September, 2015 Newsletter of the Lake Superior Freethinkers
Gail Matthews, editor – firstname.lastname@example.org
First Sunday - Radisson Hotel - 9:00 AM Social – 9:30 Breakfast - 10:00 Presentation
Facilitators: David Broman - 218-349-7455, Bill Guse - 834-4583, 343-4806
Freethought quotes by notable Freethinkers
“Never was the day, never, in all the tide of time, in which such mighty efforts were made to keep mankind in ignorance; never were any clergy on earth, Pagan or Papistical, so opposed to the diffusion of knowledge, so desperately afraid of it, and so bitterly hostile to it, as the Protestant clergy, both of the established church, and the dissenters of the present day, in this metropolis.”
Robert Taylor, "The Devil's Pulpit"
“We have fought long and hard to escape from medieval superstition. I, for one, do not wish to go back.” James Randi
A Humanist’s Story
George Erickson - our previous newsletter editor – and a lot more.
While George was helping me take over as your LSF editor, I decided to check his excellent website - www.tundracub.com - and I hope you will, too.
George, who was born in Virginia, MN in 1932, graduated from the U of MN College of Dentistry in 1956. After a June wedding to his wife Sally, he set up practice in Worthington, Minnesota. Because Sally was a Presbyterian, he joined the church, becoming a deacon, and then an elder. However, after a few years of wrangling with conservative trustees who put paving the parking lot ahead of helping needy people, George and Sally “flew the coop“, a departure he delightfully recounted in Going for the Gold, one of 100 stories, op-eds, articles and poems in his 4th book – Eyes Wide Open: Living, Laughing Loving and Learning in a Religion-Troubled World, which was published by the American Humanist Association.
While in Worthington, George became the president of the Nobles County Art Center, and after getting his private pilot license, chaired the Worthington Airport Commission during the expansion of the airport to allow the use of commercial jets. At the same time he wrote and sold his first of dozens of magazine articles on many subjects.
In 1967, having toured most of the U S with his Bonanza, George read about a fellow pilot who had made a flight to Churchill, Manitoba, a port on the western shore of Canada’s Hudson Bay, so he headed north, not realizing that he was about to acquire an addiction that would carry him back to northern Canada and Alaska almost every summer for 40 years.
Not being able to afford two airplanes, George sold his “beautiful, fast, comfortable Bonanza that winter and bought a slow, noisy, not so cushy - but nicely restored, 20-year old seaplane” and headed north to the Arctic Ocean the following July. People who subsequently read his stories and saw his programs urged him to write a book, so after deciding that “a book is just a long article,” he began to write True North: Exploring the Great Wilderness by Bush Plane on an IBM PC Jr with “an absurdly small memory.”
A year later, with True North done and 15 color photos ready, George got an agent (that’s not easy) who eventually landed a bid from St Martin’s Press of New York, only to have it topped by Thomas Allen Publishers of Toronto. As a consequence, True North first appeared in Canada, where it jumped on and off of their best seller list for three months. Thomas Allen then sold the US rights to Globe Pequot, and it’s now in its 4th printing in both countries.
Now also a eBook, True North still carries readers away on what a typical reviewer called “a joyous voyage of discovery through time and space, providing fascinating glimpses of aeronautics, science, exploration, wildlife and history - all wrapped up in one entertaining, readable book written with humility and humor by a pilot with the capacity to dream, and the ability to make the dream come true.”
George then wrote Time Traveling with Science and the Saints, a fast-reading overview of the long conflict between science and religion that was prompted by a speaker at St Thomas College who argued that Galileo was foolish to challenge the Church.
Using the Church’s own dictum “By their works shall ye know them,” he summarizes the historical record, skimming through the ages from several thousand years BCE to the beginning of the 21st century – and it isn’t a pretty picture. Although the editor at Prometheus Books took one look and snapped it up, George urges readers to buy a used copy from Amazon. Why? Because, according to George, “Prometheus put a ridiculous price on it, so why pay a lot when 1/4 as much will do?”
When the manuscript for True North was done, the publisher said, “It’s too long; take out 1/4.” As a consequence, George had 100 pages of text waiting when readers requested a sequel. That was easy because he had made eight more flights to the Arctic since True North was published, which provided plenty of material and photos (50 this time) for Back the Barrens: On the Wing with da Vinci & Friends. And athough religion had received mild criticism in True North, George, having decided that Back to the Barrens would be his last book about the North, now made it a point to repeatedly and sharply criticize the missionary record across northern Alaska and Canada.
Then came Eyes Wide Open: Living, Laughing Loving and Learning in a Religion-Troubled World, a chronological, semi-autobiographical collection of 100 stories, op-eds, articles and poems that range from deadly serious (Off With Their Heads) to laugh-out-loud funny – Under the Covers.
If you check www.tundracub.com, you will learn a lot more, including the fact that George donates all of his royalties to educational charities that include paying tuition for needy students at Mesabi Comm. College. George personally reviews every scholarship application to decide who will be funded and who will not. That often painful process is detailed in Eyes Wide Open via an emotional story titled Decisions.
On retiring in 1988, George moved to the Twin Cities with his wife, where he became a member of the New Brighton Environmental Quality committee, joined the MN Atheists, became a life member of FFRF, the president of the MN Humanists and the V P of the American Humanist Assoc. while also being voted into the MN Aviation Hall of fame for his many articles and books on aviation.
In 2000, the Ericksons purchased a rundown home on Ely Lake near his home town of Virginia, which they remodeled for four years.
George, who had joined the Senior Tennis Players Association while in New Brighton, was dismayed to find no winter tennis north of Duluth, so he formed a committee from a small group of players and began to raise money for a four-court, indoor tennis building. Three years later, with pledges and cash worth $720,000 in hand from individuals and businesses plus grants from corporations and government agencies, George’s committee gave the money to the City of Virginia. In turn, the City Council unanimously agreed to complete the $1 million project. Now, the Iron Range can boast of a first class, year-round tennis facility that everyone can use at a reasonable cost. (George just finished his tenth year of helping coach the Virginia boys and girls tennis teams as well as helping with Virginia’s Tennis in the Parks summer program.)
Besides writing our newsletter, coaching tennis and writing books, George began to present lectures about Climate Change (which he had been seeing in the Arctic) about 10 years ago. After joining the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Thorium Energy Alliance, and after reading more than a dozen books about nuclear power, George, who became convinced that nuclear power is “by far the safest, most efficient, economical way to generate electricity 24/7”, now travels the country from MN to FL and from MD to CA, using constantly updated Power Point programs to try to get people to “set aside their fears and learn the facts about our most effective tool for combatting Climate Change – abundant nuclear power that creates no CO2 and, unlike inefficient, intermittent wind and solar, doesn’t need to be backed up by carbon-burning power plants.”
George, who turns 83 this fall, has two sons, whom he says “turned out just great,” and although he sold his last seaplane five years ago, he rents a Cessna 172 every year on his birthday, and accompanied by a flight instructor, does a few take offs and landing before climbing higher for stalls, figure eights and a few other maneuvers that would churn most stomachs. Every year, George says that he smiles as he taxis back to the terminal, gives the instructor a big thumbs up and says, “Just like climbing back onto a bicycle. - Piece of Cake!”
The following is an excerpt from True North, which won praise for its science content from Eugenie Scott, the Exec. Director of the National Center for Science Education.
An excerpt from George’s three other books will appear in the coming months.
from True North: Exploring The Great Wilderness by Bush Plane
As I secure the Cub, a woman arrives with a sea gull cradled in her arms, its white breast stained with blood from a fishhook lodged in its mouth. Perhaps weakened or imbued with hidden wisdom, the gull waits calmly while I retrieve my tool kit, then remains surprisingly passive as I snip the hook and slide the shaft from its flesh. I return the gull to its feet, where it takes a few steps, then dashes my weakness theory by leaping into raucous, glaucous flight.
A huge, part-Newfoundland dog ambles over. He leans against me, begging to be petted, and I discover he's loaded with ticks. As I pluck them off, "Large" waits patiently, then rolls over for a more thorough job. Looking like eight-legged, burgundy grapes, the ticks make satisfying plops as I toss them into the lake, shattering flotillas of water beetles that are whirling away the day.
Fuel is expensive in Canada. I offer my credit card to Laura, Green's Airway's auburn-haired clerk, then phone the Department of Transport to file a flight plan to Churchill. As I turn to leave, Laura slips out from behind the counter and follows me through the door.
"I heard you file for Churchill," she says. "I've always wanted to go there. Not for long, though. It's too cold, you know."
"I don't blame you," I reply. "I've been there nine times, and I haven't tired of it yet."
"It's the polar bears that intrigue me," she continues, "and the white whales, too. Everyone who stops here on their way south raves about them." Then, as I'm about to tell her about Churchill's abandoned, forty-cannon fortress, she asks, "Are you just on a short holiday?"
"Two or three weeks. After Churchill I'm heading north to Baker Lake, then up to the Arctic Coast. If the weather holds, I might head off to Alaska."
She stares at the plane, her eyes searching. "God," she sighs, looking directly at me, "I'd give ANYTHING to go along."
Surprised, I stammer, "Yaa, well . . ." then wave a hand at what she can plainly see - a passenger seat filled with gear. Besides, there's that thing called marriage, which my wedding ring proclaims.
As I taxi away from the pier amidst a storm of fantasies, "Large" begins to howl. When I turn into the wind, Laura is stroking his huge head with one hand and waving with the other. I raise a hand to her, my fingers spread as if to grasp something, then lift the water rudder and pour on the gas.
Judge Lets New Kensington
Ten Commandments Monument Stand
A federal judge on Monday dismissed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Ten Commandments monument in front of Valley Junior-Senior High School in New Kensington. The ruling could bring an end to a three-year legal battle. However, it does not address the underlying question of whether the monument is a prohibited government endorsement of religion or a permissible historical landmark.
U.S. District Judge Terrence F. McVerry accepted New Kensington-Arnold School District's argument that resident Marie Schaub, her daughter, and the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation have not proven they have been sufficiently harmed by the monument to have standing in the case.