ISSUE: May 2002
Edited by Sharon Fratepietro and Sharon Strong
Meeting in May:
Potluck at 5 p.m. at Roger Prevost's House
Please note the different time, different location and different format for our upcoming SHL meeting on May 19: We will start at 5 p.m., at Roger Prevost's house on Folly Beach (see directions below), for a potluck supper and short business meeting.
This is a chance to get together for a social exchange with folks you never have time to chat with at the regular meetings. SHL members on the mailing list but who never or seldom attend a meeting are doubly welcome at this friendly gathering.
One important item on the brief business meeting agenda will be elections for SHL board members. Please come prepared to nominate yourself or someone else who has agreed to be nominated. It would be wonderful to have some new volunteers for this influential and prestigious role.
Don't forget to bring food and/or drink along, too. Some of you may wonder what to contribute. As is our custom established years ago by Herb Silverman: "Atheists will bring only food whose ingredients they can see. Agnostics are not sure what they will bring or whether there really is food, skeptics will argue whether we really should have a potluck supper at all, pagans will bring wine, anarchists may bring whatever they damn well please, and humanists optimistically believe they will help to complement the meal and make it a wonderful experience for all."
Roger's address is 313 West Hudson Ave. on Folly Beach. Here are the directions via Folly Rd. on James Island: When you go over the last bridge and are on Folly Island, make the third right turn. That is West Hudson Ave. Roger's house is three blocks down on the left side. Roger's phone number is 588-9367.
A Few Words of Appreciation
It long past time to say a public thank you to SHL member Alex Kasman, our Web master. If you haven't seen the SHL Web site lately, look it up at this link and you'll know why this thank you is due. Alex set up our attractive and informative Web site from scratch and maintains it as information changes. He also writes original articles for the site, one of which ("South Carolina: Training the New Crusaders") is printed elsewhere in this newsletter. You also may recall his talk earlier this year, "A Skeptical Smorgasbord of Science, Math and Religion."
For those who have not met Alex personally, let me tell you a little about him. Since 1999 Dr. Kasman has been an Assistant Professor in the mathematics department at the College of Charleston. Alex earned degrees at the University of Michigan and Boston University, and he did post-doctoral research at the University of Georgia, at the Centre de Recherches Mathematiques in Montreal, and at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley, California.
Alex is also Laura Kasman's husband and Amanda Kasman's father. Some of you may remember Laura Kasman, a virologist at the Medical University of South Carolina, who spoke to the SHL about circumcision. No one who has met Amanda Kasman, the joy of Alex's life, could forget that petite and beautiful, dark-haired kindergartner, a talented artist who travels nowhere without her colored markers. The Kasman family lives in Mt. Pleasant.
Alex's brother is a conservative Jewish rabbi. Alex became interested in the SHL through mathematics colleague Herb Silverman.
Recently he has become interested in "mathematical fiction" and even hosts a Web page for it at math.cofc.edu/faculty/kasman/MATHFICT/. He has just finished creating and teaching an interdisciplinary class in mathematical fiction for 20 students at the College of Charleston. In addition, Alex is involved in mathematical research. He has published over 20 research papers on wide ranging topics including the mathematical physics of waves and particles, differential algebra, algebraic geometry and even one paper on mathematical biology (working with virologist wife Laura).
Thank you, Alex, for making time in your busy life to contribute your expertise to the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry.
From Gill Krebs
I am somewhat confused about the proposal to post the Ten Commandments in public schoolrooms. Will the posting be Exodus 20:2 through 20:17, which were the original Hebrew Ten Commandments, or Exodus 34:14 through 34:26, which were the second stone tablets?
Also, the Catholic Ten Commandments are in slightly different numerical order. The Quran has Ten Commandments as well. Which will be posted in schools?
Perhaps none of the foregoing is the one that will be used. In fairness to all, I have found many other Ten Commandments on the Internet that, I believe, should be given equal consideration. There are the Ten Commandments for C Programmers; for Computer Ethics; for Baseball; for Managing Stress; for Math Teachers; of HTML; for Internet Searching; for Firearms Safety; for HMO's Managed Care; for Web Design and for Golf Etiquette, all of which are on the World Wide Web.
My dilemma as well, is that according to the 1797 treaty that America made with Tripoli, we declared that "the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion." This might eliminate any Christian Ten Commandment posting and leave only the Hebrew or Quran version or even one of the ones found on the Internet. In the event the proposal is passed, I wonder which version it will be.
From Herb Silverman
I hope the writer of the April 21 letter "God's chosen people" is wrong in his belief that he speaks for the vast majority of Christians. He is appalled by suggestions that Israel offer land for peace, since "God made a covenant with Abraham's son Isaac to give Israel to the Jews." Of course many Muslims believe they are entitled to this same piece of property because God made a covenant with Abraham's other son Ishmael. This presents a dilemma: Which interpretation of which holy book to believe?
For centuries, those who value sacred land over human life have perpetrated Middle Eastern turf wars. I don't see an easy solution to the current situation as long as countless numbers of people are willing to kill or be killed for the sake of a deity.
The letter writer closed by asking readers to pray for "God's chosen people." He undoubtedly views me, a secular Jew, as one of those chosen. But I reject this preposterous, inflammatory, and divisive religious belief. Let's just, instead, consider all people "chosen" and treat all humans with respect and dignity.
To break this cycle of violence, we must recognize that deeds are more important than creeds and that religious dogmas should never override our compassion for others. We will only have peace in the world when there is peace among religions, and tolerance toward and from those with no religious belief.
From Ethard Wendel Van Stee
There is something about religion that inclines men to violence. It is the most powerful form of social control ever devised by the human mind. Not content to accept the teachings of their master, here in the U.S. Christians have successfully done an end-run around the biblical admonitions "you cannot worship God and mammon," and "thou shall not kill." Religion is about politics. Politics is about power. Power is about money. Can we but stare at the ground in shame at the reality of the silly religious buffoon appointed Attorney General of the United States, and his boss, the ignoramus appointed to the presidency?
All day, every day, the world suffers from the obscene hypocrisy of religionist views on sex and human reproduction. Ironically, the Roman church is being sundered by the legacy of the bishop of Hippo, famously responsible for the idea of priestly celibacy, but less appreciated for his prayer, "Please, God, make me chaste, but not yet."
War is in the air. Worldwide we witness the smug, self-righteous confidence of the adversaries on all sides comforting themselves with the knowledge that God is on their side. Here at home the old warriors Cheney and Rumsfield prepare to smite the enemy with a U.S. nuclear first strike, likely to be triggered by a trumped up Gulf of Tonkin-style imperative. Are we slouching toward Armageddon? You bet.
Palestinian versus Israeli? On the surface it is about religion. Beneath the surface it is about power. Can you imagine any meaner instinct than what propels gray-streaked mentors who would never consider wrapping their own bodies in explosives, seducing Palestinian teenagers into committing suicide on their behalf?
Researchers recently postulated that humans have evolved an area of the brain that makes us susceptible to religion. If that is so, and if God made us all in his own image, the joke's on us. The time bomb that is us is ticking, and time is growing short. What are the chances, when we make God start over, that he will re-create intelligent life without a doomsday center?
SHL Member Wins Award
By Sharon Fratepietro
On April 14 the South Carolina Progressive Network recognized SHL member Ron Kaz with a Thunder and Lightning Award. They honored Ron for his years of effort and important contributions toward making our state a more compassionate and rational place to live.
The S.C. Progressive Network is a statewide coalition of more than 50 grassroots and advocacy organizations, among them the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry. Through education and action, these groups promote human, civil, workers' and reproductive rights, environmental protection, and government reform.
I had the pleasure of speaking about Ron at the award banquet at Bowen's Island. For nearly 20 years I have witnessed and admired the contributions he continues to make to our community.
Here are just a few of the reasons Ron was honored by the Progressive Network:
1970s and 1980s--Ron had a leadership role in the Palmetto Alliance, a group concerned about the manufacture of nuclear weapons at the Savannah River plant in Aiken, South Carolina. This group later protested the spread of nuclear weapons everywhere. Ron also worked in Charleston Peace, an organization interested in social justice and the U.S. involvement in the Central American civil wars of the 1980s.
1978--Ron helped form our local Amnesty International chapter, and has filled every role in that organization.
Since the early 1980s--Ron has served on the Board of the South Carolina Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Every time South Carolina executes a prisoner, Ron keeps a vigil outside the prison in Columbia.
1987--Ron was one of a few local people who formed a Sanctuary Group to protect political refugees from El Salvador while they waited in the U.S., via the "overground railroad," for immigration visas to Canada. Ron donated not just time and money, but shared his own house for months with Jose and Heriberto.
1992--Ron began escorting patients at the Charleston Women's Clinic and he continues to stand watch, rain or shine, every Saturday morning, as religious protesters shout and harrass women seeking abortions.
1994--Ron joined the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry, led by his personal non-theistic belief and a commitment to ensure separation of church and state.
I must say that, of all the people I know, Ron Kaz offers the best example of a life of applied humanism. Congratulations on behalf of the SHL, to you Ron, for your well-deserved award.
Humanist Book Discussion Group
By Sharon Strong
The fourth Sunday this month (May 26) will be the next meeting of the Humanist Book Discussion Group, which will take place (as usual) at the Barnes and Noble on Sam Rittenberg Blvd., 3:00-5:00 p.m. This month Mike Epstein will be leading a discussion of the book "Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit" by Garry Wills, located in the "Christianity" section. Wills, a noted historian and former Jesuit seminarian, denounces the Vatican's systematic failures to oppose the Holocaust or reform church policy on clerical celibacy, birth control, and women's ordination. A timely topic indeed. Also, at our last meeting we chose books for the first two meetings in the fall: