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Lead Us Not Into Penn Station:Provocative Pieces

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October 7-9, 2016

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Away with the manger —in with the Solstice!

For a fact, the Christians stole Christmas. We don't mind sharing the season with them, but we don't like their pretense that it is the birthday of Jesus. It is the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun — Dies Natalis Invicti Solis.

Christmas is a relic of sun worship.

For all of our major festivals, there were corresponding pagan festivals tied to natural events. We've been celebrating the Winter Solstice, this natural holiday, long before Christians crashed the party. For millennia, our ancestors in the Northern Hemisphere have greeted this seasonal event with festivals of light, gift exchanges and seasonal gatherings.

The Winter Solstice is the reason for the season. The Winter Solstice, occurring on December 21 or 22, heralds the symbolic rebirth of the Sun, the lengthening of days and the natural New Year.

We nonbelievers are quite willing to celebrate the fun parts of anybody's holidays. We just want to be spared the schmaltz, the superstition — and the state/church entanglements.

The customs of this time of year endure because they are pleasant customs. It's fun to hear from distant family and friends, to gather, to feast, to sing. Gifts, as freethinker Robert Ingersoll once remarked, are evidences of friendship, of remembrance, of love.

The evergreens displayed now as in centuries past flourish when all else seems dead, and are symbols, as is the returning sun, of enduring life.

In celebrating the Winter Solstice, we celebrate reality.

What Is the Winter Solstice?

"Sol," in Latin, means sun. Witnessed from the northern hemisphere at the time of the Winter Solstice, the sun appears to stop its southerly drift for a day or two, before it returns north. Hence the word "stice," from the Latin for "stand still." The Winter Solstice is the moment when the sun appears at its most extreme southernmost position from the Equator, creating the year's longest night. The Summer Solstice six months later marks the longest day. The sun's "migration" north to south relative to the Earth is caused by the rotation of the Earth on its tilted axis as it orbits the sun. (The vernal and autumnal equinoxes are the midpoints, when daylight and nighttime are equal.) Today the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere is popularly known as "the first day of winter."

The Winter Solstice took place on December 25 at the time the Julian calendar was adopted by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C.E. The Julian calendar was off by 11 minutes per year. In 1582, by the time Pope Gregory established the Gregorian calendar, the Julian calendar was out of sync by ten days. The pope's remedy of deleting ten days from the calendar year 1582 established the solstice on December 22.

"Keep Saturn in Saturnalia"

Many of the Winter Solstice traditions coincide with agricultural seasons and harvest. The year's end is a natural time to store harvests, rest from farm work, feast and party. The best-known Winter Solstice custom was the Roman festival of Saturnalia, taking place for a week. The celebrations featured role reversals for masters and slaves, feasts, drinking, bon-fires, family parties, and gift-giving, decorating with evergreens and candles. In 350, Pope Julius I named December 25 as the day to celebrate the nativity. Emperor Justinian made Christmas a civic holiday after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire in the fifth century.

Notes James Frazier in The Golden Bough, "it appears that the Christian Church chose to celebrate the birthday of its Founder on the twenty-fifth of December in order to transfer the devotion of the heathen from the Sun to him who was called the Sun of Righteousness." Frazier conjectures that for the same motives, "the Church may have consciously adapted the new festival [of Easter] to its heathen predecessor for the sake of winning souls to Christ."

Nothing in the New Testament refers to the nativity as occurring in wintertime. In fact, when "shepherds watched their flocks at night" was likely early spring or fall. Christmas (a word absent from the New Testament) is celebrated on December 25 because, as Frazier put it: "Taken altogether, the coincidences of the Christian with the heathen festivals are too close and too numerous to be accidental. They mark the compromise which the Church in the hour of its triumph was compelled to make with its vanquished yet still dangerous rivals."

"It is obvious that the babe in the manger and the babe in the diaper with a New Year's banner around his chest are really the same – a symbol of the reborn sun god," wrote Lee Carter ("The Winter Solstice and the Origins of Christmas," Fall 1985 Free Inquiry). "Some of the major gods who celebrated their birthdays on December 25 were Marduk, Osiris, Horus, Isis, Mithras, Saturn, Sol, Apollo, Serapis, and Huitzilopochli."

Christmas Trees aren't Christian

What is now the ubiquitous American practice of placing a decorated tree in one's home was popularized here and in England in the 19th century by Germans, such as Queen Victoria's husband. But the roots of this custom, so to speak, were pagan. Besides Teutonic (German) peoples, Celts and Druids were among many ancient "heathens" who engaged in various forms of tree-worship. Evergreens were widely used as winter decorations by many in Northern Europe, including the Vikings. The Old Testament harshly warns of such idolatry: "Learn not the way of the heathen. . . Their customs are vain; for one cuts a tree out of the forest . . . they deck it with silver and with gold. . ." Jeremiah 10:2-5

The obvious pagan origins of Christmas revelry and customs were why the Puritans outlawed any observance of December 25 other than a church service.

Celebrating what is human

The 19th century's most famous "infidel," Robert Green Ingersoll, wrote "A Christmas Sermon," published in the Evening Telegram, Dec. 19, 1891, noting: "The good part of Christmas is not always Christian — it is generally Pagan; that is to say, human, natural. . . . .

"Long before Christ was born the Sun-God triumphed over the powers of Darkness. About the time that we call Christmas the days begin perceptibly to lengthen. Our barbarian ancestors were worshipers of the sun, and they celebrated his victory over the hosts of night. Such a festival was natural and beautiful. The most natural of all religions is the worship of the sun. Christianity adopted this festival. It borrowed from the Pagans the best it has."

As Ingersoll said: "I am in favor of all the good free days — the more the better."

© 2012 by Annie Laurie Gaylor and Freedom From Religion Foundation

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'Nothing Fails Like Prayer Award' Voting

Written by

Welcome to the voting page for the Nothing Fails Like Prayer Award. Below are links to twelve entries that have qualified as nominees since last year's contest. Watch the videos and select your favorite.


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David Suhor

Written by

1davidsuhorThe Satanic Temple West Florida
Pensacola, Fla., City Council
July 14, 2016

The text of the invocation was originally written by Lucien Greaves, co-founder of The Satanic Temple. The invocation was delivered by David Suhor, a musician, activist, teacher and co-founder of The Satanic Temple West Florida.

Suhor sang it to an altered version of Albert Malotte's famous and beautiful melody for the "Lord's Prayer" (1935).

This was his fifth invocation before local elected boards. David is also a plaintiff in FFRF's lawsuit against the city of Pensacola for the exclusive display of the "Bayview Cross," a huge Latin cross in a local public park.

Let us stand now,
unbowed and unfettered
by arcane doctrines
borne of fearful minds in darkened times.
Let us embrace the Luciferian impulse
to eat of the Tree of Knowledge
and dissipate our blissful
and comforting delusions of old.
Let us demand
that individuals be judged for their concrete actions,
not their fealty to arbitrary social norms
and illusory categorizations.
Let us reason our solutions
with agnosticism in all things,
Holding fast only to that which is demonstrably true,
Let us stand firm against any and all arbitrary authority
that threatens the personal sovereignty of One or All.
That which will not bend must break,
and that which can be destroyed by truth
should never be spared its demise.
It is Done. Hail Satan.

 

 

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You Are Invited!

Written by

A Two-Day Celebration for Robert Green Ingersoll
Dinner Party, Wed. Aug 10
Statue Restoration Dedication Thurs. Aug. 11
(Ingersoll Birthday)
Peoria, Illinois

Ingersoll1The Freedom From Religion Foundation, with our friends the Robert Green Ingersoll Memorial Committee, Peoria Secular Humanist Society, Center for Inquiry and Freethought Society, cordially invite you to attend the Peoria Park District's public dedication of the restored Robert G. Ingersoll statue:

Thursday, Aug. 11
(anniversary of Ingersoll's birth)
Glen Oak Park
Prospect Road and McClure Avenue
Peoria, Illinois
10:30 AM

FFRF, thanks to many generous donors, took on the fundraising responsibilities to restore this historic 1911 statue of "the Great Agnostic" — the man called "Peoria's most famous citizen." The city plans short speeches and some refreshments Thursday morning.

Plan to meet and mingle with other Ingersoll aficionados by RSVPing to attend a private pre-dedication dinner party, taking place the night before, Wed., Aug. 10:

The Lariat Club
2232 W Glen Ave
Peoria, Illinois 61614
(309)691-4731
6:00 P.M.

Robert Ingersoll, who once wrote, "A good dinner lost is gone forever," was known for his appreciation of good food. This family owned restaurant comes highly recommended by locals and has a private room.

Brief remarks will be given by FFRF Co-Presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor & Dan Barker; Jeff Ingersoll (an Ingersoll descendant) who directs the Robert Green Ingersoll Memorial Committee; Ken Hofbauer, with the Peoria Secular Humanist Society, Tom Flynn, for Center for Inquiry and Margaret Downey, for the Freethought Society.

Entertainment will include Dan Barker at the keyboard putting Ingersoll words to music, and musician Elliott Ingersoll (an Ingersoll descendant).

Individuals will order in person from a choice of 3 entrees and pay the restaurant directly. FFRF will supply complimentary cake to celebrate Ingersoll's 183rd birthday.

RSVP

Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Please include your name, mailing address, and total number of expected guests. Use subject: Ingersoll dedication. We'll email you dedication and parking details prior to the event. If you prefer, phone FFRF at 1-800-355-4021, 9-5 Central Weekdays to RSVP. 

Because the restaurant needs an advance headcount, please RSVP by Monday, Aug. 1 if possible. (If you're not sure of your plans until after Aug. 1, RSVP no later than Monday, Aug. 8.)

Entrees include baked potato, salad, rolls, iced tea or coffee and a choice of:

Top Sirloin (gluten free), $29.19
Salmon Filet (gluten free), $32.47
Wild Mushroom Ravioli (vegetarian), $23.84
Prices above include 10.5% sales tax and 20% gratuity. You'll pay for your meal directly. 

LOCAL ACCOMMODATIONS

A room bloc is being held for Wed., Aug. 10 and Thursday, Aug. 11 at the Peoria Marriott Pere Marquette, 501 Main St., Peoria Illinois 61602, for $129.00 plus tax through at least Wed., Aug. 20, so make plans now. The bloc will be extended as rooms are available after that date. Phone 800.228.9290 and mention "Ingersoll dedication" or use this reservation link.

The park with the statue is about a 35-minute walk from that hotel

LOCAL HOTELS

Mark Twain Hotel
225 NE Adams St
Peoria IL 61602
866-430-2692

Peoria Marriott Pere Marquette
501 Main St, 
Peoria, IL 61602
(309) 637-6500

Hampton Inn Peoria at the River Boat Crossing
11 Winners Way
East Peoria IL 61611
309/694-0711

Embassy Suites Hilton
100 Conference Center Drive
East Peoria IL 61611
1-309-694-0200

Click here to view the map

1ingersollmap

Hope to see you there! 

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Elizabeth Murad

Written by

1ElizabethMuradElizabeth Murad
Martin County Board
Stuart, Fla.
May 3, 2016

FFRF Member Elizabeth Murad was a nun for 13 years before leaving the Catholic Church in 1971 and becoming an atheist. She lives in Florida.

On behalf of the Humanists of the Treasure Coast, I would like to thank Martin County commissioners for inviting us to deliver today's invocation.

Let's begin this and every meeting with hope, reason and compassion. Let's put aside our personal differences and work toward the greater goal of building consensus in Martin County. Let's not be swayed by personal biases as to race, gender, politics or any of the things that may divide us.

Let's seek to find areas of agreement and work from there rather than focus on our differences. Let our voices be strong but respectful.

We are a Christian, Jewish, Muslim, humanist and atheist nation of people. We are a secular nation, with plenty of room for all of us in our beliefs and convictions.
So let's avoid the pitfalls that seem to swallow up so many political bodies. Let's envision a county dedicated to the well-being of all of our citizens.

Finally, let's show the world, or at least Florida, that we can disagree without rancor, name-calling or denigration of other views.

Thank you.

 

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Cheryl Kolbe

Written by

1cherylkolbeCheryl Kolbe
Clark County Board
Vancouver, Wash.
April 5, 2016

Cheryl Kolbe is the president of the Portland Area Chapter of FFRF, which she started in 2013. She first learned about FFRF from its billboard campaign in Portland in 2008 and attended her first convention in 2009 in Seattle. In 2012 she was elected an FFRF state representative.

Please be seated during this secular invocation.

Let us think about trust. Trust is the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability or strength of someone or something.

What do the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution say about trust? Trust isn’t mentioned in the Declaration of Independence or in the Bill of Rights. Our Constitution references an office of honor, trust, or profit, a reference to executive branch positions, and trust connotes the idea of a public trust that accrues to the office holder.
Some quotes on trust:

Paulo Freire, a Brazilian educator: “The trust of the people in the leaders reflects the confidence of the leaders in the people.”

Our president, Barack Obama: “If the people cannot trust their government to do the job for which it exists — to protect them and to promote their common welfare — all else is lost.” May we treat each other with respect and courtesy. May we listen, not just to give the person their turn, but to hear and think about the value of their viewpoint. It is easier to trust people who are most like us. Yet, in government, the challenge is to build trust in your very diverse community. May we recognize that we have many varying viewpoints, and may we recognize which of those viewpoints are relevant to county business and which are not.

“In God We Trust” reflects the view of many people. Those of us, like me, who do not trust in a god or any gods, are not part of ‘we’ and have a very different view. I encourage Clark County, as you move forward, to be as inclusive as possible.

When conducting Clark County business, let us all demonstrate to each other that we are trustworthy. With trust in each other, may we build a stronger and better Clark County. Note: In February 2015 Clark County councilors voted to prominently display ‘In God We Trust’ in the main hearing room. That display is now on the wall.

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Justin Scott

Written by

1justinscottJustin Scott
Waterloo, Iowa, City Council
May 2, 2016

FFRF Member Justin Scott, also a member of the Cedar Valley Atheists and Eastern Iowa Atheists, delivered the first secular invocation in Waterloo, Iowa, City Council history. He also accepted the mayor's issuance of a "Day of Reason" proclamation for May 5, 2016, for the city. See page 19.

Thank you, mayor and council members, for this opportunity to hopefully provide an inspirational start to your meeting tonight and do so from a minority point of view. My name is Justin Scott. I am a proud atheist here in Waterloo and I stand before you all humbly representing the Cedar Valley Atheists, the Eastern Iowa Atheists and the growing and vibrant secular community across Waterloo and Iowa.

The secular community is made up of atheists, agnostics, humanists, secularists and skeptics predicated on community without the aid of the supernatural. It is also committed to defending and strengthening the separation of church and state while promoting positive non-theism and critical thinking. Regardless of the label they identify with, these are happy, compassionate and productive members of our society and I am proud to be representing them in this chamber tonight.

Tonight, as our elected officials work to make the best decisions for the city of Waterloo and the residents who call it home, instead of closing our eyes and bowing our heads in prayer, let us instead keep focused on the serious issues that our city government faces. And as our elected officials take on these issues in their thankless positions, let us all embrace the indelible words of some of the most influential freethinkers, past and present, starting with one of the leading astronomers of our time, Dr. Carl Sagan.

And I quote: Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. End quote.

Regardless of the issues that get deliberated by this body tonight and in the future, regardless of the accomplishments and shortcomings of this chamber, it's with the sentiment of Dr. Sagan's comment that this chamber should conduct its business tonight and going forward. Each of us in here and across this city is precious; no citizen is more important than any other.

Let this chamber keep in mind that with every yay or nay vote, precious lives of Waterloo citizens will be affected, hopefully for better, but some for worse. While coming to their decisions, this chamber should rely solely on reason, observation and experience, or what Robert Ingersoll, "The Great Agnostic" of the mid-1800s, referred to as the "holy trinity of science."

Let this chamber deliberate with the understanding that not everyone in the room shares the same values, the same life experiences or same religious beliefs. These differences can help to enrich these governmental tasks but only when they aren't used to limit or censor free speech, denigrate or treat certain groups as second-class citizens or promote religious belief over nonbelief or one religious belief over all the others.

Let this chamber keep in mind that, in every circumstance, the minority viewpoint is just as valuable as the majority one. The rights and dignity of all Waterloo citizens should be respected regardless of their race, gender identity, sexuality, religious belief or lack thereof, for the future and well-being of our great city is enriched only when its diversity is embraced and equality for all is held as a guiding principle. With this said, I appeal to this chamber to follow one of the many tenets of humanism that reads, "We are concerned with securing justice and fairness in society and with eliminating discrimination and intolerance."

Let this chamber never forget that even though their beliefs often inspire their decisions, many decisions have real-world implications so they should never be made in haste. Every decision made in this chamber should be the product of informed reason, inquiry and skepticism. As the 18th-century philosopher David Hume reminds us, "Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them."

Just as you've welcomed an atheist to take part in this invocation process for the first time, you are encouraged to build on tonight to make your government even more open and accessible to more people, which will help make it as inclusive as possible. Open your arms to other Waterloo citizens living in the shadows of a certain minority group; together we truly will achieve more and the experience will be much more rewarding.

In closing, I'd like to leave you with a thought from Thomas Paine, Founding Father of the United States and English-American political activist: "The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion."

Thank you.

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Three month trial membership!

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Limited offer for Reason Rally participants!

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Sign up now for three month trial membership in the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the largest association of freethinkers (atheists and agnostics) in North America. FFRF also works diligently as a state/church watchdog, with a staff of seven attorneys, ending hundreds of state/church entanglements annually.

Your free trial membership entitles you to three months of FFRF’s newspaper, Freethought Today, reporting on FFRF’s activism and accomplishments on your behalf. There’s nothing to lose (FFRF holds all membership data in confidentiality) and a wealth of information to gain! Freedom depends on freethinkers.

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