July 2014

American Atheist Convention

Chapter members Sally Jo Fuller and Robert Frahm attended the recent Atheist Conference in Salt Lake City. Here is the third report from their experiences.

Carrying on a conversation with someone you do not know is actually the norm at a convention; standing in line, or at a lunch table, etc. So it was that Marsha was right there next to me again and again.

Her demeanor was quiet and unassuming but she seemed to know a lot about all of the speakers. I was very surprised and delighted when she appeared on the platform as Marsha Botzer, the founder of Seattle’s Ingersoll Gender Center. Wow! What a transformation! No longer reserved, she was passionate, energetic, and gave a commanding performance.

Ms. Botzer has been involved in the LGBT and progressive communities for 35 years. She is a founding member of Equality Washington and on the board of Equal Rights Washington. She has received many accolades and awards for her activism.

But for me, I will always remember her for her enthusiasm and stage presence which enthralled the audience.

—Sally Jo Fuller

Summer Reads

For Mystery Buffs

Here are three mysteries from across the seas. The first, “The Thirteenth Tale” is number one on the New York Times bestseller list from a first time author Diane Setterfeild. She a former academic specializing in twentieth century French literature; she lives in Yorkshire, England. The Story: a reclusive author Vida Winter, famous for her collections of twelve enchanting stories, has spent the past six decades penning a series of alternate lives for herself. Now old and ailing, she is ready to reveal the truth about her extraordinary existence and the violent and tragic past she has kept secret for so long.

Two novels by the duo of Danish authors Lene Kaaberbol and Agenete Friis provide us two fine mysteries: the first, an international bestseller, is “The Boy in the Suitcase,” the story:  Nina Borg, a Red Cross nurse, wife, and mother is a compulsive do-gooder who can’t say no when someone asks for help- even when she knows better. When her estranged friend Karin leaves her a key to public locker in the Copenhagen train station, Nina gets sucked into her most dangerous project yet. Inside the locker is suitcase and inside the suitcase is three-year old boy, naked and drugged, but alive.  The second: “Invisible Murder” is the story of two impoverished Roma boys, who are scavenging for odds and ends to sell on the black market when they stumble upon something more valuable to than they every anticipated. A thousand miles away in Denmark, Red Cross nurse Nina Berg puts life and family on the line when she visits a group of sick Hungarians Gypsies living in Copenhagen garage. What are they hiding and what is making them so sick?

—John Young

Why I Feel Rich

A June opinion feature in the New York Times reported results of a poll that asked how much income the respondents felt to be enough for them to feel rich.

Another opinion piece, in a regular corner called The Great Divide, referring to extremes of income inequality in our country, led writer Maria Konnikova to suggest that at least as important for low income workers is the scarcity of time. Many need two jobs to survive, she remarks. Especially for those with families, many must borrow time from one part of their lives for another even more pressing task.

Little time is free to consider the relative effectiveness of present choice. There is little time to invest in improving their future options. Without funds left at the end of the week, options are fewer. Change equals uncertainty and is avoided; stress in the short term, now and again, can motivate us but ongoing stress depletes us and makes any changes a leap into choppy waters.

True wealth, I have concluded, is options, time plus a variety of skills and experiences to draw upon as needed. It’s also frequent breaks, time to relax, opportunities to converse with some with life experiences very different from your own. For instance, half an hour ago I answered the doorbell to see the two young Mormon missionaries working my neighborhood; I led them into the back yard and fed them raspberries from my loaded bushes.

Wealth is space that can be rearranged, filled, emptied. Wealth is a quiet green back yard. Wealth does not need to borrow to fix a car of see a dentist. Wealth is a dollar to give to the homeless flying flag. Wealth knows the neighbor’s granddaughter, admiring her new shock of orange hair. Wealth is blueberries in my granola, cranberry raisins and raspberries on top of the banana, almond milk poured over all. My breakfast this morning: this plus coffee loaded with malted cocoa, warmed in the microwave, is why I feel rich.

Jeanette Ross
Secular Idaho News

Poor God

I watched a documentary about two young men convicted of murdering three people while trying to steal a car they wanted. One of the killers, about to be executed, claimed that God knew he was innocent. The girlfriend of the other killer told of walking out of the prison after meeting with him and seeing a rainbow—she knew it was God telling her she should marry this young man (sort of a celestial semaphore, I suppose). Another documentary was about a white woman, mother of five, who traveled from a northern state to help blacks register to vote in the 1960s. She was murdered the night before she was to have left for home. Throughout the documentary, her children involved God in everything from premonitions about her to guiding one daughter to a church where there were people praying who would make her feel better. I’ve also recently been reading a history of witchcraft in New England in the 1600s. The invoking of God in all those horrific accusations, trials, and executions was truly revolting. In our daily papers we read comments on articles about gay marriage from people who have the arrogance to tell us what God feels and wants.

God is dragged around to football games, the Oscars, and even in the front seat of cars, giving people the feeling they should turn at a certain corner (they know this because they find out later there was an accident they “might” have been part of if they hadn’t turned). I remember reading about a young girl who by pushing her hand into the crack between two seat cushions at a restaurant, found some type of digital camera card that, of course, had someone’s family pictures on it. They were able to find the owners who were delighted. By that night, when the tv news interviewed her, the little girl had been properly indoctrinated and told her story somewhat differently. She said that when they sat down, she “had the feeling” she should put her hand between the cushions. Obviously, God wanted her to find the card and prompted her.

It seems God is a great scapegoat. Whenever we can’t or won’t be responsible for ourselves, our actions, our responses, we just haul out God and claim it was his will. We don’t need to worry about climate change—God won’t let that happen. How handy. We’re absolved of any responsibility.

If he existed, you’d almost feel sorry for God. What a tough decision…stop the genocide in Rwanda (or whatever country is undergoing it at any particular time), or help someone find a camera memory card. That’s a toughie…eenie, meenie…minie….

I guess it’s too much to hope that people might give God a break and make some decisions, take some action, and use their heads all on their own. Poor God.

—Susan Fox

President’s Report

I’m happy to report that Humanists of Utah’s first booth at this year’s Pride Festival was a great success. Bob Mayhew and I manned the booth for the two days with assistance from my nephew John Lane. Elaine Stehel also helped out by giving us a break on Sunday.

Our new canopy functioned well and for the most part we had adequate literature for the event except for a couple of items like back issues of the Humanist magazine. It is interesting to note the difference in what people buy of the evolve fish merchandise. We sell more T-shirts at our Darwin Day celebration, whereas at the festival people like the small things like stickers and magnets. In fact one of the first items to sell out was the magnet that said, “I’m just guessing but I think god hates bigots far more than fags.”

It truly was a wonderful experience to talk to so many people. A festival of such a diverse group of people is an event to relish. Even the loving couple having a little argument (with apologies to us) in front of our booth was entertaining.

This was also a great opportunity to make a showing for organized humanism (our local group and the national parent group American Humanist Association. The AHA’s Chapter Grant funds we received helped purchase our booth canopy and equipment and we thank them.

As I’ve said before, having a presence at an event like this is an obvious win-win situation as we celebrate and advocate for a just cause of equality and gain exposure for our organization and humanism.

That exposure reminds me, that I want to welcome all of you who signed up for the three month free subscription of our newsletter. I hope you will find something you like about our group and the humanist philosophy. One way to get to know us would be to come to our meetings on the second Thursday of the month. This month we have a speaker from “Save our Canyons” who will speak to us. Then in August we host our annual BBQ and we would love to see you there for good food and conversation with friends. So I hope you will give us a try. I have often characterized our group as an oasis of free thought in a desert of irrationality. I am confident you will feel the same way.

Well…before I end this message I want to mention the sort of rollercoaster ride we have had with the judiciary in the last couple of weeks. First we gave a hearty hooray when we herd that the appeals court upheld judge Shelby’s ruling. And a first time ever (I believe) for this kind of ruling. Truly historic. Then yesterday we got the horrid decision by the SCOTUS in the Hobby Lobby case. Truly horrid.

Anyway, here’s hoping to see you on Thursday, July 10, for our monthly meeting. As always I will be bring the cookies.

—Robert Lane, President, HoU