August 2016

Volume 15, Issue 8

Table of Contents

August 2016 Meeting

  • WHAT: â€œThe Physiology of Gender"
  • WHO:  Elaine M. Hull, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, Florida State University
  • WHEN:  Monday, August 15, 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)
MEETINGS FREE  â—  OPEN TO THE PUBLIC  â—  FREE PARKING
 

Meeting Description

Genes and hormones are the major influences on sex differentiation, though stress and social factors also affect the process. There are gender differences in sensory, motor, and intellectual abilities, and emotions which are also influenced by physiological factors. Complications in these processes can lead to gay, lesbian, and transgender development and the difficulties that such people encounter.

Meet the Speaker

It is our pleasure to welcome Dr. Elaine Hull back to the podium in August! You may recall she has talked to us about the neurophysiology of religious experience, and she explored "free will" in her talk titled, "The Devil Made Me Do It."

Dr. Hull received her B.A. in Psychology from Austin College in Sherman, Texas, and her Ph.D. in Psychology from Indiana University in Bloomington. She currently serves as Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience in the Department of Psychology, Florida State University. Her research projects focus on how brain chemistry affects behavior. Dr. Hull resides in Tallahassee with her philosopher husband, Dr. Richard Hull, and their cats. Richard is also an outstanding speaker. Elaine and Richard are both members and supporters of the FCFS and other humanist and freethought groups, as well. Elaine's August talk is especially timely and is titled, "The Physiology of Gender."

Dr. Elaine Hull, whose scientific investigation of the brain chemistry of romancing rats has revealed some interesting findings.

RESEARCH INTERESTS: A particularly fascinating research program of Dr. Hull's has investigated the neuroendocrine control of sexual behavior of male rats. This is significant in that it appears that similar chemical reactions are found in all vertebrates studied thus far, from fish to humans beings. Further, Dr. Hull's program has investigated how the circuitry underlying sexual behavior integrates with that subserving other motivated behaviors including forms of memory and even drug addiction.
 

President's Message - August 2016

The Nones

Earl Coggins


I remember in 2007 feeling extremely giddy when the Pew Research Center released results from its Religious Landscape Study. The 2007 study found that 16.1%t of the American adult population were unaffiliated with religion. I was pumping my fist in the air and basically acting as if I had just won the lottery. For the next seven years, I went around saying 16% of the American population are not religious.

Then came the new Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Study report in 2014, and this time the numbers jumped dramatically, showing 22.8% of the American adult population said they had no affiliation with religion. More fist pumping and jumping up and down. It’s a significant number because it is getting extremely close to a quarter of the adult population. Wherever and whenever an opportunity presented itself, I was boasting about the number of nonreligious people being 23% in America, and I was wrong.

The “unaffiliated” referred to in the Religious Landscape Study are called "Nones." I hear a lot of people mentioning the Nones, and no, I did not misspell the word. It’s Nones, not nuns. What do I hear most often about the Nones?

Over the past nine years, I have heard a lot of people talking about or quoting the Pew Research Religious Landscape Study, directly or indirectly. Most of what I have heard boils down to this: a quarter of the American population have no religion; a quarter of the American population are atheists and agnostics; a quarter of the American adult population are unchurched. The study results support the last of the above three examples: a quarter of the American adult population are unchurched.
The short version of the study results is amazing, especially when compared with the 2007 Pew Research Center Study. The study’s goal was simple: give an accurate assessment of the numbers of people associated with the various worldviews being expressed around the U.S., but also reveal the level of enthusiasm, participation, and commitment they have for their worldviews. Here is a table of the 2014 aggregate study results:
If you added up the numbers and scratched your head, you’re not alone, but no need to worry. It’s rounding error. No big deal. The numbers in my table came straight from the Study.
 
The 2014 results present a new face on the short list of big players: that growing glitch in the family of worldviews, the unaffiliated, or Nones, is trending upward, again.
Let’s examine the Nones in an effort to better understand the sub-labels existing within this big tent label. I want to look closer, partly because David Silverman, President of American Atheists, referred to them indirectly at the recent Reason Rally in Washington DC as evidence to support the notion that a quarter of the American population is nonreligious.

I have heard American Atheist representative Arron Ra say a quarter of America’s population is secular. It’s obvious Ra is referring to the 2014 Religious Landscape Study numbers. I am not sure the Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Study results can support his position, and I don’t think it depends on how he defines the label secular.

I believe there is confusion regarding what exactly is meant by secular. I have heard people use it synonymously with atheism, but how can that be true when we refer to our government as being secular? Our government is not atheistic. Our government is made up of both religious and non-religious people. The Declaration of Independence refers to a creator, an obvious reference to a supernatural entity.

The word secular when used to define our government refers to abstract entities such as policies and laws free from religious dogma and doctrine. Well, in theory it denotes abstract concepts within our government free from religious dogma and doctrine, but the reality of the situation regarding our government is, as you know, quite different.

There are many religious people in the U.S. who want a completely secular government, if we define a secular government as a government having abstract entities such as policies and laws which are free from religious dogma and doctrine. Add those religious secular government advocates to the nonreligious secular government advocates and we have a number clearly exceeding 22.8 percent of the adult U.S. population. This leads me to believe Ra is referring to the Religious Landscape study results and clearly confused about the meaning of both the word secular and the study results.
I digress. The Religious Landscape Study clearly shows America is becoming, albeit slowly, less religious, and also less Christian. See the chart below for a comparison of the 2007 and 2014 aggregate study results. If you unpack the study results, you find a lot of interesting information. 
The study gives several reasons for the decline in religiosity, but the most interesting reason was attrition. The older generations tend be more religious, so as those generations disappear, religiosity too is falling, slowly, by the wayside.
First things first though. What is a None? 
The Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Study defines Nones as people who self-identify as either agnostics (4%), atheists (3.1%), or also as those who say their religion is nothing in particular (15.8%). Did you catch that? A subset of the Nones say “their religion” is nothing in particular. That means a subset of the Nones might or might not have a quasi-religion or nominally religious worldview. The numbers in parenthesis refer to the percent of the total number of adults in the U.S. population.

If you dig deeper into the Religious Landscape report, which is fascinating, you see a better picture of the Nones. The portion of the Nones with the label “nothing in particular” is divided into two sub-categories, which are: religion not important (8.8%) and religion important (6.9%). The questionnaire used by the study is too large to cover in this article, but of particular interest is the fact that when asked about a belief in heaven or hell, some of the nothing-in-particular Nones said they have a belief in heaven and some said they have a belief in hell, and some believed in both. I highly recommend you go to the Pew Forum website and check out the study. Here is the link: http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/.

This essentially means the 23% number representing the unaffiliated most likely cannot be used to support a position statement suggesting approximately a quarter of America’s adult population are nonreligious, secular, or atheist.

Thirty-three percent of the Nones have absolutely no belief in a god or gods, but 19% of the Nones are absolutely sure there is a god. That alone should tell you something about the Nones category: there’s more to it than meets the eye. Say it ain’t so, Joe!

Although the data clearly show we can’t run around saying the Nones are only atheist, or only agnostic, or only nonreligious, or only one particular thing, I think it’s clear freethinking is the engine empowering the minds of the Nones. The Nones are clearly thinking for themselves. The Nones are clearly not buying into organized religion even though some of them have varying degrees of religiosity. Their religiosity might compare evenly with a nanoparticle, but it is still religiosity, nonetheless, and cannot be lumped in with the nonreligious Nones. But then, there it is, that whole label business creeping into the narrative. Can you be religious, nominally or otherwise, nanoparticle religiosity if you will, and still be a freethinker? To be continued.

P.S. Another interesting aspect of the study results is the percentage of religiously affiliated people who have no belief in a god! Yes! Check out the table below taken directly from the report. It shows the percentage of people who are members of a religion and either have no belief in a god, believe in a god, or have various degrees of doubt. This brings up an interesting question. Are those religiously affiliated people who are not sure about the existence of a god agnostics? If you see the logic here, then is an agnostic Christian a tenable position? To be continued, for sure.
P.P.S. You heard it here first: nanoparticle religiosity! Perhaps a new book! Particle physics and the Nones: Religiosity Takes a Quantum Leap.

Olive Garden - Aug 23

  • 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, August 23, 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!

Great Conquerors and Other Heroes and Villains 

Fred W. Hill


Nearly every human culture engages in some form of hero-worship. Sharp divisions about who to regard as a hero also exist within any large culture—although Lincoln is deeply admired by most Americans for his role in ending legal slavery and keeping the nation united, there are also many who think it wasn’t worth the bloodshed and that the Confederates should have been allowed to leave in peace and retain slavery (never mind the plight of the slaves who likely would have stayed in such condition for many more decades, along with all of their progeny) and that diminished, but not quite extinguished, contingent that believes ending slavery was terrible and that Nathaniel Bedford Forrest was a great hero for his exploits as a Confederate general, and having murdered Negro Union solders and founded the Ku Klux Klan. But of course, heroes aren’t limited to politicians and warriors, but also include philosophers, religious founders, civic leaders, musicians, actors, writers, athletes, firefighters, law enforcers, or anybody who does good for others without expectation of reward and provides a good role model. Alas, many of those regarded as heroes are terrible role models, even if they have some significant talents. Jesus Christ, as depicted in Christian bibles, for example, instructs people to abandon their families to join him and condemns any who doubt his word to eternal damnation, hardly acts of a supposed loving savior and not someone I could admire, whether or not he truly existed or was the son of a god or a mortal carpenter. All heroes, even those of our myths and other fictions, have feet of imperfect clay.

To the ancient Greeks and Romans, a hero was by definition someone who was the offspring of a god (or on rare occasion a goddess) and a mortal. Typically, while heroes were less powerful than actual gods, they had far greater strength and other physical capacities than mere full-blooded mortals. Herakles (or Hercules) was the greatest of them all, touted as an ancestor by many politicians of antiquity and at least a few emperors, looking to shine in his mythic glory, even if much of it rested on feats of incredible strength rather than on wisdom. Oh, sure, at least a few heroes were cherished for their intelligence, diplomatic or artistic skills, but the masses tended to most idolize heroes who could supposedly move mountains with their muscles. Or, in the case of actual mortals, those who could lead armies to successfully beat real or imagined enemies and expand the realm.

4th Century BCE statue of Herakles slaying the Hydra.

Alexander the Great, who extended the Macedonian Empire from Greece to western India, absorbing the Persian Empire which had once been the greatest threat to the Greeks, became a role model for later dreamers of empire such as Julius Caesar who viciously subjugated the Gauls—not because they posed a particularly dire threat to the Romans, but because doing so increased his political clout and gave him great glory in the eyes of the Roman masses. Despite his murder by a group of Senators who feared Caesar’s great ambitions, he remained a hero to most Romans who subsequently flocked to support his great-nephew and heir, Octavian, who would later adopt the titular name Augustus Caesar and who would oversee the conversion of Rome from a quasi-republic, mostly ruled by term-limited consuls who had to curry the favor of the Senate, to an empire mostly ruled by whoever had the support of the biggest army which cowed the Senate into submission. The prestige of both Julius and Augustus was such that their hereditary cognomen, signifying the Caesar branch of the Julii family, became a royal title, surviving into the 20th century under the German variant Kaiser and the Russian Tsar and Slavic Czar. And over 500 years after the fall of the last remnant of their empire, their names remain part of our modern calendars in the months named July and August for them. 

Napoleon Buanoparte, Benito Mussolini, and Adolf Hitler all also dreamed of creating great and lasting empires and, while they each had some short term success, they also aroused such animosity to their particular styles of ruling that their empires all fell apart during their lives, and each came to ignoble ends. Napolean has had a conflicted legacy since he crowned himself emperor in 1804, admired for his apparent ideals and military successes in his early years, ridiculed for the megalomania of his later years. Beethoven, a hero in his own right for his compositional genius, had once held Napoleon in great esteem as a champion of human rights and deposer of regal tyrants and originally named and dedicated his 3rd symphony to him.  However, as reported by Ferdinand Ries, a pupil and secretary to Beethoven, “I was the first to tell him the news that Buonaparte had declared himself Emperor, whereupon he broke into a rage and exclaimed, ‘So he is no more than a common mortal! Now, too, he will tread under foot all the rights of Man, indulge only his ambition; now he will think himself superior to all men, become a tyrant!' Beethoven went to the table, seized the top of the title-page, tore it in half and threw it on the floor. The page had to be recopied, and it was only now that the symphony received the title Sinfonia Eroica.” Incomprehensibly, there are people who still regard Mussolini and Hitler as “great men” but most hold the former to have been a pathetic, pompous, strutting fool who led his mostly unwilling and unprepared nation into a war it could not win for his own egotistical reasons; and the latter as such an embodiment of evil that some critics are disturbed at dramatic portrayals that depict him as almost too normally human, someone who was even nice to his staff, rather than as an eternally raging, viciously cruel demon. (See  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/3638791/Adolf-Hitler-man-or-monster.html.) 

The composer and the conqueror, Beethoven and Napoleon, contemporaries but not quite best friends forever.

Putting all other great conquerors to shame, however, is a man born in 1162 CE and named Temüjin (“Iron”), but in 1206, after having gotten numerous Mongol-Turkic tribes that had previously engaged in incessant squabbling, to unite under his rule, would become known as Chinggis Khaan or, in the western variant, Genghis Khan, meaning “universal leader.” Genghis Khan and his sons and grandsons would go on to establish an empire larger than any other that has existed before or since, from as far west as modern southeastern Poland, all of China and Korea, as well as Iran, Afghanistan, and other central Eurasian nations, and most of what are now Turkey, Iraq, and Pakistan. Genghis was an organizational genius, generally tolerant of all religious beliefs and open-minded to new ideas, aside from any involving freedom to disobey his demands. The Mongols were brutal in expanding their empire—promising destruction to any cities that did not immediately surrender to them and for most of the 13th and early 14th centuries having the capacity to carry out their threats, slaughtering an estimated 40 million people, enslaving millions more, laying waste to much of Iran, and destroying many major cities, including Baghdad and Kiev. While both eventually revived, neither ever quite restored their former glories. Needless to say, descendants of those the Mongols had subjugated do not recall the great Khan and his progeny with much love. Eventually, the Mongol Empire did fall apart; and as it had once held all of China, China would come to rule all of Mongolia and still holds much of the southeastern portion, known as the Autonomous Region of Inner Mongolia. The northwestern portion became the somewhat independent nation of Mongolia in 1924, sandwiched between China and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, nearly all of the those republics having once been part of the greater Mongol empire and the U.S.S.R. having sufficient influence over Mongolia to forbid its leaders from allowing any tribute to their greatest national hero, although they allowed the capitol to be named UlaanBaatar (“Red Hero”) in honor of Damdinii Sükhbaatar (whose surname means “axe hero”), a leader in Mongolia’s struggle for independence from China.  It would not be until after the U.S.S.R. itself had fallen apart, that Mongolians again openly revered the memory of Genghis Khan and, in celebration of the 800th anniversary of his uniting the Mongol peoples, named the Chinggis Khaan International Airport after him.

Genghis Khan (1162 - 1224), the Universal Leader of the Mongols and founder of what would become the world's largest contiguous empire and, incidentally, kill about 40 million people to achieve that distinction.

Much closer to home, we have our own city of Jacksonville, named in 1819 after then famed war hero and military governor of Florida and later President, Andrew Jackson, cheered as a hero of the common white men, most of whom in his era weren’t troubled at all that he owned many slaves and slaughtered or forcibly pushed aside Native Americans from lands they had long held but which European Americans now wanted. That not everyone in northeast Florida adored Jackson may be attested by the fact that Clay County, just south of Jacksonvile, was named for his greatest political rival, Henry Clay. Nevertheless, Jackson won most of his political and military battles and has long appeared on twenty dollar bills, although the Treasury Secretary Jack Lew recently announced that a black woman and anti-slavery activist, Harriet Tubman, will soon replace Jackson on the front of the bill, while Old Hickory’s grimacing visage will be relegated to the back of the bill. (See http://www.politico.com/story/2016/04/treasurys-lew-to-announce-hamilton-to-stay-on-10-bill-222204.)

Even closer to my own house, just north of the Everbank stadium, is Martin Luther King, Jr. Parkway, named for the Civil Rights leader in 2001, fewer than 40 years after he had been imprisoned for his activism and held in contempt by most civic leaders of many of the towns and cities where he is now honored with roadways named for him throughout Florida and other southern states. Another Jacksonville street is named for A. Philip Randolph, another black civil rights activist as well as a self-identified atheist and a signatory to the Humanist Manifesto II of 1973 (and I’ll write more about him in a future article).

Andrew Jackson in heroic conqueror pose at the Jacksonville Landing with graffiti, presumably not by an admirer. 

Ultimately, heroism is subjective—one man's hero, to paraphrase a common saying, may be another's mass murdering fiend, and those who champion civil rights for all are often despised by those who prefer some people remain oppressed and subjugated. As a humanist, I find the likes of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., A. Philip Randolph, Carl Sagan, and Charles Darwin, among many others, far more admirable for having championed civil rights and advanced our knowledge of the universe far more than any conquerors or other strong men. But I don't regard anyone who ever lived as being a perfect being, to be held as a paragon of all that is right and who could never possibly have erred. Everyone is fallible in some way or another, and some to a far greater degree than others. And even if no one remembers our names a century after our inevitable passing, in the words of David Bowie, "we can be heroes, just for one day" (or maybe more) in doing our best to treat one another with fairness, respect, and consideration, even if we don't always live up to our own great ideals.
 



2016 NPR Corporate Sponsorship Fund Drive Update

Carrie Renwick, Fundraising Chair


The purpose of our fund drive is to keep our National Public Radio announcements about the FCFS going strong on NPR member radio station WJCT, 89.9 FM.
 

Progress


As of this writing, August 7, 2016, we have reached 70% of our goal! We have received $4,560 towards our goal of $6,500. We're almost three-quarters of the way there! But we need your help! If you are planning to contribute and have not yet done so, now would be a great time. If you haven't thought of contributing, we strongly urge you to consider it. No amount is too small. You can be part of keeping our NPR announcements on the air, which may well be the most significant project the FCFS undertakes for the community, not just for the FCFS, but for the cause of all nonreligious people like us.
 

To Donate on a Monthly Basis


You can now set up automatic monthly donations which you may find very convenient and easy on the budget. You can do this in two different ways. 
  1. Use the PayPal donate button on our website to schedule automatic monthly donations. Automatic monthly donations via PayPal require you to have a PayPal account.
     
  2.  Set up automatic payments through your online banking system.

To Donate on a One-Time Basis

Should you prefer to donate on a one-time basis, here are the ways.
  1. Use the PayPal donate buttons on our website. You do not need a PayPal account to use a major credit card.
     
  2.  Mail a check payable to the FCFS to P.O. Box 550591, Jacksonville, FL 32255.
     
  3.  Bring your contribution to a meeting or another FCFS event and give it to a board member.
Whichever method you select, you will receive a letter from the treasurer, suitable for your IRS records, acknowledging your tax-deductible contribution.
 
Thank you for your support!

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 Natural Majesty of the Rockies and the Travesty of Ken Ham's $100,000,000 Ark


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


There are few things more majestic than our Rocky Mountains. Touring through the rugged landscapes, the observer is overwhelmed by a world of snowcapped peaks, scenic lakes, deep canyons, bizarre rock formations, and geological curiosities. 
 
The rugged scenery at higher altitudes is a reminder of the world of volcanoes and upheavals of earth that took place millions of years ago. Canyons carved out by millions of years of flowing water and streams fed by melting snow seem almost commonplace. The geological history of our planet is writ large on a canvas that inspires both awe and reverence. Forces of nature that make us seem virtually insignificant are manifest in every direction.
 
Much of my early career seems now dominated by the ubiquitous September demand for an essay entitled, “What I did on my Summer Vacation!” The Rockies loom large for me this summer! What a joy to read in those panoramas the story of the creation of our planetary home.
 
But there was a tinge of sadness while taking it all in, digesting it and making it a part of me, the mere observer. The sadness is for a group of people who are convinced that all this natural beauty came about during no more than the past 6,000 years. How can they appreciate a canyon carved by a river through layers of stone over the course of a million years if they are so literal in their reading of the creation stories of Genesis? How can they understand the meaning of volcanic activity that took place millions of years ago if they think that creation took just six days?

Scene from Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. 

This, by the way, is the point of view of the organization Answers in Genesis, the “Young Earth” creationist group that operates a “Creation Museum” and “Ark Encounter,” a replica of Noah’s Ark replete with humans and dinosaurs living together under Noah’s watchful eyes in rural Kentucky!
 
Americans United for Separation of Church and State has taken a leadership role in fighting Answers in Genesis’ grab for taxpayer dollars and a myriad of governmental benefits so it can promote its bizarre point of view. Yet the “Young Earth” proponents seem to be getting their way. 
 
Famously, Bill Nye the Science Guy has gone up against Ken Ham, the founder of Answers in Genesis, with convincing arguments that the story being told by the “Creation Museum” and “Ark Encounter” are simply not science! Nye’s crusade deserves our attention. Right here in Florida, at least 164 schools funded with public money, your tax dollars and mine, teach so-called “Creation Science!” Some of those schools are within walking distance of members of the First Coast Freethought Society.
 
But while Bill Nye brings the voice of science to this argument, science is not the only adversary the silliness of so-called Creationists must encounter. There are actually those of us who read the Bible who have arguments to bring to the discussion.  
As a Rabbi, I have a few contributions to make, as well. We would all do well to remember that most so-called Creationists rarely read the Book of Genesis, preferring to read translations instead.  They miss the beauty of the poetry and the metaphor of that first chapter when they rely on human translators! 
 
Yet some so-called Creationists, who loudly declare the "glory, the power and the majesty" of God, would deny their deity’s preference to using the language of metaphor and foolishly commit to a single-minded—and wrong-headed—literal meaning of a metaphoric text. 
 
Rabbi Neil Gilman, Professor of Philosophy at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York, is certain that when these literalists read Carl Sandburg declaring that “the fog crept in on little cat’s feet” they are concerned about how long the cat’s claws are, how many whiskers on their faces, etc.  When they hear a news report, says Gilman, that “the stock market shrugged off the bad news” they want to know how big the stock market’s shoulders are!
 
Others lament the inability to read a sacred text carefully. Ask a Creationist why each of those days in the first chapter of Genesis must be 24 hours long, they will tell you that “all days are 24 hours long!” Ask them why and ultimately they’ll get to the fact that the time from one sunset (or sunrise) to the next takes 24 hours! Then, please ask them, on which of the first six days the sun was created?  It will take them some time to discover that the sun wasn’t created until well after the beginning of the fourth day.  So, why do days one, two, three, and four need to be 24 hours, rather than half-a-billion years? 
 
In the end you and I may be using “intellectual speech” in trying to communicate to people who are only hearing “emotional speech.”  But that doesn’t mean that we are free of the obligation to give reason a fair try. Try it and let me know how it goes!
 

"Dinners for Doubters"

(Includes agnostics, atheists, freethinkers, humanists, skeptics... of course!)

Carrie Renwick, Program Chair


“Dinners for Doubters” is a very easy way to create an instant dinner party. Doubters (agnostics, atheists, humanists, skeptics, freethinkers) can get to know other doubters and form friendships in a festive, congenial atmosphere.
 
It works like this: Say, you decide to host a Dinner for Doubters. You pick a date and choose a location. You decide how many people you’d like to invite. We’ve found a party totalling six or eight works well, but this is entirely up to you. We’ve had Dinners with anywhere from 4 to as many as 30! You may prefer to have it in your home or in a restaurant of your choice—in which case, you would probably elect to go Dutch.
 
When your date, location, and guest list are established, you and your guests will want to plan the menu. Traditionally, the host provides the entrée; and you and your guests would decide who is responsible for a salad, vegetable, dessert, beverage, etc. But again, these details are up to you.
 
If you would like to host a Dinner, let me know (carrieren@att.net). I will be happy to post your event on Meetup and convey the RSVPs to you; or, if you’re familiar with Meetup, you may prefer to be granted organizer privileges for your event. We encourage everyone to join the Meetup. http://www.meetup.com/FirstCoastFreethoughtSociety/ as RSVPing and communicating through Meetup is so convenient.

With details finalized, all that remains is mixing and mingling, getting to know new interesting people, and allowing freethinker friendships to flourish. Consider hosting a Dinner!

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:
    • September 4, 2016 - Bad Faith, by Paul A. Offit, M.D.
    • October 2, 2016 - to be announced
In recent years, there have been major outbreaks of whooping cough among children in California, mumps in New York, and measles in Ohio’s Amish country—despite the fact that these are all vaccine-preventable diseases. Although America is the most medically advanced place in the world, many people disregard modern medicine in favor of using their faith to fight life threatening illnesses. Christian Scientists pray for healing instead of going to the doctor, Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse blood transfusions, and ultra-Orthodox Jewish mohels spread herpes by using a primitive ritual to clean the wound. Tragically, children suffer and die every year from treatable diseases, and in most states it is legal for parents to deny their children care for religious reasons. In twenty-first century America, how could this be happening?

In Bad Faith, acclaimed physician and author Dr. Paul Offit gives readers a never-before-seen look into the minds of those who choose to medically martyr themselves, or their children, in the name of religion. Offit chronicles the stories of these faithful and their children, whose devastating experiences highlight the tangled relationship between religion and medicine in America. Religious or not, this issue reaches everyone—whether you are seeking treatment at a Catholic hospital or trying to keep your kids safe from diseases spread by their unvaccinated peers.

Replete with vivid storytelling and complex, compelling characters, Bad Faith makes a strenuous case that denying medicine to children in the name of religion isn’t just unwise and immoral, but a rejection of the very best aspects of what belief itself has to offer.

Link to Book Review:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/12/books/review/bad-faith-by-paul-a-offit.html 
 
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:
    • September 8, 2016 - Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few, by Robert Reich
    • October 13, 2016 - To Be Announced
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.

Link to Book Review:  http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2015/12/17/robert-reich-challenging-oligarchy/
 
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...

Death without Religion

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. â€”Editor's Note]
  
I’ve been having a lot of discussions about religious belief, mortality and the meaning of life lately. I suppose part of it is my advancing age—the fact that loved ones and others I care about are dying—and my involvement on Facebook and with my colleagues at work. 

I work in a school with 65 or so foreign faculty. About half are Filipino and the rest of us are native speakers from the U.S., England, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Germany, and Pakistan.  A staggering proportion of these supposedly well educated people are religious. The Filipinos of course are Catholic, but many of the others come from a variety of Christian sects from mainstream Anglicans to Seventh Day Adventists.  

Over lunch in our dining room, more than once the topic of conversation has involved religion. I have grown much less interested in “keeping my mouth shut” during these discussions and have found that I myself have even introduced the topic. Yesterday in discussing climate change and how it might be solved, we discussed technological developments and political courage, and I brought up the fact that as long as religion perpetuates it’s anti-intellectual and anti-scientific positions and “requires” it’s adherents to have as many children as possible, the climate change situation will only get worse. It seems that any issue in which religion has a say, the social problem only gets worse. Whether discussing climate change, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, sexism, or virtually any other issue of concern, religion always supports the continuation of hatred, strife, and intolerance. Christianity in particular seems to always favor fascist, repressive leaders. Mussolini, Hitler, Peron, the Junta in Argentina, and Putin are among so many examples, and the Evangelical Christian support for Don the Con in America is yet another clear example. The horrifying destruction of Native American populations, African slavery, the Inquisition, and so many other deplorable behaviors of humanity all were supported actively by Christian organizations. The hatred for and opposition to science and technology by religion is not a new behavior as well. Free thinkers, scientists, and those who question have been killed by the religious since the days of Socrates, and thousands of such people were burned at the stake in Europe during Christian domination. While the Catholic church has formally apologized for this behavior, Christianity continues to be the leading voice in virtually every anti-intellectual and anti-scientific endeavor.  
So, I have undertaken to point out the facts about religion in these discussions and online. It is interesting when the religious come back with the comment, “What about all the good that religion has done?” and I ask, "What is it?" and there is silence! It is truly fascinating that people follow made-up bronze age myths so closely that they kill and die for them but have really no idea why. While there are clearly examples of good being done in the name of religion and good people like Jimmy Carter demonstrating such behavior, the vast historical record of religion, particularly Christianity, is truly vile and horrifying. A trip through religious history is reminiscent of a Stephen King novel. And yet the religious talk about moral authority and question how atheists can be trusted to do good without religion. This is especially true at death. 

I’ve always thought of Christianity as a death cult, as it is totally focused on the “next life” and does everything it can to denigrate and belittle this human body and existence in favor of the totally imagined future existence body free. So often I hear the comment, “Bbut what if you are wrong, what if there is a deity and an afterlife just as Christians say?”   The comeback of course is, “What if YOU are wrong and you’ve wasted your entire life believing in drivel?” But I usually don’t take that tack. Instead, I point out that in their own mythology, the deity made human beings in its image and gave us intelligence. If there is such a creature, it would be proud of its atheist creations who used their mind and reason rather than having blind faith. Far from punishment, this creature would probably reward the thinking human beings. 
The devil gorging on some freethinkers, heretics, and infidels, as  imagined by Stefan Lochner (c. 1410 - 1451).
The discussion aside, death without religion is a quite interesting phenomenon. The entire basis for religion, why it was invented, and why people adhere to it is the fear of our demise. It is our self-importance that makes us not want to think of life continuing without us. The vastness of the universe makes it pretty clear to thinking people the very insignificance of each of our existence in reality. However, it also makes it clear how amazing existence is and how every moment of it should be savored, protected, and enjoyed. When we contemplate the purpose of our lives, we are not bound to a fictional account created by bronze age sheep herders. We can use reality and write our own story. Our lives and our work is up to ourselves, and what we do with our lives is our legacy and life after death. My dad, who died in 2014, left me with a legacy of love and caring that will always be with me. His life was valuable and purposeful in the good that he did for others and the love that he shared. Each of us has some impact in the world, some much more than others, but each of us can make an impact. I always wanted to make major impacts like Martin Luther King did, but I realize that everyone can create and influence in some way. My work now with little children is quite fulfilling and enjoyable and hopefully somewhat impactful. There is little need for mythology in life if one understands the immensity and amazing nature of the universe. There is little need for a fictional, invisible daddy in the sky, when one can appreciate the beauty and love of nature, of animals, and of human beings. No one would be happier than I to discover that the mythology is real and there is something after death—I’d love to talk to my dad once again—but the magic and wonders of life, as I know it, are incredible just as they are. There is no need to waste energy believing in what cannot be proven, when there is so much to learn and to do in the real world. Death without religion is just like death with religion, except reality is a more mature and reasonable position than childish fantasies based on fear and egotism. We teach children things to allay their fears and to comfort them to their understanding. Adults can understand and accept reality. When it comes to life and death, I choose an adult approach.

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.

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 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 Meetups!


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
904-419-8826
http://firstcoastfreethoughtsociety.org
 

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.
 

Membership

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.

Meetings

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

September 19, 2016 Meeting

Carrie Renwick, Program Chair


On Monday, September 19, Frances Siver, MS, RDN, LDN, Coordinator, ISPP Program, Department of Nutrition and Dietics, Brooks College of Health, UNF, will dispel some of the myths and misunderstanding surrounding nutrition, weight loss or gain, and healthful eating.

Bequests

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.net ● http://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

  • August JAM Activities - Please see http://www.meetup.com/jaxatheists/ for details of the Jacksonville Atheist Meetup Group's many activities.
  • Monday,  August 15- FCFS Monthly Meeting at Buckman Bridge Unitarian Church, 6:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, August 23 - FCFS Monthly Social at Olive Garden, Jacksonville, 6:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, August 27 - Submission deadline for the FCFS August 2016 newsletter
  • Sunday, August 28 - FCFS Secular Sunday in the Park, Jacksonville, 10:00 a.m.
  • Sunday, September 4 - Humanist Book Discussion Group - Jacksonville (For details, location, and to RSVP, join meetup: http://www.meetup.com/humanistbookgroup/)
  • Thursday, September 8 - Humanist Book Discussion Group - St. Augustine, 7:00 p.m. (For location, directions, and gate code, contact Charlie West at westjrcw@gmail.com)
  • Monday, September 19 - 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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