Rationalists of East Tennessee Newsletter

December 2020 


As long as gathering in groups risks spreading COVID-19, Rationalists of East Tennessee is continuing to meet using the video conferencing program Zoom. 

  1. Join a meeting by clicking on a Zoom link provided by the meeting host
  2. Follow the prompts to download and run Zoom
  3. Enter the meeting ID and passcode if prompted
  4. Click to join the audio conference

When you are in the meeting, you may click on the Start Video button to start your video.

Please contact info@rationalists.org if you need assistance using Zoom.

If the meeting is going to be recorded, that fact will be announced at the beginning of meeting. Attendees who wish to remain anonymous should use an alias name and turn off their cameras (or stay out of view of their cameras).  

People can join our meetings from anywhere there is internet access.  If you are interested, please take a look. Visitors are welcome!

First Sunday Meeting

December 6 Sunday 10:30 - 12:30 EST

Video conference meeting using Zoom

RET member, Trish Lockard, will give this presentation on "Maintaining Mental Health During a Pandemic." 

Trish works with the local chapter of NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. 

The pandemic (along with the recent election cycle) have not been kind to our mental health. Let's get together and use our social connections to buoy one another up during these uncertain times. 

Bring your own coffee and snacks. 

Join Zoom Meeting


Meeting ID: 970 5881 3454

Passcode: 849747

Find your local number: https://zoom.us/u/adCweQaY68

RET Skeptic Book Club

December 13      Sunday         4:00 – 6:00 pm  EST                  

Video conference meeting using Zoom

Righting the  Mother Tongue

by David Wolman

In Righting the Mother Tongue, author David Wolman tells the cockamamie story of English spelling, by way of a wordly adventure from English battlefields to Google headquarters. (Amazon)

Join this Zoom meeting, Sunday, Dec.13, 4pm. Details to be announced.

Winter Solstice Party 

via Zoom

Saturday, December 19, 7-10 pm

Winter Solstice Party via Zoom

December 19      Saturday         7-10 pm  EST 

Join RET friends near and far to celebrate the return of the sun to the Northern Hemisphere. Getting dressed up and decorating your space is encouraged, but not required. There will be games, dancing, and general fun. 

We may not be able to get together in person, but that will not stop us from having a wonderful time. 

Topic: Winter Solstice Party

Time: Dec 19, 2020 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting


Meeting ID: 971 7464 9566

Passcode: 875223

Find your local number: https://zoom.us/u/aASsOps2l

Sad News

RET member Leonor Barrett  passed away on Sunday evening, November 22, after an extended illness. Leonor was married to Norm Barrett, currently a member of the RET Board of Directors. Both Norm and Leonor were pharmacists.  Leonor immigrated to the United States from Puerto Rico. She was a friend to all and the life of the party.

Skeptic Book Club Selections for the New Year

RET Scholarship Winner #2

Emily was selected by the RET Board of Directors as the winner of the second Student Secular Alliance scholarship sponsored by the Rationalists of East Tennessee. 

 Below is the information that Emily submitted to the Secular Student Alliance.  

Full name of the school in which you are currently enrolled full-time:

East Tennessee State University

If you are involved with an SSA chapter, what is its name:

Secular Humanist Alliance

Tell us about yourself: what are your educational, career and life goals?

I have always wanted to work with people and educate them in ways that were previously unknown to them. I'm majoring in Human Resource Management, and I know that I'll deal with humans on a daily basis. I love working with the business school and the professors; they have helped me organize my thoughts and create strategies for my career goals and ways to achieve them. After my four years at ETSU are up, I want to go straight into the workforce and generate experiences that will be useful to me and to others. As of now I don't plan on going to graduate school. I want to work to create a financial buffer that will make it easier to enter the workforce and function in society. I want to find a job that allows me to work one on one with people, as well as lead in a management position. In this, I plan on staying in Tennessee near the people and resources that I know and are readily available to me. I have connections to TVA, and I aim to get an internship there as soon as I graduate. I want to travel across the country and eventually the world to experience as many different cultures, values, and beliefs as I can. 

What is your secular identity, how did you come to it, and how will it remain a part of your life?

Like many children in the southern United States, I was raised in a christian household. I loved my parents and my sister, and the social life of the church, but I never understood the spirituality of it. I couldn't understand how there was a being (the christian god) who was so just and good that by only believing in him and worshiping him that I would go to a great place when I die. In my mind, if that's all I had to do, why don't I just die now? I quickly learned that's not how it works, at least to other members of the church. I questioned everything. Why we had certain customs, why we chose not to do certain things, how to dress, what to eat, when to do certain things. Many of the answers I was given didn't sit right with me. I wanted a better explanation but I never got it. In middle school, I was introduced to other religions in a short required class. It was wild to me that other religions existed in other parts of the world. I had known this growing up, but seeing that whole cultures are based around these religions astounded me. I was taught that the religion I was born into was the one true way. I thought, how could this be possible with so many others out there? I didn't choose this god, he was thrust upon me. I felt weird stepping into a church from that point on. How could these people not understand that there was so much more out there? The possibility to choose what would happen to your soul? If souls really even existed (I still struggle with this and many other spiritual questions). When high school hit, I felt different. I was surrounded by the same people I grew up with, a majority of them still christian. There were very few other religious followers outside of them at my school. Over a summer, I had come to understand more of myself, and that I liked more than one gender. I identified as bisexual. I was lucky enough that my family was supportive, but seeing any other orientation other than hetero-normative was few and far between. People were sending death threats to others in the name of an all-good god. I didn't understand why there could be so much hate towards a group of people with different ways of life. How could people take religion and turn it into something evil? In the middle of high school I finally accepted the fact that I was atheist. I have not wavered from this since then. I firmly believe in myself, though navigating through a religious world has not been easy. In college, I could finally surround myself with people of differing opinions without fear or anxiety. When I found the Secular Student Alliance, I found people that I will remain friends with for the rest of my life. I'm proud to not believe.  

What kind of secular activism have you participated in (on campus or off)? If this involved intersectional activism please be sure to mention that.

I found the Secular Humanist Alliance on campus only last year, and I quickly found myself wanting to be an active member. This eventually turned into me becoming the president. The club is small, even smaller now that the previous members have graduated and COVID-19 decreased in-person meetings to all but non-existence. It is my goal to grow this club this year and give it a louder voice. I had to search for this club among the vast majority of christian-led and faith-based groups on campus. I want new and old college students to understand that it's okay to think outside the box, and provide a safe space to share secular ideas. I helped hold a reception for Gayle Jordan, who in 2018 was the Democratic special primary election candidate for District 14 of the Tennessee State Senate. She generated a crowd that helped add a few more people to the club. Back in 2016, I was a part of the Knoxville Pride Parade as myself, acknowledging the fact that you don't have to rely on religion as a fall back, and that even without a thousand year old creed you can still have morals and a secular way of life. 

What activism plans do you have for this academic year? Please provide specifics.

I plan on giving students as many opportunities as possible to come to the club and talk about secularism or question it. I'm very excited to welcome Dave Warnock back to campus as he gives us an update on his lecture, Dying Out Loud and his journey in secularism. I want to be more involved on campus and recruit as many new members as possible, so that when the world (hopefully) returns to regular social interaction more people can come and meet in person with other like-minded and open-minded people. I especially want members of the LGBTQ community to have a safe spot to come and celebrate themselves, or just find someone to talk to. A large part of ETSU is enveloped in christian beliefs and while most are inclusive to the community, there will always be a part of people that feel ostracized from those groups. My goal is to make sure everyone feels welcome and promote free thought and encourage student engagement in secularism. As a humanist, I want to give students an opportunity to think not of a higher power for the good of religion, but for the humans who desperately need the connection they lack from peers. I want to educate people on this concept, without excluding the fact that people come in all different shapes, sizes, interests, beliefs, colors and creeds. I want people on campus to see SHA as an organization that is trustworthy and open, while maintaining our individualism. 

Why is the work of the SSA important to you and what are your goals relating to the Secular Student Alliance Mission and Vision for a more secular and humanistic future?

SSA provides a baseline of information and much more to all students across America, and I believe that with your help my chapter can grow and empower a new generation of secular humanists. With your power and dedication, SHA can continue to grow and expand its reach all over campus and in the Johnson City area, to other colleges and high schools. Virtual conferences help students interact with professionals in the field and give students a chance to experience real world problems and help them figure out what they can do to help. Your resources are invaluable, and as president I want to do all that I can with the help of my advisor to inspire the next members of our group to work humanism into the lives of everyone around them. I want to use your ideas and strategies to grow this chapter into something bigger than what I started with, and to keep it running when I graduate. It's important to me that students understand that there is more than one clear cut path cor them, that they are allowed to think and speak for themselves. The more people rely on helping others out of concern for their fellow man and not to gain favor of a higher power or religious authority, the better the world will begin to be. Humanist activism will become the main goal of this club, and inspiring others to join and learn more about this with SSA will kick-start this growth. 

How will this scholarship help you reach your goals?

This scholarship will help alleviate the financial burden of college tuition and other expenses that come with it. I dedicate my time to my senior year of school, working as an RA and federal work study on campus, and the Secular Humanist Alliance, so I currently don't have time for an outside job. I will use these funds to pay for college and the inevitable books and access codes that come with each class. The less I have to worry about paying for school, the more time I have to work on things that I am truly passionate about, like the club and the engagement of my peers. 


Copyright © 2020 {Rationalists of East Tennessee, Inc.}. All rights reserved. Please request use of any material at contact below.
Contact email: info@rationalists.org
Edited by Sharron King: newsletter@rationalists.org.
Opinions expressed are those of authors and/or editors and are not necessarily the opinions of RET.

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