Archived Issue of the Separationist

You have loaded a back issue of The Separationist, the newsletter of the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry.


ISSUE: April 2003

Edited by Sharon Fratepietro and Sharon Strong


Contents:

Ethics for the Main Course, and a Wedding for Dessert:

The April 13 SHL meeting to offer both speaker and nuptials

 

Note: The April SHL meeting will take place on the second Sunday of the month.

 

A talk and discussion, followed by a wedding, will take place at the April 13 meeting of the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry. As usual, the meeting will begin at 4 p.m. at Gage Hall, 4 Archdale St. next to the Unitarian Church. As unusual, a humanist wedding will be celebrated at that meeting.

First the talk. Alan Levin of Savannah will speak on "Evolving Ethics: Choosing a compass point." Alan is a former university teacher, probation and parole officer, business person and commercial Web host. He has served as president of the Humanists of Iowa. He has also hosted a number of freethought Web sites, including those of the IHEU (International Humanist and Ethical Union) and of atheist Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasrin. Alan is currently working with others to form a secular group in Savannah.

Alan’s talk will consider that, in debates between theists and humanists, even though theists are no more ethical than humanists, theists routinely assert that humanism is a deficient source of values. By inference, theists claim that the actions of humanists would be bad if they did not have religious moral precepts to adopt.

Do you agree? If your answer is either yes or no, your input after Alan’s talk will help create a stimulating discussion.

After the talk and discussion, we will witness the marriage of Ann and David, with Herb Silverman, notary public and Humanist celebrant, officiating. While none of us, including Herb, have yet met Ann and David, the two are pleased to have us all as guests at their wedding. How this unusual happening came about will be revealed at the meeting on April 13. Following the wedding, our usual social period will include a champagne toast to the new bride and groom. When the meeting ends, all who want to will go to Vickery’s restaurant for dinner.

A Memorable Invocation

By Herb Silverman

 

On Tuesday, March 25, I gave the invocation to the Charleston City Council. Councilman Kwadjo Campbell had cordially agreed to let me do it. As Mayor Riley was introducing me for the invocation, several City Council members got up and walked out. When I finished speaking, those council members walked back in, just in time for the Pledge of Allegiance.

            Two of the councilmen who walked out, Wendell Gilliard and Robert George, stated their reasons in a March 27 Charleston Post and Courier article by Jason Hardin (www.charleston.net/stories/032703/loc_27atheist2.shtml).
            Gilliard said an atheist giving an invocation is an affront to our troops because they are "fighting for our principles, based on God." Gilliard apparently believes our troops are involved in a holy war. However, we are not the Taliban. The principles of our country are not based on God. Our principles are enshrined in the Constitution, like the right of all citizens to be represented by their elected officials and not to be shunned because their religious beliefs differ from the majority.
            Councilman George said about me, "He can worship a chicken if he wants to, but I'm not going to be around when he does it." I refrained from telling George what I really thought--that praying to a god makes about as much sense to me as praying to a chicken.
            The organized walkout vividly showed that we are engaged in one of the last civil rights struggles in which blatant discrimination is viewed as acceptable behavior. Bigotry exists everywhere, but it is especially outrageous when acts of intolerance at government functions are organized, carried out, and later defended in the media by government officials.

            I have two questions for the council members who could not even bear to be in the same room with an atheist giving the invocation, and who are now surprised that so many of us feel deeply offended by their organized walkout. Can you now understand how uncomfortable many non-Christians feel when they are continually subjected to Christian prayers at secular events? And how would you react if we were to organize a walkout during a Christian invocation? Don't worry—we are not that rude.
            I was initially quite perturbed by the conduct of council members. Fortunately, lemonade is now being squeezed from these lemons. I have received numerous apologies from Christians for the behavior of the Christian council members who walked out. This is exactly the kind of publicity we need in the Freethought community. Movements are successful when they appeal to folks outside the group. The object is not just to drum up support among fellow humanists, though such grassroots activism is crucial, but to appeal to everyone's sense of fair play and tolerance. "Right-minded" people, whether religious or not, should be appalled by the contemptuous behavior exhibited by members of the Charleston City Council.
            Dozens of people, both SHL members and those outside our humanist community, have written letters to the editor of our local newspaper to express their outrage over the walkout. I feel very grateful for their public support.

            I hope that the many discussions we have heard about the conduct of Charleston City Council members will bring about more religious tolerance in this city. Perhaps we can now become effective in making Charleston a more progressive community that celebrates, rather than fears, its diversity.

            Here is the invocation I gave, as several council members fled:

 

            Thank you for this opportunity to "invoke" a minority point of view.

            Each of us is a minority, with respect to something. It might be race, religion, sexual orientation, nationality, or any other way we may be regarded as different. Each of us is also part of some majority. It is when we wear our majority hats that we need to be most mindful of how we treat others. We must pledge our best efforts to help one another, and to defend the rights of all of our citizens and residents.
            What divides us is not so much our religious differences in this diverse country, but the degree of commitment we have to equal freedom of conscience for all people. We are gathered today, both religious and secular members of our community, with the shared belief that we must treat our fellow human beings with respect and dignity.
            I don't ask you to close your eyes, but to keep your eyes constantly open to the serious issues that city government can and should solve or improve. I don't ask you to bow your heads, but to look up at what you can accomplish by applying your considerable talents and experience to the problems that confront us.
            As you work together on behalf of all who live in this city, may you gain strength and sustenance from one another through reason and compassion.
            I'd like to close in a bipartisan manner by quoting from two presidents I greatly admire-one a Republican and the other a Democrat.
            First, the Republican:
            When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad. That is my religion. Abraham Lincoln
           
And then, the Democrat:

            It's remarkable how much you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit. Harry S. Truman

Licensed Communication

By Alex Kasman

 

The Food Court at Northwoods Mall might seem a strange place to look for thought-provoking atheist slogans, but next time you are there, you should. The "U Name It" personalized license plate stand there, run by Rob Leternou and T.J. Sharpe, sells decorative plates of all varieties, some religious ones, some political ones, some cute ones and some for fans of professional wrestling. But, I was pleasantly surprised (and just a bit shocked) to see how many unabashedly atheist ones they had on display here in "the holy city.”

      For instance, they have plates that say "Freedom of Religion Necessarily Involves Freedom from Religion," and "Atheism: Still Saving Lives.” One of my favorites was the gutsy one that said "Read Any Good Fiction Lately?" along with a picture of a stack of famous novels and a copy of the bible.

      When I asked, the proprietor explained that although he and his partner were "raised in the church,” they now had a different viewpoint and wanted to offer people plates that reflected it. He admitted that some people do complain about these anti-religious plates—“Lord Please Save Me from Your Followers" is one he said was a frequent source of complaints—but he claimed that most people simply ignore them, and he has sold quite a few!

      He didn't say that anyone has stopped to compliment him on this brave public display of freethought, though. So, next time you're in North Charleston, consider stopping by to chat with, and maybe even buy something from, the guys at "U Name It". If you want more information, call them at 797-0030.

A Mobile Humanist Message

 

The other day an old South Carolina friend, Lee Dietz of Greenville, sent us a message and an offer we couldn’t refuse. But first a little legal background is in order.

 

Code of Laws of South Carolina

 

SECTION 56-3-9200. In God We Trust license plates.
The department may issue "In God We Trust" special motor vehicle license plates to owners of private passenger-carrying motor vehicles registered in their names. The fee for each special license plate is the regular motor vehicle license fee set forth in Article 5. Each special license plate must be of the same size and general design of regular motor vehicle license plates. Each special license plate must be issued or revalidated for a biennial period which expires twenty-four months from the month the special license plate is issued.

 

The law above was passed in 2002 by the South Carolina Legislature, caught up in the patriotic throes of 9-11. In South Carolina, as we all know, patriotism and public religiosity are usually one and the same. So that explains the code above.

Lee Dietz, however, former Bob Jones preacher graduate and current president of the Upstate Secular Humanists, decided to do something about this law. And that brings us to his email:

 

“Hello everyone. Well, SC now has a "religious car tag," with the message, "In God We Trust." We, as humanists, atheist, freethinkers, Unitarians, and all others who may want to send a message or just be different, have a choice. I have had stickers printed with the message "In Humans We Trust" for our tags. They are 9.5" long and 1" high, just the right size to fit over "Smiling faces, beautiful place" now on your tag. The sticker is light blue (matches the tag color) and vinyl with a peel-off to stick on your tag. I have already put one on my vehicle and it looks nice.

 

Yes, it is just as legal as putting a tiger paw or gamecock on your tag. Let's not just talk about how terrible it is that SC has a "religious tag," let's counter it with "In Humans we Trust." After all, we trust humans to pipe us clean, clear water. We trust humans to inspect our food. We trust humans to build safe cars. We trust humans every day 7/24/365. Frankly, I cannot "In God We Trust." I really believe if we left the purifying of water to some or any god, we all would die slow deaths.

 

The tag stickers are available for $1.00 each. This is not a money-making deal, but I would like to recover my cost of having the stickers printed. Thank you....Lee Dietz”

 

Your Separationist editor ordered 20 of Lee’s stickers and will sell them to you at cost ($1.00) at the next SHL meeting. So dust off your current license plate and prepare to send a mobile humanist message.

Humanist Book Discussion Group

Our April meeting will take place on the fourth Sunday of the month, April 27, in the Barnes and Noble bookstore at 1812 Sam Rittenberg Blvd., 3:00-5:00 p.m. This month we will be considering a book written by Nobel laureate Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA. In his 1994 book The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul the author sets out to explore the "astonishing hypothesis" that human consciousness -- including our thoughts and feelings, our memories, even our sense of personal identity and free will -- is the result of nothing more than the normal activity of our brain cells. Crick focuses on visual awareness as a test case for understanding how the mind works. H. Dhillon will be the discussion leader; please feel free to join us, even if you don't have a chance to read the book. This month's selection, like all of our books, is available at the West Ashley Barnes and Noble.


For more information, please visit our Homepage at LOWCOUNTRY.HUMANISTS.NET.