Iowa Holds Its Caucus


Pretty much everyone who knows me knows that I have a penchant for referring to believers, especially fundagelicals, as “delusionals”. I use that both as a pejorative and a descriptor – displaying my utter contempt for the lack of rationality in their beliefs while accurately describing the basis for their mythology-based worldview.

This past Monday evening, the reasonableness of my position was validated by the Republican caucus results in Iowa – Ted Cruz received the largest plurality of votes among the entire slate of candidates. So considering that conservative delusionals make up 63% of the Rethuglican party electorate, they truly earned their “delusional” plaudits. Even with three other rabidly religious candidates in the race, the voters chose the meanest, most implacably hateful one of the bunch. Fortunately, Iowa only has a 43% record of correctly choosing the Republican candidate

Yeah, I know, Trump spouts some pretty hateful nonsense, too, maybe as much as Cruz. And he finished second, so that just goes to show that these voters like viciously mean-spirited candidates. But to be honest, I don’t think The Donald believes any of it. I think he is a shameless and intuitively brilliant self-promoter who knows how to manipulate a particular segment of the populace and does so very effectively. Fortunately, his appeal is fairly limited, so I don’t think there is any likelihood that he will be the Rethuglican candidate, but even if by some fluke he were to wind up being elected, I don’t think he would govern in any way close to the blather that he spouts on the campaign trail.

I think Cruz, on the other hand, believes all of the hateful rhetoric that he spouts and would be a complete disaster for the country. He has already admitted that his delusional fairy tales take precedence over the good of the nation, and that alone should make any rational person reject him out of hand. And a Cruz presidency (Ugh! I shiver just to think of it.) would not only destroy our standing in the world, but would also destroy the entire social fabric of this country.

In a way, though, I think that a Cruz candidacy might be a good thing for the Democrats, because I have enough faith in the overall American electorate that he would not win. I like to think that enough people would recognize him for what he is and vote against him. And perhaps destroy the Republican party as it is currently constituted in its teavangelical configuration. Then again, my faith may be misplaced and I could be wrong. (There was that time that I thought I had made a mistake. LOL)

There is also a part of me that would like to see a Cruz-Sanders election. Just think how revealing that would be about the American psyche. Do we as a people want to become a more refined, more civilized and humane society or do we want to devolve into a kill or be killed, every man (I’m using the term in a non-gender specific way) for himself theocracy? Of course the problem with that scenario playing out is that it is quite risky. But it would be interesting. Maybe afterward, we could banish all the states that voted for Cruz to a new country. Maybe call it The United States of Willful Ignorance.

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Preambles to State Constitutions


I was researching the Ohio Constitution a couple of days ago to find an answer to a question that I had been pondering for a while when I took notice (for the first time) of the State’s Preamble: We, the people of the State of Ohio, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, to secure its blessings and promote our common welfare, do establish this Constitution. 

Naturally, I was a bit perplexed.  “We, the people of Ohio, are grateful to Almighty God for our freedom?”  Wow, I thought, that was news to me.  Other than those words constantly spewing from the mouths of the country’s ultra-orthodox Christians and revisionist loons, I had never heard that claim seriously being made by anyone.  For as long as I could remember the only thanks I’ve been asked to give for my “freedom” was to a vet, and I always felt my intelligence assaulted when that trope was hurled at me.

I was also immediately struck with the notion that the portion of the Preamble reading, “grateful to Almighty God” might not have been part of the Preamble when it was originally written and had been deliberately injected into it before its passage.  Sure enough.  I learned that Ohio (so far) has had three Constitutions – 1803, 1851 and 1912.  I discovered that the reference to a “thankfulness” to an “Almighty God” was not always part of its short Preamble.

During my research I discovered a lot of very interesting things but these findings are best reserved for another time.  Here I wish to focus exclusively on Ohio’s Preamble and how it stacks up to the other 49 States.

Here is what I learned:
Firstly, there’s a website that does a really great job at making the Constitutions of all 50 States accessible to anyone who wishes to learn more about them: https://ballotpedia.org/Preambles_to_state_constitutions.  This page specifically lists the Preambles of each State Constitution but has links to the full text of each Constitution. (There’s also a lot of historical information that one could find via Google and Wikipedia that could take one on an intellectual journey for days.)

Here are the most interesting facts that I’ve discovered during my brief study:

  • Three States do not have a Preamble to their Constitution: New Hampshire, Vermont and Virginia.
  • Only one State in the Union contains a purely secular statement – Oregon.
    “We the people of the State of Oregon to the end that Justice be established, order maintained, and liberty perpetuated, do ordain this Constitution.” 
  • The Preambles to all of the other Constitutions contain references to a supernatural deity, much in the same flavor of Ohio’s.  I found these words embedded in all of them:
    Divine goodness (DE)
    Divine Guidance (HI).   Hawaii does not acknowledge a “supreme being” but does expresses its thankfulness for “divine guidance.”
    Divine providence (WV)
    Supreme ruler of the Universe (CO, IA, MO, WA)
    great Legislator of the universe (MA).  It’s hard to tell if these words were inspired by the deism of the State’s founders or their Native American captives!
    Sovereign Ruler of the Universe (ME, CO).  Maine’s Preamble also implores “God.”
    God (all of them except as already noted)
    Almighty god (the vast majority)
    Our Lord (TN).  Uses “… in the year of our Lord” seven times in the most bizarre Preamble that I found.

Here are some examples of State Preambles:

Alaska:
”We the people of Alaska, grateful to God and to those who founded our nation and pioneered this great land, in order to secure and transmit to succeeding generations our heritage of political, civil, and religious liberty within the Union of States, do ordain and establish this constitution for the State of Alaska.” 

California:
We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure and perpetuate its blessings, do establish this Constitution.

New York:
“We The People of the State of New York, grateful to Almighty God for our Freedom, in order to secure its blessings, DO ESTABLISH THIS CONSTITUTION.” 

Pennsylvania:
WE, the people of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of civil and religious liberty, and humbly invoking His guidance, do ordain and establish this Constitution.”

 Massachusetts:
We, therefore, the people of Massachusetts, acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the goodness of the great Legislator of the universe, in affording us, in the course of His providence, an opportunity, deliberately and peaceably, without fraud, violence or surprise, of entering into an original, explicit, and solemn compact with each other; and of forming a new constitution of civil government, for ourselves and posterity; and devoutly imploring His direction in so interesting a design, do agree upon, ordain and establish the following Declaration of Rights, and Frame of Government, as the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

 Hawaii:
“We, the people of Hawaii, grateful for Divine Guidance, and mindful of our Hawaiian heritage and uniqueness as an island State, dedicate our efforts to fulfill the philosophy decreed by the Hawaii State motto, “Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono.”

We reserve the right to control our destiny, to nurture the integrity of our people and culture, and to preserve the quality of life that we desire.

We reaffirm our belief in a government of the people, by the people and for the people, and with an understanding and compassionate heart toward all the peoples of the earth, do hereby ordain and establish this constitution for the State of Hawaii.” 

 After becoming more aware of these facts, I’m left wondering what led Michael Newdow to believe that he stood a chance in hell with his attempt to remove the words, “In God We Trust” from US currency.

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Bus, Billboards, and BS


The controversy over a freethought bus billboard in northeast PA was discussed by Eugene Volokh in an insightful Washington Post blog entitled “Atheists’ case against Pennsylvania bus system can go forward“. The Northeastern Pennsylvania Freethought Society asked to run a simple billboard with the single word “Atheists” and their website.

imrs.php

The Lackawanna Transit System responded with a big, fat ‘NO’, despite running numerous billboards for churches, arguing that the above billboard argues the violates their policies, while accepting ads from the following groups:

1. St. Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church; 2. St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church; 3. Christian Women’s Devotional Alliance; 4. Hope Church;

This is not unlike the past lawsuit in Pittsburgh, which cost the Port Authority $60,000 in damages.  All we want is a level playing field.  Is that too much to ask?

Posted in Current Events, politics, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A Major Announcement From The Center For Inquiry


As many of you are probably aware, CFI’s president and CEO Ron Lindsay announced earlier last year that he was stepping down at the end of the year. This was to allow the Board of Directors enough time to launch a search for a replacement.

The announcement was made today that a successor had been found and was taking the helm beginning Monday, January 25th. The new CEO is Robyn Blumner. Her qualifications and experience are quite extensive, being a lawyer, experienced activist, journalist, and non-profit executive, including leading a chapter of the ACLU.

Not only that, but as some of you may know, she has been the executive director of the Richard Dawkins Foundation. And that leads us to the truly special part of today’s announcement – not only is CFI getting a talented and experienced CEO, but the two organizations themselves are merging.

This is of course a natural fit since both organizations are primarily committed to fighting the forces of irrationality and superstition in the public square and, more importantly, in the formulation and promulgation of Public Policy. The resulting synergy can only be a good thing for the advancement of rationality and civilization as a whole.

The new combined organization will operate under the CFI name and be headquartered in Amherst, NY. CFI will still maintain a significance presence in the Washington, DC area. This is also where Robyn Blumner will continue to be based.

An FAQ about the merger can be found here.

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Stay Spiritual Radio Interview


Hank Baughman, former WPXI-TV news anchor, has been running a Sunday morning radio program on WCNS called ‘Stay Spiritual’ where he talks “about spirituality from both religious and non-religious perspectives.” This past Sunday he interviewed one of our own members about atheism and the paranormal. You can listen the show in its entirety at this link.

hank

Give it a listen and let us know what you think.

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Today’s 4:20 break – consciousness has consequences


Over at Debunking Christianity John Loftus posted another righteous example of the potency of ridicule to debunk the perceived value of “faith.”

Church Goers as Clowns

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Monroeville’s Right Thing


Dr. John released his classic ‘In the Right Place’ on February 25, 1973.

I been in the right place
  But it must have been the wrong time
I'd have said the right thing
  But I must have used the wrong line
I'd a took the right road
  But I must have took a wrong turn
Would have made the right move
  But I made it at the wrong time
I been on the right road
  But I must have used the wrong car

This week, on January 12, 2016, Monroeville City Council did the right thing, but definitely use the wrong line.

The issue was whether the Council should start with Council Members leading their worshippers, I mean citizens, in the Lord’s Prayer. After much deliberation for an issue that deserves a one-word response (NO!), the Council voted unanimously on a moment of silence.

Just to make sure that no one questions the piety of their actions, they have a standing moment of silence with heads bowed, both Council and public:

Monroeville Council

Source: KDKA News

“We really did wrestle with this,” Mayor Greg Erosenko said. Mr. Erosenko thanked the Monroeville Interfaith Ministerium for its input. The ministerium had been advocating for a moment of silence. The ACLU had threatened legal action against the municipality if it continued with the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer.

Mr. Erosenko said he did “not want to make the ACLU any richer” by battling them in a lawsuit.

Nice move Mayor. It was not “I want to follow the Constitution” or “Remember it was Thomas Jefferson who said the First Amendment establishes a wall of separation between church and state”. It was not even thanks to the ACLU for pointing out this most egregious violation. No. It was a big FU to the ACLU.

I urge all readers in Monroeville to send a small check to ACLU with a cc: to the Mayor. Contrary to what the Mayor thinks, fighting a lawsuit suit does not make the ACLU richer. However, sending them a donation just might.

Mayor Erosenko was on the right road in terms of realizing the prayer was illegal, but in the wrong car when comes to disparaging the ACLU.

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Book Club: Stuff Matters: Materials that Shape our World. Mark Miodownik: 1/17/2016 at Biddle’s Escape


Where: Biddle’s Escape (401 Biddle Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15221)

When: 1/17/2016

RSVP at: http://www.meetup.com/Steel-City-Skeptics/events/227552457/

Note: We will meet on Sun, Jan 17, the 3rd Sunday of the month (not the usual 4th.) Stuff Matters is “a fascinating account of the extraordinary nature of seemingly ordinary materials modern-day life.” “The book leaves you with a feeling of being intellectually curious and inspired by everything around you and by all the marvelous feats that our species has accomplished.” “By taking ten ordinary materials you see in one picture, constructs a marvelous world.” This book won best science book by the National Academies of Sciences (2015) and the Royal Society (2014.) The Carnegie Library has 20 copies. Available at Amazon for about $9.

Sunday, January 17 at 2:00 PM

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http://www.meetup.com/Steel-City-Skeptics/events/227552457/

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PSF Ladies Meetup: 2PM TODAY at Cafe Phipps


Where: Cafe Phipps (1 Schenley Park, Pittsburgh, PA, USA)

When: 2PM TODAY

RSVP at: http://www.meetup.com/Pittsburgh-Secular-Freethinkers/events/227205093/

Pittsburgh Secular Freethinkers (CFI)

Welcome to the PSF Ladies Meetup at the Phipps Cafe.

See you there!

For more fun, follow us on Facebook!  To learn about more secular groups in Pittsburgh, check out the Pittsburgh Coalition of Reason website.

*PSF strives to be an ADA compliant organization.  Please email pittsburghsecularfreethinkers@gmail.com to request accommodation.

Pittsburgh – USA

Sunday, January 10 at 2:00 PM

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Drinking Skeptically: 1/15/2016 at


Where:

When: 1/15/2016

RSVP at: http://www.meetup.com/Steel-City-Skeptics/events/227126409/

Location to be announced….

Drinking Skeptically is an informal social event designed to promote fellowship and networking among skeptics, atheists, humanists, critical-thinkers, and like-minded individuals. There is no specific topic. It is just an open discussion among fellow freethinkers about science, religion, skepticism, beer, dinner, life and leisure. Both teetotalers and those who imbibe moderately are equally welcomed. We generally meet the third or fourth Friday of each month, skipping August and December. 

We start gathering at 7 pm, but latecomers are more than welcome. Hope to see you on Friday night!

Friday, January 15 at 7:00 PM

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