Rationalists of East Tennessee Newsletter

March 2024

First Sunday Meeting

March 3, 2024 Sunday     10:30-12:30

Pellissippi State Community College, Hardin Valley Road

Guest Speaker: Sonja DuBois

The presentation will be by Sonja DuBois, who is a Holocaust survivor. She will speak on being a "Hidden Child"  during the Nazi occupation.

Coffee and other warm beverages will be served. Bring a snack to share if you like.  

The meeting is held in the Cafeteria Annex at the back of the Goins Administrative Building.

For those who cannot attend in person, the Zoom information follows: 

Join Zoom Meeting


Meeting ID: 873 0945 2683

Passcode: 462062

One tap mobile

+19292056099,,87309452683#,,,,*462062# US (New York)

+13017158592,,87309452683#,,,,*462062# US (Washington DC)

Find your local number: https://us06web.zoom.us/u/kbmB6VlUQv

Blount County First Wednesday Social

March 6, 2024  Wednesday     6:00-7:30 PM EST

The Bird and The Book, 1509 E. Broadway, Maryville

Come join us at the Bird and the Book, 1509 E Broadway Ave, Maryville , for socializing and dinner. 

To see the menu click on the link below:


This will be a monthly event on the First Wednesday of each month.  All are invited, whether you live in Blount County or not.

RET Skeptic Book Club

March 10, 2024  Sunday     4:00-6:00 EST

Zoom Meeting

Science Wars:

The Battle over Knowledge and Reality

By Steven L. Goldman

There is ample evidence that it is difficult for the general public to understand and internalize scientific facts. Disputes over such facts are often amplified amid political controversies. As we've seen with climate change and even COVID-19, politicians rely on the perceptions of their constituents when making decisions that impact public policy. So how do we make sure that what the public understands is accurate? In this book, Steven L. Goldman traces the public's suspicion of scientific knowledge claims to a broad misunderstanding, reinforced by scientists themselves, of what it is that scientists know, how they know it, and how to act on the basis of it. In sixteen chapters, Goldman takes readers through the history of scientific knowledge from Plato and Aristotle, through the birth of modern science and its maturation, into a powerful force for social change to the present day. He explains how scientists have wrestled with their own understanding of what it is that they know, that theories evolve, and why the public misunderstands the reliability of scientific knowledge claims. With many examples drawn from the history of philosophy and science, the chapters illustrate an ongoing debate over how we know what we say we know and the relationship between knowledge and reality. Goldman covers a rich selection of ideas from the founders of modern science and John Locke's response to Newton's theories to Thomas Kuhn's re-interpretation of scientific knowledge and the Science Wars that followed it. Goldman relates these historical disputes to current issues, underlining the important role scientists play in explaining their own research to nonscientists and the effort nonscientists must make to incorporate science into public policies. 304 pages.

Join Zoom Meeting


Meeting ID: 842 0627 1651

Passcode: 348082

One tap mobile

+13126266799,,84206271651#,,,,*348082# US (Chicago)

+16469313860,,84206271651#,,,,*348082# US

March Third Sunday Zoom Meeting

March 17, 2024   10:30 AM - 12:30 PM

The new young atheists:

What and who are they viewing on the internet? A brief introduction to Drew McCoy of Genetically Modified Atheist and Alex O'Connor.  These are influencers mentioned by RET Secular Scholarship applicants in 2023. 

Join Zoom Meeting


Meeting ID: 873 6966 7509

Passcode: 782493

Find your local number: https://us06web.zoom.us/u/kR5qSViKH

March Reflections 

March 24 Sunday 4:30 pm - 6:00 pm     Meeting via Zoom

What Do You Think of States' Rights?

In the past couple of years many states have made laws that outlaw what many people think are "humanitarian rights" such as abortion, transgender issues, voting access, and labor laws.  What is your view of this?  Should the Bill of Rights be modified and expanded to include basic human rights (whatever they are), or should local control dominate and if you don't like it, move to another state?  Should states be allowed to conduct experiments in "rights" or should this niche be carved out for the federal government and applied equally over the country?  Bring your thoughts and experiences and plan on a big discussion.

Join Zoom Meeting


Meeting ID: 895 8973 0057

Passcode: 356075

One tap mobile:

+19292056099,,89589730057#,,,,*356075# US (New York)

+13017158592,,89589730057#,,,,*356075# US (Washington DC

RET needs volunteers on the following committees:

Programs/ Annual Speaker

       Aleta Ledendecker (chair), Carl Ledendecker, Norm Barrett

Outreach/ Publicity

       Carl Ledendecker (chair), Ryv Mutsu, Sam Bledsoe, Terri Leonci

Scholarship Committee

       Lee Erickson (chair), Eliot Specht, Aleta Ledendecker, Norm Barrett, Rita Lund

       Readers: Trish Lockard, Terri Leonci, Sharron King

Membership Development

        Lee Erickson (chair), Carl Ledendecker, Aleta Ledendecker

Rationalists of East Tennessee

Secular Scholarships 2024

Applications must be received by April 30

To help develop future leaders of the secular community, the Rationalists of East Tennessee is offering ten scholarships for 2024, of $2200 each.


  • Resident of U.S., Canada, or U.S. territories the at time of application.
  • Studying full-time at an accredited college or university in Fall 2024.
  • Undergraduate and graduate students are eligible.
  • Previous recipients are eligible to apply again.
  • Use of funds is unrestricted.


  • Applications must be received by April 30, 2024.
  • The first 100 applications received will be considered.
  • Winners will be chosen by July 1, 2024.
  • Funds will be distributed once matriculation is verified.
  • Apply on-line at http://rationalists.org/scholarship.


Send an e-mail to scholarship@rationalists.org

Address by the president of the

 Rationalists of East Tennessee

to Blount County Board of Education

Blount County Board of Education Address 20231102, As Delivered 

     "I am Forrest Erickson, a resident of district 6 Blount County.

     "I come to speak on the topics of national and local history, and vigorous examination in the market place of ideas. 

    "In September I reported my effort to learn how the Society of Friends got the moral question of slavery so right as to run an Underground Railroad, against the law, and at great personal risk right here in Blount County. I have requested the Blount County Public Library add Cudjo’s Cave by John Townsend Trowbridge to the collection.

Cudjo’s Cave is out of copyright and available at the gutenberg.org project.


I have finished reading Cudjo’s Cave in hard copy.

     "It is based on an 1861 interview with Blount Countian William Hackney. Let us say that name again and I hope you will remember it, William Hackney.   Published in 1863 Cudjo’s Cave is fictionalized because there was a war going on and the author did not want to jeopardize the ongoing activites of the Underground Railroad. The central character is a Quaker school teacher, Penn Hapgood. I wonder if, Hapgood is a commentary on the nature of the central character as the story begins.  On the opening page Mr. Hapgood is warned of an impending attack against him and offered a revolver with which to defend himself. Mr. Hapgood declines, is attacked and is severely injured.

     "Is the author symbolizing that Mr. Hapgood is hapless to defend himself by his goodness? During the course of the book Mr. Hapgood evolves.

     "The story reads like melodrama, violence, chases, capture and escapes, near hanging, battles to death in the hills of East Tennessee and sheltering in a cave.

     "Mr. Hapgood is not our Blount Countian William Hackney. But reading this book made me feel quite the admiration as I visited the Friends meeting house and the grave site of William Hackney. 

     "I urge a reading of Cudjo’s Cave be added to the history courses of all Blount County students as an insight into Blount County history and how it is connected with State and National history.  And I hope for a future where being educated in Blount County will include an admiration for the heroism and morality of William Hackney."


I gave a similar report to the Blount County Library Trustee meeting. One of the trustees came to me after the meeting asking for how to find the book on line.

Members of the Board of Education also thanked me for the email I sent to them with my book report.  A school librarian expressed interest.

Persons I have met at these meetings and  when out and about have recognized me and thanked me for speaking up

I get gratification from this feedback of my governmental audience and the public.  This is a benefit I have from my participation with the Rationalists of East Tennessee and the great ideas and great minds from books and in person I have encountered there.

I hope if you are reading this news letter but are not yet a member, you will come to our meetings where we engage in the market place of ideas with vigor.

2024 American Atheists' National Convention

March 28-31

Loews Philadelphia Hotel

1200 Market Street

Philadelphia, PA

The 2024 American Atheists' National Convention is in Philly!

Featuring dynamic speakers, fun social activities, workshops, performances, and community events, this is a conference you don’t want to miss. American Atheists is proud to present one of the most diverse and compelling line-ups of speakers, activists, community leaders, academics, musicians, and artists that you’ll see at any atheist event in America. As always, we’re committed to bringing brand new stories you’ve never heard to the stage, including international activists, poets, politicians, and much more.

Visit the convention website for information about the schedule, hotel, ticket pricing, vaccination policy, and more: https://convention.atheists.org
Register today!


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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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