Who: Joque H. Soskis, retired UNF criminal justice professor, former police officer and police administrator, retired attorney
Title:â€œPOLICING IN AMERICA: It's Worse Than You Think. (FAR worse!)â€
When: Monday, October 19, 2015, 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 on Collins. Go 400 ft. The church driveway will be on your right.)
Meetings Free and Open to the Public â— Plenty of Free Parking
The present failures, misfeasance, and malfeasance of the American police have multiple interlocking and intractable sources, many of which are not directly related to the police, themselves. In the age of ubiquitous video recording, we are routinely confronted on the evening news with evidence of grievous misconduct on the part of police. These events are always portrayed as the actions of a few bad apples. But if any other profession or occupation in America - truck drivers, construction contractors, automobile mechanics - performed as badly as the police frequently do, the whole population would be running up and down the streets with their hair on fire. How did things go so horribly wrong?
Meet the Speaker
In October, we welcome Joque Soskis back to the podium. For most of his working life, Joque has been involved in law enforcement. He Is a former police officer and police administrator, and he is a retired professor of criminal justice, having taught criminal law, criminal procedure and evidence, forensic science, information systems, and law enforcement administration, in the Bachelor's and Master's degree programs at University of North Florida. Until his retirement, he was a member and official of the faculty union of the State University System. He is also a retired attorney.
Joque was raised in Florida and has lived in Jacksonville since 1978. He was active for many years in the establishment of the Riverside-Avondale area as a historic district.
Joque is a long-time member and supporter of the First Coast Freethought Society. He is a frequent contributor to the FCFS newsletter, the FreeThinker, a regular diner at the Olive Garden monthly socials, and an avid participant in the Q&A portion of our monthly meetings. He is a welcome guest speaker at our meetings, as his talks are always highly informative and thought provoking.
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October Presidentâ€™s Message
Atheists Under Attack - Again
After retrieving Philosophy Now Issue 109 from the mailbox, my eyes couldnâ€™t help but notice â€œAtheism on Trialâ€ in the lower left corner of the front cover. I rolled my eyes and thought, here we go again, when will this ever end? Atheism has been on trial since Socrates was accused and executed for impiety.
I encourage you to read this article and write a letter to the editor of Philosophy Now if you think the article has problems. You donâ€™t have to have a subscription to read it. You can get it online at the following link:
The author, Stephen Anderson, starts by describing the torture, murder, and genocide of non-believers as mere folly that should be brushed off without a hint of remorse.
The author goes on to accuse atheism of a radical takeover of education, the universities, and the academic press, as if a concept can storm the buildings housing these entities, make demands, take hostages, seize the printing presses of academic publishing houses, and then take over the world. Uh-huh.
The horror of science and reason taking precedence over religion and dogma in education, as covered by the most reliable news source in history! (Well, almost.)
Anderson mentions â€œeasy placeâ€ as a way to describe atheismâ€™s current status within society and â€œfree rideâ€ to describe the journey atheism endured in order to get to its so-called easy place. He tells readers that â€œperhaps we now ought to pause and ask if it has actually earned the easy place it enjoys.â€ Then he goes on to say â€œitâ€™s atheismâ€™s turnâ€ to be â€œbrought before the tribunal of reason to present its credentials.â€ Oh? He speaks as if atheism has never been before any tribunals.
Anderson defines atheism as narrowly as possible, then uses the â€œprinciple of charityâ€ to explain away his lack of a comprehensive definition and misrepresentation of atheism. He chooses to examine the claims of a subset of the atheist population at large who violates logical processes, then portrays them as your average, everyday atheist.
A lot of atheists have position statements and beliefs about their atheism, but those statements and beliefs do not negate the fact that atheism is a term of negation. The term makes no claim. Theism is a belief in a god or gods. Theism makes a claim. Atheism is the absence of a belief in a god or gods. Some atheists will make claims about theism or the efficacy of a belief in a god. Claims made by atheists do not change the term as a term of negation.
If the author of the article in Philosophy Now truly means to be charitable, then he should take atheism at face value, or say what he truly wants to say. Itâ€™s obvious whom Anderson is going after and his charge against them. If you have never read Philosophy Now, I want to say right now that itâ€™s a great magazine. I am always happy when I see it in the mailbox. This article surprised me, but in the interest of fairness and balance, it has to be there.
Andersonâ€™s attempt at defining agnosticism is far worse than any I have read in quite a while. I canâ€™t imagine writing a paper about the theory of relativity without mentioning Albert Einstein, nor would I write a paper about evolution without mentioning Charles Darwin. Why would anyone leave out Thomas Henry Huxley in an attempt to define agnosticism? Who better to define a term than the person who created it? Anderson never brought up Huxley. After misrepresenting agnosticism, Anderson then indicts it for lacking any firm commitment to its position, a position Anderson has conveniently portrayed as wishy washy, unreasonable, and untenable. I suspect Andersonâ€™s accusation regarding agnosticism being wishy washy comes from the publicâ€™s perception of agnosticism to be a middle ground between atheism and theism. If that is truly the case, then the public should indicted, not agnosticism.
Anderson claims his token atheist bases his or her atheism on evidence, and that is probably a true statement for a large subset of the atheist population at large. But then he gets it wrong in a big, weird way. He completely ignores the fact that not all atheists make explicit statements regarding why they are without a belief in a god. His principle of charity conveniently gives him that liberty. <wink> The â€œevidenceâ€ Anderson examines for his indictment of atheism is shameful. I have never heard any atheists I have met hold the position that Anderson proposes. Itâ€™s incredible.
The author of the article gave me the impression that since an atheist cannot prove god does not exist, then god must exist. Andersonâ€™s claim that theism is a valid position simply because an atheist cannot prove otherwise is an argument from ignorance. The opposite is also true. The atheistâ€™s rejection cannot be assumed to be false simply because there is no evidence to substantiate the rejection.
The term atheism does not tell you why someone is without a belief in a god. We need a person in order to do that, and people have a lot of reasons for existing without a belief in a god. Some reject outright a belief in a god, some donâ€™t. The absence of an outright rejection does not negate the absence of belief in a god.
As valid a reason to believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster as anyone can come with to believe in any other deity.
Anderson goes off the deep end when he attempts to enlist a famous atheist turned theist as a poster child for his position. He uses Antony Flew, the outspoken atheist turned theist, as an example of what happens when an atheist rationally and logically reexamines his or her position on the existence of a god or gods. Anderson neglects to provide the chain of events that led Flew to change his mind regarding the existence of a god, nor does he provide readers with a description of Flewâ€™s theism, Aristotelian Deism, Flewâ€™s own words. Anderson fails to mention that Flewâ€™s book, There is a God: How the Worldâ€™s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, was coauthored with Christian apologist Roy Abraham Varghese, where Varghese did most of the work. Varghese was also the â€œprime moverâ€ behind the press releases telling the world of Flewâ€™s conversion. Oh, and there was a third writer, Christian apologist Bob Hostetler.
One of the few coherent claims (and perhaps the only one made by Anderson) is the claim that there is no evidence to prove god does not exist. Some atheists make that claim. There is only circumstantial evidence, and I use the term "circumstantial" loosely. The burden of proof for the existence of a god rests solely in the lap of theism. The evidence presented by theists to prove god exists is less than adequate and untenable in my opinion, thus giving atheists a valid claim to say â€œI am without a belief in a god based on the evidence.â€
Philosophy Now magazineâ€“mostly good food for thought, although some pieces may result in indigestion.
Again I must ask you to read the article and contact Philosophy Now with your comments.
In my opinion Andersonâ€™s article is anything but a tribunal of reason. It is a bitter diatribe full of disingenuous observations disguised as premises used to uphold illogical conclusions and ad hominem attacks.
Olive Garden - October 27
Where: OLIVE GARDEN on Philips Highway, across from the Avenues Mall. The hostesses will know where we are seated. Proceed directly to our room.
When: Tuesday, OCTOBER 27, 2015, at 6:00 p.m. Social hour at 6:00. Dinner at 7:00. We order from the menu.
RSVP: E-mail CarrieRen@att.net (or call 904-268-8826) by Tuesday morning, if you plan to attend. You do not need to be a member to attend!
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Fred W. Hill
Pope Francis has been greeted with near rock-star adulation in a nation where once adherents of his brand of Christianity were considered anathema to many in the dominant class, to such an extent that a political party popularly known as the "Know Nothings" was formed to keep any more of them from immigrating from Europe and to limit the civil rights of the ones who were already here. Know Nothings were worked up over teeming masses of Irish and German Catholics fleeing famine and monarchial tyranny in Europe to seek a better life in the U.S., stoking fears amongst American Protestants that they would be more loyal to their religious sovereign in the Old World than to the government of their new homeland. Ultimately, the Know Nothings fell apart over differences regarding slavery, while Catholics have largely become part of mainstream U.S. society, with similar political divides as exist in nearly every other large group of Americans, as exemplified by the current makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court, with three arch-conservative Catholics, two more moderate Catholics, and one fairly liberal Catholic, along with three liberal Jews, making up the first Supreme Court with no Protestants among the Justices.
The former Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina is the first Pope born in the New World, albeit to Italian immigrants fleeing the Fascist tyranny of Benito Mussolini in the 1930s, as well as the first non-European Pope since the death of Gregory III of Syria in 741. Francis has made waves by speaking out against rampant consumerism; demanding that more be done to alleviate poverty and to feed the poor; and by recognizing the reality of climate change and insisting that drastic changes must be made to reduce further damage to the environment, all proving extremely irksome to many very conservative Americans, including many Catholics who prefer their pontiffs to stick to denouncing socialism, homosexuality, abortion, and atheism, and ignore issues related to social justice. Francis has also made efforts to bring about more interfaith dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox Christians, the larger Protestant sects, Jews, Muslims, and even atheists, telling a reporter he gives us his blessings. How sweet. Not so sweet, however, is that whatever his more progressive leanings on some issues, Pope Francis still holds many views that atheists hold as ridiculous, and with which those of us espousing humanist ideals strongly disagree.
Pope Francis sings a medley of his greatest hits in Central Park, but no one can hear him due to the roar of his adoring fans.
As Jerry A. Coyne, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago in the Department of Ecology, and Evolution and author of many books, including Why Evolution Is True and Fact vs. Faith, has noted, Pope Francis â€œstill opposes womenâ€™s equality, abortion, and rights for gays. He wonâ€™t even mention population growth as a factor causing degradation of the environment.â€ (https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2015/10/01/the-pope-met-secretly-with-kim-davis/). I might add that Pope Francis has also declined to undo the official Catholic condemnation of any form of birth control, aside from total sexual abstinence or the useless rhythm method; nor has he in any substantial way amended the Church's opposition to abortion, even in cases involving rape or endangerment to the life of the mother due to the pregnancyâ€“the value of even a fetus in the first trimester remaining far more important in Catholic dogma than the life of the mother. Then, of course, thereâ€™s that whole worship of God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost, all of whom I regard as mythical absurdities and none of whom I would kneel to even if I knew for an absolute fact that they existed. Bless me or damn me to hell for my lack of faith, but no amount of bridge-building will make me believe in any supernatural being or accept the veracity of any so-called holy book.
Still, recognizing that the number of Protestants and Catholics attending services every Sunday at many churches throughout northeast Jacksonville will far exceed the total atheists that will ever attend a meeting of the First Coast Freethought Society, and that similar imbalances exist in nearly every city in our nation, we might at least be glad to have a few points of shared concerns despite significant disagreements that may never fade until our own species join the dodos in extinction. We might even work together to put off our inevitable fate and allow the debates to continue for a few more millennia rather than pretend there are no problems or resign ourselves to destruction whichâ€“despite the frothing of certain prominent Protestant ministersâ€“will not come any sooner simply because our government now allows gays to marry, bars official prayers and the teaching of creationism in science classes at public schools, and even allows atheists to testify in Courts without having to swear to tell the truth on a bible.
And yes, Pope Francis did meet with Kentucky Clerk of Court Kim Davis, who is not even Catholic but is a hero to the rabid religious right for having defied the U.S. Supreme Court by refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. The apparent purpose of the private meeting was to confer moral support for taking a stance on her alleged right not to perform public duties that are contrary to her religious beliefs. And on October 3, news was released that the Vatican had fired a gay priest, Monsignor Charamsa, who had been a high-ranking official, as part of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith since 2003; Charamsa came out in interviews, admitting he'd had a boyfriend for many years and wanted to challenge the church's backwards attitude to homosexuality (see USA Today, 10/3/15, Vatican Fires Gay Priest on Eve of Catholic Bishops' Meeting http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2015/10/03/vatican-fires-gay-priest-eve-catholic-synod-meeting/73278004/). On the other hand, Francis also met with a gay couple, one of whom has been long acquainted with the pope, since he was a high school student in writing and psychology courses taught by the pontiff-to-be in the 1960s. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/10/03/us-usa-pope-gay-idUSKCN0RW20O20151003). The Pope may not approve of his former student's marriage to another man, but apparently he greeted him warmly and did not inform him that according to Catholic dogma,
he and his husband are doomed to damnation for living a lifestyle contrary to church teachings.
Nevertheless, I canâ€™t cheer for this Pope. Heâ€™s not nearly as bad as he could be and seems far more reasonable and intelligent than several of the people vying to rule this nation after President Obamaâ€™s term ends in 2017. Admittedly, he may be the best that can be expected to be selected by top Catholics to rule their ancient sect. While many priests and ministers have lost their faith, realizing that they had been preaching non-sense, it seems highly improbable that anyone who ever reaches the pinnacle of the Catholic hierarchy will even admit to having sincere doubts about the myths they have devoted their lives to promoting. Improbable, yes, but it wouldnâ€™t qualify as a miracle if it ever did happen. It would just be the rare but reasonable thing any rational person would do when not so blinded by dogma that they canâ€™t see the light of reason after evaluating the available evidence. It may not be the sort of thing that elicits adoration of the masses but would be something freethinkers could sing "yeah, yeah, yeah" about.
To Donate to the FCFS
Carrie Renwick, Fundraising Chair
The 2015 NPR Corporate Sponsorship fund drive is over and was successful thanks to you! We will not actively seek funds until next summer's Annual NPR fund drive. However, donations are critical to the health of the FCFS, as membership dues barely cover operating expenses. If you want to see the FCFS remain strong and continue putting on events such as April's Freedom of Speech Panel Discussion, you might consider contributing before next summer's NPR fund drive. In addition to joining at a higher level of membership, here are two ways in which to contribute. Many thanks for your continued support.
To Donate on a Monthly Basis
Go to the FCFS website home page, http://firstcoastfreethoughtsociety.org, click "Join, Renew, Donate" where you will find a PayPal button to make an automatic monthly donation to our NPR fund. Automatic monthly donations via PayPal require you to have a PayPal account.
Starting in November, I will be coordinating the First Coast Freethought Society Humanist Book Discussion Group - Jacksonville. I have started a Meetup site for the book group and will post meeting details and organize the site. Various people will suggest books and agree to lead the group discussion. All the discussion leaders wonâ€™t have the same opinions, eh?
Each discussion leader will have his/her preferences. When I am the book discussion leader, I do not require that you read the book. I merely request that you be interested in the topics raised by the book if you plan to join the gathering. Other discussion leaders may request that you read the book. I plan to have topic questions ready when I lead the book discussion. Other discussion leaders may want to take a more laid back approach.
Once you join the Meetup group, you can post book suggestions on the discussion board. If you suggest a book, please indicate the humanist principle that applies. Remember, this is a Humanist Book Club. "The Affirmations of Humanism: A Statement of Principles" can be found at this link:
If you suggest a book, please indicate if youâ€™re willing to lead the book discussion and make the reservation for the restaurant. Of course, you can suggest a book without agreeing to all that. Someone else might step up. I wonâ€™t be leading all the discussion meetings, hopefully. Starting in November the book group will meet at different locations, but still the first Sunday of the month.
Starting in November, you will need to be a member of the Meetup to get details about the book discussion.
Beginning in November, you will want to be a member of the FCFS Humanist Book Discussion - Jacksonville MEETUP GROUP in order to make book suggestions, be kept apprised of meeting details and future books, and RSVP to attend the discussions. To join the Meetup:
In his provocative new book, evolutionary biologist Jerry A. Coyne lays out in clear, dispassionate detail why the toolkit of science, based on reason and empirical study, is reliable, while that of religion â€” including faith, dogma, and revelation â€” leads to incorrect, untestable, or conflicting conclusions.
Coyne is responding to a national climate in which over half of Americans don't believe in evolution (and congressmen deny global warming), and warns that religious prejudices and strictures in politics, education, medicine, and social policy are on the rise. Extending the bestselling works of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens, he demolishes the claims of religion to provide verifiable "truth" by subjecting those claims to the same tests we use to establish truth in science.
Coyne irrefutably demonstrates the grave harm â€” to individuals and to our planet â€” in mistaking faith for fact in making the most important decisions about the world we live in.
(From the product description by the publisher, http://jerrycoyne.uchicago.edu/Faith-vs-Fact.html )
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:
November 12, 2015 - The Story of the Human Body, by Daniel Lieberman
December 10, 2015 - Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
In this landmark book of popular science, Daniel E. Lieberman gives us a lucid and engaging account of how the human body evolved over millions of years. He illuminates the major transformations that contributed to key adaptations to the body: the rise of bipedalism; the shift to a non-fruit-based diet; the advent of hunting and gathering; and how cultural changes like the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions have impacted us physically. He shows how the increasing disparity between the jumble of adaptations in our Stone Age bodies and advancements in the modern world is occasioning a paradox: greater longevity but increased chronic disease. And finallyâ€”provocativelyâ€”he advocates the use of evolutionary information to help nudge, push, and sometimes even compel us to create a more salubrious environment and pursue better lifestyles.
From the product overview at Barnes&Noble.com
More Info: Contact Bill Stroop at firstname.lastname@example.org for address, directions, and gate code.
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 http://firstcoastfreethoughtsociety.org and then click the link to Amazon.com for your purchase.
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!
Hi First Coast Freethought Society:
I know many people would like the city council to quit giving invocations or just have a moment of silence for each person to pray according to their own faith tradition. But, as you may know, the current City Council has opted for the rotation scheme.
I would like to see the City Council have at least one nonreligious person give the invocation. The First Coast Freethought Society has been in the Jacksonville community for 17 years. You have wonderful speakers at your monthly meetings. Do you think any of your members or speakers would be willing to read the suggested invocation at a city council meeting? I have cc'd Kevin (the assistant to council member Jim Love) to ask what slot is available, so you can query your eligible speakers about availability during that time slot.
Several people from the FCFS spoke during the open comment section at the June 23, 2015 City Council Meeting. These included Earl Coggins who spoke of the Greece v. Galloway case; Bill Wade and Paul Heck, both FCFS members, spoke eloquently on behalf of the nonreligious approach; and Karen Cogburn, FCFS member, read the "Affirmations of Humanism: A Statement of Principles" by Paul Kurtz. (For more info on the June 23 visitation and to view the video of their comments, see the FCFS July President's Message: http://us2.campaign-archive1.com/?u=60a4ff5743d8fe1ceb691b694&id=78e316bb73&e=C5edbf927f.
We think these people seem like great candidates to give an invocation!
Thanks, Susan Ert-Ker
From City Council President's Office
In response to Susan's question to Greg Anderson about scheduling volunteers to give the invocation, she received the below from Leeann Krieg, Executive Assistant to City Council President, Greg Anderson:
Good evening. First, thank you for your continued interest in this issue. We appreciate citizens who remain engaged and passionate.
With regards to the schedule, we do not control who volunteers for the invocation. We are absolutely honored by those who are volunteering of their accord or by way of a Council Member. We have opened it to all faiths. We are a large city and a diverse city. We would be thrilled to have a representative of the Buddhists, Hindus or any other faith.
If you have a person or persons you would like to put forth, please contact either the Chaplinâ€™s office or my office.
Please let me know how I may be of further assistance to you.
Leeann M. Kreig, Executive Assistant to Greg B. Anderson, City Council President
117 W. Duval Street, Ste. 425
From City Council Chaplain
In response to her e-mail to City Council Chaplain, Jim Love, asking him to reach out to minority religions and the nonreligious ("Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Humanists, Unitarians, etc."), Susan received the following:
We did reach out to the Rabbi and we will reach out to other minority religions.
Thank you for your input.
Jim Love, City Councilman, District 14 JimLove@coj.net Office: 904-630-1390, Mobile: 904-710-0200
To apply to give an invocation
Write to the council member representing your district and request to be scheduled. If you know anyone who represents a minority religion or anyone who would give a secular invocation, please encourage them to participate. We want City Council invocations to reflect the diversity of our city!
Be advised, under Florida law, email addresses are public records. If you do not want your email address released in response to a public records request, do not send electronic mail to this entity. Instead, contact this office by phone or in writing.
To Contact Council Members
U.S. Mail address for all members: 117 W. Duval Street, Suite 425, Jacksonville, FL 32202
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.
Readers are invited and encouraged to share our original materials provided they give credit to this publication. The officials of the FCFS are not responsible for opinions or other statements expressed in this newsletter. The FreeThinker is intended to convey ideas that stimulate thought and promote discussion on a variety of subjects.
Information for Contributors
We welcome submissions. Articles, poetry, etc. should be e-mailed to Editor@firstcoastfreethoughtsociety.org. Material must be submitted ELECTRONICALLY. Submissions may be formatted in MS Word, in a text file, or cut and pasted into an e-mail.
The deadline for time-sensitive material is the THIRD SATURDAY of each month for the following monthâ€™s issue, but submissions are welcome anytime.
We prefer articles no longer than 1,000 words. Longer articles will be evaluated in terms of whether their importance and degree of interest to our readers warrant publication.
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 TheChicago 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.
Florida Humanist Association Annual Conference for 2015
FREEFLO - short for "Freethought Florida"
Freeflo 2015 is the only conference in Florida for humanists, skeptics, atheists, and other freethinkers. It will be held from November 6 through 8, 2015.
This year, the conference kicks off with a Friday evening party, including a live band, hors-d'oeuvres, and karaoke! Saturday starts right off the bat with host of The Thinking Atheist podcast, Seth Andrews, followed by an all-star line-up of authors, bloggers, activists, and freethought movement leaders. Saturday night at dinner you'll be entertained by Dan Barker on piano and the progressive comedy of Stewart Huff.
Sunday will be another full day of presentations, starting off with a recording of The Humanist Hour Podcast with host, Dr. Bo Bennett. Matt Dillahunty, host of The Atheist Experience, will close the conference on Sunday afternoon.
All weekend, local organizations, national advocacy groups, vendors, and others will have exhibit tables open. This is a weekend to remember!
Click here: www.free-flo.org to register, to book your hotel room, and for more information. Tickets start at $110.
Freethought Cruise 2016 With Dr. Darrel Ray
Join us on a 3-night Bahamas Cruise
February 5 - 8, 2016
(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. â€”Editor's Note)
I am now in the sixth decade of my life, my mom was right long ago over those summers when I complained about being bored, life really does go amazingly fast! The reality from my position now is that one's life in fact goes by in the blink of an eye. It seems like yesterday when I was protesting the Vietnam war as a 15-year-old wanna be hippie in Akron, Ohio!! And although it was 45 years ago, it really was just yesterday in terms of time. When the idiotic Christians talk about the world being only 6,000 years old, and you realize that dinosaurs actually walked on this planet 65 million years ago, you are reminded of the short and brief existence of any single human being and how rapidly that time goes.
As someone who has recently made enormous changes to his life, I have been contemplating these issues with the particular focus on my own meaningless little life! In 2014 I lost my dad at 92 and my last reason to remain in the United States. I sold what I could, gave away and threw away all of my possessions except a few small boxes of things I couldn't part with that I stored with a friend. I packed two boxes to ship and two suitcases, grabbed my tennis rackets and moved 20,000 miles or so away to the Kingdom of Thailand. I'm now finishing my first year here and seeking another English teaching contract so that I can stay here. I've made enormous changes in my life moving from the American Christian South to Buddhist Thailand. I've moved from a nice condo filled with lots of possessions, two great dogs and a car, to a furnished room and mass transportation (following a few weeks with my own motorcycle, until my accident in which I broke my right ankle, knee, and nose. I sold it afterward!) I left several college/university adjunct professor positions teaching sociology for a job teaching English to kids from Kindergarten to technical college. I left everyone and everything I knew for a place I've never been and people I don't know. Mind you, this has been an enormous change of place, activity and people. But, have I changed as a person? I've gotten a bit more relaxed. Mai Pen Rai is the theme here in Thailand. It basically means "go with the flow" or "don't sweat the little things" as my mom used to say! You never ask, "Why do they do it this way?" here! In Thailand, a very old culture, 2500 years on their calendar, they have their own ways of doing things and don't change easily. I try not to complain about Thailand, just to accept things as they are. But for those of you who know me on Facebook, I sure haven't stopped complaining about what's going on in the home country! Other than this small change in my attitude on Thai soil, I am the same person. In fact, I'm not sure that anyone truly changes their personality. In many ways, I'm still the little 4'9", 15-year-old marching in Akron, Ohio. I've always been outraged by injustice and bigotry, it isn't a new thing. I've always felt inadequate in many ways and that I could do more than I actually do. I've always sought love and compassion in my life. I've always been interested in social justice issues and scientific discoveries. Although I spent some time exploring religious belief and attempting to make sense of it, I've always been very skeptical of claims of religious belief and always sought evidence.
Mai Pen Rai: "go with the flow" or "don't sweat the little things"â€“like ornamental little wooden dragons.
I'm now on the third major loving relationship in my life. I've been reviewing in my mind the details of these relationships. My first began at 19 while I was in college in Kent, Ohio. In those days, I had little understanding of my own nature and I married a woman a bit older than I, when I was 20 years old! Looking back, there are many reasons this was not the most intelligent of decisions, but the biggest one of course is that not knowing myself well at all, it turned out that I was homosexual! But, at 20, trying to be what my parents wanted, I married, finished my master's degree, bought a suit, got a job, and began to make babies!!! As a middle class kid, I had the middle class dream of a white collar job, house with picket fence, wife and kids. I bought into this dream with all of my energy, ignoring most everything else, including my own nature. I worked 60 and more hours a week for years and did well in my career. In the mid-'90s, I reached my peak as a Director of the Ophthalmic Department for Nikon, Inc. in New York. My wife and two sons built a beautiful home on an acre and a half of wooded property. But of course, all wasn't well. My older son got into drugs and my wife and I soon began to drift apart. After the birth of our second child, my wife put on 40 pounds that she never lost. As the shallow person I suppose I am, I let her know in nice and not so nice ways that I found the weight unattractive and wanted her to lose it. She made it clear to me that she didn't care how I felt and that she wasn't going to lose the weight. I was 38 years old, 17 years into our marriage. Even though I had had much opportunity with years of business travel, I had never cheated on my wife, nor even considered having a relationship with anyone else. But now I began to question things and began to realize an attraction I hadn't noticed (or ignored) in the past. I found that I had interest in men while watching pornography that wasn't the same as heterosexual men.
A typical middle-class American family as depicted by Norman Rockwell
One day, while flying from LA to NY in first class, where I was due to so many frequent flyer miles, I met a young flight attendant. He was blonde and handsome and obviously gay. He was the first gay person I ever talked to (that I knew was gay). I found myself very attracted to him. When I was leaving the plane, I told him I was attracted to him. He said, "I'm gay and you're straight." I said, "Ya, but I am really attracted to you. Let me know when you're in town and maybe we can meet again." I gave him my card and left. Within days he called me and we began to talk. The next time he was in town with a layover, we met in his hotel and I had my first encounter with a guy...while the sex was quick, it showed me how natural gay sex was for me. People who claim that being gay is a choice are wrong and don't understand. I can't really explain how comfortable it was with him and how uncomfortable sexuality was with a woman for all of my life. My nature is to be TOO HONEST and of course I told my wife of this encounter. I went to a shrink and a psychologist to help me not to be gay, I told them it was "inconvenient" for me at this time!! But, the genie was out of the bottle. My wife and I never had relations again, and I began to explore my gay side discreetly while I travelled on business. This seemed to work for several years. We lived as a "normal" family and I explored my homosexuality while I travelled 3 out of 4 weeks a month. This went on for several years. We moved across the country once, then again, and finally to Jacksonville, Florida. Each time we moved 35,000 pounds of my wife's books. I tried to get her to donate them to a library but she made it clear that the books were more important to her than I was, so companies who wanted me had to pay to move the books!
In 2000, I decided to move out of the house and in an apartment with another man. It became clear that I wanted more with a man than simply sexuality on the road. Eventually I met someone I really liked and began a relationship which lasted 7 years, many of them good! He was young and went to college and worked part time. After 4 years, he graduated. I expected him to work full time and contribute to our lives. I had been supporting him completely, and I was now not in business but in the much less compensated occupation of adjunct college teaching, a near slave waged occupation, but that's for a future column! He told me he didn't want to work full time. I said I didn't want to either but this is what adults do. He refused, and this built until the relationship dissolved. Later I discovered that while I worked as many as 13 classes a semester to support him, he had been "entertaining" others in my home and even in my bed.
Now, in Thailand I have had the amazing and wonderful change in my 6th decade of finding what I believe is true love with a Thai person. I'm so happy to have found him and to experience life here with a partner. A third loving relationship in life is probably more than anyone deserves, but I'll take it and cherish it for sure! Relationships are not perfect and I know I'm not easy to be with. In our year together, I have been sicker than I've ever been from cat scratch fever (a bite by his cat by the way) and my broken leg, and he's been there to help and support me. Life with someone you care for and who cares about you is a great deal better at least for me. I'm hoping that this is the final major change in my life. I'm hoping to stay in Thailand and with Jhon for what remains in my life. I surely don't have a perfect life, but I have a bit of clarity, affection, and passion that I require. I'm not finished with life though, I'm not ready to retire and fade away. I want to do relevant work. I want to benefit the lives of others. I want to remain engaged in social and political issues. I also realize that life, while going way to quickly, cannot be changed retroactively. Have I made mistakes, do I have regrets? I sure have and do....many many many! Do I wish that I could change the past and correct some of my mistakes? Of course. But, here in mai pen rai Thailand, I realize that I can't change the past, only understand it and try to make the future better. While I have lots of regrets, I fight against the anger that I have toward many in my life, I try to be open should anyone wish to reengage with me. If this ever happens I am intent on not rehashing issues of the past, but in staying in the present and building toward the future.
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: http://firstcoastfreethoughtsociety.org/cms/app and mail it in.
For information on all these activities, please visit http://firstcoastfreethoughtsociety.org, 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
On November 16, our speaker will be Christopher J. Roederer, Professor of Law and Director of International Programs, at Florida Coastal School of Law. We heard Mr. Roederer speak as a panel member at our April 2015 panel discussion, "Freedom of Speech: The Linchpin of a Free Society." He is an excellent and knowledgeable speaker. We are pleased he has agreed to speak at the November FCFS meeting. The title of his talk is, "When the Government Should Shut Up: Religion, Abortion, and Confederate Flags."
You can make a lasting impact on the future of
freethought and secular humanism in this community
â€¦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.
Monday, November 16 - FCFS Monthly Meeting at Buckman Bridge Unitarian Church - 6:30 p.m.
Directions to Monthly Meeting at BBUUC
Our monthly meetings are held at the Buckman Bridge Unitarian Universalist Church (BBUUC), 8447 Manresa Ave., Jacksonville, FL 32244. The address is Manresa, but the main entrance to the church is located on Collins Rd.
From I-295, take the Roosevelt exit. Go north on Roosevelt Blvd. to the first traffic light which is Collins Rd. Turn right onto Collins. Go 400 feet. The main entrance to the church is located on Collins Rd., on the right.
Going south on Roosevelt, look for Atlantic Self-Storage on the left. This is the Collins Rd. intersection. Turn left onto Collins. Go 400 feet. The main entrance to the church is on Collins Rd., on the right. (If you come to I-295, youâ€™ve gone too far, turn around, and you will turn right onto Collins Rd.)