ISSUE: April 2003
Edited by Sharon Fratepietro and Sharon Strong
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
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
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
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
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
as we all know, patriotism and public religiosity are usually one and the same.
So that explains the code above.
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:
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.
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.
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
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
Blvd., 3:00-5:00 p.m. This month we will be considering a book written by
laureate Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA. In his 1994
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
of personal identity and free will -- is the result of nothing more than
normal activity of our brain cells. Crick focuses on visual awareness as a
case for understanding how the mind works. H. Dhillon will be the
leader; please feel free to join us, even if you don't have a chance to
the book. This month's selection, like all of our books, is available at
West Ashley Barnes and Noble.