May 2016

Volume 15, Issue 5

Table of Contents

Hitler, the quintessential authoritarian

May 2016 Meeting

  • What:  “The Rise of the Authoritarians”
  • Who:  David R. Simon, Ph.D., Sociology Professor (Ret.), Postdoctoral Fellow
  • When:  Monday, May 16, 2016, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. (doors open at 6:00 p.m.)
  • Where:  Buckman Bridge Unitarian Church, 8447 Manresa Ave., Jacksonville, FL 32244. (From the I-295 Roosevelt exit, go north to the first traffic light, Collins Rd. Turn right. Go 400 ft. The church driveway will be on your right. For map click

Meeting Description

Sociologist and social critic David Simon will explore the rise of authoritarian voters in the 2016 political campaign. American sociologists have predicted for decades that an authoritarian candidate, like Hitler, could not possibly be successful in the U.S. Classical sociological theory, which is European in origin, argues that authoritarians could easily spring up in Europe under certain deteriorating conditions. These include violent or economic crises, the decline of social bonds among alienated masses of people, alienation from major social institutions, and the rise of manipulative authoritarian leaders seeking to blame scapegoats for societal ills. Some of the 2016 candidates utilized the basic premises of authoritarianism to attract supporters. The old assumption that "it can't happen here" will be examined in depth, along with the potential dangers of authoritarian candidates being elected to office.

Meet the Speaker

David R. Simon holds a Ph.D. from Rutgers University in sociology and was a Postdoctoral Fellow in public health at UC Berkeley. He has recently completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Institute of Public Policy, University of North Florida. He is the author of nine books, the latest of which is the tenth edition of Elite Deviance, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary as the oldest white collar crime text in the field. Dr. Simon is also the author of some 57 academic articles, review essays, and book reviews. His current research focuses on societal insanity.

President's Message - May 2016

Still Climbing After All These Years

Earl Coggins

In Greek mythology Sisyphus is punished by Zeus for trickery. His punishment is fairly straightforward. Sisyphus must push a boulder up a steep hill until he reaches the top. Zeus puts a spell on the boulder, making it roll away from Sisyphus shortly before he reaches the top. This enchantment placed on the boulder seals Sisyphus’ fate. He will push the boulder up the hill every day, only to have it roll back down the hill before it reaches the top.
This story has been used as an analogy for millennia to describe pointless activities. Albert Camus used it to describe the absurdity of life in his 1942 essay, “The Myth of Sisyphus,” even though he concluded that Sisyphus must be happy because his struggle gave him something to do with his life. Even though I like Albert Camus, I do not agree with his position that Sisyphus was happy simply because pushing a boulder up a hill every day gave him something to do.
I bring up the plight of Sisyphus because I occasionally look at the struggle to promote freethought and humanism as a Sisyphean task. No matter how hard we freethinkers and humanists try to promote our worldview as viable and meaningful, at the end of each day, it seems as though bronze-age worldviews still dominate much of the landscape, and zero-sum game theory still has most people looking at solutions to problems as situations requiring either winners or losers.

Sisyphus, a Greek mythological character condemned by the gods to an eternity of pushing a boulder uphill, only to watch it roll back down again when it reaches the top.

One way in which the First Coast Freethought Society adds a little spice to a life of pushing a boulder up a hill each day is through our NPR radio messages. The messages are never the same for more than a few weeks. We promote freethought and humanism by announcing our monthly speakers and their presentation topics. We also present generic messages promoting the First Coast Freethought Society. It’s with the generous support of our membership that the First Coast Freethought Society has sustained an existence of nearly two decades, half of which has included NPR radio announcements aired on WJCT 89.9 FM radio.
Our WJCT radio messages are funded in two ways. While our membership dues fund a portion of the cost, the bulk of the funding comes from our annual fund drive. That time of year is upon us. Our 2016 NPR Corporate Sponsorship Fund Drive is now officially underway. As your president, I am asking each and every one of our members and friends to support the continuation of the NPR radio messages with a generous donation. Our goal this year is $6,500 which, combined with funds from our operating budget, will purchase 13 announcements per month from July 2016 through June 2017. We have over 100 paid members. If most of our members give $65, we will achieve our goal. Or consider contributing $60–the cost of one announcement.
Please, give what you can. Any amount is greatly appreciated. As always, I thank you for your generous support. The First Coast Freethought Society is leading the charge among local, grassroots organizations. Many national organizations have praised our work, especially our NPR radio messages. We are pushing that boulder up the hill every day and getting good at it. One day soon, we will reach the top of the hill. Freethought and humanism will have a permanent seat at the table, widely accepted and respected as a worldview with its finger on the pulse of humanity.

To donate, please click or send your check to the First Coast Freethought Society, PO Box 550591, Jacksonville, Florida 32255.

Olive Garden - May 24

  • Where:  OLIVE GARDEN on Philips Highway, across from the Avenues Mall. Ask for us at the desk. The hostesses will show you to our room.
  • When:  Tuesday, May 24, 2016. Come any time between 6:00 and 7:00 for socializing. We'll order from the menu at 7:00 p.m.
  • RSVP:  E-mail (or call 904-268-8826) by Tuesday morning, if you plan to join us. This is a great way to learn more about the FCFS and meet members and friends. You do not need to be a member to attend!

Ruminations on Overpopulation

Fred W. Hill

As a species, we Homo sapiens have done very well for ourselves.  We can’t take to the skies like eagles without mechanical devices or live in the deepest ocean trenches like a variety of snailfish found at a depth of 8,143 meters below the surface, where if any of us suddenly found ourselves, we would be frozen and crushed before we had time to drown.  Modern technology, however, has enabled us to see what is in those depths, and to take to the skies, to visit the moon, and inhabit stations far above the Earth.  And while we don’t have the means to literally move mountains or command the sun to stay still, we have the power to destroy mountaintops as well as the potential to create enough smoke from the use of nuclear weapons to surround the Earth and effectively block all sunlight for years or decades. Even millennia prior to any of those marvels, our ancestors had adapted to a variety of environments, from the frozen Arctic regions to deserts, and scattered across the globe, spreading from Africa to every continent (except Antarctica) and multitudes of islands, including many far from any continent. 

This spreading is one consequence of our breeding.  Humans breed at far lower rates than most other living things, but over time the numbers add up, from an estimated low of 2,000 individuals 70,000 years ago to the 7.4 billion living today and growing ever more rapidly every decade.  As with all species, in any region where the numbers of individuals grew, their habitat also had to expand lest they rendered their environment incapable of supporting their larger population. Tribes fought for more space and resources in ancient times as nations have in modern times.  For most of our history, humans were more susceptible to fatal attacks by other animals, from lions to plague-infested fleas, as well as to diseases, accidents, natural disasters, and conflict with other people.  The 14th century Black Death plague killed over 75 million people, at least a third of the population of Eurasia of the time, while the influenza epidemic of 1919 killed over 19 million people, and at least 100 million have been killed in the various wars and genocidal slaughters of the previous century, and more tens of millions died due to famines brought about by irrational and inhumane policies of governments such as the Stalinist and Maoist regimes.  Yet, largely due to advancements in our knowledge of ways to effectively cure and prevent diseases, and treat potentially fatal injuries, despite the horrors of the 20th century, the human population has grown at greater rates than ever before, more than tripling the nearly two billion living in 1916 (and more than 50,000 of those people are still alive now).
Even when there were far fewer people, we still had the means to have a large impact on the environment and the other species we shared it with.  People are naturally curious, and although we may fear the unknown, we also want to know what’s over yonder.  While many may prefer to stay put, eventually someone’s going to make the trip, willingly or not, over the hill, across the river, even over the mountain and across the ocean.  And not simply to satisfy curiosity or because the patriarch gave them the boot.  There’s also the matter of satisfying the hunger for more land, more food, more opportunities, more wealth.  At least some of the remote ancestors of American Indians likely followed herds of mastodons and mammoths from Eurasia into North America across the land bridge that once existed between Siberia and Alaska.  Elephants and their kin were also great global wanderers, once ranging across all of Africa, Eurasia, and North America.  But the mastodons and mammoths were also a tremendous source of protein for the humans who followed them and learned how to effectively hunt and kill them in great numbers, to eat their flesh, and make use of their fur, tusks, and bones for clothing, shelter, and ornaments.  The larger animals bred at even slower rates than humans, and while the evidence isn’t conclusive, it seems highly likely that humans, with their ever-growing populations and ever increasing skills in creating lethal weapons, hunted the pachyderms and many other megafauna of northern Eurasia and North America to extinction.  Our ancestors also learned to use fire to their benefit, for warmth, to cook, even to quickly reduce patches of forests to cinders and to put the cleared land to use for agricultural. 

Of course, change is a constant of life and multitudes of species went extinct long before any of our ancestors emerged from the seas to waddle on muddy shores roughly 385 million years ago.  Environments change due to a great variety of natural calamities, some gradual as with ice ages brought about by a variety of causes, including changes in atmospheric composition and the shifting positions of continents, such as the current position of Antarctica over the southern pole and Eurasia and North America surrounding most of the northern pole, thereby blocking or reducing the flow of warm waters from the equator to the polar regions.  Asteroid impacts and massive volcanic eruptions have been catalysts for more abrupt changes due to the resultant mass of debris spewed into the atmosphere at once, changing its composition and blocking sunlight for extended periods.  Both have been cited as causes of the Permian-Triassic mass extinction of 251 million years ago, when an estimated 95 percent of all species perished.  Volcanic activity that triggered the break-up of the supercontinent Pangaea and the formation of the North Atlantic Ocean, between 199 to 214 million years ago, brought about another mass extinction as did the asteroid that slammed into Earth about 65 million years ago and rendered every dinosaur extinct, save for those that would become the ancestors of modern birds.  Other survivors included the small shrew-like mammals who are our own great ancestors.

Our more recent ancestors evolved the capacity to create tools to reshape the environment, but also to imagine and share tall tales about our past, in which powerful gods created us for mysterious purposes and gave us dominion over the land and seas and all living things, and gave us orders to be fruitful and multiply.  As a species, we have heeded that order well, to the detriment of many other species whose habitat is destroyed to make way for expanding cities for us to dwell in, or to transform them into croplands to feed us, or to obtain resources we demand, including those that come from other animals.  Even when humans aren’t hunting or overfishing other species towards extinction, our needs for more food, shelter, and jobs all contribute to squeezing out species that cannot adapt to the rapid changes we are making to the ecosystem, including the many poisons we are dumping into the atmosphere, lakes, rivers, and seas as byproducts of our technologies.

Street scene in the Philippines, one of many overpopulated, impoverished nations where birth control is illegal or difficult to obtain due to religious dogma overwhelming reason.

Many people living today still believe religious tall tales, both ancient and of more recent vintage, and are certain that humans are a unique creation unrelated to any other species despite all physiological, genetic, and fossil evidence that refutes that.  And while there are many who accept that people have a responsibility to be good stewards of our supposed dominion, many more believe humans have the god-given right to do with it as we please, and are certain that by the will of god it is impossible for humans to do anything which can have severe, accumulated negative impacts on the environment which may ultimately render it inhospitable for us. Then there’s the subset of theists who are all too eager for destruction, anticipating it will trigger the return of their dear savior to whisk them to paradise, leaving the disbelievers to damnation.  The more fanatical of the believers, including many politicians at the local, state, and federal levels, not only deny that overpopulation is a problem, but are doing all they can to prevent adolescents from obtaining a meaningful sex education—which may actually make them less likely to engage in unprotected sex and experience unwanted pregnancies—as well as to restrict access to legal abortions and even to make birth control pills more expensive for women while making Viagra less expensive for men. These problems, naturally, are far worse in undeveloped nations, particularly where religious or social taboos against birth control and abortions and women’s education are even more stringent.  Their populations are exploding even as their resources become ever scarcer, a sure recipe for more conflict.

I don’t expect that even in the distant future our descendants will have solved our modern problems by finding other planets (or moons) to colonize.  Even if we establish colonies on Mars, a highly expensive proposition, they are unlikely to ever be home to more than a few dozen people.  We’re stuck with Earth like every other living creature we currently have knowledge of.  Asteroid impacts, volcanic eruptions, and continental drift are all natural events, not acts of god or any sentient being.  As humans, we do have at least some control over our actions.  Whether our kind can collectively and peacefully reduce our numbers and destructive behavior before they cause irreparable damage to the biosphere we depend on remains to be seen.  Maybe we’ll go the way of the non-avian dinosaurs, and more intelligent lifeforms of a billion years hence will study the remnants of our civilizations and wonder how we could have been at once so intelligent and yet so dumb.

Join the new FCFS Meetup Group!

Carrie Renwick, Publicity Chair

In case you aren't already aware, is a web site that makes it easy for people with similar interests to find each other online and then meet face-to-face and form groups.  Meetup really simplifies organizing events, publicizing events, tracking RSVPs, and notifying and reminding Meetup members of upcoming events. For our FCFS Meetup group to be most effective, as many FCFS members and friends as possible need to join. It's simple and it's free! You can so easily stay apprised of all our events, RSVP to them, and so conveniently be reminded of them.

To Join the FCFS Meetup Group

Click here:

Until everyone has joined, however, our e-mail announcements and reminders will continue. Our electronic newsletter distribution will continue. For those preferring hard copy, our snail-mail newsletters will continue.

Features Earl Coggins on BackPage Editorial

Check out the BackPage Editorial section of the May 4, 2016 issue of Folio Weekly. You will find an article by FCFS president and founder Earl Coggins.,15233 

Way to go, Earl!  The First Coast Freethought Society is proud of you.

State - Church Separation Update

A regular feature of the First Coast FreeThinker

In this feature, you will be kept apprised of the actions of the First Coast Freethought Society, the local AU chapters which include AU of Northeast Florida and the Clay County Chapter, as well as AU on the national level. If separation of state and church issues are important to you, we encourage you to first join the First Coast Freethought Society, then join AU!

The Devil and Antonin Scalia

Merrill Shapiro, Trustee, National Board of Trustees, Americans United for Separation of Church and State

In 2006, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia attended a special mass for members of the legal profession at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston.  As he exited, a reporter with the Boston Herald asked Scalia how he dealt with those who complain about his public displays of religiosity.
“You know what I say to those people?”  Scalia said, while making a gesture with his fingers under his chin that some said was obscene—though Scalia himself denied that it was uncouth. “That’s Sicilian,” he said, adding, “It’s none of their business. This is my spiritual life; I shall lead it the way I like.” [From an article by Simon Brown in the April 2016 Church and State, published by Americans United for Separation of Church and State]

If only Justice Antonin Scalia’s ears had been listening to his mouth, he might have recognized that all of us have a spiritual life, even if that spirituality rises up out of the wellspring of reason, logic, and humanism. And all of us share his attitude that we ought to be able to lead our spiritual lives the way we like! 
In a 2013 interview with Jennifer Senior for New York magazine, Scalia was asked if his beliefs extended to the Devil, and he stated, "Of course! Yeah, he's a real person. Hey, c'mon, that's standard Catholic doctrine! Every Catholic believes that." When asked if he had seen recent evidence of the Devil, Scalia replied, "You know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He's making pigs run off cliffs, he's possessing people and whatnot ... What he's doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He's much more successful that way."

If being a hypocritical bigot who usurped the law to promote his prejudices was a damnable offense, Antonin Scalia should be spending eternity vainly trying to convince that other guy why he's in the wrong place.  

So, on the one hand, we have lives we can live the way we wish, but if we don’t accept the set of beliefs deemed as “proper,” it is only because we have been influenced by the devil!
Few of us are in a position to evaluate Scalia’s growth as a legal scholar and expert.  But he did make all of us think a little more about the separation of church and state and why it appears in the very First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  His life reminds us of another example where his ears should have been listening to his mouth as he declared his dedication to Constitutional Originalism, the belief that the law should be as our country’s founders intended. 

While often attributed to Thomas Jefferson, one of those founders, there is no direct evidence that he or Patrick Henry ever said, “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance."  Fredrick Douglass, James Buchanan, and William Henry Harrison believe that this quote came from Jefferson. But no matter its source, let us, together, use the memory of Antonin Scalia to bring us to a higher order of dedication to the principle that “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance."  Thus, the significance of a Presidential election, now so much in the news, is also found in who that President—to be sworn in on the Capitol steps next January 20th—appoints to the Supreme Court.  

  From a speech given on January 28, 1852 to the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society.  Whoever said it first, it's much less hypocritical coming from an abolitionist than from men who owned slaves and waged war to steal land.  

Support the FCFS

Carrie Renwick, Fundraising Chair

To Donate to the 2016 NPR Fund Drive (now underway) or Join or Renew

 To Donate on a Monthly Basis

  • Click to go to the FCFS home page, click "Join, Renew, Donate" where you will find a PayPal button to make automatic monthly donations. Automatic monthly donations via PayPal require you to have a PayPal account; or
  • Set it up through your online banking system.
All membership dues and donations are tax-deductible, and you will receive a letter from the treasurer to that effect for IRS purposes.

For meeting details, location, and to RSVP to the FCFS Humanist Book Discussion Group - Jacksonville, join Meetup:

Humanist Book Discussion Group - Jacksonville

  • When:  The first Sunday of each month. For time, visit Meetup group.
  • Where:  Different locations in Jacksonville. To learn where, visit Meetup group.
  • What:  Books planned for discussion:
    • June 5, 2016 - At the Existentialist Cafe, by Sarah Bakewell
    • July 3, 2016 - Rush & Philosophy (a discussion of humanist themes in the lyrics of the band Rush)
Paris, 1933: three contemporaries meet over apricot cocktails at the Bec-de-Gaz bar on the rue Montparnasse. They are the young Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and longtime friend Raymond Aron, a fellow philosopher who raves to them about a new conceptual framework from Berlin called Phenomenology. “You see,” he says, “if you are a phenomenologist you can talk about this cocktail and make philosophy out of it!”

It was this simple phrase that would ignite a movement, inspiring Sartre to integrate Phenomenology into his own French, humanistic sensibility, thereby creating an entirely new philosophical approach inspired by themes of radical freedom, authentic being, and political activism. This movement would sweep through the jazz clubs and cafés of the Left Bank before making its way across the world as Existentialism.

Featuring not only philosophers, but also playwrights, anthropologists, convicts, and revolutionaries, At the Existentialist Café follows the existentialists’ story, from the first rebellious spark through the Second World War, to its role in postwar liberation movements such as anticolonialism, feminism, and gay rights. Interweaving biography and philosophy, it is the epic account of passionate encounters—fights, love affairs, mentorships, rebellions, and long partnerships—and a vital investigation into what the existentialists have to offer us today, at a moment when we are once again confronting the major questions of freedom, global responsibility, and human authenticity in a fractious and technology-driven world.

Book synopsis from the publisher, Other Press

Link to book review:
To join the FCFS Humanist Book Discussion Group - Jacksonville MEETUP, click here:
For More Info:  Go to or contact Fred W. Hill at, or call 904-880-3887.

Humanist Book Discussion Group - St. Augustine

  • When:  7:00 - 8:30 p.m., the second Thursday of each month.
  • Where:  Clubhouse at a private condominium in St. Augustine (Anastasia Island).
  • What:  Books planned for discussion:
    • June 9, 2016 - Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, by Bart Ehrman
    • July 14, 2016 - to be determined
For almost 1,500 years, the New Testament manuscripts were copied by hand––and mistakes and intentional changes abound in the competing manuscript versions. Religious and biblical scholar Bart Ehrman makes the provocative case that many of our widely held beliefs concerning the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity, and the divine origins of the Bible itself are the results of both intentional and accidental alterations by scribes.

In this compelling and fascinating book, Ehrman shows where and why changes were made in our earliest surviving manuscripts, explaining for the first time how the many variations of our cherished biblical stories came to be, and why only certain versions of the stories qualify for publication in the Bibles we read today. Ehrman frames his account with personal reflections on how his study of the Greek manuscripts made him abandon his once ultra-conservative views of the Bible.

Book description from

Link to Book Review:
More Info:  Contact Charlie West at for location, directions, and gate code. We hope you can join us!

NOTE TO ALL!  Books may be found in the library, purchased from local book stores or online. The First Coast Freethought Society will receive a small remuneration from your purchase (at no additional cost to you) if you first go to and then click the link to for your purchase.

Now, our Correspondent in Thailand...

Grandma isn’t Going into a Nursing Home:  Family Dynamics Variations in the U.S. and Thailand

Steven Lance Stoll

[Sociologist Lance Stoll, long-time member and friend of the First Coast Freethought Society, is currently living and teaching in Thailand. He shares his views from afar. —Editor's Note]
The variations in family dynamics between the United States and Thailand have proven to be quite pronounced and interesting. The differences between the two cultures are probably consistent with other “modern” and less ”modern” societies, but I’m most familiar with these two. Many of the differences come from the differences between western religious traditions and eastern ones, but they also come from the nature of authoritarian governments and traditions and the lack of the welfare state mentality. 
In America, we are a very independent, self-reliant society, although we share the welfare state functions with our friends in Western Europe.  In Thailand, they are a communitarian society, and family is the most important “social service agency.” With the respect for the elderly in Thai Buddhist tradition and the belief in Karma and reincarnation, there is a dedication to parents and grandparents in a way long gone in America.  One cannot find retirement or nursing homes here.  There is no need for them as families take care of their own.  Sadly, those who don’t have a family are often seen begging on the streets.
My Thai partner and I watched two Netflix movies last week that brought this huge variation in family dynamics between the U.S. and Thailand to the surface. The first was a “based on true events” story called Perfect Sisters. In this very good film, two sisters 15 and 16 plan and execute the murder of their alcoholic and abusive mother. My Thai partner was quite shocked by this movie…not by the fact that this woman allowed men she was sleeping with to hit and assault her daughters; not by the fact that this woman continued to lose jobs due to her drinking forcing her family to move often and even live on the street at times; not that the woman stayed with her attorney boyfriend even after she found out that he had touched one of her daughters inappropriately.  Jhon was shocked by the disrespect the girls showed to their mother by murdering her and by talking back to her prior to that desperate act.  Don’t misinterpret my point, I think it was terrible that the murder occurred, and I am not saying it was justifiable homicide, but I can surely understand the desperation and misery in which these two young women found themselves.  The movie showed that they had reached out to others for help including child protective services without any sympathy or results prior to taking this action.  In the west, we have little sympathy for poor parenting and certainly don’t expect the children to obey and honor such a parent.  In Thailand, that obedience, respect, and honor is expected and automatic. 

Scene from the film Grandma, in the lobby of an abortion clinic where mother (Marcia Gay Harden) argues with pregnant daughter (Julie Warner) while grandma (Lily Tomlin) looks on.  

The other movie we watched, also quite good, was called Grandma.  In this movie, Lily Tomlin plays a college professor and writer estranged from her daughter who receives an unexpected visit from her granddaughter who turns out to be newly pregnant.
Tomlin's character has just had a breakup from her young lesbian lover of a few months just 14 months after the death of her lover of 38 years. The plot revolves around the need for money to pay for an abortion for the granddaughter.  Jhon was horrified that anyone would want to terminate a pregnancy. He said, “Why doesn’t the grandma raise the child?” I explained that the grandmother had her own life and responsibilities, and her daughter was busy with her own life. In Thailand, time and accommodation would be made for the raising of this baby…the family would sacrifice to make it happen.
The girl was 17 and the grandmother had been in a similar situation when she was young in the early days of the women’s liberation movement in the U.S.  Eventually, Tomlin’s character and her daughter, a high-powered business woman, come together and help the granddaughter obtain the abortion.  The experience draws all three women closer and seems to heal the rift between mother Lily and her daughter.
Abortion is not legal in Thailand and if it were, there would be very few of them. Thai people love babies and their children and the way the culture is here, these children become the social service network that families require.  This is the way it used to be in the U.S. and everywhere else prior to democratic government and the creation of the welfare state, of course.  All western democracies are welfare states to one degree or another.  Right wingers in America always deny this designation for the country, however they are quite happy to get their Social Security checks and Medicare health care, to be able to call the police or fire departments with no additional charges, and send their kids to public schools.  While the Scandinavian countries, with their higher tax rates, have a vast array of generous social service benefits, America at the other end of the continuum is also never the less a welfare state.  In Thailand there are very few services one can depend on the government for.  There are government hospitals and health insurance for a variety of working people, and there are public schools which are overcrowded and under staffed and ill equipped.  Most working Thais send their kids to private schools like the one in which I teach, and many who use the public schools pay for after school tutoring. It is particularly important that Thai kids receive a good education so that they can get a decent job.  Learning, of course, isn’t as important as certification here.  How things look here is usually more important than the details behind it.  The retirement age here is 60 and most jobs do force people out at that age. This means a large group of still healthy adults is available to help with children. Every day I see grandmas and grandpas dropping off and picking up Kindergarteners!  

Even Thai elephants live in extended families.  

The extended family is alive and well in Thailand. In fact, a fractured family is hard for the average Thai person to even understand.  The tradition here is following authority from Buddhism to the monarchy (to insult religion or the king is a crime), so to defy one’s parent or grandparent is a horrifying concept for Thai people.  They respect and honor these older folks, and the older folks in turn provide life-long support and assistance to the younger folks.  While this sounds “old fashioned” and antiquated to Americans perhaps, this is the way humanity lived for the vast majority of the time the species has been on this planet.  Human tribes were communal and authoritarian, and family units worked together to survive and prosper.  It really is only modern times in the west in which this functional approach has been modified.  I won’t say improved as time will tell whether it has been an improvement for our species.  Freedom and independence, as well as critical thinking, are modern developments for humanity. Those of us in the West, especially in the free thinking movement, may tend to take these ideas for granted, but as a social scientist and now an expat in Thailand, I’m aware of the fact that most humans have not had and still don’t have real freedom, freedom politically and emotionally.  It is an idea that we in America take for granted and even abuse, I suppose, when you look at the way older people are warehoused until death in retirement facilities. While I relish my freedom of thought and political freedom, I’m also aware of the price we pay as communal animals for that freedom.

About Our Newsletter, the First Coast FreeThinker

Information for Readers

The First Coast FreeThinker is published for all freethinkers and potential freethinkers.  Nonmembers and members may receive the e-mail version indefinitely.  Nonmembers may receive three hard-copy issues free, after which they must join the FCFS to continue to receive hard copy.  Members are entitled to receive hard-copy should they prefer.  The e-mail version is encouraged, as the newsletter is optimized for on-screen reading.

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Subject matter must tie in with freethought or with the Affirmations of Humanism:  A Statement of Principles (found on our website).  All accepted submissions are subject to editorial modification.  Our style guide is The Chicago Manual of Style.  Authors (not the First Coast Freethought Society) are responsible for the accuracy of all quotations and for supplying complete references where applicable.

Several First Coast freethinkers attended the last Reason Rally in 2012 and here's notice of the next one, coming up on June 4, 2016, in Washington, D.C.  Go to for more details.

About the First Coast Freethought Society

First Coast Freethought Society, Inc.
P.O. Box 550591
Jacksonville, FL 32255-0591

Statement of Purpose

The First Coast Freethought Society, Inc. is an educational, nonprofit, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization dedicated to supporting nonreligious persons in the Northeast Florida area and promoting a nontheistic approach to everyday life.


If you share our world view and would like to be a part of the FCFS, we encourage you to join.  If you are new, or if you are renewing and your contact info has changed, you can pick up an application or a brochure at a meeting, or you can download and print an application on our website: and mail it in.


The FCFS meets the THIRD Monday of each month at the Buckman Bridge Unitarian Universalist Church, 8447 Manresa Ave., Jacksonville, FL 32244. 

Directions:  From the I-295 Roosevelt exit, go north to the first traffic light, Collins Rd.  Turn right. Go 400 feet. The church driveway will be on your right.

Meeting time:  6:30 to 8:30 p.m.  Doors open at 6:00 p.m.  Meetings are free and open to the public. 

Other Activities

  • Two monthly humanist book discussion groups, one in Jacksonville and one in St. Augustine. Current books are listed in each newsletter. For further details, visit
  • A monthly social and dinner at the Olive Garden. See details in each newsletter.
  • Secular Sunday in the Park - Coffee and conversation in the fresh air on a monthly basis. We meet the fourth Sunday of each month, 10:00 a.m. to noon, at Losco Regional Park, 10851 Hood Road South, Jax, 32257. See Activities section of the FCFS home page:
  • Dinners for Doubters (when scheduled).
  • The Dignity U Wear volunteer activity has been discontinued for the time being.  We will keep you posted.
  • Yahoo! Group for freethinkers. To subscribe, send a blank message to
For information on all these activities, please visit, or see the calendar of events at the end of each newsletter and on the website. You need not be a member to attend these activities!

FCFS 2015 Board Members

President - Earl Coggins:  904-521-5039
Vice President - Carrie Renwick:  904-268-8826
Secretary - Liz DuClose:  352-260-2880
Treasurer - Stephen Peek:  904-742-5390
At-Large - Herb Gerson:  904-363-6446
At-Large - Fred Hill:  904-358-3610
At Large - John Ruskuski:  904-419-8826

Other Appointments

Parliamentarian - Mark Renwick:  904-616-2896
E-mail Secretary - Carrie Renwick:  904-268-8826

Committees and Chairs

Community Outreach - Celia Abbruzzese:  904-982-8431
Editorial - Fred Hill:  904-358-3610
Finance - Stephen Peek:  904-742-5390
Fundraising - Carrie Renwick:  904-268-8826
Membership - Judy Hankins:  904-724-8188
Publicity - Carrie Renwick:  904-268-8826
Website - Mark Renwick:  904-616-2896

All FCFS personnel may be reached via e-mail at

June 2016 Meeting

Carrie Renwick, Program Chair

Why is no one convinced by your compelling arguments?  Join us at our June 17 meeting, when Scott Kimbrough, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy and Chair, Division of Humanities, Jacksonville University, will be discussing moral psychology and exploring the role of emotion in reasoning.


You can make a lasting impact on the future of
freethought and secular humanism in this community
…if you provide for the First Coast Freethought Society in your Will.

Your bequest will ensure that the FCFS continues to be a beacon for freethinkers
on the First Coast and remains a vital Voice of Reason in Northeast Florida.

Several options are available for establishing a bequest (specific, percentage, residual,
or contingent). We can provide the appropriate wording to you and your attorney,
depending upon your wishes. Or, just talk to your attorney.  Our EIN is 20-1462737.

For further information, contact
Carrie Renwick, PO Box 550591, Jacksonville, FL 32255-0591 or
904-419-8826 ● ●
All inquiries are held in the strictest confidence.

Northeast Florida Coalition of Reason

The FCFS is a proud member of the Florida Humanist Association.

Freethought Events on the First Coast

  • Monday, May 9 - JAM Session, 6:30 p.m. at the San Marco European Street Café (Date, time & place subject to change; please see for details.)
  • Thursday, May 12, St. Augustine Humanist Book Club, 7:00 p.m. (For location, directions, and gate code, contact Charlie West at
  • Monday, May 16 - FCFS Monthly Meeting at Buckman Bridge Unitarian Church, 6:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, May 22 - FCFS Secular Sunday in the Park, Jacksonville, 10:00 a.m.
  • Tuesday, May 24 - FCFS Monthly Social at Olive Garden, Jacksonville, 6:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, May 28 - Submission deadline for the FCFS March 2016 newsletter
  • Sunday, June 5 - Humanist Book Group - Jacksonville (For details, location, and to RSVP, join meetup:
  • Thursday, June 9 - Humanist Book Group - St. Augustine, 7:00 p.m. (For location, directions, and gate code, contact Charlie West at
  • Monday, June 20 - FCFS Monthly Meeting at Buckman Bridge Unitarian Church, 6:30 p.m.

Membership Application

Use this PDF form   to print the application and mail it in with your check, or join on our website.
Copyright © 2016 First Coast Freethought Society, Inc., All rights reserved.

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