Saturday, December 28, 2013

    Suggestions for winter reading

    I was delighted to find so many suggestions for reading on atheism and secular humanism, even on the mainstream Goodreads site.  Lots of duplication, of course, but some interesting suggestions nevertheless, especially from the more idiosyncratic lists.  Like you needed more books to read!  At least you'll be familiar with the titles.

    A slightly different list from the same site

    And in case all that heavy reading gets you down, here's a list of atheist fiction.  Some of which I personally found as hard to get through as much of the non-fiction.

    Just FYI, when I looked for best books for unbelievers on the web, I found a lot of books for devout Christians to present to their unbelieving friends to convert them.  Needless to say, those books are not included here.

    Thursday, December 26, 2013

    Krauss and Dawkins on a road trip - film review

    From the NY Times an article on a new film featuring Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss on a road trip.  Watch the trailer.

    Wednesday, December 18, 2013

    A Holiday Perspective from One of Our Future Speakers

    This John Compere is a cousin of our own John Compere and will be speaking at the HSGP meeting on February 23, 2014.

    Tuesday, December 17, 2013

    For you Flying Spaghetti Monster fans, a little more validation

    Here's a sighting of the FSM way out there in the Universe.  Note the almost-local tie-in since the image was taken from UA's Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter.

    Monday, December 9, 2013

    Things to consider when you're planning your next vacation

    A chilling article about the recent IHEU report on the treatment of non-believers around the world.  The  US is one of the countries mentioned, although at least we don't have to worry about government sanctioned execution.

    Wednesday, December 4, 2013

    The Santa Claus tradition has nothing on this one from the Dutch

    Sure there are curmudgeons who dislike Santa Claus but at least we can't pin racism on him.  From the New York Times, an insight into a Dutch tradition that has become controversial in some unexpected ways.

    Another reason not to celebrate the Solstice?

    First we have Tom Flynn admonishing good Humanists about celebrating the Solstice or anything else around the religious winter holiday season.  Now Sarah Palin weighs in from her side of the issue.

    An atheist who just wants a kinder world

    Another interesting column from The Guardian.

    Friday, November 15, 2013

    Another take on atheist "mega-church" concept

    Here's a column from the Guardian which takes a decidedly skeptical view of the so-called "atheist mega-church" movement.

    Monday, November 11, 2013

    Atheist "megachurches"?

    I'm not sure that the attendance of 400 cited in this article qualifies as a megachurch but perhaps in comparison to HSGP, it is.

    Do we need to have sermons, inspirational music, quiet reflection at HSGP Sundays?  My guess is that the answer is NO.  We might think, however, about whether HSGP could attract more attendance with changes that are acceptable to us all.

    Tuesday, November 5, 2013

    The Animated Life of Alfred Russel Wallace from the NY Times

    In his discussion on Darwin, our recent Sunday Speaker Dr. James Richardson mentioned Alfred Russel Wallace who also "discovered" natural selection.  This animated Op-Doc from the New York Times provides a light-hearted view of Russel on the occasion of the centennial anniversary of his death on November 7.

    The Animated Life of Alfred Russel Wallace

    Monday, November 4, 2013

    Article from The Economist on How Science Goes Wrong

    One of the foundations of Humanism is a belief in science and the scientific process.  Here's a provocative article from The Economist on how this belief may be betrayed in today's scientific environment.

    The Economist - How Science Goes Wrong

    Monday, October 21, 2013

    Humanist Minute from the 10/20/13 meeting

    HSGP member Henry Geist offered the following for the Sunday Humanist Minute on October 20, 2013.  This bears thinking about for more than a minute.

    From:  Ethics for a Finite World   by   Herschel Elliott
    The Inability of Personal Ethics to Address the Physical Causes of Human Ills.
    Personal ethics errs in that its categorical moral laws incorporate incentives that only increase human need. Frequently cited examples, again, are apropos.
    The obligation of personal ethics to give philanthropic aid to all in need entails counterproductive incentives. The only thing that poor nations have to do in order to receive more aid is to generate more need. Thus, nations with dense populations, high birthrates, and ravaged environments can expect mankind to supply them with the foods and funds they need to relieve their plight.
    The pragmatic effect of such aid is to subsidize the status quo. It supports the continued growth of the needy population. It stimulates the further destructive exploitation of their degraded environments. Inevitably, the expanding human population and the increased exploitation of the damaged environment cause more people to suffer. Unconditional aid only exacerbates the woes it was intended to redress. The categorical commandments of personal ethics cannot be modified to take account of the fact that the behavior required by personal ethics affects what happens in the world: it can cause hardship and disaster rather than the expected benefit. 

    Friday, September 27, 2013

    Another sad ethical lapse

    We reported a while ago about former Methodist minister turned non-believer Theresa MacBain being hired by the Humanist Community at Harvard.  Here's a sad follow-up to that story.

    Friday, September 20, 2013

    Teresa MacBain's new job at the Harvard Humanist Community Project

    From the NY Times -- what former Methodist minister Teresa MacBain is doing now

    The Sunday Assembly

    From the Guardian on-line:.  Sounds like the Sunday Assembly folks are taking a page from the HSGP playbook....although I'm not aware that we have any stand-up comics in our group, at least not on purpose.  Interesting to see how other groups are addressing the needs of the "un-churched."

    Thursday, September 12, 2013

    What kind of atheist are you? From the Guardian newspaper.

    I missed this article when it first appeared a couple of months ago, but it's still timely.  A study of US atheists has identified six types of atheists.  What kind are you?

    Tuesday, August 20, 2013

    Invitation for non-religious adults to participate in a study

    The following email was sent to the HSGP website contact.  If you are interested, follow the link.

    We are conducting a study at the Child Cognition Lab at Boston University that compares how religious vs.
    non-religious adults think about nature. We have collected data from religious participants and now need
    non-religious participants to make the comparison.
    We are seeking to recruit non-religious participants via nonreligious societies’ email lists. The study is
    ethically reviewed and approved by the Boston University’s Institutional Review Board.

    Below, I have attached the invitation to the study. The actual study is conducted online and the link to
    the study website can be found in the end of the invitation.
    I hope that this invitation would be forwarded to the members of your society.
    If you have any questions concerning the study, I am happy to answer them!

    Elisa Jarnefelt/ Child Cognition Lab at Boston University
    Dear non-religious community member:
    We are conducting a study at the Child Cognition Lab at Boston University that compares how religious vs
     non-religious adults think about nature. We have collected data from religious participants and now need
    non-religious participants to make the comparison. Would you be interested in helping us with our

    Your participation in this research is voluntary. If you decide to participate, the participation only requires
    you to visit our study webpage to look at a series of pictures and make judgments about them, and then
    complete questionnaires about your background, scientific understanding, attitudes and personal beliefs.
    Participation should only take about 40 minutes. 

    This study webpage is designed to work on laptop or desktop computers and will not work on portable
    devices such as iPads. Also, if you decide to participate, make sure that you are in a quiet place free from
    disturbances (e.g. TV) and able to concentrate through every task.

    Participants will not receive any benefits from this study, other than knowing that they helped science
    understand better how religious vs. non-religious people think. We hope this will be a good incentive for
    you, and that you will help us!

    And for the sake of the scientific integrity of the study, please participate only ONCE!
    Here is the link to the consent form and the study:
    THANK YOU so much for your interest!

    Child Cognition Lab
    Boston University
    (617) 358-1738

    Friday, August 16, 2013

    Should Creationism Be Controversial - NY Times Room for Debate column

    (Mostly) thoughtful comments on the topic of "Why are some people drawn to origin narratives like in Genesis, and others to the scientific story?" from the New York Times.

    This debate refers to an article in The New Republic titled "Science Is Not Your Enemy" by Stephen Pinker that you can read here

    It is also a follow-on to an article in Yahoo titled "Why I'm a Creationist" by  Virginia Heffernan that you can read here

    Thursday, August 8, 2013

    Minnesota minor league baseball team goes atheist for one night - from NPR

    Enjoy this broadcast segment from the 8/8/13 All Things Considered program on NPR.  The Minnesota Atheists sponsored a night of minor league baseball which involved changing the name of the team from a semi-religious reference to a decidedly irreverent one.

    Monday, August 5, 2013

    NY Times article related to Inquiring Minds discussion on assisted suicide.

    On Saturday, August 3, the Inquiring Minds discussion group took up the topic of issues surrounding assisted suicide.  While the majority of those present seemed to feel that the option should at least theoretically be available, opinions on the conditions under which it should be made actually available varied widely.

    The New York Times ran an article today about a woman in the state of Washington who availed herself of that state's legal assisted suicide program.  It is a thoughtful article about a woman I would have liked to have known and how she asserted her right to make decisions to the very end, including writing her own obituary.  Here is the link:

    Wednesday, July 31, 2013

    Impressions from the AHA convention in San Diego

    Mary McPherson and Henry Geist attended the American Humanist Association's 72nd Annual Conference from May 30 to June 2 in San Diego, California.  Here are some of Mary's impressions from the convention:

    The convention was held at the Bahia Resort Hotel just steps from the ocean on Mission Bay, with beaches and boats viewed out of every window.  The weather was great.  We missed the first day's symposium on the Philosophy of Humanism because we were off exploring the Maritime Museum ships.  We did attend the training documentary "Tough Guise - Violence, Media & the Crisis in Masculinity".  

    Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning were devoted to break-out sessions: church-state separation, evangelical schtick, fundamentalism for children, humanism as religion, and networking.   Participants talked about good deeds in their neighborhoods and ways to expand awareness in the community.  

    Spirituality was a buzzword, and the session on Humanism and Spirituality was crowded.  The speaker was very late but others rose to the occasion and got so much audience participation that it was almost a   disappointment when the speaker finally arrived and tried to read his 27-page presentation (which was dry but readable when he sent it out to requestors).

    It was an occasion for networking, building communication ties for chapters with good ideas on spreading the humanist "word"   Some of the statistics were frightening, but the rise of "nones" was encouraging.

    A highlight for me was the "dancing humanist" Mark Harding - his presentation was a real "feel good!"  And the Evolvefish's "dancing humanists" art work which we are going to portray on our building.

    Editor's notes:
    You can see several videos of Mark Harding dancing on YouTube.  Just do a search on "Matt Harding".

    For a list of events and speakers that you missed, go to

    Tuesday, July 30, 2013

    Elena Quintana has provided links to additional information related to her presentation on ACE

    Our 7/28/13 Sunday speaker Dr. Elena Quintana has provided these links for anyone who is interested in more information on her topic of childhood trauma.

    A link to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website which gives more detail on the ACES study that Dr. Quintana presented

    Building Adult Capabilities to Improve Child Outcomes: A Theory of Change

    Resilience Trumps ACES

    "Healing Neen", a video telling the story of a woman who overcame childhood trauma to become an inspirational speaker.

    The State of Washington Family Policy Council website on ACES.

    Sunday, July 28, 2013

    An interesting column coincidentally related to the ACE presentation by Elena Quintana

    The topic of this New York Times Opinionator column ties right in with the July 28 presentation by Elena Quintana on the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences.

    Wednesday, July 24, 2013

    Food for thought: The role of women in the "New Atheism" movement

     A commentary from the on-line magazine Salon on the relative lack of visibility of women in the New Atheist movement, Susan Jacoby notwithstanding.

    Friday, July 19, 2013

    Ask an Atheist radio program taped before live HSGP audience

    On Tuesday the Humanist Community Center hosted the Ask an Atheist radio program for a "live audience" taping of an episode to be broadcast sometime later this summer.  Co-Host Sam Mulvey softened up the crowd of about 40 people with a short presentation on "Nones", or those people who respond to religious surveys by answering "None".   Some analysts have pointed to the rising percentage of "Nones" in surveys as an indication that the atheist community is growing proportionately.  Sam pointed out that this is not necessarily true because "Nones" include people who believe in a god but who just don't like organized religion, folks who believe in what he calls "Woo" or supernatural forces as well as the various types of true non-believers.

    Sam and his lovely wife/co-host Becky Friedman then began the "live taping" portion of the program with some snappy Humanist repartee between them and current HSGP president Richard Dewey who held up his end of the program admirably.  (Maybe there's a new career for you, Richard!)  This was followed by questions from the "live" audience.  The program ended up with Sam and Becky answering questions that had previously been emailed by listeners.  The live audience clapped and laughed in all the right places.

    Sam and Becky lived in the Phoenix area before moving to Tacoma, Washington in 2008 and a running joke throughout the interchange was that Sam has regularly trashed Phoenix on his radio program.  He asked forgiveness for his "sins" now that it had been revealed to him that this area is home to a variety of non-believers, organized and otherwise.  The pair are on a road trip and have taken the opportunity to visit non-believer groups along their route.  Their next scheduled stop is Tucson on July 19.

    You can listen to past broadcasts by going to the show's website at    With any luck at all, the HSGP episode will be appearing soon.  If not, check back later.

    Tuesday, July 9, 2013

    Worth reading: NY Times columnist David Brooks discusses The Secular Society

    In today's New York Times, conservative Op-Ed columnist David Brooks offers his take on the 2007 book by Charles Taylor titled "The Secular Age".  Brooks discusses what the secularization of civilization means and, surprisingly enough, he's not completely negative about the development.  

    Find the column here The Secular Society and be sure to read the comments, many of which are as well-written and incisive as Brooks' column, sometimes maybe more so.

    Sunday, July 7, 2013

    Websites for those of us who are staying inside to avoid the heat

    We know it's hot.  It's always hot in the Valley of the Sun in the summer.  You don't always feel like going someplace outside of your carefully temperature-regulated home.  But maybe you're tired of reading and there's nothing on TV.  What to do?

    Good thing we have the Internet, huh?  Here are some websites that I like to browse from time to time.  Maybe one or two will be new to you.  In any event, enjoy.  (And keep drinking those fluids!)

    Symphony of Science    Scientific topics set to music and featuring well-known figures in the world of science.  Honest.  Always good for improving my mood.

    Science Blogs  What kind of science blog would you like to read?  They have all kinds.

    EarthSky  Lots of stuff about, what else, the Earth and the Sky.  

    StarDate  You may have heard these folks on NPR.  Now you can hear them again and also read even more.

    Cloud Appreciation Society  This one is just plain fun.  You can join or not but after viewing their library of cloud images, I can just about guarantee you'll be looking at clouds differently.

    Monday, June 24, 2013

    In the Bible Belt, Offering Atheists a Spiritual Home

    Here's an interesting up-beat article that the HSGP membership will likely appreciate

    Thursday, May 23, 2013

    Arizona State Rep. Juan Mendez opened up the daily session with a quote by Carl Sagan. 


    AZ lawmaker opens session with atheist 'prayer'

    At last some positive reporting on non-theistic legislators.

    Follow this link to read the full article

    And follow this link to read about the negative reaction of a fellow legislator

    Thursday, May 9, 2013

    Response to Dale Baich Death Penalty Presentation

    On April 21, 2013, the HSGP membership heard a presentation by Dale Baich titled "The Death Penalty:  Past, Present and Future".  A summary of the presentation can be viewed on our website by selecting the "Past Events" tab near the top of the page. 

    The presentation contained graphic descriptions of executions.  In response to these descriptions, member Susan Grunbaum submitted the following comments:

    It is my understanding that the center of Mr. Baich's lecture on April 21 was to stir sympathy for the abolishing of capital punishment. While I have no argument with this position, I do feel the need to speak up openly regarding his one-sided remarks.

    The macabre descriptions of botched executions did bring about the intended emotional impact that was clearly intended. The sympathy with which Mr. Baich delivered the most carefully chosen scenarios of executions stirred emotions in all of us, I'm sure. Quotes such as "head decapitated at one hanging", "I feel a little stings", using "invasive procedures" to open the femoral artery,  having to "clean up blood from the floor after the procedure", "first sedated, then convulsing until death", are indeed potent visuals. These descriptions left me stunned and unable to think clearly for about 20 minutes, long past the Q & A period. With a bit of time and separation from the source, I  would like to state my opinion on Mr. Baich's remarks.

    In fairness, he did say that these people were found guilty of "heinous, cruel and depraved acts". What he left out was the much more powerful story of the victims. I'm wondering just what heinous, cruel and depraved acts the victims endured at the hands of these murderers? I'm wondering if any were decapitated, as quickly and as humanely as they? I'm wondering if any cried out saying "I feel a little pain....its stings"? I think their victim's cries of desperation and agony at the hands of these depraved individuals were significantly different than the circumstances at the procedures of death the State afforded these criminals! I'm wondering what effects the victims' children, parents and siblings must now live with for the rest of their lives? I doubt that any would describe their pain and enduring loss as "a sting".

    I wonder how potent his argument would have been had he described in equally gruesome details the crimes that these offenders committed? Passionate and one-sided arguments are not what's needed to sway people's thinking and votes. Arguments must be made for cost containment and ways to curb violence.