PLEASE JOIN US!   We meet on the first Sunday of each month in downtown Duluth at the Radisson Hotel (Location Map)
            Socializing begins at 9:00 am.
            Optional breakfast buffet at 9:30 am.
            Presentation from 10:00 until about 11:30.

            Co-Host: David Broman - (218) 349-7455
            Co-Host: Jim Lyttle - (218) 464-1652
             Videographer - Jan Resberg


November Newsletter


November, 2011 Newsletter of the Lake Superior Freethinkers

Facilitators: Maxine Caserta - 525-8427, 348-4113 & Bill Guse - 834-4583, 343-4806
First Sunday - Radisson Hotel – 9:00 AM Social – 10:00 Brunch

George Erickson, editor, tundracub@mchsi.com

Because our December program will feature a presentation by Kevin Annett, a rebellious Canadian clergyman who cares more for people than pompousness, please read the introductory letter below by Gary Kohls. (edited for length by GAE)  The second article follows the same theme – the abuse of parishioners by clergy.

Modern day Genocide in Canada

Kevin Annett is an ex-United Church of Canada pastor who was driven from his small rural parish in western Canada by higher-ups in his church.

Kevin has taught me more than I wanted to know about the widespread, hidden crimes that were perpetrated against innocent First Nation children in the 20th century in Canadian residential schools Canada. These schools, identical in all regards to the infamous mission schools in the US, were managed and subsidized by the Canadian government and by the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church and the United Church of Canada.

What happened to Rev. Annett is the subject of a well-done documentary film and a feature film that is seeking a marketing partner. The documentary is titled "Unrepentant" (meaning that the three church's protected victimizers have not admitted their guilt, have covered-up the evidence of the crimes, have shielded the clergy who were involved, and have not repented.) Nor have the churches offered compensation or testified as to where the bodies of tens of thousands of disappeared children have been buried.

The impoverished, grieving families of the disappeared and abused have been denied justice repeatedly. They have been ignored, demeaned, bullied and stone-walled by the Crown and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Their traditional lands were stolen from them and sold by the churches to multinational timber companies, with none of the money coming to the tribes. Unable to afford the legal representation that the churches sought to protect their reputations at any cost, they have lost case after case as they continue to sink lower into despair, poverty, homelessness, mental ill health and understandable use of mind-altering drugs and alcohol - until the courageous Rev. Kevin Annett took their side.

Annett was fresh out of seminary, with a wife and two children - eager to preach the gospel when he was assigned to a small parish in Port Alberti, in western Canada. Observing that there were no First Nation members in an area where there once were many, he began asking why. The answers he received seemed unbelievable, but they were so disturbing that he felt compelled to expose the truth, even though the church urged him to forget about the genocide stories he was hearing. What pastor Annett had stumbled onto, is the subject of his acclaimed documentary, "Unrepentant", and his website, www.hiddenfromhistory.org.

Kevin Annett will be in the Duluth area on a speaking tour this December 2011. Events are being planned for Duluth and the Fond du Lac Reservation.

The Religious Sex Abuse Epidemic

by Roy Speckhardt, Exec. Director, American Humanist Assoc. (in Huffington Post)

The public reaction to the sex abuse scandals that have rocked the Vatican and Roman Catholic churches worldwide is causing rank-and-file Catholics to leave the church in droves. But concerned parents need to be wary about more than just the Catholic brand of clergy. The public rightly became disenchanted with an institution that claims moral authority while acting like those who it would condemn for their immoral behaviors.

The trend of less-than-holy behavior is not limited to the Catholic Church, although they have received the majority of the media's attention and the public's criticism. Recent cases such as that of Pastor Tony Alamo, who was convicted of abusing several young children and forced the government to remove children at his ministry from their negligent parents, shows that sexual abuse exists in different religious communities. It appears as though many institutions that have a tradition of powerful clerics that guide the community also suffer from allegations of child sexual abuse. This situation is often worsened when the religious institutions attempt to handle the matter internally by trying the offenders in a religious court instead of reporting the abuse to secular authorities.

Take for instance the allegations of sexual abuse in several Hasidic Jewish communities, where young boys were routinely abused at religious schools and community gatherings. These children weren't able to come forward with their allegations for years because they feared being cast out from the religious community for accusing one of their "holy" leaders of such a despicable crime. When the boys finally did come forward the rabbis were tried in an ecclesiastical court, much like the Catholic priests who were accused of similar crimes. These courts exonerated the rabbis of their crimes and halted efforts to pursue secular justice against the offenders.

Sexual abuse of children is seen in other religions that emphasize a strong clergy and utilize religious courts, such as in Islam and the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. In Pakistan there are many allegations regarding sexual abuse of children in Islamic religious schools called madrassas. This abuse of children is not widely discussed by the victims, as the religious community routinely shuns those who come forward and "dishonors" their religious leaders. The same situation occurs with the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, whose leaders are accused of wide-spread sexual abuse of children. American Southern Baptist churches also suffer from the same problem, as a bishop was recently accused of abusing a group of young boys in his mega-church. It appears as though these different religious communities, all of whom abide by distinctly different scriptures, share common ground in their efforts to silence victims of sexual abuse through marginalization and exclusion from the community.

Sexually repressive religions suffer numerous allegations of sexual abuse, which makes sense when you consider the effect that their scripture might have on normal sexual behavior. Statements such as "I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28) and the emphasis by religions on abstaining from sex until marriage creates a repressive sexual environment that prevents healthy discussions about sexuality. This repression of sexuality discourages victims of sexual abuse from discussing the traumatic event because of the emphasis by the religious community on refraining from discussing sexual matters.

Sexual abuse occurs not only because of the specifics of a sexually repressive religious doctrine, but because the leaders of the religious community are given extraordinary power over their followers and are nearly immune to prosecution for their crimes because of the emphasis by those religious communities on handling criminal matters in religious courts. This method of self-prosecution is an obvious conflict of interest, as the community will be less to pursue any action that embarrasses the faith, even if such inaction comes at the expense of justice for the victims.

As human beings, we must feel for the plight of the victims and work to ensure that religious courts have no legal authority to protect criminal behavior. Victims of sexual abuse should not be ostracized or marginalized; rather, they should receive support and legal justice for the crimes that have been committed against them. Religious leaders are never above the law, no matter what faith they hail from, no matter their claims of moral superiority. Their "moral authority" does not grant them permission to do what they please, especially when they use that authority to silence their victims.

Top Ten Scary Quotes by the Religious Right

Last week, HNN editor Maggie Ardiente put out a call for the scariest quotes ever made by leaders of the Religious Right in history … and we received dozens of suggestions! Thanks to everyone who participated.  Here are the top ten scary-but-true quotes made by religious conservatives in America:

10. "It is not possible for there ever, in the United States of America, to be a separation between God and government because God is the source of every single right which government has a sacred duty to protect ... not a single one of our unalienable rights will be safe in the hands of a president who believes that we evolved from slime and we are the descendants of apes and baboons ... look at the nation states in the 20th century which rejected the creator God of the Judeo-Christian tradition – Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, Communist China. The one thing all of these secular states share in common is dead bodies." Bryan Fischer, American Family Association

9. "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren't punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That's war. And this is war." Ann Coulter

8. "The 'wall of separation between church and state' is a metaphor based on bad history, a metaphor which has proved useless as a guide to judging. It should be frankly and explicitly abandoned." William Rehnquist

7. "The message of the Declaration of Independence is under attack from the ACLU and atheists because it refuted the lie about a constitutional mandate for 'separation of church and state.' Atheists have filed numerous lawsuits in the courts of activist judges to try to eliminate our right to acknowledge God in public places, in the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag and in Ten Commandments monuments. The atheists are trying to change American history, expunge all reference to religion from textbooks and make us a completely secular nation. History proves America was founded by religious men who believed that a divine Creator is basic to good government." Phyllis Schlafly, Eagle Forum

6. "Go back to what our founders and our founding documents meant — they're quite clear — that we would create law based on the God of the bible and the Ten Commandments." – Sarah Palin

5. "If you say God scattered Israel, Jews will really be offended. They go, 'Oh, God scattered us?' Uh huh. 'Well, I thought the evil guys did.' Well, you are under the discipline of God because of your perversion and sin." Mike Bickle, International House of Prayer

4. "We took the Bible and prayer out of public schools, and now we're having weekly shootings practically. We had the 60s sexual revolution, and now people are dying of AIDS." Christine O'Donnell

3. "Atheists are parasites in the sense that they are benefiting from everything that religious culture has built in America, but they are doing nothing to add energy into the system." Rabbi Daniel Lapin, American Alliance of Jews and Christians

2. "AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals." Jerry Falwell

1. "I don't know that atheists should be considered citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God." George H. W. Bush

October Meeting Notice and Newsletter

Time: 9 am – Social and Breakfast about 9:30 and Speaker about 9:45 am.
I.    Welcome – Bill Guse
II.    Announcements – Share your Thoughts.
III.    Bible & Morality Study, "Family Values" – Ron Kyllonen
IV.    Program – Chuck Frederick, opinion/editorial page editor for Duluth News Tribune Will talk about church/state issues and "getting our message out".
        Coming Programs: November – Fred Freidman, Chief Public Defender

October, 2011 Newsletter of the Lake Superior Freethinkers

Facilitators: Maxine Caserta - 525-8427, 348-4113 & Bill Guse - 834-4583, 343-4806
First Sunday - Radisson Hotel – 9:00 AM Social – 10:00 Brunch

George Erickson, editor, tundracub@mchsi.com


From Rodney Sheffer

According to one of Christianity's most profound thinkers, "There is another form of temptation, even more fraught with danger. This is the disease of curiosity ... It is this which drives us to try to discover the secrets of nature, secrets which are beyond our understanding, which can avail us nothing, which man should not wish to learn."
Augustine [the "convert or die" saint]

Carl Sagan

Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge. Its goal is to find out how the world works, to seek what regularities there may be, to penetrate to the connections of things—from subnuclear particles, which may be the constituents of all matter, to living organisms, the human social commu­nity, and thence to the cosmos as a whole. Our intuition is by no means an in­fallible guide. Our perceptions may be distorted by training and prejudice or merely because of the limitations of our sense organs, which, of course, perceive directly but a small fraction of the phenomena of the world. Even so straightfor­ward a question as whether in the absence of friction a pound of lead falls faster than a gram of fluff was answered incorrectly by Aristotle and almost everyone else before the time of Galileo. Science is based on experiment, on a willingness to challenge old dogma, on an openness to see the universe as it really is. Accordingly, science sometimes requires courage—at the very least the courage to question the conventional wisdom.


Beyond this the main trick of science is to really think of something: the shape of clouds and their occasional sharp bottom edges at the same altitude everywhere in the sky; the formation of a dewdrop on a leaf….


The scientific cast of mind examines the world critically as if many alter­native worlds might exist, as if other things might be here which are not. Then we are forced to ask why what we see is present and not something else. Why are the Sun and the Moon and the planets spheres? Why not pyramids, or cubes, or dodecahedra? Why so symmet­rical?


If you spend any time spinning hypotheses, checking to see whether they make sense, whether they conform to what else we know, think­ing of tests you can pose to substantiate or deflate your hypotheses, you will find yourself doing science. And as you come to practice this habit of thought more and more you will get better and better at it. To penetrate into the heart of the thing—even a little thing, a blade of grass, as Walt Whitman said—is to ex­perience a kind of exhilaration that, it may be, only human beings of all the be­ings on this planet can feel. We are an intelligent species and the use of our in­telligence quite properly gives us pleasure. In this respect the brain is like a muscle. When we think well, we feel good. Understanding is a kind of ecstasy.



From my friend and board member of the AHA - Herb Silverman

Published in the Washington Post

Mitt Romney: A reasonable man?

Here's a scene in which four presidential candidates are asked about their religious views.


Candidate 1: "It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg." He adds, "And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter."


Candidate 2: "As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed?"


Candidate 3: "During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution."


Candidate 4: "When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad. That is my religion."


Were this to take place at a public debate today, I expect Candidates 1 (Thomas Jefferson), 2 (John Adams), 3 (James Madison), and 4 (Abraham Lincoln) would be booed off the stage, their political careers ended.


None of the current Republican candidates seems to have the courage of the man once known as Mr. Conservative (Barry Goldwater), quoted in the September 16, 1981 Congressional Record: "I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in 'A,' 'B,' 'C,' and 'D.' Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me?" Are we better off with today's presidential candidates who pander to religious factions and cannot end a speech without "God bless America"?


I think the most reasonable Republican candidates are the two Mormons. My bar here is set pretty low: they never talk about their deity telling them to run or how to vote. Perhaps they have a good reason to downplay their Mormonism. The only thing atheists and Mormons have in common is that a significant number of Americans admit they wouldn't vote for either.


As far as the role of faith in the 2012 election, I can't say because I don't know the faith of the candidates. I can take them all at their publicly religious word, but why should I? The major truth-telling test for me among candidates is whether a candidate expresses a view that he or she knows will be politically detrimental. That's why I'll believe any candidate in this country who says he is an atheist, and I'll believe any candidate in Iran who says he is a Christian.


The important question to ask all candidates is if and how their private faith would impact their stands on public policy. I could be comfortable with a candidate who says she would compartmentalize her irrational, faith-based beliefs and govern rationally on evidence-based information.


I was appalled by the Christian values expressed by both the candidates and the audience in the most recent presidential debate. The audience cheered when Rick Perry proudly talked about how many citizens he was responsible for executing in Texas. And the audience again cheered when Ron Paul said the government should ignore the plight of a young person with a deadly disease because he failed to pay for health insurance. Even worse, in my mind, was that none of the other candidates publicly disagreed, though they had no problem challenging anyone who favored government money for health care.


As an atheist, I pick and choose from many books - including the Bible. I particularly like how the quote from Matthew 7:16 applies to the presidential candidates who were on stage that night: "By their fruits you shall know them."