July 2010

C-Cubed: Utah Humanists Guest Speakers

Humanist Guest Speakers

Take a look at our wish list for Humanists of Utah guest speakers:

  1. Jesus: Surveying Christianity around the world with a ‘Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”
  2. Buddha: Including one lecture on why Buddhism is philosophy and not religion.
  3. Hypatia: a Greek scholar and philosopher: What is this thing called “Christianity” and living life on your own terms.
  4. Leonardo da Vinci: How could we pass up the widely regarded most intelligent human to have lived?
  5. Christopher Columbus: Comparing our world with his.
  6. Reverend Jonathon Mayhew: (extra bonus: he’s a relation of one of our members!): John Adams called Rev. Mayhew “the morning gun of the Revolution.” Adams also dubbed him a “transcendent genius.” Robert Treat Paine called Dr. Mayhew, “The Father of Civil and Religious Liberty in Massachusetts and America.” No one today should underestimate the significant contribution that the Rev. Jonathan Mayhew made toward the cause of liberty and American independence.
  7. Mark Twain: How much has the world changed and how much has it remained the same.
  8. Charles Darwin: He would love Utah!
  9. Albert Einstein: A truly brilliant man: His life and his views on the world today, with special focus on global climate change and clean energy.
  10. Nelson Mandela: How he maintained his equanimity in the face of such odds. And was he planning the way he would run the country during the 30 years they had him imprisoned?
  11. Casey Jones: columnist for the Salt Lake City Tribune: A session of humor, good for the soul.
  12. Christine Durham: Chief Justice of the Utah Supreme Court: The importance of civility.
  13. Apa Sherpa: The Sherpa who has summited Everest 20 times and lives in Draper: What we can do to take care of the earth?
  14. David Irvine: Co-author of the Utah legislative ethics reform initiative
  15. Christopher Hitchens
  16. Carl Sagan

You guys are so great! What an amazing list. Doesn’t that just get your imaginations soaring? Oh, how I wish there was a way to pull that off. It would be so incredible to talk face-to-face with these people.

The Conversation for July:

Yay! Summer is here! It’s glorious to be able to spend an afternoon at the park, under a shady tree, bare feet in the grass, getting lost in a great book. What’s your favorite summer activity?

Send your responses to Lisa at HumanistsofUtah.org for next month’s newsletter.

–Lisa Miller

So Help Me God

Dr. Robert Groves
U.S. Census Bureau

As directors of organizations committed to the rights of humanists, atheists, and other freethinkers, a number of us have received complaints from persons who were hired by the U.S. Census or sought Federal employment as Census workers. They complain that they were asked to take a religious oath that ends in “so help me God.”

We, the undersigned, write to urge you to remove such superfluous and divisive language from the oath you administer. As it stands this practice leads hirees and applicants to believe that Census has a religious test for public office in violation of U.S. Constitution, Article VI, and clause: “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” The oath is harmful to those who do not believe in a monotheist god because it implies that the non-believer cannot get the job without taking the oath or would lose his or her job if their lack of religious belief were discovered by management. Moreover, the oath has the effect of stigmatizing non-monotheists as outsiders.

The Census does not require the use of phrase “so help me God” as seen in the Census’ Guide for Training Enumeration, which states that the “so help me God” phrase is not required and may be crossed out. Notwithstanding that the cross-out option is available, by having to ask in front of Census officials and other new hirees with whom they would be working in the future, those who object to this religious practice expose themselves to religion-based prejudice going forward. Consequently, the oath has a substantial coercive effect upon Census applicants.

Accordingly, we respectfully request “so help me God” be deleted from the oath administered by Census.

Signed by:

  • Edward Buckner, President, American Atheist
  • Katharine Archibald, Executive Director, American Ethical Union
  • David Niose, President, American Humanist Association
  • Stuart Bechman, President, Atheist Alliance International
  • Amanda Metskas, President, Camp Quest
  • Tom Flynn, Executive Director
  • Council for Secular Humanism
  • Dan Barker, Co-President, Freedom From Religion Foundation
  • Warren Wolf, President, Institute for Humanist Studies
  • Matt Cherry, Director, International Humanist and Ethical Union
  • Jason Torpy, President, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers
  • Herb Silverman, President, Secular Coalition for America
  • Hemant Mehta, Chair, Secular Student Alliance
  • Louis Altman, President, Society for Humanistic Judaism
  • Fred Edwords, Director, United Coalition of Reason

SHIFT Receives Recognition Award

Humanists of Utah has been encouraging the University of Utah student group SHIFT for the past year with advice and monetary considerations. The group was recently awarded for their efforts by their parent organization:

Each year, the Secular Student Alliance gives out five awards to groups that have excelled in particular facets of activism and campus involvement. This year, we had a record number of applicants; we got nearly 30 excellent entries.

Best Educator: University of Utah SHIFT

The SSA chose the University of Utah’s SHIFT (Secular Humanism, Inquiry and Freethought) for its Best Educator Award. This Utah club’s efforts at educating the community are impressive, to say the very least. Last fall, SHIFT put together a wildly successful talk about health care with Representative Brian King, which the club followed with a movie screening of Sicko. As a result of the event, club members learned about how the health care debate interacted with secular values.

In addition, SHIFT educated the community with a lecture and movie for Carl Sagan Day. Another compelling event was the group’s hosting geneticist and artist, Dr. Daniel Fairbanks. Fairbanks not only explained Darwin Day; he also sculpted a bust of the notable freethinker, which SHIFT donated to the university to be placed on exhibit. After hosting Fairbanks, SHIFT welcomed noted freethinker Austin Dacey to give a presentation about blasphemy and host a debate with a philosophy professor. These accomplishments make the SSA proud to award its Best Educator award to Utah’s SHIFT.

Congratulations to the leadership and members of SHIFT. We hope that you continue to thrive in the coming years!

President’s Message

Humans are well known to form groups; it is quite natural and quite obvious. There are tribal groups, political groups, religious groups and on and on. Likewise, we humanists have a plethora of groups, sub-groups, and affiliates of many kinds. For the most part this is a good thing, as it gives us the ability to choose the groups that best fit our individual preferences. This can lead to a certain amount of fragmentation of what we might call, for lack of a better term for all groups, the Freethinkers World.

Part of what got me going on this subject was when I thought about putting together a list of links to free thinker organizations. I soon realized that this project was more than a short term little job.

When one populates such a list, again the word plethora comes to mind. The AHA has many affiliates, as does CFI. There are ethical unions, humanist councils, LGBT councils, humanist foundations, skeptical societies, secular coalitions, secular student groups, and atheist organizations, freedom from religion organizations and many more. I realize that much of the fragmentation is unavoidable and perhaps even necessary.

The American Humanist Association has an affiliate called United Coalition of Reason; with a local group now organizing named Utah Coalition of Reason (U-CoR). This local group, as an umbrella organization, will be useful to all the member groups in efforts to coordinate and promote their various agendas. In this way I feel this group will actually address some of the problems of “fragmentation.” This coalition may also help Humanists of Utah with recruitment, by increasing our visibility. Recruitment is for me and the Board of directors is one of the toughest tasks we have. Humanists tend to be individualistic and not big on “joining” organizations. We don’t like to urge others to join either, perhaps because doing so feels a little like missionary work. Whatever the reasons are recruitment is difficult and can be expensive if you try to get peoples attention through the media.

The board of directors of Humanists of Utah discussed and then voted to pursue joining the Utah coalition of Reason, in hopes that it will enhance our visibility to the public and also foster and facilitate more cooperation among the member groups.

Also of interest, at the June board meeting, a young man named Taylor Worthington attended by my invitation. He is a student at UVU and is interested in starting a humanist group in Utah County. He was there to get informed and tell us about what he wants to accomplish. The board was receptive and is willing to help him in his efforts to start what will probably be some sort of a satellite organization of Humanists of Utah or AHA. We wish him well and will work to help make this happen.

Another item of interest was a letter I had forwarded to me about a presentation given by Hugh Giblin where he raises the proposal to create an American Humanist Party. As you may well know Humanists of Utah has to be careful about getting involved in politics because of our non-profit status. But as individuals we are free to vote for the candidate of our choice regardless of party, so why not the Humanist Party? It would also be a way to fight this fragmentation problem I mentioned earlier. The party would likely have a platform that most of the people in the “freethought community” would agree with. Quite a task creating a new party, but a task that several fellow humanists that I have talked to, agree is a good idea.

That’s about it for now. I hope your summer is going well and I hope to see soon at the July movie night or at our BBQ in August.

–Robert Lane
President, HoU