2014

 

Why I Feel Rich

July 2014

A June opinion feature in the New York Times reported results of a poll that asked how much income the respondents felt to be enough for them to feel rich.

Another opinion piece, in a regular corner called The Great Divide, referring to extremes of income inequality in our country, led writer Maria Konnikova to suggest that at least as important for low income workers is the scarcity of time. Many need two jobs to survive, she remarks. Especially for those with families, many must borrow time from one part of their lives for another even more pressing task.

Little time is free to consider the relative effectiveness of present choice. There is little time to invest in improving their future options. Without funds left at the end of the week, options are fewer. Change equals uncertainty and is avoided; stress in the short term, now and again, can motivate us but ongoing stress depletes us and makes any changes a leap into choppy waters.

True wealth, I have concluded, is options, time plus a variety of skills and experiences to draw upon as needed. It’s also frequent breaks, time to relax, opportunities to converse with some with life experiences very different from your own. For instance, half an hour ago I answered the doorbell to see the two young Mormon missionaries working my neighborhood; I led them into the back yard and fed them raspberries from my loaded bushes.

Wealth is space that can be rearranged, filled, emptied. Wealth is a quiet green back yard. Wealth does not need to borrow to fix a car of see a dentist. Wealth is a dollar to give to the homeless flying flag. Wealth knows the neighbor’s granddaughter, admiring her new shock of orange hair. Wealth is blueberries in my granola, cranberry raisins and raspberries on top of the banana, almond milk poured over all. My breakfast this morning: this plus coffee loaded with malted cocoa, warmed in the microwave, is why I feel rich.

–Jeanette Ross
Secular Idaho News

Web Site of the Month

Humanists of Utah

Member Recommended Web Sites

December 2014

The Neighborhood We Live In

Flo Wineriter recommends this website which starts with the earth and then moves out, way out. It is fascinating how huge the universe it. Check out the 26 images that progressively retreat from the starting point of Terra Firma

The Neighborhood We Live In


Do you have a favorite web site you’d like to share with other readers of this page? If so please let us know!

Summer Reads

June 2104

To me nothing is more enjoyable than on summer day sitting with a glass of ice tea and good book. With that in mind I was discussing this idea with my Dad and we both came up with suggested books to help you in enjoy the upcoming summer months. So here are five suggested books: “Death Comes to Pemberley,” by P. D. James. Ms James has over 30 years in British Civil service but this greatness only helps in the development of the story line. The best part is her use of the English language. We would suggest having a dictionary handy; you might find your own language improving.

Following the similar lines of a government worker, “The Dark Hour,” by Robin Burrell has 20 years as a police officer and forensic artist with the FBI. This work comes into play with conspiracy theory affecting different countries.

George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring that Saved American Revolution,” by Brian Kilemeade and Dan Yaeger. This book helps codify the fact that women (or we should say one woman) helped George Washington in the Revolution as one of the six spies. This book is the basis for the television show “Turn” on AMC.

The Story of Beautiful Girl” by Rachel Simon; is a book about the stigma of society’s misgivings and treatment of individuals as they develop though young children to adults and how society changes with prevailing attitudes.

The last suggested read is “Only One Change: How Environmental Pollution Impairs Brain Development” by Philippe Grandjean. Mr. Grandjean explores one question throughout the book: will managing chemical brain drain require a level of thinking that is no longer possible? Yes, this is one I read; in exploring this one question it addresses the need for radical changes and what they might be. Enjoy your summer reading; my Dad and I will hopefully have additional suggestions for fall.

–Cindy King

Summer Reads

July 2104

For Mystery Buffs

Here are three mysteries from across the seas. The first, “The Thirteenth Tale” is number one on the New York Times bestseller list from a first time author Diane Setterfeild. She a former academic specializing in twentieth century French literature; she lives in Yorkshire, England. The Story: a reclusive author Vida Winter, famous for her collections of twelve enchanting stories, has spent the past six decades penning a series of alternate lives for herself. Now old and ailing, she is ready to reveal the truth about her extraordinary existence and the violent and tragic past she has kept secret for so long.

Two novels by the duo of Danish authors Lene Kaaberbol and Agenete Friis provide us two fine mysteries: the first, an international bestseller, is “The Boy in the Suitcase,” the story: Nina Borg, a Red Cross nurse, wife, and mother is a compulsive do-gooder who can’t say no when someone asks for help- even when she knows better. When her estranged friend Karin leaves her a key to public locker in the Copenhagen train station, Nina gets sucked into her most dangerous project yet. Inside the locker is suitcase and inside the suitcase is three-year old boy, naked and drugged, but alive. The second: “Invisible Murder” is the story of two impoverished Roma boys, who are scavenging for odds and ends to sell on the black market when they stumble upon something more valuable to than they every anticipated. A thousand miles away in Denmark, Red Cross nurse Nina Berg puts life and family on the line when she visits a group of sick Hungarians Gypsies living in Copenhagen garage. What are they hiding and what is making them so sick?

–John Young

Sherrie Swensen

December 2104

Our guest speaker for our November general meeting was our Salt Lake County Clerk, Sherrie Swensen. We were treated to an enlightening discussion of the changes and challenges that have occurred in the voting processes and other County Clerk functions during her many years as our county clerk (and she easily won re-election to this office, thanks to her many years of excellent service).

One of the main things that has occurred was the shift from paper ballots to machine voting. She explained how recent improvements in voting machine technology have made voting not only easier but also more resistant to fraud and errors, since the voting machines also produce a paper hard copy of the votes being cast, which can be used to verify the electronic record.

Another change in recent years is the widespread use of mail-in ballots, which makes it easier for people to vote without the hassle of getting to a polling place on Election Day. However, she mentioned this means that not all of the ballots cast will be counted by Election Day, so the final results in close races may not be known until the official tally is released on November 18. This certainly proved to be the case this year when the final results (which now included the mail-in, absentee, and provision ballots) caused a shift in the preliminary results released on election night; three Utah House of Representative seats shifted from Democratic to Republican victories (what had appeared to be a pickup of two House seats for Democrats ended up being a net loss of one). This is the first time in recent memory that there was a shift in the outcome of three races occurring after the preliminary election night results were released).

One of Ms Swensen’s goals has been to encourage voter registration by making voter registration forms widely available, and also to encourage high school registration so that students will be able to vote as soon as they turn 18 years of age. On-line tools are also now available to aid in voter registration. Another improvement is to make early voting available at a number of locations several weeks prior to Election Day. This allows people to vote early and avoid the crowds on election day; the voting machines at these locations will automatically provide a ballot that matches your current registered address, regardless of where you early vote.

The Salt Lake County Clerk’s office has other duties than elections, such as issuing marriage licenses and passport applications. The Clerk’s office has been diligent in following the recent decisions of the courts in rulings concerning same-sex marriage, and immediately began issuing licenses for same sex couples as soon as it was legal (unlike some other Utah counties which displayed some foot dragging on this issue).

A question and answer discussion followed the presentation, and we concluded the evening feeling much more informed on the duties of this important office.

–Art King

Save Our Canyons

September 2014

At our July meeting, Alex Schmidt, one of only two full-time employees at Save Our Canyons spoke to us about their work. Almost everyone else in the organization who is “dedicated to protecting the beauty and wildness of Wasatch canyons, mountains and foothills” are volunteer activists.

Alex’s main focus in his talk to us was that “There is ONLY ONE Wasatch. It does not belong to the Utah ski industry. It belongs to all of us.”

Remember “Ski Interconnect”? Thought it was laid to rest? Oh no, it’s been dragged out of the crypt of horrible proposals and re-named “One Wasatch”. Under the plan, all seven Wasatch ski resorts will be connected with enhanced transportation and 100 interconnecting ski lifts making 18,000 acres of skiing available.

Ski area expansion on public land is prohibited by the Forest Service’s Resource Management Plan, but Ski Utah (organization of all seven resorts) is hoping to align all the interconnecting lifts on private land. Building these lifts and creating rights-of-way to service them will “disrupt the watershed and audio/visual beauty of these mountains as well as create islands of wildlife habitat” which would be threatening for animals with large ranging areas.

He encouraged us to sign the “Stop Interconnect and One Wasatch” petition.

Alex also talked to us about the Save Our Canyons partnership with the US Forest Service and Salt Lake City to conduct The Central Wasatch Visitors Study; a year-long four-season survey facilitated by a neutral third party. The study seeks to collect invaluable information about who uses the canyons and why. Decision-makers will use the data collected to inform and guide management of the Wasatch and protect the watershed.

To further the survey, e-mail Berlin. She will e-mail back ways that you can participate.

There are many ways to help Save Our Canyons and make their great work go on. Berlin knows them all.

Thanks to Alex for coming to our meeting to let us know so much about the awesome canyons that surround us.

–Lauren Florence

Ruminations About Time

January 2014

I was a teenager during the late 1960s when I first heard the new Beatles song When I’m 64. I recall thinking that for me, while I hoped it would come, it would be “many years from now;” indeed I would not see 64 until 2014 which was not until the second decade of the next century. I woke up on December 31, 2013 with this song in my head. Oh my, it is actually happening!

I have been fascinated by the concept of time for most of my life. About the same time 64 was released I was exposed to Einstein’s concept that time is relative. I still cannot honestly say that I totally understand how time is flexible any more than the more observable three dimensions but I have come to accept it.

Other important influences in my life have examined the nature of time. William Shakespeare discusses these concepts extensively. Among the most influential to me is Richard II when the title character is in the tower waiting for his assassin to come and end his life. Richard fettered his kingship away with inaction and indecision. Here is his famous I have wasted time speech:

Ha, ha! keep time: how sour sweet music is,
When time is broke and no proportion kept!
So is it in the music of men’s lives.
And here have I the daintiness of ear
To cheque time broke in a disorder’d string;
But for the concord of my state and time
Had not an ear to hear my true time broke.
I wasted time, and now doth time waste me;
For now hath time made me his numbering clock:
My thoughts are minutes; and with sighs they jar
Their watches on unto mine eyes, the outward watch,
Whereto my finger, like a dial’s point,
Is pointing still, in cleansing them from tears.
Now sir, the sound that tells what hour it is
Are clamorous groans, which strike upon my heart,
Which is the bell: so sighs and tears and groans
Show minutes, times, and hours: but my time
Runs posting on in Bolingbroke’s proud joy,
While I stand fooling here, his Jack o’ the clock.

–Richard II
Act 5 scene 5

My other favorite study of time in Shakespeare appears in As You Like It in a conversation between Rosalind, disguised as Ganymede, and Orlando. She explains how time moves at different paces to different people:

ROSALIND: (as Ganymede) I pray you, what is ‘t o’clock?
ORLANDO: You should ask me what time o’ day. There’s no clock in the forest.
ROSALIND: Then there is no true lover in the forest, else sighing every minute and groaning every hour would detect the lazy foot of time as well as a clock.
ORLANDO: And why not the swift foot of time? Had not that been as proper?
ROSALIND: By no means, sir. Time travels in diverse paces with diverse persons. I’ll tell you who time ambles withal, who time trots withal, who time gallops withal, and who he stands still withal.
ORLANDO: I prithee, who doth he trot withal?
ROSALIND: Marry, he trots hard with a young maid between the contract of her marriage and the day it is solemnized. If the interim be but a se’nnight, time’s pace is so hard that it seems the length of seven year.
ORLANDO: Who ambles time withal?
ROSALIND: With a priest that lacks Latin and a rich man that hath not the gout, for the one sleeps easily because he cannot study and the other lives merrily because he feels no pain–the one lacking the burden of lean and wasteful learning, the other knowing no burden of heavy tedious penury. These time ambles withal.
ORLANDO: Who doth he gallop withal?
ROSALIND: With a thief to the gallows, for though he go as softly as foot can fall, he thinks himself too soon there.
ORLANDO: Who stays it still withal?
ROSALIND: With lawyers in the vacation, for they sleep between term and term, and then they perceive not how time moves.

–As You Like It
Act 3 scene 2

Another important influence that began in my teen years and continues today is science and science fiction. The works of Kurt Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse Five, Timequake, etc.,) Isaac Asimov (Foundation series, etc., etc., etc.,) Frank Herbert (the Dune saga,) Carl Sagan (Contact, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, etc.,) Gene Rodenberry (Star Trek,) and many others have consumed many enjoyable hours of my time. They challenge my mind and fill me with wonder.

Back to December 31, 2013 last week. On my way to work I listened to a story on NPR’s Morning Edition with Steve Inskeep about a clock that is being built by Danny Hillis a scientist and engineer. His idea came from story about New College, one of the oldest colleges at the University of Oxford founded in the 14th century. A few years ago they were renovating a hall and needed some 40-foot oak beams to replace the originals. Where do you get such a thing? They noticed that Oxford had some forests and so they asked a forester if there were any oaks they could harvest for the beams. They were surprised to find out that actually, oaks had been planted many years before for this express purpose! How many of us think in terms of hundreds of years? Most of us probably follow modern news cycles where only the biggest stories last for more than a week before they are essentially forgotten. Many news items barely last 24-48 hours in our consciousness.

Hillis decided to build a different kind of clock. It is designed to last for 10,000 years. The intent is that it will tick once a year, the century hand will advance every 100 years, and the cuckoo comes out on the millennium. The clock will be built inside a mountain in Texas.

I started these musings with a song, so coming full circle, here are lyrics to the song Time Is by It’s a Beautiful Day. I think they offer a great insight on one good way to think about time:

Time is too slow for those who wait
And time is too swift for those who fear
Time is too long for those who grieve
And time is too short for those that laugh
And love is too slow for those who wait
And love is too swift for those who fear
Love is too long for those who grieve
And love is too short for those that laugh
But for those who love
But for those who really love
But for those who love
Time
Sweet time
Precious time
Lovely time
All the time
Time, time, time, time
is eternity
Hours fly
Hours fly
Hours fly
But even flowers must die
And then a new day comes
And there’s a new day’s dawn
And there’s a new day’s sun
And love stays on
Sweet love stays on
Love stays on
Love stays on
Love, love, love, love
And time, time, time, time

–Wayne Wilson

Ready Willing and Able

February 014

Utah is not ‘willing and able’ to help uninsured

I am flabbergasted by Stuart Adams’ op-ed “Utah should escape the Affordable Care Act,” (Opinion, Jan. 25). He writes “Utah is ready, willing and able to clean up the mess created by Washington, D.C.” He is implying that Utah would do a much better job with health care than the feds once Utah “escapes” the federal law.

If Utah is really “ready, willing and able,” then why have we not done something sooner?

Depending upon your sources, between 11 and 18 percent of Utahns do not have health insurance and another 10-20 percent are underinsured, meaning if they get sick, they could go bankrupt. About half of bankruptcies come after a major illness which wipes out the family finances.

Also, the state of Utah does not co-fund Medicaid for every person who qualifies, since the needy can rely on charity care.

In effect, Utah is not “willing” to help everyone in our state get health care and therefore, we are simply not “ready.”

When will we be ready? Call the governor (801-538-1000), tell him to fully expand Medicaid. That would be one step toward Mr. Adams’ reality that “Utah is ready, willing and able.”

–Lauren O. Florence MD
HoU Board Member

Published Letter to the Editor in the Salt Lake Tribune, January 31, 2014

The Rama Series

Arthur C. Clarke

~Book Review~

December 2014

A few months ago I was taking about books with chapter president Bob Lane. I was looking for recommendations; the discussion revealed that we had both enjoyed science fiction. I said that I had read Frank Herbert’s Dune series, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series and many of his other novels. Bob asked me if I had read any Arthur C. Clarke and all I knew about him was the iconic move 2001. Bob suggested that I read the Rama series which includes: Rendezvous with Rama, Rama II, Garden of Rama, and Rama Revealed. I’m glad I took his advice; this is really an interesting and thought provoking series.

It starts in 2139 when SPACEGARD, a system designed to discover and track bodies moving into the solar system that might threaten human civilizations on Earth, the Moon, Mars, and Mercury picks up an object moving fast towards us. The system named the object 31/439 and the astronomers updated it to Rama, the seventh avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu and a King of Aydohya in Hindu scriptures-as the pantheon of Greek and Roman deities was long exhausted. It becomes apparent that object, which is both regular, and very large is not an asteroid or other “natural” body; it must have been created by intelligent life.

A manned space ship is sent to rendezvous; the astronauts discover entry ports and explore the interior. They find a large number of structures and landscapes that are fascinating. They do not discover any biological life. However, they do come across a number of robotic creatures that mostly ignore them. There are a lot more questions than answers.

The human population on Mercury convinces themselves that the alien spaceship is a threat to humanity and since they are first in line when Rama comes around the sun, they decide to launch a pre-emptive nuclear attack against the alien ship. Astronauts on board are able to thwart the attack and Rama circumvents the sun and streaks out of the solar system. The theme of humans using violence and weapons against things and beings they do not understand is established; and is a concept that carries through the entire series.

Rama II begins almost a century after the appearance of Rama and after a massive economic meltdown. There are no longer human colonies on the Moon or Mars or Mercury when the Rama craft returns. Another mission is commissioned to rendezvous and see if it is the same ship or another similar craft.

Nicole de Jardins is introduced; the rest of the series centers on this remarkable lady who is of African and French lineage. She is an Olympic gold medalist and unknown to anyone else, the mother of a daughter and the Crown Prince of England who she met briefly after the Olympics. She truly represents all that is good in humanity.

In this book a few of the humans are left behind on the Rama ship when the others leave to go back to earth. We are introduced to two more biologic species one of which seems nefarious and dangerous and the other, while seemingly illiterate, saves Nicole who falls in a pit by feeding her. It becomes apparent that since they are traveling away from our solar system that if humans are going to survive Nicole will need to bear children. There are two males and so the plot thickens. They learn to communicate with the ship (Ramans?) and end up in a state of suspended animation and are transported to another star system. They are informed that the Ramans are in the business of collecting beings who have achieved space flight. As the books progress, Nicole and company are taken back to earth to inform humanity that 2000 people are needed for permanent colony in a benevolent zoo. Human leaders are reticent to fulfill the request but are threatened to either provide the colonists or they will be harvested. Eventually a program to recruit people is falsely represented to be for a recolonization of Mars. There is now a habitat on Rama designed for humans, with parks, cities, stores, etc. which is called New Eden.

It does not turn out to be a utopia though. Greed and avarice win and exploring beyond their habitat they find other species and proceed to slaughter them.

There are other species in the books but interestingly we never meet a biological version of a Raman. There are sophisticated robot creatures but no biological forms of the zoo keepers.

I recommend this series for any of you who enjoy good science fiction.

–Wayne Wilson

Privacy Protection and Civil Liberites
vs.
Paranoia and Terrorism

~Book Reviews~

November 2014

November is the month for change politically speaking; that said, what do Pearl S. Buck, Robert Frost, Ernest Hemingway, Albert Einstein, Howard Zinn, 1,000 plus university professors, and approximately 2500 social science faculty have in common between 1956 and 1971? They, along with 450,000 other people and organizations, were under FBI surveillance known as subversives. Author Betty Medsger Book The Burglary: the Discovery of J.Edger Hoover’s Secret FBI describes how 33,698 pages of stolen FBI files from Media, PA., shows how the phase “there is FBI agent behind every post box…” came into play. Also, how the FISCA court in its 35 years history rejected only 11 surveillance requests out of 34,000. NSA now allows interception of 1.7 billion pieces of communication every 24 hours, from cell and land phones, instant messaging, and computer network pings daily. Privacy of individual communication on various means is collected from yahoo, hotmail, facebook, gmail and other providers is allowed to continue today.

Another book, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State by Glen Greenwald, discusses the underlying theme of what it means to be human: the all instinctively understanding that the private realm is where we can act, think, speak, write and experiment and choose how to be away from the judgmental eyes of others. Privacy is a core condition of being a free person. Greenwald follows the development of the Edward Snowden issue, so before making personal opinions one way or other, discover what it is both books are trying to tell us.

–Cindy King

President’s Message

September 2014

It has been a really busy summer for me this year. Lots of projects to do, (more on the list than ever got done) and there were a fair number of relatives in town for visits. It was great to see people you haven’t seen for years, but being host and travel guides is exhausting.

Most recently our August BBQ went well with around thirty five in attendance. The day turned out to be perfect, not to hot or cold. We set up our canopy to let people see it and put it to use. Like I always say, “Good food, good people and good conversation make for an enjoyable evening.

I watch a fair number of videos on the internet. Mostly science and free thought stuff with people like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and the like. Recently I’ve noticed some comments about the fact that many of the famous scientists of the past and the present were and are also religious. Some comments suggest that it is their faith that somehow inspires them to achieve. Some wonder how, after making discoveries or doing research that they don’t lose their faith. And some would say that many, in the past, presented a religious countenance to stay out of trouble with the powerful religions of the times.

I suspect that all the scenarios have happened. I am sure that there are and have been those who have prayed, even about their work, who go on to do good science in various fields. I’m sure some put on a religious face to avoid problems. I also suspect that a number of those who are known for their “science” that are also known to be religious, have a kind of duality, in that they can separate the two quite easily. I would use as an example, a person well known for his work and also that he was a friar in a religious order, Gregor Mendel. It is acknowledged that he started the modern science of genetics with his studies of hybridization. But also, in his days, and much of history, being in a religious order or the like made it so you could get educated for free as Mendel availed himself of.

Simply put, I think there are many who can, “do science,” and then put it away while doing other things in their lives. Isaac Newton while inventing Calculus wasn’t looking for answers in the bible, even though he was known as a religious man.

In a video lecture, Neil Degrasse-Tyson makes the point that we in the science world have to acknowledge that many if not most of the great scientists of the past were also religious.

Well enough about that.

I’m not quite sure where to put myself politically. It has evolved over the years, but I haven’t voted for a republican for a long time. Yet my feelings or positions on issues are not exclusively liberal. An example might be my support for the Second Amendment. But in that regard I think regulations should be far stricter than they are. For instance, a person wishing to obtain a concealed carry permit should be required to pass a written test, be able to take the weapon of their choice and safely assemble it, load it, fire it, unload and put away the weapon. That is not required in Utah at present.

But this brings me to an area where I struggle. I have always been against laws, most laws that ban “things,” or substances. Inanimate objects if you will. I’ve always felt that the thing that should be outlawed is what a person does with an inanimate object. The gun, the axe, the knife, the car, don’t commit crimes, people commit crimes. So I don’t like to ban or outlaw anything.

On the other hand, when you see how much harm some thing or substance does to humans you wonder why it isn’t strictly banned. Tobacco is one of those substances that deserve banning. When you look at mortality statistics, it makes you shake your head and ask, “Why is, a product that is essentially a poison that kills often slowly and painfully and that puts great strain on the health industry, not banned.”

Tobacco killed my father, at least three or four of my uncles and step-uncles and aunts. One of our Board members died several years back from smoking…need I go on.

Yet I don’t really want to ban it. I still smoke a few cigars a year when weather is good outside. I also buy chewing tobacco. While none of it goes anywhere near my mouth, I make a sun tea out of it and use it as a natural insecticide. Go figure.

Anyway, I hope to see you soon, perhaps on September 11 for our first speaker of the fall season.

–Robert Lane
President, HoU

President’s Message

October 2014

Last month, due to a misunderstanding in scheduling, rather than hear our speaker who was to give a presentation on Beowulf, we watched a movie, “Beowulf and Grendel.” The movie was an excellent production, with no CGI and a fairly decent representation of the story for the most part. It was also filmed in Scandinavia which is the setting in the epic poem. Although I think all dramatic representations of Beowulf take some artistic liberties. They seem to want to “sex it up” a little.

I’m quite happy that our speaker Julie Boyden will give her presentation on Beowulf this month. I find this Old English epic poem quite interesting.

I don’t know how, but an English teacher I had, as a junior in high school, at a military school actually made the study of the subject interesting to me. I say this because I was a poor student who couldn’t sit still for five minutes usually. But this teacher made it work by not making us suffer too much with the alliterative verse thing. Rather he taught us more about the where and when, the kinship, the tales of bravery and conquest that were a part of the culture depicted by the poem. Set in a Scandinavian culture where large protective mead halls were built, where they would basically party and brag of their conquests. I’ve forgotten a lot, but I do remember that one thing I found interesting was that such early tales would be about heroes and monsters. They were, in a way, one of the first English stories of super heroes.

Also, when one learns that J.R.R. Tolkien translated Beowulf, one can see how the epic poem influenced his creativity in the “Lord of the Ring’s and Hobbit” books. Anyway, I’m looking forward to Julie’s presentation and hope you will come and join us. I’ll bring the cookies.

Moving on, I want to mention our December Social. Many of you know that each year we have hosted a Social on our Second Thursday meeting date in December. The chapter supplies the main dinner items and the board members bring side dishes and such. I always have a good time visiting with everyone and enjoying the good food. In the past we have had some entertainment to add to the night, but we haven’t done that for a couple of years. I hope we can change that, so I’m asking for suggestions in that regard. Or, would anyone be interested in a raffle? Anyway, think about it, let’s make it a little more of a party and not just a dinner. Let me know your thoughts and please invite a friend to join you.

–Robert Lane
President, HoU

President’s Message

November 2014

To start with, what makes me frustrated and angry is that I know of several friends and relatives who do not vote. Whatever excuses they have are all usually pretty lame and often I think it is just laziness. I know it is hard to care sometimes and it appears hopeless, but if we stop participating then the big spenders will buy every election even more so than they already are. Not to brag, but at age 66, I don’t think I have ever missed voting in a general election. Even if it is only a symbolic vote in the face of certain defeat, it is always good to practice the habit of informed voting.

In the aftermath of the election, it’s interesting to see all the media headlines about the “Resounding Defeat” and the like. It can be quite disheartening if you listen to too much of the punditry. So for me, I have decided that I need to not dwell and lament on what has happened several times in my life, and that is the change in the majority party in the houses of congress. It’s nothing new. I have also told myself that the place where I can make a difference is to continue to work on our chapter’s agenda. That agenda in part being: advocacy for humanism, science, free thought and to continue our participation in events like the Pride Festival. In other words, as I have heard some people in the progressive world say lately, “Back to some serious grassroots work.”

As the New Year approaches, our chapter needs some help from its members, we need board members, we need volunteers, and we need suggestions and some feedback. For instance, The AHA Chapter Grant application will be due in January. Is there a charitable cause you think we should apply to the grant for? I hope some of you members will consider getting more involved. Oh, and before I forget, I know some of you must have someone in mind who you would like to hear as a speaker. Please let us know.

Speaking of speakers, I’m excited to hear from our upcoming speaker, Salt Lake County Clerk, Sherrie Swenson. I myself have several questions to ask about gerrymandering, efforts to pass voter I.D. laws to suppress votes, Citizens United and so on. I’m sure it will be interesting and as usual I’ll bring the cookies. Actually I think I will build a carrot cake or something also. So make plans to join us to hear our speaker and enjoy refreshments and conversation.

–Robert Lane
President, HoU

President’s Message

May 2014

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting really sick of the, I hate the federal government/militia clowns/states righters/sagebrush rebels/secessionists/freeloading rancher/whatever crowd. Judging from the way this state government runs things, I want more federal government not less. Keeping as much land as possible protected and natural resources used and paid for fairly and judiciously should be a priority.

If we were to give in to any of these scenarios where states’ rights prevailed we would likely see the sale and commercialization of nearly everything. Plus if a state (especially Utah) were to become the ultimate authority, it wouldn’t be long before the majority religion would assert their power and influence even more than they already do, and democracy would likely disappear as it would anywhere a theocracy prevails. Now that may sound a bit paranoid, but I think it’s true.

But I think the dumbest notion is secession from the Union, which was settled long age with a little incident called the civil war. The idea that a state could become a sovereign nation inside the U.S. is just plain dumb. I guess in a way it’s not a bad Idea for them, because the day after a state became a nation it could then apply for foreign aid from the federal government of the United States of America. You know, so they could keep up the roads, bridges and dams, to mention a few items largely funded by the Feds.

I’m happy to have lived most of my life in Utah, except for a short time in California and four years in the United State Air Force. It’s a beautiful state with a wonderful diversity of landscapes. We have more national parks and monuments than any other state except Alaska and California. But, I’m merely a resident of Utah, free to live in any state, because I am a citizen of the U.S., not a citizen of Utah.

Like I said last month, I seem to always be criticizing someone lately and it is pretty much criticism of conservatives who make up the above “slash groups” I listed and a few more I didn’t. Perhaps I should call my newsletter contribution “The Bitch and Moan Column.”

Moving on, I want to write a little about what we might say is an ongoing controversy over whether to be accommodating or confrontational in our dealings with those we disagree with. The controversy has been around for a while and was part of the reason that the humanist community split into The American Humanist Association and The Center for Inquiry. With CFI being, shall we say, more stridently atheistic than AHA.

At one of the annual CFI conferences I attended, one of the panel discussions was called Accommodation or Confrontation, with four of the keynote speakers discussing the issue. Of the attendees I spoke to, the opinion I heard most was that, as I have always felt, that it isn’t an “either or” situation, but that both approaches are needed depending on the circumstances.

For instance, some progress has been made recently as some Evangelicals are starting to see stewardship of the environment as the “Christian thing to do.” I believe we should be as friendly and accommodating as possible in this sort of case. But on the other hand, in a recent article I read on the internet, some asshole mayor in the Midwest called gay people the equivalent of “axe murders and cannibals.” I have no interest in being nice in cases like this. This idiot and all who are like him deserve only…well, everything we can give them, or at least lots of derision and opposition. And that’s just one example of the disgusting crap coming from religious conservatives. These people are why I am more inclined to be confrontational these days.

A short anecdote might be helpful.

Several years ago a chapter member and friend asked me to stop by to discuss atheists. While an admitted atheist herself, she really disliked the “in your face hatred of Mormons” she observed in the atheist groups and certain individuals in our Humanists of Utah chapter. She talked about how well she was treated by Mormons, some of them general authorities as she dealt with then in her personal business. Being friendly and not wearing her humanism and atheism on her sleeve, she got along well. She couldn’t understand why some people spent so much time being opposed to the LDS church. I think I helped her understand a little better by relating my experiences growing up Mormon and being in business in Utah. I won’t go into detail here too much, but suffice it to say it was unpleasant and stifling to be a “questioning youth” in a Mormon family, to say the least. I also related how I got “screwed” more than once in my working life by the good brethren.

I think it is accurate to say that many of us in the local freethought community have some legitimate bones to pick with the LDS faith for personal reasons and religion in general for secular reasons.

Well, so much for my “Bitch and Moan Column.”

Hope to see you at our movie night this month.

–Robert Lane
President, HoU

Darwin Day
President’s Message

March 2014

I had a great time at our seventh Darwin Day celebration. As I often say, it is always enjoyable to meet with like-minded people to advocate for science or to promote other worthy causes. When you combine good food, like-minded people and an excellent presentation, you’re bound to have a good time.

But before I say much more about the presentation, I need to thank everyone who helped to make the evening a success. First, thanks to Martha Hayden for helping me coordinate our co-hosting and to all the Utah Friends of Paleontology for their help. And a big thanks to Utah State Paleontologist Jim Kirkland for the excellent presentation. Also, thanks to Bob and Julie Mayhew, John Barnes, Leona Blackbird for coming early and staying late to help with setup and cleanup. Additionally I would like to thank all the Humanists of Utah board members for their efforts and support for this event.

We began our Darwin Day celebration with a reception with plenty of good finger foods and display to view. As we were running a little late, so I decided to forgo much of my opening remarks. Not a big deal. But in doing so I left out mentioning the evening’s theme, “deep Time.” It has been bugging me that I forgot. So I will mention it now in preface to what I have to say about Jim’s presentation.

I have noticed that sometimes when discussing the age of fossils or the age of the earth or the universe people will express in various ways that millions or billions of years are hard to imagine or fathom. But I like to say that deep time isn’t hard to imagine, it is essential. It is essential to an understanding of the evolution of the universe, our planet and the evolution of life. None of it makes any sense without lots of time.

Jim’s presentation gave us a detailed overview of the Dinosaur discoveries in Utah and the history of those discoveries. The Mesozoic rocks of Utah contain some of the best and most numerous fossils in the world. Through the years these continuous discoveries have amassed a huge assemblage of dinosaur species fossils. This growing assemblage fills in a lot of what some religious individuals would call the “gaps.”

One of the aspects that is amazing to me about these animals Jim spoke about is there size, as some are as big as several elephants. To contemplate the environments and an expanse of time some 160 million years where these numerous species evolved, thrived and then became extinct is truly amazing.

As we put Darwin Day away until time to plan for next year we can keep in mind the theme for next year. I have suggested that we make astronomy the focus in some way. Perhaps evolution on the big scale, the universe itself.

Now that spring is around the corner, Humanists of Utah is preparing to have our kiosk present at festivals and street fairs as much as possible. We have registered for the Pride Festival in June which will be the largest event we will have our kiosk at this summer. Plus there are a couple of street festivals (9th and 9th and an avenues fair) we will be registering for this spring and summer.

Another sizeable event coming up is the American Atheist convention in April. This is also a good opportunity for Humanists of Utah to get out in the public. I am also working with American Humanists Association to co-sponsor tabling at the convention with HoU, Utah Coalition of Reason and other free thought groups.

Finally, remember that March 13th, our general meeting, will feature Humanist of Utah member and former board member Earl Wunderli. Earl will speak about his recently published book titled An Imperfect Book: What the Book of Mormon Tells Us about Itself. It promises to be quite interesting, especially to those of us who grew up in the LDS church.

–Robert Lane
President, HoU

Here are some pictures from the event:

Keynote Speaker Jim Kirkland knows a LOT about dinosaurs

Jim Kirkland and HoU President Bob Lane

Utah Friends of Paleontology cosponsored the event

…and brought some amazing exhibits!

Book and souvenir table

We had a good crowd

Awesome Birthday Cake

Pictures by Art King

President’s Message

June 2104

Hello Everyone

As I write this message for our newsletter, I am in the middle of getting our booth equipment ready to set up at the Pride Festival. As this is our first time to have a booth at the festival, I’m sure it will be a learning experience in setting up and running a booth. But while I am a worry-wart about having everything we need, I’m looking for to meeting and discussing the issues and humanism with a diverse bunch of people attending this year’s Pride Festival. Also, as we have one Annual event, Darwin Day, we plan to make our presence at the Festival annual as well.

I’m sure all you freethinkers will agree that advocating for gay rights, civil rights, and indeed simple human rights is a worthy cause and one that we want to participate in. I am hopeful that the tide toward equality will prevail, as more states change their laws and Federal Judges in various States rule that State laws denying citizens their constitutional rights are unconstitutional. It has always driven me a bit crazy that those opposed to gay marriage don’t understand the basic idea of the Constitution to protect every ones rights and to strive for equality. They don’t seem to get it that it is the secular nature of our society that insures our religious and other human right, for all of us, not just those they approve of.

Not to forget, we will be having another movie night on Thursday June 12. This month we will be watching and discussing Robert Reich’s documentary “Inequality for All.” I haven’t seen it yet, but I suspect it will be interesting and quite maddening.

I’ll be there with the popcorn and other refreshments. Hope to see you there.

–Robert Lane
President, HoU

President’s Message

July 2014

I’m happy to report that Humanists of Utah’s first booth at this year’s Pride Festival was a great success. Bob Mayhew and I manned the booth for the two days with assistance from my nephew John Lane. Elaine Stehel also helped out by giving us a break on Sunday.

Our new canopy functioned well and for the most part we had adequate literature for the event except for a couple of items like back issues of the Humanist magazine. It is interesting to note the difference in what people buy of the evolve fish merchandise. We sell more T-shirts at our Darwin Day celebration, whereas at the festival people like the small things like stickers and magnets. In fact one of the first items to sell out was the magnet that said, “I’m just guessing but I think god hates bigots far more than fags.”

It truly was a wonderful experience to talk to so many people. A festival of such a diverse group of people is an event to relish. Even the loving couple having a little argument (with apologies to us) in front of our booth was entertaining.

This was also a great opportunity to make a showing for organized humanism (our local group and the national parent group American Humanist Association. The AHA’s Chapter Grant funds we received helped purchase our booth canopy and equipment and we thank them.

As I’ve said before, having a presence at an event like this is an obvious win-win situation as we celebrate and advocate for a just cause of equality and gain exposure for our organization and humanism.

That exposure reminds me, that I want to welcome all of you who signed up for the three month free subscription of our newsletter. I hope you will find something you like about our group and the humanist philosophy. One way to get to know us would be to come to our meetings on the second Thursday of the month. This month we have a speaker from “Save our Canyons” who will speak to us. Then in August we host our annual BBQ and we would love to see you there for good food and conversation with friends. So I hope you will give us a try. I have often characterized our group as an oasis of free thought in a desert of irrationality. I am confident you will feel the same way.

Well, before I end this message I want to mention the sort of rollercoaster ride we have had with the judiciary in the last couple of weeks. First we gave a hearty hooray when we herd that the appeals court upheld judge Shelby’s ruling. And a first time ever (I believe) for this kind of ruling. Truly historic. Then yesterday we got the horrid decision by the SCOTUS in the Hobby Lobby case. Truly horrid.

Anyway, here’s hoping to see you on Thursday, July 10, for our monthly meeting. As always I will be bring the cookies.

–Robert Lane
President, HoU

President’s Message

January 2014

Happy New Year everyone, I hope the holidays were enjoyable for all of you freethinkers. I had a lot more relatives in town than usual which was nice but more hectic. I’m happy the New Year is here. I know it is a ways off, but I am ready for spring and to get out of the cave and the haze (partly) and into some warmer weather.

I want to thank outgoing board member Lisa Miller for her time and efforts during her time on our board of directors. She will be missed. I also want to welcome new board members John Barnes and Lauren Florence to our board and look forward to working with them to move our agenda forward.

Having removed some time consuming obstacles from my personal agenda, I’m happy to have more time for Humanists of Utah issues and projects. There is much to be done as we work on the calendar of events coming up. This month we are excited to start the New Year by welcoming Charles Lynn Frost to our podium.

February we will host our annual Darwin Day with Humanists of Utah. This year’s celebration will be on our usual meeting night the second Thursday, which is the 13th of February. It will be held at the Unitarian Church in Elliot Hall where we usually meet. Planning has been delayed a bit, but just in the last few days we have finalized plans to co-host with Utah Friends of Paleontology. We are actually combining our two monthly meetings which occur on the same day each month. Also we have confirmed that the State Paleontologist James Kirkland will be the featured speaker. Stay tuned for more details.

We could use some suggestions for speakers for the months we feature speakers. Even suggestions for a subject would be helpful.

It is shaping up to be an eventful year for the free thought community. In April the American Atheist Association is holding their annual convention here in Salt Lake City. This promises to be an excellent opportunity to meet with like-minded individuals. Then in June the Pride Festival will be another opportunity, especially with all that has been going on since Judge Shelby’s ruling making it possible for Gay’s to Wed.

The HofU Board is planning on having a presence at the Pride Festival this year. To help with having a presence at the Pride Festival (or any other event,) I’m continuing to purchase items to create what I call our event kit. When it is finished it will contain items such as a canopy, tables, chairs, literature display items, a cooler, etc. We plan to make this kit available to the other free thought groups such as the Utah Coalition of Reason, Student group SHIFT, Post Mormons and others groups.

Well, enough for now. Hope to see you on January 9th for our first meeting and speaker and conversation with friends.

–Robert Lane
President, HoU

President’s Message

February 2014

Humanists of Utah is gearing up for a busy spring and summer this year. As you may already know, next Thursday, the 13 of February is the date for our 7th annual Darwin Day celebration. This year we are co-hosting with the Utah Friends of Paleontology Our Keynote speaker will be Utah State Paleontologist James Kirkland. There will be refreshments before and birthday cake after the presentation. Plus, there will be fossil displays, literature tables and memorabilia for purchase. See details on time and address elsewhere in the newsletter. So please join us for a fun and informative evening.

As we plan for the spring and summer events, part of our goal is to create a professional kiosk for use by Humanists of Utah and the other Freethought groups in our area. We have applied for a grant to the American Humanists Association’s Chapter grant fund. If granted, (and I think they will), these funds will help purchase items such as canopies, tables, chairs, coolers and the other items necessary for a first rate kiosk. The kiosk will be large enough for two groups, as there will often be Humanists of Utah and other freethought groups at the same time at various events and street fairs.

I have reserved a space for Humanists of Utah for the Utah Pride Festival in early June. This will be a perfect opportunity to use this kiosk at an event that is going to be quite interesting this year, in light of the ongoing situation with Gay marriage litigation. We’re excited to be a part of this event and advocating for such a worthy cause. Plus there is the bonus that we get good public exposure and an opportunity to speak to people about humanism.

All summer we plan to have a presence at as many street fairs and the like as we can.

As is always the case, we can always use some volunteers to help out.

In closing I would like to ask that you think about subjects you would like us to cover or speakers you know of that would be a good fit for our audience.

Anyway, bye for now, hope you can make it to Darwin Day.

–Robert Lane
President, HoU

President’s Message

December 2014

Hello Humanists and all assorted free thinkers. I hope the holiday season is going well for all. I still enjoy this time of the year even if I don’t believe in the Jesus thing. In my life I have been asked a couple of times why I still “participate”, and I have replied that I wasn’t going to let the Christians have all the fun with the materialistic orgy and gorging of food without me. I still also enjoy the giving, which is why Friends and relatives receive my homemade cookies each year. It’s a bit of work but I do enjoy baking a couple thousand or more cookies each year. It’s not a bad way to keep the kitchen warm this time of year. I even still like the winter season, though I look forward to spring more now because of my love of gardening. Anyway, enough rambling for now.

Thursday December 11, we will host our annual dinner. I’ll be picking up all the big items and board members brings an item of their own making (I’ll be bringing the “Funeral Potatoes”). The last few years the dinner has been pretty much just that, a dinner. This year we will again have some entertainment (musical) and we will also have a raffle for a dollar a ticket with all the proceeds going to the Homeless Youth Resource Center. Also in that regard please bring other donations you might want to give as well and we will deliver them to the Center along with the proceeds from the raffle.

Darwin Day will be coming up in February, so I thought I would mention it now so you can plan ahead to join us. Through the years we have had speakers on a variety if subject in keeping with the idea that Darwin Day isn’t just about Darwin, or evolution, but about all of science. With that in mind I have said I would like this year to have an astronomy theme. We’ll see if we can find someone to speak to that theme.

This year again we will be hosting it at Eliot Hall and we need a few volunteers to help, especially with set up and take down, so let us know if you can help and come and give us a hand.

I always say I hope to see you for some good food and good conversation.

–Robert Lane
President, HoU

President’s Message

April 2014

Often when I am thinking about what I want to say in my president’s message, I feel a little guilty that I almost always have some criticism or something to complain about. But I can’t help it. For me lately I seem to be getting to a point of oversaturation with regards to conservatives. I admit that lately I have a hard time even listening to some of them. But what I find most distasteful about conservatives for a long time is first their constant obstruction of just about everything. Second, is the way they will weaken or (when they are in power) ignore) entities such as the EPA to the point that it is only marginally effective at best. Then after they have done all the damage they can, they point at it and call it a failure. This, “way of the conservative”, is also apparent in the lies and distortions that have been part of their efforts to damage what they call Obamacare. Rather than getting on board in what appears to be the trend in the world, Some type of universal health coverage for all in our society, they try to kill it or weaken it. And then, again after they have attacked it changed it, damaged it, they call it a failure. These practices of theirs are apparent throughout the political landscape.

Yet, as my rant drifts a little, it links conservatives to religion as one of the key motivators of conservatism (And you say “what else is new”). Perhaps I can express it this way. I have in my mind a kind of editorial cartoon of a human figure shackled to a ball and chain. The human figure wants to move ahead…to progress. But the ball and chain that is religion slows the figure down. The ball and chain of religion is also further anchored to the dead past and would like to pull humanity back into the practice of many of the past’s horrible traditions.

But they are doing a pretty good job in the here and now as we see them roll out their budget, with more cuts to programs that help citizens with needs of various kinds. How much further will they try to degrade struggling people in this country? Every bit as much as they can it appears.

Well, I better move on or I’ll start bitching about what the Religious Right is trying to do to education. Which really makes me crazy.

Anyway, on a positive note, I am happy to announce that our request for AHA chapter grant funds was granted in the sum of $800.00. As I have mentioned before, we are building event kits or kiosks. This money is granted for this purpose and along with some of our chapter funds and I have already purchased a quality canopy and some of the other items. Sometime in the near future I plan to have a learning session so that those of us who will be using the canopy this summer at various events can have a “dry run,” to learn how to put it up properly. It’s a nice ten by ten canopy with a back wall and two side half walls. It is pretty easy to put up, but it is a two person job.

I’m excited about Humanists of Utah and our other local groups using this kit through the summer to promote humanism and free thought ideals where ever we can.

Finally, don’t forget to check the speaker announcement for this month. Dan Ellis of the Atheists of Utah will speak. I’m sure he will fill us in on the upcoming American Atheists Association Convention this month. I sure hope some of you go and enjoy as I always have when I have been to humanist conventions, mingling with like-minded people from all over.

–Robert Lane
President, HoU

Poor God

July 2014

I watched a documentary about two young men convicted of murdering three people while trying to steal a car they wanted. One of the killers, about to be executed, claimed that God knew he was innocent. The girlfriend of the other killer told of walking out of the prison after meeting with him and seeing a rainbow–she knew it was God telling her she should marry this young man (sort of a celestial semaphore, I suppose). Another documentary was about a white woman, mother of five, who traveled from a northern state to help blacks register to vote in the 1960s. She was murdered the night before she was to have left for home. Throughout the documentary, her children involved God in everything from premonitions about her to guiding one daughter to a church where there were people praying who would make her feel better. I’ve also recently been reading a history of witchcraft in New England in the 1600s. The invoking of God in all those horrific accusations, trials, and executions was truly revolting. In our daily papers we read comments on articles about gay marriage from people who have the arrogance to tell us what God feels and wants.

God is dragged around to football games, the Oscars, and even in the front seat of cars, giving people the feeling they should turn at a certain corner (they know this because they find out later there was an accident they “might” have been part of if they hadn’t turned). I remember reading about a young girl who by pushing her hand into the crack between two seat cushions at a restaurant, found some type of digital camera card that, of course, had someone’s family pictures on it. They were able to find the owners who were delighted. By that night, when the tv news interviewed her, the little girl had been properly indoctrinated and told her story somewhat differently. She said that when they sat down, she “had the feeling” she should put her hand between the cushions. Obviously, God wanted her to find the card and prompted her.

It seems God is a great scapegoat. Whenever we can’t or won’t be responsible for ourselves, our actions, our responses, we just haul out God and claim it was his will. We don’t need to worry about climate change–God won’t let that happen. How handy. We’re absolved of any responsibility.

If he existed, you’d almost feel sorry for God. What a tough decision…stop the genocide in Rwanda (or whatever country is undergoing it at any particular time), or help someone find a camera memory card. That’s a toughie…eenie, meenie…minie….

I guess it’s too much to hope that people might give God a break and make some decisions, take some action, and use their heads all on their own. Poor God.

–Susan Fox

Palm Sunday

~Book Review~

May 2014

Several of the late, great Kurt Vonnegut’s novels have been reviewed on these pages in the past. Vonnegut also published several books of thoughts and essays that are good reads. In his Palm Sunday, there is a chapter titled “Religion.” It starts out with a quote from his great grandfather Clemens Vonnegut who published a book in 1900 titled Instruction in Morals. It includes instructions for his funeral:

“Friends or Opponents: To all of you who stand here to deliver my body to the earth:

“To you, my next of kin:

“Do not mourn! I have now arrived at the end of the course of life, as you will eventually arrive at yours. I am at rest and nothing will ever disturb my deep slumber.

“I am disturbed by no worries, no grief, no fears, no wishes, no passions, no pains, no reproached from others, All is infinitely well with me

“I departed from life with loving, affectionate feelings for all mankind; and I admonish you: Be aware of this truth that the people on this earth could be joyous, if only they would live rationally and if they would contribute mutually to each other’s welfare.

This world is not a vale of sorrows if you will recognize discriminatingly what is truly excellent in it; and if you will avail yourself of it for mutual happiness and well-being. Therefore, let us explain as often as possible, and particularly at the departure from life, that we base our faith on firm foundations, on Truth for putting into action our ideas which do not depend on fables and ideas which Science has long ago proven to be false.

“We also wish for Knowledge, Goodness, Sympathy, Mercy, Wisdom, Justice, and Truthfulness. We also strive for and venerate all of those attributes from which the fantasy of man has created a God. We also strive for the virtues of Temperance, Industriousness, Friendship, and Peace. We believe in pure ideas based on Truth and Justice.

“Therefore, however, we do not believe, cannot believe, that a Thinking Being existed for millions and millions of years, and eventually and finally out of nothing–through a Word–created this world, or rather this earth with its Firmament, its Sun and Moon and the Stars.

“We cannot believe that this Being formed a human being from clay and breathed into it an Immortal Soul, and then allowed this human being to procreate millions, and then delivered them all into unspeakable misery, wretchedness and pain for all eternity. Nor can we believe that the descendants of one or two human beings will inevitably become sinners; nor do we believe that through the criminal executions of an Innocent One may we be redeemed.”

The chapter continues with a graduation speech KV gave at William Smith Colleges on May 26, 1974. This speech presages his book Slapstick or Lonesome No More. Commencement speeches purportedly tell the graduates what they need to know to go forward in their lives. Vonnegut argues that is what they should have been learning spread out over the last four years. Why would this important information be held until the very end? The answer he says is: “No responsible, truth loving teacher can answer those questions in class, or even in the privacy of his office or home. No respecter of evidence has ever found the least clue as to what life is about, and what people should do with it.” After declaring himself to be the world’s greatest authority on tooth fairies, he offers this advice:

“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured. Young people should also identify and expound theories about life in which sane human beings almost everywhere can believe.”

“We can expect no spectacular miracles from the heavens, that the problems of ordinary human beings will have to be solved by ordinary human beings. Help is not on the way. Repeat: help is not on the way.”

In short I recommend Palm Sunday as an invigorating look into the philosophy of Kurt Vonnegut.

–Wayne Wilson

It is Not in the Constitution

Or So They Say….

November 2014

Like Joshua in the Bible, there are Americans today who would like to blow their trumpets loud and strong in order to destroy the “wall of separation between church and state” of which Thomas Jefferson spoke approvingly in his 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists.

But instead of trumpet blasts echoing off the walls, the faithful are shouting a mantra of sorts that they tend to repeat loudly and ad nauseam: “Separation of church and state is not in the Constitution!” And of course the actual words “separation of church and state” do not appear in the Constitution. But that does not mean that the framers, signers and ratifiers of the U.S. Constitution did not intend this concept to be an important pillar of our governing institutions. They did.

How do we know? There are a number of ways, including the contemporaneous writings of the founders. These include the aforementioned letter from Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists, as well as James Madison’s “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments” (1785), in which he argued that government suffered where religion was established and that religion suffered when it got too close to government. This certainly seems as though Madison, the Constitution’s primary draftsman, believed that government and religion should be kept separate.

Then there’s the Constitution itself, which in its original form (prior to amendments) mentioned religion only once, in Article VI, paragraph 3, which prohibits any religious test for public office holders. If separation of church and state was not intended, why would the Founders have crafted the document that directs how our government shall operate, and only mention religion to say that no one has to believe it (or any particular version of it) in order to hold public office?

But there’s another very simple counter-argument that I want to posit. Remember how we were taught in grade school that the Constitution provided for the “separation of powers” between our three branches of Federal government, the executive, the legislative, and the judicial? Remember how we were also taught how this “separation of powers” gave our government a system of “checks and balances”? You must remember that–we all knew that just remembering those two phrases could guarantee us a passing grade on a History test, even if we didn’t remember anything else about the Constitution.

Now, get out your pocket copy of the Constitution and show me where those phrases appear. Better yet, don’t bother, because you won’t find either one of them. Does this mean that our teachers were lying and/or mistaken when they taught us that the “separation of powers” and the “system of checks and balances” were two of the Constitution’s founding principles? Of course not. We can see from the document itself and from the words of its drafters that this was exactly what was intended. Just like “separation of church and state”. We didn’t need the exact words to appear in the Constitution to know these concepts were intended as governing principles of our country.

One more thing: at the start of this essay I analogized between Joshua’s wall and Jefferson’s. Those who think that removing the wall separating church and state (or pretending that it never was there to begin with) would be a good thing would be well advised to remember what happened after the walls of Jericho came tumbling down. Joshua’s army entered Jericho and didn’t stop until “they utterly destroyed what was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep and ass with the edge of the sword” (Joshua 6:21). Just the kind of thing we deplore Muslim militants like ISIS doing today.

Now I’m not saying that the failure to separate church and state in our country would result in a bloodbath as happened in Jericho, but it would inevitably cause rifts in our society as various sects argued over whose beliefs should be paramount. The bottom line is that the separation of church and state–which was meant to protect both government and religion–was a founding principle of our system of government, as was the separation of powers between the branches of government. This is true whether or not these exact words appear in the Constitution.

—Jonathen Engel
PIQUE-October 2014
Secular Humanist Society of New York

More on Climate Justice

October 2014

Polluted air disproportionately affects the poor, the disenfranchised and Salt Lake City. It threatens everything we love.

A United Nations Climate Summit occurred the last week of September. The Sunday before about 400,000 people demonstrated in New York calling themselves the People’s March for Climate Change. Organizers say this march is the biggest mobilization to combat climate change, ever. About 1400 different organizations participated. Labor came out in force, with teachers, parents, immigrant rights groups, social justice groups, musicians, and celebrities all joining with environmentalists and students.

Protests against global climate injustices continued during the next week calling themselves “Flood Wall Street”. Our own Tim DeChristopher was there continuing to highlight corporate America’s role in climate change. He is finally out of jail where he was held for 21 months after bidding on an oil lease which he couldn’t afford. He was most recently on a lobster boat anchored in front of a power plant in Massachusetts, blocking a shipment of West Virginia coal. The case was dismissed by the D.A., Sam Sutter out of concern for the children who would be adversely affected by climate change. Tim then saw him walking with the next protest.

The climate movement is becoming diverse and expanding. Maybe we can save the planet.

–Lauren Florence

In Memoriam

Marie Springer

December 22, 1917 ~ January 7, 2014

February 2014

Long time Humanists of Utah member Marie Springer died peacefully on January 7, 2014 in Salt Lake City. She was 96 years old. She was born in Salt Lake on December 22, 1917 to parents Henry F. Grondel and Johanna Lether. She spent much of her life in Salt Lake but also lived in Pasco Washington, Chicago and New York.

She is survived by sisters Alice Evans, Carol Bertoch, Patricia Farnsworth, and brother Thomas Grondel (Vicki) and many nieces and nephews. Marie is also survived by daughter Beverly Taylor (Bruce), two grandsons, and 5 great-grandchildren and her dear friends Dr. Steve and Patti Horton and their son David.

Marie had a varied and interesting professional career and, among other things, worked for Look Magazine, Night Cap Radio, and most recently for the Salt Lake County Aging Services until retiring at the age of 80. She was a member of the First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake since 1963 and served in many capacities including the Church Board and Friendship Manor Board and was president of the Women’s Alliance and chair of the Archives Committee. Mary, as she was known to her family, will be remembered for her deep appreciation of art and music, her strong political views, and her love of chocolate.

A memorial service will be held at the First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City on March 30th at 3pm. Her family will be forever grateful for the ongoing love and care the Unitarian Church has provided over the past few years.

Her smile and lively spirit will be missed by many.

Marie’s Journey to Humanism
Obit from the Salt Lake Tribune

Freedom of Marriage in Utah

January 2014

On December 20, 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby struck down Utah’s ban on same-sex couples from marrying, declaring that the law violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection and due process. Utah’s political leadership seems to have been caught unaware and thus far has not been successful in their efforts to halt these marriages. So far there have been about 900 licenses issued with many of them being executed almost immediately.

Humanists of Utah member Elaine Stehel (Ball) and her wife Kristen were one of the happy couples who took advantage of Judge Shelby’s ruling. That first evening the local news had live feeds from the Salt Lake County Courthouse which was an amazing celebration of love and happiness. Even people who were only marginally interested in the issue were moved by the spontaneous and fervent expressions of joy among the newly wed couples.

I’m not a lawyer nor a legal scholar, but it seems to me that the logic the State is using to first try to stay the marriages and then reverse Judge Shelby’s ruling are very weak and without substance. They are arguing that first that the statute is a Constitutional amendment that was passed by a large majority and that this is firmly a State’s Right issue. This, to me ignores the 14th Amendment and the Constitutional role of the Judiciary to protect the minority from oppression by the majority. Next, and this one is really a stretch, the State is arguing that children benefit most from growing up in household with a mother and a father. Parents are important to healthy upbringing of children. The fact of the matter is that two parents are better than one and that a formal, codified relationship between the parents is important.

With so many weddings already complete it seems likely that the momentum of this event has a good chance to keep going. With any luck, it will open the flood gates by providing precedent to overturn similar State laws and that Utah will no longer be the most recent State to recognize marriage equality.

–Wayne Wilson

Cosmos Reboot

March 2014

(Excerpted from an article written by Kimberly Winston that was published on RNS, Religion News Service on March 5, 2104.)

Many people are hoping that “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” lives up to the original series created by astronomer Carl Sagan 35 years ago. But no one will watch the program, airing Sunday (March 9) on Fox, with greater anticipation than nonbelievers–humanists, atheists, agnostics, and other “nones.” Among this group, many credit Sagan and the original Cosmos with instilling in them skepticism of the supernatural and a sense of wonder about the universe. Both, they say, encouraged their rejection of institutional religion.

Humanists are especially eager. They claim Sagan as their own, and see in the “Cosmos” series–a multipart journey to the outer reaches of our universe — and in his dozen books a vibrant strain of their own philosophy. That philosophy favors reason over religion and holds human beings as both good and responsible for the Earth’s plight.

“In my eyes, Carl Sagan represents the ‘yes’ and possibility of humanism rather than just the ‘no’ and the disagreement,” said Chris Stedman, assistant Humanist chaplain at Harvard University and a blogger for Religion News Service. “For that reason I think he occupies a special place among humanists and atheists.” In fact, Sagan–who died of a blood disorder in 1996 at age 62–is so important to Stedman, 26, he has the scientist’s words inked on his right arm. “For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love,” it says.

Some groups have named awards for Sagan, while others celebrate “Carl Sagan Day” on his Nov. 9 birthday. Sunday Assembly, a growing movement of nonbelievers, has begun weekly meetings with his quotes. Some nonbelieving parents have named their children after him. “His idea of the immensity of the universe and how small we are just impressed me so much as a teenager,” said Amanda Knief, managing director for American Atheists and owner of a 3-year-old Yorkie named Sagan. “It really led me to look beyond the religion I was raised in and shaped my humanism.”

Sagan never publicly proclaimed himself a humanist or even an atheist–though he enthusiastically accepted the American Humanist Association’s Humanist of the Year Award in 1981, the year after the original “Cosmos” broadcast. Instead, he called himself an agnostic because, he said, he could not disprove the existence of God. Astronomer Carl Sagan called himself an agnostic because, he said, he could not disprove the existence of God.

How did this man–a scientist by training, a teacher by profession and a poet at heart–bring so many people to nontheism, a position he never publicly professed? “Here’s where humanism comes in, because it’s not as though he was some hard-core atheist activist,” said Paul Fidalgo, communications director for the Center for Inquiry who first encountered Sagan through his parents. “He showed us that to marvel at life on our planet was to cherish it and work to preserve it. For that, we have to reject bad, old modes of thinking, look at the world as it really is rather than how we’d like to believe it is, and tackle the crises that face us.”

One reason Sagan was such a great science communicator–the Library of Congress named the print version of Cosmos among the most influential American books–is that unlike many of today’s prominent atheists, he never denigrated religion or its adherents, his fans say. That’s something Owen Gingerich, a Christian, Sagan friend and consultant on the original Cosmos, learned firsthand.

“He never criticized me for being a believer or disparaged my belief system,” Gingerich said. In private, “Carl could get off on a tangent about how much trouble religious beliefs had caused, but he was certainly no Richard Dawkins.” In fact, it was Sagan’s embrace of the language of religion in Cosmos that many nonbelievers think made it as moving and memorable as it was. In the first episode, Sagan calls the cosmos “the grandest of mysteries.” Later he intones: “The cosmos is all that ever is or ever was or ever will be.”

“Sagan took scientific facts and wove a kind of spiritual connection between us and the cosmos,” said Daniel Fincke, a philosopher and blogger who first encountered Sagan through the 1997 film version of his book “Contact.” “He has this notion that we are made of the stars, they are not separate from us, we come from them and we’ll return to them. It is a way to re-appropriate people’s feelings of religious wonder and connect them to our scientific origins.”

For Sagan, that connection was personal. “Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality,” he wrote. “When we recognize our place in an immensity of light-years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual.”

Not all nonbelievers are comfortable with that assessment, but James Croft, training to become a nontheistic Ethical Culture minister, agreed. He has given talks on Sagan’s science as a source of spirituality at Carl Sagan Day celebrations.

“Sagan juxtaposes the best of the religious and scientific world views,” Croft said. “It is his generosity of spirit and his willingness to understand what is appealing in religion while rejecting its claims that have most affected me.”

Chasing Ice – First Step

June 2014

At our May meeting we watched James Balog’s film Chasing Ice. Basically, this movie shows how global warming is eating up the glaciers and ice sheets of the earth. But more, it was gorgeous. The photographs of ice from crystals to gigantic sheets with all shapes of ice sculpture in between were breathtaking. The film also showed how the photographer positioned himself to get those pictures. The word foolhardy comes to mind but I am grateful for his persistence.

We were also shown time lapse photography of the ebb and flow of glaciers. Balog, and his team, mounted cameras in Iceland, Greenland, Canada, Alaska, and Montana for years at a time. These cameras took photos every hour or so when they were functioning. The editing showed us the retreat of glaciers as well as huge glaciers calving and was painstaking and immaculate. One scene consisted of a piece of ice the size of Manhattan falling into the sea. It took them three weeks of waiting on site to get that video even though it was pretty clear that that hundreds of foot thick sheet of ice was about to calve.

In light of the climate crisis, our horrible Utah air, and the injustice that will result to those affected by the crisis, your board is going to broaden the mission of the Humanists of Utah to bring to light more climate issues.

For starters, we have listed some intriguing and useful web sites to aid in understanding of the issues.

Let’s get involved!

–Lauren Florence, MD

Beowulf

November 2014

Julie Boyden, someone who has learned enough of the Anglo-Saxon language to translate the oldest English story ever told, Beowulf, told us how her interest in Tolkien led to the Anglo Saxon language. She read to us from her translation of Beowulf. She regaled us with tales of what the culture was like that spawned such a legend.

Her presentation drew a larger than normal crowd to our October meeting. (What? Maybe Halloween or perhaps our literary heart-chords were struck by the idea of a discussion around the oldest story in the English language?)

Whatever drew the listeners, it was quite satisfying when Julie was finished. Her readings from her book had us spellbound. We were entranced by the ancient story of a hero from our own past.

Thank you, Julie, for an excellent evening.

Upon his death], Beowulf’s beacon was encircled with a wall…
Inside, they placed rings and brooches
and all such trappings…
They gave the gold back to the earth
to hold in its grit,
where it still stands,
as useless to men as it ever was…
They made a song
which men still sing about Beowulf…
They said of him
that of all the world’s kings
he was the mildest and most gentle,
to his nation the kindest,
and a man most glad to win glory.

–Lauren Florence

Art and Activism

February 2014

First of all let me say thank you to Bob Mayhew for this opportunity to speak and have a conversation with all of you on this Wintry January evening. It is always wonderful to be amongst people who you feel are YOUR PEOPLE. I’ve always considered myself as a Front Runner, or what others may choose to call a Back Slider I’d very much like to keep this very informal. Share a few ideas and then open it up to a conversation. I assume you Humanists may like your structure and sequence, logic and format, but I JUST MAY take off on a tangent or two, but I promise the ratholes will be enjoyable.

PARAPROSDOKIANS (Para-pros-doki-ans) (Winston Churchill loved them.) as figures of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected; even humorous.

Since I am your speaker tonight, I’ll begin with one that pertains to me, right off the bat.

  1. Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear bright until you hear them speak. (here’s a few more to break the ice)
  2. Where there’s a will, I want to be in it. (This next one is for Gov. Herbert)
  3. The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it’s still on my list.
  4. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car. Amen

Bob and I discussed what I might share with you tonight that might entertain, enlighten, provoke. And my LIFE as an ARTIST and ACTIVIST may hopefully be of some value.

A WISE Friend–once taught me that real change, enduring change, purposeful change occurs in three ways, and three ways only–via LITIGATION, LEGISLATION, or LOVE

After you choose the HOW of going about change, there are ever so many ingredients that you have to possess, find, learn, gather, shout, and convince. LISTEN for the change ingredients, I am going to be sharing, or rather rambling about for a while now. I may not give you an exact list, but hopefully you will be able to hear them and they will ring with truth for you. In the history of this world there has to be a tremendous amount of activism led by people who are idealists and very angry about a situation, a condition, an injustice, a law–or lack thereof. And that idealism and anger is a good thing for it feeds the machine of change, invention, new ways, new thinking, better systems and structure, governments, leaders, organizations, and hopefully, eventually social justice.

As a boy I was always told to be nice. It wasn’t until years later that I learned as does Little Red Riding Hood, in Sondheim’s INTO THE WOODS that NICE is different than GOOD

An activist must understand good, and understand the dream-ending future vision he or she so strongly desires, and be willing to WORK

I happened upon manifesto a few years back–which pretty much sums up my approach to making a difference and being a game-changer. My only wish is that I had seen this when I was 15 years old, the subsequent years would have had more direction and action.

“ATTENTION: All you rule-breakers, you misfits and troublemakers – all you free spirits and pioneers – all you visionaries and non-conformists…Everything that the establishment has told you is wrong with you – is actually what’s right with you.

You see things others don’t. You are hardwired to change the world. Unlike 9 out of 10 people – your mind is irrepressible – and this threatens authority. You were born to be a revolutionary. You can’t stand rules because in your heart you know there’s a better way. You have strengths dangerous to the establishment – and it wants them eliminated, So your whole life you’ve been told your strengths were weaknesses – Now I’m telling you otherwise. Your impulsivity is a gift – impulses are your key to the miraculous, Your distractibility – is an artifact of your inspired creativity, Your mood swings reflect the natural pulse of life, they give you unstoppable energy when you are high, deep soulful insight when you are low.

Been diagnosed with a “disorder”? That’s society’s latest way to deny it’s own illness by pointing the finger at you. Your addictive personality is just a symptom of your vast underused capacity for heroic, creative expression and connection. Your utter lack of repression, your wide eyed idealism, your unmitigated open mind – didn’t anyone ever tell you? these are the traits shared by the greatest pioneers and visionaries and innovators, revolutionaries, procrastinators and drama queens, activists on the social scene, space cadets and mavericks, philosophers and derelicts, business suits flying fighter jets, football stars and sex addicts, celebrities with ADD, alcoholics who seek novelty, first responders – prophets and saints, mystics and change agents.”

I listen to that often.

We playwrights love our lines. We fall on our swords over one of them being cut. Trust me I have many a wound to prove it

Tennessee Williams, my very favorite gay American playwright once wrote a powerful line in one of his plays full of impact and metaphor—a line that I felt was appropriate for tonight. And appropriate to this time in our history, our history, and our EQUALITY rights that everyone is fighting for. It is a line that meant so much to him, it’s on his gravestone, a gravestone I have seen many, many times. It is taken from his play Camino Real.

“The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks.”
“The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks.”

To me, its meaning is simple. The hard, the cold, the oppressive will–at long last–is being broken apart by a force that is beautiful, natural, colorful, AND alive.

And the transformation–it is happening. I believe it has been happening for quite a decade or so now. The rock is cracking away. The rocks of hate and falsehood are being broken apart. The rocks of fear and control and power-mongering are being broken apart. The old systems of control and conformity will no longer sustain us. They require FEAR, SHAME, GUILT, JUDGMENT, and IGNORANCE to sustain them, and People all over this planet of free thinkers are choosing to release these old systems for ones of collaboration, cooperation, synergy, and most importantly LOVE.

Another Tennessee Williams quotation–from his forward to Sweet Bird of Youth

“I think that hate is a thing, a feeling, that can only exist where there is no understanding.”

In my life thus far these 59 years–I know that to be so very, very TRUE. My first work has always been, and will always be TO FIGHT AGAINST HATE

An Artist and Activist must believe in the 3 laws, fortunately for me their alliteration is handy. Attraction, Allowance, and Abundance

As a Life, Career, and Business Coach I sometimes share one of my favorite of many Shakespearean lines about work. Sometimes, working isn’t working. “Things won are done; joy’s soul lies in the doing.” (Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, Act 1, Scene 2) Joy’s Soul lies in the doing. To me that equates passion. But I love the fact that Joy has it’s own soul, for with that, so does many of the other wonderful learning emotions we should embrace throughout life to be change-agents or activists–Up to and even including pain, misery, rapture, happiness, contentment, peace, harmony, and balance.

And in all that change process there is a ton of Social Consciousness, Awareness Raising, Pushing Buttons and Causes, and mostly just day after day–Showing the Hell up The new term Show up and Show how and Show others–has been brought home to me time and time again by the younger generation. I am glad it is already in their DNA. In a recent video I directed I was discussing hope with several of the people I was interviewing. A young gay brother of mine in one of his responses blew me the hell away. “if young people just continue to show up, and show how beautiful they are, and to remain open to being informed, then there will be change. Yes I have hope.” So profound, so simple. (Directing it, I reeled back and had to sit down)

Non conformity, breaking and changing the rules, being a change-agent wherever you live, and for whatever purpose releases your finest passion.

Resonance and Relevance, two more ingredients in being a successful

artist-activist. Here’s some more.

Rules for Activists:

  • The Purpose, Issue(s), Passions
  • The Means and the Ends
  • The Word About Words
  • The Education of the Organizer and Organization
  • Communication, How, when, why Tactics
  • The Way Ahead, Dream Endings

Rules for Artists:

  • Order–Beginning
  • Design–Ideation
  • Tension–Opposition
  • Composition–Whole/Parts/Whole
  • Balance–Nourishment
  • Enlightenment–It will come to you
  • Harmony–Integrity

Plays I’ve done as an actor and writer all pretty much possess Social Activism Issues. (share one or two stories) God’s Country, Steven Deitz–Racism The Laramie Project, Moisés Kaufman–Homophobia and Murder Facing East, Carol Tony Kushner–It’s too big and wonderful a play to narrow down to one topic. Amongst my very favorite.

STORYTELLING:

Let’s do some CONTEXT SETTING:

The Artist-Activist Philosophy:

The spirit of a society is captured in its stories and symbols. Stories have always been how we pass on and strengthen our cultural history. Everywhere we look we see messages and images that reinforce culture. But, what are they saying to us and about us?

Today, our public stories are dominated by, scarcity, consumerism and bad news. It seems that fear, anger and selfishness have replaced messages of hope, happiness and shared values. My writing, acting, speaking, performing, fundraising efforts center around creative and artistic public awareness work, combined with grassroots organizing. I strive to bring light to important social issues and galvanize the public to stand up, show up, and be difference-makers by providing meaningful, informative and take-action projects, events, and organizations.

We all know there’s more to the story. Many of us are searching for a truer collective voice. One that captures the best of our culture and brings out our highest aspirations. There must be better ways than just advertising, entertainment and the news to tell our story in a thoughtful, beautiful and meaningful way.

We’ve all seen how inspiring creativity can be. It moves people to feel more deeply and act more fully. Artist-Activists have always been at the center of storytelling. Artist-Activists have challenged perspectives and continue to remind us of the most important aspects of the human condition.

We’ve also seen community building pave the way to tangible action. Organizers have gathered people together over important issues, encouraging action that makes society better.

When the two come together, the results are powerful There are many examples, from emergency benefit concerts to thought-provoking documentaries to highly visual public art, to amazing playwriting that call attention to social issues most often as a reaction to a problem.

This is the magic combination of Artistry and Activism and I believe it could change the face of our public story. Used in a proactive way not just in response to crisis we have an opportunity to reach people and promote the world we all want to see.

WRITING, PERFORMING and CREATING CHANGE for SOCIAL IMPACT

How can an individual make a significant difference to the World? Have you been Formulating a raw list of what for a Change-Agent must possess, think, and do? And a change-agent must see things a particular way: Change is not in the opposites we as humans tend to crave and gravitate towards. NOT in the TOTAL>>Good or Bad, Right or Wrong, Love or Hate, Liberal or Conservative, All or Nothing, Fresh or Dried, Organic or Processed, Truth or Lie, LIGHTNESS or DARKNESS. YOU MUST SEE THE GRAY Gray, Gray, Gray, Gray, Gray, and it all it’s shades; Boring Slate, Sea Serpent, Storm Cloud, Morning Fog, Serious Gray, Wall Street, Steel, Gibralter, Granite, Evening Shadow, and according to Sherwin Williams–56 other varieties of gray. Because the very change, the new direction, the many compromises, the collaboration and cooperation, the little wins, the one heart changed at a time, the better person, home, community, county–all live in the that vast, vast gray–which is LIFE Life is Gray, unsure, non-absolute, unclear, there for each of us to detect and determine. Embrace the gray. That is life. Sister Dottie’s message and goals of activism through the character. Her causes being in both plays:

  • Family Preservation and Acceptance.
  • There’s no choice when it comes to your child or church.
  • Women are the way and Institutionalized White Male Oppression is not acceptable any longer.
  • All people are EQUAL.
  • Bullying, and the fact that every can Bully, even those we love the most.
  • Gay Marriage and Full Civil Rights.
  • Drug Addiction.
  • Facing Your Fears is the only way to get through this huge journey called LIFE.
  • Surrogate Gay Parenting.
  • Everyone has all the POWER they need within.
  • Hope, Faith, and LOVE.

CHALLENGE FOR ALL TO get involved in something that leaves a legacy, and as my favorite George Bernard Shaw said: “I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake.”

My mantra. (hangs above my computer at home. FB and iPad joke)

  • Be bold, be thankful, be quiet.
  • Be original. Be spontaneous. Be punctual.
  • Be a star. Be young. Be crazy.
  • Be loud. Be Random. Be adorable.
  • Be unique. Be daring. Be obnoxious.
  • Be Yourself.

–Charles L. Frost

An Imperfect Book

April 2014

At our regular monthly meeting on Thursday, March 13, Earl Wunderli, a longtime member of our chapter, spoke about his recently published book, An Imperfect Book: What the Book of Mormon Tells Us About Itself.

Especially for those unfamiliar with the origin of the Book of Mormon, Wunderli began by giving a brief summary of events in the 1820s leading up to the publication of this keystone of the Mormon Church in 1830. According to Joseph Smith, the founder of the church, an angel visited him in 1823 when he was not quite 18 years old. This angel, Moroni, revealed to him the existence of gold plates that Moroni, while he was alive in 400 CE, had hidden in a nearby hill. The plates contained a history of the early inhabitants of this continent, who were to become the American Indians. The angel permitted him to retrieve the plates in 1827 along with the means for translating them, which the angel called the Urim and Thummim. Joseph Smith dictated his translation to several scribes, primarily Oliver Cowdery, in 1829 and published the book in 1830.

The history in the Book of Mormon is primarily of Lehi’s family of Israelites who, under God’s direction, emigrated from Jerusalem in 600 BCE and sailed across the Pacific Ocean to the Americas. The family almost immediately split into two factions, one following the faithful Nephi, Lehi’s fourth son, and the other following the rebellious Laman, Lehi’s oldest son. The Lamanites were cursed with a dark skin because of their disobedience. The history follows these two factions, their wars and the Nephite proselytizing, for 1000 years, from 600 BCE to 400 CE. Their history ends with a civil war in which all the Nephites are killed except Moroni. The Lamanites survived as American Indians.

Moroni’s father was Mormon, who abridged all the records kept by the Nephites down to his time. Moroni survived him and wrote the last 10% of the record, buried the entire record in the hill Cumorah near where Joseph Smith lived, and, as an angel, revealed the record to Joseph Smith. When Joseph Smith had dictated the first 116 pages of Mormon’s abridgment down to 130 BCE, his scribe took the pages home to show his skeptical wife and the pages were lost, never to be seen again. Joseph Smith did not retranslate these 116 pages but another record kept by Nephi and his successors, which ended where the 116 pages had ended. Thus about the first 25% of the Book of Mormon consists of first-person accounts written by Nephi and his successors, about 65% abridged by Mormon in the third person, and the final 10% written by Moroni.

Is this story true? or could the little-educated Joseph Smith in his early twenties have dictated it without any editing?

Each alternative seems equally implausible. Wunderli’s book argues that, based on the internal evidence, Joseph Smith wrote the book.

Wunderli proceeded first to recount how he got into researching and writing the book, and then reviewed some of the evidence.

Wunderli grew up in Salt Lake City as a Mormon. He married in the temple in 1957 at age 26 after one year of law school. At that time, he had struggled for a decade or so with where he stood regarding the church. He did not go on a mission and, for the first time, read the Book of Mormon in the navy during the Korean War in about 1953. He had read Fawn Brodie’s No Man Knows My History, and Hugh Nibley’s response in a little pamphlet entitled No Ma’am, That’s Not History, and was confused by their competing positions. He remembers wanting a sound reason for accepting the church or not. He finished law school and practiced law for three years before moving to Connecticut in 1962 to work as a lawyer for IBM.

One issue in the air at that time was why there were changes in the Book of Mormon if it had been translated by the gift of God, as Joseph Smith claimed. Wunderli’s wife had acquired a facsimile of the first edition of the Book of Mormon before their move to Connecticut. In the evening, he would read to her the then current edition and she’d note each change in the first edition. There were many changes but primarily of backwoods English, such as from “this they done” to “this they did,” although there were a few substantive ones.

Another issue in the air was whether the several writers of the Book of Mormon–primarily Nephi, his brother Jacob, Mormon, and Moroni–were different. His work on the changes gave him the idea to look for any differences among the several writers in the Book of Mormon. The value of this internal evidence, he thought, was that it was accessible (no need to be a historian, archaeologist, or linguist to understand the evidence); unchanging (unlike the new findings and developments in external evidence such as history, archaeology, and linguistics); complete (the Book of Mormon is a fixed canon); and certain (the facts are not subject to dispute).

By 1976, Wunderli had eight boxes of 3″ by 5″ cards, one for each of the 5250 words in the Book of Mormon and how each word was used and by whom. Getting that deep into the Book of Mormon uncovered so much other evidence regarding, for example, the proper names, prophecies, and curiosities, that he thought he should find a way to make his findings known. Since then, he has read what critics and defenders of the book have written, given talks on some of his findings, written a couple of published articles, made several stabs at writing a book, and finally went to press last year.

Wunderli then turned to the evidence. In the book of Third Nephi, Jesus Christ appears to the Nephites after his resurrection. His visit takes up 18 of the 30 chapters in Third Nephi. In three of the chapters, Jesus delivers his Sermon on the Mount from the book of Matthew in the New Testament consisting of about 2500 words, and in the rest of Third Nephi he delivers another 8,000 words. The Jesus who gives the Sermon on the Mount (the biblical Jesus) is clearly different from the Jesus who spoke another 8,000 words (the Book of Mormon Jesus). For example, the Book of Mormon Jesus refers to the Father 147 times, but the biblical Jesus never uses the Father but only your Father, thy Father, our Father, and my Father (the Book of Mormon Jesus uses my Father eight times). Furthermore, the biblical Jesus often couples “Father” with “which is in heaven,” which the Book of Mormon Jesus never does.

A second difference is that when Jesus first speaks to the people, he addresses them as “O ye people of these great cities which have fallen, who are descendants of Jacob, yea, who are of the house of Israel.” He addresses them thereafter with progressively shorter salutations–“O ye people of the house of Israel,” then “O ye house of Israel,” and finally “O house of Israel”–and then gives his Sermon on the Mount to the same multitude but never addresses them as “O house of Israel,” although he does so 14 times after his Sermon.

A third difference, and there are others, relates to the 1569 different words that are used just once in the Book of Mormon. Of these, the biblical Jesus uses 38, the Book of Mormon Jesus uses 14. The biblical Jesus uses one for every 66 words on average, or more than seven per page, eight times more frequently than the Book of Mormon Jesus, who uses one for every 575 words, or less than one per page.

There is one similarity, however. Each Jesus uses “Verily (verily) I say unto you,” the biblical Jesus 21 times and the Book of Mormon Jesus 49 times. But this similarity may have been by design. Joseph Smith may have recognized that the two Jesuses had to sound the same and hit on the expedient of using this expression, which characterizes the biblical Jesus. Joseph Smith then used it with abandon, much as an impersonator exaggerates an obvious mannerism. There are indications that this is what happened. Jesus uses the expression five times in the Bible; in the Book of Mormon, these five are retained and 16 are added. In the Bible, Jesus uses “verily” only singly in his sermon, but in the Book of Mormon, Jesus uses “verily, verily” eight times in his sermon. Indeed, one of Jesus’s single verilys has been changed to a double one. The Book of Mormon Jesus also quotes Isaiah, changing Isaiah’s “therefore” to “verily I say unto you” (Isaiah uses “verily” only once in the Bible, and without “I say unto you”).

Wunderli argued that all these added verilys serve no purpose other than to make the two Jesuses sound alike.

If the differences between the two Jesuses suggest two different persons, does a clear difference between Mormon and Moroni also suggest different persons? Does the fact that Mormon uses many more therefores and many fewer wherefores than Moroni indicate that they are different persons? Therefore and whereforeare interchangeable except for six uses of therefore by the biblical Jesus (e.g., “After this manner therefore pray ye,” which is yet another difference between the two Jesuses). More specifically, therefore is used 663 times in the Book of Mormon. Only 13 of the 5250 different words in the Book of Mormon are used more, such as yea and behold. Wherefore is used 415 times; only 32 words are used more. Mormon, who wrote about 65% of the Book of Mormon, uses 90% of the therefores and 3% of the wherefores, while Moroni, together with Nephi and his successors, wrote about 35% of the Book of Mormon but use only 10% of the therefores but 97% of the wherefores.

Does this clear disparity indicate that Mormon was different from the other writers and, indeed, a different person? Well, there are some anomalies. One is that Moroni wrote the final two chapters of Mormon’s book of Mormon (small b) within the Book of Mormon. Down to these two chapters, Mormon had used 51 straight therefores with no wherefores, and this continues in Moroni’s two chapters, where he uses four therefores and no wherefores, sounding more like Mormon than his later writings. A second anomaly is that in the book of Moroni, the final book in the Book of Mormon, Moroni uses only wherefore, 36 times. In the book of Mormon, Mormon writes two epistles to Moroni, in which he uses 11 wherefores but no therefores, sounding more like Moroni than his earlier writings.

What appears to have happened is that when Joseph Smith came to the book of Ether, which comes after the book of Mormon and before the book of Moroni and is a history of an earlier people, the Jaredites, condensed by Moroni , he recognized that Mormon and Moroni should sound different, analogously to his recognition that the two Jesuses should sound the same. Since therefore and wherefore were common, interchangeable words, he hit on the expedient of having Moroni use wherefore rather than therefore to distinguish him from Mormon. The book of Ether shows a slow transition from the use of Mormon’s therefore, which is used 24 times, to Moroni’s wherefore, which is used 63 times.

When Joseph Smith finished dictating the book of Moroni, and the lost 116 pages hadn’t turned up, he dictated the history covering the same time period, written by Nephi, Jacob and their successors, down to where he had started dictating again after the loss of the 116 pages, using wherefore with an occasional use oftherefore. This gave rise to another anomaly. Mormon ended this second history with what he called Words of Mormon, a short, two-page bridge to his abridged history, where Joseph Smith began dictating after the loss of the 116 pages. In Words of Mormon, he uses wherefore four times but not therefore, sounding like the previous writers, who use wherefore 15 times without a therefore, and sounding unlike himself in the following 28 pages, which he abridged and used therefore 57 times.

There is much other evidence of Joseph Smith’s authorship. For example, he anachronistically copies Isaiah 48-54, which is from Deutero-Isaiah, written after the Babylonian captivity long after Lehi left Jerusalem. He also, again anachronistically, quotes from Paul’s epistles. Other evidence relates to proper names (there are seven identical Nephi and Jaredite names and another 14 within one letter of being identical); prophecies (40% are of past events and 25% of events in the Book of Mormon, and are all specific and unconditional, and 35% are of future events and are vague, conditional, or eschatological); political, scientific, and religious ideas; and curiosities.

Wunderli concluded by noting several things about Joseph Smith that support the idea that he could have written the Book of Mormon. For example, according to his mother, before he was 20, he would occasionally regale his family with tales of the ancient inhabitants of this continent and many details about them. He was well versed in the Bible and quite intelligent; he was much more than a barely educated farm boy.

–Earl Wunderli

American Atheist Convention

May 2014

Chapter members Sally Jo Fuller and Robert Frahm attended the recent Atheist Conference in Salt Lake City. Here is a report from their experiences.

At this time, I will just give a short summary of this incredible experience. Robert and I attended many of the programs and were greatly impressed by the speakers and their messages.

The presenters represented the LGBT community, those who reported their legal battles regarding Separation of Church and State, the historical fraud concerning the LDS Church religion, discrimination against assorted races and cultures, the ‘hold.’ certain religious factions have on their congregations, and human interest stories.

One of the speakers, Frank Zedler, dedicated his presentation to the memory of his dear friend, Richard Andrews, a longtime pillar of the freethought community here in Utah, who died recently.

Dan Ellis, the President of Atheists of Utah, welcomed everyone and all throughout the conference I noticed him in conversations with many of the attendees. He graciously accepted the American Atheist Affiliate of the year for 2013 Award for this local group.

My kudos to the American Atheist organizers of this convention for providing American Sign Language Interpreters throughout the entire conference; showing real commitment to allow EVERYONE to have access to this event.

I felt quite at home there as many of the people were around my age with similar views. Of course, the majority of attendees were between 20 and 40; they are the ones who will make the political and cultural changes for more equality for ALL!!!!!!

Wayne was good enough to offer me space in some of the future Humanist of Utah Newsletters in order to elaborate more on the speakers and their messages.

Thanks for this opportunity.

–Sally Jo Fuller

American Atheist Convention

June 2014

Chapter members Sally Jo Fuller and Robert Frahm attended the recent Atheist Conference in Salt Lake City. Here is the second report from their experiences.

Why would an ordained minister accept an offer to speak at an Atheist Convention?

Surprisingly, they both believe strongly in the Separation of Church and State. As a minister of the United Church of Christ, Reverend Barry W. Lynn, is also Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

As its activist he has “butted heads” with many of The Religious Right who want to demolish the wall of separation between church and state by mandating an ideology-based social agenda (such as, teaching “creationism” in public schools).

Reverend Lynn actively supports a clean and clear separation between religious institutions and government entities. He supports complete religious/philosophical freedom for all faiths. Not a state based on any one specific religion; such as, those who make up fundamentalist group of the Religious Right.

Both in his presentation at the Atheist Convention and his book “Piety and Politics – The Right-Wing Assault on Religious Freedom”, he argues that politicians need to stop looking to the Bible to justify their actions and should consult another source instead: the United States Constitution.

Thank you Reverend Lynn for continuing the fight educating the American public about this important issue.

–Sally Jo Fuller

Atheist Convention Report

July 2014

Chapter members Sally Jo Fuller and Robert Frahm attended the recent Atheist Conference in Salt Lake City. Here is the third report from their experiences.

Carrying on a conversation with someone you do not know is actually the norm at a convention; standing in line, or at a lunch table, etc. So it was that Marsha was right there next to me again and again.

Her demeanor was quiet and unassuming but she seemed to know a lot about all of the speakers. I was very surprised and delighted when she appeared on the platform as Marsha Botzer, the founder of Seattle’s Ingersoll Gender Center. Wow! What a transformation! No longer reserved, she was passionate, energetic, and gave a commanding performance.

Ms. Botzer has been involved in the LGBT and progressive communities for 35 years. She is a founding member of Equality Washington and on the board of Equal Rights Washington. She has received many accolades and awards for her activism.

But for me, I will always remember her for her enthusiasm and stage presence which enthralled the audience.

–Sally Jo Fuller