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


December 2012 Newsletter

December, 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 – 9:30 Breakfast


George Erickson, editor, tundracub@mchsi.com

Program - Laughing at Death: Is dying really such a bad thing?
People cope with aging and death in many ways. Some ignore it. Others, like best-selling author George Erickson, make jokes, so come meet the Grin Reaper, whose Laughing at Death brings stories and quotes on death and aging from experts like Epicurus, Woody Allen and George Carlin plus a series of hilarious cartoons gleaned from the New Yorker magazine.

"Erickson's quotes, stories and cartoons are both entertaining and thought-provoking. From Miami to Czechoslovakia, from the gates of heaven to the portals of hell, he brought together Santa Claus, funeral homes and golf clubs with a lighthearted touch that muted our fears." - The Sarasota (Florida) Humanists

George Erickson, our newsletter editor for 8 years, is a retired dentist, a former bush pilot, a past VP of the American Humanist Association, a past president of the Minnesota Humanists and a best-selling author of four pro-science books that make great presents for any occasion. For book information, see www.tundracub.com.

George funds 3 scholarships every year at Mesabi Community College. For a story about the selection process, please read Decisions (below), an excerpt from his 4th book EYES WIDE OPEN: Living, Laughing, Loving and Learning in a Religion-troubled World. Decisions provides an example of how we, who supposedly "lack a moral compass" because we are not religious, are doing good works.


Like most of our nation's 30 million freethinkers, humanists, agnostics, rationalists and atheists, my wife and I opposed the fraudulent Bush/ Cheney/ Rumsfeld/ Rice/Rove war, and although we try to improve the lives of others with our time, our money and efforts, we are often denigrated by TV preachers and public officials.

Today, I face two of those efforts: The first, the irritating-but-easy one, requires me to write a check to the IRS, part of which will go to pay for G W's trumped up Iraq war. The second is to evaluate 38 scholarship applications to my Community College - applications that will mix pleasure with pain because I can only afford to fund three. I'll be seeking the three with acceptable grades, the greatest need and the probability that they'll use the training. The end will satisfy, but getting there is always an emotional task.

"Katie" has a 3.1 grade point average and lives with her mom. She wants to be a psychiatrist, but her need is marginal, so her application joins the rejected pleas of a diabetic vo-tech applicant, a 32-year-old waitress/nursing home worker with no husband and three kids who seeks a nursing degree, and a Fundamentalist who has all the answers but needs a degree.

As the applications fall to my feet, it occurs to me that the three trillion dollars consumed by the "war on terror" (or the millions in tax cuts G W handed the already-rich) could fund the education of all of these people-and not just here, but all across the nation-with money left over for national health care and Social Security.

An hour passes. Twenty-one applications lie spread across my floor, leaving seventeen for further review. One by one, I winnow them down, rejecting some despite glowing recommendations and great GPAs because they have no crushing financial need.

The seventeen dwindle to six as I reluctantly say "no" to a man of 38 who lost his job when his factory closed, to a bright high school senior who has been working since he was 12, to a girl on anti-depressants with a father and brother in Iraq and a mother who can't quite cope, to a victim of rape, and to a 23 year old single mom who wants to give her child "all of the opportunities I missed while I was growing up."

The hard (and sometimes tearful) part, is selecting the final three. In an attempt to isolate myself from their stories, I try to become an indifferent calculating machine, but every time, I fail. With regrets, I reject "Patricia," who received a Nursing Assistant Certificate at age 45 after being abandoned by an abusive husband who called her "stupid," and having learned that she isn't, wants to return at age 50 for a 2-year business degree.

"Richard", who has a fiancée, two kids and a part time job, is also rejected. Why? Because his impressive recommendations imply that he'll probably work things out.

The last to fall is a freshman named "Cory," who admits that he "used to be a trouble-maker." "I never finished high school, but now I've got my GED and last semester I even made the Dean's list. I don't like the stress of paying only the priority bills while going to school and worrying about the rest."

So here are those I've chosen in my attempt to find the most needy and deserving students who will relentlessly persevere.

Twenty-eight year-old "Jan," after graduating from the Job Corps, had been bartending and cooking until her arms required several surgeries. After a long list of low-paying, part-time jobs, "Jan" is now completing her first year at college (with great recommendations) and has made the Dean's list. I'll pay for year number two.

"Ruth," who began her bio with Bon Jovi's "It's my life. It's now or never," is wheelchair-bound by scoliosis and spinal muscular atrophy. While still in high school, she enlisted Social Services to help her leave her alcoholic parents and live with her sister. Ruth's grades are barely acceptable, but her recommendations are strong, so we'll bend the rules to help Ruth attain an elementary education degree.

The third applicant, and the one that I'm least sure of, is "Mary", who, despite miserable grades, graduated from high school thirty years ago because her teachers "took pity on me." Born with a cleft lip and palate, Mary has overcome drugs and alcohol and has worked as a nursing assistant for almost 20 years. She needs bifocals, and a computer wouldn't hurt. Now, while living in an adult foster home and taking medications for depression, she is completing her first year in college with acceptable grades and average recommendations - and hopes to return next fall. Her goal is to become "a self-sufficient, self-reliant nurse who doesn't need Social Security." I'll take a chance on Mary. Go for it, girl!

A year from now, I'll receive a similar stack of requests. When that time comes, people like me will still be the target of religious bigots who fault us for not sharing their supernatural beliefs, and I suppose I'll still be angry, knowing that all of the applications that have fallen at my feet could have been funded by the cost of a single Hellfire missile fired in a fraudulent war caused by a person who claims to follow the Prince of Peace.

Deadly Prayers
(plus those that also cause needless pain, disfigurement and disability)

Every day, in this country, minor children suffer needless pain and risk disfigurement, disability and death because their parents prefer to pray instead of providing medical care.

They get away with it because, in most states, including MN and WI, they have been exempted from the duties of health care by laws engineered by Christian Scientists and their allies in "faith healing" cults. The parents (and their for-profit "nurse practioners") do the praying, but the kids pay the price. Here are just six of hundreds of examples:

Ian Lundman, age 11, died of diabetes in Minneapolis. His father had left Christian Science, but did not have custody. The boy lost weight and became lethargic. A school official noticed a fruity odor on Ian's breath, a classic diabetes symptom, but did not recognize it as such, nor did she know his mother and stepfather had religious beliefs against medical care. They retained a Christian Science practitioner for spiritual treatment of Ian's illness. The practitioner billed them $446 for his prayers.

Matthew Swan, age 16 months, died of spinal meningitis in Detroit, Michigan. His parents, Doug and Rita Swan, both lifelong Christian Scientists, retained Christian Science practitioners for spiritual "treatments." The practitioners repeatedly said they were healing Matthew. Symptoms were reinterpreted as evidence of healing. One practitioner who observed the baby's convulsions said he might be "gritting his teeth" because he was "planning some great achievement." The practitioners demanded more faith and gratitude from the Swans. They complained that the Swans' fears and other sins were obstructing their treatment. The Swans subsequently left the Church and formed CHILD - Children's Health Care Is a Legal Duty - to oppose exemption laws.

Amy Hermanson, age 7, died in Sarasota, Florida. A talented little girl, she took piano and art lessons, and excelled in academics. Teachers and employees at her mother's business observed Amy's weight loss and lethargy over a four-week period, but did not report to Child Protection Services (CPS). They did not know she had diabetes. Some assumed the parents were providing medical treatment. One employee said she did not report to CPS because she knew they were Christian Scientists and were "signing [her] paycheck."

Robyn Twitchell, age 2, who lived near Boston, died of peritonitis and a twisted bowel after a five-day illness. It began with his screaming and vomiting. By the second day, his parents Ginger and David Twitchell were calling the Christian Science church's worldwide public relations manager for advice. He assured them that the law granted them the right to use Christian Science treatment instead of medical treatment. A church nurse recorded: "Child listless at times, rejecting all food, moaning in pain, three wounds on thigh." The nurse force-fed him and directed his mother to feed him every half hour. On the fifth day, he was vomiting "a brown, foul-smelling substance."

Andrew Wantland, age 12, died of untreated diabetes in LaHabra, California. A Christian Science practitioner attempted to heal him with prayer for four days. He lost thirty pounds. On the last day of his life, he was emaciated, vomiting, and urinating frequently. Later in the day he was unable to eat, drink, make eye contact, speak, or move around.

Two-year-old Harrison Johnson was stung 432 times by wasps while the family was visiting church friends in Tampa, Florida. His parents asked neighborhood children and fellow church members to pray for him, but did not call for medical help until more than 7 hours after the attack. Six minutes after the 911 call, the EMT's arrived to find the toddler without a pulse and not breathing. His parents belong to a group called The Fellowship, which reportedly shuns medical care on grounds that doctors practice witchcraft.

Please see www.CHILD.org

For George Carlin's take on the Ten Commandments, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-RGN21TSGk&feature=related.

Ed Raymond on church attendance. - The Pew Research Center has reported that 20% of Americans are no longer members of a traditional religious denomination, up from 8% in 1990. That means that about 60 million no longer kiss rings, wear different colors on Sundays, handle poisonous snakes, or kill chickens...

48% say they are Protestant, the rest strung out among Catholics, Tennessee Snake Handlers, Mormons, Scientologists, and others of that ilk spread out among about 2,600 different "sects" in the U.S... Pew says that 79 percent of the religious say they attend church on Sunday. Other researchers indicate that if 45 percent of the affiliated actually attended church all of the church pews in the country would be filled.... Can you imagine religious people lying about church attendance to researchers? If true, this puts the U. S. on par with church attendance in Europe! Now, that's a disaster!

East coast preacher blames gays for Sandy!

In response to last month's article about the 20 Weirdest Religious Beliefs, one of our members wrote that, for Roman Catholics, the "bread", when consecrated by the priest" becomes the body of Christ, and the wine becomes the blood of Christ. (Transubstantiation.) Missouri Synod Lutherans, however, believe that the bread IS already the body of Christ, while the Wine IS the blood of Christ - no priestly contortions needed.

Unlike religion, science does not project our wishes, dreams, ideologies or fantasies and irrationalities onto the people.... While religion tries to coerce nature into what it wants nature to be, science tries to explain nature as it is. --Rodney Sheffer

Average Human Life Expectancy - by Rodney Sheffer

According to the best available modern anthropological and biological knowledge, archaic human beings emerged from the long history of the evolution of life on earth about 200,000 years ago. Modern Homo sapiens sapiens have been a part of the world's biota for approximately 50,000 years. In all that time the average life expectancy, calculated from the analysis of thousands of human skeletal remains, was 45-47 years. This value remained constant until the 20th century. Since 1900, average life expectancy has increased to over 83 years for those in first-world countries, and most of that increase in has occurred since 1950. Not only are people living longer, but infant mortality has been dramatically reduced. ...

There is only one explanation that can account for this extraordinary increase in life expectancy. The scientific paradigm for truth determination and truth telling has allowed us to understand and explain natural phenomena in a naturalistic context.

Pierre Laplace (1749-1827) a French mathematician and astronomer was explaining his data and findings about celestial mechanics to the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte when Bonaparte asked him where God fit into his conclusions. Laplace responded by saying, "Sire, I have no need of that hypothesis."

Laplace was not the first person to realize that he did not need a god to either understand or explain the natural phenomena of either the world or cosmos. Similarly, we have no need for a hypothetical god to understand or explain natural phenomena either. Today, invoking a deity to explain natural phenomena has become unnecessary, inappropriate, irrelevant, pointless, and even dangerous.

Know someone who won’t trust science? Have them click on this link. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRLR9jhP_DM&feature=em-subs_digest-newavtr-vrecs