Thursday, 13 December 2012

Richards Dawkins congratulates Wales on atheism growth

12 December 2012 

Evolutionary biologist Prof Richard Dawkins, the author of a number of best-selling books on biology and religion including the God Delusion, has welcomed census results showing a fall in the number of people in Wales saying they do not have any religion.
He tells Felicity Evans on BBC Radio Wales that the figures are actually worse for Christianity than they appear.
He said a separate poll carried out in the same week commissioned by his organisation showed many people who said they checked the census box for Christianity did so to express the fact they felt they were good people and not necessarily religious.
The Church in Wales responded to the results by saying that Christianity was "no longer the default setting" for many people but the picture is complex.
Those stating that they were Muslim in Wales is 1.5%, up from 0.7% - in 2001, and there were also slight increases in the percentage of people who said they were Hindu or Buddhist, both up from 0.2% to 0.3%.
There was also a rise in people saying they had other faiths - from 0.2% to 0.4%

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

American skeptic Paul Kurtz is no more

December 21, 1925 – October 20, 2012

Paul Kurtz, American skeptic, founder of modern secular-humanist movement and philosopher, passed away on 20 October 2012. He was 86 years old. He was Honorary Associate of Rationalist Internationaland also Honorary Associate of Rationalist Association (formerly RPA) of UK .  In 1999 Kurtz received International Humanist Award by the IHEU, and in 2000 he received International Rationalist Award by the Rationalist International.
He authored 50 books and nearly 800 articles. Many of his books have been translated into over 60 languages. They include The Transcendental TemptationForbidden Fruit: The Ethics of SecularismThe Courage to Become, and Multi-Secularism: A New Agenda. His published bibliography of writings from 1952 to 2003 runs over 79 pages.
Paul Kurtz was largely responsible for the secularization of humanism. Before Kurtz embraced the term “secular humanism," which had received wide publicity through fundamentalist Christians in the 1980s, humanism was more widely perceived as a religion (or a pseudo-religion that did not include the supernatural. This can be seen in the first article of the original Humanist Manifesto which refers to "Religious Humanists" and by Charles and Clara Potter's influential 1930 book Humanism: A New Religion.
In 1969, Kurtz founded the publishing house Prometheus Books. He was also the founder and past chairman of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (formerly the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP)), the Council for Secular Humanism, and the Center for Inquiry. On May 18, 2010, he resigned from all these positions. .
He was editor in chief of Free Inquiry magazine, a publication of theCouncil for Secular Humanism. He was co-president of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU). He was a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Humanist Laureate, Honorary Associate of Rationalist International,president of the International Academy of Humanism and Honorary Associate of Rationalist Association (formerly Rationalist Press Association) of UK.
As a member of the American Humanist Association, he contributed to the writing of Humanist Manifesto. He was a former editor of The Humanist, 1967-1978. The asteroid (6629) Kurtz was named in his honor.
Kurtz used the publicity generated by fundamentalist preachers to grow the membership of the Council for Secular Humanism, as well as strip the religious aspects found in the earlier humanist movement.
He founded the Center for Inquiry in 1991. There are now some 40 Centers and Communities worldwide, including in Los Angeles, Washington, New York City, London, Amsterdam, Warsaw, Moscow, Beijing, Hyderabad, Toronto, Dakar, Buenos Aires and Kathmandu. Following his resignation from the Center for Inquiry, Paul Kurtz launched the Institute for Science and Human Values as a separate entity.
Kurtz was Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo, having previously also taught at Vassar, Trinity, and Union colleges, and the New School for Social Research
Kurtz was born in Newark, New Jersey, the son of Sara Lasser and Martin Kurtz. Kurtz received his bachelor's degree from New York University, and the Master's degree and Doctor of Philosophy degree from Columbia University. Kurtz was left-wing in his youth, but has said that serving in the United States Army in World War II taught him the dangers of ideology. He saw the Buchenwald and Dachau concentration camps after they were liberated, and became disillusioned with Communism when he encountered Russian slave laborers who had been taken to Nazi Germany by force but refused to return to the Soviet Union at the end of the war.
Sanal Edamaruku (President of Rationalist International and President of the Indian Rationalist Association) and Pekka Elo(President of the Finnish Humanist Union and Honorary Associate of Rationalist International) in a joint statement issued at Helsinki, Finland, have condoled the demise of Paul Kurtz.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Survey: One in five Americans has no religion

By Dan Merica, CNN 
Washington (CNN) – The fastest growing "religious" group in America is made up of people with no religion at all, according to a Pew survey showing that one in five Americans is not affiliated with any religion.
The number of these Americans has grown by 25% just in the past five years, according to a survey released Tuesday by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. 
The survey found that the ranks of the unaffiliated are growing even faster among younger Americans.
Thirty-three million Americans now have no religious affiliation, with 13 million in that group identifying as either atheist or agnostic, according to the new survey. 
Pew found that those who are religiously unaffiliated are strikingly less religious than the public at large. They attend church infrequently, if at all, are largely not seeking out religion and say that the lack of it in their lives is of little importance.
And yet Pew found that 68% of the religiously unaffiliated say they believe in God, while 37% describe themselves as “spiritual” but not “religious.” One in five said that they even pray every day.
John Green, a senior research adviser at Pew, breaks the religiously unaffiliated into three groups. First, he says, are those who were raised totally outside organized religion.
Second are groups of people who were unhappy with their religions and left.

The third group, Green says, comprises Americans who were never really engaged with religion in the first place, even though they were raised in religious households.
“In the past, we would describe those people as nominally affiliated. They might say, 'I am Catholic; I am a Baptist,' but they never went" to services, Green says of this last group. “Now, they feel a lot more comfortable just saying, ‘You know, I am really nothing.’ ”
According to the poll, 88% of religiously unaffiliated people are not looking for religion.
“There is much less of a stigma attached" to not being religious, Green said. “Part of what is fueling this growth is that a lot of people who were never very religious now feel comfortable saying that they don't have an affiliation.”
Demographically, the growth among the religiously unaffiliated has been most notable among people who are 18 to 29 years old.
According to the poll, 34% of “younger millennials” - those born between 1990 and 1994 - are religiously unaffiliated. Among “older millennials,” born between 1981 and 1989, 30% are religiously unaffiliated: 4 percentage points higher than in 2007.
Poll respondents 18-29 were also more likely to identify as atheist or agnostic. Nearly 42% religious unaffiliated people from that age group identified as atheist or agnostic, a number far greater than the number who identified as Christian (18%) of Catholic (18%).
Green says that these numbers are “part of a broader change in American society.”
“The unaffiliated have become a more distinct group,” he said.
Pew's numbers were met with elation among atheist and secular leaders. Jesse Galef, communications director for the Secular Student Alliance, said that the growth of the unaffiliated should translate into greater political representation for secular interests.
“We would love to see the political leaders lead on this issue, but we are perfectly content with them following these demographic trends, following the voters,” Galef said.
“As more of the voters are unaffiliated and identifying as atheist and agnostics, I think the politicians will follow that for votes.
“We won’t be dismissed or ignored anymore,” Galef said.
The Pew survey suggested that the Democratic Party would do well to recognize the growth of the unaffiliated, since 63% of them identify with or lean toward that political group. Only 26% of the unaffiliated do the same with the Republican Party.
"In the near future, if not this year, the unaffiliated voters will be as important as the traditionally religious are to the Republican Party collation,” Green predicted.
Green points to the 2008 exit polls as evidence for that prediction. That year, Republican presidential nominee John McCain beat President Barack Obama by 47 points among white evangelical voters, while Obama had a 52-point margin of victory over McCain among the religiously unaffiliated. 
According to exit polls, the proportion of religiously unaffiliated Americans who supported the Democratic presidential candidate grew 14 points from 2000 to 2008.
In announcing the survey’s findings at the Religion Newswriters Association conference in Bethesda, Maryland, Green said the growing political power of the unaffiliated within the Democratic Party could become similar to the power the Religious Right acquired in the GOP in the 1980s.
“Given the growing numbers of the unaffiliated, there is the potential that that could be harnessed,” he said.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Einstein letter, set for auction, shows scientist challenging idea of God, being 'chosen'

Decades before atheist scientist and author Richard Dawkins called God a "delusion," one world-renowned physicist - Albert Einstein - was weighing in on faith matters with his own strong words.

“The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends,” Einstein wrote in German in a 1954 letter that will be auctioned on eBay later this month. "No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.”

Dubbed Einstein’s “God Letter” by the Los Angeles-based auction agency that's posting it online,  the original document will be up for grabs starting Monday. The opening bid: $3 million.
The letter provides a window into the famed genius's religious beliefs. Einstein wrote it to Jewish philosopher Eric Gutkind, one year before Einstein died, in reaction to Gutkind’s book, “Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt.”
“I’ve been managing high profile auctions since 2005, and this is the most historically significant item to come up ... since I’ve been doing auctions,” said Eric Gazin, president of Auction Cause, the group that's organizing the eBay auction.
Einstein was “one of the most brilliant minds to ever live, but so much of what we know is scientific. … As related to God and Judaism, this is so significant. It really lends itself to further study,” Gazin told CNN. “No one even knew this letter existed till recently.”
But Diana Kormos Buchwald, a history professor at the California Institute of Technology and the director of the Einstein Papers Project, says that's not true.
She said copies of this letter, not to mention numerous additional writings reflecting similar sentiments, have been known to researchers and available for decades, both in the Pasadena-based Einstein Papers Project and The Albert Einstein Archives at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
The Einstein Papers Project recently published its 13th volume of Einstein’s collected papers.
Einstein, who was raised a secular Jew, was open about his religious views starting in the 1920s, when he became a public figure after winning the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics, Buchwald said. And biographers, including Walter Isaacson, have documented Einstein’s faith journey.
“There are no revelations here,” Buchwald said of the so-called God letter. “But it is frank in the sense that there are other writings where he says he understands a need for religion and is not derogatory. … Here he makes his own position very clear.”
In the letter about to be offered on eBay, Einstein drove home his strong opposition to the idea that Jews, or any people, may be “chosen.”
Here’s part of what he wrote, according to the Auction Cause translation:
For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups … I cannot see anything ‘chosen’ about them.
Buchwald, who has dedicated her life to making Einstein’s works available, believes any discussion of historic documents has value, but she is critical of how this letter is being presented.
There are word choices in the translation that she, as a German speaker, would tweak. She also doesn’t get why it’s said to be written on Princeton University letterhead, when a blown-up image shows it wasn't. Einstein wasn’t even employed there, she pointed out; he was with the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, not at Princeton.
Though she views such incongruities as "a bit muddy," she said she wishes the auction agency and seller luck. "It's just hype. ... I don't have a horse in this race."
The letter first became fodder for public discussion and mass fascination when the original sold at a London auction in May 2008 and “poured gasoline on the culture wars between science and religion,” The New York Times reported. Back then, it fetched a mere $404,000. Among the bidders who reportedly lost out that time around: big-name atheist and author Richard Dawkins.
Gazin of Auction Cause, which pairs marketing with charities, said the 2008 anonymous buyer sought his group out for the Einstein letter's sale after noting the agency's other successes. Topping the list: the $2.1 million raked in for an October 2007 letter from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and signed by 41 other Democrat leaders, demanding an apology from Rush Limbaugh.
"More than a few” potential buyers have gotten prequalified to enter this upcoming Einstein letter bidding war, Gazin said. He described those expressing interest so far as people in the technology and atheist communities, as well as university and public museums.
At the current owner’s request, Gazin said, an unspecified portion of the letter's proceeds will go to cancer research.
For those not interested in such heady materials, Auction Cause is offering some less profound items on eBay this month: the dress Maria Menounos wore to the Emmys; shoes from Kourtney Kardashian's closet and time with Howard Stern in the shock-jock's studio.
By  - CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Atheism • Charity • Culture & Science • Faith Now • History • Judaism • Science

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Eastern Germany: the most godless place on Earth

East German atheism can be seen as a form of continuing political and regional identification – and a taste of the future

Germany Celebrates 20 Years Fall Of The Berlin Wall
A woman dressed as an angel waves from a roof top near the German Reichstag on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Photograph: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
They are sending missionaries to eastern Germany. A recent study called Beliefs About God Across Time and Countries found that 52.1% of people asked whether they believed in God identified themselves as atheists. This compared with only 10.3% in western Germany. Indeed, the survey was unable to find a single person under the age of 28 in eastern Germany who believed in God. Obviously there are some – I think I may have even met some once – but the survey was unable to find them. On the face of it this is an extraordinary finding and it is something that needs some careful explanation.
Different reasons are adduced for the absence of religion in the east. The first one that is usually brought out is the fact that that area was run by the Communist party from 1945 to 1990 and that its explicit hostility to religion meant that it was largely stamped out. However, this is not entirely the case. In fact, after initial hostilities in the first years of the GDR, the SED came to a relatively comfortable accommodation with what was called the Church in Socialism. The churches in the GDR were given a high degree of autonomy by SED standards and indeed became the organisational focus of the dissident movement of the 1990s, which was to some extent led by Protestant pastors.
In addition to an accommodation with religion, the party also deliberately created alternative poles of integration for the population. Young people were brought up in a highly ideological atmosphere and were required to undergo a so-called Jugendweihe – a sort of atheist confirmation. Interestingly, this ceremony has survived the end of communism and many young people still voluntarily enter into it. Equally, especially under Eric Honecker in the 1970s and 80s, an attempt was made to create a sort of "GDR patriotism", in which figures from Prussian history such as Frederick the Great were put back on their plinths in East Berlin and integrated into the Communist narrative of the forward march of history. Martin Luther, Thomas Münzer and other figures from the Reformation were also recruited into the party.
Another factor is that religion in eastern Germany is also overwhelmingly Protestant, both historically and in contemporary terms. Of the 25% who do identify themselves as religious, 21% of them are Protestants. The other 4% is made up of a small number of Catholics as well as Muslims and adherents of other new evangelical groups, new-age sects or alternative religions. The Protestant church is in steep decline with twice as many people leaving it every year as joining.
If we were to follow the Weberian line on this, then a highly Protestant area undergoing rapid modernisation would almost automatically experience a process of radical secularisation going hand-in-hand with industrialisation, a process which was only speeded up by the communist obsession with heavy industry.
When we look at western Germany however, we see that there Catholics are in a majority and indeed, political power in West Germany has traditionally been built on western-orientated Catholic support for the Christian Democratic Union in the south and west. Indeed, the first chancellor of postwar West Germany, Konrad Adenauer, had been mayor of Cologne in the 1930s and even then was in favour of the division of Germany and a "Rhineland Alliance" as a sort of precursor of the European Union.
What all of this means is that rather than simply just being an area that was occupied by the Soviet Union and their satraps in the East German Communist party, the eastern part of Germany has an identity which – almost a quarter of a century on – continues to make unification more difficult than expected. Religious confession, or rather the lack of it, plays an important role in this. This has led some to talk of East German atheism as a form of continuing political and regional identification. For example, in 2000 the Catholic theologian Eberhard Tiefensee identified what he called an "East German folk atheism" which could be argued to constitute a substantial part of a regional identity against West German Catholic domination.
Secularisation processes are under way throughout the continent and the role of religion and the church in modernity are being questioned everywhere, from gay marriage to women priests to abortion and on to whether the EU should identify itself as a Christian entity. The question should perhaps be whether it is actually folk atheism that represents the future of Europe.

Monday, 30 July 2012

It’s the Atheist Particle, actually

Human Angle
Babu Gogineni
In 1977, the distinguished physicist Leon Lederman and his colleagues at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in the US believed that they were on the verge of discovering a new elementary particle. An elementary particle is a fundamental building block of the universe and Lederman and his team predicted that this sub-atomic particle would have a mass of about 6.0 GeV or Giga Electron Volts, the units of mass used in particle physics. They even decided to call it the Upsilon Particle, after the Greek Letter Upsilon (Υ) – but realisation came that this was a wrong call, and the non-existing particle was promptly renamed ‘Oops-Leon!’
Leon Lederman is a Nobel Laureate and an important participant in the global race to discover elementary particles: It was a race that began after Sir J.J. Thomson discovered the electron in 1897, thus showing that John Dalton’s 1803 theory that the atom was the basic unit of matter was wrong. Since then there have been a string of discoveries of sub-atomic particles, some composite and some elementary. Many of these were first predicted by theory and when the evidence was produced, the validity of the theory was confirmed.
Based on the work of thousands of theoretical and experimental scientists, modern science has developed an idea of the universe: the universe is made up of 4% atoms and 20% dark matter & 76% dark energy that we cannot observe. There are four fundamental forces in the universe: the weak nuclear force, the strong nuclear force, electromagnetism and gravity. The universe started with a big bang some 14 billion years ago when all these forces were unleashed. The universe continues to expand.
Babu Gogineni
The observable universe is made of 18 fundamental particles: 6 kinds of quarks, 6 kinds of leptons and 6 kinds of force carriers. These 18 different particles fit into two categories: bosons, named after Satyendranath Bose, which have a full integer spin and transmit force (photons and gluons) and fermions, named after Enrico Fermi, which have an integer spin and make up matter (electrons, protons and quarks).
This standard model explains many phenomena but there are many riddles too. How are the four fundamental forces to be brought together in one single theory which can explain everything? What is dark matter exactly? What happened at the time of the big bang? When the big bang happened why did some of the particles acquire mass while others did not?
In there were nothing that enabled mass, all the elementary particles would keep travelling at the speed of light and would not come together and there would be no atoms, elements, planets or solar systems. In 1964, François Englert and Robert Brout from Belgium and Peter Higgs from Scotland proposed that a boson which endowed mass to other particles would be the answer. This boson soon came to be called the Higgs boson and is the most fundamental particle that could explain the universe to us.
At least six Nobel Prizes have been awarded for work related to the Higgs boson so far, but Peter Higgs and his fellow theorists did not themselves get it! That is set to change now that the Higgs Boson has been detected after two years of observation as protons collided 40 million times a second for two years in the giant 27 km-long Large Hadron Collider at the Centre Européen de Recherce Nucléaire (CERN) in Geneva. In an astonishing achievement, scientists at CERN recreated the early conditions of the big bang and have 99.9% certainty that the particle exists!
Nearly twenty years ago, when the Higgs Boson was still an elusive particle, Leon Lederman wrote that it was “so central to the state of physics today, so crucial to our final understanding of the structure of matter, yet so elusive.” He even called it the ‘God-damned particle’ because it was not to be found! Disastrously, he then had his second ‘Oops-Leon!’ moment when he allowed his publisher to call it the God Particle in the title for his 1993 best seller on the global search for the boson.
Leon Lederman is himself an atheist and he regrets the term, and Peter Higgs who is an atheist too, has expressed his displeasure, but the damage has been done! The God particle is today the most popular name for the Higgs boson. If anything, the discovery of the Higgs boson and the confirmation of the Standard Model of the Universe make God even more unnecessary to explain the universe. In the universe are inscribed laws by which the big bang was initiated and the functioning of the universe sustained. Since we have the Higgs boson we do not need God anymore! If ever there was a Godless or an atheist particle, it is the Higgs boson!
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Sunday, 10 June 2012

Atheism to Defeat Religion By 2038

Countries with the best standard of living are turning atheist. That shift offers a glimpse into the world's future.

Religious people are annoyed by claims that belief in God will go the way of horse transportation, and for much the same reason, specifically an improved standard of living.
The view that religious belief will give way to atheism is known as the secularization thesis. The specific version that I favor (1) is known as the existential security hypothesis. The basic idea is that as people become more affluent, they are less worried about lacking for basic necessities, or dying early from violence or disease. In other words they are secure in their own existence. They do not feel the need to appeal to supernatural entities to calm their fears and insecurities.
The notion that improving living conditions are associated with a decline in religion is supported by a mountain of evidence (1,2,3).
That does not prevent some serious scholars, like political scientist Eric Kaufmann (4), from making the opposite case that religious fundamentalists will outbreed the rest of us. Yet, noisy as they can be, such groups are tiny minorities of the global population and they will become even more marginalized as global prosperity increases and standards of living improve.
Moreover, as religious fundamentalists become economically integrated, young women go to work and produce smaller families, as is currently happening for Utah's Mormons.
The most obvious approach to estimating when the world will switch over to being majority atheist is based on economic growth. This is logical because economic development is the key factor responsible for secularization. In deriving this estimate, I used the nine most godless countries as my touchstone (excluding Estonia as a formerly communist country).
The countries were Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom. These nine countries averaged out at the atheist transition in 2004 (5) with exactly half of the populations disbelieving in God. Their gross domestic product (GDP) averaged $29,822 compared to $10,855 for the average country in the world. How long will it take before the world economy has expanded sufficiently that the GDP of the average country has caught up to the average for the godless countries in 2004? 

Using the average global growth rate of GDP for the past 30 years of 3.33 percent (based on International Monetary Fund data from their website), the atheist transition would occur in 2035.
Belief in God is not the only relevant measure of religion, of course. A person might believe in God in a fairly superficial way without religion affecting his or her daily life. One way of assessing the depth of religious commitment is to ask survey participants whether they think that religion is important in their daily lives as the Gallup Organization has done in worldwide nationally representative surveys.
If fewer than 50 percent of the population agreed that religion was important to them, then the country has effectively crossed over to a secular majority. The godless countries by religiosity were Spain, South Korea, Canada, Switzerland, Uruguay, Germany and France. At a growth rate of 3.33 percent per year it would be 2041 before the average country in the world would be at an equivalent level of affluence as these godless nations.
If national wealth drives secularization, the global population will cross an atheist threshold where the majority see religion as unimportant by 2041.
Averaging across the two measures of atheism, the entire world population would cross the atheist threshold by about 2038 (average of 2035 for disbelief and 2041 for religiosity). Although 2038 may seem improbably fast, this requires only a shift of approximately 1 percent per year whether in religiosity or belief in God. Using the Human Development Index as a clock suggests an even earlier arrival for the atheist transition (1).
Is the loss of religious belief something fear? Contrary to the claims of religious leaders, Godless countries are highly moral nations with an unusual level of social trust, economic equality, low crime and a high level of civic engagement (5). We could do with some of that.
1. Barber, N. (2012). Why atheism will replace religion: The triumph of earthly pleasures over pie in the sky. E-book, available at: 
2. Norris, P., & Inglehart, R. (2004). Sacred and secular: Religion and politics worldwide. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
3. Barber, N. (2011). A Cross-National test of the uncertainty hypothesis of religious belief Cross-Cultural Research, 45, 318-333.
4. Kaufmann, E. (2010). Shall the religious inherit the earth? London: Profile books.
5. Zuckerman, P. (2008). Society without God: What the least religious nations can tell us about contentment. New York: New York University Press.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The Bosses of 'Herbalife' have been robbing the Grameen Bank via its customers

Professor Muhammad Yunus is a Bangladeshi economist who, in 1976, attempted to tackle the problem of world-poverty by founding the Grameen Bank. This common-sense institution now distributes more than $100 millions of low interest, small (or micro-credit) loans annually, to persons (mostly women) without collateral, in order to help them to escape the poverty-trap by starting their own businesses and achieving financial self-sufficiency. Muhammad Yunus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, along with Grameen Bank, for their campaign to create economic and social development around the world. 

Muhammad Yunus U.S. President Barack Obama (R) presents the Medal of Freedom to Professor Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House August 12, 2009 in Washington, DC. Obama presented the medal, the highest civilian honor in the United States, to 16 recipients during the ceremony.

Amongst many other international awards, Muhammad Yunus received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama, in 2009.

Although technically it is not classified as a bank in the USA (because it can't accept deposits from the public), in 2008, Grameen America opened its first Branch in the New York borough of Queens. This was followed in 2009, with a branch in the South Side of Omaha, Nebraska, where almost all borrowers have been unemployed, women immigrants from Latin America. 

It has recently been reported that many of the poor women who received their initial $1500 loans from Grameen America in New York and Omaha, have been persuaded to pour this borrowed-cash into 'Herbalife' and other 'MLM income opportunity' frauds, believing that they were going to achieve total financial freedom through buying a quota of products each month whilst recruiting their friends and relatives to duplicate the same endless-chain plan. In this way, numerous empty stores in Omaha were transformed into so-called 'Herbalife Nutrition Clubs.' These were typically draped with green curtains and decorated with posters of soccer stars who play for clubs sponsored by 'Herbalife.' Sadly, a number of these so-called 'Herbalife Clubs' have already vanished and the loans which were used to create them, have not been repaid.

'Herbalife income opportunity' propaganda  from the UK

In reality, all so-called 'MLM income opportunies' have been dissimulated closed-market swindles (i.e. without a significant or sustainable source of revenue other than that deriving from their own contributing participants, due to the fact that 'MLM' products have always been effectively-unsaleable on the open market). Classically, other than an insignificant minority of schills at the top of these pyramids, all so-called 'MLM income opportunities,' have had an 100% rolling loss/churn rate, whilst this key-information has been deliberately hidden from the public by their instigators.

Until recently the Grameen Bank has operated a policy of trusting its clients to make their own choice of business. However, for obvious reasons, certain Grameen staff have belatedly begun to advise their American borrowers not to get involved with 'Herbalife' in particular, and  with 'MLM' in general.

It is interesting to note that the US federal government's Small Business Administration (without actually naming any so-called 'MLM' companies, because that is forbidden by law) specifically lists all 'pyramid sales plans' as being ineligible for financial assistance; describing them as:

... 'plans, where a participant's primary incentive is based on the sales made by an ever-increasing number of participants. Such products as cosmetics, household goods, and other soft goods lend themselves to this type of business.'

David Brear (copyright 2012)