Rationalists of East Tennessee Newsletter
January 2009

Special Meeting

January 25, Sunday    10:30 AM
Pellisssippi State
Annual Business Meeting

It is time to elect board members and review RET's past year as well as the future. Please attend and vote and/or run for a board position. Remember that dues must be paid for 2009 to be able to vote. The new dues rate is $35. This is the first time in over 8 years that dues have been raised.

We have an impressive list of speakers coming up the first half of this year. Be sure to support the only group of its kind in East Tennessee,    R  E  T.


"What Can Your Government do for You - or Not?"
Jan. 4, 2009 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Discussion Led by Ralph Isler

The proper role of government in the lives of its citizens has been argued throughout the history of the United States. This discussion is certain to intensify during the next few years as a more liberal government begins to implement its programs. Should we have universal health care? What current government funded programs should be discontinued, if any? How much does a bloated military budget tie our hands on being able to afford social programs? Bring your wish list and make your case for the direction the country should take.

Book Club

Jan. 11, 2009      4:00-6:00 p.m.

"The Age of Reason," by Thomas Paine.
(Discussion Leader: Aleta Ledendecker)

Written while imprisoned in France during the French Revolution Paine hits Christianity hard while defending his Deistic god, a god that sounds very much like a term for nature.

Third Sunday Meeting

"Crusade and Apocalypse, or Why the World Ended in 1099"
Jan. 18, 2009 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM

Dr. Jay Rubenstein, University of Tennessee

U.T. History Professor Jay Rubenstein, recent winner of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, will give a talk about the First Crusade, called by Pope Urban II in 1095. When the warriors who answered the call experienced an incredible string of victories, they believed something otherworldly was taking place. After 1099, observers in the East and back home in the West believed they were living through an on-going Apocalypse.

Professor Rubenstein will explore how medieval people viewed Jerusalem, the Bible, and their own place in history -- which, apparently, had reached its climax in 1099.

Annual Business Meeting
Jan. 25, 2009 10:00 to 12:30
This is our very important annual meeting for members and potential members. Please be ready to pay your annual membership dues so you can vote!

We absolutely want a big turnout so please come.


The RET Board voted to place a billboard message near Oak Ridge.

The motion was as follows: Dave moved that RET approve $1000 to post the “Don’t believe in God?  You are not alone.” billboard with www.rationalists.org <http://www.rationalists.org>  on it at the Oak Ridge Hwy location for two months with vinyl and shipping donated by FreeThoughtAction. Carl Seconded.  Motion passed.

This billboard idea has been in the process for years. The board has had several ideas for content over the years and interestingly enough they have been very similar to those that the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Freethought Action group have used.

Our first attempts to use this message were rejected by other billboard companies. This shows the strong bias in the Knoxville area since the message doesn't attack any other group but merely says that we are here if you are interested.

Contributions to this project will be most appreciated.

Freewill and Determinism (continued)

Is freewill a useful illusion?

The problem in this discussion may lie with the limits of human comprehension (at least at this time).  Let's take the concepts of infinity and finite as applied to the universe. The infinite, to say the least, is very difficult to comprehend. A finite universe is also a problem because of the "What's beyond?" question. Possibly these conflicting concepts don't provide explanations that encompass the real complexity of space/time and the quantum realm.

To take this idea to a bit more comprehensible realm, consider the old concept of the earth as the center of the universe. In this ancient view the rest of the universe was just a sphere around the earth with the heavenly bodies drifting around in this limited realm. With more knowledge we discovered that there is an immensely larger and complex existence beyond the earth and that very long evolved processes occurred and are occurring. So the ancient questions and answers didn't really begin to grasp the correct concepts required to adequately address the problem.

We are probably in a similar situation with respect to understanding the sources of human action with respect to the physics of our complex existence. E. O. Wilson thinks that we will eventually understand enough to fully understand but we certainly aren't there yet.

So, I conclude that freewill isn't so much as an illusion but rather a useful but simple-minded concept. As to determinism, it is also useful concept but overly simplistic as well.

In short, both concepts are primitive tools we use to build our world (social and physical) and to dig ourselves into endless dead end rhetorical pits. Until we gain a more sophisticated understanding of the processes and interacting loops of interactions in highly complex systems the debate will drag on needlessly. The present state of the freewill/determinism argument just illustrates a significant lack of sufficient data to arrive at a definitive answer.

What is needed is a pragmatic approach that doesn't bog us down in philosophical/ethical ideology. Personal responsibility and environmental affects are both factors in our present state of cultural/political development. We will just have to experiment to see what balance of these ideas tends to provide the best combinations of stability and freedom/compasasion and responsibility/justice and fairness.

Next time an example will be presented.

A Report on a 10 Commandments Struggle in Upper East Tennessee
by Ralph Stewart

We retired to Johnson County, Tennessee in 1998. No family or friend as a reason to come here. The area is a beautiful part of the world and you get a lot of bang for the real estate buck. Ended up with 150 acres and about 50 animals. No we don't eat any of them.

A plaque of the Ten Commandments was placed in the court house in 1999. Finally got up the courage to question it because of the things going on during this past election.

Contacted Americans United and they did agreed work on it. It is “small town” and I was identified quickly.

A Mr. Scott Teague has offered a spirited defense of such a display. I have been told that he will run for mayor of Johnson County in the next election. He formed a group called the Ten Commandment Warriors. He started a petition going to keep the 10 Cs in the court house. The county approved a "Historical Document of Law" free display area. The Rotary Club will sponsor a display. There has been no movement of the plaque yet. There has been no legal action taken yet defending separation of church and state. The AU, ACLU-TN and FFRF are looking at this but no action will take place until sometime late next year.

After the display of the 10 Cs is moved and the other documents are put up, I will offer to sponsor a display. Something with the message "US is not a Christian Nation" might be a good starting point.

I worry that the sham tactic of declaring a Free Speech area in a court house will lead to more Ten Commandment signs in other government buildings. I hope there will be a challenge next year.

The action taken against me has not been too bad. I have prayer groups praying for me. The property owner next to ours hauled an old school bus up and placed it in our view. If you are in this area stop by for a visit. It is easy to find as there are 23 ten commandment signs on the lane to our place. Mr. Teague went to our local humane society and wanted them to throw my wife and me out. We are a black cloud over the Johnson County Humane Society, Inc. according to him.

It is good to see that there are some rational people in the State. My action of trying to remove the ten commandments from the Johnson County Court House might exclude me from any rational thinking group.

Arose this morning, found myself dead. Jesus

Quote actually by Harry  Greenberger
From Pique Newsletter Sept. 08

Feel free to submit news of interest. Submissions are welcomed but may be limited by space and topic relevance. The format may vary depending on the amount of information submitted. Short submissions are preferred but longer ones may be accepted if they can be published as a series over two or more issues. Text or Word format are best for submission. Text may also be included in an E-mail. Carl Ledendecker at:   (ledendecker@earthlink.net)  2123 Stonybrook Rd., Louisville, TN 3777   982-8687 evenings

The Newsletter can also be found online at our Web site: www.rationalists.org <http://www.rationalists.org>  Material published in The RET Newsletter represents the views of the individual authors.  Publication does not constitute an endorsement by the Rationalists of East Tennessee or its members.