Rationalists of East Tennessee Newsletter

September 2023 

August Reflections 

August 27 Sunday 4:30 pm - 6:00 pm

Meeting via ZOOM

Aging in the US

From the CDC: For the first time in US history, aging adults are expected to outnumber children in 2034.

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 NO "First Sunday" MEETING, SEPTEMBER 3,





RET Skeptic Book Club

September 10, 2023  Sunday       4:00 – 6:00 pm EDT

Zoom Meeting

The Blank Slate

Modern Denial of Human Nature


Steven Pinker

Pinker argues that the dogma that the mind has no innate traits - a doctrine held by many intellectuals during the past century - denies our common humanity and our individual preferences, replaces objective analyses of social problems with feel-good slogans, and distorts our understanding of politics, violence, parenting, and the arts. Injecting calm and rationality into debates that are notorious for ax-grinding and mudslinging, Pinker shows the importance of an honest acknowledgment of human nature based on science and common sense.  560 pages

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    IN PERSON!!!!

    Third Sunday Meeting,  September 17   10:30-12:30

    Location:  Pellissippi State Community College, Hardin Valley Road,

        Cafeteria Annex

    This will be an in-person meeting, since there was no meeting on the first Sunday of September, due to Labor Day.

    We meet in the cafeteria annex at the back of the Goins Administration Building. Please use that back entrance. 

    Bring your own topic to this meeting since we haven't had one of those in a while and we end up having lively conversations. There is much in the news these days to discuss, and barring recent events, there are many other topics of interest. 

    For those at a distance, we will once again try to include you via Zoom. The recent Zoom issues have been fixed, so perhaps it will be smooth sailing! One can hope. 

    There will be coffee available.  Bring a snack to share. 

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    September Reflections 

    September 24 Sunday 4:30 pm - 6:00 pm

    Meeting via ZOOM

    Topic: Do You Have a Healthy Relationship with Your Smart Phone?

    If you couldn't find your phone for 45 minutes, would you just shrug it off or would you break out in a cold sweat?  If it chimes, buzzes, or vibrates do you have to answer it now or can you wait for 10 minutes, an hour, or the rest of the day?  Do you look at it even if it has been silent for a while?  Is battery life like your life's blood?  Can you eat dinner without touching your phone?  What do you do first in the morning, go to the bathroom or check your phone?  Do you get anxious about what or what not shows up on some app?  Have you ever thrown your phone at something?

    Join us for a group therapy session on your codependent relationship with your phone.

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    Knox County Schools allow an hour/day and credit for religious study

    On the first week of July the BOD and Officers of RET became aware of a proposed policy change for Knox County Schools which would change the current release time policy (now schools allow students out of class one hour, once a month, for religious instruction) to allow students one hour of release every school day and that they grant credit for the time on release (under conditions.)

    The RET Board then wrote an email to the members of the Board of Education  of the Knox County Schools opposing such a change (attached to this news letter [1].)

    The RET Board composed a similar address for the public input at the working meeting of the Board of Education, which was delivered by our volunteer Ryv Mutsu.

    The RET Board then composed a single tentative lesson plan to send to the Board of Education in hopes of discouraging them from taking on the work of reviewing our possible course(s). That email is printed below [2].

    After the release time for moral instruction passed, RET contacted FFRF. Their lawyers sent a letter to the Knox County Schools and copied RET. The FFRF letter is available at  Knox County Schools,TN For-Credit Release Time.

    Especially If you have any standing (Child in school) in Knox County please contact the Knox County Board of Education to voice your opposition to this policy.  You can find the members here: https://www.knoxschools.org/Page/2094

    If you would like help formulating a response please contact the RET Board.

    [1] To Knox County Board of Education from RET

    I am Forrest Erickson, president of the Rationalists of East Tennessee, a secular 501c3 religious organization, and writing this email to you on behalf of our Officers, and our Board of Directors with this message. 

    We have recently heard of the proposal to give Knox County School credit for Release Time activity and want to argue against the proposal to amend I-122.

    Our first amendment might be thought of as a cease fire between the religious organizations of the early United States as they grappled for control of the government and the power of force which  governments have wielded in religious matters.  We believe this proposed policy change allowing accreditation of release time activities under the name of the Knox County Schools violates the letter and the spirit of that cease fire.

    [2] To Knox County Board of Education from RET

    To help you feel the need for and benefit of that cease fire, we want to tell you that if the Knox County Schools change the policy and allows giving school credit to any religious organization, the Rationalists of East Tennessee will be producing content for equal school credit.

    We have much material to choose from to craft release time instruction.

    • Recent publications such as the 2006 NYT best seller by Richard Dawkins, "The God Delusion".
    • The 2007 book by Christopher Hitchens, "God is Not Great, How Religion Poisons Everything" is very contemporary.
    • For a historical perspective, the 19th century's "Some Mistakes of Moses" explains how the Pentateuch is incompatible with the world around us as revealed by science and the morality at the root of all three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam)  is untenable.
    • From Thomas Pane's "Age of Reason" in the 18th century we can learn about Deism which was in the market place of ideas from which some of  our founding fathers shopped.
    • Because morality evolves, we will have some comparative studies of Christian practices globally and here in America. 
    • How is it that The Society of Friends (the so-called Quakers) were so opposed to slavery in the United States they ran an illegal underground rail road through East Tennessee, but the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention not only split from their northern brothers to support slavery but did not admit to and apologize for their immoral support for slavery, Jim Crow and racism till 1995, ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY YEARS after the split from the more moral norther Baptists.  There is much more to compare and contrast.
    • Morality must be real world based. How many witches were killed in Salem Massachusetts (The answer is none because there is no such thing as a witch, however 19 persons were hanged and 5 died in custody, victims of immoral superstition.) 
    • Morality is objective.
    • We will ask the question, if the US  constitution can be and has been objectively improved to abolish slavery why has not the bible?  Why does Leviticus 25 44-46 remain instructing readers to enslave strangers and their children for life?

    Has the Knox County School Board discussed if and how the release time classes are to be presented in a school course catalog?

    We certainly do not want to see such release classes listed in the school course catalog for all to see.  But if release classes are to be listed in the school catalog then, so must our course.

    Regardless, if no release time course is to be listed in a school course catalog, the Rationalists of East Tennessee will be sure to let the public know, by paid media, that Knox County grants credit to our content, too.

    But again we advise you not to violate the cease fire.

    Leave the policy I-122 unchanged and save us all a lot of trouble.


    Forrest Erickson

    On behalf of the Rationalists of East Tennessee Officers and Board of Directors

    RET Scholarship Recipient Publishes Thesis

    Niki Hall

    On July 16, 2023, our special guest speaker was Niki Hall, recipient of one of the 2022 RET Secular Scholarships.  Her thesis, 

    What Discrimination?  Christian Microaggression Rhetoric Against Nontheists

    is now published and available to the public to read. You can find it at: 


    SPEAKERS and TOPICS Needed
    The Program Committee is looking for speakers who would be willing to present at our First Sunday in-person meetings or via Zoom for our Third Sunday meetings. If you know of someone or if you have a topic that you would like to present, please send an email with contact info and topic to bod@rationalists.org

    STILL Time to Select Books for Skeptic Book Club

    RET members,

    Please send me your titles as quickly as possible so I can put together a voting list for the group to vet.  I want to have the final list by 16 September 2023 so there is time to vote.  Send the titles to: 


    Thanks for your participation, 

    Bob Morris  

    Skeptic’s Book Club Coordinator


    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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