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

September 2014
August Berkshire, President of the MN Atheists will present “Moral Responsibility and Free Will”
Tuesday, February 28, 2012

March 2012 Newsletter

March 2012 Newsletter of the Lake Superior Freethinkers

Facilitators: David Broman – 218-349-7455 & Bill Guse - 834-4583, 343-4806
First Sunday - Radisson Hotel – 9:00 AM Social – 10:00 Brunch

George Erickson, editor, tundracub@mchsi.com

Program: Jon Lindgren, "Survival and Growth of Secular Groups"

Jon Lindgren was a Professor of Economics at North Dakota State University in Fargo for 35 years. For 16 years of that time he served as Mayor of Fargo. He has been Chair of the Red River Freethinkers for seven years.

Jon will reflect on his experience with secular groups, including the Red River Freethinkers and their ten year battle to remove a Ten Commandments Monument from Fargo's City Hall lawn. That effort remains in the Court system.

As Gabriel Heater (I think) used to say – "Good evening America and all the ships at sea. There's good news tonight!." Our good news is that after a lot of effort, I have finally been able to contact Ed Raymond, the Reader Weekly columnist whose words we should read every week. If our "board" approves, he will be pleased to speak to us this spring – Sunday, May 6 being his preference. Don't miss it.

Here are a few quotes from 2,548 Best Things Anyone Ever Said,

which I added to our "library" at the Feb. meeting.

The trouble with born-again Christians is that they are an even bigger pain the second time around. Herb Caen

Most people would sooner die than think, in fact, they do so. Bertrand Russell

Man - an animal whose chief occupation is extermination of other animals and his own species, which multiply with such rapidity as to infest the whole habitable earth and Canada. Ambrose Bierce

It is lawful for a Catholic woman to avoid pregnancy by resorting to mathematics, though she is still forbidden to resort to physics and chemistry. H L Mencken

Our national flower is the concrete cloverleaf. Lewis Mumford

Every day people are straying away from the church and going back to God. Lenny Bruce

Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich. Napoleon

A man in love mistakes a pimple for a dimple. Japanese proverb

One ounce of mother is worth a ton of priest. Spanish proverb

Animals have advantages over man: they never hear a clock strike, they died without any idea of death, they have no theologians…, their last moments are not disturbed by unwelcomed and unpleasant ceremonies, their funerals cost them nothing, and no one starts lawsuits over their wills. Voltaire

Is man one of God's blunders or is God one of mans? Nietzsche

No man can think clearly when his fists are clenched. George Nathan

If there is a supreme being, he's crazy. Marlene Dietrich

* * *

After our Feb. presentation by Kevin Annett, Tom Patten emailed Gary Kohls with a question. Following his question are responses by Gary and Annett.

To Gary, I have a request. It is often said that Atheists aren't generous. I'd be curious to know how LSF's contribution to Kevin's cause compares to others you've gotten. Thanks. Tom

From Gary Kohls - No comparison. LSF was the most generous group that we have encountered so far and I would be surprised if we will encounter any group that exceeds the generosity of LSF members. Even my daughter Julie, an overburdened single mom, who lives close to the earth, eats organically and lives close to poverty was so moved by Kevin's presentation and LSF's program, that she donated $20 (my other daughter Susan, who is interested in joining or supporting LSF, also contributed something). Very few LSFers didn't get out their billfolds.

Kevin mentioned that he would love to do something with LSF when he returns to Duluth in April (3rd week). Perhaps there could be a public event of some sort sponsored or co-sponsored by LSF. We have time to ponder what kind of event between now and then. Thanks again for your great hospitality and generosity. Gary

From: Kevin Annett - I have rarely seen such an example as I did today of people willing to literally "put their money with their mouth is". I received $513 in donations from the Free Thinkers today. Even better, the support and human contact from all of you went far to reassure me that this journey and struggle is not something I am doing alone. So thank you, and please extend this to the others. I look forward to seeing you all again.

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Here's a selection from a book I'll be adding to our "LSF lending library" in March. Titled Great Essays in Science, it features 28 science pioneers from Francis Bacon to Bertrand Russell and Isaac Asimov, whose essay follows.

Science and Beauty- by Isaac Asimov - lightly edited by GAE

When I heard the learn'd astronomer,

When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,

When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide and measure them,

When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause…

How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,

Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself,

In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,

Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars. (Walt Whitman)

I imagine that many people reading those lines will tell them­selves, "How true! Science just sucks all the beauty out of everything, reducing it all to numbers and tables and measurements! Why bother learning all that junk when I can just go out and look at the stars?"

That is a very convenient point of view, since it makes it unnecessary and aesthetically wrong to try to follow all that hard stuff in science. Instead, you can just take a look at the night sky, get a quick beauty fix, and go off to a nightclub.

The trouble is that Whitman is talking through his hat, but didn't know any better.

I don't deny that the night sky is beautiful, and I have in my time spread out on a hillside for hours looking at the stars and being awed by their beauty.

But what I see—those quiet, twinkling points of light—is not all the beauty there is. Should I stare lovingly at a single leaf and willingly remain ignorant of the forest? Should I be satis­fied to watch the sun glinting off a single pebble and scorn any knowledge of a beach?

Those bright spots in the sky that we call planets are worlds. There are worlds with thick atmospheres of carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid; worlds of red-hot liquid with hurricanes that could gulp down the whole earth; dead worlds with quiet pock-marks of craters; worlds with volcanoes puffing plumes of dust into airlessness; worlds with pink and desolate deserts—each with a weird and unearthly beauty that boils down to a mere speck of light if we just gaze at the night sky.

Those other bright spots, which we call stars, are actually suns. Some of them are of incomparable grandeur, each glowing with the light of a thousand suns like ours; some of them are merely red-hot coals. Some of them are compact bodies as massive as our sun, but with all that mass squeezed into a ball smaller than the earth. Some are more compact still, with the mass of the sun squeezed down into the volume of a small asteroid. And some are more compact still, with their mass shrinking down to a volume of zero, the site of which is marked by an intense gravitational field that swallows up everything and gives back nothing; with matter spiraling into that bottomless hole while giving out a wild death-scream of X-rays.

There are stars that pulsate endlessly in a great cosmic breathing; and others that, having consumed their fuel, expand and redden until they swallow up their planets, if they have any – as ours will probably do. And some stars explode in a vast cataclysm whose ferocious blast of cosmic rays, hurrying outward at nearly the speed of light reaching across thousands of light-years to touch the earth and some of the driving force of evolution through mutations.

Those paltry few stars (some 2,500 on even the darkest, clearest night) are joined by a vast horde we don't see, up to as many as three hundred billion—300,000,000,000—to form an enormous pinwheel in space. This pinwheel, the Milky Way galaxy, stretches so widely that it takes light, moving at 186,282 miles each second, a hundred thousand years to cross it from end to end; and it rotates about its center in a stately turn that takes two hundred million years to complete—and the sun and the earth and we ourselves all make that turn.

Beyond our Milky Way galaxy are others, a score or so of them bound to our own in a cluster of galaxies, most of them small, with no more than a few billion stars in each; but with at least one, the Andromeda galaxy, twice as large as our own.

Beyond our own cluster, other galaxies and other clusters exist; some made of thousands of galaxies. They stretch outward as far as our best telescopes can see, with no visible sign of an end—perhaps a hundred billion of them in all.

And in more of those galaxies we are becoming aware of violence at the centers—of great explosions and out­pourings of radiation, marking the death of perhaps millions of stars. Even at the center of our own galaxy there is incredible violence masked from our own solar system far in the outskirts by enormous clouds of dust and gas that lie between us and the heaving center.

Some galactic centers are so bright that they can be seen from distances of billions of light-years, distances from which the galaxies themselves cannot be seen and only the bright starlike centers of ravening energy show up—as quasars.

All these galaxies are hurrying outward from each other in a vast universal expansion that began fifteen billion years ago, when all the matter in the universe was in a tiny sphere that exploded in the hugest conceivable shatter to form the galaxies.

The universe may expand forever or the day may come when expansion slows and turns into a contraction to re­form the tiny sphere and begin the game all over again so that the whole universe is exhaling and inhaling in breaths that are perhaps a trillion years long.

And all of this vision—far beyond the scale of human imag­inings—was made possible by the works of hundreds of "learn'd" astronomers. All of it; all of it was discovered after Whitman died in 1892, and most of it in the past 25 years, so that the poor poet never knew what a stultified and limited beauty he observed when he "look'd up in perfect silence at the stars."

Nor can we know or imagine the limitless beauty yet to be revealed in the future—by science.

The second book I'll be adding is AMERICAN PLACES, which looks like a coffee table book – and it is, but accompanying its striking photographs is knowledgeable, exquisitely written prose, most of it by Wallace Stegner – one of the deans of American writing.

As the foreword says, "This is not just another book of natural wonders, though some of the country that it deals with is wonderful. It is not a work of history or a collection of personal experiences, though it contains some of both.

"There are no cities here. Neither do we concern ourselves mainly with the national Parks and monuments or permanent wilderness areas, even though some of the most beautiful landscapes were taken there. Parks are immensely important, but they're not American; they are exceptions to it. And though we agree with Lord Bryce that the national park idea – the willed preservation of natural areas which it might be in our short term interest to exploit - is the best idea to have come out of the New World, we need to note that these parks are only the crumbs from the great greedy banquet. They had to be fought for by people whose public spirit was often called… un-American; and even millions of Americans do not understand them. They want the wilderness areas open to recreational vehicles and drilling rights, and they confuse national Parks with resorts.

American Places is a book about (and an advocate for) nature. I hope that you will enjoy it, and bring it back so it can be passed on. George Erickson

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

From Christian to Atheist

One of our members, Dave Broman, has created a video in which he shares his thoughts about religion. He speaks about his own journey from faith to freethinking and his concerns about a world still deeply immersed in religiosity. Use the link below to view the video:

Dave Broman on YouTube
Thursday, February 9, 2012

February 2012

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

February 2012 Newsletter

February 2012 Newsletter of the Lake Superior Freethinkers

Facilitators: David Broman – 218-349-7455 & Bill Guse - 834-4583, 343-4806
First Sunday - Radisson Hotel – 9:00 AM Social – 10:00 Brunch

George Erickson, editor, tundracub@mchsi.com

 

Program: Rev. Kevin Annett

 

Reverend Kevin Annett is the de-frocked pastor (mid-1990s) of a small United Church of Canada parish in British Columbia. When he started asking questions about why there were no Natives coming to his church, he was told by his all-white congregants that everybody liked it that way. But when he asked the local Natives why they weren't coming to his church he was told a different story, a sobering story about neglect, kidnappings, abuses and even unaccounted-for deaths of Native children that had occurred in the local residential school that had been in existence for several generations. Further research revealed that there was once a 50% annual mortality rate for Native children in some of the military-style schools.

 

When Rev Annett found out that his own church denomination had illegally sold Native land to large timber companies (and he refused to shut up about it), he was well on his way to being expelled from the United Church of Canada. He will tell that story at this week's LSF meeting.

    

Reminder – Surely, I'm not the only LSF member who has books I've read at least once – and now just sit on the shelf. Please examine your books, and if you find some good ones that you won't read again, bring them to the meeting to share. If just 10 people bring 1 book per month, we'd really have something.    

     

Morality is doing right no matter what you are told.

Religion is doing what you are told no matter what is right. Anon.

 

Geochronolgy of the Fundamentalist World

                                 adapted from a piece by Russell Seitz

 

4004 BCE- Earth still molten- Adam and Eve invent asbestos waders.

 

3554 BCE- persistent lava incinerates Noah's Ark.

 

3264 BCE- Methuselah begins to notice passage of geological time.

 

2444 BCE- Breathable atmosphere develops - First sermon preached.

 

1794 BCE- Children of Ham insist that the fauna ofthe Burgess Shales (which abound with fossils) are kosher.

 

1704 BCE- Charshumash the Hittite bitten by first vertebrate.

 

1444 BCE- Pangea breaks up in accordance with the Treaty of Uruk.

 

1104 BCE- Ezekiel se de pterodactyl way up in de middle ob de air.

 

1024 BCE- Goliath stepped on by Barosaurus. David takes credit.

 

794 BCE- Jonah swallowed by Carcharus megalodon. Never returns.

 

454 BCE- Marble deposits form in Greece. Parthenon erected.

 

The Year 0- Nothing happened, there being no time.

 

CE 31- Miracle of the Loaves and Icthyosaurs.

 

CE 70- Paul, formerly Paul the Tarsier, undergoes identity crisis on

 

the road to Damascus and writes Epistle to the Cephalopds.

 

CE 494- Snakes evolve and are driven out of Ireland.

 

CE 974- Leif the Unlucky dies when his dragon ship is spotted by an amorous Kronosuarus.

 

CE 1215- Magna Charta is eaten by Velociraptor.

 

CE 1324- Gunpowder introduced. Dinosaurs hunted to extinction.

 

CE 1384- Dante Alighieri describes earth's core-mantle boundary.

 

CE 1484- Leonardo da Vinci designs archeopteryx.

 

CE 1588- Spanish Armada frustrated by the absence of the English Channel.

 

CE 1636- Earliest primates appear. Harvard founded.

 

CE 1664- Archbishop Ussher reveals the last four digits of the age of the earth.

 

CE 1754- Gibbons evolve and write Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

 

CE 1835- Charles Darwin, a devoted Christian, attacked by a ratite  in the Galapagos, becomes a Neptunist.

 

CE 1846 - Ape evolution confirmed by birth of a son to Lady and Bishop Wilburforce.

 

CE 1914- Holy Roman Empire wins WW I.

 

CE 1954 De Gaulle invades Russia.

 

CE 1957- Civil Rights movement challenges Jim Cro-Magnon laws.

 

CE 1961- Rachel Carson links DDT to Glyptodonts' decline.

 

CE 1971- Warhol paints Campbell Soup cans on walls of Lascaux Caverns.

 

CE 1988- Homo habilis declines to serve as Pat Robertson's running mate.

 

CE 1991 Sadam Hussein discovers fire.

 

CE 1997- Citing black smoker emissions in the ocean, the Christian

Coalition bans continental drift.

 

CE 2001 – Christian Fundamentalists find new puppet. Name it G W Bush.

 

CE 2004 – Christian Fundamentalists promote equal rights for anyone

to be as dumb as G W Bush by adoring Sarah Palin.

 

CE 2009  -  ditto for Michelle Bachmann.

CE 2010 – ditto for Rick Perry

 

                           Science vs Religion  by Joel Welty


I'm tired of the repeated mantra, "Science and religion are simply two ways of looking at things." This is nonsense. Science has expanded its reach continuously, while religion has been forced to retreat on issue after issue. So, the religious apologists have been left with a tattered statement: "Religion talks about the meaning of life and the purpose of life and moral values."

Baloney! Religion tells us to stone a man to death if he works on Sunday. So, if your house catches fire on Sunday, the firemen will go to work on Monday to put it out. And purpose of life? Religion tells us not to worry about today, but to focus on the afterlife -- for which we have no evidence. And values? Jesus approved of slavery; I don't. …  Jesus, Paul, Augustine and others ignored the values of family and marriage; what kind of value system is that?

Science gives us a better understanding of human relationships than any of the religiousists ever did. We can understand the instincts of our species better by understanding natural selection than by studying the bible or any religious tract.

Science and religion are NOT two different windows we look out of.  Religion was an early, flawed attempt to understand the universe. We would be better off to drop it altogether and rely upon science to learn about things - including ourselves.

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To the editor, USA Today

Just as I change the channel or turn off the TV during MLB's 7th Inning 'Cod bless america', I would likely do the same when tebow or his ilk go into their nonsensical public proselytizing, or just shake my head in 'disbelief' when I see Pujhols and others pointing to the sky after getting a hit, but no acknowledgement when they hit into a DP?

 

Note to these proselytizing morons - gawd, yahweh, odin, zeus, thor and thousands of other mythical gods would never root for millionaire crybabies, especially playing a stupid game! Also, praying has been proven to be a very psychotic (talking to oneself) behavior. Someone had to burst the 'bubble'. William Soderlind Sr. Duluth, Mn.

 

A false equation: Faith equals morality – by Gwyyne Dwyer- edited by GAE

 

Prime Minister David Cameron has declared that the United Kingdom is a Christian country "and we should not be afraid to say so."  He was speaking on the 400th anniversary of the King James translation of the Bible, so he had to say something positive about religion - but went far beyond that.

"The Bible has helped to give Britain a set of values and morals and which can make Britain won it is today," he said. "Values and morals we should actively stand up and defend."

The King James Bible was published at the start of a century in which millions of Europeans were killed in religious wars over minor differences of doctrine.  Thousands of "witches" were burned at the stake during the 17th century, as were thousands of heretics.  They have stopped doing that sort of thing in Britain now - but they've also stop reading the Bible.  Might there be a connection here?

Besides, what Cameron said is just not true.  In last year's British Social Attitudes survey, conducted annually by the National Center for social research, only 43% of 4000 British people interviewed said they were Christian, while 51% said they had no religion.  Among young people some 2/3 are non believers.

Why would Cameron proclaim the virtues of a Christian Britain that no longer exists? He is no fanatic; he describes himself as a "committed" but only "vaguely practicing" Christian.

You'd think that if he really believed that a God who scrutinizes his every thought, and will condemn him to eternal torture in Hell if he doesn't meet the standard of behavior required, he might be a little less vague about it.  But he doesn't really believe that HE needs religion.  He thinks it is necessary instrument of social control for keeping the lower orders in check.

This is a common belief among those who rule, because they confuse morality with religion.  If the common folk don't fear a God – any old God will do - social discipline will collapse, and the streets will run with blood. Our homes, our children, even our domestic animals will be violated. 

Just listen to Cameron: "The alternative of a moral neutrality should not be an option. You can't fight something with nothing if we don't stand for something we can't stand against anything.    What he means it is that there cannot be moral behavior without religion - so you poles had better go on believing, or we privileged people will be in trouble.

But Cameron already lives in a post-religious country.  Half its people say that they have no religion, 2/3 them never attend a religious service, and a mere 8% go to church, mosque, synagogue or temple on a weekly basis. Yet the streets are not running with blood. 

Indeed, religion may actually be bad for morality.  In 2005, Paul Gregory made the case for this in an article titled Cross-national Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracy is.

Gobbledygook. But in a statistical survey of 18 developed democracies, Gregory showed that, in general, "Higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, teen pregnancy and abortion.

Even within the United States, Gregory reported, "The strongly atheist, anti-evolution South and Midwest have markedly worse crime rates and social problems than the relatively secular Northeast."  Of course, the deeply religious areas are also poor, so it might just be poverty making people behave so badly.  On the other hand, maybe religion cause is poverty. 

The point is that David Cameron, and thousands of other politicians, religious leaders and generals in every country are effectively saying that my children, and those of all other millions who reject religion, are morally inferior to those who don't.  It is insulting and untrue.

      A Constitutional Amendment codifying marriage on biblical principles:

  • Marriage in the United States shall consist of a union between one man and one or more women. (Gen 29:17-28; II Sam 3:2-5; Matthew 25:1)
  • Marriage shall not impede a man's right to take concubines in addition to his wife or wives. (II Sam 5:13; I Kings 11:3; II Chron11:21)
  • A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin. If the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed. (Deut 22:13-21)
  • Marriage of a believer and a non-believer shall be forbidden. (Gen 24:3; Num 25:1-9; Ezra 9:12; Neh 10:30)
  • Since marriage is for life, neither this Constitution nor the constitution of any state, nor any state or federal law, shall be construed to permit divorce. (Deut 22:19; Mark 10:9)
  • If a married man dies without children, his brother shall marry the widow. If he refuses to marry his brother's widow or deliberately does not give her children, he shall pay a fine of one shoe and be otherwise punished in a manner to be determined by law. (Gen. 38:6-10; Deut 25:5-10)
  • In lieu of marriage, if there are no acceptable men in your town, it is required that you get your dad drunk and have sex with him (even if he had previously offered you up as a sex toy to men young and old), tag-teaming with any sisters you may have. Of course, this rule applies only if you are female. (Gen 19:31-36)-------