Friday December 5th, 2008

President's Column: "Electrons R Us - OMG!"

August Berkshireby August Berkshire

For many years, 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.

Furthermore, the 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.

Finally, we try to save the organization (our members) money where we can.

However, at the 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 More

Merry, Merry Christmas

Crystal Dervetskiby 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 myth.  Read More

Minnesota Atheists Board Nominations and Elections

Nominations for the Minnesota 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 positions to 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.

Some incumbents will be 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!

For more information, contact the editorial staff at editor@mnatheists.orgRead More

Southern MN Atheists Think and Drink

Southern MNA 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 hereRead More

A Cold Slap of Reality

No On Prop 8by Robin Anderson

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 More

Christ, You Know It Ain't Easy

James Zimmermanby 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 grudge, compare this to the 359 years it took the Vatican to make peace with Galileo.

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 comment, 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.  Radio 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 More

Churches Have No Role In Making Policy

Church and Stateby 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 More

MN Atheists Run With Santas

Santa Run
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 future. Read More

Transposed Christmas

choco santaby 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 More

Sunsara Taylor Presents, "Away With All Gods"

Away With All Godsby 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 More

"Christ the Magician" Explains His Tricks

Christ the Magicianby 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 it.  Read More

December News and Notes

George Kaneby 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 More

In This Issue

Upcoming Events

Freethought Winter Solstice Celebration

Minnesota Atheists will be sponsoring a dinner with entertainment on December 21 at 5 PM.  RSVP by Dec 18.  Click here for more information.

Central Minnesota Friends Free of Theism Winter Solstice Party

CMFFOT is hosting a potluck on December 20 at 5 PM. Click here for more information.

Rochester Area Freethinkers Winter Solstice Party

RAFT is hosting a Winter Solstice party on December 20 at 7 PM.  Location TBD.  Click here for more information.

MN Atheists Present Dan Barker

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 information.

Latest Podcasts

Austin Dacey "The Islamic Threat to Secular Government"

Robert M. Price "Inerrant the Wind"

Genographic Project "Finding Your Family"

"Dialogue with a Christian Proselytizer" and "Fundamentalisms"

Hector Avalos - Intelligent Design: Science or Religion

November Fundraising

Visibility (General) Fund: $187.00

Norman Ehrentreich $15.00
Brian Petersen $150.00
Scott Siesennop $12.00
Vern Young $10.00

Building Fund: $1314.24

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
Anonymous $40.00

Radio Fund: $1517.00

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
Anonymous $36.00

Other News

Atheist Sign Displayed, Stolen, Returned in Washington State

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."

God is Watching Over Kentucky's Security

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..."

Gifts For the Church - State Separationist

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.

Secular Mayor Elected in Jerusalem

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.

Are You Smarter Than an Elected Official?

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.
Minnesota Atheist Editors

Keith Lodemeier
James Zimmerman

MN Atheists Editorial Board

August Berkshire
Crystal Dervetski
Kristine Harley
Vanita Mishra
Grant Steves

To contact the Editorial Board, send an email to


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