ISSUE: January 2002
Edited by Sharon Fratepietro and Sharon Strong
January Speaker to Explain the Baha'i Faith
By Sharon Fratepietro
Charleston resident Tom Jerige will talk about the Baha'i Faith at the Sunday, January 20 gathering of the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry. Beginning at 4 p.m., the meeting at Gage Hall is next door to the Unitarian Church, 4 Archdale St. in downtown Charleston. The public is welcome to attend the meeting and go afterward to an optional dinner at Vickery's restaurant nearby.
A few years ago while in India, Herb and I visited the incredibly beautiful Baha'i House of Worship in New Delhi. Surrounded by glorious flowering gardens, the enormous temple is shaped like a partially open lotus, with 27 marble-clad "petals" arranged in clusters of three to form nine sides. The temple at times seems to float above its 26-acre site as it serenely radiates harmony with nature.
A smiling, sari-dressed guide gave us a tour and a short talk about the Baha'i faith. We were both very impressed with the Baha'i Faith's commitment to bring peace and justice to the world, along with service to humanity. We were pleased to note the absence of having exclusive possession of The Truth about God. We wanted to make a financial donation to the temple, but our guide graciously refused, saying that contributions are only accepted by Baha'i Faith members.
Many people are unaware that Charleston has a Baha'i community. Therefore, it should be of particular interest for us to hear from Baha'i Tom Jerige on January 20, when he will give an overview of the Baha'i Faith and relate it to the current world situation.
Speaker Tom Jerige was born in Manhattan and received graduate degrees at Yale University Wesleyan and Trinity College in Political Science and Law. He has taught graduate school courses in employment law. He helped to write the State of Connecticut policy on sexual harassment and worked as a senior arbitrator with the Department of Consumer Protection. In South Carolina, the Governor appointed him to the Human Services Commission to investigate discrimination complaints. Now retired, Tom Jerige serves in a volunteer capacity at the Neighborhood Legal Services Clinic on King St., and as a representative of Servas International for the Charleston area.
By Herb Silverman
Two hundred years ago, Thomas Jefferson wrote his famous letter to the Danbury Baptists in which he described the importance of "building a wall of separation between Church and State." True to his word, President Jefferson refused to issue Thanksgiving proclamations during the eight years he held office, stating that "civil powers alone have been given to the President of the U.S., and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his Constituents."
Several freethought groups are asking mayors around the country to declare a state-church separation day (or month) to mark the anniversary. The Freedom From Religion Foundation has put a sample Mayoral Proclamation at http://www.ffrf.org/proclamations/scmonth.html. Perhaps our SHL might wish to modify this proclamation and request that Mayor Riley act on it. Though Jefferson's letter was written on January 1, 1802, we might ask for the celebration to be on April 13, Jefferson's birthday.
If you are interested in seeing Charleston acknowledge this event, contact me at 577-0637 to coordinate approaching Mayor Riley.
Adopt-A-Highway February Pickup
The first 2002 Adopt-A-Highway pickup will be on Saturday, February 2, starting at 9:00 a.m. If it rains on that day, web
ll pick up on February 9. We need people to invest a few hours on this community service. The more people there are, the shorter the time to clean up the highway.
Our pickup area is Highway 61 starting two miles past Bees Ferry Road and ending two miles beyond that. The start is at Drayton Hall and ends a little past Magnolia Gardens. The Highway Department supplies everything we neebdorange bags for the trash, orange vests, and pointy stickbsbut no gloves, so bring your own work or garden gloves.
The cleanup should't take more than a few hours, and it's a good opportunity for us to carry on our usual interesting conversations while we work. We'll meet at the small parking lot just across the street from the main Drayton Hall entrance on Highway 61 at 9:00 a.m. to pick the supplies and head out. Please call me at 763-4505 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you plan to help with the pickup. We need bodies, live ones, that is.
For your information, in 2001 we were among 2,507 volunteers who participated in the three Adopt-A-Highway cleanups and helped pick up 95,385 pounds of trash in the state.
Humanist Book Discussion Group
By Sharon Strong
The next Humanist Book Discussion Group meeting will take place at the Barnes and Noble bookstore on Sam Rittenberg Blvd. (as usual) on Sunday, January 27, from 3:00-5:00 p.m. Gwen Smythe will be facilitating a discussion of Ethics for the New Millennium by the Dalai Lama. You'll find the book in Barnes and Noble's "Eastern Religion" section. At this month's meeting we will also need to decide on books to order for March through May, so join us and bring your ideas!
On the fourth Sunday in February, in honor of Charles Darwin's 193rd birthday that month, we will be discussing Richard Dawkins's classic account of evolutionary theory, The Blind Watchmaker. And please remember that you are all welcome to join us at any meeting, even if you haven't had a chance to read the book.
The following letter was sent to the Charleston Post and Courier on November 6, but has not been published.
I am in full accord with Herb Silverman's letter (11/1) regarding the posting of the Ten Commandments in government buildings. Since the Ten Commandments represent a specific religious belief, posting them would be in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Nowhere in the Constitution is there the mention of Christianity or God. In fact, in 1797, America made a treaty with Tripoli declaring that "the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion." This was written under the presidency of George Washington and approved by the Senate under John Adams.
The U.S. Constitution is a secular document. It begins, "We the people," and contains no mention of "God" or "Christianity." Its only references to religion are exclusionary, such as "no religious test shall ever he required as a qualification to any office or public trust" (Art. VI), and "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" (First Amendment).
The presidential oath of office, the only oath detailed in the Constitution, does not contain the phrase "so help me God" or any requirement to swear on a bible (Art. II, Sec. I).
An old trivia question is, "What four words have always appeared on every denomination of U.S. currency?" Most people will answer, "In God We Trust" which is incorrect. That phrase was absent from paper currency until 1956 when it was added. The correct answer is "United States of America." In addition, the phrase "under God" did not appear in the Pledge of Allegiance until 1954 when Congress inserted it. The original pledge was written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy and contained the words "my flag."
If we are a Christian nation, why doesn't our Constitution say so? So if we are not a Christian nation, the posting of the Ten Commandments is against the Constitution. Mr. Silverman's suggestion to display the American Bill of Rights makes much more sense and meaning to all Americans regardless of their beliefs.
SHL Member Writes New Book
By Sharon Fratepietro
I am sorry to tell you that SHL member John Guthrie and his family moved from Mt. Pleasant to the Boston area last summer. Many of you will remember John, the cordial, soft-spoken physician who joined our group about a year ago. At one meeting he was our monthly speaker and related the personal experiences described in his book, Within the Dragon's Lair: A Doctor's Drug War Memoir. And a few of you may recall John's wife Natasha at a potluck gathering at the Silverman-Fratepietro house a couple of Decembers ago.
I am pleased to tell you that John has a brand new book in print, a novel this time, called Doctor Jacques: Of Love and Remembrance. I have read it and I recommend it to you for many reasons.
First, the book is an entertaining, first-person narrative and a quick read. It is set in "Austerity" South Carolina, and draws on the author's own experiences as a family physician. Without revealing the plot, I will say that the book involves homosexuality, the Drug War, South Carolina culture and a clear loathing for the hypocrisy of the Southern Baptist Church. The author's humanistic philosophy clearly shines through plot, character and setting. The book surely contains more truth than fictiobnthose of us who knew John will understand and enjoy the book's many references to Charleston and South Carolina, as well as guess Dr. Jacques' true identity and that of his girlfriend, Tatyana.
It was also a delight to read, at the end of the Acknowledgements section, the following words: "Thanks to the Secular Humanists of the Low Country of South Carolina, an organization that provides a beacon of hope, decency and mirth in the long dark night of Palmetto State theology."
You can order Dr. Jacques: Of Love and Remembrance at Barnes and Noble, or buy it through the Internet at www.barnesandnoble.com, in both paperback and hardback versions. And if you do, any profit John Guthrie makes on your purchase, as well as on all sales of the book, will go to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which is one more good reason for ordering it as soon as you finish reading this review.
Truth or Fiction?
By Sharon Fratepietro
I want to recommend to you a most useful and entertaining Web site at www.truthorfiction.com.
Like you, I receive emails regularly with rumors, inspirational stories, pleas for help, urban legends and prayer requests. Many of them seem phony, but not all really are. My reliable guide is the TruthOrFiction Web site, which separates reality from fantasy in 23 subject categories, and I am amazed at how much is true.
The Religious-Spirituality category, for example, holds some surprising stories. These are deemed factual by TruthOrFiction: A Bible found unharmed in the middle of the destruction of the Pentagon. An apology by cereal maker General Mills for the inclusion of a Bible in a CD-ROM packaged in cereal boxes. The little girl who died and left 57 cents to build a bigger church
TruthOrFiction calls these fiction: President Elect George Bush took time from a banquet to help a teenager become a Christian. The Catholic patron saint of elections is St. Chad. Bill Gates is the Biblical anti-Christ.
I think the most interesting and true item is this: At a Web site called www.presidentialprayerteam.org an attempt is being made to get 2.8 million people to pray regularly for President Bush. As an inducement, if you join the Presidential Prayer Team (and there's no fee to do so) you will receive an official blue and gold prayer-reminder decal to proudly display in your window or on your car.
So check out these Web sites. And watch for the decals.
Super Jew: April 17, 1912--October 12, 2001
By Eddie Tabash
(Eddie Tabash is a Secular Humanist, attorney and former Congressional candidate from Los Angeles, California. He is also Chair of the Council for Secular Humanism's First Amendment Task Force and a national board member of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.)
To my brother and sister Atheists, Agnostics, and even Liberal Religionists:
My father died recently, after a severe bout of colon bleeding, heart attacks and pneumonia. He was 89.
An ordained orthodox rabbi from the most respected rabbinical seminary in Eastern Europe, the Slobotka Yeshiva, my dad went from belligerent orthodox Jew to grave doubter in his last years. My life with him was a seesaw of his raging against my rejection of religion to his joining me in commenting on how superstitious it all was.
In his later years, he realized that my atheism was not a rejection of him and his traditions but rather an unavoidable result of the way I viewed the world. He came to see that I could not believe in god even if I wanted to, the same as I could not believe in Santa Claus. A preview of how he and I would interact on matters of religion came about in 1967, when I was 16 years old. He would say to me: "Eddie, promise me you will always be a good Jew, even though it's all bullshit."
Materially, my father was the greatest and most generous provider that a father could be. As I reflect on his life and my life with him, I hope that among the many things we nonbelievers accomplish in the coming decades is, if we can't totally persuade people to give up belief in the supernatural, to at least try to imbue future generations of conventionally religious parents with a greater tolerance for religious dissent or nonbelief on the part of their offspring.
Perhaps my father's life and his 50 years of interaction with me can be ultimately seen as a prototype for the transition between the otherwise tyrannical religious father and the new breed of tolerant and accepting dad who respects the decision of a son or daughter to abandon the family's religious heritage. In a single lifetime, Abraham Tabash accomplished this transformation within himself. Perhaps future generations of parents, regardless of how initially religious, can duplicate my father's personal growth and journey toward open-mindedness.
Sunday, January 20: Baha'i Tom Jerige speaks at the SHL monthly meeting. At Gage Hall, 4 Archdale St., downtown Charleston, 4 p.m. Followed by optional dinner at Vickeryb
Sunday, January 27: Humanist Book Discussion Group, Barnes & Noble, 1812 Sam Rittenberg Blvd. (West Ashley), 3-5 p.m.
Saturday, February 2: SHL Highway 61 cleanup, 9 a.m.
See our homepage at http://www.atheistalliance.org/lowcountry.
For more information, please visit our Homepage at LOWCOUNTRY.HUMANISTS.NET.