September 2013

Elaine Ball
My Journey to Humanism

It has been incredibly exciting to see the many people “liking” Secular Weddings Utah on Facebook over the course of these past few months. I just wanted to take a moment to share with all 200 of you (and counting) exactly why I became certified to officiate at Weddings and other life-passage events.

I became involved with secular, humanist, and atheist causes in 2008, soon after resigning from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints at the age of 21. Many factors influenced my personal decision to resign from the faith tradition into which I was born and raised. But one thing remained strong in my life and personality…a deep desire to give back and to serve.

In 2006, I tallied up the number of hours I had been devoting weekly to “service” in my LDS community (12) and, not wishing these hours to go to waste now that I was no longer choosing to serve there, I became an AmeriCorps volunteer through the Service-Learning Center at Salt Lake Community College. I became a youth mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah, and began volunteering for fundraising events for local non-profits whose missions rang true to me—the ACLU of Utah, Equality Utah, the Utah Pride Center, and the Utah Food Bank.

Over the course of that first year of non-LDS membership, I read every book on world religions and philosophy that I could find time to open from my local library in South Salt Lake. I tried to figure out what I did believe, as I was gaining ground learning what I did not believe. By 2008, I was an avowed humanist.

I began meeting with a small group of similarly-minded secular students at The University of Utah around that time, and in May 2009, a group of us founded SHIFT – Secular Humanism, Inquiry and Freethought. This group has won Student Group of the Month awards on at least two occasions since then, and even won a national Best Educator award from the Secular Student Alliance in 2010, for their fabulous lecture series. The group has brought in speakers including Austin Dacey, Greta Christina, and PZ Meyers. They’ve always had wonderful, strong student leadership and I’ve been so proud to see them grow and expand their reach to the hundreds of students they now serve.

I began my involvement with the Utah Coalition of Reason around January 2010, and worked with them for about two years as they began to build stronger community ties with all of the Secular, Non-Theistic groups throughout the State of Utah. Their website,, is a masterpiece of valuable contact information and resources for Utahans seeking communities beyond belief!

Myself personally, I am a Religious Humanist. I love sitting in pews, listening to inspirational, educational, philosophical sermons, and even standing next to “strangers” who share my beliefs, singing and at times holding hands or clapping in rhythm to stirring music. I’m an active member of First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City—I have been pledging to continue their mission and services since 2009, and signed the book to become an official member in May 2010. Last church year, I began teaching Religious Education to the 1st – 3rd grade students who attend 9:00 AM. services there. Reverend Tom Goldsmith has been an invaluable mentor, trusted community resource, and friend to me throughout my journey into humanistic activism.

So I’m “religious,” but I don’t believe in a god/gods. We’re all atheists when it comes to Zeus! I believe in humanity—in being Good Without God, as one of my heroes, Greg Epstein, Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University, wrote about in his book titled the same. The main reason I chose to become a Certified Humanist Minister is that, yes, there are some non-religious people who know they can turn to liberal, progressive, open-minded church leaders like Reverend Goldsmith when they need wedding officiants or other “clergy” to guide them through such events as marriages, births/adoptions, deaths/funerals, etc. But there are countless, countless others I have met who have no desire to step foot inside any church building— or to have any church leader represent them publicly at their event, regardless how “liberal” the congregation they lead.

These humanists, who don’t “worship” in any traditional way, are the people I strive to serve. You are the people I write for: you who are different, who don’t allow white-washed walls to encapsulate your belief (or non-belief), you who worship in the mountains and red-rock deserts of our beautiful state. And you who never want to hear the words “worship” or “god” in any discussions of your life celebrations—yet who still do, and wish to publicly, celebrate all of life! With your friends and family, you celebrate life as it is, here and now, as we are living it. Thank you for letting me write for you.

—Elaine Ball

HoU Events

9th & 9th Street Fair

HoU has a booth at this years fair to be held Saturday, September 14 from 10:00-5:00 at (drum roll) 900 South and 900 East in Salt Lake City.

Elaine Ball, Certified Humanist Minister, may or may not be performing de-baptism services for a minimal donation.


Atheists of Utah has invited the Utah Coalition of Reason to join in this annual family friendly event. Sunnyside Park, September 15. 5:00—8:00 PM. Hamburgers and hot dogs will be provided, potluck side dishes welcome.

 New Book

Chapter member Earl Wunderli started, in 1962, a scholarly work analyzing the Book of Mormon internally; is it consistent within itself? His book,  An Imperfect Book: What the Book of Mormon Tells Us About Itself, was published in June by Signature Books. It is also available as an eBook for the Kindle at

I plan to have a book review next month and Earl has agreed to speak at an upcoming general meeting early in 2014.

Web Site of the Month
Feminist Freethinkers of New York

A welcoming home to explore women’s issues and the role of women in the secular and humanist community.

FFNY is cognizant of the intersections among gender, race, sexuality, class, and ability. We strive to maintain a conscious and inviting space for all.

President’s Report

This month on Thursday the 12th Humanists of Utah will be hosting our first speaker of the season. We are pleased to announce that Dr. Brien Moench will present. Speaking about environmental issues, Dr. Moench is with Physicians for a Healthy Environment. I’m looking forward to an interesting presentation and discussion with light refreshments.

Regarding speakers, it would be helpful if some of you freethinkers would make suggestions to our Board of Directors about other individuals you would like us to invite to give a presentation. You may know someone who would give an interesting presentation. Give us a call or email and let us know.

I’m also happy to announce that there will be another picnic this summer. This family picnic is usually a social hosted by Atheists of Utah, but they agreed to make it a joint social for all the Utah Coalition of Reason member groups. We thank them for letting us join in. This is an excellent chance to meet other free thought individuals from the other coalition groups. I plan to be there and I hope some you reading this will come and enjoy the picnic with us. It is scheduled for Sunday September 15, 5:00 PM until 8:00 PM at Sunnyside park –1735 East Sunnyside Ave (840 South). Hamburgers and hot dogs provided, with potluck side dishes. Humanists of Utah will be providing a variety of beverages, but we still need a few more side dishes. Hope to see you there.

Like most people these  days, I get much of my news and other information from the internet. When reading news items and articles I like to check out the comment threads at the end. Sometimes the comments are more interesting than the article, with some being informative, some funny and smart assed, some really stupid, some absurd. I don’t comment very often but every now and then someone says something so ridiculous I just have to join in.

A couple of weeks ago I joined in on a thread, and what was said has stayed on my mind. As threads often do, it had changed from whatever the article was about into a general line of comments about Peace and how to achieve it in the Middle East. I was about to give it up when a woman started preaching about the only way to peace was through Jesus Christ. I had to say something. I thought about saying a few things about the history of religion being full of wars and violence and torture and on and on. But I didn’t. Instead I tried to make my reply a little different.

I made my point by asking “Does anybody for a minute think that if any major religion were to be in absolute control there would be peace?” I really doubt it.

If Islam for example were to convert or eliminate all who were not Islamic, peace would not reign as they would soon turn on each other, you know, Sunni against Shia. And once Sunni or Shia reigned supreme they would then find individuals in their own group to pick on that weren’t quite pure enough. The same is true of Christians being in control. First Catholic and Protestants would soon be at each other’s throat, just to start with. And if Judaism were supreme, Orthodox Jewish groups would soon be battling with liberal Jewish groups.

I made these points in several comments and ended by saying that even if religion could bring peace, it would be a hollow peace, as freedom would not exist because not adhering to the dominate religious dogma would not be tolerated.

Some people on the thread liked what I said, but after one more comment the woman who got me going stopped replying. I think often people who make blanket statements don’t have very good arguments to back them up. Well so much for my anti-religion rant.

Hope to see you soon.

—Robert Lane
President, HoU