October 2016

Volume 15, Issue 10

Table of Contents

The October 2016 newsletter is the Hurricane Matthew Special Edition sure to be a collectors' item someday.  I'm pleased to report that the Editorial Staff all survived the storm, but power outages and various other, unrelated, circumstances beyond our control resulted in a short and delayed issue.  We hope our readers weathered the storm without too much difficulty. --Editor's Note

October Meeting - This Monday (Oct. 17)!

  • WHO:  Bill Mefford, Faith Organizer, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Washington DC
  • WHAT: “How to Talk to a Person of Faith About Church-State Separation, if You Have To…”
  • WHEN:  Monday, October 17, 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 http://firstcoastfreethoughtsociety.org/cms/lib/fcfs_bbuuc_map.gif)

Meeting Description

Though the world seems to be shrinking, we seem to be growing further apart. Can people of faith and people who embrace a nonreligious worldview work together to ensure freedom of religion for all people? How? Is there common ground that goes beyond the niceties of superficial dialog, where true friendships are built and all people are free to pursue their belief system, be it religious or nonreligious, in a manner that is mutually beneficial? Let’s find out together. 

Meet the Speaker

Bill Mefford serves as the Faith Organizer for Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Previously, Bill spent ten years working with United Methodists from across the United States building grassroots movements on the issues of defending the rights of immigrants, ending mass incarceration, and ending gun violence.

In 2008, Bill earned his Doctorate in Missiology from Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. The focus of Bill’s dissertation is mobilizing the affluent church to political advocacy on behalf of refugees as a means of mission, moving towards the development of a liberation theology for the affluent. Bill earned a Master of Divinity degree in 1998, also from Asbury Theological Seminary, and a Bachelor of Science from McMurry University in Abilene, Texas in 1990.

If you haven't already read Bill's article, "Why People of Faith Should Support Non-Theistic Invocations" (Aug 26, 2016)  appearing on the AU blog, here is the link to it:  https://www.au.org/blogs/wall-of-separation/why-people-of-faith-should-support-non-theistic-invocations.

President's Message - October 2016

Earl Coggins

Last month I wrote about the Democratic National Convention (DNC) email leaks, focusing on the suggested ploy by former DNC CFO Brad Marshall to expose Bernie Sanders as an atheist. I can’t get Marshall’s words out of my head. “Does he believe in a god? I think I read he is an atheist.”
I began to contemplate whether or not Brad Marshall knows how it feels to be different, but worse, how it feels being different and being ridiculed and ostracized for being different. Marshall’s words in his now famous email actually got me depressed. There has been a dark cloud following me around since Marshall’s email made the news.
In my early years as an out-of-the-closet atheist, I occasionally ran into people who didn’t want to be around me because I did not have a belief in a god. I had always let it roll off of my back. It didn’t sink in until a few people in my inner social circle twenty years ago didn’t want me talking to their children about my views on atheism, religion, and the existence of god.
I felt at that moment, after I was explicitly ordered to refrain from talking about atheism to children, as if I was an inhabitant of the Island of Misfit Toys, a place for broken and inherently defective toys in Robert L. May’s 1939 booklet, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

In an instant I realized my plight. I am not part of the status quo. I am not “kind of” or “sort of” different compared with most people. I am very different. Extremely different. Orders of magnitude different. Two years after I was scolded for discussing atheism with children, the First Coast Freethought Society was founded.
Now, when I look back at my life, I see the difference clearly. It wasn’t merely atheism. It was a lot of things. My preference for different types of music, especially the new “psychedelic” sound, my long hair as a teenager, the clothes I chose to wear, questioning the Vietnam War, questioning America’s drug laws, questioning America’s environmental policies, and most of all, questioning why a large subset of the American population had a total disregard for women, non-white people, and homosexuals.  I was more than the opposite of the status quo, I was anti-establishment.
Then just a few days ago (Sept 30th) I was listening to Fresh Air with Terry Gross on our NPR affiliate 89.9 FM radio. My mood was uplifted. Terry Gross was interviewing a Lutheran Minister, but not just any Lutheran Minister. This Lutheran Minister was a woman, but not just any woman either. This female Lutheran Minister was a body-building, tattooed, former standup comedian, and recovering alcoholic. Her name is Nadia Bolz-Weber. What struck me about Bolz-Weber was her candid, analytical approach to unpacking Christianity’s suitcase, with a lot of emphasis on the dirty laundry inside the suitcase.
Nadia Bolz-Weber is a New York Times bestselling author. She discussed a lot of things about her life on the September 30th edition of the NPR radio show Fresh Air with Terry Gross, including one of her books, Accidental Saints: Finding God in all the Wrong People, and a discussion about the church she founded, The House For All Sinners and Saints, a Lutheran Church in Denver, Colorado.

Nadia Bolz-Webber is billed as the Lutheran Minister who preaches to junkies, drag queens, recovering alcoholics, and the people outside of mainstream America. The Washington Post has described her as a tatted-up, foul mouthed champion to people sick of being belittled as not Christian enough for the right and too Jesus-y for the left. She pulls no punches, even when discussing her fellow church leaders. “I don’t think church leaders,” she says, “should pretend to be something they’re not.” Her take on good deeds: “Forget what you have been told about the Golden Rule. God doesn’t love you more if you do good things, or if you believe certain things.”
Terry Gross asked Nadia Bolz-Weber if she cares what the people who come to hear her preach believe. Bolz-Weber said she doesn’t care what they believe. She thinks belief should not be the basis for belonging to her church. She has atheists and agnostics in her congregation. Gross changed gears and asked if belief isn’t what’s important, does she care about the actions of her congregants. Bolz-Webber said she didn’t care and wasn’t concerned about actions either because she does not monitor people’s behavior, which she pointed out is a major tenant of conservative Christianity. She said monitoring people’s behavior has failed to work as a strategy for conservative Christianity. Bolz-Weber told Terry Gross the Christian Church has become a sin management program and it needs to change. Obsession with sexuality by the church, she said, has caused more unhealthy sexual behavior than anything else.
So why am I bringing this up? Because Nadia Bolz-Weber reminds me of John Shelby-Spong. Spong wrote a book called Why Christianity Must Change or Die, published in 1998, the same year the First Coast Freethought society was founded. Spong, Bolz-Weber, and other like-minded Christians are doing what no one else can do to rid Christianity of ancient dogma and halt Christian fundamentalism. They are insiders working from within to effect change. When you get people on the inside of an institution working to make changes, things shift into a higher gear. Working from the outside to change Christianity has been going on for nearly two thousand years and is akin to a surgeon trying to remove a cancerous tumor from a patient in another room. Some of the doctrine and dogma within Christianity has been referred to as dead wood in need of removal. Bolz-Weber has the potential to be a chainsaw when it comes to removing the dead wood of Christian dogma and doctrine. The removal of the old Christian dogma and doctrine is a necessary step towards a less superstitious society. Religion and the belief in a god or gods has to be peeled away one layer at a time, and Bolz-Weber seems to be doing it, although she may not realize it.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s tough for me to listen to her because Bolz-Weber talks about god as if he/she/it is a real person. She preaches about Jesus as if he is a real person. She quotes the New Testament as if the words in it attributed to Jesus were actually spoken by a real person named Jesus: a person born of a virgin; a miracle worker who performed acts which defy the laws of physics; someone who died and came back to life, then ascended into a place called heaven (location unverified). I personally feel the circumstantial evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of dismissing Jesus as anything other than a fictitious, (fabricated sounds better) mythological character similar to Mithra, Heracles, Dionysus, Tammuz, Adonis, Horus, Osiris, or Attis, all, by-the-way, born on December 25.

Olive Garden - Oct. 25, 2016

  • 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, October 25, 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 CarrieRen@att.net, call 904-268-8826, or RSVP on the FCFS Meetup, 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 an FCFS member to attend!

Saints and Sinners and Figuring Out What's Good

Fred W. Hill

It wasn’t particularly surprising that Pope Francis declared Mother Teresa a saint of the Roman Catholic Church last September.  As detailed in Christopher Hitchens’ Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice (1995), Teresa was a pious fraud who, contrary to the common perception that she dedicated herself to helping the poor, really dedicated herself to the cause of her church, often at the expense of the people she was supposedly helping (also see my previous article in the February 2012 issue of The Freethinker, “Christopher Hitchens: On Religion, War, Fascism, & Mother Teresa.” Although saints are popularly or officially deemed to be uncommonly “good”, even a cursory study of many officially sanctified Christian saints reveals them to be anything but good by any reasonable and humane standard, at least if good is defined as promoting the common welfare of others and causing no unjustified harm.  The only real qualification for sainthood is a determination by the Church leadership that the deceased applicant was focused on becoming closer to god by some means and was responsible for at least two miracles, as somehow verified by Church officials on the flimsiest of evidence.  The supposed miracles are taken to be actions of god somehow taken through the posthumous intercession of the saint, thus proving sainthood. 

In popular parlance, however, a saint may be anyone, Christian or not, who does good things.  Jonas Salk, who developed the first polio vaccine and thus helped save hundreds of thousands of people from a crippling or fatal disease, is undoubtedly someone who can be universally regarded as good, although maybe there are a few misanthropes out there lamenting the near eradication of the polio virus.  The breakthrough that brought about the vaccine was not prayer or a miracle but the result of research, experimentation, and hard work.  Whether Dr. Salk was religious at all is irrelevant to the fact that his work was tremendously beneficial to humanity and was not done for the glory of any god or sect.  But that fact eliminates Dr. Salk for consideration of official sainthoodthat and that no one has claimed that praying to a piece of Dr. Salk’s little toe cured a bad case of gout, and he never joined a New Orleans professional football team.  Developing a life-saving vaccine was good but not “good” enough to earn sainthood. 

Mother Teresa, comforts sick children with prayers to bring them closer to god. Saintly in the eyes of the Catholic Church

Dr. Jonas Salk, develops vaccine that prevents polio, a crippling and sometimes fatal disease.  Not saintly but far better.

Admittedly, accurately defining what is universally “good” is hardly straightforward.  I consider myself and the many freethinking friends I’ve met through the First Coast Freethought Society and the Jacksonville Atheists Meetup and elsewhere as good, caring people, but many Christians, Muslims, and other theists are convinced that anyone who even doubts in the existence of their deity or who doesn’t adhere to their particular brand of faith must be an evil dupe of the devil and cannot possibly be good no matter what else they do in their lives.  And while most theists may be content to live and let live and not attempt to force their beliefs on others, there have been plenty of theists throughout history who have resorted to violence against others entirely for reasons of faith and who feel their acts are entirely justified as carrying out the will of their god.  While fortunately relatively scarce among Christians in most early 21st century industrialized nations, they are currently far more active among too many Muslims, murdering other Muslims as well as non-Muslims.  The Islamic State currently misruling portions of Syria and Iraq is just the latest exemplar of such barbaric malfeasance, committing theft, destruction, rape and murder, and insisting it is all “good” and justified in the name of their deity.  Despite claims to the contrary, the members of the Islamic State are being true to their religion as they perceive it based on their reading of the Koran, and many self-described Christians have committed similar atrocities based on their sincere religious beliefs.  It is the extremity of their sincere adherence to their faith that has made moral monsters out of them.  They are, per their own rhetoric, behaving in a way that they believe brings them “closer to god” and thus saints in their own eyes. 

Even so odious a person as Adolf Hitler appeared to believe that about himselfthat the atrocities committed on his orders were for the ultimate benefit of mankind and that he was acting as an agent of godfor the ultimate good.   As Hitler was raised a Catholic, never renounced his faith, was never excommunicated by the Church, and was much admired for launching a war against the godless commies of the Soviet Union, if he had won the war he initiated he might just have been considered a good candidate for sainthood.  Well, maybe not, but certainly many Christians in Germany and elsewhere in the 1930s and early ‘40s looked upon him as a saint-like miracle worker who made Germany great againbefore his wars came home and reduced much of that nation into rubble. Even his anti-Semitic policies were regarded as just deserts for those "uppity" Jews, "Christ-killers" as they were commonly regarded by Christians from all walks of life throughout Europe and the Americas, and obliquely referred to in the liturgies of both the Orthodox and Catholic churches.  Several early Christian saints – Cyprian of Carthage; Athanasius; Hilary of Poitiers; Archbishop of Constantinople John Chrysostom; Jerome; and Augustine – all railed against the Jews as collectively responsible for the alleged murder of their supposed savior (see  http://www.religioustolerance.org/jud_jesu5.htm).  St. Augustine, the most famous of that lot, for whom the oldest city founded by Europeans in what is now the United States was named, and for some strange reason still highly regarded in some philosophic circles for his logic and apparent wisdom, claimed the Jewish people “bear the guilt for the death of the Savior, for through their fathers they have killed Christ," apparently neither logical nor wise enough to recognize the rather simple notion that individuals should only be held to account for their own actions not for those of their ancestors or other kin. 

Martin Luther, esteemed Protestant reformer that he was, also got into the act, writing in his 1543 treatise “On the Jews and Their Lies, “…that their synagogues and schools be set on fire, their prayer books destroyed, rabbis forbidden to preach, homes razed, and property and money confiscated. They should be shown no mercy or kindness, afforded no legal protection…these poisonous envenomed worms should be drafted into forced labor or expelled for all time,” coming to the conclusion, “[w]e are at fault in not slaying them." Presumably many modern Lutherans regard the founder of their branch of Christianity as a very good and wise man.  Obeying Luther’s directives as close to the letter as possible earned Hitler a reputation as the nearest embodiment of evil of anyone to have ever lived, even, I dare suppose, among most of those very same Lutherans.  Still, Luther was supposedly “good” because he was a man of god, while Hitler, well, he was a man who took that man of god’s words and put them into action, and that turned out to be evil. 

Two famous Germans:  One was a priest who started the Protestant movement and wrote a treatise directing discrimination against Jews and suggesting they should be exterminated; the other was a politician whose armies took most of Europe and who put the other's words into practice, murdering millions. One is still widely revered; the other, not so much. 

People of a more humane outlook might be thankful that Pope John XXIII issued a declaration in 1965, "Nostra Aelate," that included a repudiation of the doctrine of collective guilt of all Jews for the execution of Christ.  Better late than never, in 1998, the Church Council of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America adopted a similar resolution.  It only took a Holocaust in which at least six million people were murdered on the basis of their ancestry and/or religious beliefs and a few decades of reflection on that to get the Catholic Church and one Lutheran sect to repudiate at least those bits of wisdom from their oh-so-godly saints and founding fathers.  

St. Augustine and Luther and other revered Christian and other religious leaders supposedly brought their flocks closer to their imaginary god but also promoted a very real hatred that ultimately had very real, horrible consequences.  Theists may do actual good in the name of their deity, but to my view good should be done for the sake of humanity, other living beings or even for the natural environment which benefits us all rather than for the glory or sake of any god who remains invisible and intangible and apparently requires constant prodding by prayer to ever do anything, and even then responds so mysteriously that he might as well not be there at all.  Mother Teresa appeared to have seen her moral duty not as to alleviate the suffering of the patients in her hospitals but to use that suffering to bring them closer to Christ.  She was not quite as hateful as many of her saintly brethren but nevertheless her devotion to promoting her faith resulted in her failure to use the millions of dollars donated to her charity for the physiological good of those patients.  She was more committed to saving their supposed souls than their actual lives.  And she was willfully blind to the causes of much of that suffering being due to overpopulation, ignorance or abhorrence of birth control, filthy living conditions and a lack of adequate medical facilities, which she had the resources to resolve but declined to do so because that would have interfered with her religious devotion.  And for all that she is now a saint.  Closer to god, perhaps, maybe saintly, but hardly exceptionally good.

Call for Nominations for 2016 Board

Liz Duclose, Chair, Nominating Committee


Would you like to help shape the future of the First Coast Freethought Society, share your ideas, and keep us going strong? If you are interested in taking part in the leadership of the FCFS, contact the Nominating Committee Chair, Liz DuClose, to discuss running for a board position.

It is the responsibility of the Nominating Committee to prepare a slate of candidates they recommend.  However, any FCFS member in good standing is eligible to run and is encouraged to do so.  Members may nominate themselves or another member in good standing.   If you nominate another member, written consent of the individual is mandatory before the nominee's name can be placed on the ballot.  Please e-mail nominations and provide any consent necessary to me.

 Nominations must be received by October 31, 2015.

 Feel free to contact me for further information.
 E-mail: lizduclose@gmail.com
 Phone: 352-260-2880 

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! Note, our October speaker is BILL MEFFORD, Faith Organizer, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Washington DC, whose talk is titled, “How to Talk to a Person of Faith About Church-State Separation, if You Have To…”

For meeting details, location, and to RSVP to the FCFS Humanist Book Discussion Group - Jacksonville, join Meetup: http://www.meetup.com/humanistbookgroup/

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 (see link below)
  • What:  Planned for discussion:
    • November 6, 2016 - Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few, by Robert Reich
    • December 4, 2016 -  "InterpathAn Alternative to Interfaith?" an article by Greta Christina 
From the author of Aftershock and The Work of Nations, his most important book to date—a myth-shattering breakdown of how the economic system that helped make America so strong is now failing us, and what it will take to fix it.

Perhaps no one is better acquainted with the intersection of economics and politics than Robert B. Reich, and now he reveals how power and influence have created a new American oligarchy, a shrinking middle class, and the greatest income inequality and wealth disparity in eighty years. He makes clear how centrally problematic our veneration of the “free market” is, and how it has masked the power of moneyed interests to tilt the market to their benefit. 

Reich exposes the falsehoods that have been bolstered by the corruption of our democracy by huge corporations and the revolving door between Washington and Wall Street: that all workers are paid what they’re “worth,” that a higher minimum wage equals fewer jobs, and that corporations must serve shareholders before employees. He shows that the critical choices ahead are not about the size of government but about who government is for: that we must choose not between a free market and “big” government but between a market organized for broadly based prosperity and one designed to deliver the most gains to the top. Ever the pragmatist, ever the optimist, Reich sees hope for reversing our slide toward inequality and diminished opportunity when we shore up the countervailing power of everyone else. 

Passionate yet practical, sweeping yet exactingly argued, Saving Capitalism is a revelatory indictment of our economic status quo and an empowering call to civic action.

(From the product description on Amazon.com)

Link to Book Review:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/15/books/review/robert-reichs-saving-capitalism.html?_r=0  

For More Info:  Go to http://www.meetup.com/humanistbookgroup/ or contact Fred W. Hill at frednotfaith2@aol.com, 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:  Planned for discussion:
    • November 10, 2016 - Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternate Version of American History, by Chris Rodda
    • December 8, 2016 - To Be Announced
Liars for Jesus debunks many of the historical lies invented and used by the Christian nationalist history revisionists in their efforts to further their far right political agenda and destroy the wall of separation between church and state in America. Liars for Jesus is not a book about religion. It is a history book, setting the record straight by presenting and fully documenting the true stories and historical facts that are distorted in the "Christian nation" pseudo-history of our country.

Link to Book Review: https://www.amazon.com/Liars-Jesus-Religious-Alternate-American-ebook/dp/B01AFUVPC6

More Info:  Contact Charlie West at westjrcw@gmail.com 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 http://firstcoastfreethoughtsociety.org and then click the link to Amazon.com for your purchase.

Now, our Correspondent in Thailand...

Morality, Part 2: The Behaviors of Morality 

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]
While people may disagree about where morality comes from, there is general understanding of what is considered to be moral behavior particularly in western cultural traditions.  “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you” suggests behavior that we even see in non-human animal species.  Anyone who lives with a dog and a cat knows that they work things out in such a way that every day is not filled with conflict and fighting!

The religions will tell you that their ideology is required for human beings to act in a moral fashion.  Arthur C. Clarke reminds us that, “one of the greatest tragedies in mankind’s entire history may be that morality was hijacked by religion.”  For free thinkers and anyone using critical thinking who is interested in morality, philosopher Immanuel Kant’s opinion rings true, “the death of dogma is the birth of morality.” This is quite an important realization as religion is not the source of true morality but the enemy of it.  Reason is the source of morality and the justice which fuels it.  Religion provides its own mythological justifications for human behavior and criticizes and is threatened by reason.  Critical thinking and reason question faith and religion, and therefore, the more of them a society has, the less blind adherence there is to religious belief.

So is it immoral to engage in premarital sex? Is morality making women wear burkas or long dresses? Is it morality to insist on eating kosher foods or marrying only heterosexual people of one’s own religion and race?  Is it moral that women should not be permitted to teach men?  Is it moral for a doctor to refuse to prescribe contraceptives because it is against his/her religion?  Much of religious behavior has little to do with morality and much more to do with exclusion, authoritarianism, and control.  Morality is not to be defined by how many times a day one prays to their invisible deity or how much pork one does or doesn’t eat.  A more universal definition of morality is Hammurabi’s code: “do unto others as you’d have them do unto you,” or my mom’s code: “Be Nice!”  While perhaps oversimplified, this type of morality is quite easy to understand and to exemplify.  It can be transferred from one generation to the next and to all cultures and as we’ll discuss later is even recognized in the behaviors of non-human animals. 

Behaving morally simply means conducting yourself in a manner in which acquiring your needs in life does not adversely affect others.  Now this is quite a can of worms, however, especially for Americans who many would argue enjoy their high standard of living due to a great degree on the exploitation of other people around the world. Don’t forget the cheap electronics assembled by enslaved children in China! But you know what I mean!  It is also contrary to the Ayn Rand libertarian ideas of: “I’ve got mine, screw you!” The brilliant revolutionary and philosopher, Thomas Paine, wrote: “Whatever is my right as a man is also the right of another; and it becomes my duty to guarantee as well as to possess.”

We’ll focus on what most might include in a definition for and description of moral behavior. Psychologist Jonathan Haidt laid it out nicely in a talk he called "The Moral Mind, Foundations of Morality." Haidt identified 5 aspects of behavior as the pillars of human morality.  I am using his ideas for my own discussion here. 
  1. I like the Hippocratic Oath for physicians, "Do no harm to others and care for others." This is generally accepted as good moral behavior.  Most philosophies and religions teach that people should not cause intentional injury to one another and should care for those who are not able to care for themselves.  Religion has a myriad of caveats and restrictions, of course, but nevertheless purports the idea. The 10 commandments’ admonition for murder was only intended to be applicable to how Jews were to treat other Jews. The Bible is rife with murder and destruction of gentiles and their families and animals.  Muslims are encouraged, even required to kill infidels, apostates, atheists, homosexuals and a variety of others that “violate” the laws of the Quran.  The Christian charity, The Salvation Army, provides assistance to the poor and destitute but with a great big dose of Christian proselytizing.  Free thinkers should take note that when truly humanitarian people take up this moral code, there are few if any strings attached.
  2. Fairness and reciprocity would be a part of most human moral codes. "You treat me nice and I’ll treat you nice" seems to work for most human societies and social animals in general.  A society in which members can be sure in their treatment by others is one which thrives.  One wants to know the rules that govern a social structure and if it is based on what is fair to all.  In such a culture, one knows that if he behaves fairly he’ll be treated fairly. Of course fairness varies from culture to culture and within cultures and in places like America and Thailand a certain degree of “unfairness” is accepted as permitted and even necessary. There needs to be a political discussion and a psychological one concerning cognitive dissonance and should be taken on another time.
  3. In-group loyalty.  This moral idea has a great many levels of definition and application as well as social evolutionary history.  But, for the purposes of our discussion, let’s understand it to mean a loyalty to the social system in which we are participating. This could be family, tribe, area or nation state. It means that one feels a sense of belonging, responsibility and commitment to the others who share the designation.  Like so many other aspects of morality, there can be much debate as to the importance and value of this attitude, but it certainly has been crucial to the evolution of the species.
  4. Authority and respect. This one has my greatest skepticism as I hate authoritarianism, but I understand that you need agreement within a society as to governing authority, and respect for law is an important moral principle.  Anarchy has never been a useful system of governance or morality.  The basis for justice in a civilization is agreeing to the authority and respect for the law. In America these laws can be reinterpreted and changed but in the end they need to be respected and adhered to.  If law is based on tradition and mythology, respect needs to be aggressively and even violently enforced.  If adherence is based on reason, science, and critical thinking, it is freely given.
  5. Purity and sanctity.  These ideas have to do with the moral principles behind the behaviors of personal space, hygiene, and welfare.  Religion of course mettles endlessly in this arena, but basic ideas of cleanliness and well-being and one’s own domain over one’s own body are understandable moral concepts.
These ideas together form a meaning to the universal ideals of morality and flesh out Hammurabi’s code.  In the next section we will discuss the evolution of morality, the benefits for the species and how morality informs non-human animal behavior.  This will help us to understand the value of morality as it contributes to human freedom and happiness.  We’ll see how morality is the basis for justice, education, healthcare, and social welfare systems.

About Our Newsletter, the First Coast FreeThinker

Information for Readers

The First Coast FreeThinker is published for all freethinkers and potential freethinkers.  Non-members and members may receive the e-mail version indefinitely.  Non-members 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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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 month’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 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.

The FCFS Has Two Meetup Groups!

First Coast Freethought Society Meetup

To receive automated reminders of FCFS events and to conveniently RSVP, join our FCFS Meetup. Click: http://www.meetup.com/First-Coast-Freethought-Society-Inc/

I have been asked, "I am already a member of FCFS. Do I still need to register for Meetup?"

The answer is, "NO." Joining our Meetup will not impact your FCFS membership. We recommend that FCFS members join Meetup to learn of activities that might be posted there and not anywhere else. Also, Meetup makes RSVPing very easy..

For the present, our e-mail announcements and reminders will continue. E-mail distribution of the FreeThinker will continue. And members preferring to receive hard copy, snail-mail newsletters may continue to do so, as well.

Humanist Book Discussion Group Meetup

To attend the FCFS Humanist Book Discussion Group - Jacksonville, you DO need to join the meetup. For meeting details (times, locations, etc., to suggest books or articles for discussion, and to RSVP to attend), you need to join our Humanist Book Group Meetup. Click: http://www.meetup.com/humanistbookgroup/

Joining these meetups is not only convenient and free, it provides for easy social networking with like-minded people. Additionally, high meetup membership numbers reflect a strong presence of freethinkers (including atheists, humanists, etc.) in our community, always a desirable goal.

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: http://firstcoastfreethoughtsociety.org/cms/app 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 http://firstcoastfreethoughtsociety.org/cms/bdg.
  • 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:  http://firstcoastfreethoughtsociety.org/cms/.
  • 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 jaxfreethought-subscribe@yahoogroups.com).
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 2016 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:  904-887-3880
At Large - John Ruskuski:  904-586-7892

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:  904-887-3880
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 info@firstcoastfreethoughtsociety.org

November 21, 2016 Meeting

Carrie Renwick, Program Chair

On Monday, November 21, we will welcome one of our most thought-provoking speakers back to the podium, Joque Soskis. Joque will be examining the current state of our education. The title of his talk is, "American Public Education: The Sinister LinkageACE events, the GINI score, and a Rapidly Deepening Spiral."


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 ● CarrieRen@att.nethttp://firstcoastfreethoughtsociety.org
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

  • October JAM Activities - Please see http://www.meetup.com/jaxatheists/ for details of the Jacksonville Atheist Meetup Group's many activities.
  • Monday,  October 17 - FCFS Monthly Meeting at Buckman Bridge Unitarian Church, 6:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, October 20 - Humanist Book Discussion Group - St. Augustine, 7:00 p.m. Oct. 20 is correct. Meeting postponed one week due to Hurricane Matthew! (For location, directions, and gate code, contact Charlie West at westjrcw@gmail.com)
  • Sunday, October 23 - FCFS Secular Sunday in the Park, Jacksonville, 10:00 a.m.
  • Tuesday, October 25 - FCFS Monthly Social at Olive Garden, Jacksonville, 6:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, October 29 - Submission deadline for the FCFS November 2016 newsletter
  • Sunday, November 6 - Humanist Book Discussion Group - Jacksonville (For details, location, and to RSVP, join meetup at http://www.meetup.com/humanistbookgroup/)
  • Thursday, November 10 - Humanist Book Discussion Group - St. Augustine, 7:00 p.m. (For location, directions, and gate code, contact Charlie West at westjrcw@gmail.com)
  • Tuesday, November 15 - JU Philosophy Slam, at the River House (on campus), 7:30 p.m.
  • Monday, November 21 - 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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