Column: "Electrons R Us - OMG!"
by August Berkshire
Minnesota Atheists has published a combined November-December
newsletter. This is because the main thing that happens in December is
our winter solstice party, which we advertise in the November-December
newsletter and often with a special separate mailing in December, as we
did this year.
production of a newsletter takes dozens of hours that our volunteers
often find hard to offer amidst the many parties and family gatherings
that occur in December.
we try to
save the organization (our members) money where we can.
suggestion of Bjorn and Jeannette Watland, we decided to try an
experiment that would cost us nothing and would provide those of us who
desire it with our monthly installment of local atheist news and
comment. We decided to publish a December e-newsletter. Read
Merry, Merry Christmas
by Crystal Dervetski
I am one atheist who is absolutely not involved
in any kind of war on Christmas. I personally enjoy the holiday season
very much and am very involved in spreading holiday joy!
Why do I love Christmas even though I consider myself a militant
atheist? Most of all, I'd say it's because the glow of loving all
humans is such a great feeling, and around the holiday season there
seems to be so much of this. I do my part to get and give that glow at
all times of the year. It seems like such a waste when people are only
giving and loving during the holidays.
I don't really
believe the war on Christmas exists. Even if it did, we would never be
able to win the battle; it would be as futile as the war on drugs. I
think certain religious groups, who somehow feel threatened by the idea
that there may be other notions of the holidays or what they mean, have
invented the war on Christmas as part of their great persecution
Atheists Board Nominations and Elections
Atheists board of directors will occur at our January 18, 2009 meeting
at the Roseville Library and elections will be held at our February 15,
2009 meeting. Nominations will open and close at the January 18
meeting. We will publish and mail candidates' statements prior to the
February 15 meeting elections.
There are nine
fill, elected in the following order: President, Associate President,
Chair, Associate Chair, Treasurer, Secretary, and three
Directors-at-Large. Our bylaws provide that anyone who runs for one
position and loses may run again for any other position that has not
yet been elected.
running for reelection but there will also be some vacant seats. All
terms are for one year. Now is your chance to step forward and help
guide Minnesota Atheists!
Southern MN Atheists
Think and Drink
by Victor Tanner
and Crystal Dervetski
On November, 21st, the Southern Minnesota Atheists Meet-Up Group hosted
its first event at Blue Brick's Pub in Mankato. Dubbed "Think and
Drink", the meet up saw an estimated 38 atheists and free thinkers from
Mankato and the surrounding area get together to share their thoughts
and ideas, both weighty and light-hearted. While parts of the group
discussed heavy duty philosophical concepts, others just decided to
kick back and enjoy some fun conversation.
Future events will include an evening in January at the Andreas
Observatory, at Minnesota State University, Mankato. The group is also
excited to start small group discussions and will be looking to work
with other local groups, such as Campus Atheists and Agnostics and
liberal churches, for debate, socializing and volunteer work.
Anyone looking to attend atheist-themed events in Southern MN should
visit our Meet Up site here
A Cold Slap of Reality
Many of us undoubtedly celebrated the winnings of certain candidates on
Election Day. It was a long time coming.
But, come morning, a cold slap of reality came with the new day. In
three states, voters approved constitutional amendments banning same
sex marriage. And one of them, Proposition 8, approved in California,
stripped same-sex couples of the rights granted them judicially.
Voters decided not only to strip these couples of their rights, but by
enshrining this discrimination into their constitution, sent a message
to gay and lesbian people in California and the country: You are
not full citizens. We don't respect your lives or your
loves. In other words, these people threw lesbians and gays under
the bus. "To hell with you," this vote said, "we don't care."
What really stings about this loss was the fact that it was primarily
religious and racial minorities-who should have had empathy with a
fellow, discriminated-against minority-who were primarily responsible
for this defeat.
The major donor in the campaign to strip gay and lesbian people of
their rights was, of course, a church; in this case, the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The Mormons spent, by some
accounts, 20 million dollars to get this amendment passed. How
ironic that a minority, who had experienced religious persecution, and
are still victims of it, used their financial clout to inflict
discrimination on another.
And whom did they woo in their quest to legislate discrimination? Read
You Know It Ain't Easy
by James Zimmerman
On November 22nd, the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, reported
that the Church has decided to forgive John Lennon for statements he
made forty-two years ago. If this seems a long time to hold a
compare this to the 359 years it took the Vatican to make peace with
Lennon's offending words were spoken during a March 1966 interview:
"Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink... We're more popular
than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first-rock 'n' roll or
Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and
ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me." This
typical of Lennon for its sarcasm and honesty, touched off a
mini-crusade, particularly in (where else?) the bible belt, where piles
of Beatles albums and memorabilia were publicly burned and Christian
leaders exhorted their flocks to shun Lennon and his blasphemy.
stations banned his music, and some concert bookings were canceled.
This statement appeared on the fortieth anniversary of the release of
the Beatles' White Album; fitting, considering the White Album is to
the Beatles catalogue as Catholicism is to Christianity: the biggest,
most self-indulgent, most violent in the collection. Read
Have No Role In Making Policy
by Eric Jayne
It's sadly ironic that the same election that gave America its first
black president is the same election that denied equal treatment for
gays and lesbians in three states. A Nov. 16 Star Tribune article
mentioned that representatives from "Join the Impact," who organized
several rallies across the United States, including one in Minneapolis,
asked protesters to refrain from targeting faith groups that supported
the marriage ban.
But it seems to me that that's exactly who should be targeted. It's
shameful, but not surprising, that churches and faith groups continue
to use their influence and money for efforts that deny civil liberties
and equal treatment for certain minority groups. Progress and religion
have been incompatible throughout history, and it's not healthy for our
naturally progressive democracy to be so easily influenced by religions
that follow archaic dogma. Read
MN Atheists Run With Santas
by Bjorn Watland
On the afternoon of Saturday, December 6th, five atheists braved chilly
temperatures and blustery winds to participate in the 3rd Annual Santa
Run to Benefit Legal Aid. Mid-Minnesota Legal Assistance, a
secular organization providing legal aid to low income and disabled
Minnesotans, received over $600 in donations collected by five proud
members of Minnesota Atheists: Jack Caravela, Bonnie Marsick, Vanita
Mishra, Bjorn Watland and Jeannette Watland.
The atheists stood out of the pack of people dressed as Santa and
others dressed as dreidels by donning lab coats and protective
goggles. The back of the lab coats had the Minnesota Atheists
name, logo, and slogan, "Positive Atheism In Action!" Only
positive comments were made about the group's involvement and one Santa
expressed interest in running with our group next year. Because
of the success of this year's event, Minnesota Atheists may make a
tradition of participating in the Santa Run to Benefit Legal Aid in the
by James Zimmerman
'Tis the season again. Atheists, free thinkers, and other
assorted non-Christians purposely sit out the most over-blown religious
holiday of the year. Some are passionate in their
non-participation; others simply watch the procession from the
sidelines. While some have pointed out the incongruity of an
ostensibly secular government proclaiming Christ's birth a national
holiday, others have countered that such observations constitute a war
on Christmas. When we consider the drain on the environment and
checkbook that is Christmas, coupled with the overt religious themes,
it's easy to see how those who reject the Christian god likewise reject
his followers' biggest party.
In this way, I am an anomaly. I grew up in a devoutly religious
household. We believed in Jesus. Yet, we never celebrated
Christmas. That Christian version of Hanukkah was just another
day. My sister and I did get to stay home from school, and my
parents had the day off of work, but this was not our choice. If
Christmas fell on a Sunday, Tuesday, or Thursday, we participated in
our routine religious meetings, like we did every Sunday, Tuesday, and
Thursday. If Christmas arrived on a Saturday, we did what we did
every Saturday: we went dashing through the snow and knocked on doors
passing out bible literature. When I became an adult, the day
became convenient for catching a movie or getting together with friends
who, like me, had the day off from work and nothing to do. Read
Taylor Presents, "Away With All Gods"
by Bjorn Watland
On a crisp November evening at the University of Minnesota, a
surprisingly large crowd gathered in a basement auditorium to hear from
Sunsara Taylor, an unapologetic Revolutionary Communist and militant
atheist. Hearing the views of a communist isn't as shocking as it
may be in other arenas of the public; however, it isn't often that a
communist will admit that they're also an atheist. Taylor is not
ashamed of either her Revolutionary Communism, or her atheism, as she
presented Bob Avakian's book, Away With All Gods.
Taylor's presentation began with a description of the horrors that
await readers of the bible. "I wouldn't give this book to young
children to read," Taylor said. She called the bible, "the most
blood-thirsty book," mentioning specifics such as the practice of
stoning women who were not virgins on their wedding night; God
commanding soldiers to kill children, men, and women who have known a
man, but to leave the virgins for themselves; and the series of plagues
sent by God.
Taylor claimed that the New and Old Testaments can not be separated
from each other, as some more progressive Christians try to do.
Jesus is often separated from the horrors of the Old Testament,
however, by what basis would you consider Jesus to the divine without
fulfillment of the prophecies found within the Old Testament?
"Jesus is not someone you would want to follow or should follow,"
Taylor exclaimed. "He didn't end slavery; instead he taught how
slaves should be obedient to their masters. He didn't stop
patriarchy. He continued to preach that disease and illness are
caused by sin." Read
the Magician" Explains His Tricks
by Vic Tanner
Recently an ancient bowl with the engraving, "DIA CHRSTOU O GOISTAIS,"
or "Christ the Magician" was found at a sunken archaeological site off
the coast of Alexandria. Most intriguing wasn't the bowl itself, but a
collection of scrolls that were found near it. Once translated, it was
found that the scrolls contained the words of none other than Jesus
himself. However, the text is not a religious statement as one might
expect. Rather, it was a commentary on stage magic. As it turns out,
Christ was not only a magician but perhaps the world's first magician
to break the sacred magicians' code by revealing his secrets. This
ancient "Magic's Greatest Secrets Revealed" is giving a newfound
insight into the New Testament and the miracles reported within
News and Notes
by George Kane
Thanksgiving, we all learned in school, was created as a national
exercise in piety and acknowledgment of the beneficence of God. This
year we awoke on Thanksgiving Day to news of acts of extreme evil which
religious fanaticism has made so familiar. It began nearly three days
of coordinated terrorist attacks in the Indian financial center of
Mumbai that killed nearly 200 and injured nearly 300. At this writing,
no group has claimed responsibility, but Indian and American
intelligence sources blame Lashkar-i-Taiba, a Pakistani Islamist group.
Concerning this group, Wikipedia reports: "The Lashkar's agenda, as
outlined in a pamphlet titled 'Why are we waging jihad,' includes the
restoration of Islamic rule over all parts of South Asia, Russia and
even China. Further, the outfit is based on a sort of Islamist
fundamentalism preached by its mentor, the JuD. It seeks to bring about
a union of all Muslim majority regions in countries that surround
Pakistan." While terrorist groups vary in their location and specific
nationalistic ambitions, Islamic supremacy and Shariah law inspire
religious fervor wherever Muslims take arms against secular governments.
The assault by Islam against secular government continues on the
diplomatic front, too. I have previously reported on the Declaration on
Combating Defamation of Religion, which the Organization of the Islamic
Conference has been promoting in the United Nations Human Rights
Council. Based on the Cairo Declaration, that declares Shariah law to
be the source of all human rights, the Declaration on Combating
Defamation of Religion proposes to criminalize blasphemy in all member
nations. It will be coming to a vote in the General Assembly by the end
of this year. We should credit lobbying by human rights organizations,
including the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), for
perhaps having an effect. For the first time, the vote in the Human
Rights Council carried with fewer votes in favor than the total of
votes against and abstentions. Read
In This Issue
Minnesota Atheists will be sponsoring a dinner with entertainment on
December 21 at 5 PM. RSVP by Dec 18. Click
here for more information.
CMFFOT is hosting a potluck on December 20 at 5
here for more information.
RAFT is hosting a Winter Solstice party on
December 20 at 7 PM. Location TBD. Click
here for more information.
Minnesota Atheists will present Dan Barker on January 18 at the
Roseville Public Library at 2 PM. He will be speaking about his
new book, "Godless." Click
here for more
Dacey "The Islamic Threat to Secular Government"
M. Price "Inerrant the Wind"
Project "Finding Your Family"
with a Christian Proselytizer" and "Fundamentalisms"
Avalos - Intelligent Design: Science or Religion
Norman Ehrentreich $15.00
Brian Petersen $150.00
Scott Siesennop $12.00
Vern Young $10.00
Norman Ehrentreich $250.00
Guy Harper $100.00
Mike Haubrich $90.00
Brian Knoblock $114.24
Christopher Matthews $100.00
Cathy Prody $400.00
Matthew Richardson $100.00
Michael Seliga $20.00
James Whitney $50.00
Vern Young $50.00
Greg Anderson $25.00
Jim Barri $25.00
August Berkshire $526.00
James Bodsberg $10.00
Annie Chase $50.00
Jennifer Cottrell $20.00
Crystal Dervetski $30.00
Matthew Dittloff $50.00
Todd Erickson $50.00
Dan Feyma $20.00
Kevin Hardisty $30.00
Mike Haubrich $20.00
Paul Heffron $20.00
Max Joiner $5.00
Paul Nelson $50.00
Steve Petersen $125.00
Jerry Rauser $20.00
Lois Schadewald $25.00
Art Scearcy $75.00
Bob Schmitz $30.00
Michael Seliga $20.00
Tom Stavros $10.00
Martin Steitz $25.00
Vic Tanner $50.00
Richard Trombley $20.00
Rachel Wilson $100.00
Vern Young $50.00
A sign placed in the Legislative Building in Olympia, Washington along
side a Nativity scene by the Freedom From Religion Foundation was
stolen on Dec 5, found in a ditch, and returned. The sign has
irked some Christians, because a portion of the sign reads, "Religion
is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."
American Atheists have filed a suit against
Kentucky over a law
requiring general reports from the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security
to "stressing the dependence on Almighty God as being vital to the
security of the Commonwealth..."
You don't know what to get your favorite church-state separationist for
the Winter Solstice? Rob Boston of Americans United for the
Separation for Church and State has a list
of book and other gifts you should check out.
Nir Barkat, a self-made millionaire and a secular Jew, defeated
ultra-Orthodox Rabbi Meir Proush in elections held on November
11. The previous administration was criticized for unfair
distribution of funding for ultra-Orthodox areas and for imposing
conservative social values. Nir Barkat is expected to promote
tourism and high-tech development for job creation.
The Intercollegiate Studies Institute has a short 33 question quiz on
civics related issues. You can take the quiz
here. You may find the results
surprising. Keep these results in mind when speaking to
others about the separation of church and state. Knowing the
history of a concept and what actual documents and laws state can go a
long way in a debate.
To contact the Editorial Board, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org