Rationalists of East Tennessee Newsletter

May 2020

"ZOOM"

During the COVID-19 pandemic, while gathering in groups is not socially acceptable, RET will be conducting meetings using the video conferencing program, "Zoom."  You will be sent an invitation to "join zoom meeting." When you click on the meeting link in the email, the Zoom application will be downloaded to your computer if you don't already have it.  (This link is for our May 3 meeting).

One of the benefits of video conferencing is that members of RET who have moved away from Tennessee are able to join our meetings!


First Sunday Meeting
May 3       Sunday         10:30 am

Video conference meeting using ZOOM

This will be a "Bring Your Own Topic" meeting. To join the ZOOM meeting click on the link below.

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89846077082?pwd=cURuT0tIenpjU1p0bjFMTC9SN1NhUT09

Meeting ID: 898 4607 7082
Password: 686725


RET Skeptic Book Club
May 10       Sunday         2:00 – 4:00 pm                         

Video conference meeting using ZOOM

Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church by Megan Phelps-Roper

Megan Phelps-Roper describes her life growing up in the most hated family in America, members of the Westboro Baptist Church known for outrageous protests such as "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" and "God Sent the Corona Virus." 

                 

Video conference meeting using ZOOM

Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church by Megan Phelps-Rop


Megan Phelps-Roper describes her life growing up in the most hated family in America, members of the Westboro Baptist Church known for outrageous protests such as "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" and "God Sent the Corona Virus


Third Sunday Meeting

May 17   Sunday        10:30 - 12:30

Video conference meeting using ZOOM

Guest Speaker: Carter Warden

Carter Warden is a former conservative pastor of 25 years, now openly atheist. Using the pseudonym “Adam Mann,” he was a founder of The Clergy Project, its first member and one of its first forum moderators. “Adam” was one of the original five interviewees in the 2010 Daniel Dennett- Linda LaScola article, “Preachers who are not Believers.” While still in ministry, he was interviewed undercover by ABC World News Tonight and the Canadian Broadcasting Company. Carter made his change of beliefs public at the Freedom From Religion Foundation National Convention on October 7, 2016.

He hopes that his story and freethought songs will bring encouragement to those who feel trapped because of changing beliefs, people who fear openly identifying themselves as non-religious, and anyone who desires to be honest and genuine about personal beliefs, identity and personal expression that may go against societal norms.

Carter now works in higher education planning student activities and advising student organizations. He likes to interweave humor and his original freethought music into his talks and workshops to make for an enjoyable and engaging experience.


Video conference meeting using ZOOM

Guest Speaker: Carter Warden

Carter Warden is a former conservative pastor of 25 years, now openly atheist. Using the pseudonym “Adam Mann,” he was a founder of The Clergy Project, its first member and one of its first forum moderators. “Adam” was one of the original five interviewees in the 2010 Daniel Dennett- Linda LaScola article, “Preachers who are not Believers.” While still in ministry, he was interviewed undercover by ABC World News Tonight and the Canadian Broadcasting Company. Carter made his change of beliefs public at the Freedom From Religion Foundation National Convention on October 7, 2016.

He hopes that his story and freethought songs will bring encouragement to those who feel trapped because of changing beliefs, people who fear openly identifying themselves as non-religious, and anyone who desires to be honest and genuine about personal beliefs, identity and personal expression that may go against societal norms.

Carter now works in higher education planning student activities and advising student organizations. He likes to interweave humor and his original freethought music into his talks and workshops to make for an enjoyable and engaging experience.



RET Reflections Meeting 

May 24   Sunday 

No Reflections meeting in May.  Happy Memorial Day!

No Reflections meeting in May.  Happy Memorial Day!

_______________________________________________________________________

Need a face mask? 

Cliff Clark has 18 of the kind pictured below.  Email Cliff if you want to arrange to pick one up.

Cliff Clark has 18 of the kind pictured below.  Email Cliff if you want to arrange to pick one up.


          History of the Rationalists of East Tennessee                   

 As remembered by Phil King

Sharron and I heard about Jerry Sillman's group (The Reality Fellowship) in 1996 when we were attending a Vegetarian Society meeting at TVUUC.  Friend, Bob Grimac, was involved with the Vegetarian Society, and we had met Bob through our mutual associations with the Zero Population Group in Knoxville.

Sharron and I heard about Jerry Sillman's group (The Reality Fellowship) in 1996 when we were attending a Vegetarian Society meeting at TVUUC.  Friend, Bob Grimac, was involved with the Vegetarian Society, and we had met Bob through our mutual associations with the Zero Population Group in Knoxville.

At this meeting, we met Torsti Salo and Al Wiberly who informed us of a group, led by Jerry Sillman, and meeting from time to time.  “They don't do anything but talk,” Torsti said, “But you may be interested in that group.

We attended a meeting on a Thursday night (meetings then were weekly, during the week) – I THINK a meeting Jerry had set up to meet with visitor, Joe Barnhart, professor at the University of North Texas.  Joe, who grew up Baptist in the Knoxville area, was now a secular humanist and subsequently has become a good friend after he moved back into the area after retirement.

Early meetings were coordinated almost solely by Jerry Sillman and his wife, Ann.  They always sat at the front table in our room at the old Candy Factory (the community granted free access to this building for community groups).  Jerry had a tough time getting others to participate by giving talks or coordinating a discussion session.  He, a retired engineer from the Los Angeles area, was the spark plug.  Having, along with other TVUUC members, become disillusioned with encroaching “spiritualism” at TVUUC, Jerry started up this group with the help of Carl and Aleta Ledendecker.  They had obtained the mailing list of Center for Inquiry to contact area freethinkers.

The Sillmans and Ledendeckers did most of the administrative work for the group and were the backbones for the fledgling Reality Fellowship.  But there were others:  Fred and Anne Venditti, Ed and Mellrose Flockhart, among others.  Sharron and I started attending the meetings of this early group and enjoyed the fellowship among kindred spirits very much.

Sometime around 1997, a young biology professor at the University of Tennessee, Massimo Pigliucci, happened into a meeting of the Reality Fellowship.  He soon became a dynamic leader in the group and envisioned a broader role for the group within the community.  Massimo married Melissa Brenneman in 1998, and they, along with several others, began the process, in the early 2000s, of formalizing the group, obtaining tax-free status for the group, changing its name to, “The Rationalists of East Tennessee,” instituting a Board of Directors and adopting by-laws.  At some point during this time, because of disagreements among the Board of Directors, Jerry and Ann Sillman left the group and eventually returned to TVUUC.

In January 2006, the City of Knoxville sold the old Candy Factory to developers, and RET had to find a new home. RET moved its meetings to the campus of Pellissippi State Technical Community College, just off Hardin Valley Road – a site that is very convenient to Oak Ridge members as well as to Knoxville members.

In recent years, the group has grown in paid memberships to more than 100 members.  Rationalists of East Tennessee conducts regular meetings four times per month, including  “Skeptic Book Club” and a “Reflections” meetings.  Every year, near the time of the sun's solstices, RET has a party.  And a public outreach program is sponsored every year in springtime.

What probably sets the Rationalists of East Tennessee apart from other liberal, religious groups in the area is its insistence for, and emphasis on, a natural world – and its lack of toleration for “spiritual” or supernatural explanations.  The group has become an island - an oasis - for freethinkers, skeptics, secular humanists, agnostics and atheists in East Tennessee.

At this meeting, we met Torsti Salo and Al Wiberly who informed us of a group, led by Jerry Sillman, and meeting from time to time.  “They don't do anything but talk,” Torsti said, “But you may be interested in that group.

We attended a meeting on a Thursday night (meetings then were weekly, during the week) – I THINK a meeting Jerry had set up to meet with visitor, Joe Barnhart, professor at the University of North Texas.  Joe, who grew up Baptist in the Knoxville area, was now a secular humanist and subsequently has become a good friend after he moved back into the area after retirement.

Early meetings were coordinated almost solely by Jerry Sillman and his wife, Ann.  They always sat at the front table in our room at the old Candy Factory (the community granted free access to this building for community groups).  Jerry had a tough time getting others to participate by giving talks or coordinating a discussion session.  He, a retired engineer from the Los Angeles area, was the spark plug.  Having, along with other TVUUC members, become disillusioned with encroaching “spiritualism” at TVUUC, Jerry started up this group with the help of Carl and Aleta Ledendecker.  They had obtained the mailing list of Center for Inquiry to contact area freethinkers.

The Sillmans and Ledendeckers did most of the administrative work for the group and were the backbones for the fledgling Reality Fellowship.  But there were others:  Fred and Anne Venditti, Ed and Mellrose Flockhart, among others.  Sharron and I started attending the meetings of this early group and enjoyed the fellowship among kindred spirits very much.

Sometime around 1997, a young biology professor at the University of Tennessee, Massimo Pigliucci, happened into a meeting of the Reality Fellowship.  He soon became a dynamic leader in the group and envisioned a broader role for the group within the community.  Massimo married Melissa Brenneman in 1998, and they, along with several others, began the process, in the early 2000s, of formalizing the group, obtaining tax-free status for the group, changing its name to, “The Rationalists of East Tennessee,” instituting a Board of Directors and adopting by-laws.  At some point during this time, because of disagreements among the Board of Directors, Jerry and Ann Sillman left the group and eventually returned to TVUUC.

In January 2006, the City of Knoxville sold the old Candy Factory to developers, and RET had to find a new home. RET moved its meetings to the campus of Pellissippi State Technical Community College, just off Hardin Valley Road – a site that is very convenient to Oak Ridge members as well as to Knoxville members.

In recent years, the group has grown in paid memberships to more than 100 members.  Rationalists of East Tennessee conducts regular meetings four times per month, including  “Skeptic Book Club” and a “Reflections” meetings.  Every year, near the time of the sun's solstices, RET has a party.  And a public outreach program is sponsored every year in springtime.

What probably sets the Rationalists of East Tennessee apart from other liberal, religious groups in the area is its insistence for, and emphasis on, a natural world – and its lack of toleration for “spiritual” or supernatural explanations.  The group has become an island - an oasis - for freethinkers, skeptics, secular humanists, agnostics and atheists in East Tennessee.

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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