Corvalis Secular Society is closed. Feel free to browse through our blog and newsletter archives, but there will be no new posts, and comments are disabled. Thank you for your interest...

Jun 24 2014

Corvallis Secular Society is closed

After 20 years of serving the Humanist/Atheist/Freethought needs of the mid-Willamette valley,


Corvallis Secular Society is closed.


Our blog and newsletter archive will remain for those who are curious, but no new posts will appear, and commenting has been disabled.

Feel free to EMAIL ME, if you have any questions or thoughts.

Thank you for 20 wonderful years…

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Jun 05 2014

A Congressional Update from Congressman Schrader

The following is from US Representative Kurt Schrader

Dear Friend,

Last week, President Obama announced the postponement of our complete withdrawal of ground forces from Afghanistan until 2016. This news comes as members of the Oregon National Guard are set to deploy to Afghanistan in the coming months. For many of these men and women, this will not be their first tour of duty. Their stories of heroism and sacrifice, experienced not only by those in uniform but their families as well, are an inspiration to us all.

I support our military’s efforts to engage our enemies wherever they may be, and the United States was right to take out the Taliban after 9/11. But now, almost 13 years later, we continue to play an active role in Afghanistan’s security operations. While I remain deeply committed to ensuring that our service members and their families continue to have all they need to fulfill their mission, the time has come for Afghanistan to assume full responsibility for their own security and for the United States to focus on our stagnant economy.

My work here in Washington has always been directed at putting Oregonians back to work. Passage of O & C lands legislation in the House last summer will help put folks back to work in the woods, and I am hopeful the Senate will follow suit. Earlier this year, Congress passed the 2014 Farm Bill, which will provide new opportunities for jobs and prosperity in our agriculture communities in Oregon where little hope existed before. I am also supportive of investing federal dollars into repairing our crumbling infrastructure. This would create good, family-wage jobs; and improving our roads, bridges and ports would also have a positive effect on our economy by allowing for the easy transportation of goods and services.

Most recently, I introduced legislation – called the BUILD Act – that would authorize the distribution of funds to local school districts to support and grow their Career and Technical Education programs. Ensuring that our young people have the skills they will need to compete in the global economy after graduation is part of my plan to build a 21st century workforce in Oregon.

With millions still unemployed after the financial crisis, the national debt over $17 trillion, and an antiquated tax system that is creating economic uncertainty for our businesses, Congress has a lot on its plate. While we need to continue to take the fight to terrorists around the world, our central focus must be the home front. What better gift could we give our brave men and women overseas than to greet them upon their return with a booming economy and a VA health system that works? This will continue to be my focus, and I hope my colleagues in Congress and the President will join me.

As always, it is an honor to represent you in Congress, and I look forward to your feedback. For more frequent updates, I encourage you to like my Facebook page, follow my Twitter account and subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Kurt Schrader
Member of Congress

Congressman Kurt Schrader represents the 5th District of Oregon.

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Jun 02 2014

One of the average person’s best friends in the House

The following is from US Representative Peter DeFazio

Dear Friends,

Our economy is slowly recovering from the brutal 2008 recession, but hardworking Americans and small businesses are still struggling to make ends meet. While there are no quick fixes to turn our economy around overnight, I want to update you on my work in Congress to boost our economic competitiveness, create jobs, and improve the lives of Oregonians.

Investing in Our Infrastructure Future

I was very pleased that in a rare show of bipartisanship, Congress passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA). WRRDA authorizes funding for navigation, flood control and environmental restoration projects. Since the earmark ban, Oregon’s small ports have been slowly silting in, putting our fishermen and their livelihoods at greater risk. As a member of the House-Senate conference committee that negotiated the final bill, I was able to set aside funding for small ports, which will help keep Oregon’s ports open and safe, create jobs, and ensure our coastal communities are able to thrive. This is a great example of federal infrastructure investments being leveraged into jobs and as a result, a stronger economy.

Despite this victory, we must still resolve another infrastructure crisis – our rapidly deteriorating transportation system. While other nations are investing in modern transportation programs, the U.S. is about to let the Highway Trust Fund run dry, eventually ceasing all highway and transit projects. This will mean the loss of about $470 million in federal funds to Oregon and will put at least 700,000 jobs at risk nationally, according to the Department of Transportation. I am currently leading the fight in Congress to create a long-term, sustainable funding mechanism for the Highway Trust Fund to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and put Americans back to work.

Investing in our transportation infrastructure is not only necessary to repair our deteriorating highway system, rebuild the 150,000 structurally-deficient bridges (American Society of Civil Engineers), or deal with the $86 billion transit deficit (Department of Transportation). It is also the best way to create jobs, make our economy more competitive, and provide a lasting benefit to future generations. The Department of Transportation estimates that every $1 billion invested in transportation infrastructure creates or sustains more than 34,000 jobs and produces $6.2 billion in economic activity. These are not just construction jobs. They are private sector jobs in engineering, technical support, architectural design, manufacturing, and small businesses. If we are serious about helping hardworking Americans recover, we need to make investments in America’s future that create jobs and boost the economy.

Keeping Jobs at Home

One of the great things about investing in infrastructure is that we can’t export those jobs. Building a bridge or dredging a port is by necessity American jobs. Unfortunately, that is not true for other manufacturing jobs. It is unconscionable that Americans continue to struggle to find work to put food on their tables and take care of their families, while multinational corporations continue to push outsourcing free trade agreements, evade paying their fair share of taxes, and ship jobs overseas.
Unfortunately, our failed trade policies have led to the export of millions of high-paying jobs and decimated our manufacturing sector. During my entire Congressional career I have vigorously spoken out and voted against every single free trade agreement (FTA), including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). According to the Economic Policy Institute, NAFTA directly displaced more than one million U.S. jobs and 14,000 in Oregon. I am currently leading the fight against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the latest FTA that is being negotiated in secret. The TPP is being touted as the first ever “living agreement,” which would mean any country could join after the agreement has been signed and ratified – including China. An FTA with China would spell the end of our domestic manufacturing capacity and take more jobs away from hardworking Americans.

During my entire time in Congress I have also fought against the use of offshore tax havens and other loopholes often exploited by U.S. corporations to avoid taxation. I have voted against adding hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit to make corporate tax subsidies permanent. I am also currently a cosponsor of two pieces of legislation to combat tax abuses – the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act and the International Tax Competitiveness Act. These bills would make sure corporations who make a profit here in the U.S. pay their fair share and keep jobs at home.

U.S. trade policy and a tax code that favors the rich have made it easier for multinational corporations to chase the cheapest wages around the world at the expense of U.S. workers. For far too long, multinational corporations have dominated the conversation on trade policy and taxes to suit their bottom line, which is increased corporate profits, not investment in America and its workers.

Certainty for Rural Communities

While the rest of the state has slowly recovered from the recession, rural communities in western Oregon have been left in the dust. County budgets have been slashed, forcing deep and painful cuts to critical services like sheriff’s patrols, jail beds, and public health programs.

For three years, I have worked on a bipartisan basis to help counties on the brink of financial disaster. The O&C bill that I wrote with Reps. Walden and Schrader – and which passed the House of Representatives last September – would generate as much as $90 million a year and create thousands of new private sector timber jobs for cash-strapped rural Oregon counties. The bill also includes critical Secure Rural Schools transition payments that will sustain counties until the long-term management plan is implemented. Under this bill, failing, rural Oregon counties will receive an estimated $166 million for essential government services like education, roads, and law enforcement.

Any solution must balance the preservation of our environment for future generations and the preservation of rural, timber dependent communities through sustainable forest management. I am still working with Senator Wyden to finalize a balanced plan that can pass both the Republican-controlled House and the Democratically-controlled Senate so it can be signed into law. While there has been a lot of noise surrounding this issue from both sides, this legislation is still a work in progress and I am confident that we can continue working with all stakeholders to finalize a plan that protects our conservation values and provides financial certainty for vital public services.

Protecting Innovation and Small Businesses

If we want the U.S. to be a global leader in innovation, we need to protect American inventors and small businesses from the frivolous litigation tactics of patent trolls. Patent trolls use vague patents to threaten companies with patent infringement lawsuits in hopes of extorting a quick settlement. When the companies decide to settle instead of spending millions going to court, they have to put off expanding their business and hiring more workers, which is a huge blow to our economy. This issue not only affects large tech companies, but also retailers, coffee shops, credit unions, airlines, and many other industries.

I was the first Member of Congress to introduce legislation aimed at deterring patent trolls. I was also the lead Democrat on a recent anti-troll bill, the bipartisan Innovation Act, H.R. 3309, which passed the House 325-91 earlier this year. The Senate recently held a hearing on patent trolls, and I will continue to urge my colleagues in the Senate to take up the Innovation Act so we can put an end to this lucrative extortion racket and allow businesses to thrive.

Throughout my time in Congress, I have worked to level the playing field for ordinary Americans. I will continue to fight for investments in infrastructure, make sure corporations pay their fair share, and reform our failed trade policies – all of which will strengthen our economy and put Americans back in living wage jobs. Unfortunately, some of my colleagues subscribe to faulty economic policies that stymie job creation and cater to special interests and corporations. I will continue to stand up against this Washington, D.C. insider mentality, advocate for working families who are struggling to make ends meet, and build an economy that works for everyone.


Peter DeFazio

Congressman Peter DeFazio represents the 4th District of Oregon.

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May 31 2014

Ron Reagan, not afraid to burn in hell, promotes atheism in TV spot

“Hi I’m Ron Reagan, an unabashed atheist.”

Ron Reagan

People don’t usually spout off about their atheism, so I was curious what led him to make the spot. Thursday, I reached Reagan, an MSNBC contributor, in Seattle, where he has lived after leaving Los Angeles in 1994.

He sounded subdued, and said he has not been working much, having just suffered through a personal tragedy. On March 24, he said, his wife of 33 years, Doria Palmieri Reagan, died of complications from a progressive neuromuscular disease that she developed seven-and-a-half years ago. A clinical psychologist, Doria Reagan was seven years older than her husband.

But he had made a promise to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which honored him in 2009, and he felt obligated to keep it. Reagan has been a nonbeliever since childhood, he said, and is surprised when people react with incredulity when they hear it.

Reagan, who, like his mother former First Lady Nancy Reagan, has advocated for stem cell research, said he worries that religion “often goes hand in hand with ignorance and scientific illiteracy.”

“I think what troubles me – whether it’s religiously inspired or not – is the ignorance, foolishness, and I might say, stupidity, in this country. This championing of anti-intellectual, anti-science, scientifically illiterate theories and lack of critical thinking is disturbing. Climate change is such a handy example.”

Religion, he said, is “delusion.”

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May 30 2014

Leaving Islam for atheism, and finding a much-needed place among peers

Women coming out as atheists

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Women talked about “coming out,” being open with their families, leaving “the closet” at a conference here this month. But the topic was not sexuality. Instead, the women, attending the third Women in Secularism conference were talking about being atheists. Some grew up Catholic, some Jewish, some Protestant — but nearly all described journeys of acknowledging atheism first to themselves, then to loved ones. Going public was a last, often painful, step.

Anyone leaving a close-knit belief-based community risks parental disappointment, rejection by friends and relatives, and charges of self-loathing. The process can be especially difficult and isolating for women who have grown up Muslim, who are sometimes accused of trying to assimilate into a Western culture that despises them.

“It was incredibly painful,” Heina Dadabhoy, 26, said during a discussion called “Women Leaving Religion,” which also featured three former Christians and one formerly observant Jew, the novelist Rebecca Newberger Goldstein. “My entire life, my identity, was being a good Muslim woman.”

Ms. Dadabhoy, a web developer who lives in Orange County, Calif., and who often gives talks about leaving Islam, said the hardest part of the process was opening up to her family.

“The sense they got was where I was turning my back on them,” Ms. Dadabhoy said. Her parents accused her of thinking that she was better than her grandparents and other ancestors. “You think what you have is better than what we have? You think you’re like those white people,” Ms. Dadabhoy recalled them saying.

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May 24 2014

House bans Pentagon from preparing for climate change

Amendment sponsored by Rep. David McKinley (R-WV)

WASHINGTON, May 23 (UPI) —The Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted mostly along party lines Thursday to approve an amendment to the $600 billion National Defense Authorization Act which prohibits the Pentagon from using any of its budget to address climate change and specifically instructs the Department of Defense to ignore the latest scientific reports on the threats posed by global warming.

The Pentagon itself in its later 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review said: “Climate change poses another significant challenge for the United States and the world at large. As greenhouse gas emissions increase, sea levels are rising, average global temperatures are increasing, and severe weather patterns are accelerating.”

In a letter to the House before Thursday’s vote, Democratic Reps. Henry Waxman and Bobby Rush wrote the “McKinley amendment” is “science denial at its worst and it fails our moral obligation to our children and grandchildren.”

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May 20 2014

Americans Would Rather Vote For A Philandering, Pot-Smoking President Than An Atheist One

Atheists: “The most disliked and distrusted minority group in the nation.”

Americans would more likely support a philandering presidential candidate than an atheist one — by an 18 percent margin — according to a Pew Research Center poll published Monday.

While 35 percent of respondents said they would be less likely to support a presidential candidate who had an extramarital affair, 53 percent of Americans indicated that not believing in God — the trait viewed most negatively of the 16 tested — would make them unsupportive of a candidate.

In accordance with a widely cited study by the University of Minnesota, which found atheists to be the most disliked and distrusted minority group in the nation, only 5 percent of respondents said they would be more likely to vote for a secular candidate.

The Pew survey, which questioned 1,501 adults nationwide from April 23 to 27, also found a significant partisan divide on the issue.

While 70 percent of Republicans and 42 percent of Democrats expressed opposition to an atheist candidate, 49 percent of Democrats viewed a potential candidate’s atheism as irrelevant.

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May 06 2014

Saudi Arabia calls for criticism of religion to be outlawed in Norway

The danger to freedom around the world by Islam cannot be overstated

Saudi Arabia has called for all criticism of religion and of the prophet Mohammed to be made illegal in Norway. The call came during the United Nation’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Norway this week. The UPR is a process by which the UN reviews a selection of member states on their human rights performance.

Saudi Arabia is known for being one of the most restrictive countries in the world when it comes to freedom of religion or belief and abusing human rights. Amongst its plethora of oppressive laws, homosexuality is a crime punishable by death, women are not allowed to drive and are subjected to a medieval male guardianship system. Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia introduced a series of laws, which defined atheists as terrorists.

Saudi Arabia’s call for making the criticism of religion and of the prophet Mohhamed illegal in Norway, comes after it and other members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) sought, for a number of years, to make defamation of religion a crime internationally.

Before the UPR hearing, Norway’s’ foreign minister, Borge Brende commented on the paradoxical nature of the UN Human Rights process. He said, “It is a paradox that countries which do not support fundamental human rights have influence on the council, but that is the United Nations,”

The International Human Rights Rank Indicator places Norway 1st and Saudi Arabia 205th. Along with Russia, Saudi Arabia was elected to the Human Rights council last year, amid condemnation from many Human Rights campaigners. Its term will expire in 2016.

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Apr 30 2014

Freethought news – 2014-04-30

Christianity’s faith-based freakout: Why atheism makes believers so uncomfortable

Why do so many religious believers want atheists to lie about our atheism?

It seems backward. Believers are always telling atheists that we need religion for morality; that we have to believe because without religion, people would have no reason not to murder and steal and lie. And yet, all too often, they ask us to lie. When atheists come out of the closet and tell the people in our lives that we don’t believe in God, all too often the reaction is to try to shove us back in.

In some cases, they simply want us to keep our mouths shut: when the topic of religion comes up, they want us to tell the lie of omission. But much of the time, they actually ask us to lie outright. They ask us to lie to other family members. They ask us to attend church or other religious services. They sometimes even ask us to perform important religious rituals, like funerals or confirmations, where we’re not just lying to the people around us, but to the god they supposedly believe in.

Why would they do this?

When I was doing research for my new guidebook, “ Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why,” I was shocked at how often this happens. I read over 400 “coming out atheist” stories to write this book, and in the stories I read, this theme came up again and again and again.


Mississippi’s horrific approach to sex education

When Mississippi passed a law requiring school districts to teach sex education, it was a great victory. After all, 76 percent of the state’s teenagers report having sex before they graduate from high school, and Mississippi has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country, currently standing at 50 births per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19 in 2011.

But what was supposed to educate and inform teenagers in the state has turned into a big joke. For example, the sex education curriculum in Oxford, Miss., allegedly has students unwrap a piece of chocolate, pass it around class and take note how dirty it becomes. It’s a disgraceful parallel of comparing a young woman to a piece of candy, to drive home the point that a girl is dirty, unworthy and used if she has sex. This is not the kind of sex education that needs to be taught in our nation’s schools.

Right now in Mississippi, the law requires school districts to choose between abstinence-only programs that encourage students to wait until marriage to have sex, or “abstinence-plus” programs that urge abstinence but also teach about contraception. The problem with the “abstinence-plus” program is that although it allows lessons on contraception and STDs, it prohibits students from learning how to use condoms. Teachers are also forbidden to discuss abortion of any kind.


Man accused of abusing 2 girls in ‘Maidens Group’

MINNEAPOLIS — Authorities were searching Tuesday for a self-professed minister accused of sexually abusing at least two girls in a “Maidens Group” at his religious fellowship in rural Minnesota, where he told one victim she would remain a virgin because he was a “man of God,” according to a criminal complaint.

Victor Arden Barnard is facing 59 counts of criminal sexual conduct related to two young women who said they were abused for nearly a decade at his secluded River Road Fellowship. The 52-year-old was last known to be in the Spokane, Wash., area where the fellowship resettled soon after the investigation began in Minnesota, Pine County Chief Deputy Steven Blackwell said Tuesday.

Washington state’s fugitive task force and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security also are searching for him. People associated with the group in Washington have been uncooperative, Blackwell said.

Barnard kept the Maidens isolated and used “religious coercion and intimidation” to maintain his control, Blackwell said Tuesday, adding: “It’s certainly cult-like behavior.”

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Apr 24 2014

Freethought news – 2014-04-24

U.S. Army approves ‘Humanist’ category as religious preference

WASHINGTON (RNS) More than two years after first making his request, Army Maj. Ray Bradley can now be known as exactly what he is: a humanist in the U.S. military. “I’m able to self-identity the belief system that governs my life, and I’ve never been able to do that before,” said Bradley, who is stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina and works on supporting readiness of the Army Reserve’s medical staff.

Lt. Col. Sunset R. Belinsky, an Army spokeswoman, said Tuesday (April 22) that the “preference code for humanist” became effective April 12 for all members of the Army.

Army Humanists no longer invisible

While soldiers can choose what religion appears in their official military records, they are limited to a list of “faith codes” approved by the Army Chaplaincy. Despite repeated requests by me and others, the Army has, for years, resisted adding “Humanist” to that list. This week, however, “Humanist” will become an officially approved faith code, and I will finally be able to accurately identify my belief preferences on my official records.

Until this week, we could choose between “atheist” or “no religious preference.” These codes do not reflect my actual identity as a Humanist. Humanism is a non-theistic, progressive system of beliefs based around the moral values of compassion, pursuit of knowledge, and commitment to human rights. These principles help me through life’s challenges and provide me with a sense of purpose to experience life to its fullest in the same way that religious individuals are guided by their faith tenets.

The ability to accurately identify myself in my official Army records as a Humanist is not only a matter of personal integrity and dignity, but it also has important implications for my military service. These records are used by promotion boards, academic selections boards, supervisors, and commanders to see who I am, where I was born, my marital status, and other data. Upon arrival at a new duty station, this data provides key information for assigning a sponsor best suited to assist service members and their families settle into a new community. In addition, with the approval of the Humanist faith code, I and other Humanists can now ask for support from the Army Chaplaincy, including space to gather regularly and to have these meetings advertised as other religious services are.


Turkey’s first official atheism association founded

The first Atheism Association has been officially founded in Turkey, becoming a legal address in an effort to stand up for the rights of atheists in the country, daily Radikal has reported. “No atheists will be alone anymore, either on the streets or in courts,” the association said via its official Twitter account. It also invited “everyone who wants to meet or be a member” to its office, located in Istanbul’s Kadıköy district.

In an interview with daily Agos last month, the founders of the Initiative of Atheism Association, Tolga İnci and Ahmet Balyemez, said they thought there should be a place to provide legal support to people facing problems as atheists.

“Even saying ‘I am an atheist’ has begun to mean an insult to Islam in Turkey. The prime minister’s remarks that ‘every atheist is a terrorist’ are being taken as normal,” they said in the interview. “We need to say ‘we are here’ as atheists … We are not related to any ideology. We want to approach atheism scientifically, not ideologically.”


Much Ado About Nothingness: Was Shakespeare an atheist? Or more of a secular humanist?

Adapted from The Science of Shakespeare: A New Look at the Playwright’s Universe by Dan Falk, out now from Thomas Dunne Books.

Just as “science,” in the sense we use the word today, didn’t quite exist in Shakespeare’s day, atheism, too, was absent in its modern, Dawkins-like form. The word “atheism” begins to crop up in English writing in the 16th century, almost always as a put-down; the term was used as a derogatory label, bestowed on anyone imagined to hold heretical views of one kind or another.

Even so, the seeds of unbelief had been planted. In A Short History of Atheism, Gavin Hyman points to the years from 1540 to 1630 as a period in which “the notion of a worldview that was entirely outside a theistic framework was … gradually becoming conceivable.” As it happens, Shakespeare’s life falls wholly within this transitional period (he was born 450 years ago); and, just as his works hint at the beginnings of science, so, too, do they hint at the possibility of unbelief.

Shakespeare was certainly friendly with England’s most famous alleged atheist of the time, the playwright Christopher Marlowe. Just over a dozen lines into Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta, the Italian political thinker Niccolò Machiavelli (anglicized to “Machevil”) declares, “I count religion but a childish toy … “ Doctor Faustus, Marlowe’s most important play, was even more dangerous. Faustus declares, “I think hell’s a fable”—and the playwright may well have agreed.

In King Lear and the Gods, Elton presents a kind of checklist of what makes a “Renaissance skeptic”—denying divine providence, denying the immortality of the soul, placing mankind among the beasts, denying God’s role as creator of the universe, attributing to nature what is properly the work of God—and then shows that Lear, over the course of the play, develops into precisely such a skeptic. It is a gradual process, but it is relentless: “Lear’s disillusionment, once begun, sweeps all before it, toppling the analogical edifices of God and man, divine and human justice.” As Mallin put it in our interview, King Lear is “essentially a godless document”; it describes a world “emptied of divinity.”

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