April 2011

Rolf Kay Recognized

Rolf Kay, a founding and longtime board member of the Gandhi Alliance for Peace, was honored by friends and Alliance members October19 with the planting of a Catalpa tree in Salt Lake City’s Jordan Park.

“We are grateful for Rolf’s many years of service as board secretary.” said Alliance President Deb Sawyer. ‘‘He is fully committed to preserving Gandhi’s memory; he understands the importance of remembering what Gandhi taught. Although no longer secretary, Rolf continues to serve as a board member and hosts the monthly board meetings at his home.

Rolf is a member of Humanists of Utah and also served on its board of directors for 12 years.

Rolf Kay

In 2006, Rolf received the Volunteer Award from Salt Lake’s Inclusion Center for Community and Justice at its Humanitarian Awards Dinner, an annual event that honors individuals who promote understanding and respect for all people.

Born in Germany, Rolf with his parents and siblings immigrated to New York City in 1929 and moved to Salt Lake City in 1940.

After military service in India where as an Army 1st lieutenant he was executive officer in a heavy automotive maintenance company servicing vehicles active on the Burma Road, Rolf began what would be- come a 42-year career with American Optical, a manufacturer of optical equipment and prescription eyeglass lenses. He began work as a lens grinder, rising through the ranks to become Major Market Manager responsible for the Salt Lake City, Boise and Pocatello markets. He was honored as top salesman and, later, as top branch manager, the only American Optical employee to have received both awards.

When American Optical closed its doors, Rolf turned to his hobby, photography, as a second career. He established Rolf Kay Photography, a freelance business with a clientele that included American Express, Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, Ballet West and Utah Symphony / Utah Opera.

A voracious reader, particularly fond of books on tape, Rolf enjoys biography, history and James Patterson mysteries.

A cat lover, Rolf’s household has included as many as three felines. Currently, he shares his digs with a female cat named Lightning. “Cats are the neatest people in the world,” says Rolf.

The recorded message on Rolf’s answering machine ends with a parting admonition that summarizes his humorous and compassionate approach to life: “And remember, be nice to everyone, no exceptions!” Gandhi would approve.

—Peace Advocate
Gandhi Alliance for Peace Newsletter
March 2011

Utah Humanists Want To Travel To…

From our members’ responses on which adventure they would choose:

Travel to Outer Space: 1

Travel Back in Time: 4

Travel Forward in Time: 2

Go somewhere at a microscopic level: (none!)

And their fabulous supporting thoughts on why:

  • No question, I’d like to travel forward in time. I’m willing to rely on Nova for exploring our huge and tiny universes, and historians give me a reasonably good look backwards. But traveling to the future, I could see what the warming world will look like, whether we develop green energy before we deplete our oil, whether a consensus will ever develop on the role of government in our economic and social system, whether Citizens United will be overturned, whether our country is in decline, what role both Islam and humanism will play as we move forward, and on and on. Who wouldn’t want to know these things?
  • I think I would like to travel back in time. There is something frightening about knowing the future. And it would spoil all the surprises. By going back in time we could verify the truth or falsehood of religion. Did Jesus exist? Did Moses really part the Red Sea? What about Noah’s Ark? By visiting the past and proving the falsehood of religion we might be able to reverse the damage it has done for centuries. I would also be able to meet people I admire like Mark Twain, Thomas Jefferson, Voltaire, W.C. Fields. I am glad we have the “return trip” option because every period that sounds interesting, the Old West, the 1940’s (I love the Film Noir movies from this period), have many drawbacks that deter from any wish to stay there. As the saying goes, “There’s no place like home.”
  • I’d like to travel back in time. The older I get the more questions I have for family members who have passed away. Hearing about WWII from my dad who spent two years in France, from my grandfather about why he apostatized from the Mormon Church, and from numerous others. Problem is, I may not want to come back if it was possible to relive those times, be younger for a while longer, and then reach 81 again!
  • Since I’m an ‘avid’ history fanatic (religious especially) I’d have to say….back in time, is my choice.
  • I have to go for a trip into space. It actually seems plausible where the other fantasies, while interesting, are most likely just fantasies.
  • I’d really, really like to travel forward in time and see if we ever manage to create a world with more balance against extreme violence and poverty.

—Lisa Miller

~Book Review~

Do you ever wonder if your public schooling has left out some important people and movements in American history? Well now you can fill in some of the gaps by reading Susan Jacoby’s excellent book Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism. This well annotated volume discusses the views of our nation’s founders, as well as notable leaders such as Abraham Lincoln. The material she presents paints a picture quite different from the popular versions so often cited in textbooks.

The accomplishments of freethinkers such as Ingersoll, Paine, and Whitman are discussed in detail, along with leaders of the feminist movements, such as Anthony and Stanton, and abolitionist movements, such as Douglass. Darwinian evolution’s role as part of modern scientific thinking is explored, along with the efforts (still ongoing) by religious zealots to keep it out of the U S public educational system.

The book concludes with coverage of efforts in more recent history to increase religious influence in public education and government affairs, such as attempts by fundamentalists to re-write history and change the perceptions of the actual beliefs of our country’s founders. The attempt to convince the public that this is a “Christian Nation” is now stronger than ever, and the far right is trying to overturn every progressive piece of legislation that is on the books, from Roe v. Wade to social security. This book presents a view that the founders had intended: a wall of separation between church and state that now shows signs of crumbling.

Read this book and prepare to reclaim our secular heritage.

—Art King

Website of the Month
Greta Christina’s Blog

Sex, atheism, dreams, and whatever. Thinking out loud since 2005.


President’s Message

In the past, Humanists of Utah has tried to become involved in some area of social activism within our community. I have to admit that at times the effort has not been what it could be in order to be sustainable and effective.

I don’t want to make excuses but it should be pointed out that at times the failure is also due to resistance by entities that we have tried to deal with. For example, when we started our essay contest several years age we discovered resistance from school administrators who did not always send the materials on to the teachers. Also when Board member Mike Huston died, I tried to have Humanists of Utah, as an organization, take up his cause of maintaining a library for incarcerated youth at a local detention center. After several attempts to create a dialogue with an individual at the facility, I gave up. There are other examples, but the point I am making is that sometimes public entities, school administrations, youth detention center personnel, etc. become “filters” removing things they may see as undesirable. Perhaps they see us as “evil humanists.” I am saying this in preface to a suggestion for a cause that I believe is a worthy one that can be implemented without much interference.

Our March general meeting featured Chloe Noble who spoke to us about the homeless youth in America. Her enthusiasm and compassion were well received by those in attendance. In fact, after her presentation, I had a few people say that “we should do something” for these youth. I felt that way myself, and plan to contact the Homeless Youth Resource Center to inquire how best to help. I think there are several ways we can assist: by donating money, donating goods (gloves, socks, sleeping bags, etc.) and by donating time. Plus there will be nobody “filtering” us out as undesirable.

I hope that our membership will give the thumbs up to this proposal and support this effort any way you can. Please let the Board of Directors know how you feel about this and remember that your ideas and suggestions are always welcome.

Moving on, I want to comment on the news, or what has been in the news. The other day I had to do something that I haven’t had to do very often, and that is to not watch or listen to the news, ALL DAY LONG; a total news blackout. I like staying informed about the world, from next door to anywhere else on earth. But, for some reason the constant, current crop of terrible disasters and political bullshit, etc. was driving me nuts. Between the 9.0 earthquake/tsunami with its overwhelming death and destruction and a radioactive nightmare at a nuclear power plant and problems that continue to unfold, the list goes on.

Then in the political world we get the conservatives trying to dismantle collective bargaining and to some extent government in general. They want to balance the budget on the backs of the average person and struggling Americans while continuing to favor corporations and the rich. They are screwing with the E.P.A., de-funding NPR, trying to eradicate Planned Parenthood,and all this while we pour billions, daily, into endless wars. And the list goes on.

Here in Utah, Republicans continue to write and pass laws that draw attention and dismay from around the world. They want to do away with accountability (for themselves), and further turn the state into a theocratic rightwing totalitarian state, including one where alcohol availability is parsed out by the dominant religion. Again, the list goes on.

If I keep this up I will start to drive myself crazy again, so I’ll give it a rest for now. As always, I hope to see you soon at our next meeting.

Robert Lane
President, HoU