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


Lake Superior


Newsletter – January 2017

Upcoming Events:

Ø LSF Happy Hour
o   Location: Mexico Lindo
o   Date: Thu Jan 5th (monthly on 1st Thu)
o   Time: 4 to 6
Ø LSF Monthly Meeting
o   Location: Radisson Duluth Conference room
o   Date: Sun Jan 8th
o   Time: 9:30 to Noon
Ø LSF Dinner Social
o   Location: Blind Pig gastro pub (former Tycoon's) – (location changes monthly)
o   Date: Wed Jan 18th (monthly on 3rd Wed)
o   Time: 4:30 to 7:00
Ø TED @ Teatro Zuccone
o   Location: Teatro Zuccone
o   Date: Wed Jan 18th (monthly on 3rd Wed)
o   Time: 7:30 PM
o   Topic: ?
Ø The Great Debate - with LSF's own David Broman and Mark Pavola (Pastor at Bayside Baptist Church)
o   Location: The Encounter (201 E. 1st St, Duluth, MN)
o   Date: Thu Jan 26th 
o   Time: 7:00 PM
o   Topic: The Problem of Evil

Newsletter Editor: Mark Woodcock
To submit an item for possible inclusion in the Newsletter please contact:


Monthly Meeting – January 8, 2017
Place: Radisson Conference Room

Speaker: Jim Lyttle
Dr. Lyttle is a member of the Society of Philosophers in America, founder of the Iron Range Coalition of Reason, and secretary of our own Lake Superior Freethinkers. After high school, he traveled back and forth across Canada with his own showband for a decade. Then he went back to school to earn bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in philosophy and organization. Since 2001, he has used the Harvard case method to develop broad and wise decision-makers at American universities such as Penn State and UMD.

Topic: Freethought: Historical Context and Hysterical Connections


It turns out that the freethought movement has a venerable history of its own and we are a part of that. It may be helpful from time to time to review its origins and development and assess the ideas it has come to be associated with. Some of those associations are more legitimate than others.

Why is February 17th considered the birthday of the freethought movement?  How did European freethought come to America?  What is the connection between freethought and other ideas such as socialism, anarchy, atheism, and conspiracy theories? To what degree are these associations still valid?

This talk will be an attempt to answer these questions.

Those Who Fear Atheism
by Rodney Sheffer, long time LSF member

The words “atheist” or “atheism” have been demonized for so long by religious believers that they are pejoratives in the lexicon of nearly all of them. Why is this so? Ecclesiastics--priests, pastors, ministers, rabbis and assorted other members of the cloth who have preached intolerance of all “other” world views have largely been responsible for this demonization. Historically, those who claim to possess the absolute truth about their views of the otherworldly or “supernatural” have regarded alternative views as heresy and/or blasphemy. People are not born with these viral attitudes--they are acquired from grossly ignorant people. Religious “IN” groups have also engaged in behaviors that strongly suggest that they are victims of the indoctrination they received at the hands of their “Holy Men.” These “Holy Men” preach love, forgiveness and tolerance out of one side of their mouth for each other, and hatred and intolerance for those of other views out of the other side. Cognitive dissonance, hypocrisy and dissimulation come to mind.

It would seem that those who believe that they possess the absolute, immutable truth, on any issue, would be so confident that their beliefs would be so unshakeable that they could stand up to all competing ideas at any time or place. In any such case, alternative or competing ideas would be regarded with utter indifference because they would not be serious competition. But this is not how people react to competing ideas from those who are of a different persuasion. Indeed, competing or contrasting ideas are regarded as a lethal threat that must be stamped out at any cost, even if it results in death for the non-believer. Such is the nature of absolutist thought.

Instead of being indifferent to competing views of the transcendental, many people become openly, even aggressively, hostile to the “other.” “Live and let live” get a lot of lip service from pious believers until their own beliefs are called into question--then their blood pressure rises, their heart rate skyrockets, and their pupils contract. Their hatred becomes palpable and their tolerance of “other” disappears. Religions exacerbate our immanent propensity for xenophobia, and historically bloodshed has been the result.

Religious believers who irrationally react in a hostile manner to either atheism or atheists need to understand that atheism is not a competing ideology or world view to their religion. Atheism does not posit a competing deity. Atheists simply declare that they do not believe in any deity, and the reason for this disbelief is that no one has ever presented any compelling evidence in support of the claims for any deity. Consequently, no convincing argument has ever been proffered in support of their claims, as well. All the sacerdotal arguments from St. Augustine to Luke Timothy Johnson have been exposed by the most accomplished modern Biblical scholars to be specious at best. Absolutist/authoritarian/totalitarian apologists can no longer construct a compelling argument in defense of their “theology” in the light of modern scholarship. Those highly reputable Biblical scholars like Dr. Bart Ehrman, Dr. Robert M. Price and Bishop John Shelby Spong, who were very committed to their Christian religion, no longer place any intellectual credibility in the Christian scheme of things, and for all the right reasons. Christianity is grounded in and derived from fiction, fraud, forgery, fakery and fantasy. No amount of ecclesiastical spin-doctoring will change that.

How shall we respond to this seemingly intractable problem? The solution needs to be two-pronged. First, the education of our children must have a greater emphasis on critical thinking skills and the universal adoption of the scientific paradigm for problem solving, truth determination and truth telling. 

Second, the ecclesiastics of all denominations need to stop their irrational demonizing of atheists and atheism with pejoratives and inflammatory language that cannot be justified. If the religionists do not want to be victims of unfair and unjustified religious discrimination, then they must stop their unfair and unjustified demonization of atheists and atheism. Liberty, justice and freedom for all must include atheists and atheism, otherwise the believers make a mockery of our secular Constitution, for our secular nation.

 Fear of atheists and atheism is the unjustified consequence of gross ignorance, intolerance for alternative ideas and liberal education that has been responsible for the intellectual advances of our modern culture. Demonizing atheists and atheism can have only negative cultural consequences. Hence, it is indefensible in the light of our modern knowledge base.


Prius Envy - I Have a Friend Who Doesn’t Believe in Global Warming Part II
(Part I is found in the December Newsletter)
by Mark Woodcock, editor of the LSF Newsletter

I concluded Part I of “I Have a Friend Who Doesn’t Believe in Global Warming,” with the observation that the daily choices of those who believe in human caused climate change are too often the same as the choices made by global warming deniers. This reality calls to mind Thoreau's criticism of his countrymen, when in 1849 he wrote that “There are nine hundred and ninety-nine patrons of virtue to one virtuous man.” For those whom global warming is an important concern, how might they as individuals, cease being a patron of virtue, and shift to leading by example? 

In addition to the handful of choices outlined in part I of this segment, contained below are a few global warming numbers (measured in metric tons of carbon dioxide) that would be saved by the average American making alternative choices over the course of a lifetime.

The last bullet is probably an eye-opener to most readers. 9,441 metric tons is 19.35 times higher than the sum of metric tons avoided by implementing all of the other alternative choices on this list. At the individual citizen level, there is perhaps no single choice that has a greater adverse impact on global warming than the decision to have a child, or to add another child to a family. Responsible individuals in previous generations made a point of ensuring that they were mature enough and financially stable enough to support a child, in advance of choosing to reproduce. In the modern era, a new important consideration must be contemplated – the knowledge that adding a child is a decision to exacerbate an existing problem by at least 9,441 metric tons of carbon dioxide. Owning a Toyota Prius has long been a status symbol for those who see themselves as environmentally conscious, but the math shows this to be cold comfort for a warming planet. It may be that the Chevrolet Suburban comes out on top as long as it contains fewer car seats.


Featured LSF Member for December

Sam Weston has been a member of LSF since January 2016, when he attended his first LSF dinner social at VIP Pizza. Throughout 2016 Sam has become a regular attendee of LSF happy hours, dinner socials, monthly meetings, and planning committee meetings. As a 23 year-old millennial, Sam is perhaps LSF's youngest member.

I was eager to interview Sam to hear about his path to atheism, how he came  to learn about LSF, and what keeps Sam engaged with LSF.

Sam is the son of two Lutheran Pastors, so it was not for lack of exposure to religion that Sam identifies as atheist. In the summer of 2012 he was working at a Lutheran Bible camp, and says that the longer he worked there the less he believed. He began struggling with the problem of evil - how do bad things happen in a universe created and maintained by a good god. At the time he was unaware that this is a topic that has been much discussed by philosophers. He also started considering that few religious people ever think about why they believe what they believe.

Sam had a scholarship for Communication Arts at Wartburg College in Iowa, so he started there with a major-minor of Computer Science and Communication Arts. Within a year and a half he decided that neither field was a passion, so he packed up and moved back home for a few years, before deciding to move to Duluth MN, a city he describes as "a perfect size, with a good arts community and budding film community." Film is Sam's real passion. In fact Sam is currently working on his first feature film screen play titled "Our Wizard." The genre is fantasy, and Sam expects portions will be shot here in Duluth, as well as the Boundary Waters, and on the Iron Range.

When asked how he learned about LSF, Sam said his roommate gave him an LSF pamphlet and he liked what it had to say.

When asked what Sam likes about LSF he said "that no one answer is the correct answer." Sam went on to state "I firmly believe that diversity of opinion is what makes societies stronger."

When asked if he had any closing thoughts that he would like to share he said that his philosophy of life is "to be an eternal silly face," which he defines as not taking himself too seriously, because he believes life is supposed to be fun! To which I replied, Sam, clearly you were not raised Catholic. Wink!


Dear Fellow Freethinkers,

It is time again to begin preparing for Darwin Day. The gala will be held again at Beaner's in Duluth, MN on February 12th from 7 to 9 PM. We look forward to celebrating your creativity through your talents at our 4th annual event.

Again, there will be cake and photo ops and even if you don't wish to share a talent, we'd be honored if you shared your time with us that evening.

For more information please contact Sonya.
 (715) 817-4817 or salston2001@yahoo.com

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