September 2007

President’s Message

September 23, the Autumnal Equinox, the “official” end of summer. This is a date I am very much looking forward to. With its arrival I am hoping for (much) cooler temperatures and less need to mow lawns and prune trees. This also means our summer recess is at an end, and we are moving back to our regular schedule of meetings, discussions and chapter business. Please watch the “Upcoming Events” section in the newsletter and on our website to see what is on track for the next several weeks.

Everyone who attended the Summer Party on August 9 had a great time. We had a great turn out and not only saw familiar faces, but some new ones as well, new faces that we hope will return to Humanists of Utah events and perhaps even consider membership. The food was delicious and saw everything from seasonal fruit plates to a variety of home made desserts to fresh squeezed lime-aide. I think we can add the “Barbecue Picnic” to our list of Things to Do Again Next Year. Special thanks go to John and Wanda Young for hosting the Party in their beautiful back yard, to Cindy and Art King for their hard work and fearlessness on taking on both Costco and the grill, and to everyone who contributed the tasty food and drink. It was a great success because of all of YOU.

I hope everyone had a chance to read Bob and Julie Mayhew’s excellent article in the August Utah Humanist. They presented a very lucid and rational case detailing the numerous abuses of power under the current Administration and put forth a call for the impeachment of President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney (the Board voted unanimously to support and call for impeachment at the July 19 Board meeting). This article has been sent to the Salt Lake Tribune for publication and we strongly encourage you to write letters to the editor of your local newspapers to support restoring the system of checks and balances so vital to our democracy, something that has suffered tremendously during this administration.

–Robert Lane
President, HoU

re: Impeachment – Letter to the Editor

Kudos to Julie and Bob Mayhew for having the guts to say what most of us just think–the Founding Fathers gave us not only the right to impeach scoundrels, but the duty and the obligation to do so.

Impeaching Bush and Cheney is the right thing to do, not only to punish them, but send a message to future elected officials that we will not condone anyone who totally ignores our Constitution.

If the Bush and Cheney Gang still don’t get it, then let’s try them as war criminals. That might wake them up!

–Rolf Kay

9th Annual Gandhi Birthday Celebration

To honor Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy of service and nonviolence, the public is invited to the 9th annual Gandhi Birthday Celebration.

For her work preserving the site and memory of the Topaz Internment Camp, Gandhi Alliance for Peace will give Jane Beckwith, president of the Topaz Museum Board, the Gandhi Peace Award. Beckwith and her board epitomize one of Gandhi’s best known sayings: You must be the change you wish to see in the world.

Near Delta, Utah, Topaz Internment Camp was the site where over 8,000 Japanese-Americans, most of them US citizens, were confined during World War II. This summer on June 30th, the camp was dedicated as Utah’s 13th National Historic Landmark.

Such a momentous event was the result of a group of concerned citizens, the Topaz Museum Board, who has labored long and hard to preserve the site and memory of the camp. Not only have they secured 627 of the 640 acres of the actual physical site, they are progressing with the establishment of a museum–Topaz Museum in Delta–their mission to educate people about what happened at Topaz, and to prevent such an injustice from ever occuring again.

Along with music and devotionals, Beckwith will be honored at our annual Gandhi Birthday Celebration. Please join us Sunday, September 30, 2007 at 5 PM in Jordan Park, 1060 South 900 West, SLC. For more information, call 801.364.2971. Free.

–Sarah Smith

Doubt, a History

~Book Review~

Doubta History by Jennifer Michael Hecht is a remarkable history of virtually every significant doubter in history, east and west, from 600 BCE down to the present when it was published in 2003. It is extraordinary that one person could write so comprehensive a work.

Secular humanists cannot feel anything but pride to be in the company of such a dizzying array of historical figures. As a philosophy major, I always enjoy visiting not only Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, but the Cynics like Diogenes, the Stoics like Zeno, the Epicureans named for Epicurus, and the Skeptics who began with Pyrrho, and reading of the lasting influence they had. But the doubters were not just classical philosophers. Hecht takes us on a visit to Judaism, including the biblical books of Job and Ecclesiastes, to Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism, and then back to Rome and Cicero, Lucretius, and Marcus Aurelius. She walks us through Christian doubt, Medieval doubt including Muslim skeptics, and the great Maimonides. She leads us through scholasticism and the European renaissance and Rabelais and Montaigne and into the scientific revolution. We come to the Enlightenment, Voltaire, Diderot, and David Hume and continue on to Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Jefferson, and then to the more recent Thomas Edison, Mark Twain, Albert Einstein, and Sigmund Freud, and the contemporary Salman Rushdie of The Satanic Verses, Stephen Hawking of A Short History of Time, and Watson and Crick who deciphered the structure of DNA. And I haven’t even named any women, like Margaret Sanger, Katherine Hepburn, and Jodie Foster.

There are hundreds more, including not only philosophers but scientists, historians, poets, musicians, actors, financiers, filmmakers, authors, inventors, fashion designers, and magicians, including Penn and Teller. The list is astounding. Secular humanists are in great company. Listen to Hecht: “The only thing…doubters really need, that believers have, is a sense that people like themselves have always been around, that they are part of a grand history. I hope it is clear now that doubt has such a history of its own, and that to be a doubter is a great old allegiance, deserving quiet respect and open pride.” Hecht, as you might guess, is not only a historian but a poet.

–Earl Wunderli

Reason and Reverence

~Book Review~

Reason and Reverence by William Murry is one of the best well-rounded affirmations of humanism as a positive way of life since Corliss Lamont’s The Philosophy of Humanism.

In discussing human nature and destiny, Murry shows that humanism can be as eloquent as Pascal in noting both the grandeur of humans as well as their evil side. This is an optimism balanced with an awareness of the destructive side of humans and of the tragic dimensions of life. He stresses both the individual and social aspects of humanness. Humans are part of the natural world, yet each person is of great worth and inherently sacred. Even though we are embedded in nature, we have freedom and moral responsibility.

The humanist call is to live well and morally, to appreciate life and renounce the hope for immortality.

Author William Murry is a past president of the Meadville-Lombard Theological school and Minister Emeritus of River Road Unitarian Church in Maryland.

–Flo Wineriter

Tree of Life

Member Recommended Websites

The Tree of Life is this month’s featured site. It is a collaborative effort of biologists from around the world and consumes more than 9000 web pages. The structure of the ToL project is to illustrate the genetic connections among all living things.

The “tree houses” are a great place to start.

Tree of Life