Rationalists of East Tennessee Newsletter


January 2008


(Text Version)


Jan. 6, 2008 10:30 am - 12:30

Roundtable Sunday: Freethought Communities and Resources

Carl Westman, Discussion Leader


Pellissippi State Technical Community College (cafeteriaannex)

January 6th, 2008; 10:30 a.m. (Come early for fellowshipand coffee.)


Being part of a community that shares your values can bea great source of emotional support and intellectual stimulation. For many, RETserves in that capacity, but it only meets 3 times a month for two hours eachtime. Are there other freethought communities to which you belong, that eithermeet in person or online? Do you subscribe to certain freethought publicationsthat have enriched your understanding of the world, or helped you become partof a larger group that hopes to make a positive difference? Come and share withus some of your favorite freethought groups and resources, and why you enjoythem.


Carl Westman will lead the discussion, and share with thegroup excerpts from The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe (SGU), a weekly podcaston science and skepticism. Fun fact: former RET Board member Massimo Pigliuccihad the honor of being the first interviewee for the SGU podcast (June 7, 2005,episode 3). More information about SGU can be found at:






Book Club


Jan. 13, 2008          4:00 PM     Barnes and Nobel


Stumbling on Happiness

Author: Daniel Gilbert

Discussion led by Carl Westman


This a fascinating book about how the human mindremembers and predicts its own happiness. Well researched, clearly written andalso entertaining. For instance, the author states in the forward, "No onecan say how you will feel when you get to the end of this book, and thatincludes the you who is about to start it. But if your future self is notsatisfied when it arrives at the last page, it will at least understand why youmistakenly thought it would be."


Next Book: Feb.   Economics as Religion by Robert Nelson


       March   Atheist Universe by David Mills




Annual Business Meeting


Remember our Annual Business Meeting on Sunday, January20th, 2008, when we will review the past year, discuss programs for the comingyear, and elect officers. Visitors are welcome, but you must be a member tovote (if you have not paid your 2008 dues, you may pay at this meeting, beforevoting).


Coffee and refreshments at 10:00 a.m.


Pellissippi State Technical Community College; CafeteriaAnnex in the back of the Goins Administration Bldg.



RET Annual Public Meeting    Feb. 3 ,2008, 10:30 AM   Pellissippi State



Susan Jacoby will be speaking to RET


The topic will be: The Ages of American Unreason: Pastand Present


Please try to get as many people to attend as you can.RET will be spending considerable time and money to promote this speaker. Thisis our annual big speaker event and we hope to attract not only all existingand many former members, but also as many new people as possible.


Here is what Wikapedia has to say about her.


Susan Jacoby, program director of the Center forInquiry-Metro New York, a rationalist think tank with offices at 1 RockefellerPlaza, Suite 2700, New York, NY 10020.


Susan Jacoby is the author of "Freethinkers: AHistory of American Secularism," in its tenth hardcover printing(Metropolitan Books) and just out in paperback. Freethinkers was hailed in theNew York Times as an "ardent and insightful work" that "seeks torescue a proud tradition from the indifference of posterity."


Her new book, "The Age of American Unreason,"is slated for publication in early 2008.


Named a notable nonfiction book of 2004 by The WashingtonPost and The Los Angeles Times, Freethinkers was cited in England as one of theoutstanding international books of 2004 by the Times Literary Supplement andThe Guardian.


The author began her writing career as a reporter for TheWashington Post. She is the author of six previous books, including WildJustice: The Evolution of Revenge (Harper & Row), a Pulitzer Prize finalistin 1984, and Half-Jew: A Daughter's Search for Her Family's Buried Past(Scribner, 2000). A generalist in an era of specialization, Jacoby has been acontributor for more than 25 years, on topics including law, religion,medicine, women's rights, and Russian literature, to a wide range ofperiodicals and newspapers. Her articles and essays have appeared in the NewYork Times Magazine, the Washington Post Book World, the Los Angeles Times BookReview, Newsday, Harper's, The Nation, Vogue, and the AARP Magazine, amongother publications. They have been reprinted in numerous anthologies of columnsand magazine articles.


Susan Jacoby has been the recipient of numerous grantsand awards, from the Guggenheim, Rockefeller, and Ford Foundations, as well asthe National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2001-2002, she was named a fellowof the Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.


Since the publication of Freethinkers, Susan Jacoby hasbeen interviewed on NOW with Bill Moyers, The O'Reilly Factor, and the DennisMiller Show. She has been a guest on numerous National Public Radio programs,including the Diane Rehm and Tavis Smiley shows, as well as regional NPRprograms broadcast from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, Houston,Boston, Philadelphia, and Madison, WIS.


Susan Jacoby lives in New York City.



Movie Review

The Golden Compass


Recently I attended a party and one of the guests was awriter for a major Hollywood documentary. I won't drop any names, especiallysince I did little more than listen.


The Golden Compass came up in conversation and the writerand his wife were both very critical of the movie, saying that it lookedstaged, especially compared to Lord of the Rings. I discovered later that heand his wife are atheists so the criticism was not related to the ideaspresented in the movie just some finer points about the settings.


So much for picky insider reviews. As a general publicmovie goer, I found it to be very good. If I were a more vocal emotional type Iwould have yelled out, "Go get them, girl." at the end when Lyrapledges to go after the Magisterium (the religious authorities).


I also have never been to a movie that actually hadcharacters that were so much like the ones I imagined when reading the books.Others have noted having the same experience. Perhaps some of the scenes mayhave appeared staged, but the ideas and characters, including the great actingby the girl who played Lyra, made it unnecessary to spend a few million more ontechnical perfection in creating the other universe in which the story is set.It it led me in an enjoyable “willing suspension of disbelief” watching a movieattacking the suspension of disbelief.


The books are great and I highly recommend themovie.   Carl


RET Newsletter submissions

Feel free to submit news of interest. Submissions arewelcomed but may be limited by space and topic relevance. The format may varydepending on the amount of information submitted. Short submissions arepreferred but longer ones may be accepted if they can be published as a seriesover two or more issues. Text or Word format are best for submission. Text mayalso be included in an E-mail. CarlLedendecker at: (ledendecker@earthlink.net<mailto:ledendecker@earthlink.net> ) 2123 Stonybrook Rd., Louisville, TN3777 982-8687 evenings.


The Newsletter can also be found online at our Web site:www.rationalists.org <http://www.rationalists.org> . Scheduling:Philosophy (Michael Lance) lancem@ornl.gov; Round tables (Carl Westman; BookClub (John McCaffrey) jkmccaffreytn@yahoo.com Newsletter: (Carl Ledendecker)ledendecker@earthlink.net <mailto:ledendecker@earthlink.net> , 982-8687Material published in The RET Newsletter represents the views of the individualauthors. Publication does not constitute an endorsement by the Rationalists ofEast Tennessee or its members.