Welcome to the Lake Superior Freethinkers


PLEASE JOIN US!  We meet on the first Sunday of every month starting at 9:00 am at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Duluth.
Our meetings are free and open to the public.

Upcoming Meeting


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

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

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Congratulations!

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





D A R W I N   D A Y


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



Telling Atheists Where To Go


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




Alworth Center for Peace and Justice Lecture

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


Location:Mitchell Auditorium, College of St. Scholastica

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

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

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





Last month's presenter Roy Hagen encouraged us to explore the book The Republican Brain by Chris Mooney as well as the work of Nate Hagens. Here are links to more material--

The Republican Brain by Chris Mooney

The Monkey Trap (personal website of Nate Hagens)

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

January 2015 Newsletter

January, 2015 Newsletter of the Lake Superior Freethinkers

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

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

 

George Erickson, editor, tundracub@mchsi.com

 
Program

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, December 5, 2014

December 2014 Newsletter

December, 2014 Newsletter of the Lake Superior Freethinkers

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

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

 

George Erickson, editor, tundracub@mchsi.com

 
Program

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

An Earthshaking Announcement of Great Importance

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

News of the Weird

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A POSSIBLE BUT UNLIKELY CONVERSATION OF A CHILD WITH A GRANDFATHER
by BILL VAN DRUTEN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHER PROMOTES PRAYER, PUNISHES ATHEIST STUDENT FOR SITTING OUT PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE

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