Up@dawn 2.0

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Mar20 Alt ?s Freethinker by Jacoby (9-10).

1.   The men who wrote the Bill of Rights were understandably concerned not with the disproportionate power of any minority but with what? (269).

2.   Who was dubbed “the father of hate radio?” (276).

3.   In what year were the words “under God” added to the Pledge of Allegiance. (287).

4.   On the right, Enlightenment bashers were only too ready to place the responsibility for communism (and even Nazism) at the door of what? (291).

5.   Who wrote “The separation of church and state is extremely important to any of us who hold to the original traditions of our nation.” (300).

6.    Churches and their leaders have a perfect right, of course, to make the case for their moral views and social values, whether conservative or liberal, in both political and nonpolitical venues. But they do not have the right to do so with immunity from criticism simply because what? (313).

7.    The secularist victories, of the postwar [WWII] area, were achieved mainly where? (314).

8.   Many closet atheists preferred to call themselves what? (316).

 Alternative discussion questions.

1.   Where do you see parallels today to what Vashti McCollum experienced from the hate mail she received because she refused to sign the “released time” form for her son?

2.  Was the use of God popular with business and religious leaders in the 50s and 60s because it allowed them to control employees and citizens?

Friday, March 16, 2018

Quizzes Mar 20, 22

1. What happened to the balance of religious power in America by the end of the '30s?

2. How did the film industry respond to the Legion of Decency's 1934 boycott in Philadelphia?

3. What offended some vigilant Catholics in April 1938?

4. Who blazed the trail for Billy Graham and other Protestant evangelicals?

5. What did it mean to be a "liberal" in Fulton Sheen's day (c.1940)?

6. Whose reputation was even lower than atheists' by the mid-'30s? Why?

7. Who was the last well-known secularist crusader in the tradition of Paine and Ingersoll?

8. Who was labelled "the Atheist Mother" in 1948? Why?

9. What dealt a decisive blow to the Comstock law in 1959?

10. What did Billy Graham write in 1954 about communists?

11. Whose abrasiveness "seemed even more abrasive because she was a woman"?


  • What religious factions in America today do you think have outsized power and influence?
  • Does religion in America significantly influence films or television, or pop culture in general?
  • How should we go about balancing the competing civil liberties principles noted on p.273?
  • Do you call yourself a liberal? What does that mean to you?
  • Would atheists be more respected in America if they were less "preachy"? Do they proselytize, generally, compared to the religious?
  • Are there any candidates to assume the mantle of secularist crusader today?

Quiz Mar 22 - SJ 11-12

1. Who said he had no wish to claim infallibility?

2. Who called school desegregation "a most dangerous trend"?

3. What did MLK wrap in Billy Graham's book jackets?

4. What was Andrew Goodman's "key word"?

5. What significant change in poll results occurred between 1968 and 1972?

6. What fueled the delusion that the abortion battle was over, after Roe v. Wade?
7. If we follow Justice Scalia's view of the "enduring" Constitution, what should courts be free to rule?

8. Justice Scalia failed to mention what, regarding our "supposedly sacred symbols and practices"?

9. What unexamined assumption has the extreme right exploited brilliantly?

10. What need is especially urgent today, in light of the right's policy goals?

11. What language must secular humanists reclaim?

12. What label does Jacoby prefer to "secular humanist"?


  • Would a presidential candidate who ran on a platform of strict separation between church and state do well today?
  • Will evangelicals' defense of Trump be regarded by history as comparably embarrassing to their earlier defense of segregation?
  • Is nonviolent resistance a good model for activism today?
  • Do you like the term humanist? Is it better left unmodified by "secular"?
  • Are you encouraged by the rapidity with which the women's movement gained traction in the late '60s and early '70s? Are you discouraged by the phenomenon of so many young women today saying they are not feminists?
  • Is the Constitution a living document? 
  • On balance, has religion been a force for good in the world?
  • Should atheists rebrand themselves? Or should they embrace that label and commit to educating the public as to its true meaning?

"For atheists raised not in fundamentalist environments but in more moderately observant religious families, the diminution of belief tends to occur gradually and is characterized by an incremental rejection of dogma. Atheism rarely manifests itself either as Saul’s sudden knock on the head in the Acts of the Apostles or as Augustine’s tortuous spiritual passage described in his Confessions..."

Susan Jacoby, Strange Gods: A Secular History of Conversion

Walt Whitman

Whitman said “Resist much, obey little.” And, “Happiness, not in another place but this place...not for another hour, but this hour.” And,
Image result for walt whitman shirtThis is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”
He said not to argue about God, but I read this on a Whitman t-shirt too: “God is a mean-spirited, pugnacious bully bent on revenge against His children for failing to live up to his impossible standards.”

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Midterm Report Quiz questions

1.  What were the two things Descartes believed were infinite?

2.  Who had the brilliant follow-up to that?

3.  What was Descartes proof of the existence of a God?

4.  What shape did Matthew McConaughey and I use to describe time?

5.  Who was the crazy guy who tried to say the Universe is experiencing itself through our eyes?

6.  Finally, was Alan Watts a deist?

Midterm Report: God and the Universe

Descartes believed that there were two infinite things that exist:  God and the Universe. 
Spinoza responded with great logic.  He said there can only be one infinite thing. Otherwise the two infinite things would limit each other and cease to be infinite.  That one infinite thing must be the universe, since of the two, it's the one we know exists. 
Descartes believed that the idea we have of God alone proved his existence.  Saying why do we have such an idea otherwise? 
There is another bit of logic that I'd like to use. 
Descartes believed that the proof of his own existence was the fact that he pondered that question in the first place.  The famous "I think, therefore, I am"  However I would like to apply this to God.  Does God think?  We think to solve problems, to reach the next conclusion, to order our ideas and knowledge into coherence.  So why would God have thought?  What use would an all knowing, all infinite being have for such a thing. 

The idea of a beginning.  This frustrates me.  There is no such thing as beginning and end, start and finish.  These are human concepts created and used to understand and control our perception of time.  But time is infinite, time exists infinitely in all directions and all planes of existence.  If an event occurs, it does not start or end at specific times, it has a span in which it occurs in time to our perception.  Otherwise, it is always happening in the realm of time. 
There is the comically dense philosophical view of time in the television show, True Detective, in which Matthew McConaughey says "time is a flat circle" 
Try not to make fun of me, but I find a bit of truth to that.  What I mean is that if you imagine a circle, or any geometric shape, there is no such thing as the beginning of the circle or the end of it.  Of course, circles don't actually exist physically in the real world, only in patterns we see in the world.  However, these patterns do exist very much to the extent of being able to predict the existence of things before we know of them.  The example I'm referring to is one in which an astronomer, Johannes Kepler, took the shapes and patterns of the geometric polytopes and predicted about where Uranus would be.  He was off by a bit, and generally, that's not how the Universe works, but the logic was there.  If you watch this Vsauce video, and start it around 7:30, you'll get the gist of what I'm talking about, however, I encourage you to watch the entire thing; it's very fascinating. 
Anyway, the point is, the Universe is the only possible infinite thing, and I think that time is the fuel of the Universe, making it also infinite by association.  I'm not making the same Descartes claim, that there are two infinite things.  I'm saying that time and the Universe are the same thing. 
There is an interesting philosophical perspective that I heard through a lecture by Alan Watts.  He said such things as "I have realized that the past and future are real illusions, that they exist in the present, which is what there is and all there is."  He also says “Through our eyes, the universe is perceiving itself. Through our ears, the universe is listening to its harmonies. We are the witnesses through which the universe becomes conscious of its glory, of its magnificence.”  You should know, however, that Watts is a deist.  He believed that God and the Universe were one in the same.  He believed that we are just Gods way of playing Hide and Seek with himself.  This is an interesting concept, and one that, if I were to ever proclaim myself a deist, I would take up, as it is perfectly light-hearted enough to believe in. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Gayle Jordan

After Smear Campaign, Atheist Loses Special Election for Tennessee State Senate

While the nation was watching the special election in Pennsylvania last night — and with good reason, since it involved a U.S. House seat — there was another special election yesterday in Tennessee to replace a state senator.

As we’ve mentioned a few times on this site, Democrat Gayle Jordan chose to run because she didn’t want to see a Republican skate to victory unopposed, even in her overwhelmingly red district. She wanted to give progressives an option. So what if she was openly atheist? So what if she’s the director of a group called Recovering From Religion? It’s not like a Jesus-loving Democrat had much of a chance, either. So she ran... (Patheos, continues)

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Etta Semple

An Ottawa, KS periodical called Free-Thought Ideal is mentioned in our text. That caught my eye, I'm heading (again) to Ottawa for a conference next month. A woman named Etta Semple was behind it, and the Kansas Freethought Association. Anyone interested in doing some research on her - possibly for a report? Nick?

Etta Semple
Etta Semple (1854-1914).jpg
BornMartha Etta Donaldson
September 21, 1854
Quincy, Illinois
DiedApril 11, 1914
Ottawa, Kansas
Cause of deathInfluenza
CitizenshipUnited States
Known forAtheist activism, publication of Freethought Ideal, creation of natural health sanitarium in Kansas
Notable workFreethought Ideal