November, 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, email@example.com
Jan Reisberg will present Superstition and Freethinkers. After graduation from Duluth Cathedral High, Jon got a degree in theology and became a monk at St. John’s Abbey. As a nurse, he ran a shelter near New York City’s Times Square.
A Special Notice:Scott Hunter, a private philanthropist, has set aside $8,000 as a matching fund for the LSF. If you can give $10, we will get $20. If you give $50, we get $100. If you can afford to give $1,000, you will become a Life Member--which gets you a certificate for framing, acknowledgement of your gift in a name you provide, and $2,000 for our work! A $500 Gold membership has similar benefits. This could allow us to host a famous speaker, distribute more brochures, sponsor future publicity efforts or increase our presence at local events ... whatever we decide.
Please help LSF take advantage of this rare opportunity to ramp up its efforts against the power of superstition. Send your check, payable to LSF, to Tom Patten, 3001 East 1st Street, Duluth, MN 55812, bring it to next meeting or click “donate” on our website. The deadline for matching funds is December 7.
Lake County, FL board opens meeting with secular invocation.In the County Commission chambers this week, Gail Boettger couldn't believe it when the meeting began with a secular invocation that was delivered by Paul Tjaden, of the Central Florida Freethought Community. Tjaden noted that Lake Co. has residents of many faiths … and "people who profess no religious belief."
By Jerry Fallstrom and Jayna Omaye, Orlando Sentinel
By Jerry Fallstrom and Jayna Omaye, Orlando Sentinel
Later, Boettger expressed disappointment - "Removal of the prayer? Shame on you."
At the commission meeting, Tjaden said he came not to pray "but to invoke the spirit of goodwill. We share the goal of making our Lake County the best place it can be."
Two women thanked Tjaden for the invocation, but Boettger differs - "America was founded on Judaic-Christian principles…. Our founding fathers … prayed."
The following excerpt on the Nicean Creed and fundamentalism, which our recent speaker referenced, is from my Time Traveling with Science & the Saints.Until approximately 250 CE, Christianity had not been a major competitor on a field of many religions. But as time passed, the Romans came to see the advantage of endorsing an authoritative religion that could help to bring conformity to their weakening empire. According to the Roman philosopher Celsus, during the 2nd century Christian leaders began to pander to Rome, revising their gospels and removing objections to gain converts, influence and power - an accusation confirmed by the New Catholic Encyclopedia which, in writing of the period conceded, "In all the departments, forgery and interpolation as well as ignorance wrought mischief on a grand scale."
Celsus, a critic of the new religion, argued in True Word that Christianity was little more than a cobbling together of former beliefs, and was far from unique. Why, he asked, should pagan gods be counted as myths, while the Christian god must be deemed historical?
When Constantine officially recognized Christianity in the 4th century Edicts of Milan, the Christian sects, which had been smarting from persecution at the hands of the Romans, set out to persecute all non-Christians - Jews and pagans alike - and to see to the destruction of pagan temples and the confiscation of their property. The oppressed had become the oppressors. G.G. Coulton perceptively observed in Inquisition and Liberty that the Christian church "has always held the toleration of others to be the persecution of itself." (Constantine, a consummate-but-vengeful politician who sentenced one of his sons to death and had his wife boiled alive, tolerated all beliefs during his reign, but eventually converted to Christianity when death drew near.)
Constantine turned over the temples and basilicas of Rome to the church, and the power and the holdings of the newly anointed church began to rapidly expand. He exempted church lands from taxation, ordered provincial officials to assist in church construction, devised a system for giving food to Christian congregations, and exempted the clergy from many civic obligations. As Ramsay MacMullen noted in Christianizing the Roman Empire, "Bishops now dined with Constantine himself; they used Constantius' palace as their headquarters. They were seen riding along provincial highways in state conveyances, bent on their high affairs as guests of the government."
Christian hierarchies will probably never admit that they owe as much, if not more, to Constantine than they do to St Paul. It was Constantine who called the Council of Nicea which, under pressure from Constantine, adopted the convoluted concept of the Trinity. It was Constantine who moved the birth date of Jesus from January to December 25 in order to distance the church from Jewish tradition and to co-opt the Mithran celebration of the return of the sun. It was Constantine who excused the clergy from paying taxes or serving in the army. And it was Constantine who ordered the destruction of all pagan and Christian writings about Christianity that he considered heretical. His edict was so effective that of "... the five thousand early extant manuscript versions of the New Testament, not one pre-dates the fourth century."
Given his record, no one need wonder why Constantine came to be called the "thirteenth Apostle" or why historians have labeled Constantine's council of Nicea - the "rubber stamp" Council. Nevertheless, Constantine's efforts to establish uniformity failed in several ways, for even the four supposedly unimpeachable Gospels still dispute each other.
Thanks to Constantine, less than fifty years would pass before Emperor Theodosius would feel free to declare it illegal to disagree with the Church or to publicly discuss religion. To admit to being a pagan invited arrest and death. Jews were exempt, though they suffered other constraints: intermarriage between Jews and Christians was deemed adulterous, and the woman could be put to death.
One might think that royal support would have been sufficient for the church, but as the years passed and the Church sought to bring kings and emperors to heel, various popes and prelates began to "discover" ancient letters from leaders like Constantine - the “donations of Constantine” - that supposedly yielded all authority to the church. But in the sixteenth century, these “donations” were revealed to be frauds.
When death approached, Constantine divided his sprawling empire among his remaining sons. Most significantly, Constantius received control of Asia minor, Syria and Egypt - a region soon to be embroiled in inter-religious conflict. One faction, led by Athanasius, swore to the truth of the Trinity, which the "Unitarian" followers of Arius deemed heretical. In 342 CE, warfare finally erupted between the rival factions in the great cities of Alexandria and Constantinople. And though much is made of the Christians who had been persecuted by Rome, according to Will Durant's The Age of Faith "Probably more Christians were slaughtered by Christians in these two years [342-3] than by all the persecutions of Christians in the history of Rome."
Years of strife followed until Constantine's nephew Julian, who had hidden his pagan sentiments, became emperor. Julian, whom Constantius had considered a threat, had been distanced from the throne, which proved a blessing for Julian because it took him to pagan surroundings for most of his formative years. There, Julian came to accept the logic of a sun-centered solar system, to prefer the "polished pagans, heirs of a millennium of culture, to the grave theologians ... or the pious statesmen who had thought it necessary to kill his father, his uncle and so many more,” and to conclude that there were “no beasts more ferocious than Christians."
Unlike his Christian predecessors, the new pagan emperor declined to live royally. He reduced taxes on the poor and the persecuted, overtaxed Jews. He cancelled state subsidies to Christian churches, allowed full freedom to all religions, ordered the pagan temples restored, required and enforced licensing of physicians, and established a principle that underlies modern law - that the accused must be considered innocent until proven guilty. Unfortunately, Julian's Christian successor Jovian reversed his reforms when Julian died in battle, assassinated, it is claimed, by one of his Christian soldiers. Jovian promptly restored the "Constantine trend" by exempting bishops from prosecution in the secular courts.
Despite the support that the Church received from Roman rulers, conflicts within the Church continued to boil. Rival bishops regularly excommunicated each other. And during the tumultuous 499 Council of Ephesus, the assembled bishops - the “lambs of Christ” - kicked bishop Flavinius to death.
Throughout the expanding Roman realm, "schools of higher learning . . . were extinguished by Christian fanatics or barbarian neglect," 16 forcing many scholars to flee east to the safety of a more tolerant Byzantium. In 529 CE, the Christian Emperor Justinian shut down Plato's Academy. "The indifference of the Romans cooperated with that of the Christians to dry up the stream of science long before the barbaric invasions ... What remained of Greek science in Europe was buried in the libraries of Constantinople..." 17
Devoid of science and intellectual pursuits, Europe drifted into a long Age of Darkness, ruled once again by churchmen who saw the universe not as a stunning, lofty sphere - but one in which the heavens descended toward the tent roofs of old, across which seraphims drove the stars.
Hobby Lobby’s Steve Green has big plans for Bible museum in WashingtonSteve Green is standing in the eight-story Bible museum he’s building in Washington D C. Plans for the $800 million project are coming together nicely: the ballroom modeled after Versailles, the Disney-quality holograms, the soaring digital entryway with religious images projected on the ceiling, the restaurant serving biblically-themed meals.
By Michelle Boorstein
By Michelle Boorstein
But one detail is bothering Green. The building is not close enough to the National Mall. It’s just two blocks away…. Green knows how much location matters.
“Sometimes being a block down the street can mean a lot in terms of sales,” he says. “The Mall is where there are a lot of visitors. It’s not as visible to the Mall as we’d like.”
Green is president of Hobby Lobby, a multibillion-dollar craft store chain… which took on the White House in a Supreme Court case over whether employers had to include no-cost coverage of contraception to employees. The Court ruled for Hobby, and among religious conservatives, the Pentecostal Greens were hailed as heroes.
Green is focusing on the still-unnamed Bible museum. When it opens in 2017, it will be about the same size as the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, and the Bible museum’s proximity to the seat of U.S. government is no accident.
“The more people as we can educate about this book, the better,” Green said. “Seeing the biblical foundations of our nation — for our legislators to see that, that a lot of that was biblically based, that we have religious freedoms today, which are a biblical concept, it can’t hurt being there.”
BBC NewsArchbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said he sometimes has doubts about God. In a BBC interview, the leader of the Church of England said he doubted in "lots of different ways".
He said: "There are moments when you think, 'Is there a God?' 'Where is God?'"…
When asked about doubt by presenter Lucy Tegg, he said: "The other day I was praying as I was running, and I said to God, 'look this is all very well, but isn't it about time you did something, if you're there?'”
Education News10 Texas school districts recently acquired 64 M-16 rifles, 18 M-14s, 25 automatic pistols and magazines capable of holding 4,500 rounds of ammunition. District officials referred to the need to protect against school attacks like those in Colorado and Connecticut, but a local Houston area police chief promised that the equipment would be used only by tactically trained officers and that, otherwise, would be locked in the department's armory. However, the typical school-shooter lasts 12 minutes, hardly enough time to get to the armory and load up. [And why no get a few grenade launchers or a tank or two?]
Christians Beware!Gordon Klingenschmitt, Republican candidate for the Colorado Assembly, claimed that “Democrats like Congressman Jared Polis [who is gay] want to bankrupt Christians who refuse to… endorse his sodomy. Next he’ll join ISIS in beheading Christians… right here in America.”
Football and PrayerFlorida pastor Troy Schmidt is angry that he can’t lead the Olympia High School football team in prayer because of a complaint from FFRF. “They’re telling us we have to be atheists…, he said on Fox and Friends.