Welcome to the Lake Superior Freethinkers

Please Join us. We meet in Duluth on the first Sunday of every month, 9am at the downtown Radisson. Our meetings are free and open to the public.

Upcoming Meetings

November 2014
Jan Reisberg-- “Superstition and the Freethinkers”
December 2014
Mark Woodcock-- “Reflections on what it means to be a free thinker”
Friday, October 31, 2014

November 2014 Newsletter

November, 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

 
Program

Jan Reisberg will present Superstition and Freethinkers. After graduation from Duluth Cathedral High, Jon got a degree in theology and became a monk at St. John’s Abbey. As a nurse, he ran a shelter near New York City’s Times Square.

A Special Notice:

Scott Hunter, a private philanthropist, has set aside $8,000 as a matching fund for the LSF. If you can give $10, we will get $20. If you give $50, we get $100. If you can afford to give $1,000, you will become a Life Member--which gets you a certificate for framing, acknowledgement of your gift in a name you provide, and $2,000 for our work! A $500 Gold membership has similar benefits. This could allow us to host a famous speaker, distribute more brochures, sponsor future publicity efforts or increase our presence at local events ... whatever we decide.

Please help LSF take advantage of this rare opportunity to ramp up its efforts against the power of superstition. Send your check, payable to LSF, to Tom Patten, 3001 East 1st Street, Duluth, MN 55812, bring it to next meeting or click “donate” on our website. The deadline for matching funds is December 7.

Lake County, FL board opens meeting with secular invocation.
By Jerry Fallstrom and Jayna Omaye, Orlando Sentinel


In the County Commission chambers this week, Gail Boettger couldn't believe it when the meeting began with a secular invocation that was delivered by Paul Tjaden, of the Central Florida Freethought Community. Tjaden noted that Lake Co. has residents of many faiths … and "people who profess no religious belief."

Later, Boettger expressed disappointment - "Removal of the prayer? Shame on you."

At the commission meeting, Tjaden said he came not to pray "but to invoke the spirit of goodwill. We share the goal of making our Lake County the best place it can be."

Two women thanked Tjaden for the invocation, but Boettger differs - "America was founded on Judaic-Christian principles…. Our founding fathers … prayed."

The following excerpt on the Nicean Creed and fundamentalism, which our recent speaker referenced, is from my Time Traveling with Science & the Saints.
George Erickson


Until approximately 250 CE, Christianity had not been a major competitor on a field of many religions. But as time passed, the Romans came to see the advantage of endorsing an authoritative religion that could help to bring conformity to their weakening empire. According to the Roman philosopher Celsus, during the 2nd century Christian leaders began to pander to Rome, revising their gospels and removing objections to gain converts, influence and power - an accusation confirmed by the New Catholic Encyclopedia which, in writing of the period conceded, "In all the departments, forgery and interpolation as well as ignorance wrought mischief on a grand scale."

Celsus, a critic of the new religion, argued in True Word that Christianity was little more than a cobbling together of former beliefs, and was far from unique. Why, he asked, should pagan gods be counted as myths, while the Christian god must be deemed historical?

When Constantine officially recognized Christianity in the 4th century Edicts of Milan, the Christian sects, which had been smarting from persecution at the hands of the Romans, set out to persecute all non-Christians - Jews and pagans alike - and to see to the destruction of pagan temples and the confiscation of their property. The oppressed had become the oppressors. G.G. Coulton perceptively observed in Inquisition and Liberty that the Christian church "has always held the toleration of others to be the persecution of itself." (Constantine, a consummate-but-vengeful politician who sentenced one of his sons to death and had his wife boiled alive, tolerated all beliefs during his reign, but eventually converted to Christianity when death drew near.)

Constantine turned over the temples and basilicas of Rome to the church, and the power and the holdings of the newly anointed church began to rapidly expand. He exempted church lands from taxation, ordered provincial officials to assist in church construction, devised a system for giving food to Christian congregations, and exempted the clergy from many civic obligations. As Ramsay MacMullen noted in Christianizing the Roman Empire, "Bishops now dined with Constantine himself; they used Constantius' palace as their headquarters. They were seen riding along provincial highways in state conveyances, bent on their high affairs as guests of the government."

Christian hierarchies will probably never admit that they owe as much, if not more, to Constantine than they do to St Paul. It was Constantine who called the Council of Nicea which, under pressure from Constantine, adopted the convoluted concept of the Trinity. It was Constantine who moved the birth date of Jesus from January to December 25 in order to distance the church from Jewish tradition and to co-opt the Mithran celebration of the return of the sun. It was Constantine who excused the clergy from paying taxes or serving in the army. And it was Constantine who ordered the destruction of all pagan and Christian writings about Christianity that he considered heretical. His edict was so effective that of "... the five thousand early extant manuscript versions of the New Testament, not one pre-dates the fourth century."

Given his record, no one need wonder why Constantine came to be called the "thirteenth Apostle" or why historians have labeled Constantine's council of Nicea - the "rubber stamp" Council. Nevertheless, Constantine's efforts to establish uniformity failed in several ways, for even the four supposedly unimpeachable Gospels still dispute each other.

Thanks to Constantine, less than fifty years would pass before Emperor Theodosius would feel free to declare it illegal to disagree with the Church or to publicly discuss religion. To admit to being a pagan invited arrest and death. Jews were exempt, though they suffered other constraints: intermarriage between Jews and Christians was deemed adulterous, and the woman could be put to death.

One might think that royal support would have been sufficient for the church, but as the years passed and the Church sought to bring kings and emperors to heel, various popes and prelates began to "discover" ancient letters from leaders like Constantine - the “donations of Constantine” - that supposedly yielded all authority to the church. But in the sixteenth century, these “donations” were revealed to be frauds.

When death approached, Constantine divided his sprawling empire among his remaining sons. Most significantly, Constantius received control of Asia minor, Syria and Egypt - a region soon to be embroiled in inter-religious conflict. One faction, led by Athanasius, swore to the truth of the Trinity, which the "Unitarian" followers of Arius deemed heretical. In 342 CE, warfare finally erupted between the rival factions in the great cities of Alexandria and Constantinople. And though much is made of the Christians who had been persecuted by Rome, according to Will Durant's The Age of Faith "Probably more Christians were slaughtered by Christians in these two years [342-3] than by all the persecutions of Christians in the history of Rome."

Years of strife followed until Constantine's nephew Julian, who had hidden his pagan sentiments, became emperor. Julian, whom Constantius had considered a threat, had been distanced from the throne, which proved a blessing for Julian because it took him to pagan surroundings for most of his formative years. There, Julian came to accept the logic of a sun-centered solar system, to prefer the "polished pagans, heirs of a millennium of culture, to the grave theologians ... or the pious statesmen who had thought it necessary to kill his father, his uncle and so many more,” and to conclude that there were “no beasts more ferocious than Christians."

Unlike his Christian predecessors, the new pagan emperor declined to live royally. He reduced taxes on the poor and the persecuted, overtaxed Jews. He cancelled state subsidies to Christian churches, allowed full freedom to all religions, ordered the pagan temples restored, required and enforced licensing of physicians, and established a principle that underlies modern law - that the accused must be considered innocent until proven guilty. Unfortunately, Julian's Christian successor Jovian reversed his reforms when Julian died in battle, assassinated, it is claimed, by one of his Christian soldiers. Jovian promptly restored the "Constantine trend" by exempting bishops from prosecution in the secular courts.

Despite the support that the Church received from Roman rulers, conflicts within the Church continued to boil. Rival bishops regularly excommunicated each other. And during the tumultuous 499 Council of Ephesus, the assembled bishops - the “lambs of Christ” - kicked bishop Flavinius to death.

Throughout the expanding Roman realm, "schools of higher learning . . . were extinguished by Christian fanatics or barbarian neglect," 16 forcing many scholars to flee east to the safety of a more tolerant Byzantium. In 529 CE, the Christian Emperor Justinian shut down Plato's Academy. "The indifference of the Romans cooperated with that of the Christians to dry up the stream of science long before the barbaric invasions ... What remained of Greek science in Europe was buried in the libraries of Constantinople..." 17

Devoid of science and intellectual pursuits, Europe drifted into a long Age of Darkness, ruled once again by churchmen who saw the universe not as a stunning, lofty sphere - but one in which the heavens descended toward the tent roofs of old, across which seraphims drove the stars.

Hobby Lobby’s Steve Green has big plans for Bible museum in Washington
By Michelle Boorstein


Steve Green is standing in the eight-story Bible museum he’s building in Washington D C. Plans for the $800 million project are coming together nicely: the ballroom modeled after Versailles, the Disney-quality holograms, the soaring digital entryway with religious images projected on the ceiling, the restaurant serving biblically-themed meals.

But one detail is bothering Green. The building is not close enough to the National Mall. It’s just two blocks away…. Green knows how much location matters.

“Sometimes being a block down the street can mean a lot in terms of sales,” he says. “The Mall is where there are a lot of visitors. It’s not as visible to the Mall as we’d like.”

Green is president of Hobby Lobby, a multibillion-dollar craft store chain… which took on the White House in a Supreme Court case over whether employers had to include no-cost coverage of contraception to employees. The Court ruled for Hobby, and among religious conservatives, the Pentecostal Greens were hailed as heroes.

Green is focusing on the still-unnamed Bible museum. When it opens in 2017, it will be about the same size as the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, and the Bible museum’s proximity to the seat of U.S. government is no accident.

“The more people as we can educate about this book, the better,” Green said. “Seeing the biblical foundations of our nation — for our legislators to see that, that a lot of that was biblically based, that we have religious freedoms today, which are a biblical concept, it can’t hurt being there.”

BBC News

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said he sometimes has doubts about God. In a BBC interview, the leader of the Church of England said he doubted in "lots of different ways".

He said: "There are moments when you think, 'Is there a God?' 'Where is God?'"…

When asked about doubt by presenter Lucy Tegg, he said: "The other day I was praying as I was running, and I said to God, 'look this is all very well, but isn't it about time you did something, if you're there?'”

Education News

10 Texas school districts recently acquired 64 M-16 rifles, 18 M-14s, 25 automatic pistols and magazines capable of holding 4,500 rounds of ammunition. District officials referred to the need to protect against school attacks like those in Colorado and Connecticut, but a local Houston area police chief promised that the equipment would be used only by tactically trained officers and that, otherwise, would be locked in the department's armory. However, the typical school-shooter lasts 12 minutes, hardly enough time to get to the armory and load up. [And why no get a few grenade launchers or a tank or two?]

Christians Beware!

Gordon Klingenschmitt, Republican candidate for the Colorado Assembly, claimed that “Democrats like Congressman Jared Polis [who is gay] want to bankrupt Christians who refuse to… endorse his sodomy. Next he’ll join ISIS in beheading Christians… right here in America.”

Football and Prayer

Florida pastor Troy Schmidt is angry that he can’t lead the Olympia High School football team in prayer because of a complaint from FFRF. “They’re telling us we have to be atheists…, he said on Fox and Friends.
Thursday, October 2, 2014

October 2014 Newsletter

October, 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

 
Program

JOHN WOLFORTH, computer programmer, former Sunday School teacher and self-described myth buster, will present “What is fundamentalism and why we should care”.

Religion vs. religions – by Bill Guse

I’d like to explain why usually shouldn’t use the commonly used singular words, “religion” and “god.” In short, it’s because the singular of people’s gods and religions is readily built into our brains because it makes it personal, thus more appealing. Singular references are taught, believed from near infancy, lived in, imagined, dreamed and thus assumed for almost every reader and listener - including the most ardent atheist.

The singular reference is what god or religion is to most of us. When the plural is seen or heard instead, besides being more honest, our brains create new pathways, generally are forced to reframe. That process creates a reflective reaction instead of a reflexive one. Reframing makes us think.

If we want to change how people steeped in superstition think, we should not use the same words they use for their metaphors. If we do, nothing noticeable will happen in their thought process.

The singular reference is ubiquitous in our culture, thus most users of the language assume, automatically, that what they mean or imagine or think is similar to most others because they hear the same language/ words. We humans like to stay in the herd. We are constantly looking to see what others are doing to give us permission to do the same. Permission to use Iron Age thinking is one way our culture carries on. This nearly universal reflexive response needs to be interrupted, and one way to interrupt it is to use different words.

When Sam Harris or Dawkins or Dan Barker or any non-theist uses the word “god” instead of “gods” or “a god” or “their god” or “your god” or “gods of the. . . .” , we are reinforcing or validating the legitimacy of what that word means to most people. The same applies to the word “religion”. They hear the same word they use, so the meaning of it remains constant - no matter what is said before or after. Just as when a teacher tells students to not run in the school’s halls, in the brain she is validating the idea of running. Our brains are not very much as we experience them, run is run is run. Better the teacher says, “Walk”. “Walk” goes to a different metaphorical frame in the brain, creating other images than “run”.

When we say “Your god” instead of “god” in a conversation or we say “religions” instead of “religion” those words go to difference place in our brains. New thoughts arise. To author a different thought we need to experience a different experience. Let’s not feed others and ourselves what we no longer want consumed. Even nonbelievers say “My god!”, but it should be “My particular god!” I know that sounds weird, but that’s the point - you noticed it. When there is more of anything each specimen has less value. That is also true for gods, so go plural please. IF we can’t get to no gods, bringing attention to as many brains as possible that there are many gods or specific gods is a step in the right direction.

Do You Believe Every Word In The Bible Is Inspired By God?
Ed Raymond


The most-sold and probably least-read books in the history of the world are the 171 different Bibles published over the centuries, with 70 of them being major translations. Over 95% of U.S. households own at least one copy. Only 60% can name as many as five Commandments. Twelve percent think Joan of Arc was married to the skipper of the ark, Noah. Fifty percent think Sodom and Gomorrah were a married couple. A Gallup Poll revealed that 50% couldn’t name the first book of the Bible. Over 80% thought that the phrase “God helps those who help themselves” is a great Biblical verse. We own about a dozen different Bibles, and have another two dozen books containing maps and detailed explanations of what the verses mean in the Bibles. One-third of Americans believe that every word is literally true, so naturally they must follow all of the following precepts:

** Women must remain silent in church. Nuns and other females may not teach catechism or Sunday school within church boundaries.
** Sex before marriage is a mortal sin.
** Remarriage after an unbiblical divorce is adultery. Adulterers are stoned to death. If you wish to avoid stoning you must divorce new spouses and remarry the old one–or remain celibate for the rest of your life.
** Same-sex orientation is a choice.
** Homosexuals should be stoned to death.
** Do not eat rabbit, shellfish, pork, weasels, scavengers, reptiles, owls, anything with fins, or scales. Do not eat goat boiled in its mother’s milk.
** Elisha was ridiculed by a group of 42 boys for being bald so he called on God to curse them. God sent two bears out of the nearby woods and the grizzlies killed all 42.
** Jesus was hungry while on the road. He came upon a fig tree but it was barren. He said, “May you never bear fruit again!” The tree immediately died….


Evangelical Megachurch Begins Closing Branches After Pastor Calls Women “Penis Homes”
Salon / By Jenny Kutner


Fifteen Mars Hill churches are closing amid founder Mark Driscoll's controversial anti-LGBT and anti-woman remarks.

The Washington-based evangelical megachurch Mars Hill is shutting some of its doors. Following controversy over founder Mark Driscoll’s well-documented homophobic and sexist remarks, church officials have announced that they would be closing several of Mars Hills 15 Pacific Northwest branches, citing financial difficulties caused by “negative media attention.” Several staff and clergy members have also been laid off. Last month, Driscoll himself announced that he would be taking a six-week-long leave of absence….

A recent New York Times profile of Driscoll also reports accusations of “plagiarizing, of inappropriately using church funds and of consolidating power to such a degree that it has become difficult for anyone to challenge or even question him.”….

Atheists are hated more than Moslems, and atheists don’t blow up anything. Atheists are 23 % of military personnel and win over 90% of the Nobel prizes. Christians can't even turn a light on without using an invention by atheist Thomas Edison. -Paul Keller

The Wisdom of Getting High
Dr James B Lyttle


Recently, at a conference in Las Vegas, I was looking out my 29th floor window at the desert and some mountains. A storm was moving slowly toward the North. There was a clear patch over a large park, but the storm would soon be there and the impending deluge was quite apparent. I thought about how different this was from my usual experience of weather, on the ground.

If I saw that sunny sky, I might have packed up some food and taken my family for a picnic. When dark clouds suddenly appeared out of nowhere and pelted us with heavy rain, I would be upset. Weather would seem cruel and capricious, and I might start to feel that the Universe "had it in for me." I wondered if this new perspective contained any insights for life in general.

Normally, I am "on the ground," concerned with my own interests and goals and problems. Things sometimes happen to me, and I don't know where they came from or why they happen. For example, I might hear a TED talk on a new idea. If the presenter's argument seems coherent, and the presenter seems authoritative, I might buy into whatever that talk espouses. I have no other perspective on the issue than the one presented to me in the TED talk.

But, if I were a philosopher (looking at things from the 29th floor), I might see the new idea in a very different light. It might be obvious why this TED talk was presented, when it was presented, and what sort of person the presenter was. I might be able to place the idea in the context of similar and/or competing ideas on the same topic. I might even be able to place it in the context of the then-current culture. From this perspective, it would be easier to have objectivity (the weather is not cruel) and wisdom (the weather is not capricious). Here is an example of what I mean:

What is reality? When I was young, we were preoccupied with outer space. Our cars were Comets and Mercurys. Our television shows were Star Trek and Lost in Space. Our films were Red Planet Mars and It Came from Outer Space. Not surprisingly, our metaphor for reality (way of understanding it) was atomic. Everything in the world was made up of little solar systems, with a sun (nucleus) at the center and little planets (electrons) revolving around it in predictable orbits. Later, when the Zeitgeist was more new age and magical, we became fascinated with quantum theory. Our movies were The Secret and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Our music included Yanni. Our metaphor for reality (way of understanding it) was energy-based. Everything in the world was made up of energy, assuming various shapes and forms including solid matter. Now, our lives revolve around computers and other smart devices. Our television shows include AMC's Halt and Catch Fire and HBO's Silicon Valley. Our movies include Her and The Social Network. Is it any wonder that reality is now described as "all just information"?

Perhaps philosophers see this coming a mile away. From the 29th floor, they can see that everything is not just little solar systems, or just energy, or just information. Their training and experience shows that these are all metaphors for the same reality, one which has not changed in the face of our shifting descriptions of it. Several clich├ęs apply here: Korzybski's "The map is not the territory," Magritte's "Ceci n'est pas une pipe," and the classic "Don't eat the menu." I want to be on that metaphorical 29th floor more often. I might sometimes miss the passion and excitement of being on the ground and committed to a group advocating this and that cause, but it seems like a reasonable sacrifice for wisdom.



Wednesday, September 3, 2014

September 2014 Newsletter

September, 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

 
Program

August Berkshire, President of the MN Atheists will present “Moral Responsibility and Free Will”

"Spiritual" People More Likely to Commit Crimes than Atheists – Salon – by Katie McDonough
Atheists also less likely to be mentally troubled, suffer anxiety and have phobias.


Headed for a life of crime? Photo Credit: Anelina/Shutterstock.com

Young people who consider themselves “spiritual but not religious” are more likely to commit property crimes than those who identify as just “religious” or “spiritual and religious,” according to one study from Baylor University, a Baptist institution.

Researchers surveyed participants to see how often they had committed crimes in the previous 12 months, and found that loosey-goosey spiritual types (just kidding!) were more likely to commit vandalism, theft and burglary than religious people; the study also found that agnostics and atheists were less likely than spiritual people to commit such crimes.

“Calling oneself ‘spiritual but not religious’ turned out to more of an antisocial characteristic, unlike identifying oneself as religious,” said Baylor researcher Aaron Franzen, a doctoral candidate and study co-author. It is a hard time to be spiritual, scientifically speaking: researchers from University College London recently found that that this group is more prone to “anxiety disorders, phobias and neuroses” than atheists, agnostics and religious people.

A REAL Saint - Denis Diderot

Encyclopedist Denis Diderot was born in 1713 in Langres, France, destined by his lower-class family for the priesthood. At 13, he was tonsured and titled "abbe." Continuing his studies in Paris, Diderot abandoned his faith when exposed to science and freethought views, evolving gradually from deist to atheist. In his Essay on the Merits of Virtue (1745), Diderot noted: "From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step."

Diderot anonymously wrote Pensees philosophiques (1746), which was burned in public. In it, Diderot wrote: "Skepticism is the first step toward truth." After An Essay on Blindness was published in 1749, Diderot spent three months in jail for atheism (he was moved from the Bastille to Vincennes due to overcrowding), an experience that taught him to only circulate his rationalist writings privately.

His Interpretation of Nature sets out the scientific method. His treatises on aesthetics led him to be called the first art critic. His novels include La Religieuse (published belatedly in 1796), which took an unstinting look at the sexually corrupting forces of monasticism and fanaticism.

Diderot was the editor of the first major encyclopedia. He worked with rationalists, including Voltaire, on this monument to the Age of Enlightenment, compiling knowledge for nearly 30 years, while facing Roman Catholic opposition. The 17 volumes of text and 11 of illustrations published from 1751 to 1772, bought the publisher a period of imprisonment.

Catherine the Great offered Diderot refuge, which he declined, but he accepted her grand gesture of purchasing his library and bequeathing it to him for life in 1766. In 1773-1774, he made the arduous journey to Russia to thank her, with hopes of setting up a Russian university. The trip disappointed him in her reign and broke his health. He died in 1784.

“Wandering in a vast forest at night, I have only a faint light to guide me. A stranger appears and says to me: 'My friend, you should blow out your candle in order to find your way more clearly.’ This stranger is a theologian.”

“Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the guts of the last priest.”

David in the Lending Den by David Broman

A couple of months ago, I needed to purchase a new car. Having heard that the Duluth Teachers Credit Union had a good deal on loans, and being a teacher, I decided to see what they could offer me. The DTCU is a nice looking little building right near the Miller Hill Mall. It's decorated to the hilt inside and out, and the staff were very friendly.

When I entered the building and said I was looking into car loans, I was directed to the Loan Officer's office, where I sat down in a chair across from her desk.

"How can I help you?" she asked me.

"Well, I'm a teacher, and I need a car loan," I replied.

"Do you live, work, or worship in Duluth?" She asked.

I was expecting her to look at my credit rating, income, or some other thing that makes sense. Instead I'm faced with this unexpected yet simple question that could leave checkmate me. Since I spend most of my free time in Duluth, and since I'm a teacher, it never occurred to me that I wouldn't qualify based on this kind of criteria.

"Well, I live in Cloquet… and I work out that way… don't really worship…" I mumbled.

"Sorry, you don't qualify," she said with a fake, consoling smile.

I sat there for a moment, processing my failure... looking for a loophole. "I am a member of Lake Superior Freethinkers in Duluth," I said in one last desperate attempt.

"That works," she said as she turned to her computer and started typing Lake Superior Freethinkers on her computer in the space that says "Worship" or some such nonsense.

I won… I thought. For a moment, I thought I didn't qualify for a loan because I'm not superstitious. But, in the end, the ideals of inclusion (and profit) overcame the institutional discrimination that kicked its boot at my ass, but then held back.

Feeling great about the loan deal I got, I went to complete the car purchase I had started. But upon some reflection, I realized something. What if I were an agnostic who lived and worked outside of Duluth, and I was a member at the Owls Club? Would I qualify for a loan? What if I was a member of the Duluth Rowing Club, and I worshipped canoe paddles? Would I qualify? I know of a mentally ill patient who is sexually aroused by Enger Tower. She worships it. Would she qualify? I don't think so.

If I didn't belong to an organization that is concerned with existential ideas, I don't think I would qualify. I would not qualify for a loan because I'm not a member of a religion (or something that seems close to it). I wouldn't qualify for a loan because I don't subscribe to the superstitious beliefs of humanity's cultural infancy. The whole idea is still sinking in. I try to base my beliefs on evidence, but despite the evidence, the question that was asked of me at DTCU was almost unbelievable.

Atheist treats Sioux Falls City Council to Dumbledore’s wisdom during opening prayer The Raw Story - by Scott Kaufman

The invocation before last night’s meeting of the Sioux Falls, South Dakota City Council was not only made by an atheist, but by an atheist who quoted from her own “good book” — Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

In May, Mayor Mike Huether approved the request of the Siouxland Freethinker’s president, Amanda Novotny, to open a City Council meeting with a “non-theist prayer.”


Novotny did exactly that — but instead of asking those in attendance to bow their heads, she asked them to ”lift your head up and look around. Turn your attention to this room — a room that has heard countless discussions, frustrations, and successes; a room where important decisions regarding your city are routinely made…Think of the hundreds and thousands of others who are also affected by the ideas shared here. Let all voices be heard and understood equally.”

Because it was “customary” to read from a book during the invocation, she chose a passage from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in which Professor Dumbledore said, “Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.”

She concluded by asking “those present to join me in showing gratitude to the men and women that serve the great city of Sioux Falls.”

Florida preacher cancels gay man’s funeral.

Julie Atwood was at her son's wake, standing next to his casket, when she got the news: The church was canceling the funeral because her son was gay.

Rev. T.W. Jenkins of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Tampa, Florida, told Julie that he'd read in the newspaper obituary that her son was married to another man and decided that holding the funeral would be "blasphemous."

Despite protests, Jenkins doubled down, saying his church plans to "continue to stand on the word of God."

Piper Chapman on Religion

I believe in science. I believe in evolution. I believe in Nate Silver and Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Christopher Hitchens - although I do admit he could be a kind of an asshole.

I cannot get behind some supreme being who weighs in on the Tony Awards while a million people get whacked with machetes. I don't believe a billion Indians are going to hell. I don't think we get cancer to learn life lessons, and I don't believe that people die young because God needs another angel.

I think it's just bullshit, and on some level, I think we all know that, I mean, don't you?

I understand that religion makes it easier to deal with all of the random shitty things that happen to us. And I wish I could get on that ride, I'm sure I would be happier. But I can't. Feeling aren't enough. I need it to be real." - Piper Chapman (Orange is the new black)

5 Reasons to Suspect Jesus Never Existed AlterNet

Most antiquities scholars think that the New Testament gospels are “mythologized history” that starts in the first century with a controversial Jewish rabbi named Yeshua ben Yosef.

These scholars agree that many Bible stories like the virgin birth, miracles, resurrection, and women at the tomb borrow and rework mythic themes that were common in the Ancient Near East, much the way that screenwriters base new movies on old familiar tropes or plot elements. In this view, a “historical Jesus” became mythologized.

For over 200 years, a wide ranging array of theologians and historians—most of them Christian—analyzed ancient texts that made it into the Bible and those that didn’t….

Other scholars believe that those mythic templates are themselves the kernel. They got filled in with names, places and other real world details as early sects of Jesus worship attempted to understand and defend the devotional traditions they had received.

The notion that Jesus never existed is a minority position. Of course it is! says David Fitzgerald, author of Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed at All….

Fitzgerald is an atheist speaker and writer. The internet phenom, Zeitgeist the Movie introduced millions to some of the mythic roots of Christianity. But Zeitgeist contained errors that undermine credibility. Fitzgerald seeks to correct that by giving young people interesting, accessible information that is grounded in accountable scholarship…

Since many people, Christian and not, find it surprising that this debate exists—that credible scholars might think Jesus never existed—here are some of the points that keep the doubts alive:

1. No first century secular evidence whatsoever exists to support the actuality of Yeshua ben Yosef. In the words of Bart Ehrman: “What sorts of things do pagan authors from the time of Jesus have to say about him? Nothing. There is no mention of Jesus by any of his pagan contemporaries. There are no birth records, trial transcripts, death certificates; there are no expressions of interest, heated slanders, passing references – nothing. If we broaden our field of concern to the years after his death – even if we include the entire first century of the Common Era – there is not so much as a solitary reference to Jesus in any non-Christian, non-Jewish source of any kind. We do have a large number of documents from the time – the writings of poets, philosophers, historians, scientists, and government officials. In none of this vast array of surviving writings is Jesus’ name ever so much as mentioned.”

2. The earliest New Testament writers seem ignorant of the details of Jesus’ life, which become more crystalized in later texts. Paul seems unaware of any virgin birth. No wise men, no star in the east, no miracles. Historians have long puzzled over the “Silence of Paul” on the basic biographical facts and teachings of Jesus. Paul fails to cite Jesus’ authority precisely when it would make his case. What’s more, he never calls the twelve apostles Jesus’ disciples; in fact, he never says Jesus HAD disciples –or a ministry, or did miracles, or gave teachings. He virtually refuses to disclose any other biographical detail, and the few cryptic hints he offers contradict the gospels. The leaders of the early Christian movement in Jerusalem like Peter and James are supposedly Jesus’ own followers and family; but Paul dismisses them as nobodies and repeatedly opposes them for not being true Christians!

Liberal theologian Marcus Borg suggests that people read the books of the New Testament in chronological order. “Placing the Gospels after Paul makes it clear that as written documents they are not the source of early Christianity but its product. The Gospel of and about Jesus existed before the Gospels. They are the products of early Christian communities several decades after Jesus' historical life and tell us how those communities saw his significance.”

3. Even the New Testament stories don’t claim to be first-hand accounts. We now know that the four gospels were assigned the names of the apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, not written by them. To make matter sketchier, the name designations happened sometime in second century, around 100 years or more after Christianity supposedly began. For a variety of reasons, the practice of pseudonymous writing was common at the time and many contemporary documents are “signed” by famous figures. The same is true of the New Testament epistles except for a handful of letters from Paul (6 out of 13) which are broadly thought to be genuine. But even the gospel stories don’t actually say, “I was there.” Rather, they claim the existence of other witnesses.

4. The gospels, our only accounts of a historical Jesus, contradict each other. If you think you know the Jesus story pretty well, I suggest that you pause at this point to test yourself with the 20 question quiz at ExChristian.net.

The gospel of Mark is thought to be the earliest existing “life of Jesus,” and linguistic analysis suggests that Luke and Matthew both simply reworked Mark and added corrections and new material. But they contradict each other and contradict the much later gospel of John, because they were written with different objectives. The incompatible Easter stories offer one example of how much the stories disagree.

5. Modern scholars who claim to have uncovered the real historical Jesus depict wildly different persons. They include a cynic philosopher, charismatic Hasid, liberal Pharisee, conservative rabbi, Zealot revolutionary, nonviolent pacifist to borrow from a much longer list assembled by Price.

For David Fitzgerald, these issues and more lead to a conclusion that he finds inescapable:

Jesus appears to be an effect, not a cause, of Christianity. Paul and the rest of the first generation of Christians searched the Septuagint translation of Hebrew scriptures to create a Mystery Faith for the Jews, complete with pagan rituals like a Lord’s Supper, Gnostic terms in his letters, and a personal savior god to rival those in their neighbors’ longstanding Egyptian, Persian, Hellenistic and Roman traditions.

In a follow up to Nailed, entitled Jesus: Mything in Action, Fitzgerald argues that the many competing versions proposed by secular scholars are just as problematic as any “Jesus of Faith:” Even if one accepts that there was a Jesus of Nazareth, the question has little meaning: Regardless of whether or not a first century rabbi called Yeshua ben Yosef lived, the “historical Jesus” figures so patiently excavated and re-assembled by secular scholars are fictions.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

August 2014 Newsletter

August, 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

 
Program

Rebecca Markert, Senior Staff Attorney for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, will describe the struggle to keep America a secular nation - as constitutionally founded.

Jeremy Grinnell, assistant professor at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, pled guilty to using a ladder under a couple's bedroom window to watch them have sex. (At least he had a lofty cause.)

Pastor Abuses 13-Year-Old, Forces Him to Dig Own Grave

A California pastor and two members of his congregation admitted in court that they physically abused a 13-year-old boy and made him dig his own grave.

According to The Los Angeles Times, 56-year-old Heart of Worship Community Church Pastor Lonny Lee Remmers, 24-year-old Nicholas James Craig and 30-year-old Darryll Duane Jeter Jr. said that they were following instructions to “scare” the victim. All three of the men had worked at a group home where the boy lived.

In March of 2012, the men reportedly took the victim to the desert where he was forced to dig a grave. After he got in the grave, the men threw dirt on him. The men also rubbed salt into his wounds while he was showering, tied him to a chair with zip ties, and sprayed mace on his face until he bled. At one point, the boy was made to sit in the middle of a Bible study group and pinch his own nipples with pliers, investigators said.

Remmers could be sentenced to up to two years in prison after pleading guilty to inflicting bodily injury on a child and assault with a deadly weapon. Craig and Jeter were ordered to serve one year in prison, and placed on three years of formal probation after pleading guilty to child abuse charges and making criminal threats. A sentencing hearing for Remmers is scheduled for Sept. 26.

Climate Change and population – by George Erickson

The growing awareness of climate change is encouraging, but few dare to connect it to overpopulation, which is the source of the problem. Back in the fifties, when world population was a bit over 2 billion, scientists were already warning of the disastrous effects of runaway populations. Now, our world population of 7 billion affects not only climate but also world politics.

In the seventies, the Nixon administration initiated the National Security Study Memorandum 200 report that revealed the dangers of overpopulation and called for universal access to family planning aids. However, the NSSM 200 report was subsequently "classified" and hidden for nearly 20 years – due to pressure from the Vatican.

Since then, the Vatican, Islamic leaders and Protestant fundamentalists have contributed enormously to overpopulation, which must be addressed in order to mitigate Climate Change. The earth is already overburdened with humans. Even 4 billion is too many to properly feed and house – and we now have 7 billion. It’s time to stop publicizing the Duggars and the Octomoms of the world.

AS POPES GO……... – by Bill Van Druten

As popes go, and they should, Pope William I, the Apostate would be an improvement. We have lots of talk now about how different Pope Francis is from his predecessor clowns. Still, he has not dumped any of the catholic magic or prosecuted any abusers or protectors that I know of. But we need to think out of the confessional box and wonder: What would a suitably different pope be like: Look no further. I am glad to offer my services a Pope William the I-th. Couldn't get much differenter that that.

No problem with my apostical beliefs. We had Pope Leo X in the Muddled Ages saying something like, "We all know how profitable this fable of Jesus Christ is for our company." He should know. And he had lots of company among his buddy con artists. Back then they actually did make ordinary guys with some kind of useful clout into popes. So I should be good to go, which is what all popes should do - go away, far, far away. Hit the road, hack, and don't come back no more.

Could happen. Maybe next [month] if this Francis guy doesn't pan out or is poisoned in the honored tradition. And I've had inquiries from the curia. They want to know of my clothing needs when they elect me. To be suitably different, I would need a different suit. I have some faded yellow cord trousers but they are worn thin where I crossed my legs before I got my arthritic hips from a former god. But I don't want to prance about in Judy Garland's ruby Slippers and all the skirts and trash that popes are fond of. Oh, and I do love the turtleneck, long sleeve, waffle weave shirts for winter here in Minnesota where my new papacy will be installed with barrels of champagne, beer, martinis and community consensual lusty dancing girls or men if you like. I don't, but to each his or her own.

I will pontificate big time. For zample; you CAN have any erotic lust you enjoy as long as no one is abused and that includes priests and nuns who will be able to do whatever the hell they want if no children are troubled. NO, you cannot bugger children any more, boys or girls and you cannot tell them any lies about imaginary, magical two, three four or more part gods in the sky.

What the hell, I will eliminate the nastiness altogether and reserve hell for eternal vacations on pure white sand with charming pale blue water where everyone comes for retirement in their peak condition or better, in many cases.

My pontifical motto will be Chacun A son Gout -- for everyone according to her/his taste long as no one is abused.

Those who disobey will be dispatched to heaven where they will be condemned to sing gawdawfully long praises eternally until their throats are destroyed and then they play a harp until their fingers wither. Oh, but then they will be forced to kiss the ass of Jesus and god until they die of infection or puke out their guts, whichever is last.

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The leader of Romania's Orthodox Church was shown in June on the church's website performing a traditional blessing of a newly inaugurated facility, in this case the church-owned Trinitas Radio and Television studios. The rooms are big and the walls are tall, so Patriarch Daniel applied the holy oil to the walls with a long-armed commercial paint roller.

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H L Mencken – the Great Skeptic

I believe that religion, generally speaking, has been a curse to mankind--that its modest and greatly overestimated services on the ethical side have been more than overcome by the damage it has done to clear and honest thinking.

I believe that no discovery of fact, however trivial, can be wholly useless to the race, and that no trumpeting of falsehood, however virtuous in intent, can be anything but vicious. . .

I believe that the evidence for immortality is no better than the evidence of witches, and deserves no more respect.

I believe in the complete freedom of thought and speech . . .

I believe in the capacity of man to conquer his world, and to find out what it is made of, and how it is run.

I believe in the reality of progress.

But the whole thing, after all, may be put very simply. I believe that it is better to tell the truth than to lie. I believe that it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe that it is better to know than be ignorant. - -- Mencken's Creed, cited by George Seldes in the Great Thoughts

Those Radical Atheists!

Radical Muslims fly planes into buildings and kill cartoonists and authors.

Radical Christians kill abortion doctors, start wars, pray their children to death and hinder educational progress with creationism.

Radical atheists write books.

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The Minnesota Republican who claims AIDS is caused by sperm eating your colon is, it turns out, just full of top-notch science alleging that the fossil record proves that “dinosaurs have always lived with man,” and such “real science” should be taught in public schools.
Friday, July 4, 2014

July 2014 Newsletter

July, 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

 
Program - Potpourri--What's On Our Minds


An Invitation

Charles Gessert, Barbara Stark & Jonathan Gessert invite you to a Summer Celebration: Tuesday, July 15, 5 to 8 pm. LIVE MUSIC BY ANN ZIMMERMAN! 2311 East 3rd Street. BYO lawn chairs/blankets, beverages, snacks, self and friends. Ann Zimmerman, a singer and songwriter from Salina, Kansas, celebrates the joy, sorrow, grandeur and silliness of life. Ann appears annually at the world-renowned Land Institute in central Kansas, and was voted the "People's Choice" winner in the Wildflower! Festival song contest near Dallas. Samples of her music & links to her CDs are available at www.annzimmerman.com. The event is free but donations to help with Ann’s travel expenses are greatly appreciated. Questions: 218-728-6019

Breaking News!
MN Candidates for Sainthood Announced


Now that the Catholic Church (Roman variety) has begun to crank out saints again, I’m pleased to reveal that high on their new list of candidates – and in this order - are Sir Lancelot, the self-proclaimed example of purity of purpose and practice, our very own William Van Druten – and (blush) me!

Frankly, I’d be higher on the list if it weren’t for my constant battle to remain civil when confronted by determined religionists – a subject that recently came to mind when we hosted a speaker who is a former Jehovah’s Witlesss – oops, that’s WITNESS!

For example, I feel guilty every time I tell about the remote African outpost (this is true) in which the J Ws were overjoyed when their free handout, the Watchtower, suddenly became a local best “seller,” only to learn a week later (when interest faded) that the only store in town had finally been resupplied with toilet paper. Yes, I feel guilty about telling that, but I can’t resist, even if it puts me behind that Druten guy, who is nowhere near as saintly as some assume.

Here’s another example: Whenever these devoted disciples of dogma (J Ws, Mormons, whatever), darken my door, I’m tempted to look astonished, then turn and shout back into my house, “Hey, Sally, you said there is no such thing as time travel – but there are two people from the Stone Age here right now!

I haven’t done it yet, but it sooo tempting. In the meantime, although there already was a Saint George – the dragon guy – I’m going to try to behave. Having “Saint” beside my name would look and sound really wonderful, even if I’d only be Saint George II.

Seriously folks, if the Pope really wanted to do something useful and critically necessary, he’d campaign for birth control, which leads to the next topic – see below.


At our June meeting we had an excellent presentation on OVERPOPULATION by Karen Shragg, in which she stressed the importance of constantly speaking about overpopulation, despite the tendency to focus on ways to be “green” while addressing the needs of an expanding population. She’s RIGHT! And although I’ve printed this link in the newsletter before, I’m presenting it again in the hope that more will devote just 6 minutes to viewing this excellent short video. If the link does not work, copy it into your browser.

An Appeal from Dave Clark of Skyline Shuttle

Hello, I work for the Duluth to Minneapolis Airport shuttle service. Your group came to mind because we need drivers to work on Sunday morning to early afternoon or Saturday evening. I have been to one of your meetings and noted that many of your members were in our demographic for part-time drivers. We have several drivers between the ages of 50 and 70 (70 is our max) who drive between 1 and 3 days per week for us. It's an enjoyable job for those who like to interact with travelers from all over the world as well as drive. Please send resumes to my manager Tasha Leyendecker at tasha@skylineshuttle.com (218-724-4676). Contact Dave at davclark@hotmail.com.
See http://www.skylineshuttle.com/

Bible-Thumping Pastor Believes Women Shouldn't Interfere with 'God's Will' In Pregnancy—Except His Own Wife – by Valerie Tarico

The Pill is destroying America, making women into idle gossips, according to Baptist pastor Steven Anderson. Feminism, coupled with birth control, gives a woman the power to decide when to have children, allowing her to pursue other interests: “You know, my main goal is to go to college, and to graduate from college, and I’m going to be a lawyer and I’m going to be a doctor and I’m going to be a marine biologist.” Now, you may think it sounds good. But it’s actually bad. A woman who isn’t “busy about having children” gets into “sin!”

Anderson opened a recent sermon-length rant against contraception by quoting Genesis: “Unto the woman he said I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception. In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children and thy desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee.” (Genesis 3:16) A father of seven, Anderson thinks women should let God manage their family planning because the Bible, in his words, makes God’s will clear.

But when his wife’s most recent pregnancy became high-risk, Anderson turned to some of the best modern medical specialists available, ultimately choosing a procedure that maximized the likelihood that one of two threatened identical twins would live.

One baby was in danger of dying from severe anemia and dehydration, leading to brain damage and cardiac arrest, while the other baby struggled with an excess of blood volume that was likely to also lead to cardiac arrest and death. Untreated, the chances of the babies surviving were about five percent for one twin, zero percent for both.

Christian patriarchs like Anderson pound the pulpit about women thwarting God’s plan, but when push comes to shove in the pregnancy and delivery process, normal human emotions often win out. Anderson and his wife did their homework and she underwent a series of procedures that saved one twin — also killed the other.

The most powerful tool of the anti-abortion, anti-contraception patriarchs has been shaming in the name of the biblical God. Many women make difficult decisions about pregnancies — courageous, complicated decisions that are worthy of honor. With support from groups like the 1 in 3 Campaign and Exhale Pro Voice, we can help each other.

Barbara Walters and the Cardinal

Barbara Walters' retirement brings to mind her interview in the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court's Roe v Wade ruling in 1973. The interviewee was Cardinal John Krol of Philadelphia. Walters asked him something like this: "Would you approve of an abortion in the case of a twelve year old girl who has been raped and impregnated by a syphilitic insane criminal?" Krol's immediate response: "No. It would violate God's law and nature's law and it would violate the rights of the father." Walters, as I recall, was speechless. -- Edd Doerr, past president, American Humanist Association

Power of Prayer

Pastor John Benefiel of Oklahoma City's Church on the Rock says that in a 2007 blessing, he might have prayed "too hard" while attempting to help drought-stricken Texas and Oklahoma. The result: "every lake" in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri rose above flood stage, causing thousands of people to lose their homes and 22 to lose their lives.

Some US evangelicals believe that environmentalism is a native evil - The Guardian
The Cornwall Alliance, a prominent group of religious thinkers in the US, explains why it urges followers to 'resist the Green Dragon'

Cal Beisner, founder of the Cornwall Alliance.

....What is often not fully absorbed by onlookers is the underlying role that "pulpit power" plays in the environmental debate in the US. … particularly among evangelicals, you often see a vitriolic reaction against environmentalism.

Last month, a survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors found that 41% strongly disagreed with the statement: "I believe global warming is real and manmade."

Much of this debate seems to center on one of the so-called Dominion Mandate, or Genesis 1:28: And God blessed them, and God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the Earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and every living thing….

I asked Beisner for an interview. He agreed, but asked me to read Resisting the Green Dragon: Dominion not Death by James Wanliss, who describes himself as a "Christian physicist". The book argues that "one of the greatest threats to society and the church is the multifaceted environmentalist movement". Here are a few snippets:

1 - The Litany of the Green Dragon provides certainty for people without God who lose their rational moorings, and for whom there is a sense of separation anxiety...

2 - Humans are special creatures, separate from and superior to trees and animals.

3 - The Green Dragon must die…There is no excuse to become befuddled by the noxious Green odors and doctrines emanating from the foul beast...

4 - It is no coincidence the rise of environmentalism as a significant political entity tracks the rising political clout of modern feminism...