October 2011

From Bountiful To A Mississippi Jail

Activist Stephen Holbrook kicked off the 2011-2012 season of Humanists of Utah presentations. Steve has been a civil rights worker, anti-Vietnam war leader, politician and elected official, and co-founder of radio station KRCL.

Born in Bountiful Utah and raised in an active LDS family, Holbrook’s roots lay in Mormon pioneer ancestry. By all accounts, his childhood was a happy one. Yet he wasn’t oblivious to racial inequities that were happening locally and nationally during the 50s and 60s, citing that mixed race marriages were illegal and African Americans were not allowed to purchase certain real estate properties; it is well known that the LDS priesthood was withheld from this group. Holbrook also noted that at Lagoon, swimming and dancing was prohibited to African Americans.

An experience Holbrook shared that changed him profoundly was his LDS mission in Hong Kong where he saw mind-numbing poverty everywhere. Amid this skid-row environment, he learned about the “ugly American” phenomenon first-hand when Lyndon Johnson, then vice-president, arrived in Hong Kong in an Air Force 2 and bought 200 shirts—and when US Aid sent sacks of cornmeal to the Chinese, who had never eaten this product before.

Hot and heavy at the heels of his return to Utah from his missionary work was the Civil Rights Movement. An active member of the local NAACP, he heard about the disappearance of three civil rights workers in Mississippi. He also heard about the Mississippi Freedom Summer that was approaching. “I’ve got to go, he thought; this is not right.”

Robert Freed, owner of Lagoon, helped Holbrook with his expenses to Mississippi. Obviously a progressive, Freed abolished and desegregated Lagoon’s former policy of profiting blacks to swim or dance.

In Mississippi, Holbrook worked in the office of Charles Evers, the brother of the civil rights leader Medgar Evers, who had been gunned down in front of his home a year before. There, he stayed in the home of Ben and Doris Allison; Doris was the president of the Jackson, Mississippi NAACP and a close friend of Medgar Evers. Holbrook told us that the Allisons had a dog named Freedom, who’d bark and warn them in case of potential trouble. After all, this was a period when thousands were arrested and 50 to 60 black churches were bombed or burned to the ground.

Interestingly Holbrook had met in Philadelphia, Mississippi Sheriff Rainey and Deputy Price, who were later charged with murdering the three civil rights workers. At that time, their bodies had not yet been found.

At that time, out of 250,000 potential black voters, only about 18,000 were allowed to vote. To disqualify black voters, Holbrook said that questions were asked of them like discuss the 10th amendment to the Constitution while white voters were asked questions like name the first president of the US. So in addition to working with Charles Evers, Holbrook also helped blacks register to vote.

One day when he was helping two black women register and was waiting for them to complete the process, he happened to have his camera and took a photo of a water fountain that had a sign saying “Whites Only.” Angry and indignant, a sheriff arrested him for so-called breaching the peace.

Put into a cell with another white man, they were jailed in what was called a “hot box.” Mississippi already immersed in sweltering summer heat and humidity, the jail personnel also turned on the actual heater in their cell to create this “hot box.” Not knowing what to do to be released from this ordeal, the two men decided to go on a hunger strike.

Eventually they were freed after a group of Jewish people from Great Neck, New York raised the money for bail. Later Holbrook learned that Charles Evers could have helped him get released sooner but thought that he needed a good jail experience in Mississippi, which turned out to be another experience that changed his life.

Back in Utah he made headline news “Utah Junior Arrested in Mississippi.” He returned to Mississippi the next summer.

With college students experiencing what Holbrook experienced in Mississippi and all of them returning to their hometowns and speaking at schools, civic clubs, and social groups, as Holbrook has been doing, and with media coverage of civil rights activities, and with the deaths of the three civil rights workers, and with countless sacrifices and martyrs, the federal voting rights bill was finally passed.

Holbrook has continued to be active in the local NAACP. In May of 2011 on KUED TV, he was interviewed in the program called “Utah’s Freedom Riders Explore the Civil Rights Movement in Utah.”

Among other endeavors, Holbrook has also worked to reform the juvenile justice system and aid for the homeless in Utah. For more information about this remarkable activist, go to website: http://history.utah.gov/findaids/C01660/C1660ff.xml

—Sarah Smith

Daily Reading

Our Utah humanists chime in on their favorite daily reading.

  • I read the Salt Lake Tribune, but not terribly closely. The editorials get the same treatment. However, I always read the comics and do the Jumble, crossword and cryptogram. I’ve never gotten hooked on Sudoku
  • Nothing terribly exciting—but I find it hard to start the day without a look at the online New York Times.
  • I have to jet out the door most days, to teach an early-morning French class, before I have the chance to read anything. Rather than getting my day started with a go-to daily reading, I typically enjoy reading to wind down in the evening, instead. Lately I have been reading about one American President each night, in a book called Pathways to the Presidency – A Guide to the Lives, Homes and Museums of the U.S. Presidents, by Gerald and Patricia Gutek. I only read one a day, then quiz myself the next night to see if I’m remembering their names let’s see if I can do this without looking: George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, James Madison? Wow! I got the first three right! I switched up James Madison and James Monroe, though; I guess I’ll have to keep working on it!
  • I often start by reading articles in one of the magazines I subscribe to: Free Inquiry, Skeptical Inquirer, The Humanist or AARP’s magazine (which is like People magazine for seniors.) All offer me “news I can use” and articles of interest to me. I also like to read whatever books I happen to be reading. I am usually reading several at a time, a habit I got into when a student at the U which I have never been able to break. All while I sip on a mug of coffee. I like history, biographies, some philosophy, social and cultural topics, poetry and literature, whatever suits my mind at any given time.
  • I have a folder in my Firefox bookmarks titled Comics. I choose “open all in tabs” and then read, in order: Dilbert, Doonesbury (being careful not to miss the “Say What?” section,) Non Sequitur, Overboard, Zits, and the Cagel Post of editorial cartoons.

—Lisa Miller

Dane Hall Vigil

A vigil was held to bring to light the atrocities of the attack on a young gay man. Chapter member and Humanist Minister Elaine Ball was invited to speak, here is part of what she said:

As a humanist, I define morality as those actions and thoughts that contribute to the growth and dignity of human life; immoral actions and thoughts denigrate and destroy life. The physical and verbal activities that injured Dane and others should not be tolerated by a civil society.

Humanists strongly oppose hate crime and the causing of psychological and/or physical harm to others because of their creed, sexual orientation, skin color, etc. Humanism means understanding humanity’s role on this earth, and striving to achieve its potential for ourselves and our posterity—such that all humans are treated with an inherent dignity, equality, and respect, no matter their creed, sexual orientation, or other quality that causes no harm to others. Society is most benefited when others are embraced for their differences, rather than persecuted for them. Life would be very boring if everyone were the same.”

This is all about conformity, and how extremely damaging it is when we have this idea that everyone has to be forced to be the same or be shunned/beaten/ridiculed out of the group. We aren’t the same. Even within the narrow confines of a same-practicing religious group we aren’t the same. We have different likes and dreams and goals and abilities. Great pain comes as soon as we start trying to force everyone into the same box. The beauty of a humanistic philosophy is recognizing and embracing and loving and encouraging the recognition of differences and the uniqueness of individuals. Embracing it, instead of the far opposite reaction of violence, enforcement, and fear.

Special thanks to HoU Board members Jason Cooperrider, Lisa Miller, Wayne Wilson, and Flo Wineriter for their input.

—Elaine Ball

Darwin Day Festival

The Utah Coalition of Reason (UCOR) is already planning next year’s Darwin Day celebration. UCOR is the Utah chapter of the United Coalition of Reason whose goal is to unite the various freethought communities within Utah. Next year, we are planning a “Darwin Day Festival.”

This festival will be distinctly different than the lecture format that has been presented the past few years. There will be events for all of the family, young and old. One of the centerpieces of our celebration will be a science fair for junior high and high school students. Substantial cash prizes for the winners’ schools science programs will be presented. What would Darwin say? We think he would be very pleased!

This event is in the planning stages, and UCOR could really use your help! We need volunteers willing to organize the sub events of the festival, participate in running them, setting them up, and taking them down. If you are interested in participating please send an e-mail to events@reasonutah.org . This is gearing up to be the largest Darwin Day event Utah has ever had, and you can be a part of it!

—Darwin Day Festival
Planning Committee

The End of Eternity
~Book Review~

I thought that I had read all of Isaac Asimov’s science fiction novels; however, I recently came across The End of Eternity written in 1955. This tale is a classic Asimov analysis of a mundane concept, Time, that twists and turns in the most imaginative ways possible.

The premise is that sometime in the 24th century a dimension that is called Eternity is created. In Eternity all of the centuries since its creation can be visited. People are chosen to live in Eternity at first to observe and then, over time they realize that they can manage the events of the various “whens” for the betterment of the human race. When a particular civilization steps on the brink of nuclear weapons, a change is made to change the reality of that time. The changes are always subtle, in one case a pail was moved from one shelf to another right below which caused a man, who was looking for the pail, to miss a class which in the current reality caused him to make the cognitive leap to create fissionable materials. Of course this changes many lives and in many cases causes the loss of many lives, but it is always done for the betterment of the society.

People who live in Eternity are not immortal, they live a normal “physiotime” lifetime. They are a society divided on strict status hierarchy based on how well they perform during the Cub stage, when they are chosen to study to join the Eternals. Failing candidates are in the Maintenance caste. Those who pass muster become Observers, they meticulously watch all the societies from 45th through the 70,000th watching for changes that could improve the lot of humanity. Other positions that can be obtained are Technicians who make the actual changes that modify reality, Computers who analyze data from Observers, as well as administrators, sociologists, etc. Moving forward from where you are is referred to going “upwhen” and backwards “downwhen.” The supreme body that manages the entire process is the Allwhen Council.

The novel concerns one Andrew Harlan who has recently graduated from a Cub to an Observer. He proves to be a very skilled at the job and draws the attention of the most senior Computer who also sits on the Allwhen Council. Harlan is almost instantly made a Technician which causes no small amount of jealousy among others in the society. Another Computer is especially upset and sets some traps to trip Harlan up; including a “Timer” female. The plot thickens, twists on itself, and then turns in several different directions. The only thing that remains consistent is the moral dilemmas of modifying reality. Finally a distinction is made between Eternity and Infinity. I found this book to be a delightful read and highly recommend it.

—Wayne Wilson

Live Your Life

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma —which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

—Steve Jobs
Co-founder of Apple
2005 Stanford Commencement Speech

Good Without God Billboard

The Utah Coalition of Reason, with financial support from the National organization erected a billboard on Highway 201. It was visible in late August until the end of the State Fair. The picture below includes several HoU chapter members who celebrated the site along with members of other local freethought organizations.

Good Without God Billboard








Website of the Month
Jen-Hancock.com / Humanist

Flo Wineriter suggests this site which claims that “Being a good person can make you happier.”


President’s Message

I was going to start my message this month by launching into another rant about politics, politicians, and the financial mess this country and the whole world for that matter is in.

Lately I have been spending time at our family cabin. It hasn’t been getting used much lately, and I wanted to change that. Because it has mostly sat unused the last several years it needs sprucing up. It is a split level three bedroom cabin finished with knotty pine on the inside, with cedar siding on the outside. Plus there is a large deck on two sides that I built back in the late eighties. My parents purchased the cabin in 1960 and it has been the family getaway all these years. It is on the edge of civilization, with the National Forest only a few miles up the highway to Mirror Lake in the Uintah Mountains.

The expression “I want to kick myself in the ass…” is applicable here. To have such a nice place to go, that has such a great retreat since my parents bought it and not make use of it is dumb. It has always been enjoyable to spend time there, relaxing, fishing, hiking, and working on “the cabin.” One of the many things that I often enjoy when I’m up at the cabin is to go out on the deck with a telescope and look at a piece of the sky. At about seven thousand feet and away from the light pollution of urban areas, the sky is usually quite clear. Clear enough to see the Milky Way, clusters and a nice bright planet now and then.

Plus, over the years, the wildlife one sees is another enjoyable aspect of being on the edge of civilization. I can remember seeing numerous deer, squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, rabbits, a bobcat now and then, all kinds of birds including a couple of eagles in the early years, a few harmless snakes and of course mice. In a setting that is pine trees and quaking aspens, rocks and wildflowers, a creek with trout and all the wildlife is sublime.

I’m going to use that place more and I’ll be heading up there soon to do more “sprucing up”, and laying in more firewood for the winter.

By the way, I don’t think I thought about any politicians or the campaign at all while I’ve been up there.

On a matter of chapter business, the board of directors has been struggling with what to do about the discussion group, which hasn’t been meeting for some time now. We would like to revive the discussion group or some other social activity. In discussing this problem, we decided to ask you the members of Humanists of Utah to let us know what you would enjoy doing. Some suggestions have been: A music night, a discussion at a coffeehouse or the like, more movie/video nights, etc. What do you think folks? We need to hear from you. We also need a couple of people to help organize this social activity and make it happen. So please help us with your suggestions and by volunteering some time.

As always, I’m looking forward to seeing you at our next meeting, hope you can attend, and enjoy the fall weather.

—Robert Lane
President, HoU