Newsletter of PA Nonbelievers, Inc., affiliated with American Atheists, Atheist Alliance International and the Council for Secular Humanism.

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1 Newsletter of PA Nonbelievers, Inc., affiliated with American Atheists, Atheist Alliance International and the Council for Secular Humanism. Visit us on the web at panonbelievers.org or Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/pennsylvanianonbelievers President s Report Brian Fields June has been a very busy month for us. Our volunteers helped out at the York Revolution games, to benefit the Margaret E. Moul home for the disabled. Please see Cheryl Huber if you are interested in participating in further York Revolution events, she's been doing a great job organizing it. We had booths in Annville, York, Lancaster and Mechanicsburg. Additionally, the Riverboat service was a smashing success - We raised over $140 for the Harrisburg Riverboat Society, helping them provide a great service for the community. We also, as of this writing, have our Solstice picnic coming up on June 30. We also have new help with our Freethought Forum program, please say hi to Jen Flora who has been doing some great work with it. Over the next few months, we will have even more things in store. Aside from our regular booths, I'd like to announce that we are working on a conference, to be held in the Harrisburg area. We have scheduled at least Dan Barker, Herb Silverman, Dave Silverman (no relation), and Justin Vacula as speakers - We are working hard to expand the program, and I will update everyone as I can. Of course, with all the work we are doing, we can use your help. Please consider donating time and/or money to PA Nonbelievers, without your help we could not do the things we do. Have a great summer, and I hope to see you all at our events! Celebrate the Solstice With PAN! Many PAN members are interested in science, and probably know exactly what the term solstice means. For those who need a reminder, here s how Wikipedia defines it: The summer solstice occurs exactly when the axial tilt of a planet's semi-axis in a given hemisphere is most inclined towards the star that it orbits. Earth's maximum axial tilt to our star, the Sun, during a solstice is 23 26'. This happens twice each year, at which times the Sun reaches its highest position in the sky as seen from the North or South Pole respectively. Though the summer solstice is an instant in time, the term is also colloquially used like Midsummer to refer to the day on which it occurs. Except in the polar regions (where daylight is continuous for many months), the day on which the summer solstice occurs is the day of the year with the longest period of daylight. Worldwide, interpretation of the event has varied among cultures, but many have recognized it as a sign of the fertility of the earth and schedule and have celebrated with holidays, festivals, gatherings, rituals or other celebrations around that 1

2 time. The word solstice derives from Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still). Festivals! Gatherings! Rituals! PAN s Annual Solstice Party! This year s party will be held on Saturday, June 30 beginning at 2:00 pm at Gifford Pinchot State Park, Sunnyside Pavilion (Pavilion 2) located in the Conewago Day Use Area York side, off Alpine Road. When entering the day use area continue to the Kiosk and turn right. Sunnyside Pavilion is located adjacent to the back parking loop. More details are available at our website, or on our Facebook page, listed as Pennsylvania Nonbelievers. Please remember to bring a dish to share, and that alcohol is not allowed in this state park. Legal News PAN s Treasurer Carl Silverman wrote to Pennsylvania Representative Mark Cohen on behalf of PAN, asking that he submit a non-controversial resolution (just like the Year of the Bible was a non-controversial resolution) commemorating the 50 th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court s landmark decision in the church/state separation case, Engle v. Vitale. This decision in 1962 predates O Hair v. Curlett, and ruled that state governments could not compose a prayer that public school students would be required to recite. In August 2011, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals decided that a Delaware school board acted unconstitutionally when it opened its meetings with a prayer. As a result, according to the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal, all but four Lancaster Co. districts stopped their opening prayers. The four that had not (as of November), Columbia, Eastern Lancaster, Lampeter-Strasburg and Octorara). In January of this year, the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal, so the decision of the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals stands for Pennsylvania, New Jersey. Delaware and Virginia. PAN s June Activities PAN had a busy month. We had a booth at Annville s Market Days, our third annual Riverboat Service, a booth at Lancaster Pride Fest and a booth at Mechanicsburg s Jubilee Day. The Annville booth earned $209, with a significant portion coming from the Dunk the Angry Atheist booth. It was great fun to watch small children pull their parents over to the booth and beg them to let the kids try their luck. All the people laughing and smiling in front of the atheist booth was a real change of pace to the attitude we ve noticed in Annville before. At Lancaster, we met many friendly nonbelievers, and cleared $309. The Riverboat Service was again a lovely morning on the water (with a group of red-hat ladies who screwed up their courage to join us.) Don Zook read some wonderful quotes from 19 th century lecturer and author Robert Ingersoll, a famous and brave atheist forefather who is not as well remembered as he should be. Here s a few of the best: At our Riverboat outing, Don Zook read the assemblage some quotes from Robert Green Ingersoll, the famed 19th century author and lecturer. Here s a sample: If there be an infinite Being, he does not need our help -- we need not waste our energies in his defense. -- "God in the Constitution The doctrine of eternal punishment is in perfect harmony with the savagery of the men who made the orthodox creeds. It is in harmony with torture, with flaying alive, and with burnings. The men who burned their fellow-men for a moment, believed that God would burn his enemies forever. -- "Crumbling Creeds Who can over estimate the progress of the world if all the money wasted in superstition could be used to enlighten, 2

3 elevate and civilize mankind? -- "Some Mistakes of Moses An infinite God ought to be able to protect himself, without going in partnership with State Legislatures. Certainly he ought not so to act that laws become necessary to keep him from being laughed at. No one thinks of protecting Shakespeare from ridicule, by the threat of fine and imprisonment. -- "The Politicians," in Works, Dresden Edition, Volume 2 Churches are becoming political organizations... It probably will not be long until the churches will divide as sharply upon political, as upon theological questions; and when that day comes, if there are not liberals enough to hold the balance of power, this Government will be destroyed. The liberty of man is not safe in the hands of any church. Wherever the Bible and sword are in partnership, man is a slave. -- "The Politicians," in Works, Dresden Edition, Volume 2 The old lady who said there must be a devil, else how could they make pictures that looked exactly like him, reasoned like a trained theologian -- like a doctor of divinity. -- "Superstition" ) PAN's booth at Jubilee Day was a "double-wide," half for sales, half for conversations. We spoke with several Christians, conversations that were serious and respectful, not counting the guy with missing teeth who yelled at Carl Silverman. Two grim-faced Christians assured us we were going to hell, but were not brave enough to engage us in discussion. Given the heat on Thursday, hell wasn't much of a threat. Sales were down a bit, with a total of $242. PAN Board members and officers Brian Fields, President Gail Crow, Vice-President Carl Huber, Secretary Carl Silverman, Treasurer Laurence Bernander Chris Feaster Jason Fegely Paulette Parquette Shannon Turk Mikki Weidman Don Zook Meet the Board Here is the next installment in our series of brief biographies of your Board. Shannon Turk was elected to the board of directors in 2012 for a two-year term ending in He was born here in Pennsylvania but raised in California. After a stint in the military, he returned to PA in Currently Turk is semi-retired, living with his wife of 41 years, Linda Turk, who is also active in PAN. Turk is an RN and is within 6 credits of a psychology degree. He stopped pursuing that degree when he determined that psychology was just another religion, not a science. Turk is a lifelong atheist, who grew up thinking of christianity as a "Keystone Kops Show" and god as a "sardonic misanthrope." During his early 20's his stepfather found god and fundmentalism. This experience taught him how destructive christianity and religion can be for families, changing his amusement with religion to hatred. He and his wife have been with PAN nearly since 3

4 the beginning. They first met Liz Burchin at an American Atheist convention in Washington, D.C. and were able to make it to the second meeting of the group Liz created, Pennsylvania Nonbelievers. Shannon has read over 200 freethought books; keeping notebooks on all of them. His favorite writers are Robert G. Ingersoll, H.L. Mencken & Bertrand Russell. PAN Education Committee Shannon Turk Freethought Funzie: Pope Stephan II reigned from March 752 to April 757. During his short reign he suffered from an unusual medical condition. This is also the reason why Vatican records use a strange dual numbering system for all subsequent Popes named Stephan. What was the medical condition? The answer is at the end of PANViews. Meetings Harrisburg - Second Thursday of the month, July 12, 6:45 pm Lancaster - Fourth Wednesday of the month, July 25, 6:30 pm Lebanon - Second Wednesday of the month, July 11, 7:00 pm Lewisburg - Third Sunday of the month, July 15, 6:00 pm Chambersburg - Third Tuesday of the month, July 17, 7:00 pm York - First Saturday of the month, July 7, 10:00 am Volunteers Needed July is shaping up as another busy month. Here s the schedule of events: July 3 - Lititz Lions Club Parade, 6:30 pm July 21 - Chambersburg Olde Market Day, 9:00 pm July 28 - Pride Festival of Central Pennsylvania, 12:00 pm We always need members to help us at events. Please look on our website, for more details for meetings and events. Volunteers Beyond Belief Cheryl Huber Six PAN members turned out for our first volunteer opportunity for York's Margaret Moul Home on June 8. The Margaret E. Moul Home is a home for people with cerebral palsy, spina bifada and MS. Ages of the residents are anywhere between 21 to 80 years old and 98% of the residents are in wheelchairs. We worked as runners (assembling food items and getting them to the customers) at the York Revolution baseball team concession stand run by the Home. Instead of paying us, the money is donated to the Resident s Dream Trip Fund. Eight Home residents a year will go on their Dream Trip of a lifetime. In the past, residents have gone to Disney World, a cruise to the Islands, North Carolina, etc. Paula Sipe, Jeannie Hess, Jim Waldie, Dietrich Dellinger, George Zerba and Cheryl Huber participated in the event, serving customers. They even let us keep the baseball caps we wore! It was a gorgeous night and the Revs almost won. If this sounds like something you would like to do, here are the remaining dates for 2012: July 27, Aug. 3, Aug. 31 and Sept 14. We already have two volunteers for July 27, so come on out and join them at York's Sovereign Stadium, from 4

5 4:30-10 pm. Send me an at and I ll forward all the details. Donations Needed Remember to donate to PAN, and that contributions to PAN are tax deductible. We are soliciting sponsors for our semimonthly Free Thought Forum. WRCT, the public access channel in York, will begin charging program sponsors $30 per show in the near future. More information about Free Thought Forum is given below. We make it easy for you to donate: you can give your contribution to a Board member at one of our meetings or events, you can donate via PayPal on our website, or you can mail a check to us at PANonbelievers, Inc. PO Box 702, York, PA Free Thought Forum Free Thought Forum is PAN s semi-monthly call in television show, produced on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month, at 6:00 pm. If you live in York County, you can watch it live on WRCT, cable channel 16. It is streamed live on the station s website, and PAN posts the shows on YouTube, at Brian Fields, Jason Fegely, Doug Diggens and Jen Flora share the hosting duties, with Melisa Cochran handling the technical chores, with help from the show s producers, George and Pam Zerba and Jim Waldie. If you have a topic idea, or if you would be interested in appearing on the show, please contact any of the above people. Calling all Non-Believers PANViews asked members if they had any skills or interests they d be willing to teach, or share, or any activities they d like to participate in. Here are the responses: Andy Temple I enjoy gardening, bridge and golf (when the weather cooperates), and casino trips. For years I taught bridge to Parents without Partners in the DC area. Could do that again. Incidentally, the White Rose Bridge Club (and Bridge Boardroom) also have classes (for a fee). But they teach more "by the book" with a lot of rules. I do it more for fun - (like when I taught computer programming - only about half the class would ever "get it" and be good at it - LOL) Terry Dougan Backgammon is one of my favorite games but I have no one to play with. I would be willing to teach someone. Another thing I would like to do is go to Broadway shows. Would love to meet some members who go to NY or want to do some trips there. What about the group putting together a cruise for atheists and/or their friends? Pam Zerba How about a book club, or reading group? Cheryl Huber I would be happy to advise people on gardening, helping them to choose the appropriate plants, and let them know how to nurture those plants. Dick Slade I am or have been engaged in sailing, flying, skiing, skating, ballroom dancing, music, theater, and gardening, and I have 5

6 an interest in astronomy, philosophy, psychology, and computers. Addiction treatment for non-believers PANViews recently requested information or experience from our members about 12-step programs. Here s the response: Ed Silverman SMART Recovery is a non religious alternative to AA and other religious alcohol and addiction rehab programs. It is based largely on the work or Albert Ellis et. al. who was a mentor and friend of mine until his death. He was an outspoken atheist and received the Humanist of the year award by American Humanist Association. There is a greater need for chapters in this part of the country. You can find more information if you look it up on the internet. From PANViews: A quick look at the SMART Recovery website (www.smartrecovery.org) shows that there is a meeting in Camp Hill. Here s the contact information: Friday, 7:00 PM Giant Community Center-Siebert Room, 3301 Trindle Rd., Camp Hill, PA , Facilitators: Holly Hartman and Dennis Dougherty; The website offers information about online meetings, and guidance on how to start SMART Recovery Meeting in local communities. Brad Shelton Brad sent this link to the website for Agnostic AA meetings. Unfortunately, there are none in Central PA, but we thought our members might want to be informed about this organization, or know someone living elsewhere who would be interested. Tom Kane I m an Atheist in recovery AA and NA and totally open about it, my recovery and my Atheism and you cannot imagine the Hell it s been having to go to 12 step meetings and having spiritualism crammed down your throat constantly. It s been very hard to put on god filters in any of these groups. In fact I had to take vacation a year ago to go to Berkeley where they had real Atheist meetings where they talked about addiction and recovery at meetings without any higher power or Liberty University King s new clothes talk you hear at most other meetings. Wish we had some of that sanity around here. Mikki Weidman I had a religious upbringing in Protestant churches; it s where I learned to sing! I went to Sunday school, church, choir, vacation bible school, youth fellowship, church camp: the whole nine yards. Though the Methodist religion I was involved with is among the more liberal, I still questioned the inconsistencies and hypocrisy from a young age; but I never voiced my concerns aloud. I went through the motions until I was a teenager, even being confirmed into the church. But around seventh grade I made an about face with my attitudes. I started looking for something to make me feel better, since I never felt like I fit in. I started smoking, using drugs, having sex. I managed to graduate high school, and a few years later I was in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. I was exposed to many positive tools and ideas through my involvement with 12 step programs over the next twelve years, but from the very first meeting I attended, one thing turned me off: the meeting was closed using the lord s prayer. As a 6

7 newcomer, even I could see this was discriminatory. As it turned out, this would be one of the main things that lead me to leave those fellowships. The 12 step groups encourage people to return to the religion they had previously abandoned. I tried to but couldn t; instead I found one where they don t take the bible seriously. It is called Unity and they claim to take it metaphysically, meaning symbolically not literally. I thought I actually had what in the 12 step circles is called a spiritual awakening. Now I realize I was only finally being in constant contact with my own conscience. While in 12 step groups I was in service as treasurer, secretary, and the equivalent of director. I withdrew from 12 step groups when their bias towards Christianity became intolerable to me (even though the religion I participated in purported to be Christian). These groups also claimed you could work their program without a god, yet the steps you must follow require you to pray (to what?). The minister who had attracted me to the particular church I attended left my church (god told her to). It was then I realized that it was her expansive knowledge of philosophies, religions and cultures and her manner of using that in her sermons that had kept me going to church. When the next couple ministers didn t measure up how quickly they came and went over the course of a few years! I slowly stopped going and stopped feeling like there was any other-worldly being. I realized that what I really had in common with those folks was just my humanist values. Books for Skeptics We received an additional response to our request for suggestions on books other members might enjoy. Shannon Turk "The essence of Atheism is the freedom of the individual. Freedom releases the immense potentialities of human imagination, initiative, and effort that lay suppressed under theistic faith. Gora--Positive Atheism Gora was the co-founder, along with Gandhi, of the Atheist Centre in Vijayawada India. Books by Gora: Atheism: Questions and Answers An Atheist Around the World An Atheist with Gandhi I Learn Positive Atheism We Become Atheists Several of Gora's books can be downloaded Cliff Walker's Positive Atheism site: Like Father, Like Son Mack Wolford, a Pentecostal pastor from West Virginia famed for his snake-handling was bitten by a rattlesnake he owned for years. He later died. Apparently snake-handlers take the following gospel passage as inspiration for the practice: And these signs will follow those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and 7

8 if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover. (Mark 16:17-18). Wolford had been trying to keep the practice alive in West Virginia, where it is legal. It is instructive to note that Wolford s father, also a snake-handler, died after being bitten in Darwinian principles suggest a reason why snake-handling is dying out. Catholic Church Stands on Principle Cardinal Giovanni Batista Re, who heads the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, defended the excommunication of the mother and doctors of a girl in Brazil who had an abortion. The girl was nine. She was pregnant with twins after years of being raped by her step-father. The abortion was necessary to save her life. The Cardinal does not dispute any of these facts, but repeated that the destruction of innocent life is never allowed. The Church has not taken any action against the stepfather (who was arrested) because while he committed a serious crime, the Cardinal states that abortion is far more serious. More Christian Kindness to Gays Mediaite.com reports that Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association vigorously defends the idea of discrimination against gays. Here s part of Fischer s column: This is what public policy is all about: using good judgment to distinguish those behaviors that are worthy of public approval from those behaviors which ought to receive public disapproval. Public policy is about discriminating against behaviors that are socially destructive and corrosive to the social fabric. So, we rightly discriminate against people who rip off convenience stores, burgle houses, drive while drunk, eat the faces off homeless people, gun down servicemen on military bases, embezzle funds from employers or clients, or beat their wives. This discrimination is based, you will note, on behavior. Public policy is not a concern until an individual acts The point is this: we discriminate against sexually immoral and inappropriate behavior all the time, and homosexual behavior is sexually immoral and inappropriate. Note that he compares being gay to, among other things, eating the faces of homeless people. It s hard to imagine having any common ground with people who believe that. Former patient Joao Simoes is suing Trinitas Regional Medical Center, a Catholic hospital in Elizabeth, NJ for refusing to provide HIV medication to a gay man because the doctor disapproved of his being gay, according to the website The lawsuit quotes the doctor as telling Simoes personal physician, This is what he gets for going against God s will. For a change, here s some news about open-minded and generous Christians. The Mission Gathering Christian Church of California has bought billboard space along the Billy Graham Parkway in Charlotte, North Carolina. The billboard is an apology on behalf of Christians to the gay community for all of the hate and un-christian behavior towards homosexuals in the name of God. The billboard reads as follows: Mission Gathering Christian Church is sorry for the narrow-minded, 8

9 judgmental, deceptive, manipulative actions of those who DENIED rights and equality TO so many in the Name of God. One more piece of good news: The Lancaster News-Intelligencer has announced that it will publish marriage announcements for gay couples. Letter writers to the paper have expressed shock and horror at this decision. Your Religion is Our Cult When Republican candidate Mitt Romney appeared at a fundraiser with millionaire narcissist and occasional birther Donald Trump, Democrats complained that Romney never criticized Trump for his statements about Obama s birth certificate. Several conservative commentators shot back that Obama had never repudiated the awful things that comedian Bill Maher, who has contributed $1,000,000 to Obama s campaign, has said about Romney s Mormon religion. What terrible things has Maher said? Most of the complaints centered around Maher calling Mormonism a cult. From Dictionary.com, here is the definition of the word cult: cult [kuhlt] noun 1. a particular system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and ceremonies. 2. an instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, especially as manifested by a body of admirers: the physical fitness cult. 3. the object of such devotion. 4. a group or sect bound together by veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc. 5. Sociology. a group having a sacred ideology and a set of rites centering around their sacred symbols. Sounds like a pretty accurate description of any religion, including Mormonism. On the other hand, claims that Obama was born outside the U.S. are demonstrably untrue. But any perceived insult to religion - even if it isn t really an insult - is beyond the pale. The Name that Cannot be Spoken Turns out, it s not Yahweh, as Orthodox Jews believe. According to the Secular Student Alliance in LaPorte, TX wanted to put up a poster advertising a meeting. The poster, like all other posters at the school, had to be reviewed by the principal. The poster stated: ATHEIST: It s not a bad word! It is someone who either believes there is no god (or gods) or has a lack of belief in god (or gods). The principal drew approximately 8 lines through these words, and wrote on the poster: Will not allow this because it could disrupt the educational process at LPHS. The principal did allow the actual information about the meeting to remain. So I guess being secular is okay, as long as you don t say the evil word atheist. Religion in York County The York Daily Record reports that a survey by the Association of Religious Data Archives shows that County residents who belong to a church has dropped from 45% in 2000 to 39% in The biggest loser was the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which lost nearly 23% of its York County membership. By comparison, the Mormons gained 861 members for a 48% increase. 9

10 Answer to the Freethought Funzie Quiz: Answer: He was dead! He suffered a stroke during his coronation and died shortly thereafter. At the time the Western Roman Empire was being threatened by the Lombards. The Roman church was seeking an Alliance with the Franks. Pepin, king of the Franks, agreed to such an alliance if the Pope would appear personally in his court. Since Pepin had never seen the Pope, and fearing the consequences if both the Franks & Lombards discovered he had died, the church simply created a substitute. This substitute became Stephen II(III), he made all public appearances but was never officially elected Pope and, apparently, never fulfilled any other papal duties. Reference: Bob Curran The Unholy Popes 2006 PANViews is published by: PA Nonbelievers, Inc. PO Box 702 York, PA Letters to the Editor, reports of events, even silly religious ones, are welcome. Let the membership know what you notice that may have significance to Atheists, Agnostics, and Secular Humanists. If you write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, copy it to panonbelievers.org. Grab 15 seconds of fame among your peers! PANViews Editors: Pam Zerba, Melisa Cochran, Jason Fegely, 10

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