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


September 2013 Newsletter

September, 2013 Newsletter of the Lake Superior Freethinkers

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

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


George Erickson, editor, tundracub@mchsi.com

Program - “The Illusion that Free Will is not an Illusion”

August Berkshire will discuss the ramifications of a natural universe without gods or free will, in which evolution shapes our thoughts and actions. Is life worth living? Can we avoid fatalism? What does this say about ethics, cooperation, altruism, responsibility, justice, revenge, punishment, rehabilitation, praise, blame, hate, and love? Should we be optimistic or pessimistic about the future?

August Berkshire is a past president of Minnesota Atheists, a past vice president of Atheist Alliance International, and is on the speakers bureau for the Secular Student Alliance. He has been an atheist activist since 1984 and is the author of numerous pamphlets. He is the owner of the ATHEIST car license plate for Minnesota and is proud to be listed in the reference book “Who’s Who in Hell.”

Addendum to the presentation on Thorium Nuclear Power

I have just read an excellent, non-technical book on Climate Change and Thorium Power by Reese Palley, which he “modestly” titled The Answer. I urge EVERYONE who cares about our planet and our children to read it. Just $16.87 on Amazon – and the book is selling like crazy! Get two with a friend and shipping is free. BTW, new studies show that the rising ocean acidification caused by excess CO2 will drastically damage the ocean food chain by 2050, a source we depend on for 20% of our protein!

Time Traveling with Science and the Saints
a review by Edd Doerr, past pres – American Humanist Association

In a writing career of 60-plus years I have published well over 1000 book reviews. One book that came in long ago stood in a bookshelf unread until a few days ago. I owe my friend George Erickson a profound apology for not seeing it sooner. But better late than never, especially for a book that is really timeless.

As George notes in Time Traveling with Science and the Saints, (Prometheus Books), western science began and flourished in the ancient Greek world but went into a 16 century eclipse with the fall of the Roman Empire and rapid spread of Christianity throughout Europe. Slowly, during the vague period called the Renaissance, science was reborn… but even today faces reactionary resistance from creationists and assorted religious fundamentalists.

Erickson tells this story in a sweeping, wonderfully readable book, suitable for all ages and levels of education. Time Traveling:… summarizes the lives, careers and accomplishments of the great innovators in every field of science. He concludes that clericalism's and conservative religion's yielding to reason and science is what has made our world today as good as it is and points us in the right direction.

This is a book that belongs in everyone's library, complete with its excellent bibliography.

Note from author George: Prometheus Books overpriced Time Traveling… so get a good used copy for 2/3 off at Amazon.com.

Religion is the means by which the dead bury the living. —Anon.

Ambrose Bierce

In 1842, Bierce was born in Ohio, and left home at 15 to work as a "printer's devil" for a newspaper. At 17, he enrolled at Kentucky Military Institute, and enlisted in the Civil War at age 19 in 1861. His experiences in that war resulted in his Poe-like supernatural stories, most set in the Civil War.

After the war, Bierce went west, sharpening his writing skills on atheistic tracts and political cartoons. Bierce was hired as a journalist for several San Francisco newspapers, writing 167 weekly, satiric "Town Crier" columns later published in book form, The Fiend's Delight.

Bierce was hired by W R Hearst in 1887, and worked for him for 21 years. Bierce's first collection of short stories, Tales of Soldiers and Civilians, appeared in 1891. His "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," is still anthologized.

In 1906, The Cynic's Word debuted, AKA The Devil's Dictionary.

In 1913 he told friends in Texas that he was going South - and disappeared.

Bierce speared inflated egos and ridiculed the pretentious.

CORPORATION: An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.

OCCIDENT: the part of the world lying west or east of the Orient. It is largely inhabited by Christians, a powerful sub-tribe of the Hypocrites, whose principal industries are murder and cheating, which they are pleased to call “war” and “commerce.”

CHRISTIAN: one who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor. One who follows the teachings of Christ insofar as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin.

Evangelist: A bearer of good tidings, particularly (in a religious sense), to assure us of our own salvation and the damnation of our neighbors.

Faith: Belief, without evidence, in what is told by those who speak without knowledge, of things without parallel.

Mammon: The god of the country’s leading religion.

Pray: to ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy.

Religion: the daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.

Reverence: The spiritual attitude of a man to a god and a dog to a man.

Saint: a dead sinner revised and edited.

Chaz Bufe - Bierce’s “successor”

BOMB: A means of persuasion. When employed by those in power, is termed “in the national interest,” and those who use it are “tough” and “courageous.” When employed by those out of power, it is termed “terrorism,” and those who employ it are called” ruthless” and “cowardly.”

BUSH, G W: 1.The thief in Chief - from corporate criminal to war criminal in just 4 years. 2. Proof that being low in intelligence, compassion, honesty, and integrity can be trumped by inherited wealth, Saudi Oil money, family connections, and a compliant corporate media.

CONDOM: According to the Catholic Church, a monstrously evil device, the regular use of which will deny a woman the joy of giving birth to 15 to 20 children and devoting 26 hours a day to their care.

DEATH: For Christians, a blessing – the gateway to heaven. It speaks volumes of the generosity of Christians that they freely be stow this blessing upon their enemies, yet routinely do all in their power, even in extreme old age, to deny this a blessing to themselves.

FREE ENTERPRISE: A system in which a few are born owning millions, most are born of owning nothing, and all compete to accumulate wealth and power. If those born with millions succeed, it is due to their merits. If those born with nothing fail, it is due to their defects.

FREEDOM FIGHTER: A State Department term referring to: 1. A mercenary trying to install an authoritarian regime friendly to the U.S. business interests; 2. A heavily armed Islamic fanatic who wishes to impose his religious views upon others through the use of violence.

FUNDAMENTALIST: One in whom something is fundamentally wrong - most commonly lack of reasoning ability and intolerance for those not sharing his/her delusions. Fundamentalists are especially intolerant of those able to draw conclusions from observed facts, those who refuse to seek shelter in comforting falsehoods, and those who wish to lead their own lives. Members of the fundamentalist species known as “Slack-jawed Drooling Idiots” and been known to give so much of their income to electronic churches that they subsist on a Alpo at the end of the month.

GONADS: A remarkable aid to vision that allows us to see in potential partners redeeming features which are invisible to the naked eye.

HATRED: A hallmark of spiritual development. In the United States, this admirable emotion is often, and aptly, referred to as “Christian Love.”

RAPTURE: An eagerly awaited religious event in which the world will lose much rubbish.

TELEVANGELIST: Ideally suited to his profession, the televangelist makes a career of denouncing greed, gluttony, dishonesty, drunkenness, drug abuse, prostitution, adultery, fornication, and homosexuality - and speaks from a wealth of personal experience.

TEXAS: [The home of G W Bush.] one of the states in which the opposable thumb is considered a new and dangerously radical innovation.

Mega-church bishop Ira V. Hilliard told his Sugarland, Texas, congregation in June that one of his two aircraft - a helicopter valued at $1 million - needs new blades, so he asked parishioners to send him $52 "favor seeds" for the blades. (His ministry also owns a $2 million Hawker jet and a $3 million hangar.) He promised that the gift would be met by a "breakthrough favor" from God in the form of a car repair or their very own "dream" car…. (the Christian Post via Houston Press, 6-25-13.)

A growing number of Catholics in Fresno, California believe that a tree outside St. John’s Cathedral is weeping God’s tears.

“When you say ‘glory be to God’ the tree throws out more water,” Maria Ybarra told KGPE-TV. Ybarra was the first person to feel the drops of liquid, which began falling from the Crape Myrtle tree on Wednesday. As news spread, more people gathered under the tree to pray. “I asked the Lord to give me a miracle cause I’m really sick,” Rosemarie Navarro said.

Fresno arborist Jon Reelhorn told KGPE-TV that liquid is the excrement of insects known as aphides or “tree lice. “The aphides suck the sap, the sap goes through the aphid and becomes honey dew excrement. It gets so heavy that it will drip down.” He also pointed out that other trees on the same street had liquid dripping from them.

Entomologist Richard Covelo confirmed Reelhorn’s analysis: Crape Myrtle trees as a generality can get really high populations of aphids and at times it can look so bad that it looks like the tree is raining. ”Despite the explanation, some parishioners remain convinced that there is something more to the tree. “It’s odd when it happens when there is bunch of people praying.”

If It’s Not Our Tradition, It Must Be bad!
by George Erickson – published in the Reader Weekly

Rev. Duncan Ross’s July 28 column, which opposed gay marriage by invoking tradition and one of the many gods, brought to mind Fiddler on the Roof, the Broadway musical that opens with gravel-voiced Tevye proclaiming the virtues of tradition.

Like the fiddler and his family, all of the residents of little Anatevka had to strive to keep their balance, and according to Tevye, tradition was their tool. "We have traditions for everything… how to sleep, how to eat, how to work and how to wear our clothes...."

"How did these traditions get started?" asks Tevye, then answers, "Well, I'll tell you, I DON'T KNOW... but it’s TRADITION!"

Like Tevye's family, we, too, sometimes lean on tradition. Religious and political conservatives use tradition to blow back the winds of change. For them "tradition" can become a holy word, often modernized as "family values."

Pat Robertson did just that when he railed against the Equal Rights Amendment, calling it "a socialist, anti family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians." (Tradition can be mighty handy for keeping women in their place.) And in much of the Christian and Muslim world, tradition still urges double digit families in a finite world of limited resources.

With cries of "tradition," we mask our reluctance to learn new ways. Led by people like George Will, we ran from the metric system, preferring to perpetuate an illogical system based on the dimensions of a British king's anatomy. With inflammatory, Limbaugh-like language, Mr. Will blasted the "Commerce Department “GESTAPO" who sought to introduce kilometers and liters. Never mind that the metric system is more user friendly, or that it has been adopted by most of the world. It represented change. It's wasn’t our tradition, so it must have been bad.

Tradition even perpetuates our chaotic spelling system, forcing generations of children to learn it the hard way. We’d rather have them waste time, intellect and material with the complex spelling of "thought" instead of "thot." Why "praise" instead of "praze?" Why "phone" rather than "fone?" Perhaps becuz wr lazy and self sentrd.

But wayz kan chanje. Fonetik speling izn't so hard, and it's much mor kunsistent because it’s the rezult of a lojikul aproche.

Howevr, when the metrik sistem, fonetik speling and nashonal gay marage finaly arive, I doubt that George W. and Rev. Ross wil qwyetlee akwe s. Insted, thay’l probably kontinu to yel “tradishun” and offer guydanc frum abov. Why? Becuz thay’r very tradishunul.

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