be.

Immediately a community atmosphere began to form with active and interesting discussions. One of our more active members suggested we do a Halloween Loan-A-Thon which immediately caught on among other members. Our Loan-A-Thons are a way to challenge each other to deposit new money into the Kiva system and loan more then we otherwise would. We have 4 annual Loan-A-Thons; Halloween, New Years, April Fools and Yunus' birthday.

One year later and we have almost raised one million in loans. We are the largest team on Kiva and we've busted the myth that atheists don't participate in altruistic endeavors.

It's been a fun year... Our first real competition was who were first out the gate with a big team. By December 2008 we were in competition with the Christian team and the Obama team and shortly there after we became the biggest loaning team and have kept that honor ever since. I want to congratulate everyone on the team for contributing to a wildly successful year! I'd also like to welcome anyone who is just hearing about Kiva to sign up and join the fun!

By Peter

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Doctored Shock: A Reality

I'm not one to firmly believe in conspiracy theories but things do happen behind closed doors time and time again that simply cannot be ignored. I'm talking about global economics, inflation rates, elections, coups, war, import/export, rich vs. poor, genocide, global alliances, etc.

I feel that the issues above were never that appealing to learn about because they were barely a subject of discussion in school. Had I known a little about the woes of global economics and government alliances I would have chosen to more critically learn about these ideas in my later academic years. The reason for this is that when I don't know about something that is truly important to know in my life I don't feel safe. I don't really know what impact these things have in the society that I live so I remain ignorant to it. That must be what a government wants of its people-- to remain ignorant of important facts about the world-- considering that it is the government that educates us at the start of our lives.

Forget theories, the type of strategies that are wielded by governments like the US government in order to control other countries is horrifically scary and completely factual (read The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klien). The economic philosophy of disaster or shock fundamentalist capitalism has been breed right out of the US, particularly at the Chicago School of Economics. It is the result of much of the 'organized' terror around the world from past and present. Many South American countries like Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and Bolivia have had their governments overthrown and people unemployed, displaced, and murdered because of the US right-wing economic philosophy of global free-market capitalism.

The idea that this philosophy is a means of spreading democracy is simply a myth and completely the opposite of the true goal of these so-called economists: the goal being to allow corporations to do as they please in a global free-market with low inflation rates in order to profit. Their driving force is greed and a complete lack of respect for other people. It is a type of reality that society has tried to overcome but instead this philosophy is planted deep within and has done nothing but impede societal progression.

Richard Dawkins has said, "we wish to live in a much more advanced society, a society that is far more advanced then a Darwinian society or a George Bush society" and it is very true. In the George Bush society, lead by right-wing economists influenced by the 'Chicago Boys', war, terror, and torture are the norm. The worst part of it is that in order to change global economies to fit their rules they must first wait for a disaster such as a labor strike or financial instability (i.e. high debt, hyperinflation) or manufacture their own disaster (doctored shock) in any given country that they would like to control for their own interests. These economists focused on South American countries like Brazil and Chile by organizing a coup in order eliminate the pro-poor, nationalist governments (read: European-style social democracies) and instead implement a new government, trained by the Chicago Boys, that would favor foreign investment. Unfortunately for these countries thousands of people were brutally tortured and murdered in order for the economic plan to operate effectively. There was a similar case in Indonesia. The worst part of it all is that many global corporate powers were also involved in the economic plan such as Ford Motors, GM, Citibank, IMF, World Bank, etc.

This type of economic shock was later seen in other countries like Poland and most recently in Iraq. The mastermind behind the birth of this philosophy was Milton Friedman, an American economist and a leader of the Chicago School of Economics at the University of Chicago. He argued that government could not manage economies and that people could too easily oppose government policies which would cause high inflation and low growth. He favored mass privatization and deregulation for the benefit of foreign investment and globalization. But his imposed ideals were nothing more than a nightmare for all the people who were effected.

It is astonishing to me that although many of these events occurred during my lifetime, I had no understanding of the severity of this economic strategy that now spans across many countries around the world. To me the meaning of democracy has changed. The US right-wing view of democracy is so far-off the mark that I am surprised that such a view has been maintained and advanced in society. It is a means to take advantage of people and have total disregard for human beings.

This is truly still a Darwinian society where we live as animals and only the fittest survive while the others are left out in the fields to die. We all need to be involved in the betterment of society if it is to progress forward not backward. The most important thing today is to be well-informed and mould our opinions based on the facts. I'm not one to firmly believe in conspiracy theories but this comes very close to the mark. The only difference is that it is not just a theory, it is a reality.

By Rajvee

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Kiva MFI Checker

Update: 2011-01-03

The Kiva MFI Checker has been around so long it deserves a preamble. Originally conceptualized and created by Chris Means, of our team, it was a Firefox Add-on that allowed you to flag MFIs when viewing Kiva lending search results on the classic/old version of the Kiva lend page. Support for that Firefox Add-on is discontinued. A new slicker version of the Kiva MFI Checker has been created as a Greasemonkey script. If you don't know what Greasemonkey is, don't worry, there's instructions below on how to install everything.

Meanwhile, as all that has occured on the Firefox front, another teammate of ours Radu has created the Kiva MFI Highlighter which is a Google Chrome extension that visually looks and works like a clone of the original Kiva MFI Checker created by Chris Means. If you still miss the old Kiva MFI Checker then follow the instructions below to get everything working in Google Chrome.

The Kiva MFI Checker is now coded to pull from three (3) managed lists of MFIs. One is a list of religious MFIs, the second is a list of secular social MFIs "the do gooders" and the last list is one for MFIs that don't expose a lender to currency risk. The lists can be set as blacklists or whitelists. You can add new Google Spreadsheets as a source list of MFIs. However, that requires some JavaScript programming knowledge. For beginners, the three most popular lists are included by default.

The MFI Highlighter on the other hand is still maintained using your own custom list and that list can act either as a blacklist or a whitelist. These tools are in wide use amongst Kiva Lenders not just members of our own team.

Here is a screenshot of what the results look like when using the Kiva MFI Checker:

(the loan with the black background is flagged because it's a Religious MFI and I selected the Religious MFI list)

This brings one issue to the forefront how do we know if an MFI is religious or not? How do we know if an MFI carries a currency risk?

To determine if a loan/MFI has a currency risk you just need to view the loan and go to the "About The Loan" section and there is a convenient field that lets you know if a corresponding MFI has an associated currency risk.
See this screenshot:

To determine if an MFI is religious or secular there is no easy convenient way to know for sure. Each MFI description must be read and the corresponding MFI website (if any) must be thoroughly researched. In certain cases it can be difficult to make a determination. It would be nice if Kiva (when they have time, as it's not priority #1) could make a new field (or checkbox) where an MFI administrator labels themselves as religious or secular.

Firefox Instructions:
For those who wish to use the Kiva MFI Checker here are some instructions:

1) You must be using Firefox available at:
2) Install the Greasemonkey Firefox Add-On, click here.
3) Install the Kiva MFI Checker script (currently at version 0.62). You can find it here:
4) Go to the Lend page, and you'll see a new "green bar" at the top of the page (just above the loan listings). The script defaults to the Religous list (as a Black-list), you can change it to use any preconfigured list (currently Currency Risk Sharing, and Social lists are also available), or if you only want to loan to Religous MFIs, make it a White-list.

Update 2010-12-05: Google Chrome Instructions
Radu from our team has created an extension for Google Chrome called the Kiva MFI Highlighter.

Instructions for Google Chrome Kiva MFI Highlighter extension:
1) You must be using Google Chrome available at:
2) Install the Kiva MFI Highlighter found here
3) Open the Chrome menu and go to Tools -> Extensions
4) Click "Options" under the Kiva MFI Highlighter for Chrome
5) Click on the appropriate field partner name and click the Append button. Alternatively, you can copy and paste a list of MFIs. I have provided the list of Christian MFIs below.
6) Go to you will see the name of the MFI highlight if it's in the list.

Here is the list of Religious MFIs:

By Peter

Update: Updated the MFI list on August 16, 2009. Thanks again Chris ;)

Update: Updated the MFI list on August 18, 2009. Added: CREDIT, a partner of World Relief

Update: Changed Gata Daku Multi-purpose Cooperative to Gata Daku Multi-purpose Cooperative (GDMPC) on October 10th, 2009

Update: Modified Religious MFI list to load from a Google Spreadsheet and added Pearl Microfinance Limited on October 17th, 2009

Update: Added "Fundacion D-MIRO Mision Alianza" to the list on November 22nd, 2009

Update: Added "Faulu Kenya" to the list on November 29th, 2009

Update: 2010-02-05 Caurie (MFI ID 105) changed to uppercase, Dinari (MFI ID 82) changed to MUK

Update: 2010-03-04 Added "Fundacion Realidad A.C (FRAC), a partner of World Vision International" (MFI ID 130) and "HOFOKAM Ltd., a partner of Catholic Relief Services" (MFI ID 163)

Update: 2010-06-20 Added
"Urwego Opportunity Bank of Rwanda (UOB), a partner of World Relief, HOPE International, and Opportunity International" (MFI ID 161) and "Amasezerano Community Banking S.A." (MFI ID 170) and "AREGAK Unversal Credit Organization" (MFI ID 152) and "Turame Community Finance, a partner of World Relief and HOPE International (Burundi)" (MFI ID 162)

Update: 2010-06-23 Added "Paglaum Multi-Purpose Cooperative (PMPC)" (MFI ID 126)

Update: 2010-10-31 Updated name for MFI ID 138

AASFSHNR & FSM in the news

Cathy Lynn Grossman from USA Today wrote an article focusing on our team in the Faith & Reason section of the newspaper. A think it's a good piece which brings attention to our team's raison d'etre and Kiva's important social mission. Hopefully Kiva see some new lenders thanks to that press.

Cathy asks in her conclusion if giving can be faith-free and still have "values"...

My response would be...

Giving aka altruism is a phenomenon of nature's animal kingdom and we humans are only one example of altruism in nature. People are genetically predisposed to altruism and not religiously predisposed to altruism. People, religious or not, don't get their values from religious doctrines. Our cultural "values" evolved naturally over time.

By Peter

Friday, July 3, 2009

July 1st 2009 - Loan-A-Thon Results

Thanks to everyone who participated in the July 1st Loan-A-Thon. I think it was a successful day of lending :)

Now that we have a few team members keeping statistics we can reflect on our past lending history.

JimNZ made note of our totals for the 24 hour period Pacific Time on July 1st.
Aaaannnddddd we're done for the July 1 Loan-a-thon! July 1 has just finished in Pacific standard time, which is the home location.

Our finishing position from this 24 hours :

Number of Team Members 4666
Number of Loans 21814
Number of Loans per Member 4.68
Total Amount Loaned $656,900.00
*Updated as of Jul 02, 2009 12:31 am

The starting position :

Number of Team Members 4646
Number of Loans 21544
Number of Loans per Member 4.64
Total Amount Loaned $649,750.00
*Updated as of Jun 30, 2009 12:31 pm

So that's :

20 new members
270 new loans (at $25 each, that's $6750)
$7,150 loaned (therefore some loaned more than $25 to a recipent?)

Daniel R's stats page doesn't seem to be in the same timezone as, but does show a satisfying jump in total value.

I noticed by looking at the graph below that it looks like we lent more on the April 1st Loan-A-Thon than the July 1st Loan-A-Thon, however a significant amount was lent on July 2nd so maybe some people got their loans in on the second; we're not all in the same time zone so I like to think the Loan-A-Thons are really the first of the month with a 12 hour grace period before and after the special day :-)

Another thing I noticed is that on Loan-A-Thon days we loan approximately 75% as much as we do on the 15th of the month when we get our recycled money. So we should all pat ourselves on that back for our Loan-A-Thon results since most of the Loan-A-Thon funds come in from "new money".

By Peter

Saturday, June 20, 2009

July 1st 2009 - Loan-A-Thon

Loan-A-Thons are always an exciting time for the team. With all the interesting discussions going on lately on the message board, I'm sure this Loan-A-Thon will be lots of fun!

Congratulations to everyone on passing the 600K mark in loans; we are well on our way to passing our year-end goal of loaning $1 million.

We've got a couple new polls on the blog, check them out and cast your vote.

Joe from our team has given a good explanation of the July 1st Loan-A-Thon:
In honor of those throughout history who have thrown off the yoke of oppressive governments in July, we will lend capital to our fellow Humans who need it so that they can throw off the oppressive yoke of poverty!
In addition to that we are also celebrating Muhammad Yunus' Birthday, which is June 28th [close enough :-) ]

By Peter

Sunday, May 24, 2009

We've passed $500,000... GO TEAM

On May 16th we passed $500,000 in loans. As of today we are over $540,000 in total loans!!

We now have 4000 members, welcome to all the new members and thanks to all the loyal members who make this the best lending team on Kiva!

Our loans per member is currently at 4.4 which is great, we are a large group and very actively lending :)

Here's a screenshot taken by one of our members at the 500K milestone:

On another note, we are now taking polls of the membership. Thanks to Lynn, Lo, Judy and Brian. Our first poll is at the top right of the site.

Team Discussions

There are two great places to participate in discussion with our fellow team members:

- Created by Edz

- Created by Jim

Also, for some team statistics check out this cool app:

Thursday, April 2, 2009

April 1 2009 - Loan-A-Thon Results

Good work everyone, we made 313 loans amounting to $8,700 in loans. Probably more if you consider all the people who made loans before and after the 24 hour pacific time period!

Thanks to Jonathon we have a couple of screen shots to mark the occasion:
Before A

Before B

After A

After B

For those looking forward to the next Loan-A-Thon it's July 1st!

I think Joe explained our Loan-A-Thon schedule best when he said:
January 1st - Make your Happy New Year by loaning capital to your fellow Humans who need it so that they can have their own Happy New Year!

April 1st - We're no April Fools! We will not waste our money tithing to a religious organization when we can do some actual good by lending capital directly to our fellow Humans who need it!

July 1st - In honor of those throughout history who have thrown off the yoke of oppressive governments in July, we will lend capital to our fellow Humans who need it so that they can throw off the oppressive yoke of poverty!

November 1st - The day after celebrating Halloween do something else to scare religious organizations! Lend capital to our fellow Humans who need it so that they can materially improve their lives and no longer need the false comfort provided by an irrational belief system!

By Peter

Monday, March 23, 2009

Self-Deception: To Believe What We Are Not

It is true that people live in a world of self-deception. They remain aware that it is possible to be deceived by another person-- a family member, a coworker, or a friend-- so they try to ensure that they are not taken advantage of or fooled. They know that if they are deceived that they will have to reap the costs of their error in judgment. It is sort of like a part of the human radar in order to avoid people that are dishonest and greedy--- a social behavior that was used long ago by our ancestors to do the same for the protection of their families, tribes, territory, and resources.

Deception is prevalent in society among relatives and non-relatives. It takes effort and energy to maintain a straight face and charm in order to deceive others. Whether the deception has to do with telling a lie to get away with something or take advantage of someone the individual has to almost believe their own deception to outwardly give an impression of honesty and genuineness. Not only do they deceive others but they subconsciously deceive themselves. It becomes increasingly difficult for the person to distinguish between what is real and what is superficial and where to draw the line.

It is not easy to understand self-deception from the point of view of a human being. We constantly judge ourselves while judging others and adopt or develop stereotypes in order to understand other people. We feel that we are more or less right about our judgments about ourselves and others but we are simply not. We tend to hold biases about different things (i.e. politics, race, gender, age, beauty, wealth, happiness, etc.) that make up part of our moral sense. These biases do not necessarily make up who a person is but instead reflects what society as a whole believes. These beliefs are emphasized in the media in order to get the attention of individuals and mold their opinions--- it is a form of deception. We pick and choose what to believe based on societal 'norms' and in turn deceive ourselves by accepting different biases without really understanding the ideas.

There is truly a cycle of deception which exists in society and it causes human beings to continuously deceive ourselves. Although it is important to detect when someone is being deceptive it is also important to understand that deception exists in all parts of society whether it is in government, business, media, social interactions, religion, education, it is everywhere.

We cannot simply believe something without knowing the basis of the idea or belief. There needs to be a means to understand society. One credible method is to look to science and evolutionary psychology for an understanding of human nature and why our thoughts operate in such a way. We are no more than a biological species with feelings and thoughts but we cannot believe that the basis of our moral sense comes from something beyond our biological limits. In that case, we are simply deceiving and confusing ourselves and driving us further from reality-- from what is true in the realm of our nature. We are only hurting ourselves when we believe what we are not.

By Rajvee

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Loan-A-Thon: April 1st 2009

Our next Loan-A-Thon is April 1st, can't wait because they are always so fun. Let's work to stretch our lead and help reduce poverty in the world.

We recently got a nice mention from one of our team members on the blog Daylight Atheism and a link from Reddit

Kiva released an API recently that allows for some cool Kiva related Web Apps to be created. Here's one that crossed my desktop: Kiva World

In a sad turn of events for Canada, the Minister for Science is ignorant of the factual nature of Evolution (Google

By Peter

Thursday, March 12, 2009

New Goal: $1 million dollars by year end 2009

There's been plenty discussion on our team message board recently. The topic of setting a new goal has come up and the consensus is that our new goal is to loan $1 million by the end of 2009! Goals have worked great for us in the past and I predict we will meet and beat this goal. Our team is expanding, we are now over 3000 members and growing. Current members have been recruiting new members and we are surely getting new members every time people come back to Kiva and see us at the top of the team list, a position we desire to keep ;)

Although only a small percentage of Kiva users are participating in teams I think it's safe to say that our numbers are reflective of the amount of Atheist/Agnostics in the overall Kiva loaner population. It's a joy for me to be a team member with all of you and we are making a stand for reasoned and rational thinking.

One of our team members Viktor wrote a blog about our success; great read.

Abortion is a topic that's been extensively discussed recently on the message board. In my opinion Michael had the most Enlightened comment:

first, the concept that life "begins" at conception is completely misleading. Life does not begin when a sperm enters an egg because sperm and egg are already alive. It is the continuation of a biological process. We can confirm this by considering what would happen if egg or sperm were exposed to harsh conditions like heat: they would loose their biological activity, i.e. die, and no longer be fertile. In strict biological terms the question "When does life begin?" is moot: it began several billion years ago and hasn't stopped since. Implying some new life has been created by the fertilization of an egg is just putting on own cultural view on it. In fact, this whole concept has been hijacked by Christians, making it difficult to have a meaningful conversation regarding ethics and responsibility in human pregnancy.

By Peter

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Helping Our Fragile Cousins - The Bonobos

I've been a loyal reader of Bonobo Handshake, Vanessa Wood's spectacular blog on her Bonobo research in Africa. Bonobo's are apes similar to Chimpanzee's in DNA but very different in behavior. Bonobos and Chimps were separated approximately 2 million years ago and have taken slightly different evolutionary paths. Bonobos, Chimps and Humans share a common ancestor and they are both the closest living relatives to Humans.

What makes Bonobos different from Chimps is that they are way less violent (they do not kill each other), they use sex as a form of communication, conflict resolution and for just plain old fun. They live in a remote area of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and sadly there are only approximately 5000 of them left. Local Congolese hunt them for meat largely because of hunger. Due to war and chaos in the region there has been no local effort to protect the Bonobos. Protecting the Bonobos requires local support because of the Malaria infested areas of the remote jungle that they live in.

Claudine Andre founded Lola ya Bonobo, a forest sanctuary, to protect orphan Bonobos (orphaned when their parents are killed for meat). I have wanted to adopt a Bonobo for over a year now and a few days ago I adopted Kataco aka Kata. What the heck... let's make it in celebration of Darwin's birthday!!

Humane research is done on the Bonobo's at the sanctuary and they are working on a program to release them into the wild. As this will be needed in the future if their numbers dwindle.

For a breath-taking video on the abilities of Bonobo's check out this video on TED by Susan Savage.

Look how cute the baby Bonobos are... can you resist helping them?

By Peter

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Human Bias

People believe because they can think of the concept of an omniscient agent that we must only question whether an omniscient agent exists and not consider the more fundamental question of whether omniscience can exist.

As scientists, we know that omniscience cannot exist. This is because of the Uncertainty Principle. The Uncertainty Principle defines a boundary to the knowledge that we (or any agent) can posses. If we cannot know, simultaneously, the position and velocity of a particle then no agent can possess that knowledge and therefore there are no omniscient agents. Consider this proof of the negative assertion that there IS NO GOD.

Upon entering a period of deep philosophizing it is important to remember that all your intelligent rational cognition is biased by the simple fact that you are a human being. Hunger and beauty can distract your thinking, not to mention countless other innate mental processes.

Humans have five standard basic questions that they apply to any object of their consideration: who, what, why, where and when. Conveniently the five Ws in English. I have a feeling that the Universe is such a place that the 5Ws do not apply to ever situation.

I have been considering for a long time that it is distinctly possible that the question "Why did the Universe come into existence?" is an invalid question. There may not be a why! At the moment of the Big Bang there was not sufficient complexity in the universe to cognate the question why and therefore it may be invalid for us 14 billion years later to ask a question which could not be posed during the time span of the questions context.

Similarly, if the Big Bang is the correct theory (as opposed to the Big Bounce) then the question "What happened before the Big Bang" is invalid. The moment of the Big Bang was also the moment in which time was created. Therefore, there cannot be anything before the Big Bang.

Here is a down to earth example of an invalid question: "Why is the red crayon green?". Clearly, this is an invalid question or trick question that does not have a real answer it only has trivial answers like "The red crayon is not green" which really is not an answer to the posed question. There is no answer to the question.

Our Universe and its physical constants and equations may exist because there is a multitude of other possible universes in existence, that we cannot interact with, that have different Laws of Physics. This would explain why our Universe is tuned as it is but this does not explain why there is existence. A question for which I maintain an open mind. Also, consider that it may be impossible for there to be absolute non-existence which may explain why there IS existence.

By Peter

Friday, January 23, 2009

President Obama's Inauguration

I've been reading Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine (about half way through) which details many occasions in the past three decades where democratically elected leaders turned on their respective populations much to the disappointment of those peoples. However, the election of Barack Obama, in my opinion, is certainly a victory for the people. The President of the USA has less power than the Prime Minister of Canada, so if you are expecting rapid fire change it won't happen. Obama is an Executive and needs to herd the cats of Congress in order to make anything happen.

The Shock Doctrine, which details the story of how US multinationals with the assistance of the CIA, IMF and World Bank have been causing economic shocks around the world and taking advantage of the situation to reap billions in profits by forcing other countries to sell off their public assets for pennies on the dollar to American multinational corporations in exchange for IMF and World Bank loans. Torture has been a standard but hidden weapon of this three decade onslaught on the standard of living of peoples around the world. Ford motors even tortured it's union employees on the factory premise in Chile for many years.

Under GW Bush torture went public. Under Obama my hope is that torture will again go underground where it's practitioners will have less victims and they may be held liable for their illegal actions. To stop the CIA from torturing or teaching other security officials how to torture will take more than a change in the American President. The CIA developed a manual on modern torture methods code named Kubark based on scientific research developed at McGill University (funded by the CIA and the Canadian government) in Canada in the 1950s. By closing Guantanamo Bay, Obama can send a message to the CIA that under his administration he will not tolerate torture and if the CIA is careless they may face prosecutions. In case you are unclear on the morality of torture, I will remind you that what "we" do to the enemy, the enemy will do back to our soldiers. And worse, the US government has tortured several US and Canadian citizens, either directly or by sending them to remote facilities beyond the eyes of Amnesty International. Once the torture institutions are created it's impossible for any citizen to know whether or not they will wind up in such a facility regardless of their individual lawfulness. Modern torture is less about extracting information (because information goes stale quickly) and more about destroying an individuals personal beliefs and reverting them to a child like state of helplessness. Many torture victims go insane from the sensory deprivation techniques, not to mention the electroshock therapy.

I do think there will be minor changes to the American health care system. Children will be given universal coverage. Since the Congress already agreed on that and it was vetoed by Bush it should be easy to pass that legislation under Obama. Obama will likely make some moves to reduce the 40+ million uninsured and temporarily reduce medical costs by forcing insurance companies to bulk buy prescription medicine. But I highly doubt he would nationalize the health care system as was done in Canada decades ago. America just nationalized the banking and insurance systems and there won't be a climate to tolerate further nationalizations.

Among us atheists we know the only real and important change involves the US government changing their standard lies on two fronts.

Front #1, Religion. Obama is religious, officially, but like many Christians, I know, I doubt their open professing of their faith because, as Sam Harris mentioned in End of Faith, you cannot choose what to believe. Obama is clearly very intelligent and we should expect that he has made the calculation that to be a credible black man he needs to be Christian. His mother was an Atheist and I would be suspect that Obama himself may be a closet Atheist. Although my tolerance for listening to religious rhetoric was exceeded half way through Rick Warren's speech I thought it was an intelligent move by Obama to sandwich himself between two preachers. By doing this it removed the pressure on him to say anything too religious. I thought his mentions of God in his speech were well placed and in the appropriate context. He never said he was on a mission from God or anything extreme like that. It's well known by students of political speeches that words or phrases are used to send hidden messages that would be unpopular if the message was explicitly delivered. I accused John McCain of such a hidden message in October. Obama mentioned that non-believers formed part of America. This is a change in direction from Bush who never mentioned non-believers and allowed his messengers to paint non-believers as un-American, in the same way his father did. I also thought it was telling that he mentioned Muslims before Jews and that he even mentioned Hindus because Hindus have been as invisible as non-believers. Obama sent us a message that he is our friend and he put Rick Warren on stage to shield himself from religious criticism. Expect more extremely moderate religious positions from Obama; remember how he made fun of people who want to legislate from the bible by verbally sharing hilarious parts of the bible. Could an Atheist get away with that?

Front #2, Marijuana. Over the course of history that have been many truths which have been hidden from the people by bold faced lies in order for the ruling class to maintain it's grip on power. In case you are ignorant on the subject, marijuana is an herbal medicine that causes no harm to people and has many beneficial qualities including medicinal benefits. It's not dangerous, yet dangerous substances like alcohol, cigarettes, pharmaceutical medicines, toxins and pollutants are legally sold. The lies of religion are integral in propping up the lie that marijuana is harmful. Multinational corporations in the alcohol and pharmaceutical industries do not want to compete with marijuana because it's a better product than many of their offerings and can be cultivated and sold in a decentralized manner. Multinational corporations have also been trying to hold back many other decentralized projects such as wind and solar power.

The good news is we have the Internet and more ability than ever to pressure the American President and Congress to modernize their way of thinking and give up the charade of religion and the prohibition of marijuana. If this two major lies can be broken then liberty can be truly spread throughout the globe.

By Peter