March 17, 2013 - "It's Only a Theory" with Bob Truett
The month of March brings another familiar face to the Alabama Freethought Association. Bob Truett has spoken many times at AFA and other freethought organizations in the southeast. Bob is a regular attendee at AFA monthly meetings. Bob is retired Director of the Birmingham Zoo.
Bob encourages parents to bring children six years and older. He promises that the talk will be unorthodox, surprising, and will involve considerable audience participation. Expect to learn something!
11 am social hour
12 noon potluck lunch
1 pm program
February 17, 2013 - "In Freedom We Trust" with Dr. Ed Buckner
Ed Buckner and his wife Diane are old friends of the Alabama Freethought Association and the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Many of our members know Ed from our annual 4th of July Freethought Advance, in which he has graciously served as emcee on many occasions. Ed is also a former president of American Atheists and Executive Director of the Council for Secular Humanism.
Ed and his son Michael have recently published their well-researched book In Freedom We Trust: An Atheist Guide to Religious Liberty with Prometheus Books. This book contains a wealth of well-supported arguments to refute the often-heard myths such as the United States "is a Christian nation" and "it is not possible to be moral without a god". Those of us who have heard Ed's eloquent speaking style will be happy to know that he and Michael have taken that same entertaining approach to the pages of In Freedom We Trust. Still, the book is packed with fascinating facts about our founding fathers and other Americans who have worked to ensure that our government stays neutral toward religion.
11 am social hour
12 noon potluck lunch
1 pm program
November 18, 2012 - "Say it Loud: Why I am Black, Atheist and Proud" with Dr. annalise fonza
Dr. annalise fonza holds a PhD from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. During her time as a Methodist minister, she pastored six congregations. An alumna the Clergy Project, Dr. fonza has appeared on Freethought Radio and contributed to Black Skeptics on FreethoughtBlogs.com. Her professional interests lie in city and urban planning, particularly as they have affected black and female population components.
Dr. fonza brings us her insight into the intersection of freethought and race as she addresses common questions. Why do black atheists tend to be invisible, and, why have they created their own atheist organizations? In this talk, Dr. fonza will discuss how various racial, social and even political dynamics have converged to inform the development of openly black and atheist and free-thought communities. During this talk she will also explain why she is personally and politically willing to self-identify as an atheist, despite the tremendous impact that it has upon her racially, socially and economically.
11 a.m. social hour
Noon potluck lunch
1 p.m. program
An e-column by Massimo Pigliucci.
N. 54, October 2004
I have often remarked in this column that philosophy gets an unfair bad wrap on the ground that it doesn't solve problems. Indeed, the point of philosophy is more to clarify concepts, ideas, and their consequences, then to solve practical issues. However, it would seem that clarifying things isn't much of a goal if in turn it doesn't help us make some progress. So, let us consider one particularly sensitive debate -- the one about the very idea of abortion -- where philosophy, by claryfying our thoughts, can help reasonable people come to a compromise (philosophy can do nothing for unreasonable people, so if you are among those who scream "murder!" at the thought of someone masturbating, get a life, and while you're at it, make a point of watching Monty Python's Meaning of Life).
Much of the debate on abortion hinges upon what seems to be a scientific question: when does a fertilized egg become a human being? Of course, the answer cannot be entirely scientific, since it depends in part on objective facts about the biology of human development, and in part on what we mean by "human being." Which is where philosophy comes into play. Does a foetus become a human being when the heart starts beating? When there is a recognizable central nervous system? When it can react to external stimuli? When it can feel pain? Any of those answers would put the boundary between unacceptable and acceptable abortion practices at different times during pregnancy, but it seems rather arbitrary to pick one of these developmental milestones and use it as a universal yardstick for moral decisions. After all, many other animals have a nervous system, a heartbit, respond to external stimuli, and can feel pain, but most of us (vegetarians excluded -- but most abortion opponents included) don't seem to have too many qualms about killing such animals.
No, the crucial point must focus on something else that characterizes human beings. Plenty of philosophers, for example Julian Baggini (in his excellent collection Making Sense: Philosophy Behind the Headlines) have suggested that the important facts in the debate on abortion (and the parallel one on euthanasia) are not found in the biology of humans, but rather in our (philosophical) concept of personhood. In other words, some of us think a foetus should be protected because it is becoming a person, i.e. an entity that can eventually feel not just pain, but suffering; that can have not just the urge to have sex and reproduce, but may fall in love; a being that could one day write a sonnet, a song, or a philosophical essay.
If the problem is actual or potential personhood, not the developmental biology of our particular species of primates, then we have moved from biology to philosophy, a much more tricky terrain to navigate. Being a person is tightly linked to having the ability to lay down and recover memories (which make up our "identity" as a person), as well as to experience emotions (like love and suffering) and not just feelings (like sexual urge and pain). These characteristics are in turn dependent on being a member of a society, interacting with others, communicating one's thoughts and receiving and understanding information about other people's thoughts and emotions. Yes, all of this is also a matter of biology (after all, these things are made possible only by the presence of certain biological essentials, like a functional body, and especially a complex brain), but taken together they mean that personhood is most of all a question of psychology and sociology.
The problem is that there are plenty of circumstances in which a human being is not, in fact, a person. Foetuses are not persons, and neither are people who survive in a vegetative state induced by a coma. Other cases are more difficult to determine, but one can make a reasonable argument that very young children are only on their way to become persons, while patients affected by advanced stages of some mental diseases like Alzheimer are well on their way out of full personhood. So, while there is very little question that by performing an abortion we are in fact killing a biological being that belongs to the human species, it is an entirely different -- and much more difficult to defend -- proposition to say that we are killing a person.
Abortion opponents may shrug all of this philosophical quibbling as irrelevant on the ground that the procedure -- at whatever stage it is practiced -- kills a potential person. But this is a rather odd argument, with far reaching consequences that should be seriously considered by whoever proposes it. For example, the mass of cells in question will become a person only if many conditions other than biological development are fulfilled, including being raised in a proper physical, psychological and social environment. It is ironic, therefore, that we spend so much energy debating abortion while most of us are much less passionate about more apparently mundane issues such as, say, health care and education for all those non-aborted foetuses.
Even more radically, if a fertilized egg is a potential person, so is every single unfertilized one, and every sperm as well. After all, the egg or sperm only needs a gamete of the opposite type to begin the developmental process that will lead to the generation of another person. I suppose that is why the most rabid religious fundamentalists (including the current Pope) are against masturbation or sex that doesn't have the goal of reproduction. But it is hard to see what these people could do to avoid the natural "waste" of unutilized human eggs. Should we explant them from every woman and fertilize them artificially? If your intuitive answer was "no," and yet you are against all types of abortion, you may want to consider the consistency of your philosophy.
Do I have a better and clearer solution to offer that can help us settle the abortion debate once and for all? No, as I acknowledged at the beginning, that isn't the point of a philosophical discussion. Quite the opposite, I hope that people reading this column will feel a bit less sure of their own positions because they have understood that the issue is much more complex and difficult to settle than a simple slogan, or even an introductory course on human developmental biology, allow. And please do check out that Monty Python movie I mentioned in the beginn ing.
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May 20, 2012 - "2012: Doom or Dumb" with Sharon Carruthers
Ms. Carruthers is an officer in the Atlanta Astronomy Club. In her talk, she will detail various doomsday scenarios that have been divined from observation of the stars and planets. In an effort to help us smoke out the flaws in these scenarios, Ms. Carruthers will introduce us to the "Seven Signs of Bogus Science".
11:00 am Social hour
12:00 noon Potluck lunch
1:00 pm Program
Do you want more information about us? Need directions to attend a meeting at Lake Hypatia? Would you like to be on our mailing list? The Alabama Freethought Association, Inc. wants to hear from you!
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PO Box 571
Talladega, AL 35161
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BEAUTIFUL LAKE HYPATIA
The Lake Hypatia Freethought Conference Center is located near Talladega, Alabama, and is the culmination of the lifelong dream of Pat, Roger and Melody Cleveland. Read the story of how Lake Hypatia and the first Hypatia Freethought Advance came about.
Lake Hypatia is named for Hypatia, a 5th century mathematician at the world-famous Library of Alexandria, who was martyred for her commitment to reason and education.
The Lake Hypatia Conference Center adjoins the Cheaha National Forest, and serves as the meeting place for regular gatherings of the Alabama Freethought Association, Inc., special occasions such as the annual July Celebration and nature hikes for school and other groups.
Atheists in Foxholes
The Alabama Freethought Association, Inc.'s "Atheists in Foxholes" monument honors Atheists who served in the Army, Marines, Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force. It consists of a 6 foot high granite obelisk, flying U.S. flags from an urn on the top. Each face of the obelisk contains a medallion honoring one or two branches of the service.
Next time anyone tells you "There are no atheists in foxholes", send them here.
Pavilion on Lake Hypatia
Willa Mae Whatley Auditorium
About Willa Mae Whatley
Alabama Freethought Association
An affiliate of the Freedom From Religion Foundation
Patricia Cleveland, Director
It is with great sadness that the Alabama Freethought Association and FFRF announce the death of founding member Roger Cleveland after a protracted illness. Our hearts go out to family, including Patricia Cleveland, his wife, and Alice Cleveland, his sister. May their hearts find peace with this great loss.
Our goals: To educate the public on non-theism and protect the First Amendment - Separation of Religion from Government.
Alabama Freethought Association, Inc. is a local chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. We are a non-religious community who are committed to living our lives free from superstition, dogma and mysticism. By definition, a freethinker is one who forms opinions about religion, independently of tradition, authority or established belief, in favor of rational inquiry.
Our members are composed of Agnostics, Atheists, Secular minded people, a few Jefferson type Deists still searching for answers and come from all walks of life. The common thread we all share is the right to believe what we choose, uphold the constitutional principles of separation between government & religion, and embracing the philosophical concepts of humanism with tolerance towards others.
Living in the current "God Frenzy" era, that has been creeping up on us since the mid-1950s and accelerated by 9-11, it is most difficult to display tolerance toward others, when they are attempting to annihilate us with their own religious agenda. This is especially true here in the Bible Belt, where Christian Fundamentalism dominates and the political hand-holding with religion severely violates our Constitution and First Amendment. Thus we do battle through educating the public with letters to the editors and our representatives, working with other like minded organizations who share our philosophies, and legally taking appropriate action to preserve our rights.
Every year many freethinkers get together at beautiful Lake Hypatia, Alabama for a fun filled Fourth of July Weekend! The event, held in FFRF’s air-conditioned southern Freethought Hall, includes two and a half days of speakers, recreation — hikes, poetry reading and the “atheist vs. agnostic” softball tournament — and an appreciation ceremony for freethinking veterans at the Atheists in Foxholes monument at Lake Hypatia. The Atheists in Foxholes monument is dedicated to the many members of the military who were “atheists in foxholes,” as well as to all freethinkers (atheists, agnostics, and skeptics of any persuasion) who serve in the U.S. military.
If you are a freethinker and are ready to live the rational life, please come join us at beautiful Lake Hypatia. Our meetings are held the third Sunday of each month, starting with Social hour at 11 AM, Covered Dish Lunch at noon and Speaker at 1 PM. Afterwards, folks continue to socialize, take walks, fish or paddle boat around the 12 acre lake. You are welcome as a guest with no prerequisite to become a member. For more information, contact the Alabama Freethought Association.