The Cowtown Humanist
The Official E-Mail Publication of the Humanists of Fort Worth
A chapter of the American Humanist Association,
and allied with the Council for Secular Humanism
February 2003 Volume 4, No. 11
E-mailed January 26, 2003
January meeting was interesting and relatively well-attended. However, 22
people showed up to either share their opinions, or listen to the discussion.
First, here is
an edited (and amplified) version of the minutes from Secretary Reed Bilz:
The meeting was
called to order by Vice Chair, Wallace Harrison who was greatly assisted
throughout the meeting by Past Chairman, Jeff Rodriguez.
Dolores Ruhs reported that our balance is $574.62. Wallace Harrison moved that
we donate $300 to the Westside Unitarian Universalist Church's building fund.
This would be in appreciation of our monthly use of their facilities. The
motion was amended to make the donated amount $100, and was approved.
On an unofficial
straw vote, the majority of those in attendance would not support the
continuation of the adopt-a-street program. That's where we pick up accumulated
trash along the major portion of Old Granbury Rd. four times per year, and have
the organization publicly recognized via a street plaque. The chair said that
this would be submitted to a formal vote in March. He also noted and that even
if it were not approved by the group, it could be continued informally as in
the past, provided there are enough volunteers. (However, a contract generally
must be executed with the city.)
other ways that we could amplify our "humanism," as a group,
participants suggested such worthwhile ventures as the Heifer Project,
Northside Inter-Church Agency, tutoring at public libraries, participating in
the works of Habitat for Humanity, joining in the AIDs walk, etc. There were no
official motions, but we hope there will be some thoughtful proposals submitted
in time to appear on the agenda for the March meeting. (Contact Chairman Haney
preferably no later than the 15th of February.)
We had planned
to discuss possible closer affiliation with either of the two national Humanist
organizations. However, there was no information on the specifics of any such
affiliation available at the meeting. The general feeling by those who
addressed the subject was that we not exclude either our atheist or our
religious-humanist members. This topic will also be officially decided at the
annual meeting in March. If there are any specific proposals, we hope to present
that information well in advance of the meeting.
seeking an "official" decision, the chair asked for opinions from the
members on any possible association name changes. No proposals were made, and
there was no apparent interest in making any changes at this time.
chair-for-a-day also solicited volunteers for HoFW officer positions. Current
Chairman Haney, who has been a tremendous asset to the association, has other
pressing priorities, and is declining another term of office. (However, he will
definitely serve as the Immediate Past Chairman.) Likewise, Vice Chairman
Harrison would prefer that someone take the position who has a better vision
for the organization's future, more time to devote to projects, and better leadership
qualities. He said that he would prefer that the person taking the vice chair
position would WANT to eventually become chairperson, and would use the time to
"train" for the advancement. He asked those present to think about
nominating either themselves or someone else they felt was qualified. Mr.
Harrison advised that the bylaws assigns the job of newsletter editor to the
vice chairman, but noted that the newsletter production could be assigned
to others if the veecee didn't feel qualified for that task. The Chairman Pro
Tem suggested that no one be nominated for any position without first asking
that person and obtaining their consent. The aforementioned current secretary
and treasurer, who have been exemplary in fulfilling their duties, are
both receptive to renomination.
said he would volunteer continuing as the roster and e-mail list-keeper, as
well as e-group moderator, but would gladly relinquish that job too, if someone
else would like to assume those responsibilities.
We also decided
to set up an information table at Border's on Saturday, February 15, 2003 from
10 AM. to 4 PM. The bookstore will highlight books by and about Darwin.
adjournment of the meeting, Jeff and Wallace led a discussion of "humanism"
in its various forms.
an-pro-tem, Jeff Rodriguez, tried to guide everyone into providing their own
definition of "Humanism." It didn't quite work out that way, but we
did get some interesting responses, and at least everyone had the opportunity
to have their say.
We got things
rolling when George Cramer read from the inside front cover of the Fall, 2002
issue of "Free Inquiry." "Free Inquiry" is published by the
Council for Secular Humanism. That page in each issue affirms what CSH titles,
"The Affirmation of Humanism: A Statement of Principles."
form, it states that "We (1) are committed to apply reason and science
toward understanding of the universe, and to the solving human problems; (2)
deplore efforts to denigrate the human intelligence, explain the world in
supernatural terms, or look outside nature for salvation; (3) believe in an
open and pluralistic society, and a democratic government; (4) are dedicated to
the separation of church and state; (5) seek justice and the elimination of
discrimination and intolerance; (6) want to enhance and preserve the earth; (7)
wish to enjoy life and develop our creative talents; (8) strive for moral
excellence; (9) respect the right to privacy, as well as differences in sexual
and reproductive choices; (10) are concerned with the moral education of our
children, and seek to nourish their abilities to reason and feel compassion;
(11) are skeptical of untested claims to knowledge; and (12) affirm humanism as
a realistic alternative to theologies of despair and ideologies of
violence." It also says, "We believe in optimism rather than
pessimism, hope rather than despair, learning in the place of dogma, truth
instead of ignorance, joy rather than guilt of sin, tolerance in the place of
fear, love instead of hatred, compassion over selfishness, beauty instead of
ugliness, and reason rather than blind faith or irrationality."
regrets that the tape recorder he relied upon to provide deeper insights into
the discussion malfunctioned. However, much of the discussion centered upon the
use of the word "religion" (or "religious") in conjunction
with "humanism." There was more than one who said they use the word
"religion," but still disavowed any belief in a supreme being. Some
others, including your editor, can't yet fully grasp that concept, which proves
that some of us still have much more to learn.
One point that
Mr. Rodriguez brought up -- and which Chairman Haney had stressed, and which is
being preached by the Council for Secular Humanism -- is that calling any
non-belief in a deity a "religion" is aiding and abetting the
Religious Right in their efforts to smash the wall of separation between church
and state. The RR claims something like: since Humanism is a
"religion," and Humanists believe in evolution (and a lack of belief
in the Bible), then the teaching of evolution and not teaching the bible is
already favoring a particular "religion." Therefore, equal time should
be given to "Creationism" and the "facts" in the Bible.
Prior to the
meeting, there had been considerable discussion on the HoFW Yahoo site.
Mike Haney, on
reading of plans of a Humanist to start a new "Humanist Church,"
wrote, "It's not clear what this new church intends to worship. ... As a
Secular Humanist, I consider the term "worship' to imply 'honor or
reverence of a divine being or supernatural power,' or 'great or extravagant
respect, honor or devotion.' To me, the term 'religious humanism' is something
of an oxymoron." Mike further questioned, "Why do people who are
Atheists or do not believe in the supernatural need a religion, or need to go
to a church?"
Croft (DW) replied that the referred-to 'worship' is the respectful kind. DW
wrote, "Secular and Religious Humanism both share the same worldview, and
the same basic principles. ... They differ only in the definition of religion
and in the practice of the philosophy." He referred to the words of Dr.
Wilson, an evolutionary biologist and author of the book "Darwin's
Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society." He said that
Dr. Wilson contends that religion evolved as a trait because it confered
advantages on those who bore it. Mr. Croft further wrote that, "Dr. Wilson
argues that the religious impulse evolved early in hominid history because it
helps make groups of humans comparatively more cohesive, more cooperative, and
more fraternal, and thus able to present a formidable front against bands of
less organized adversaries."
Bailey wrote that, though he looked forward to the January meeting discussions,
he hoped that the group would "support a wide latitude of fellowship with
freethinkers of different stripes." He feels we should build "an
alliance of thinkers, philosophers, and activists of various non-Christian
outlooks." He was concerned that any movement toward non-religious purity
would purge the "borderline Humanists," Pagan religionists, and Unitarian
Universalists who might make up a sizeable portion of our group.
reported on a presentation on "Spiritual Atheism" by Mr. Darwin
Mendoza at the First Jefferson UU Church on Sunday, January 5. He said that Mr.
Mendoza's explanation of the universe "posited no Deities, no afterlife,
or miracles, and he upheld scientific method as the mode to discover our
origins. But he felt reverence toward nature, and (based on his positive
contacts with people) he ... conceived that there was some spirit, powerful and
transcendent, in the world and in human nature."
MORE ON "RELIGIOUS HUMANISM"
following is also not from the meeting, but is culled from some stuff your
editor gathered from the Internet following one of our previous meetings (on
the Sea of Faith). It might provide some additional insight into -- or more
confusion about -- the "religion v. humanism" question.
editor of the Sea of Faith magazine, related some excerpts from a debate
between secular humanist Nicolas Walter and Sea of Faith founder Don Cupitt.
"We [that is non-religious humanists] reject the whole of religion, not
just the difficult bits. We reject the whole of the Bible, not just the
supernatural bits. We reject Jesus the man, just as Jesus the God. We reject
the doctrines of all the scriptures, and the deeds of all the churches. We see
religion not as a necessary stage in the evolution of humanity, but as a long
mistake -- rather as Communism and Fascism were short mistakes. We see the
shift from religion to non-religion as a process not of progressive revelation
of changing truths, but of progressive realization of changing lies. We see not
so much the loss of faith as the recovery of sanity. Whether we prefer a Hegelian
or Marxist or Darwinian of Freudian or some other interpretation of religion,
we think not just that it is wrong now, but that it was always wrong."
responds that, " Radical religious humanism is a secular humanism, a
rational humanism, an ethical humanism which feels free to draw on, to feast
on, the best of our long, complex, diverse heritage of religious expression. It
knows all too well the madness, brutality, hypocrisy and repressiveness of
religion at its worst, as indeed of humanity itself as its most inhumane. But
this does not blind it to the glories it glimpses of religious inspiration at
its best. There are bad people, but we are not anti-people' bad politics, but
we are not anti-politics; bad art, but we are not philistine; bad science, but
we are not anti-scientific. And there is wretched religion, but that is no good
reason for basing one's entire life-stance on an undiscriminating war on all
religious humanism is a humanism which makes free with the resources of
religion in its richly diverse forms, as with the resources of the whole of
human culture. We know that we made it all, so we can unmake it, and remake it.
If we call on God to help us, we know we are using a powerful figure of speech.
If we seek God's will, we know we are simply looking for the best course, in
the best interest of all. If we pray, we know we are talking to ourselves --
and who doesn't do that, and gain benefit from it? And if we ask forgiveness,
and for the strength to follow the light of our conscience, we know we are
expressing our desire to be better people. If we say we are working for the
republic of heaven (even if we can't get out of the habit of calling it the
Kingdom), we know we are talking about taking action to make the world a better
place for the whole of mankind."
THE DIFFERENT FORMS OF HUMANISM
meeting attendees did not reach any real consensus -- except maybe that
"humanism" must be hyphenated -- the prevailing emotion seemed to be
that we can all coexist (as we have been doing) under the "Humanist"
As an aid to
understanding the different kinds of humanists, I present the following list
which I downloaded from somewhere on the Internet (I regret that I didn't show
the originating site on my downloaded copy):
In the religious
arena, many words have a number of different meanings. Some examples are:
Christian, cults, Humanist, pagan, Satanist, Witch and Witchcraft. The terms
Humanism and Humanist are essentially meaningless when used by themselves;
their meanings only become clear when preceded by an adjective, as in:
Humanism: a philosophy based on Christian beliefs about the nature of God, and
which advocate people's fulfillment by personal effort.
Humanism: A concept that knowledge can be obtained through rational thought and
experimentation. It has its roots in ancient Greece and Rome. It developed into
the scientific method and is the major underpinning of all sciences today.
Humanism: pursuit of the humanities (languages, literature, philosophy,
Humanism: a generic term encompassing both Religious and Secular Humanism.
Humanism is a philosophy centered upon the needs and interests of people.
Humanism: A movement starting at the end of the Middle Ages which renewed an
interest in classical studies and promoted the concept that truth could be
discovered by human effort.
Humanism is similar to secular humanism, except that it is practiced in a
religious setting with fellowship and rituals, as in Ethical Culture Societies,
congregations associated with the Society for Humanistic Judaism, and groups
affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association.
Humanism a non-religiously based philosophy promoting man as the measure of all
things. It had its roots in the rationalism of the 18th Century and the
freethought movement of the 19th Century.
following folk made the trip to south Fort Worth for the January meeting. In
addition to the names, we list the cities they live in (where known) to let you
know how far some of them come to share thoughts and friendly vibes with fellow
Joel Bailey (Richland Hills), Reed Bilz (FW), Jim Cather (Arlington), Jim
Cheatham (Glen Rose), George Cramer (Weatherford), David Croft (Carrollton),
Jim Fogleman Arlingon), Wallace Harrison (FW), Robert Hoyle (?), Pam Hughes
(FW), Sandra Langley (FW), Pennye Lewis (FW), Joy and Paul McClelland
(Cleburn), S.M. "Gina" Miller (?), Lisette Pharo (Weatherford), Jeff
Rodriguez (FW), Dolores and Don Ruhs (Benbrook), Rick Ruiz (Arlington), and
Dick Trice (FW).
FEBRUARY MEETING: CELEBRATING DARWIN
Meeting will be held on Darwin's (and Lincoln's) birthday, February 12, 2003 at
7 PM. Jeff Rodriguez has arranged for Prof. James Chambers of TCU to speak on
Darwinism and Creationism. The meeting will be held at Border's Book Store,
4613 South Hulen.
says his talk is titled, "Taking Darwin Seriously." Mr. Chambers said
he will offer some thoughts on the full implications of Darwinism, and the
common failure to face up to them, not only by obvious foes on the religious
right, but also by educated people who see themselves as embracing Darwinism.
He plans to keep his remarks brief in hopes of encouraging discussion and
Darwin was born on February 12, 1809 (the same day and year as Abraham Lincoln)
in Shrewsbury, England. He was the British naturalist who became famous for his
theories of evolution and natural selection.
From 1831 to
1836 Darwin served as naturalist aboard the H.M.S. Beagle on a British science
expedition around the world.
When he returned
to London, Darwin conducted thorough research of his notes and specimens. Out
of this study grew several related theories: (1) evolution did occur; (2)
evolutionary change was gradual, requiring thousands to millions of years; (3)
the primary mechanism for evolution was a process called natural selection; and
(4) the millions of species alive today arose from a single original life form
through a branching process called "specialization."
of evolutionary selection holds that variation within species occurs randomly
and that the survival or extinction of each organism is determined by that
organism's ability to adapt to its environment. He set these theories forth in
his book called, "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection,
or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life" (1859) or
"The Origin of Species" for short. After publication of Origin of
Species, Darwin continued to write on botany, geology, and zoology until his
death in 1882. He is buried in Westminster Abbey.
(Info from: http://www2.lucidcafe.com/lucidcafe/library/96feb=
CREATIONISM IN A NUTSHELL
"Creationism" is little more than an attempt by Christian
fundamentalists to have the Bible preached in schools as fact -- and even as
science. If they intended it to be open to "all theories," we would
have to teach the creationist theories of the several hundred other religions.
We would have to postulate that we might be a product of the Sun God and/or the
Indian God of Fertility. And how, as the Norsemen believed, we sprang from the
sleeping Ymir's armpit in the world of Ginnungagap. And, that Gayomart was the
first creation of the good God, Ormazd, as the Persian followers of Zoroaster
believed. (Some believe that the Christian notions of hell and Satan were
actually borrowed from Zoroastrianism.) And the Chinese Yin and Yang version,
as well as the ancient Greek Mythological belief, etc. etc.
But the goal is
obviously to indoctrinate our youth with only the Christian version. And just
what is the Christian version?
1-2:3, it says, "In the beginning, God created the heaven and the
earth." He did this in six days in an orderly manner, just by speaking.
The order of creation, by consecutive day, was: (1) light, then day and night;
(2) the sky; (3) the dry land, vegetation, and trees; (4) sun, moon, stars, and
seasons; (5) living creatures of the sky and the sea; (6) living things on the
earth, including the animals, and then man and woman; and (7) God rested.
begins, "In the the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens
..." There is no mention of any number of days. The order of creation was:
(1) man, who was called Adam; (2) trees; (3) beasts of the field and fowl of
the air; and (4) woman, who was named Eve.
In version one,
God created man and woman at the same time, as apparent equal. But they came
after all else was done, and had no names. Nor was there an "Eden."
God created the animals and the birds to be man's helpers.
In version two,
he made Adam first from the dust of the ground. Then he planted a garden in
Eden and puts Adam there. In Eden is a Tree of Life, as well as a Tree of the
Knowledge of Good and Evil. If man eats from the Tree of Knowledge, he will
die. Then, God makes woman, Eve, from one of Adam's ribs, to be his helper and
found at: http://tlc.discovery.com/convergence/eden/taketwo.html)
Creationists claim that Genetic Evolution, as theorized by Charles Darwin:
* Falsely believes all living things arose from a common ancestor.
* Falsely believes human origins can be traced back to single-cell life forms
in the ocean (primordial soup) billions of years ago.
* Falsely believes that genetic mutations result in advanced new species, when
in fact they result in defects, disease and death.
* Correctly believes that DNA strand, carries information that is transferred
to offspring (eye color, etc.), but falsely assumes a new species is generated.
website informs that there are two prevalent viewpoints about the origins of
man and the universe: Creation and evolution. Evolution
proposes that the universe and life took millions, even billions of years to
develop. Creation proposes that a Creator rapidly designed and then made
the universe in six 24-hour days. Using newly calculated mitochondrial DNA
mutation rate, scientists are able to back-date the beginnings of the human
species. New data indicates there was an "Eve gene," a common mother
who was ancestral to all humans, who lived a mere 6,000 years ago!
ask, "If dinosaurs disappeared millions of years ago, then how did early
man learn about them? Dinosaur figurines in Mexico and drawings on polished
rocks in Peru (Ica stones) as well as modern sightings of dinosaurs in African
swamps defy current thinking about the age of dinosaurs."
Also, they say
that the flood of Noah's time must have occurred as reported in the Bible
because clams are found at the top of Mount Everest (29,035 ft.).
"This," they reason, "is evidence that it must have been
underwater at some point, and provides evidence of a catastrophic worldwide
flood. Every major mountain range on Earth contains fossilized sea life =97 far
above sea level."
They are not
deterred by those who say, "If the stars are millions of light years away,
and humans can see them flicker in the night sky, then the universe must be
very old." Their response is: "Not enough time has elapsed for light
speeding at 186,282 miles per second to have traversed the entire universe. Yet
light has reached the entire expanse of the cosmos, meaning light has travelled
faster than the known speed of light at some time in the past. Researchers
estimate light may have travelled 1069 times faster at the beginning of the
universe. This means the universe is smaller and younger than most scientists
You can get much
more information on this subject by searching the Internet for
"Creationism." You can also get it by coming to the HoFW meeting at
Borders on February 12. Doing both would be better.
meeting will feature our annual election of officers, in addition to other
Mike is prevented by other commitments from seeking another term as chairman,
and your current vice chair has neither the interest nor the qualifications for
moving into the top spot, we must elect these and other folks to lead the
organization for the coming year.
is primarily responsible for monthly meeting arrangements, programs, and
speakers. However, as Mike demonstrated, these duties can be cheerfully
delegated to others. Currently, Jeff Rodriguez chairs the Programs Committee
(and he has been aided by Joel Bailey and Don Ruhs, and perhaps others). It's
good to utilize the talents of as many members as possible, but especially our
past chairs (without overworking anyone, of course).
according to the bylaws, stands in for the chair in his or her absence, and is
responsible for the monthly newsletter. (The newsletter need be no more than a
brief report of the previous meeting, and a statement or two about the upcoming
meeting, plus any special announcements.) The latter duty, of course, can also
be delegated if the veecee doesn't feel up to the task. However, it is an ideal
situation if the vice chair expects to proceed as a candidate for the
Chairmanship, and uses the term to prepare for that eventual responsibility.
of course, records the meeting events, publishes official minutes, and issues
official correspondence at the request of the chairman or the board.
treasurer is charged with collecting, caring for, and providing adequate
records of the association's funds.
thinking about these positions. If you have a vision for where this
organization should be headed, and can develop a plan for getting us there, and
can lead others to help enact that plan, then please place your hat in the
ring. In my opinion, it would be good to have preannounced candidates who can
offer a "platform" for the members to see and study prior to the
elections. So let's have volunteers and/or nominations right away -- preferably
no later than the next meeting. (Please don't just submit the name of someone
ELSE you believe ought to fulfill a particular position. Talk to that person
first to see if he or she wants the position. If so, then do the nominating.)
nominations (or volunteer choices) to your editor (firstname.lastname@example.org) so we can
announce them in the March newsletter.
there are committees to chair or participate on, and other functions of service
to the organization. (Representative to the national organizations, webmaster,
roster/mailing list maintenance, etc.) If you have interest and/or expertise in
a particular area, and want to see more or better activity in that direction,
bring it up at a meeting or mention it to the chairperson. Volunteers -- in ANY
area -- are solicited.
mentioned, we will also decide on the dues structure, and possibly consider a
name change for the organization. Further consideration will be given to the
requests from the American Humanists and Secular Humanists to become member
chapters. And we will discuss any civic activities we want to get involved in
calendar: The Humanists of Fort Worth will hold it's monthly meeting at 7 PM,
Wednesday, February 12 at Borders Books Music and Cafe, 4613 South Hulen (just
south of I-20, on the east side of Hulen St., across from Hulen Mall). There is
no officially sanctioned pre-meeting dinner. However, just in case some of you
want to get-together to eat before the meeting, someone has suggested meeting
at Applebee's Neighborhood Grill and Bar, at 5030 South Hulen in Fort Worth.
(That's a block-or-so south of the mall, on the west side of the street, across
from Mervyn's, and just before Chili's Restaurant.) The suggested arrival time
is 5:30 PM.
Don't forget the
Darwin/Evolution information table at the same Border's Books, Music, and Cafe
on Saturday, February 15, 2003 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The bookstore will
highlight books by and about Darwin. We have solicited volunteers to man the
table for one- or two-hour periods during those hours. So far, we have the
following commitments: Jim Fogleman and Dick Trice from 10-Noon; Jim Cheatham,
and Don and Delores Ruhs from Noon to 2; Sandra Langley and Reed Bilz from 2-4
PM, with Pam Hughes coming in to assist from 3 to 4. Jeff Rodriguez will make
the arrangements, and Wallace Harrison will be available most of the day. If
you want to volunteer, contact me (email@example.com) with your first and
second choice of times, and I'll pass the information along to the
YOUR OFFICERS, AND HOW TO REACH THEM
Chairman: Mike Haney, 924 Roaring Springs Rd., Fort Worth 76114; Ph.
Vice Chair and Newsletter Editor: Wallace Harrison, 4163 Sarita Dr.,
Fort Worth 76109;
Secretary: Reed Bilz, 6316 Walburn Ct., Fort Worth 76133; 817-292-7974,
Treasurer: Dolores Ruhs, 1036 Hilltop Pass, Benbrook 76126-3848;
Immed. Past Chair: Shane Taylor, 3922 Rawlins, #113, Dallas 75219;
Past President and Programs Director: Jeff Rodriguez, 4901 Bryce Ave.,
#5, Fort Worth TX 76102; 817-732-4235; firstname.lastname@example.org
Past President and Webmaster: Russell Elleven, 6120 Comfort Dr., Fort
Worth TX 76132; 817-370-2171; email@example.com