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

April 2014
Jeanine Williams - Navigating the Transgender Spectrum
Jeanine Williams is the past outreach coordinator for the Rocky Mountain chapter of TRI-ESS (The Society for the Second Self), and an occasional mentor and activist for the transgender community.
Monday, March 31, 2014

April 2014 Newsletter

April, 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 - Jeanine Williams - Navigating the Transgender Spectrum
Jeanine Williams is the past outreach coordinator for the Rocky Mountain chapter of TRI-ESS (The Society for the Second Self), and an occasional mentor and activist for the transgender community.

Just say NO to Noah
Advice from FFRF on discussing Noah with believers

Being biblical skeptics, we might respond by asking, “You do understand the story of Noah’s ark is just a myth don’t you?”

If they say, “No, the story of Noah is true,” some work may be required....

Here are some further questions you might wish to pose to them:

1) Do you realize there have been many “global flood” fables throughout history, including in the early cultures of Babylonia, India, Egypt, Sumer, and many other places?

2) In Genesis, there are two conflicting passages citing how many of each creature God had Noah collect. Two of every kind, male and female according to Genesis 6:19. But in Genesis 7:2-3, Noah is instructed to bring seven pairs (male & female) of all that are “clean” and a single pair (male & female) of all that are “not clean” into the ark. Which passage are we to believe?

3) How were the animals able to make their pilgrimage to the ark from all over the globe in just seven days?

4) Were Noah and his family the ONLY ones on the entire planet worthy of surviving God’s apocalyptic event, or did God murder many innocent people just to prove that he could?

5) Noah was said to be 600 years old. Do you believe humans can live to be that old? Why would God ask a 600 year old man to go through the trouble of building an ark longer than a football field, when he could have provided one for Noah? Or just snapped his fingers and made everyone else on the planet simply disappear as opposed to making them suffer horrible deaths from drowning, and at the same time slaughtering millions of innocent animals? Does that not seem a bit malevolent and sadistic toward those God was supposed to love?

6) Even during the time of Noah, there were millions species of animals living on earth, including insects. Would seven pairs, or even one pair, of each kind be able to fit on an ark the size of the one described in the bible? How many pounds of food would be needed to feed each animal daily for six months? How would the predators have been kept from eating the herbivores? What was done with all the animal waste? How could none have died from disease? Were there dinosaurs of every kind on the ark too?

7) After the flood, God told Noah that because the human heart was no longer inclined to be evil from youth, he would never again destroy every living creature as he had just done. Why is it that God then went on to destroy many civilizations, such as the entire tribe of Korah (men, women AND children) which he buried alive, and cause the complete destruction of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, just to name a few?

8) If there had been a global flood, where did all the water go? And why is it that scientists can find no sedimentary trace of the effects of a flood that supposedly covered the entire planet?
For more ammunition against those who believe the story of Noah to be true, go to the Skeptic’s Dictionary at: http://www.skepdic.com/noahsark.html

Norway disestablishes the state Lutheran church
by Gene Veith

The Norwegian parliament has voted to do away with the state church. The measure, which was passed unanimously and which also seems to have the approval of church officials, will still provide some church funding, though extending that to other groups, including “humanists.” Though all Norwegians have been enrolled in the church upon their baptism, only 2% of the population attend regularly and 72% do not believe in a personal God. Religion remains important, according to polls, for 20% of the population.

Kentucky Churches Giving Away Guns to Help People Discover Jesus
by Rebecca Leber

The Kentucky Baptist Convention wants to "point people to Christ" by giving away guns at Second Amendment Celebrations hosted across the state. In the words of spokesman Chuck McAlister, the strategy is "outreach to rednecks," and 1,000 people are expected to attend the next event. To lure the nonreligious into the fold, the churches are offering a handgun, shotgun, or long gun as door prizes…. "The number of unchurched men who will show up will be in direct proportion to the number of guns you give away," McAlister told The Courier-Journal. "And I can almost tell you the number of men who would show up based on the make or model." At one event in February, McAlister reportedly took the stage surrounded by guns and discussed politics, saying gun violence is "not the gun, it's the man behind the gun," and "criminals don't care about a bunch of rules." God did not come up for the first 30 minutes…. Kentucky suffers from its share of gun violence, with a higher rate of firearm homicides and deaths than most states.

Largest Fossil Bed Ever Discovered Lies Directly Beneath Creationist Museum
Free Word Press (Satire)

PETERSBURG, KY — During excavation to extend their parking lot, a Creationist Museum backhoe ran into a huge bone that could not be moved. News of the find spread quickly despite Ken Ham’s attempt to remove the bone without letting outsiders hear of the discovery. Univ.of Kentucky paleontologist Prof. Raymond Stiles was the first non-creationist scientist on the scene.

Carbon dating places the fossil at approx. 250 million years old and has now been identified as a portion of the spine of a brontosaurus, one of the largest dinosaurs of the Jurassic period.

Further investigation revealed hundreds more fossils that extend under the Creationist Museum, contends that the earth is 6000 years old and that man and dinosaurs walked the earth together.

Asked if he expected to find any human bones in the bed, Professor Stiles said, “It would be a miracle if we did. This fossil bed appears to be one of the largest and richest ever discovered and dates to over 250 million years ago. Man and dinosaurs are separated by millions of years.”

A bitter battle is brewing between scientists who want to continue the excavation, which would entail tearing down the museum to access the fossil bed and the Creationist Museum, which is run by the Christian Apologetics Ministry, who maintain that the fossils don’t actually exist.

George Carlin on God
Part 1 - See part 2 next month.

"When it comes to bullshit, big-time, major league bullshit, you have to stand in awe of the all-time champion of false promises and exaggerated claims - religion. No contest. Religion! Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story ever told. Think about it. Religion has actually convinced people that there's an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever 'til the end of time! But He loves you. He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He's all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can't handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more. Talk about a good bullshit story.

But I want you to know that when it comes to believing in God, I really tried. I really, really tried. I tried to believe that there is a God, who created each of us in His own image and-likeness, loves us very much, and keeps a close eye on things. I really tried to believe that, but I gotta tell you, the longer you live, the more you look around, the more you realize, something is fucked up. Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed. Results like these do not belong on the résumé of a Supreme Being. This is the kind of shit you'd expect from an office temp with a bad attitude.

And just between you and me, in any decently-run universe, this guy would've been out on his all-powerful ass a long time ago. And by the way, I say "this guy", because I firmly believe, looking at these results, that if there is a God, it has to be a man. No woman could or would ever fuck things up like this. So, if there is a God, I think most reasonable people might agree that he's at least incompetent, and maybe, just maybe, doesn't give a shit. Doesn't give a shit, which I admire in a person, and which would explain a lot of these bad results.
--Concluded next month

Pastor of the largest Pentacostal Christian (Megachurch) congregation in South Korea Convicted for Embezzling $12 Million

Last week, David Yongi-Cho was convicted of embezzling $12 million in funds from the Yoido Full Gospel Church. He was given a three-year suspended prison sentence (five years until he actually goes to jail) and ordered to pay nearly $5 million in fines. The Yoido Gospel, which David founded, is the largest Pentacostal Christian congregation in South Korea, making him an icon—and not just in South Korea—the guy even has a his own celebratory name day dedicated to him by the church of New York.

[Hmmmm - Steals $12 million but pays $5 million in fines. Jesus crime doth pay.]

The Senior Pastor Young Hoon Lee (a subordinate position to Cho's, which he has since forfeited) made an apology for the conduct of the church, then dived into the most ironic topic possible—corruption. In a mystifying ramble, Lee proclaimed that “money is the true source of true evil," and “that following money is the path to corruption." He then said it was “time for the offerings."

David Cho, dressed in a polka dot red tie, began what can only be described as an altogether verbose discussion about suffering. He finally mentioned that the past few years have been an “ordeal for him” and that he “no longer wished for money.” But then, lo and behold, he announced it was “time for another offering.”
Tuesday, February 25, 2014

March 2014 Newsletter

March, 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 - Fred Friedman, Chief Public Defender, Sixth District Court, Back By Popular Demand

George Erickson, our newsletter editor, past VP of the American Humanist Assoc. and member of the Union of Concerned Scientists, will be giving his Power Point presentation that urges MORE nuclear power – particularly with “new generation” reactors - to a March 6 Seminar at the UMD at 3:20 in room 175 of the Geological Sciences bldg. The public is invited. Having now given his updated presentation 11 times, he rarely needs notes. If you missed his Feb. 20 op-ed in the Duluth News Tribune, check it out.

Mormon president ordered to appear in British court
Dennis Wagner - USA Today

The leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been ordered to appear before a magistrate in England on fraud charges filed by an ex-Mormon who disputes fundamental teachings of the religion - documentation obtained by The Arizona Republic.

Two summons direct Thomas S. Monson of Utah, the church president, to attend a March 14 hearing in the Westminster Magistrates Court of London to answer accusations that key tenets of the LDS faith are untrue and have been used to secure financial contributions.

The criminal complaint was lodged by Tom Phillips, a Mormon who said he withdrew from the church after holding positions in England as bishop, stake president and area executive secretary. He now serves as managing editor of MormonThink, an online publication that critiques the church’s history and doctrine.

Phillips’ complaint is based on the Fraud Act of 2006, a British law that prohibits false representations made to secure a profit or to cause someone to lose money. Conviction may carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

A court official in London confirmed the issuance of the paperwork, which directs Monson to answer allegations that untrue religious precepts were used to obtain tithes comprising 10 percent of church members’ incomes.

Phillips listed seven church teachings that he claims are demonstrably false, including the origins of the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham, part of the church’s canon of scripture. “These are not statements of mere ‘beliefs’ or opinions or theories,” he wrote. “They are made as actual facts and their truthfulness can be objectively tested with evidence.”

Phillips alleged that the LDS church in Great Britain has taken in $257 million in member donations since 2007. He said tithes are mandatory for good standing in the church.

Phillips converted to Mormonism in 1969 and rose through church leadership for 33 years. Before leaving in 2004, he served as LDS area controller for the British Isles and Africa and as financial director for corporate entities in the United Kingdom.

Phillips said his belief in LDS doctrines eroded as he began researching questions raised by fellow Mormons. He now describes himself as “a secular humanist or atheist…

Does Faith Inspire Violence? The Evidence Seems Clear
Ed Raymond

… The Pew Research Center indicates that religious hostilities are increasing, reaching a six-year high in 2012. Sam Harris, author of “Letter to a Christian Nation,” writes: “Faith inspires violence in two ways: First, people often kill other human beings because they believe the creator of the universe wants them to do it...Second, far greater numbers of people fall into conflict with one another because they define their moral community on the basis of their religious affiliation: Muslims side with Muslims, Protestants with Protestants, Catholics with Catholics.”

Of the 198 countries in the Pew study, 33 percent had high religious hostilities in 2012, up 13 percent since 2007. Religious minorities were attacked in 47 percent of the countries in 2012. Not only Muslims and Christians are involved. In Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka, monks constantly attacked both Muslims and Christians in 2012.

Naked Church Congregation Bares it All for Christ
While Virginia freezes, congregants find warmth in worshipping in the nude.
By Todd Richissin

A little church in Virginia is making a name for itself by not caring about holy clothes or clothes with holes. The church's congregants, in fact, do not care about clothes at all. Not when worshipping, anyway.

While Virginia prepares for another round of snow and cold, NBC12 brings the story of White Tail Chapel. in Southampton, where people find warmth in worshipping just the way they were brought into the world: naked.

Pastor Allen Parker says it's not about clothes, but rather about baring his soul to Christ and leading his flock down that path of righteousness, no matter what they're wearing.

Katie and Robert Church married at White Tail Chapel, and say the church has given them a sense of Christian community with none of the pretense of a traditional church.

"Once we were married, this place became our family," Katie told the station. "I feel like I can turn to anyone in this church, and they will be there to help me."

Bob Jones University stifled sex abuse claims:
By Travis Gettys

A conservative Christian university abruptly dismissed the consulting firm it had hired to look into its handling of sexual assault investigations.

“We terminated our agreement so that we could sit down and get it back on track,” Jones told students and employees. Erin Burchwell, who reported at least 40 instances of molestation by a graduate student in the 1990s, said she knew the long-awaited investigation was “too good to be true.”

“I’ve been told for 15 years not to talk about it, but now I’m allowed to talk about it to somebody who’s validating me and telling me that I was wronged,” Burchwell said.

Until recently, students at Bob Jones University who sought counseling for sex abuse were told not to report their claims because turning in a fellow fundamentalist would damage Jesus Christ, reported the New York Times. Most of the students reported sex abuse that happened when they were children but sought help later. Administrators branded the victims as liars and sinners, the paper reported.

“The person who counseled me told me if I reported (a Christian) to the police, I was damaging the cause of Christ, and I’d be responsible for the abuser going to hell,” said Catherine Harris, who attended the university in the 1980s. “He said my problems were as a result of my actions in the abuse, which mostly took place before I was 12, and I should just forgive the abuser.”

Bob Jones University is not affiliated with any denomination and is so far to the right that its founders have blasted Graham, Oral Roberts and Jerry Falwell, as too liberal.

Students are not allowed to watch television or movies, listen to popular music, drink alcohol, or wear many clothing brands.

Star of NatGeo's Snake Salvation series dies from snake bite.

Pastor Jamie Coots reportedly refused medical attention after suffering a bite from a poisonous snake while at his church in Middlesboro, KY. He died a few hours later. The show centered on two Pentecostal preachers who handle deadly snakes as part of a Appalachian practice originating from a Bible passage that suggests those anointed by God will not be harmed by a poisonous snake. Coots had previously been bitten nine times and lost a finger to a rattlesnake bite ...

Poor Catholic Church Must Close Schools, But Can Afford Palace

John Myers, archbishop of the archdiocese of Newark, enjoys a 4,500 sq. ft. mini-mansion, and is adding a 3,000 sq. ft. addition that will cost over $500,000. Meanwhile, his archdiocese two years ago closed Mater Dei Academy across the Hudson from Manhattan. Myers also has a spotty record on dealing with clerical child abusers.

Church brass have been campaigning for many decades to get tax support for their sectarian schools through vouchers, while Catholics have been leaving the church in droves. (Catholic school enrollment has declined from 5.5 million in 1965 to 2 million today.) The Church in the US alone has had to pay out well over $2 billion to victims of clerical sexual abuse.

Why should we taxpayers have to support private schools run by the churches? Why should politicians kowtow to church leaders who want to have government impose their restrictive doctrines on women with regard to reproductive matters? And why are Republican politicians, federal and state, scrambling to do the bidding of church leaders?
Edd Doerr – past pres. American Humanist Assoc.

Must See Movies
Mea Maxima Culpa
The Magdalene Sisters

Thursday, January 30, 2014

February 2014 Newsletter

February, 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 - Ed Heisler, the Executive Director of Men As Peacemakers (Duluth, MN) will present a Power Point program that explores the issue of sex trafficking, explains why it thrives in our cities, and proposes a public health approach to preventing it.

See http://www.cbc.ca/superiormorning/episodes/2013/10/17/men-as-peacemakers/

May you have many more!

Humanist Challenge revised

When we realize there is no such a thing as a god, it is not good enough to stop there, fellow humanists. There is the matter of our culture, ingrained into us over the last 20 centuries - a culture that rests on the premise that there was a deity, created by and serviced by man. This probably worked well as we reached out to form civilizations but has long since been rendered obsolete. Just as we had invented phlogiston and ether, we invented a god to explain away anomalies, but once aware of the properties of gases we no longer needed phlogiston and once Einstein showed us a better theory, we no longer needed ether to explain why planets were not clustering so we dropped those items. We should have also dropped the god thing too, for there was now sufficient evidence to explain our existence without that icon but here is where something ugly occurred.

The culture that had encouraged scientific exploration suddenly became one that rejected science out of hand—examples of Copernicus and Galileo come to mind. Why? I think the power and prestige that the male inherited under the god theory was too much to give up. Our male leaders then set out on an obstinate course to preserve their pretentious image every which they could. The price has been high.

Recently some well-educated professors in a liberal country, all aware of women’s advances in the modern world, still thought it reasonable to segregate women in a hall if the speaker so preferred. I suspect that because of their authority and stature they felt such a decision would be deemed reasonable. Probably said what many guys will say about this that “it’s no big deal”. See how easily culture can distort our view of reality? These are leaders of universities, our highest level of learning and probably half their potential students are going to be women! And all that brilliance cannot see the reality before their eyes. We need to reject that culture.

That culture has been evolving into a more progressive one, but we can see by these actions and those of the Republicans, plus the urge to enforce Shari law, that powerful groups still feel they have the right to privilege based on gender alone, so it looks like it will be a very long struggle to achieve the free and just world that most humanists want.

If we reject that culture out of hand, what will be our rules of behavior, of ethics?. We need to develop our own culture, one created by man AND woman, based on a mixture of experience and scientific evidence, reminding ourselves of our innate empathy towards our own species.

This challenge requires ALL of us to think about what we would like to see in a brand new, refreshing culture that will act as a guideline for many years to come.

--Andy Mulcahy

Ten Proofs That There is No God - by Valerie Tarico

Philosophers and theologians have been quarreling for centuries over a handful of abstract arguments –ontological, cosmological, teleological, experiential . . .– that some insist prove or disprove the existence of God… The scholars have had their noses so deep in their books that they didn’t notice the obvious.

1. Mosquitos. The world – the whole universe—is fine tuned so that humans, the pinnacle of creation can live here on Earth and spend our time joyously praising God. Oh, and there are mosquitos, but they didn’t evolve. They are part of the perfect plan. Huh.

2. Migraine headaches. - Migraine headaches are about as useful as mosquitos, and they hurt worse. As many as ten percent of kids get migraines; mine started around the time I learned to talk—barf-in-the-bathtub headaches, not the rare-but-benign visual distortions like being on good drugs. Any god who created migraines would be a sadist.

3. Nudibranchs. Nudibranchs are the coolest creatures on the planet. Why would a loving God put them where no-one could see them for the first ten or twenty or thirty thousand years of human history?

4. Prayer. My mother prays for rain in Scottsdale when the tortoises die of thirst in the desert –and my basement floods in Seattle… Is the rain god helpless, or mean, or non-existent? That forced choice sounds like the tired old trilemma that some Christians use to defend Jesus: was he an a. lunatic, b. liar, or c. Lord? It’s possible that Jesus was a legend or a reformist rabbi; and it’s possible that the god of rain is simply geographically challenged, or ignorant rather than mean, or that he exists on alternate Thursdays, even though cognitive scientist Pascal Boyer says my brain structure won’t let me believe this.

5. Babies without brains. Some people think that believers without hearts—like, say Catholic bishops who cover up for pedophile priests– are reason to doubt that there is a god. But I think there’s some wiggle room in terms of who’s at fault in those pedophilia cases. On the other hand – anencephalic babies that are born with literally no brains– babies that are physically incapable of becoming persons–no wiggle whatsoever.

6. Bad marketing. If you were God, would you let Pat Robertson, Fred Phelps, or Anjem Choudary speak for you? Would God really be less marketing savvy than Coca Cola?

7. Endometriosis. According to the Bible, God retooled women’s reproductive tracts after Eve ate the apple. The idea was that we would want sex and get pregnant, and then having babies would hurt like hell. If the story were true, mightn’t you think God would have gotten the design right? Why have some of us bleed every month like sacrificial goats and then not get pregnant so we can actually live out Eve’s curse?

8. The Ten Commandments. How neither set of Ten Commandments in the Bible (here and here) says, “Wash your hands after you go to the bathroom.” Or “Don’t have sex with anyone who doesn’t want you to.” Epic fail. Imagine if wash your hands had replaced, say, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” Just think how many lives could have been saved! Or how about that non-PC commandment about not coveting your neighbor’s ox or ass or wife or other valuable stuff. Really? Implicit endorsement of wife as chattel? Some people say that the Ten Commandments are just evidence against the Jewish or Christian God. But would any omnipotent, omnibenevolent extant deity have let them stand unedited for 3000 years?

9. Stars. There are too many of them and they are too far away. Efficiency is part of good design. If God designed the universe for us, seems like he could have simply put a firmament above the earth, with little holes where the waters could come through, and where angels could lower down lights– say a greater light to rule the day and a lesser light to rule the night. It would be kinda like the Truman Show. Who needs deep space?

10. Chocolate. If there was a God, would chocolate make you fat? I rest my case. Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light.

Kids with Guts, Brains and Compassion

Last December, the beloved vice principal at Eastside Catholic School in Washington state was fired when he married a man. Similar incidents have been happening at other Catholic schools. But this time was different: hundreds of high-school students walked out of class and held a rally outside to demand that the Catholic archdiocese reinstate their vice principal, and students at other schools are holding solidarity protests and alumni are threatening to withhold donations.

Junk Bonds for Jesus

Answers in Genesis, which has printed a series of children's books and built a creationist museum, plans to enter the bond market to fund a creationist amusement park centered around a "life-size" reconstruction of Noah's Ark, for which it will need to raise $73 million. AiG has raised only $13.6 million privately since proposing the park, but a Georgetown Univ. professor, contacted by Slate.com, said that the bonds' terms place them in the high-risk "junk bond" category (perhaps better described as "faith-based," having virtually no resale value and without an independent bond rating).

Irish atheists increase 400 percent in ten years

Islam will be Ireland’s second biggest religion inside the next 30 years
By PATRICK COUNIHAN, IrishCentral Staff Writer

The number of Irish people with no religion - atheists and agnostics - increased by 400 percent in Ireland between 1991 and 2011 to a total of 277,237. The increase is due to a huge breakdown in trust between the Catholic Church and many of its constituencies.

The sex scandals and cover-ups have impacted the church with record numbers embracing atheism. The latest figures confirm a 2011 a Gallup poll which showed Ireland now ranks among the top ten atheist nations, in a huge shift from the 2005 poll.

The Gallup poll, titled the Global Index of Religion and Atheism, asked 50,000 people in 57 countries: “Irrespective of whether you attend a place of worship or not, would you say you are a religious person, not a religious person or a convinced atheist?”

In 2011, 47% of Irish respondents said they considered themselves religious, 44% not religious, and 10% convinced atheists. The global average has 59% self-identifying as religious, 23% as not religious, and 13% as convinced atheists. In 2005, 69% identified as religious, 25% as not religious, and 3% as atheists. The 2011 poll reflects a 22% drop in Irish identification as ‘religious’ in the six years between polls, with a corresponding increase in the ‘not religious’ and ‘convinced atheist’ categories. The U S saw a 13% drop in identification as religious over the same period.

Ireland is tied with Austria, Iceland and Australia with ten percent of respondents in the ‘convinced atheist’ category. That puts all four countries behind just seven others for the top percentages of convinced atheists. China was the least religious nation surveyed.

The Irish Independent reports that population growth and immigration will increase the number of followers of Islam. The data comes a year ahead of the construction of the country’s largest mosque on the north side of the city at a cost of over $50 million…. Islam will become Ireland’s second religion in the next 30 years.

The mosque will cater for more than 3,000 people and will feature two minarets, a prayer hall, a cultural center, offices, bookshop, a library, a mortuary, a crèche, a 600-seat events center, school, a state-of-the-art fitness center and apartment blocks.

Islam soared from 0.1 percent of the population to 1.1 percent by 2011, when 49,204 Muslims resided in Ireland. Protestants accounted for 5 percent of the population.

2014 will see several Biblical epics hit the theaters, inspired by Mark Burnett & Roma Downey's multipart series on the Bible for the “History” Channel. We should be prepared to remind the general public that these are fictional tales- especially tales like the story of Noah – that even a believer like Maimonides did not believe.

Monday, December 30, 2013

January 2014 Newsletter

January, 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 - James Zimmerman (zgoatee@gmail.com) will present "Deliverance at Hand: The Redemption of a Devout Jehovah's Witness"- from his newly released book. James is a member of the Minnesota Atheists Editorial Board, a former editor of The Minnesota Atheist newsletter and a frequent host of Atheists Talk television show. His writings has appeared in The Minnesota Atheist, The Humanist, American Atheist, and The St. Paul Almanac.
Deliverance at Hand! recounts his life as a zealous Jehovah’s Witness and his defection from that faith. James will compare the Witnesses with other religions, discuss their “evidence” that we’re living in the last days, explain what nonbelievers often get wrong about the religion, and reveal some little-known aspects of the Witnesses’ religion. He will also shed some light on the Witnesses’ policy of shunning former members, citing examples from his own life.

Christian Nation by J Huger

Many Christians claim that the United States is a Christian nation, or that the Founding Fathers intended us to be a Christian nation. When they bother to offer evidence it's usually some McCarthy-era addition to our pledge or our money, or some quote (often bogus) from a speech or a letter by one of the Founders.

Think about this: If you were starting a Christian nation, how would you go about it? Would you make oblique references to "Great Powers" and "Guiding Hands" in obscure speeches and letters, or would you fill your foundational documents with references to Jesus Christ and the Bible?

The Founding Fathers were brilliant men. They spent months working on the Constitution. They were very careful about what they wrote, discussing and debating every passage at great length. It seems to me that if they had intended this to be a Christian nation they would have said so somewhere in the Constitution. The Founding Fathers had no reason to be vague. There was no ACLU, no "Activist judges." If they had wanted a Christian Nation they could have written:

God Almighty, in Order to form a true Christian Nation, establish Divine Justice, insure adherence to His Laws, provide for the defense of His Church, promote His Word, and secure His Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, has led us to ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Instead they wrote:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.


Believers sometimes support their arguments by pointing to scientists who claim to be religious, but so what? Here are the facts from a letter by Edd Doerr, former president of the American humanist Assoc.

“Scientists have been all over the map on religion. But we have serious studies quantifying the religious positions of scientists, by James Leuba in 1914 … and a 1997 study repeated by Edward Larson and Larry Witham. Here are the results….

Belief in a personal God 1914 1997
Personal belief 27.7% 7.0%
Personal disbelief 62.7 72.2%
Agnostic 20.9 20.8%
Belief in personal immortality 1914 1997
Personal belief 36.2% 7.9%
Personal disbelief 25.4 76.7%
Agnostic 43.7 23.3%

Bad News!

Arizona’s tax-credit program that directs public funds to private schools was held constitutional by the state Court of Appeals on October 1. The Arizona School Boards Association and other public school groups had challenged the law’s constitutionality, saying it violated the state constitution’s ban on public funds for religious schools. The program, designed by the Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank, is now open to about 20% of public school students.

Not Concerned About Climate Change?
This video will make church/state/sharia/faith healers/snake handlers and fundamentalist issues seem like lovable puppies.

David Roberts, in "Climate Change is Simple" describes the causes and effects of climate change in blunt terms. It’s about 17 minutes, but you can start at 3 min. This guy lays it on the line! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7ktYbVwr90

For the award winning, Cannes film Pandora’s Promise, which supports nuclear power, see https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/pandoras-promise/id675188533

U.S. judge orders landmark California cross taken down
By Dan Whitcomb of Reuters

LOS ANGELES - A massive cross that serves as part of a war memorial on a San Diego hilltop must be dismantled because it has been found to violate a constitutional ban on government endorsement of religion, a federal judge grudgingly ruled on Thursday.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Larry Burns marks the latest development in a long-running legal battle over the 43-foot-tall cross, a local landmark that has stood on top of Mount Soledad since 1954 and is visible for miles.

Burns stayed his order to give the Obama administration and the association that erected the cross, which have fought its removal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, a chance to file another appeal. Otherwise, he said, the monument must be taken down within 90 days.

"This is a victory for religious liberty," said Daniel Mach, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's program on freedom of religion and belief who argued the matter for the plaintiffs in a hearing before Burns on Thursday.

"We support the government's efforts to honor the service of those who fought and died for this country, but there are ways to do that without playing favorites with religion," Mach said.

The case hinged on whether it is legal for a religious symbol to be prominently displayed on public land and whether the cross violated the U.S. Constitution's requirement on separation of church and state.

The cross has been the subject of litigation since 1989, when two veterans sued San Diego to get it off city land. In 2006, Congress intervened in the dispute, resulting in the federal government taking ownership of the property.

A group of plaintiffs, including the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America, then sued. The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals court ruled that the dominance of the cross conveyed a message of government endorsement of religion.

The Obama administration and the Mount Soledad Memorial Association, which erected the cross, appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, supported by 20 U.S. states and various veterans groups in arguing the cross should be allowed as part of the memorial.

In June 2012, the Supreme Court declined to take the case, letting the Ninth Circuit's ruling stand. In ordering that the cross be taken down, Burns said on Thursday he did not agree with the Ninth Circuit's ruling but that his hands were tied….

Friday, November 29, 2013

December 2013 Newsletter

December, 2013 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 - Dr. James Lyttle, UMD, will present Having Fun with Religion, which reveals how humor has been used by religious people to win over audiences and lighten serious messages. It also shows how freethinkers and others have used humor to challenge religion and question its assumptions.

Lives of saviors conform to a hero narrative
by Ed Neumann -
La Crosse Freethought Society.
La Crosse, WI Tribune

People have always held deep convictions about bigger-than-life-heroes, saviors who appear at their darkest hour and, wielding supernatural powers, right what is wrong. These beliefs are ubiquitous and cross-cultural, but they are rarely based on reality.

Today, such superheroes are largely found in comic books. However, there are the occasional real people who, over time, accumulate legends of their exploits. Examples include certain Catholic saints, leaders such as Kim Jong-il (who scored 11 holes-in-one the first time he played golf) or former Vice President Al Gore, who singlehandedly invented the Internet.

Despite being rated the second most admired woman in America in a 1945 survey, Betty Crocker never existed. The same goes for Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben and Ronald McDonald. These corporate mascots were invented as part of modern business marketing. Like the legend of King Arthur, a life story often was fabricated, making them seem all the more real.

Saviors in the ancient world, however, tended to conform to a hero narrative. One such narrative is known as the Rank-Raglan hero mythotype. Named for Otto Rank and Lord Raglan, the two scholars who first described it, the mythotype is a list of 22 traits or incidents that occur with regularity in hero myths of most western cultures:

• Mother is a virgin.
• Father is king or rightful heir.
• Hero’s parents are related.
• Circumstances of conception are unusual.
• Hero is reputed to be the son of a god.
• An attempt is made to kill him as an infant.
• He is spirited away from assassins.
• Reared in a foreign land by foster parent(s).
• Little is reported about his childhood.
• Upon reaching adulthood, he returns to future kingdom.
• Before taking throne, he battles and defeats a great adversary.
• Crowned or hailed as king.
• Marries princess, queen or relative of his predecessor.
• Reigns uneventfully for a time.
• Promulgates laws.
• Loses favor of gods or subjects.
• Driven from throne or land.
• Mysterious events occasion his death.
• Dies at top of hill.
• Body goes missing.
• No children succeed him.
• He has one or more holy sepulchers.

In his 1936 book “The Hero,” Raglan notes that historical figures rarely achieved more than six of these traits. Even Alexander, Caesar Augustus and Mohammed, with all their legendary accretions, couldn’t manage half, but for those heroes who meet more than half of the Rank-Raglan criteria, a special category exists.

Historian Richard Carrier, who refers to the hero narrative as “the fable of the divine king,” finds 15 ancient figures who make the grade, fulfilling 12 or more of the elements. They are listed below with their Rank-Raglan score:

• Oedipus (21)
• Theseus (20)
• Moses (20)
• Jesus (20)
• Dionysus (19)
• Romulus (18)
• Perseus (18)
• Hercules (17)
• Bellerophon (16)
• Jason (15)
• Zeus (15)
• Osiris (14)
• Joseph, son of Jacob (12)

Many pre-Christian heroes, who might have made the above list, were considered savior gods, pre-existent beings who incarnated as miracle-workers. Some even “fulfilled prophecy” as Buddha, Krishna and Zoroaster were thought to have done.

The death and resurrection of the Thracian god Zalmoxis assured followers of eternal life. And those baptized into the Osiris cult were saved in the afterlife.

Notably, each of the 15 was at one time regarded as a historical person. That is, each had been placed in a historical context and was believed to have been an actual divine or semi-divine being who lived on Earth. Each would have had followers willing to kill and die for them.

Yet it would be exceedingly improbable for any living person to have made the list. None of the Egyptian, Greek or Roman demigods listed are now thought to have existed. And, according to Carrier, most mainstream scholars think Joseph and Moses were purely legendary characters as well.

That leaves only Jesus, who, when the Gospel of Matthew is taken into account, scores 20. However, if we use only Mark’s Gospel, Jesus’ score falls to 14, on par with Osiris. In other words, Matthew, who is known to have copied 90 percent of Mark’s Gospel nearly verbatim, further “legendized” Jesus’ narrative, making him appear even more of an archetypal hero. So, like modern corporate mascots, ancient god-men often were invented and embellished for religious marketing.

“People sought to create unity by fabricating ‘historical’ founders and rallying around their sayings and deeds,” writes Carrier in his upcoming book, “On the Historicity of Jesus.” “Their actual existence was not a requirement, and indeed might have been more of a detriment. But belief in their existence was a must for the story to have a powerful authoritative impact.”

Ben Franklin - (article author not known)

“I have found the Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life, I absented myself from Christian assemblies….”

Benjamin, the 15th of 17 children, grew up in Boston. His father wanted him to become a minister, but decided that ministers didn't make enough money…. When he was 12, Ben became an apprentice to his brother, a printer. A few years later, James began The New-England Courant, the colonies’ first independent newspaper.

Ben wanted to write for Courant, but "Being still a Boy, and suspecting that my Brother would object to printing any Thing of mine in his Paper… I contriv'd to disguise my Hand, & writing an anonymous Paper I put it in at Night under the Door of the Printing House. It was found in the Morning & communicated to his Writing Friends when they call'd." He started submitting letters under the persona of Silence Dogood, a widow, and the newspaper staff thought they were great — Franklin said that listening to them praise his writing in front of him without knowing it was an "exquisite pleasure."

In "her" first letter, Mrs. Dogood said: "I will not abuse your Patience with a tedious Recital of all the Accidents of my Life, that happened until I arrived to Years of Discretion, only inform you that I liv'd a cheerful Country Life, spending my leisure in some innocent Diversion with the other Females, or in some shady Retirement, with the best of Company, Books. Thus I past away the Time with a Mixture of Profit and Pleasure, having no Affliction but what was imaginary, as nothing is more common with us Women, than to be grieving for nothing, when we have nothing else to grieve for."

Every two weeks, a letter from Silence appeared under the door of the shop. In a quiet way, she mocked the Boston social elite and their vices, and she even made fun of Harvard. Altogether, 15 of Mrs. Dogood's letters were published in The Courant, and they were incredibly popular, talked about all over town. When Mrs. Dogood hinted that she would consider marriage again, men wrote to the paper offering to be her husband. Then, suddenly, the letters stopped coming. Everyone was concerned about Mrs. Dogood. James printed a notice begging for news of her. So 16-year-old Benjamin confessed. That was really the talk of the town — people thought it was hilarious.

James, however, was so upset that in 1723 Benjamin left for Philadelphia. He worked in publishing houses there and in London. Back in Philadelphia in 1727, Franklin formed the Leather Apron Club, whose members were dedicated to improving themselves and their community. Franklin started the first circulating library in the colonies. He took over a paper called The Universal Instructor in all Arts and Sciences and Pennsylvania Gazette, renamed it The Pennsylvania Gazette, and made it into the most popular newspaper in the colonies by the time he was 23 years old.

A few years later, Franklin began publishing Poor Richard's Almanac. "In 1732 I first published my almanac under the name of Richard Saunders; it was continued by me about 25 years, commonly called 'Poor Richard's Almanac.' I endeavored to make it entertaining, and it came to be in such demand that I reaped considerable profit, near 10,000 annually, scarce any neighborhood being without it, I considered it a proper vehicle for conveying instruction among the people; I therefore filled all the little spaces that occurred between the remarkable days in the calendar with proverbial sentences, chiefly such as inculcated industry and frugality, as the means of procuring wealth, and thereby securing virtue, it being more difficult for a man in want to act always honestly, as to use here one of those proverbs, 'It is hard for an empty sack to stand upright.'"

Even though everyone knew that Saunders was Benjamin Franklin, he enjoyed the pseudonym and kept it in place for all 26 annual issues. And it gave him a chance to insult his printer, Benjamin Franklin.

Poor Richard began as a dull astronomer who couldn't get anything right, but he became a hard-working, morally upright citizen. The cover of the first almanac listed its contents: "The lunations, eclipses, judgment of the weather, Spring tides, planets, motions, and mutual aspects, sun and moon's rising and setting, length of days, time of high water, fairs, courts, and observable days." What made the Almanac a mainstay were Franklin’s "proverbial sentences," though he wasn’t exactly the author. Many were already sayings, but he rewrote them to be as clever as possible:

"Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead."
"Fish and visitors smell after three days."
"A learned blockhead is a greater blockhead than an ignorant one."

Radio Campaign Tells Atheists “Where to Go”

We’d like to tell atheists where to go!" These words begin a 60-second radio ad encouraging atheists, agnostics and similar others to visit some of nearly 2,000 local groups and national organizations in North America that exist to serve them. The ads aired 340 times in Nov. on SiriusXM Satellite Radio, specifically targeted to audiences of CNN, INDIE Radio, MSNBC, OUTQ, and SiriusXM Progress.

The ads also launched a comprehensive new website geared to helping people find these groups and organizations. Called the Secular Directory, the site offers the largest and most up-to-date database ever compiled of local atheist, agnostic, freethought, humanist, secularist, skeptic and similar groups in North America. Referred to as “godless groups,” each can be found easily. Just type in the name your city and state, and then a list of those within a 50-mile radius pops up.

The Directory also lists national and intl. organizations, special services for nonreligious people, conferences and events, publications, and other resources. The website is at SecularDirectory.org but can also be accessed via the alliterative URL used in the ad: GodlessGroups.org .

The site is a project of the United Coalition of Reason (UnitedCoR), a nonprofit organization founded in 2009 that has previously been responsible for billboard and bus ad campaigns in 34 states and the District of Columbia. These campaigns have been used to launch local coalitions of atheist and agnostic groups. The November radio campaign that announces the site began Monday at a cost of $19,900. And the final modifications and updates to the site were made this morning. Additional radio campaigns are being planned for 2014.

“The aim of all our campaigns is to help the millions of godless people find each other and discover groups that will meet their needs and serve their interests,” said Fred Edwords, national director of UnitedCoR. "Such non-theists don't always realize there's a community for them because they're inundated with religious messages at every turn."

To hear the radio ad, read the text or view the ad schedule, go to www.UnitedCoR.org. Contact Fred Edwords, 202-550-9964 Fredwords@UnitedCoR.org

Prep Rally - by Cameron Smith

In a case of religious beliefs vs. athletic performance, a Kentucky junior cross country runner walked away from a chance to qualify for the state meet to avoid accepting bib number "666", which she said conflicted with her Christian beliefs.

A Delayed Epiphany

“Religion is a chronic disease of the imagination, contracted in childhood!”
Fr. Jean Meslier toward the end of his life.

Springfield Bishop Thomas John Paprocki will preside over prayers of "supplication and exorcism" in response to pending legalization of same-sex marriage, which the bishop said "comes from the devil and should be condemned as such" reported by the Chicago Sun-Times.Paprocki condemned, in particular, Catholic lawmakers -- including House Speaker Mike Madigan -- and said they are "morally complicit as co-operators in facilitating this grave sin."

Churches Are Full of what?

Recent testing of 21 springs in Austria and 18 fonts in Vienna yielded a conclusion that 86 percent of the holy water in the country's churches was not safe to drink -- most commonly infected with diarrhea-causing E. coli and Campylobacter. Univ. of Vienna researchers found samples with up to 62 million bacteria per milliliter of water, and the busier the church, the higher the count. -ABC News