ISSUE: May 2003
Edited by Sharon Fratepietro and Sharon Strong
Meeting in May
Potluck at Roger Prevost's HousePlease note the different time, different location and different format for our upcoming SHL meeting on Sunday, May 18: We will start at 5 p.m., at Roger Prevost's house in 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. We especially would like to have some younger people on the board.
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: 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 no matter what they bring.
Roger's address is 313 West Hudson in Folly Beach. Here are the
directions via Folly Rd. on James Island: When you go over the last
bridge and are on Folly Island, turn right at the 3rd street
(W. Hudson). Roger
Pickers Needed on May 17The next Adopt-A-Highway pickup will be on Saturday, May 17, starting at 9:00 a.m. If it rains that day, we'll pick up on May 25. 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 sticks but no gloves, so bring your own work or garden gloves.
The clean-up shouldn't take more than two hours, and you're bound to find some interesting stuff along with the trash. 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 up the supplies and head out. Please call Gill Krebs at 763-4505 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org if you plan to help with the pickup.
Freethinker Dating Web SiteIf you are married, engaged "going steady", or under age 18, do not read any further.
For you singles, a freethinker dating Web site
(www.FreeThinkerPersonals.com) has come to our attention. Since both your
editors are married, we have not done any in-depth research on this
service, and must leave it to you to check it out if so inclined. The site
is dedicated to introducing atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, and other
non-theists. It claims to have thousands of atheist and agnostic members.
Let us know if you meet anyone interesting.
Herb Silverman Wins National Award
By Sharon Fratepietro
No one was more surprised than SHL president Herb Silverman when the Atheist Alliance International awarded him the "Who Gets the Credit"* prize at the organizationbFreethinker Dating Web Sites annual conference on April 19 in Tampa, Florida. The prize is based on President Harry TrumanbFreethinker Dating Web Sites famous comment, "It's surprising how much you can accomplish when you don't care who gets the credit."
The award reads, "Dr. Herb Silverman is hereby given the credit for exceptional leadership in bringing the freethought community together."
Three years ago, Herb founded the Coalition for the Community of Reason (www.communityofreason.org), a federation of national freethought groups. His goal was to convince the often-competitive groups to work together on freethought issues in order to have a louder national voice. The task has been formidable, since many member groups have their own goals and limitations. As former secretary of that group, I can say from personal observation that a less determined person would have given up the effort after just a few months, but Herb has persevered.
Some members of the CCR, desiring more political activism, have started the
Secular Coalition for America (www.secular.org), a lobbying group. Herb
serves as president of this new national group, and as a board member of
the American Humanist Association (AHA) and the Atheist Alliance
Letters to the EditorAfter the Charleston City Council members walked out before Herb Silverman's invocation at their March 25th meeting, many people, both SHL members and others, wrote letters of support to the Charleston Post and Courier, with copies to Herb or Sharon. The paper published several of them on April 5. Because of the number of letters, we do not have space to reprint them all here. Herb and Sharon send heart felt thanks to all who wrote or otherwise showed their concern.
All the letters printed in the Post and Courier are at http://charleston.net/stories/040503/let_05letters.shtml, and Herb's op-ed about the walkout can be found at http://charleston.net/stories/041403/com_14silverman.shtml.
The following letters were written after Senator Joe Lieberman, also a presidential candidate, stated in a speech in Charleston that the U.S. Constitution does not guarantee freedom from religion. The first letter was printed in the Post and Courier on April 30, and the second was submitted to the paper but has not yet been published.
In the April 14 edition of the Post and Courier, there was a report on presidential hopeful Joe Lieberman saying that race and religion will not matter in next year's Democratic presidential primary.
He was also quoted as saying "The founders of this country promised freedom of religion, not freedom from religion."
What does this say to the millions of Americans who are not members of any organized religion? Many of these Americans are agnostics and atheists. Are they not protected from the pushers of religious dogmas? Are they fair game with no freedom from religion? What kind of freedom of religion is this if there is no freedom from religion? As a Jew, Lieberman should be sensitive to the forms of religious bigotry that agnostics and atheists are exposed to at this time, as was demonstrated in the walk-out of the city council members when Dr. Silverman gave an invocation at a council meeting.
Has Lieberman demonstrated another type of religious bigotry with
his insensitive remarks about the unchurched in this country?
Sen. Joe Lieberman may have won a few votes with his recent assertion that "The founders...promised freedom of religion, not freedom from religion," but he revealed an irreverent attitude toward the Founders and the actual contents of our Constitution that should disqualify him as serious presidential timber.
The intent of the Founders was to give equal weight to both freedom of religion and freedom from religion. Article 1 of the Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of religion, speech and the press.
Article VI of the Constitution proper states "...no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States." This is a clear expression of freedom from religion.
Lastly, Article X of the Bill of Rights is of critical importance: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." Since no power requiring membership in any religion is delegated to the Federation or to the States, then such power is reserved to the individual.
The Charleston Day of ReasonHundreds of individuals and scores of local and national organizations endorsed the National Day of Reason on May 1 this year. In Charleston, the Proclamation issued by Mayor Riley encouraged "all citizens, residents and visitors to join in observing this day and focusing on the employment of reason, critical thought, the scientific method, and free inquiry to resolve human problems and care for the welfare of humankind."
The entire Proclamation was read in Marion Square by Council Member
Kwadjo Campbell to a group of secularists and liberal
religionists. Afterward, many present either read or made
statements about the contributions of reason to our culture. The
celebration was filmed by SHL member Bill Upshur. Those in
attendance agreed that this should become an annual event. For
more information about the national Day of Reason, check
A Unifying Umbrella Name
Adapted from an article by Mynga Futrell and Paul GeisertAtheists. Agnostics. Skeptics. Rationalists. Materialists. Naturalists. Secularists. Existentialists, Humanists. Igtheists. Secular Humanists. etc., etc. So many labels. Wouldn't it be sensible if the "freethinkers" of all stripes would adopt a common name? The cultural status of homosexuals has changed. What helped fuel that change? Homosexuals "came out of closets," formed groups, marched and spoke as one. There was a social transition to the use of the word "gay." Gay became a powerful word. It has no rules, organizations, dues, or infighting. Gay today includes anyone who says, "I am gay." This unifying word helped to create a new reality: Power, Pride, and Rights for Gays.
While we in the "community of reason" think of ourselves by our plethora of terms, society-at-large thinks of us generally as atheists or secular humanists and describes us altogether as a negative, using terms like nonreligious, nonbeliever, godless, or faithless. We are judged as the opposite of values widely seen in a positive light. We have to change that manner of thinking.
We, the "community of reason," need a name that includes anyone who wants to accept it; has good connotations; has no bad connotations; is simple (effortlessly pronounced); is easily understood; is something to be proud of; is easily explained to others; and is well-suited to use in mottoes and slogans. We should have an "umbrella" term that is as warm and fuzzy as what the gays of today have going for them.
That name is: BRIGHT! That's right. We can be "the Brights"! A constituency of Brights includes anyone who says, "I am a Bright." Imagine how much better it would have sounded if "The Godless March on Washington" had been "The Brights' March on Washington."
A Bright is a person whose worldview is naturalistic (free of supernatural and mystical elements). Are you a Bright? If so, you are in good company, since Richard Dawkins is a Bright (he has said so already). So is James "The Amazing" Randi. Jerry Falwell will not be a Bright (his worldview would exclude him).
A bright is not a euphemism for atheist or for any other of the particular variants. It is an "umbrella" over them.
We cannot designate other people Brights. It is a self-identifying term, and some people won't like it or want to use it. What about you?
DuesOnce a year we ask you to support Charleston's primary freethought organization by sending in your membership dues to the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry. Normally, we send out reminder notices once a year, in January, to ask you to renew your support, but time slipped by, and we did not send out the usual renewal appeal then.
But better late than never! We would like to ask that you send in your
yearly contribution for 2003 at this time. A number of readers of this
newsletter have already paid this year's dues, but if you have not,
you can send a check, payable to the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry,
Please try to send your dues as soon as possible, before the busy summer season kicks in. The membership rates are:
-- The Editors
Humanist Book Discussion Group
By Sharon Strong
Our May meetinbgand our final gathering before our summer hiatubswill take place on the fourth Sunday of the month, May 25, 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 two archaeologists, Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman. The Bible Unearthed reviews the archaeological/historical evidence (or lack thereof) for many of the events and personages that enliven the Hebrew Bible (a.k.a. the Old Testament) and suggest when and why this document actually came to be written. The indefatigable Mike Epstein will be leading the discussion.
You may also want to start delving into our September selection, The
Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America by Louis Menand. This book
is a sort of bHolmes, William James, Charles Sanders Peirce, and John
Dewey) who developed a distinctive philosophy of pragmatism following the
Civil War and helped shape the American world of ideas in the 20th century
and beyond. A great book to tuck into during the summebrwebB ll meet again
on the fourth Sunday in September to discuss it.
SHL CalendarNote: This months meeting will be at a different time and location.
We'll resume our regular meetings and book discussion groups in September. Have a great summer!