ISSUE: April 2002
Edited by Sharon Fratepietro and Sharon Strong
The controversial, cutting edge technology called stem cell research will be the subject of our program at the SHL meeting on Sunday, April 21. The meeting will start at 4 p.m. at Gage Hall, 4 Archdale St. next to the Unitarian Church in downtown Charleston.
As you probably are aware, President Bush is opposed to all but very limited reseach in this area. Those who favor stem cell research believe it will provide dramatic help for currently non-curable illnesses, including spinal cord injuries, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, and other tragic ailments.
Protesting at the Clinic
By Herb Silverman
As you may know, just one clinic in Charleston provides abortions. It is open only on Saturday because it is so heavily protested, and its doctor (who must remain anonymous due to safety concerns) has to fly in once a week from another state.
Early in March, several SHL members learned that the clinic would need additional patient escorts on March 9 because of an expected protest by a group of local and out-of-state protesters from the Constitution Party. In its press release, the Constitution Party claimed to be "the only faithfully no-compromise, no-exceptions, national, pro-life party in America. It stands for the restoration of American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations." The party is also "unalterably opposed to the Federal income tax, free trade, and the New World Order."
The party's announcement about the protest referred to the Charleston Women's Clinic as an "abortuary." And so a number of our SHL members joined the regular clinic escorts on March 9.
At the Constitution Party press conference held across the street from the clinic, the main speaker was Howard Phillips, founder of the party and presidential candidate. Few media reporters were present, so he wound up lecturing to those of us who were volunteer escorts.
When Phillips finished his lecture, I had an interesting personal exchange with him. I said that I, too, would like to see fewer abortions and I asked him which of the following effective programs he would support: (1) More sex education in schools (2) more birth control information and distribution to sexually active children and adults who do not want to have children (3) more governmental healthcare and child care assistance for the financially needy (4) the promotion of masturbation as a healthy and safe sexual outlet for youngsters. When he answered "No!" to all my questions, usually with Biblically based arguments, I concluded by saying: " I guess you are not as opposed to abortions as I thought you were."
While walking away, I was accosted by one of Phillips' aides who had not heard our complete conversation. The aide said that he hoped I would contemplate voting for Howard Phillips in the next election. My response was, "I would contemplate doing so, but first he'll have to change his views considerably."
Religious Mysticism Worse than Potter
By Bill Van Druten, M.D.
(Editor's note: Bill Van Druten is a retired psychiatrist and moderator of the Lake Superior Freethinkers, Duluth, Minnesota)
The Harry Potter problem seems to be that children might mistake his magic and miracles for reality. But Harry is presented as fiction and not endorsed as fact by trusted adults.
Religious magic such as virgin births, angels, devils, gods, heavenly rewards for murderous martyrdom, infallible popes, are far more likely to confuse vulnerable children. These concepts ARE presented as fact by trusted adults. There is heavy social pressure on children to pretend to believe. Few adults are brave enough to tell the truth to children.
Harry Potter Books are a direct threat to the superstitious because the book1s magic and spells stand on the same imaginary base as the magical claims of the religions.
One might hope that religious belief, true or false, would contribute to a peaceful world. But when each sect claims to have the only true magic and denies the magic of its rivals, humanity is separated into warring camps. History and current events prove this to be a major source of cruelty and hate.
When children are brain washed into religious mysticism, their critical thinking is impaired, rendering them vulnerable to the manipulations of imams, David Korsches, priests, ayatollahs, bin Ladins and Jerry Falwells.
What He Knew and When He Knew It
By SHL Member Gene Vasilew
Under the headline, "Not Surprising News," I recently read this opening statement to a news story: "After three days of heated debate, the Evangelical Theological Society voted to affirm that God knows everything, including the future decisions of his creatures."
It appears that some prominent members of the Society argued that God cannot know about future events because the decisions governing them haven't been made yet and therefore they don't exist. This is clearly a preemptive defensive position because if God knows of a horrible future event based on a future decision, he could presumably thwart the decision and thus forestall the event. If he doesn't do it, and the decision gets made; well, that's free will. God allows that. In other words, God's gift of freedom to Mankind is that once the wheels are set in motion he steps back and gets out of the way.
On the other hand, say those who give God complete vision (backwards, forwards and in place), if God did not know the future in every aspect, he could not have kept the promises made in the Old Testament, nor would he be able to steer the world vehicle to reach the destination he has in mind. Thus, the winning side concluded that, "God has complete, accurate, and infallible knowledge of all events, past, present and future including all future decisions and actions of free moral agents."
This position is much more difficult to defend. For example, if we apply it to September 11, we conclude that God knew even before the plan was hatched, and long before it was executed, that terrorists would conspire to steer airplanes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and (presumably) the White House and that over two thousand persons would die. What kind of God would let that happen? Better, what's the point of being God if you can't prevent evil? Or, as Woody Allen told us, this would make God an underachiever.
Free will doesn't apply because it concerns actions, and according to this grandiose view, God knew about this horrible event before it was even in the planning stage. It was not even yet a thought, certainly not a decision, and far from being an action.
Intellectual Shock Troops
Alex Kasman, our SHL Web master and CofC math professor, was taken by this anonymously written news item and brings it to our attention.
French Intellectuals to be Deployed to Afghanistan to
The ground war in Afghanistan heated up yesterday when the Allies revealed plans to airdrop a platoon of crack French existentialist philosophers into the country to destroy the morale of Taliban zealots by proving the non-existence of God.
Elements from the feared Jean-Paul Sartre Brigade, or 'Black Berets,'
will be parachuted into the combat zones to spread doubt, despondency and
existential anomie among the enemy. Hardened by numerous intellectual
battles fought during their long occupation of Paris' Left Bank, their
first action will be to establish a number of pavement Cafes at strategic
points near the front lines. There they will drink coffee and talk
animatedly about the absurd nature of life and man's lonely isolation in
the universe. They will be accompanied by a number of heartbreakingly
beautiful girlfriends who will further spread dismay by sticking their
tongues in the philosophers' ears every five minutes and looking remote and
Their leader, Colonel Marc-Ange Belmondo, spoke yesterday of his confidence in the success of their mission. Sorbonne graduate Belmondo, a very intense and unshaven young man in a black pullover, gesticulated wildly and said, "The Taliban are caught in a logical fallacy of the most ridiculous. There is no God and I can prove it. Take your Tongue out of my ear, Juliet, I am talking."
Marc-Ange plans to deliver an impassioned thesis on man's nauseating freedom of action with special reference to the work of Foucault and the films of Alfred Hitchcock. However, humanitarian agencies have been quick to condemn the operation as inhumane, pointing out that the effects of passive smoking from the Frenchmen's endless Gitanes could wreak a terrible toll on civilians in the area.
Speculation was mounting last night that Britain may also contribute to
the effort by dropping Professor Stephen Hawking into Afghanistan to
propagate his non- deistic theory of the creation of the universe. Other
tactics to demonstrate the non-existence of God will include the dropping
of leaflets pointing out the fact that Michael Jackson has a new album out
and Jesse Helms has not died yet. This is only one of several Psy-Ops
operations mounted by the Allies.