October 2014 Newsletter

October 2014
Issue 1.3
Jefferson County Colorado Chapter of the American Humanist Association
From the President
What then must we do?
Editor’s Note
Time to use the “Don’t
Panic” button
An Archive of Secular
Humanist Knowledge
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Page 6
Secular News
The Air Force and beyond
Pagan Perspective
Ancient ways
Humanists in History
A fond look at Kurt
Vonnegut, Jr.
Upcoming Events Great glass; humanist
happenings and a chance
to speak to hundreds
The Newsletter of the Jefferson
Humanists • Issue 1.3 • October 2014
Published by the Jefferson Humanists,
P.O. Box 1622, Arvada, Colorado 80001
We appreciate your feedback. Please direct
comments, letters to the editor, and other
suggestions to: [email protected]
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This newsletter and all materials contained
herein are copyrighted by the Jefferson
County Colorado Chapter of the American
Humanist Association. All rights reserved.
© 2014 Jefferson Humanists, a 501©3
registered nonprofit corporation.
I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without
going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of
things you can’t see from the center.
from the
What then
must we do?
Julie Williams, a new
JeffCo School Board
member, has proposed
a curriculum review of
Advanced Placement
Chuck Mowry
U.S. high school history intended to dis- Chapter President
courage “civil disorder or disregard of law”. One has to
assume she meant civil disobedience,
which is a long and frequently used
tool of change in the history of our
The response has been students taking to the streets in significant numbers to exercise an action schools have
taught for over 200 years. One only
hopes Ms. Williams, whose hands
share the near-term fate of eduction
in Jefferson County, is understanding what she is seeing and hearing as
students respond to her proposal. Ms
Williams appears to lack the wisdom
to fill the seat calling for a proven
In these recent days we are seeing
students writing a chapter in the history of Jefferson County public education…and I hope their lesson for us
is not yet finished. These students are
demonstrating why civil disobedience
is in the textbooks and how it works.
It is time to publicly applaud these
students and the teachers who have
done well with the curriculum currently being used.
I have felt for some time that we,
Jefferson Humanists, should have a
task force of a few individuals who
monitor and track what is happening
at the school board and in the school
system. Anyone ready to step up?
Chuck Mowry
Jefferson Humanists
www.jeffcohumanists.org • October 2014
Editor’s Note
Time to use the “Don’t Panic” Button
Looking around at the news
from all sources it seems that the
world is becoming a pretty scary
place. Religious fanatics have set
out to tear down the wall of separation between church and state and
force their version of God on the
rest of us. At the same time, huge,
wealthy corporate interests endanger the future of life on Earth to
satisfy their seemingly endless greed
and the U.S. Supreme Court backs
them up at every turn. It all seems
pretty hopeless sometimes.
We can’t let that feeling flourish. When I tell my daughter about
some of the things that go on in this
realm, she just becomes exasperated
and says, “Stop telling me about this
stuff! It just frustrates me because
there’s nothing I can do about it.”
It is a mistake to believe that.
Admittedly, it feels that way sometimes, but there is always something
you can do. One brave airman took
on the U.S. Airforce and changed
an exclusionary policy. One student
refused to stand for a Pledge of Allegiance that excluded him and forced
a change in policy. Everyone can
get a car that gets better gas mileage, buy food that is grown locally
and refuse to buy food that is genetically modified. We can change the
world a little bit at a time by making choices and standing up for the
things we believe in.
Hundreds of people showed up
last night at the Jefferson Country
School Board meeting to protest
the destruction of the AP History
curriculum. The board ignored
their input and passed their motion
over the objection of nearly all of
the voters in Jefferson County. This
is not the end of the struggle. The
people of Jefferson County must
recall this board or, at the very least,
mount a campaign to remove them
and their corporatist ilk from public service forever. If we don’t, we
deserve to see our schools destroyed
and our children left without any
real education.
Do something today to make the
world a better, more rational place.
Then do it again tomorrow. Millions of small actions can change
the world.
—Thomas Harrop
Vice President
Chuck Mowry
Barb Bailey
Joe Rotello
Kaaren Hardy
[email protected] [email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
Program Coordinator
Membership Director
Supper Managers
Thomas Poole
Jim Bole
Bob Hofmann
Mari Cowley
John Roesch
[email protected]
[email protected] [email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
Database Manager
Web Content Manager
Technical Director
Education Coordinators
Janice Mowry
Nancy Bolt
Craig Flanick
Fred Acosta Maureen Acosta
[email protected] [email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
Newsletter Editor
Graphic Design
Thomas Harrop
Diane Hokans
[email protected]
[email protected]
role in meeting the Jefferson
Humanists’ goals and mission.
Learning is essential in our
continual search for knowledge and understanding as we evaluate and re-evaluate our beliefs. This
may include education on Humanist
history and philosophy, religious traditions, critical thinking, ethics and
morals to contemporary progressive
issues in sociology, psychology, social
justice, politics, science and technology to interests in the arts such as the
visual arts, music, poetry and theater.
In light of the above, our Education
Programming mission for the Jefferson Humanists is: “To provide opportunities for individuals and groups to
learn or further their knowledge of
Humanism and related progressive
issues.” To that end, we have much in
store for our members.
Chamber meetings will consist of
presentations from experts in many
fields. Our newsletter and website will
provide even more great information
for members. There will also be lists
of suggested readings, DVDs and even
movies. In addition, we will provide
a list of local and online classes, some
that may provide University and
college credits. There will also be a
ducation plays a
Educational Development
An Archive of Secular Humanist Knowledge
© Baloncici | dreamstime.com
display table at Chapter meetings with
items of interest to members. In the
future, we even plan regular book discussion groups for those interested in
meeting to share in their readings and
learn from one another.
Last, but not least, is the Jefferson
Humanists Lending Library. It will
consist of books, magazines, DVDs
and movies to check out at Chapter
meetings. The library will consist of
materials on humanism, progressive
issues as well as books by authors considered to be Humanists. We may also
set up and online system to provide
our library list so members can make
their selection in advance, to be picked
up at the meetings. They may also
select what they want at the meetings.
We have a great start for our library,
but we would like to encourage even
more donations of new or gentlyused materials. Donations are taxdeductible and can be brought to our
monthly Chapter meetings, or you
can contact Maureen Acosta, Coordinator for Educational Programming
at [email protected]
Secular News
Air Force Relents
A fter an unnamed airman at
Creech Air Force Base in Nevada was
forced out of the U.S. Air Force for
refusing to use the phrase, “So help
me God,” in his service oath, a public outcry caused the Air Force to
change its position.
Around the middle of September the media were informed that
“The Pentagon said today its General
Counsel had determined that the Air
Force cannot compel its airmen to
include the phrase in its oaths. The
Air Force says it will institute the
change immediately, returning to a
practice it had changed last year.”
Until last October, the Air Force
had followed the practice of all of
the other military service branches
and allowed airmen to take the oath
without the reference to God. At
some point another religious fanatic
arbitrarily changed the rule leading to
the court case.
The airman in question has been
reinstated and the Department of
Defense lawyers have affirmed the
policy that atheists and those who
refuse to swear in the name of a deity
have the right to participate in U.S.
military service.
— continued on page 5
www.jeffcohumanists.org • October 2014
© Juan Nel | dreamstime.com
From a Pagan Perspective
by Mari Cowley
in the modern
world, for religious practices that
date back thousands of years? As a
pagan, emotion (or the fire of belief )
is central to who we are no matter
the life philosophy or specific tradition we embrace. As much as naturalists embrace objective science, the
reason we do so is quite subjective. If
it were not for our emotional response
to nature, our communities, and the
depths of our own emotions there
would be little point to Naturalistic
Paganism at all.
Emotion is central to who we are
as individuals and science does not
nurture that aspect of our being.
Whether Naturalistic Pagan, Secular Buddhist or a Humanistic Jew, at
the center of it all these belief systems
is emotion. Many modern thinkers affirm that the spiritual response
to life involves not only intellectual
acceptance of a set of principles, but
a fully-embodied life practice motivated by emotion. In other words, it
is a path of head and heart.
Yet, despite the obvious importance
of emotion to our daily lives and its
recognition among spiritual leaders,
there is very little in modern science
or philosophy that has anything to
do with emotion. To judge by modern higher learning, emotion is not
s there a place
www.jeffcohumanists.org • October 2014
central to anything. However this dry
and stoic approach to life hasn’t always
been the case.
History shows that ancient philosophy was primarily based on desire. A
central question to the ancients was
how to best live a life that ensured
If the ancient world had what the
modern world is missing, perhaps we
would do well to take a deeper look
at why and how they made emotion
central. The Stoics of Ancient Greece
as well as Confucius and Lao-Tzu of
China taught that happiness came
from the emotional reconciliation to
the universe, not as we wish it to be,
but as it truly is—an emotional life
that is in right relationship to reality.
Or as Shantideva reminds us, “If the
world is painful, you need not wait
for the world to change; all you need
to do is change yourself.” While this
might be easier said than done, it is
still a workable reminder that emotion is central to all that we do.
So, how do we marry the ancient
and modern ways of thinking? If we
recognize that the ancient and modern worlds each holds one half of
the puzzle: the former has the right
approach to the subjective, the latter to the objective, we just might be
able to embrace the part of us that fills
Barbara Bailey
Jim Bole
Nancy Bolt
Bob Hofmann
Craig Flanick
Kaaren Hardy
Dick and Susie Krepel
Chuck and Janice Mowry
Thomas and Carol Poole
Joe Rotello
Fred and Maureen Acosta
Ani Aaparyti
Clarence Baer
Barb and Dave Beato
Charlie Carcano
Leeanne and Dave DiGiacomo
Stan Dragul
Judy Green
Bob Shellenberger
Thomas Harrop
Diane Hokans
Marion Katz
Tom and Margaret Kellogg
Ken May
Jennifer Merrall
Edna Miller
Betty Nichol
Donald Randall
Carmen Slater
Jo and Tom Roberts
Kimberly Saviano
Stacy Whala
Tom and Nancy Storm
Dennis Westbrook
George Witman
John Roesch
Mari Cowley
Steve Sargent
Dan Green
with emotion and enables us to make
great sacrifices for the greater good
and also allows us the opportunity
to tap into modern science and again
stand in awe of the natural world of
which we are a part. What do you
think? I’d love to hear your thoughts
on the matter. If you are so inclined,
please email your thoughts to me at
[email protected]
Secular News
from page 3
A Vote for Separation
Don’t Say the Pledge
Wins a Victory
Today the A merican Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist
Legal Center sent a letter on behalf of
a ninth grade student to school officials at the Oak Park Unified School
District Calif. The letter concerns a
violation of the student’s constitutional right to refrain from participating in the school’s daily recitation of
the Pledge of Allegiance.
The letter states that the student,
an atheist attending Oak Park High
School, opted to sit quietly at his desk
during the Pledge exercise because he
objects to the phrase “under God”
and feels that any level of participation
in the Pledge validates this religious
language. However, the student’s
teacher loudly accused him of being
“disrespectful” and intimidated him
with threats of punishment. Since this
incident, the student has felt pressured
to stand for the Pledge, despite his sincerely held beliefs against the exercise.
The student contacted the American
Humanist Association’s Appignani
Humanist Legal Center through the
organization’s campaign website,
www.dontsaythepledge.com, which
encourages individuals who object
to religious language in the Pledge to
refrain from participating in it.
“The threats of punishment that
atheist students receive for choosing
not to recite the Pledge demonstrate
the divisive nature of our current
Pledge’s wording,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “We need
to return the Pledge of Allegiance to
its original, unity form that does not
include the phrase ‘under God.’”
The battle against religious encroachment rages on for secular
Courtesy The Colorado Independent
The county council for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania had voted against
the passage of a resolution which
would have called for posting the
motto, “In God we Trust” in its council chambers. The resolution would
have also mandated posting of other
mottos such as “E Pluribus Unum”
and Pennsylvania’s state motto, “Virtue, Liberty and Independence.”
Allegheny County Executive Rich
Fitzgerald had threatened to veto the
measure which he referred to as, “…a
movement by the right-wing evangelical Christians across the country
basically to impose Christianity in
public buildings.”
This is really just another attack by
the Christian right in America against
the separation of church and state, a
principle that has made America the
exceptional place they all want to
claim it remains.
All five Republicans on the council,
as well as one Democrat, voted to pass
the resolution. In the end, even the
councilman who proposed the original resolution voted against it.
www.jeffcohumanists.org • October 2014
Humanists in History
IN EACH ISSUE of the newsletter we
introduce our readers to a secular humanist
from history. We believe that learning the
history of the movement will help people
understand what has come before and the
sacrifices people have made to create a
world in which everyone can live the life
they choose. It has not always been that way.
We hope you will be inspired to read more
about these great leaders of humanism.
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Writer (1922-2007)
must admit that this month’s
“Humanist in History” is a
highly personal choice. Kurt
Vonnegut, Jr. had a profound effect
on me during my formative years.
Growing up in a society where the
Mormon Church was not just my
whole life, but the only reality available was very difficult for a child who
was an atheist from the age of nine.
Finding the words of Vonnegut’s
short stories and especially his novels put me in touch with a world
view that validated all of the ideas I
had held throughout most of my life,
but that I had to keep secret, because
when I even alluded to them at one
Still and all, why bother? Here’s
my answer. Many people need
desperately to receive this
message: I feel and think much as
you do, care about many of the
things you care about, although
most people do not care about
them. You are not alone.
www.jeffcohumanists.org • October 2014
point I was taken to a Mormon psychologist who tried to convince me
that I was insane for not believing in
God and Joseph Smith. So, it goes.
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. was born into a
freethinking family in Indianapolis.
In fact, his great-grandfather, Clemens Vonnegut wrote a freethought
book called, Instruction and Morals,
and also wrote his own eulogy which
explicitly denied the existence of
God and an afterlife and attacked
Christian doctrines regarding sin
and salvation.
Vonnegut described himself (as
many of us do) in many different
ways during his 84 years. He variously called himself a freethinker,
a humanist, an agnostic, an atheist
and other titles. He did not believe
in the supernatural and called religion “…so much arbitrary, clearly
invented balderdash.” He stated
that most people join a religion out
of loneliness. Although he rejected
the divinity of Jesus Christ, he still
admired the sentiments presented
in the Sermon on the Mount. It
Laughter and tears are both
responses to frustration and
exhaustion. I myself prefer to
laugh, since there is less cleaning
up to do afterward.
strikes us as an interesting irony
that Vonnegut cherished teachings
such as “Blessed are the poor…” and
“Blessed are the peacemakers” and
“Blessed are the merciful…” when
modern followers of Jesus seems to
have rejected nearly all of the Sermon on the Mount in favor of the
pursuit of wealth and power.
In order to shine a light on the idiocy of most religion Vonnegut used
the device of creating absurd religions in his novels. One such religion
was Bokononism. The sacred texts
of the religion were called Calypsos
and the main practice was that the
adherents took off their shoes and
socks and pressed the soles of their
feet together to commune. The
wisdom of the religion was defined
— continued on page 7
Humanists in History
Secular Events – Denver and Environs
by Vonnegut as a group of “foma,”
which he explained were groups of
harmless lies. In the end, Bokonon
thumbs his nose at God, a way for
Vonnegut to make a point about his
view of religion. In another novel, Sirens of Titan,
Vonnegut created “The Church of
God, the Utterly Indifferent” based
on the premise that there is nothing
we can do for God that he can’t do
for Himself eight billion times better.
Living West
Chihuly Nights
through November 23rd
Mon-Sat 10 a.m; Sunday 12 p.m
History Colorado Center
1200 Broadway, Denver 80203
Nightly, through November 30th
5:30- 8 p.m. (Closed Nov. 1, 8, 13, 14, 15
and 27) Denver Botanic Gardens
1007 York St., Denver 80206
Experience Chihuly at night!
Sculptures will be illuminated for a
unique nighttime perspective. Even if
you have visited the Chihuly exhibition
during the day, you will not want to
miss this magical experience.
from page 6
What should young people do
with their lives today? Many
things, obviously. But the most
daring thing is to create stable
communities in which the terrible
disease of loneliness can be cured.
Perhaps Vonnegut’s feeling toward
religion is best summed up in his
quote about faith. He said, “Say what
you will about the sweet miracle of
unquestioning faith. I consider the
capacity of it terrifying.”
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. was named
Honorary President of the American Humanist Association and was
awarded the Humanist of the Year
award in 1992. From his first novel, Player Piano
through his final novel, Timequake,
he shared ideas that provided a home
for freethinking people around the
Let’s end with the last words of
Vonnegut (through his spokesman,
Bokonon). “If I were a younger
man, I would write a history of
human stupidity; and I would climb
What the Gospels actually said
was: don’t kill anyone until you
are absolutely sure they aren’t
well connected.
to the top of Mount McCabe and lie
down on my back with history for a
pillow… (I would be) lying on my
back, grinning horribly, and thumbing my nose at You Know Who.”
This groundbreaking exhibit explores the
living dynamics between the people of
Colorado and the state’s extraordinary
environment. Journey into three stories
to discover how Coloradans strive against
the odds to thrive in the places they love,
inspiring you to consider how your choices
today affect the Colorado of the future.
See Mesa Verde artifacts, create your own
pot design, experience “Black Sunday,” try
your hand at diverting water, and more.
Presented in partnership with Denver
Water. historycoloradocenter.org
$10 member, $15 non-member.
Tickets are only available online.
Jefferson Humanists
Steering Committee Meeting
Friday, October 17, 5 p.m.
Jefferson Unitarian Church
14350 W. 32nd Ave., Golden
FFRF (Freedom From Religion
Foundation) 37th Annual
National Convention
Friday & Saturday, October 24-25
Millennium Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles,
California ffrf.org/outreach/convention
Jefferson Humanists
Monthly Chapter Meeting
Sunday, October 26, 5 p.m.
Jefferson Unitarian Church
14350 W. 32nd Ave., Golden
“Reproductive Justice
—What is it and how
does it differ from
Reproductive Rights?”
presented by Sally
Isaacson, a CPA with
her own firm for 20
Sally Isaacson
years, who now works
for the national nonprofit Nurse-Family
Partnership. She has been the Chair of
the Freedom Fund for five years. The
Freedom Fund assists women who
need abortion through grants to local
agencies. It is a project of the Mountain
Desert District and has been helping
women for 30 years.
American Humanist Association
Seeking Presenters
The American Humanist Association
will be holding their 2015 conference,
Mile High Humanism, in Denver, May
7-10, 2015. This will be an amazing
opportunity for all Humanists in
Colorado and across America.
Along with presentation of the
Humanist of the Year Award, there
will be a broad range of speakers and
presenters on every subject in the
field of Humanism. We don’t usually
announce events this far in advance
but we didn’t want you to miss the
opportunity to speak at the convention.
For this 74th conference, the AHA is
seeking presenters to address a variety
of topics from politics and pop culture,
LGBTQ, women’s issues, minority rights,
end-of-life choices; drug policy, science,
spirituality or any other progressive
issue. If you are interested in presenting
please contact Meghan Hamilton at
[email protected]
www.jeffcohumanists.org • October 2014
All Jefferson Humanists
members are invited
1st Annual Jefferson
Humanists Retreat
Saturday, November 1st, 9 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
at the Mount Vernon Country Club,
24933 Club House Circle, Golden
Our gathering will be held on the beautiful
grounds of Mount Vernon Country Club
(I-70 West to exit 256) in one of the many
meeting rooms overlooking the foothills.
Time will be available for walking to enjoy
the scenery. Lunch offered at no charge to
all in attendance. Those carrying responsibility, as well as members who are interested
in forming goals and ways to implement
them, are encouraged to join us. If you wish
to carpool, please meet in the parking lot of
the Jefferson Unitarian Church by 8:30 a.m.
Maps are available.
For additional information call or email:
Barb Bailey 303-979-0508, [email protected]
or Jim Bole 303-968-9198, [email protected]
P.O. Box 1622
Arvada, CO 80001
www.jeffcohumanists.org • SEPTEMBER 2014