Rationalists of East Tennessee Newsletter

September 2020 


Visitors are welcome!

During the COVID-19 pandemic, while gathering in groups indoors is considered risky, RET will be conducting meetings using the video conferencing program "Zoom."  Information on connecting to our virtual meetings is in the monthly newsletter.  Members and others on the mailing list will be sent an invitation to "join the Zoom meeting." When you click on the meeting link in the email or newsletter, the Zoom application will be downloaded to your computer (if you don't already have it).  You should be taken directly to our meeting from the link.  Instructions for joining our meetings are also available in "Upcoming events" on our website, rationalists.org.

If the meeting is going to be recorded, that will be announced at the beginning of meeting. Attendees who wish to remain anonymous should use an alias name and/or turn off their cameras. If a meeting will be recorded that should also be part of the event announcement. 

One of the great benefits of video conferencing is that people can join our meetings from anywhere in the world.  If you are interested, please take a look.

First Sunday Meeting

September 6 Sunday 10:30 - 12:30

Video conference meeting using Zoom

Blue Zones

Member Alana Merrill will give this presentation on "Blue Zones," where people routinely live past the age of 100 years. 

"Blue zones" are regions of the world where Dan Buettner claims people live much longer than average. The term first appeared in his November 2005 National Geographic magazine cover story, "Secrets of Long Life."  Buettner identified five regions as "blue zones." He offers an explanation of theIr longevity based on research results in the fields of biogerontology, epigenetics and naturopathy.  Residents in these places produce a high rate of centenarians, suffer a fraction of the diseases that commonly kill people in other parts of the developed world and enjoy more years of good health. The inhabitants of blue zones share common lifestyle characteristics that contribute to their longevity. Blue Zones and these nine lifestyle characteristics will be presented and discussed.

Join this Zoom meeting, Sunday, September 6, starting at 10:30 AM


Meeting ID: 983 7903 0422

Passcode: 374777

RET Skeptic Book Club

September 13      Sunday         4:00 – 6:00 pm                    

Video conference meeting using Zoom

The Death of Democracy

by Benjamin Carter Hett 

Why did democracy fall apart so quickly and completely in Germany in the 1930s? How did a democratic government allow Adolf Hitler to seize power? In The Death of Democracy, Benjamin Carter Hett answers these questions, and the story he tells has disturbing resonances for our own time.

Join this Zoom meeting, Sunday, September 13, 4pm

The Zoom meeting information will be posted on the Calendar of Events on our web page, rationalists.org, when available.

Third Sunday Meeting

September 20 Sunday 10:30 - 12:30

Video conference meeting using Zoom

"Travel Photography: Capturing The World's Cultural Diversity"

RET member Norm Barrett will give a photo presentation on the topic --

"Travel Photography: Capturing The World's Cultural Diversity:Issues with photographing people for stock photography, editorial use, photojournalists."

Bring your own snacks and coffee. Pants optional.

Join this Zoom meeting, Sunday, September 20, starting at 10:30 am.


Meeting ID: 934 1666 9070

Passcode: 557967

RET Reflections Meeting

September 27 Sunday 4:30 - 6:00 pm

Details will be announced when decided.  Check the Calendar on rationalists.org.

News from local FFRF

The local chapter of the Freedom from Religion Foundation is putting up a billboard in the Solway Community on September 14.  It will be near the Raceway gas station, facing traffic coming from Oak Ridge.  Check it out!


Dalia Fahmy

(Excerpted from pewresearch.org, 7/15/2020)

The separation of church and state has come under scrutiny again this summer after the Supreme Court sided with religious conservatives in a series of rulings. One of the rulings allows states to fund religious schools indirectly, while another protects religious schools from federal employment discrimination lawsuits.

Here are eight facts about the connections between religion and government in the United States, based on previously published Pew Research Center analyses.

1. While the U.S. Constitution does not mention God, every state constitution references either God or the divine. God also appears in the Declaration of Independence, the Pledge of Allegiance and on U.S. currency.

2. Congress has always been overwhelmingly Christian, and roughly nine-in-ten representatives (88 percent) in the current Congress identify as Christian, according to a 2019 analysis. While the number of self-identified Christians in Congress ticked down in the last election, Christians as a whole – and especially Protestants and Catholics – are still overrepresented on Capitol Hill relative to their share of the U.S. population.

3. Almost all U.S. presidents, including Donald Trump, have been Christian, and many have identified as either Episcopalian or Presbyterian. But two of the most famous presidents, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, had no formal religious affiliation. Most U.S. presidents have been sworn in with a Bible, and they traditionally seal their oath of office with “so help me God”.

4. Roughly half of Americans feel it is either very (20 percent) or somewhat (32 percent) important for a president to have strong religious beliefs, according to a survey this past February. But only around four-in-ten (39 percent) say it is important for a president to share their religious beliefs. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say it is at least somewhat important for a president to have strong religious beliefs (65 percent vs 41 percent).

5. Americans are divided on the extent to which the country’s laws should reflect Bible teachings. Roughly half of U.S. adults say the Bible should influence U.S. laws either a great deal (23 percent) or some (26 percent), and more than a quarter (28 percent) say the Bible should prevail over the will of the people if the two are at odds, according to the February survey. Half of Americans, meanwhile, say the Bible shouldn’t influence U.S. laws much (19 percent) or at all (31 percent).

6. More than six-in-ten Americans (63 percent) say churches and other houses of worship should stay out of politics. An even higher share (76 percent) say these houses of worship should not endorse political candidates during elections, according to a 2019 survey. Still, more than a third of Americans (36 percent) say churches and other houses of worship should express their views on social and political matters. (The Johnson Amendment, enacted in 1954, prohibits tax-exempt institutions like churches from involvement in political campaigns on behalf of any candidate.)

7. Only about a third of Americans (32 percent) say government policies should support religious values. Two-thirds (65 percent) say religion should be kept out of government policies.

8. Even though the Supreme Court ruled in 1962 that it is unconstitutional for a teacher to lead a class in prayer at a public school, 8 percent of public school students ages 13 to 17 say they have ever experienced this, according to a 2019 survey. (It is, however, possible that some teens who said they’ve experienced this could have previously attended religious private schools where teacher-led prayer is constitutional.) This experience is more common in the South (12 percent) than in the Northeast (2 percent). Four in-ten U.S. teens in public schools (41 percent) feel it’s appropriate for a teacher to lead a class in prayer, including 29 percent of teens who know that this practice is banned but say that it is acceptable nevertheless. 


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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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