July 2021

President’s Message

We are now in the full swing of summer—heat an all! It is an exciting time and one to look at through open cautious eyes. While we are past the craziness of the pandemic that we witnessed last year, we are not out of the woods yet. With this in mind, and following the guidelines and instructions of the CDC, state, and local authorities, we can move forward with in person activities and meetings. Everyone’s well-being is our first priority, so we will be adhering to safety protocols. Our first big event will be our Annual Humanist Picnic next month! All are invited, and there is no cost! We will be grilling, having games, it will be family friendly, and it is outside at beautiful Sugarhouse Park. See the flier on our website, our FB page and there will be. more details to come. In September, we will have our first speaker and will continue to have our monthly meetings.

We are very excited to see you all! It has been a rough year, but now is the time to come together as a community of friends, neighbors and fellow human beings and move on with the values we believe in and help build a better future for us all.

Kindest regards, and have a blessed day.

—Melanie White-Curtis
President, Humanists of Utah

The Meaning of Freedom

The Fourth of July is in a few days; we are nearly two weeks out from Juneteenth so I was thinking that a discussion of “Freedom” is appropriate. I remembered that one of my favorite expositions on the subject is a piece by Robert Ingersoll from our archives:

When I became convinced that the universe is natural—that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood, the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom. Read the rest of the article by clicking this link: Richard Layton’s Discussion Group Report July 1988

Meeting Your Heroes Can Hurt

Andy Larsen, a Salt Lake Tribune reporter, says that in his exposure of basketball legend John Stockton’s support of the anti-vax movement, that one should never meet their heroes. It seems that Stockton has embraced the anti-vax movement. He is a major performer in a $79 anti-vaccine video series. Larsen notes that he idolized Stockton when he was growing up, thought that he essentially walked on water; he did the equivalent on the basketball courts. Now that Larsen has written may articles about the Pandemic, he could not be more disappointed than he is by the discovery of Stockton’s opinions.

I just learned today that Richard Dawkins had been stripped of his 1996 The AHA Humanist of Year honors. The AHA declared:

Regrettably, Richard Dawkins has over the past several years accumulated a history of making statements that use the guise of scientific discourse to demean marginalized groups, an approach antithetical to humanist values. His latest statement implies that the identities of transgender individuals are fraudulent, while also simultaneously attacking Black identity as one that can be assumed when convenient. His subsequent attempts at clarification are inadequate and convey neither sensitivity nor sincerity.

Consequently, the AHA Board has concluded that Richard Dawkins is no longer deserving of being honored by the AHA, and has voted to withdraw, effective immediately, the 1996 Humanist of the Year award—April 19, 2021

For most of my life I’ve held Bill Cosby as a personal hero. I believed that he was a 20th century Mark Twain. I read his book Fatherhood when my wife and I were starting our family. I bought that book as a gift to friends when they were expecting children. I am heartbroken to discover that he is a rapist; is there anything worse?

Is it wrong to appreciate good deeds, thoughts, and actions of someone who turns out to have a really nasty side? It seems to me that it should be okay, but there is part of me that is not so sure. My favorite T-shirt reads, “Science is the Poetry of Reality.” I have contracted to have this maxim carved into my tombstone. The quote comes from Dawkins. Do I need to throw out my shirts, change my tombstone? Actuality a two-person “boulder” that serves as a mausoleum to store ashes from two people.

The Bill Cosby Show was such a wonderful pursuit, a black family ala Father Knows Best dealing with the trials and tribulations of family issues that were always solved by love and understanding.

I am interested to hear any comments you may have. Please write email to webmaster@humanistsofutah.org or mail your input to Humanists of Utah, PO Box 1043, West Jordan, UT  84084.

Wayne Wilson

Humanist Humor

Re-Imagining John Lennon’s Imagine

Imagine there’s no Facebook,
It’s easy if you try.
No trolls to berate us,
Around us no more lies
Imagine all the crackpots
Silenced for the daaaayaaaay.

Imagine there’s no Twitter,
It isn’t hard to do.
Nothing to shill or cry for
And no retweeters, too.

Imagine all the people
Being kind to youuuuouuuu.
You may say that I hate screamers,
But I’m not the only one
Who hopes one day we’ll stop this
And the world will be more fun

—Stefan Pastis
Transcribed from “Pearls Before Swine”, 4/11/2021
Reprinted from PIQUE, 4/20/21

Hindu, Rabbi, and Critic

While traveling separately through the countryside late one afternoon, a Hindu, a Rabbi, and a Critic were caught in the same area by a terrific thunderstorm. They sought shelter at a nearby farmhouse.

“That storm will be raging for hours,” the farmer told them. “You’d better stay here for the night. The problem is, there’s only room enough for two of you. One of you’ll have to sleep in the barn.”

“I’ll be the one,” said the Hindu. “A little hardship is nothing to me.” He went out to the barn.

A few minutes later, there was a knock at the door. It was the Hindu. “I’m sorry,” he told the others, “But there is a cow in the barn. According to my religion, cows are sacred, and one must not intrude into their space.”

“Don’t worry, said the Rabbi, “Make yourself comfortable here. I’ll go to sleep in the barn.” He went out to the barn.

A few minutes later, there was a knock at the door. It was the Rabbi. “I hate to be a bother,” he said, “but there is a pig in the barn. In my religion, pigs are considered unclean. I wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing my sleeping quarters with a pig.”

“Oh, all right,” said the Critic, “I’ll go sleep in the barn.” He went out to the barn.

A few minutes later, there was a knock at the door. It was the cow and the pig.

All God’s Children Got Guns

I don’t know about anyone else, but during these ridiculously fraught times I need a laugh once in a while. So, a few weeks ago I watched the Marx Brothers’ classic Duck Soup. Absolutely hilarious. If you’ve never seen it, you must. Duck Soup is also an incisive satire on government and war. There’s a musical scene towards the end where everyone happily sings “Fredonia’s Going to War!”, including the lines, “They got guns; we got guns; all God’s children got guns.” In the United States today it’s hard to argue with those statements.

Which brings us to our current crisis in policing. Many people are saying that America’s towns and cities should “defund” their police departments. There doesn’t seem to be full consensus on exactly what “defund” means, but there at least seems to be agreement that we need to re-think our concept of public safety. This would probably include transferring some police functions and funding to alternative responses, e.g., mental health therapies, substance abuse treatment, job training, housing. This needs to be researched (using evidence-based analysis, of course) and implemented in order to enhance public safety for all people, including police officers themselves, regardless of race, religion (or the lack thereof), sexual orientation and gender identity.

There have also been calls to de-militarize the police (at least partially) as a reaction to seeing thousands of police on the streets of America who, with their body armor, high-powered weapons and military style vehicles, look more like an invading army than peace officers whose duty is to protect and serve the communities in which they work. It has been suggested even further that perhaps American policing should follow the U.K. model where most officers make their rounds unarmed. Only 5 percent of police in the U.K. routinely carry guns. The problem with this proposal is the ubiquity of gun ownership in the U.S. There are 393 million firearms in private hands in our country, which comes to 120 for every 100 people. (Quick aside: there are millions of Americans who don’t own a gun. So given the numbers, it means that there are individuals in this country who must own flat-out arsenals. What could possibly go wrong?) In the U.K. there are approximately 1.8 million firearms in public hands, 1.3 million of which are licensed shotguns used for hunting. This is about 2.5 guns, including the shotguns, for every 100 people. It doesn’t seem realistic to expect our police to follow the U.K model and go without guns while our country at large is armed to the teeth.

It is also not surprising that police in this country rely on their weapons way too often. If they expect every citizen with whom they interact to be armed, the data shows that they just may be right. For years we have chosen to ignore the out-of-control gun violence that wounds our nation in so many ways. Over reliance on firearms (and force in general) by the police is just one of them. So, as we re-think public safety in this country, which is a good idea, let’s not forget that reducing the number and lethality of firearms in public hands must be part of the solution.

—Jonathan Engel
Reprinted from PIQUE, 6/30/20

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