RET News September 2017 CE

Rationalists of East Tennessee Newsletter

September 2017


RET First Sunday Meeting

September 3          Sunday            10:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

Pellissippi State Community College, Goins Administration Building, Cafeteria Annex

“Current Events”

If there are any current events that you would like to discuss, please bring them with you. Otherwise, we will discuss 4–5 recent happenings and how they affect our day-to-day lives.

Get Directions


RET Board Meeting

September 10         Sunday           11:30 a.m.                         

Earth Fare, Turkey Creek, Knoxville

[RET members are always welcome to attend Board Meetings.]


RET Skeptic Book Club

September 10          Sunday           2:004:00 p.m.                         

Books-A-Million at 8513 Kingston Pike, Knoxville 37919

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance.

Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating throughout forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. The Vance family’s story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hope of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility. But as the family saga plays out, we learn that this is only the short, superficial version. Vance’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother, struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life and were never able to fully escape the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. Vance piercingly shows how he himself still carries the demons of their chaotic family history. Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country. (272 pages)


RET Third Sunday Meeting

September 17           Sunday           10:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

Pellissippi State Community College, Goins Administration Building, Cafeteria Annex

“Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes”

This DVD presentation from the Skeptics Society Distinguished Lecture Series features geneticist Svante Pääbo, founder of the field of ancient DNA and director of the department of genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. “Neanderthal Man” tells the story of his mission to answer the question of what we can learn from the genes of our closest evolutionary relative, culminating in his sequencing of the Neanderthal genome in 2009. We learn that Neanderthal genes offer a unique window into the lives of our hominin relatives and may hold the key to unlocking the mystery of why humans survived while Neanderthals went extinct. Drawing on genetic and fossil clues, Pääbo explores what is known about the origin of modern humans and their relationship to the Neanderthals and describes the fierce debate surrounding the nature of the two species’ interactions.


Important Messages

NOTIFICATION: Changes to BylawsSpecial Meeting in October!

A special meeting will be held at the beginning of the first Sunday meeting on October 1 for members to vote on changes to the by-laws. Please watch for an email containing the proposed changes and instructions for proxy voting.

Help Sponsor Freethought Forum TV

We need your help to keep FFTV on the air. Regular RET membership dues have never covered Freethought Forum TV expenses, and individual contributions so far are not enough to pay for studio costs. Each 60-minute show costs $1.00 per broadcast minute. These important shows allow nonbelievers to reach cable TV viewers in the Knoxville area and also internet viewers via Our time slot at 5:00 p.m. on Tuesdays may be seen by viewers of all ages and engage those who might otherwise never know about alternatives to religious world views. We cannot know how large our viewership is, but we can know that, if we go off the air, the viewership will be zero.

Please consider sponsoring a show at approximately $60, and let us know if we may acknowledge your support by displaying your initials in the show credits. For further information, contact Lee Erickson (865-805-2437). To make a contribution, contact treasurer Eliot Specht. Your sponsorship of shows will help keep annual membership dues as low as possible for others who may not be able to financially support FFTV.

Become a First/Third Sunday Program Organizer

Now is your chance to shape the Sunday program topics. Ralph Isler and Aleta Ledendecker are interested in turning over the organization of programs for our two Sunday meetings. Ralph, who usually arranges the third Sunday, says he will definitely retire from the position by next year. Aleta, who with Carl’s help arranges the first Sunday, would also like to step down by next year. We need volunteers now to help arrange programs so those persons are nicely prepared. To volunteer, contact Aleta or Ralph.

Remember to Submit Questions for October Program

Angela Allred of the Knox County Health Department will be presenting a talk on Emergency Preparedness at our October 1 meeting. She suggested that we let people know so they can submit specific questions before the presentation. That way she can research anything she may not already have an answer for. Questions should be sent to Aleta Ledendecker, who will forward them to Angela.


RET Skeptics Book ClubBooks List

[If you use these links to buy from Amazon, RET receives a rebate.] 

    Rationalists of East Tennessee Website

    Information about the workings of RET is available online to members. Minutes of Board of Directors meetings are at There is also a forum for member postings at

    News of Members

    Please contact us ( if you have relevant news about RET members that they agree to share.


    Ongoing Activities                              

    Atheist Society of Knoxville, Tuesdays, 5:30 p.m.
    Flats and Taps, 7403 Kingston Pike, Knoxville, TN 37919. Conversation, food, and drink. ASK is sponsoring a major fundraiser called “Ending Hunger,” which aims to raise $5000 and put 20,000 meals into Knoxville area food pantries. To learn more and donate, go to <> and click the “donate” button. Be sure to mention Event 113 in the special instruction to ensure your contribution goes to this event. 

    East Tennessee Freedom from Religion Foundation Chapter, September 20, Wednesday, 6:30 p.m.
    Third Wednesday of each month, Earth Fare, Turkey Creek, Knoxville.

    RET/ASK Freethought Forum TV, Tuesdays, 5:00–6:00 p.m.
    Knoxville: Comcast-12, Charter-193,Wow-6, and AT&T U-verse 99; free streaming on ctvknox.orgNote change: Because of Knoxville Beer Board meeting changes, there will be no FFTV on varying Tuesdays once a month. 
    Freethought Forum TV is looking for people to be on the show. Contact Larry Rhodes or Lee Erickson (865-805-2437) if you are interested. Immediately after the show, a co-host of the program holds the Atheist Society of Knoxville meet-up at Flats and Taps, 7403 Kingston Pike, Knoxville 37919. 

    Sunday Assembly Knoxville (Live Better, Help Often, Wonder More), September 24, 10:30 a.m. Topic: Comedy.
    The International, 940 Blackstock Avenue, Knoxville 37921. For activities, go to the Sunday Assembly website and click on “Events Calendar.” Other Sunday Assembly sites: Facebook, Meetup, Email.



    God Is Not Funny (And That Makes God Unconvincing). No depiction of God in any religion renders God as having a sense of humor, and humor is a very high virtue that humans prize. God supposedly has all other human virtues to an infinite degree. We are good and God is infinitely good. We are smart and God is infinitely smart. We are kind and God is infinitely kind. We are witty and funny, so why isn’t God infinitely witty and funny? Why can’t God tell the funniest joke anyone has ever heard—a joke so funny that you would literally die laughing at it? (Cf. George Smith on this.)
    ― J. H. McKenna. 21 Times Unconvinced About God []

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    Opinions expressed are those of authors and/or editors and are not necessarily the opinions of RET.