PLEASE JOIN US!   We meet on the first Sunday of every month
at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Duluth.
            Socializing begins at 9:00 am.
            Optional breakfast buffet at 9:30 am.
            Presentation from 10:00 until about 11:30.
Co-Facilitator: David Broman - (218) 349-7455
Co-Facilitator: Bill Guse - (218) 834-4583

We also meet at 6:00 in the evening on the second Wednesday
of each month at rotating local venues for fun and fellowship.
Social gatherings hosted by Bobbie Mistretta and Bud Turner.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

April 2015 Newsletter

Program for Sunday, April 5, 2015:
Charles E. Gessert "Why I am an Atheist.

Dr. Gessert worked for 13 years at Essentia, where he was Senior Research Scientist and chaired its Institutional Review Board.  With more than 80 scientific publications to his credit, he has headed up several medical ethics initiatives and teaches ethics at the University of Minnesota Duluth Medical School.

Social Gathering:
Wednesday, April 11th, from 6:00-7:30pm
Please join our hosts, Bobbie and Bud
      Vintage Italian Pizza
      1201 Tower Avenue
      Superior, WI
      (715) 392-5555

The Grand Rapids Atheists and Freethinkers (GRAF) became aware of a poster for prayer meetings at the Robert J. Elkington Middle School every Monday morning.  They got Calli Miller, one of the lawyers at the Freedom from Religion Foundation, involved and a letter was sent to the Grand Rapids School District.

The response did not come from Superintendent Bruce Thomas, but from Maggie R. Wallner.  She is a lawyer in Minneapolis (180 miles away) who often represents school boards.  She indicated that the activity was a student-initiated, student run club and that the "staff member's" role was purely supervisory.  She did, however, state the following: "The School District does not sponsor or endorse the ‘Prayer Time'; however, we will request that a statement be added to the students’ poster to clarify that fact.”

The "staff member" being played down in that letter is the new gym teacher, Zachary Holsman.  While playing ball at Northwestern College, he listed his proudest accomplishment as "becoming a Christian" and his favorite quote as Colossians 3:2 "Set your mind on things above, not on Earthly things."

Members of GRAF are keeping an eye on this situation, to ensure that all parties hold up their ends of this agreement.  Cathi Harding, a member of that group, is even looking into whether a branch of the Secular Student Alliance can be established there.

Is Fundamentalism a Mental Illness?




March 2015 Newsletter

Program for Sunday, March 1, 2015:
Sam Black "Gilgamesh: An epic giant from 2500 B.C.E.

Over fifty years ago, Samuel C. Black came to the Northland from Louisville, KY and Oklahoma City to serve a variety of church denominations with his musical talent.  This month, he talks to us about the Mesopotamian king, Gilgamesh. 

Social Gathering:
Wednesday, April 11th, from 6:00-7:30pm
Please join our hosts, Bobbie and Bud
      Black Woods
      195 U.S. 2
      Proctor, MN
      (218) 628-0628



The Lake Superior Freethinkers group is on the map: the "Bigotry Map" of the American Family Association, that is.  This is apparently because the FFRF's "objectives are to silence Christians and to remove all public displays of Christian heritage and faith in America."

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

February 2015 Newsletter

Program for Sunday,February 1, 2015:
Sonya Alston "The Rights Women Still Do Not Have in the Twenty-First Century.

Social Gathering:
Wednesday, April 11th, from 6:00-7:30pm
Please join our hosts, Bobbie and Bud
      Green Mill Restaurant
      340 South Lake Avenue
      Duluth, MN
      (218) 727-7000

D A R W I N   D A Y

Darwin Day is coming February 12, the birthday of Charles Darwin. We will again have our LSF Darwin Day celebration at Beaners Central at 324 N. Central Avenue that day starting at 7:00 pm. Please prepare a song or poem to share. It should be a fun time of visiting, coffee, beer, and reflections on Charles Darwin. If you plan to share a song or poem, please email Sonya, the organizer of the event.

Telling Atheists Where To Go

The Iron Range Coalition of Reason (IR CoR, pronounced "ear-core") launches on Darwin Day.  It is part of a coordinated effort across the country to recognize Darwin Day.  Local groups served by the coalition include the Lake Superior Freethinkers, the Grand Rapids Atheists and Freethinkers (both of which are chapters of the Freedom From Religion Foundation), along with the Secular Humanist Associations at the University of Minnesota Duluth and Itasca Community College (both of which are members of the Secular Student Alliance).  Information is available at IronRangeCoR.org.

Alworth Center for Peace and Justice Lecture

Why America Needs more Secularists:
Thursday, January 22, 2015, 7:30 P.M.

Location:Mitchell Auditorium, College of St. Scholastica

Jacques Berlinerblau is associate professor and director of the Program for Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University. He hosts and produces the show Faith Complex which is described as "a dialogue about the intersection of religion, politics and art." In 2010 he helped launch a second show The God Vote which focuses on news cycle issues involving faith and politics.

His books include How To Be Secular; Thumpin’ It: The Use and Abuse of the Bible in Today’s Presidential Politics and The Secular Bible: Why Nonbelievers Must Take Religion Seriously.

Alworth Center for Peace and Justice 2014-2015 Lecture Series: Is Religion a Force for Good or for Ill?

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

January 2015 Newsletter

January, 2015 Newsletter of the Lake Superior Freethinkers

Facilitators: David Broman - 218-349-7455, Bill Guse - 834-4583, 343-4806

First Sunday -Radisson – 9:00 AM Social – 9:30 Breakfast - 10:00 Presentation


George Erickson, editor, tundracub@mchsi.com


Roy Hagen, "The Human Predicament: Evolutionary (Genetic) Constraints to Critical Thinking”.

Roy’s presentation is partly based on “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors” by Carl Sagan – the idea that we are orphans left on the doorsteps of time – with only the foggiest of ideas of who we are, who are ancestors were and how we came to be what we are today. We have only recently discovered that we are the product of evolution, but we’re just beginning to work through what that means. That includes what we know about how our brains evolved.

Roy will also develop a major theme from “The Spirit in the Gene” by Australian photo-journalist Reg Morrison. To paraphrase him, “Evolution has given us a brain with the amazing capacity for reasoned, logical thought – which we rarely employ when making some of the most important decisions in life.”

Atheist jailed for denying ‘higher power’ in Calif. drug rehab gets $2M
by Marisa Taylor

An atheist in California was awarded $1.95 million in a settlement with the state and a drug rehab organization for violating his religious liberty by sending him to jail for refusing to submit to a “higher power” as part of a treatment program, local news outlets reported.

After serving a year behind bars for methamphetamine possession, 46-year-old Barry Hazle Jr. of Shasta County was ordered to join a residential drug treatment program. When he arrived at the Empire Recovery Center, he was told that the center’s 12-step program, which is modeled on AA, involved submitting to a “higher power” through prayer.

When Hazle asked about secular drug rehab, he was told that Empire was the only state-approved facility in the County, which wasn’t picky about whom that higher power could be. But when Hazle objected — the program included prayer and talk of God -- he was sent to jail at the California Rehabilitation Center for 100 days. Probation officials said they did so because Hazle was allegedly being "disruptive, though in a congenial way ... sort of passive-aggressive.”

In 2007, Hazle sued the Dept.of Corrections and Rehab. (CDCR) and a substance abuse treatment firm contracted by CDCR to coordinate rehab for parolees. Six weeks later the CDCR ruled that parole agents can’t compel a parolee to participate in religious-oriented programs, and that they must offer a nonreligious alternative if they object.

A U.S. district court judge ruled in 2010 that that Hazle’s right for religious freedom had been violated, but the jury declined to award damages. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2013 that he was entitled to compensation and ordered a retrial, which resulted in a $1.95 million settlement that he will receive from the state and WestCare California.

"I’m thrilled to finally have this case settled," Hazle told the Record Searchlight. "It sends a clear message to people in a position of authority, like my parole agent, for example, that they not mandate religious programming for their parolees, and for anyone else, for that matter."

Rogue pastors endorse candidates - IRS looks away politico.com
by Rachael Bade

A record number of Christian pastors endorsed candidates from the pulpit this election cycle, using Sunday sermons to flout tax rules. Their message to the IRS: Sue me.

Although the IRS was sued for not enforcing the law and admitted about 100 churches may be breaking the rules, the pastors and their critics alike say the agency is looking the other way.

The number of pastors endorsing candidates in “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” jumped from 33 in 2008 to more than 1,600 this year, according to Alliance Defending Freedom….

At issue is the churches’ status as tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations. They don’t pay taxes, and donations to them can be deducted from contributors’ taxable income. But with that break comes limits on political endorsements. Charities are barred from engaging in political campaigns….

“You can’t have a tax-exempt entity engaged in politics because that involves using tax-exempt money for political purposes, so it’s an unfair playing field,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-founder of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the organization that sued the IRS in 2012 for failing to enforce electioneering restrictions on churches. The group settled this summer with an understanding that the IRS would eventually take action. So far there’s no evidence they have.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in an interview last month with Tax Analysts suggested the IRS isn’t planning to crack down on churches anytime soon….

The law was written in 1954 by then-Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson (D-Texas), who was facing a contentious reelection challenge where several 501(c)(3)s endorsed his opponent, labeling him soft on communism.

The pastors, who make it easy for the IRS by often taping their sermons and mailing them to the tax agency, argue that it infringes on their First Amendment rights. “The church is God’s organization — what right does the government have to control this?” said Rev. Kevin Baird of Legacy Church in Charleston, S.C.

“If a member of the IRS gets this sermon and is listening, sue me,” said pastor Jim Garlow of the San Diego-based Skyline Church, after backing Democratic Rep. Scott Peters for reelection. His Republican challenger, Carl DeMaio, is gay, and could advance a “radical homosexual agenda,” Garlow warned.

Years ago the IRS was bolder. The Church at Pierce Creek in Binghamton, N.Y., lost its tax-exempt status in the 1990s after printing an ad claiming a vote for President Clinton was a sin.

Most of the pastors interviewed said they’re not interested in spending church money on campaigns, just advising their congregations to, as they say, “vote biblically….”

Gaylor noted that churches don’t have to file the annual Form 990 to the IRS, as other nonprofits do to disclose their finances. In that regard, she argues, people could easily “turn churches into money-laundering congregations for political purposes” — and no one would know.

IRS’s timid approach to enforcing rules is likely linked to a lawsuit it lost in 2009. The agency in 2007 began auditing Living Word Christian Center for endorsing Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). And when the church wouldn’t hand over records, the government filed suit.

But the judge tossed the case because of a technical matter. It pointed to IRS rules requiring regional agency commissioners or a higher-ranking official to approve church audits. Since the regional commissioner position had been eliminated in the late 1990s, the IRS had allowed lower-level agents to open the investigations. The judge said that wasn’t allowed.

But both the pastors and their critics have been disappointed at the lack of IRS action since then. Owens suggested the IRS’s merely told the court the churches are on their radar — not that they’re actually doing anything about it. Most doubt they are. In the meantime, the sermon organizers predict their numbers to grow…

Germany’s Pay to Pray Scheme
from the Wall Street Journal

German church members must pay an additional 8% to 9% of their gross annual income tax and capital gains tax bills to the church….

That’s stunning. Now, the German government is closing a loophole having to do with capital gains, which means an effective tax increase for its officially registered Christian believers:

“After we paid income taxes to the church all of these years, to now face another tax is a bit audacious,” said Renate Müller, a retiree from Frankfurt.

Ms. Müller said she left the church this spring after their bank said they would have to reveal their religious affiliation and begin paying the church tax on income from their retirement fund.

The church tax had always been due on capital gains, but it had never been properly enforced. Under the new rules, which the churches lobbied for, banks will be required to report their customers’ religious affiliations, rather than wait for customers to volunteer the information.

“We’re not doing it for the additional revenue,” said Thomas Begrich, finance chief for the Protestant Churches of Germany. “The wealthy need to pay their fair share.”

Surprise! The Catholic Church is corrupt.
For evidence, see http://www.cbc.ca/passionateeye/episodes/holy-money

Friday, December 5, 2014

December 2014 Newsletter

December, 2014 Newsletter of the Lake Superior Freethinkers

Facilitators: David Broman - 218-349-7455, Bill Guse - 834-4583, 343-4806

First Sunday -Radisson – 9:00 AM Social – 9:30 Breakfast - 10:00 Presentation


George Erickson, editor, tundracub@mchsi.com


LSF member Mark Woodcock will present Reflections on What it Means to be a Freethinker.

An Earthshaking Announcement of Great Importance

The January 2015 issue of our newsletter will be the last I produce. I have been doing it for a bit over 10 years, and that’s enough. Until I took over, it was produced by Bill Van Druten, who is still ahead of me in the Pope’s new search for candidates for Sainthood. -George Erickson

News of the Weird

A. Televangelist Jim Bakker, who ran the Praise the Lord ministry, now operates a church near Branson, MO with a website selling an array of "love gifts" for those who “donate” at certain levels via the website. Featured are clothing, jewelry, bulk foods, "Superfood" legacy seeds, a "foldable solar panel", vitamins, "Jim's Favorite" foods, "survival" equipment and supplies, water filtration products, and a strong commitment to the “benefits” of Silver Solution gels and liquids ($25 for a 4-ounce tube), even though the FDA has refused to call colloidal silver "safe and effective".

B. In September, Seattle-based, Mars Hill megachurch said it would close some branches as Rev. Mark Driscoll takes leave to consider comments he's made about women: “…women exist solely to support men.” A man's penis "is not your (personal) penis," he told men. "Ultimately, God created you, and it is his." "Knowing that his penis would need a home ... God created a woman (who) makes a very nice home." Driscoll added, helpfully, "But, though you may believe your hand is shaped like a home, it is not."

C. When Catholic priest Gerald Robinson, a convicted murderer, died in July, many in the Toledo Diocese were shocked that he was buried with full priestly rights. The diocese responded: “Father Robinson was a baptized member of the body of Christ, and he was, and remains, an ordained priest of the Roman Catholic Church."

The Preacher and The Slave
by Joe Hill – martyred labor organizer

Long-haired preachers come out every night Try to tell you what's wrong and what's right; But when asked about something to eat, They’ll answer in voices so sweet:

You will eat, by and by, In that glorious land in the sky. Work and pray; live on hay. You'll get pie in the sky when you die. (That's a lie!)

Oh, the Starvation Army they play And they sing and they clap and they pray Till they get all your coin on the drum, Then they'll tell you when you're on the bum.

If you fight hard for children and wife, Try to get something good in this life, You're a sinner and bad man, they tell; When you die you will sure go to Hell.

Holy Rollers and Jumpers come out, And they holler, they jump, and they shout. "Give your money to Jesus," they say, "He will cure all diseases today."

Indiana state trooper pulls woman over - asks if she accepts “Jesus Christ as your savior?”
by Jen HaydenFollow

When Ellen Bogan was pulled over for a traffic violation, the state trooper let her off with a warning, but not before asking “Did she accept Jesus Christ as her savior?

Ellen said she felt helpless to leave the traffic stop… Bogan said Hamilton asked her about her faith many times during the traffic stop. Because he was a trooper and his police car was still parked behind hers, she said she felt she could not leave or refuse questioning. "The whole time, his lights were on," Bogan said. "I had no reason to believe I could just pull away at that point, even though I had my warning."

an excerpt from Tom Robbins’ Skinny Legs and All
from Roberta Mistretta

Religion was an attempt to pin down the Divine. The Divine was eternally in flux, forever moving, shifting shape. That was its nature, it was absolute, true enough: absolutely mobile. Absolutely transcendent. Absolutely flexible. Absolutely impersonal. It had its god and goddess aspect, but it was ultimately no more male than female than it was star or screwdriver. It was the sum of all those things, but that sum cold never be chalked on a slate. The Divine was beyond description, beyond knowing, beyond comprehension.

To say that the Divine was Creation divided by Destruction was as close as one could come to definition. But the puny of soul, the dull of wit, weren’t content with that. They wanted to hang a face on the Divine. They went so far as to attribute petty human emotions ( anger, jealousy, etc.) to it, not stopping to realize that if God were a being, even a supreme being, our prayers would have cored him to death long ago.

The Divine was expansive, relation was reductive. Religion attempted to reduce the Divine to a knowable quantity with which mortals night efficiently deal, to pigeonhole it once and for all so that we never had to reevaluate it. With hammers of cant and spikes of dogma, we crucified and crucified again trying to nail to our stationary altars the migratory light of the world.

Thus since religion bore false witness to the Divine, religion was blasphemy. And once it entered into its unholy alliance with politics it became the most dangerous and repressive force that the world has ever known.

Proof that atheists have morals:
Unlike the ministers who fault us, we don’t fleece the gullible for profit.

Pastor's Wife Tries To Kill Daughters after Getting 'End of the World' Messages from Estranged Husband
by Tom Boggioni

A Montgomery, Illinois, woman who attempted to kill her three daughters told police that she wanted them to “meet Jesus Christ,” after receiving messages from her estranged pastor husband telling her the world was coming to an end.

Police arrived at the door of Pamela J. Christensen, 47, to discover the woman covered in blood. Christensen then confessed that she had tried to kill her daughters.

Two of the girls were stabbed, suffering minor injuries. Christensen had also stabbed herself in the chest and abdomen and was treated at a local hospital. The girls, ages 12, 16 and 19, told police that their mother had dressed them all in white and had held a knife to them, asking them if they accepted Jesus Christ as their savior.

She had initially tried to poison her daughters with household cleaners so they would doze off and she could stab as they slept. The girls refused to drink the poison.

Christensen said that she was sending the girls to “meet Jesus,” following messages from her husband, who said that the world was ending and she needed to prepare the family to meet Jesus. Her husband is a former pastor.

Christensen had served her husband with a restraining order, stating that he had become increasingly violent towards her and the children.

Christensen now faces three counts of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated battery and aggravated unlawful restraint.


Child: What religion should I be grandfather?
Grandfather: What an important but unusual question!

C: Why is it unusual?
G: Because almost all children take the religion of their parents without checking any of the other possibilities.

C: Yes, but you know that my father is a Mormon and mother a Jehovah's Witness.
G: Sure and I see your problem.

C: I can't see the difference and they won't talk about it. And it seems wrong for me just to pick one. Which is the real one grandfather?
G: Yes, it might upset one of your parents if you chose the other's religion.

C: I have heard of some other religions. My playmate Eileen says her religion has the only real god and that my parents and I will die and go to a horrid place where we will be tortured forever. Is that true?
G: I see that you have thought and worried a lot about this so lets think it over together. In the end though you are free to, and must decide for yourself yet there is no hurry at all.

C: But what is your religion, and what do you think? I would like to be what you are.
G: I will tell you what I think later but first I will say that I go by the best evidence that I can find and even then I am still curious and ready to change my mind if I learn of better evidence.

C: But you are old and you know a lot that I don't. How do I find what you call evidence?
G: Evidence is information or experience that you have collected and checked to see if it is real and fits with other things you know.

C: That will take a long time for me and it seems hard and I will always be in doubt.
G: Yes, that is right but it is the only way I know and it has worked very well for me. If you start now you will be on your way and ahead of most of your friends.

C: Do all the other adults do that?
G: Some do it, some do it a bit, but most just follow any leader or believe any teacher or priest or doctor. So any one that does it the way I do, always, as a habit, is rare I think.

C: Eileen says I should just have faith in her god that is the best and real one. But then she said that her god is really three gods all in a bundle.
G: I see that as a puzzle too and have made up my mind about it. But if that three in one god should appear in person and tell everyone, that would be evidence and I would consider it against other evidence that I have.

C: I think I would do that too.
G: Good. See, you have started already. But you can also check out Eileen's god with other evidence you know already. What else does Eileen tell you?

C: She says I should pray to her god as she does. But she never shows me how that worked for her, except you ask god for something in a polite way and you get always it. I have never seen anything she got.
G: Well, ask her what she got. And you can do as she said, try it. Pray nicely to her god or to the gods of mom and dad and see what happens. That would be real evidence. Ask the god to bring you something or to move a mountain you can see and then say that you might believe it.

C: She says I need to have faith first. What is faith grandfather?
G: A famous author said that, "faith is believing what you know ain't so". I means skipping the evidence part and flat out believing something even if there is good evidence against it.

C: Do you use faith?
G: I never use faith. Sometimes I can't get enough solid evidence and need to go with the probabilities or the odds of something being true. But that is because there is no other choice, yet I can change my mind later.

C: Will you tell me how you did that?
G: Yes. Sometimes I need to cross over a lake or river on a bridge and there is heavy fog and I cannot tell if the bridge is really there. The evidence I have is that it has been safe where the fog is now and I have not heard that the bridge fell down or had bad rust and might fall soon. So go with the best chances and it has always worked but some day it might not.

C: Do you do that often?
G: As little as possible. You know that airplanes crash and people are killed but when I need to get somewhere I will get on a plane. The odds are very, very good that it will land safely. Still, I know that if I flew enough one day I might crash and be killed.

C: I like talking with you grandfather. You tell me real things; my parents only shrug me off about the important things. It puzzles me that there are so many gods and so many churches and some are the first church but I never see a second church. How many gods are there?
G: No one knows but I have read that there are at least 2000 currently and that is just for now. People have had so many gods over the years that they are uncountable and I will tell you a secret. There will be gods invented in the future to replace the ones we have now.

C: You said invented. Does that mean you think they are just made up by people?
G: Well, yes, I let the cat slip out of the bag I guess. Yes, I think they are all imaginary and invented by people.

C: I thought that might be how you think and I want to know so much more. But I am full of things to think over for now. Can I ask you more later grandfather?
G: Absolutely, yes. When you are ready just ask.

Alabama Pastor Had Sex with Church Members Despite Known AIDS status
by Terrell Jermaine Starr

An Alabama pastor An Alabama pastor admitted to “sleeping” with worshippers at his church despite knowing of his AIDS status.

Juan Demetrius McFarland, pastor of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church of Montgomery, Ala., told his congregation on Sept. 14 that he had contracted HIV in 2003 and learned in 2008 that he had AIDS…

In a resolution read at church, McFarland, pastor for 29 years, admitted to drug use and mishandling church funds. But that wasn't the worst part.

"He concealed from the church that he had knowingly engaged in adultery in the church building with female members of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church while knowingly having AIDS," Nathan Williams said.

McFarland refused to step down, so the church responded by overwhelmingly voting him out. That hasn't stopped McFarland, who then delivered a sermon on divine healing. The church has obtained legal counsel to sue McFarland.


The American Humanist Assoc. has sent a letter to the San Jacinto, CA, School District on behalf of a student at Monte Vista Middle School…. When the student, an atheist who objects to the phrase “under God,” attempted to sit quietly at his desk during the Pledge exercise, his teacher berated him and erroneously informed him that the law required him to stand. The teacher then demanded that the student explain his reason for remaining seated, asking, “Do you hate America?” and saying other things meant to pressure him into standing. The student’s family reported the abuset to the American Humanist Association’s Legal Center through the DontSaythePledge.com website, which encourages individuals to remain seated during recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance until the “under God” language is removed from it.