January 2010

State of Affairs

Our annual business meeting and banquet was a great success. About 30 people attended and enjoyed good food, conversation, and comments from members Flo Wineriter and Earl Wunderli (his almost-annual poem is published in this newsletter.)

All five candidates running (volunteering) for service on the Board of Directors were elected by overwhelming majorities. We now have 10 members on the Board with two new people who have already expressed fresh ideas to help our chapter move forward. We are excited that Karen Keller and Lisa Miller have joined our leadership team.

We wish to express our thanks for the service of longtime Board member Cindy King who retired after many years of work promoting Humanists of Utah. Her involvement will be missed but she assured us that she was not really leaving, just retiring from the Board of Directors.

Our chapter remains financially sound and viable. We have also been able to support the University of Utah secular student group SHIFT with some financial help. This seems like a great investment in the future of humanism.

Ideas and constructive criticisms are always welcome, even solicited. If you have something to say, please contact any Board member.

–Wayne Wilson

On Being Reasonable Persons

This is an original poem composed by Chapter Member Earl Wunderli on the occasion of out annual Business Meeting and Holiday Social.

We humanists are a dangerous lot, as menacing as can be,
And we’re arrogant, our critics say, for a minority.

Our ranks are few (but growing), our ideas are clearly wrong.
We never thank our Maker or celebrate with song.

We believe the world is warming when everybody knows
We still have spring and fall and winter and the lovely snows.

God made this world for us; all scripture tells us this,
And He’ll determine when it ends, as it says in Genesis.

And how can we be moral without God’s guiding hand?
Our ethics must be built upon soft and shifting sand.

We’re at odds on everything, from gays to God in school.
Can’t we see that each of us is just a secular fool?

We rely too much on science. There’s a lot of stuff
That prayer can do that science can’t if we have faith enough.

God made man and woman and each one has a role
And we must all acknowledge this or we might lose our soul.

We’re not descended from the apes; there’s dignity in man,
And if we can’t see this obvious fact, religious people can.

Our country is a Christian one, which we don’t recognize,
Which shows that we’re close minded and anything but wise.

We really should get back in step, we really should reform,
And leave our thinking minds behind and accept faith as the norm.

Our puny minds can’t give us truth but just approximations.
We can’t rely on evidence or reason or equations.

We need the certainty of God and what He has revealed.
And if He hasn’t told us all, there’s good reason it’s concealed.

It tests our faith, and we should learn it’s what our life’s about.
We’re here to exercise our faith and scuttle any doubt.

It’s true the world has many faiths, but we should choose the one
Among them all that has the truth, which is easier said than done.

And when we find it we should reject the others out of hand,
And convince those of other faiths they’re in some fairyland.

But isn’t this what humanists do? And yet we’re not excused
Like missionaries are, so now I’m totally confused.

I guess it boils down to our epistemology.
Reason’s out and faith is in, and that’s as it should be.

If you’re a man of faith then you’re on the side of God
And you’re accepted though what you think may be quite odd.

And so it is that reason may be just too much to ask,
And humanists who do it face a mighty arduous task.

With this happy thought I’ll wish you all a merry Christmas,
Or Hanukkah, or Kwanza, or Solstice just among us.

–Earl Wunderli

In Memoriam
Leon Ward
August 22, 1925 ~ December 16, 2009

Avowed humanist, social activist, and veteran, Owen Leon Ward died December 16, 2009 at Woodland Park Care Center in Salt Lake City. He was born, August 22, 1925 in the Salt Lake Valley to Rex and Mamie Myers Ward, joining older brother Max.

Leon saw Army action and became POW in World War II. He reenlisted and served in Korea. He earned a BA in History from the University of Utah. He taught at West High School where he was an alumnus. With his father and brother Maurice, he managed Ward’s Market, located on 3rd East and 21st South for 37 years. On September 19, 1958 he married Virginia Bell.

He was a strong advocate for peace, civil rights, and social justice. He served as founding Board Member of Friendship Manor, participated in NAACP, JACL, U.N. Association of Utah, World Federalist Movement, and Humanists of Utah. He arranged speaking engagements for Hiroshima survivors.

In 1963, accompanied with 14 civil rights advocates and with his wife Virginia, he traveled to Washington, DC and stood within 50 feet of Martin Luther King during the “I Have a Dream” speech.

He volunteered for 10 years at the County Aging Services and Senior Companions.

He was a loving foster grandparent to Angelina and Fred Callahan, Jr., Nicholas Johnson (deceased), and Joshua Adams; step-father to Timothy Champney and Joan Pennette (Penny) and Philip Letson; great-grandparent to Sean and Brooke Johnson. He is survived by spouse Virginia, step-children, and cousin Leslie Perry of Woodlawn, Utah. Memorial service scheduled at the First Unitarian Church, January 10, 2010 at 3:00p.m., 569 South 1300 East, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Right Wing Scapegoating

His appearance was co-sponsored by The Interfaith Alliance of Idaho, Humanists of Idaho, Idaho Human Rights Education Center, and the First Congregational United Church of Christ. Berlet (pronounced Ber-LAY) is a progressive activist who focuses on keeping track of right-wing groups who promote various conspiracy theories and bigotries. He reviewed a long history of such phenomena in America’s past, including the Salem witch trials, a 1790’s panic against Freemasons, and Catholic vs. Protestant flare-ups at various times. He cited recent quotes from some 2009 Tea Parties, in which people made claims like, “Obama is a Socialist Fascist, just like Hitler and Stalin.” While one can certainly associate wide-ranging government programs with the concept of socialism, it is certainly not defensible to imply that the really horrible thing about German Nazis was that they provided medical care to their citizens.

Berlet displayed a very deep understanding of many, many groups on the scene today and in the past. He was also clear on two very important points. First, he cautioned listeners not to assume right-wingers are “crazy” or that they lack education, and he urged listeners not to fall into the same bad habits they dislike about right-wingers, namely, name-calling and scapegoating. Berlet pointed to some of the reasons why people are angry today: 1) the economic meltdown; 2) race: Obama is black; and 3) deep-seated beliefs that are being challenged by gender issues, such as women in the workforce, abortion, and homosexuality. We must keep discourse civil, and focused on

observable facts. Second, Berlet was careful to separate the irrational, such as racism, religious bigotry, and unfounded conspiracy theories, from the “rational-but-disagree” arguments such as progressive versus free-market economic debates. Reasonable people can disagree about certain principles or issues while still agreeing, and working together, on issues of basic human rights, and opposition to racism, sexism, religious bigotry, fantastic conspiracy theories, etc.

It was an interesting talk, and much useful ground was covered in a rather extensive question-and-answer session following it. Information on Political Research Associates is available on their website. As a free-market libertarian myself, I disagree with their economic bent. But in promoting basic human rights, separation of church and state, and opposing racism and bigotry, I’m certainly with them.

–Paul Rolig
President, Humanists of Idaho
Reprinted from 
Secular Idaho, January 2010

December 21, 2010

Wait, the world is going to end on the Winter Solstice in 2010, and no one told me? The ancient Maya calendar ends, the Earth and the sun line up with the center of the galaxy, or something like that, and the planet Niburu, which the government has been hiding from us (we know they’re hiding it because they never say anything about it,) smashes into the Earth like a bowling ball into a head pin-and everybody dies!

All of us! It’s not only on the internet and in the tabloids; it’s even a major motion picture. We all die-and nobody told me?

Who’s responsible for this, Obama? It is, isn’t it? Obama, right? Damn socialist Muslim.

–John Rafferty
President, Secular Humanist Society of New York
PIQUE, December 2009

President’s Message

Happy New Year everyone, I hope you had an enjoyable holiday season. As we start the New Year, there is talk in the media about the new decade and what happened in the last one. One rather humorous complaint is from the math minded people of the world. They point out that 2010 is not the first year of the second decade; it is the tenth year of the first decade. But I guess we have to go with the flow, as the majority of people see this year as the start of a new decade. For me, my first thought is that I would like to see a little more peace in the world. I know, I know, a pretty tall order. But wouldn’t it be nice if humans could spend more of our human and natural resources on making life better for all humans and indeed all creatures here on earth. Humanity has the capacity to do so, but sadly at present not the collective will. I think there is just too much tribalism, religion and politics in the world, not to mention greed. (So what else is new I ask myself.) But that is why it is important for us as humanists to continue to advocate the affirmations of humanism and work to make life enjoyable in the here and now for everyone. The first event of the year for our chapter will be our general meeting on the January 14, at 7:30 PM. This month we will present three members who will speak about their “Journey to Humanism.” Member Ruth Carol, Vice President Robert Mayhew, and I will be the presenters. It has been a few years since we have done this, so I think it is about time. As I have read some of the newsletters of other humanist organizations, I have noticed that they often feature someone expressing what humanism means to them or giving an account of their “Journey” and what led them to humanism. In the past our chapter also had an ongoing “Member Spotlight,” and those interviews are on our web site. I think it is time to start doing this again. It is a good way to get to know members better and a way for some of you to talk about your “Journey to Humanism” without getting up in front of everyone and talking. I am aware that public speaking is on top of the list of fears that people have. In February we will host our third annual “Darwin Day with Humanists of Utah”. This year our speaker will be University of Utah history professor Bruce Dain and we will be hosting it at Eliot hall. So mark your calendar and bring a friend to our Darwin Day celebration of science.

–Robert Lane
President, HoU


Member Recommended Web Sites

The Freethinkers Association of Central Texas (FACT) have a great website with a lot of good resources. It definitely deserves a bookmark in your browser!