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 2014 Newsletter

September, 2014 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


August Berkshire, President of the MN Atheists will present “Moral Responsibility and Free Will”

"Spiritual" People More Likely to Commit Crimes than Atheists – Salon – by Katie McDonough
Atheists also less likely to be mentally troubled, suffer anxiety and have phobias.

Headed for a life of crime? Photo Credit: Anelina/Shutterstock.com

Young people who consider themselves “spiritual but not religious” are more likely to commit property crimes than those who identify as just “religious” or “spiritual and religious,” according to one study from Baylor University, a Baptist institution.

Researchers surveyed participants to see how often they had committed crimes in the previous 12 months, and found that loosey-goosey spiritual types (just kidding!) were more likely to commit vandalism, theft and burglary than religious people; the study also found that agnostics and atheists were less likely than spiritual people to commit such crimes.

“Calling oneself ‘spiritual but not religious’ turned out to more of an antisocial characteristic, unlike identifying oneself as religious,” said Baylor researcher Aaron Franzen, a doctoral candidate and study co-author. It is a hard time to be spiritual, scientifically speaking: researchers from University College London recently found that that this group is more prone to “anxiety disorders, phobias and neuroses” than atheists, agnostics and religious people.

A REAL Saint - Denis Diderot

Encyclopedist Denis Diderot was born in 1713 in Langres, France, destined by his lower-class family for the priesthood. At 13, he was tonsured and titled "abbe." Continuing his studies in Paris, Diderot abandoned his faith when exposed to science and freethought views, evolving gradually from deist to atheist. In his Essay on the Merits of Virtue (1745), Diderot noted: "From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step."

Diderot anonymously wrote Pensees philosophiques (1746), which was burned in public. In it, Diderot wrote: "Skepticism is the first step toward truth." After An Essay on Blindness was published in 1749, Diderot spent three months in jail for atheism (he was moved from the Bastille to Vincennes due to overcrowding), an experience that taught him to only circulate his rationalist writings privately.

His Interpretation of Nature sets out the scientific method. His treatises on aesthetics led him to be called the first art critic. His novels include La Religieuse (published belatedly in 1796), which took an unstinting look at the sexually corrupting forces of monasticism and fanaticism.

Diderot was the editor of the first major encyclopedia. He worked with rationalists, including Voltaire, on this monument to the Age of Enlightenment, compiling knowledge for nearly 30 years, while facing Roman Catholic opposition. The 17 volumes of text and 11 of illustrations published from 1751 to 1772, bought the publisher a period of imprisonment.

Catherine the Great offered Diderot refuge, which he declined, but he accepted her grand gesture of purchasing his library and bequeathing it to him for life in 1766. In 1773-1774, he made the arduous journey to Russia to thank her, with hopes of setting up a Russian university. The trip disappointed him in her reign and broke his health. He died in 1784.

“Wandering in a vast forest at night, I have only a faint light to guide me. A stranger appears and says to me: 'My friend, you should blow out your candle in order to find your way more clearly.’ This stranger is a theologian.”

“Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the guts of the last priest.”

David in the Lending Den by David Broman

A couple of months ago, I needed to purchase a new car. Having heard that the Duluth Teachers Credit Union had a good deal on loans, and being a teacher, I decided to see what they could offer me. The DTCU is a nice looking little building right near the Miller Hill Mall. It's decorated to the hilt inside and out, and the staff were very friendly.

When I entered the building and said I was looking into car loans, I was directed to the Loan Officer's office, where I sat down in a chair across from her desk.

"How can I help you?" she asked me.

"Well, I'm a teacher, and I need a car loan," I replied.

"Do you live, work, or worship in Duluth?" She asked.

I was expecting her to look at my credit rating, income, or some other thing that makes sense. Instead I'm faced with this unexpected yet simple question that could leave checkmate me. Since I spend most of my free time in Duluth, and since I'm a teacher, it never occurred to me that I wouldn't qualify based on this kind of criteria.

"Well, I live in Cloquet… and I work out that way… don't really worship…" I mumbled.

"Sorry, you don't qualify," she said with a fake, consoling smile.

I sat there for a moment, processing my failure... looking for a loophole. "I am a member of Lake Superior Freethinkers in Duluth," I said in one last desperate attempt.

"That works," she said as she turned to her computer and started typing Lake Superior Freethinkers on her computer in the space that says "Worship" or some such nonsense.

I won… I thought. For a moment, I thought I didn't qualify for a loan because I'm not superstitious. But, in the end, the ideals of inclusion (and profit) overcame the institutional discrimination that kicked its boot at my ass, but then held back.

Feeling great about the loan deal I got, I went to complete the car purchase I had started. But upon some reflection, I realized something. What if I were an agnostic who lived and worked outside of Duluth, and I was a member at the Owls Club? Would I qualify for a loan? What if I was a member of the Duluth Rowing Club, and I worshipped canoe paddles? Would I qualify? I know of a mentally ill patient who is sexually aroused by Enger Tower. She worships it. Would she qualify? I don't think so.

If I didn't belong to an organization that is concerned with existential ideas, I don't think I would qualify. I would not qualify for a loan because I'm not a member of a religion (or something that seems close to it). I wouldn't qualify for a loan because I don't subscribe to the superstitious beliefs of humanity's cultural infancy. The whole idea is still sinking in. I try to base my beliefs on evidence, but despite the evidence, the question that was asked of me at DTCU was almost unbelievable.

Atheist treats Sioux Falls City Council to Dumbledore’s wisdom during opening prayer The Raw Story - by Scott Kaufman

The invocation before last night’s meeting of the Sioux Falls, South Dakota City Council was not only made by an atheist, but by an atheist who quoted from her own “good book” — Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

In May, Mayor Mike Huether approved the request of the Siouxland Freethinker’s president, Amanda Novotny, to open a City Council meeting with a “non-theist prayer.”

Novotny did exactly that — but instead of asking those in attendance to bow their heads, she asked them to ”lift your head up and look around. Turn your attention to this room — a room that has heard countless discussions, frustrations, and successes; a room where important decisions regarding your city are routinely made…Think of the hundreds and thousands of others who are also affected by the ideas shared here. Let all voices be heard and understood equally.”

Because it was “customary” to read from a book during the invocation, she chose a passage from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in which Professor Dumbledore said, “Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.”

She concluded by asking “those present to join me in showing gratitude to the men and women that serve the great city of Sioux Falls.”

Florida preacher cancels gay man’s funeral.

Julie Atwood was at her son's wake, standing next to his casket, when she got the news: The church was canceling the funeral because her son was gay.

Rev. T.W. Jenkins of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Tampa, Florida, told Julie that he'd read in the newspaper obituary that her son was married to another man and decided that holding the funeral would be "blasphemous."

Despite protests, Jenkins doubled down, saying his church plans to "continue to stand on the word of God."

Piper Chapman on Religion

I believe in science. I believe in evolution. I believe in Nate Silver and Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Christopher Hitchens - although I do admit he could be a kind of an asshole.

I cannot get behind some supreme being who weighs in on the Tony Awards while a million people get whacked with machetes. I don't believe a billion Indians are going to hell. I don't think we get cancer to learn life lessons, and I don't believe that people die young because God needs another angel.

I think it's just bullshit, and on some level, I think we all know that, I mean, don't you?

I understand that religion makes it easier to deal with all of the random shitty things that happen to us. And I wish I could get on that ride, I'm sure I would be happier. But I can't. Feeling aren't enough. I need it to be real." - Piper Chapman (Orange is the new black)

5 Reasons to Suspect Jesus Never Existed AlterNet

Most antiquities scholars think that the New Testament gospels are “mythologized history” that starts in the first century with a controversial Jewish rabbi named Yeshua ben Yosef.

These scholars agree that many Bible stories like the virgin birth, miracles, resurrection, and women at the tomb borrow and rework mythic themes that were common in the Ancient Near East, much the way that screenwriters base new movies on old familiar tropes or plot elements. In this view, a “historical Jesus” became mythologized.

For over 200 years, a wide ranging array of theologians and historians—most of them Christian—analyzed ancient texts that made it into the Bible and those that didn’t….

Other scholars believe that those mythic templates are themselves the kernel. They got filled in with names, places and other real world details as early sects of Jesus worship attempted to understand and defend the devotional traditions they had received.

The notion that Jesus never existed is a minority position. Of course it is! says David Fitzgerald, author of Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed at All….

Fitzgerald is an atheist speaker and writer. The internet phenom, Zeitgeist the Movie introduced millions to some of the mythic roots of Christianity. But Zeitgeist contained errors that undermine credibility. Fitzgerald seeks to correct that by giving young people interesting, accessible information that is grounded in accountable scholarship…

Since many people, Christian and not, find it surprising that this debate exists—that credible scholars might think Jesus never existed—here are some of the points that keep the doubts alive:

1. No first century secular evidence whatsoever exists to support the actuality of Yeshua ben Yosef. In the words of Bart Ehrman: “What sorts of things do pagan authors from the time of Jesus have to say about him? Nothing. There is no mention of Jesus by any of his pagan contemporaries. There are no birth records, trial transcripts, death certificates; there are no expressions of interest, heated slanders, passing references – nothing. If we broaden our field of concern to the years after his death – even if we include the entire first century of the Common Era – there is not so much as a solitary reference to Jesus in any non-Christian, non-Jewish source of any kind. We do have a large number of documents from the time – the writings of poets, philosophers, historians, scientists, and government officials. In none of this vast array of surviving writings is Jesus’ name ever so much as mentioned.”

2. The earliest New Testament writers seem ignorant of the details of Jesus’ life, which become more crystalized in later texts. Paul seems unaware of any virgin birth. No wise men, no star in the east, no miracles. Historians have long puzzled over the “Silence of Paul” on the basic biographical facts and teachings of Jesus. Paul fails to cite Jesus’ authority precisely when it would make his case. What’s more, he never calls the twelve apostles Jesus’ disciples; in fact, he never says Jesus HAD disciples –or a ministry, or did miracles, or gave teachings. He virtually refuses to disclose any other biographical detail, and the few cryptic hints he offers contradict the gospels. The leaders of the early Christian movement in Jerusalem like Peter and James are supposedly Jesus’ own followers and family; but Paul dismisses them as nobodies and repeatedly opposes them for not being true Christians!

Liberal theologian Marcus Borg suggests that people read the books of the New Testament in chronological order. “Placing the Gospels after Paul makes it clear that as written documents they are not the source of early Christianity but its product. The Gospel of and about Jesus existed before the Gospels. They are the products of early Christian communities several decades after Jesus' historical life and tell us how those communities saw his significance.”

3. Even the New Testament stories don’t claim to be first-hand accounts. We now know that the four gospels were assigned the names of the apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, not written by them. To make matter sketchier, the name designations happened sometime in second century, around 100 years or more after Christianity supposedly began. For a variety of reasons, the practice of pseudonymous writing was common at the time and many contemporary documents are “signed” by famous figures. The same is true of the New Testament epistles except for a handful of letters from Paul (6 out of 13) which are broadly thought to be genuine. But even the gospel stories don’t actually say, “I was there.” Rather, they claim the existence of other witnesses.

4. The gospels, our only accounts of a historical Jesus, contradict each other. If you think you know the Jesus story pretty well, I suggest that you pause at this point to test yourself with the 20 question quiz at ExChristian.net.

The gospel of Mark is thought to be the earliest existing “life of Jesus,” and linguistic analysis suggests that Luke and Matthew both simply reworked Mark and added corrections and new material. But they contradict each other and contradict the much later gospel of John, because they were written with different objectives. The incompatible Easter stories offer one example of how much the stories disagree.

5. Modern scholars who claim to have uncovered the real historical Jesus depict wildly different persons. They include a cynic philosopher, charismatic Hasid, liberal Pharisee, conservative rabbi, Zealot revolutionary, nonviolent pacifist to borrow from a much longer list assembled by Price.

For David Fitzgerald, these issues and more lead to a conclusion that he finds inescapable:

Jesus appears to be an effect, not a cause, of Christianity. Paul and the rest of the first generation of Christians searched the Septuagint translation of Hebrew scriptures to create a Mystery Faith for the Jews, complete with pagan rituals like a Lord’s Supper, Gnostic terms in his letters, and a personal savior god to rival those in their neighbors’ longstanding Egyptian, Persian, Hellenistic and Roman traditions.

In a follow up to Nailed, entitled Jesus: Mything in Action, Fitzgerald argues that the many competing versions proposed by secular scholars are just as problematic as any “Jesus of Faith:” Even if one accepts that there was a Jesus of Nazareth, the question has little meaning: Regardless of whether or not a first century rabbi called Yeshua ben Yosef lived, the “historical Jesus” figures so patiently excavated and re-assembled by secular scholars are fictions.

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