WHO WE ARE
The Morganton Humanist Alliance is a secular support and community action group for those who value compassion, rationality, and critical thinking. We are a chapter of the American Humanist Association.
2017 WINTER PARTY
For so many has the table
Been prepared, the house set in order.
From their wandering, many
Come on dark paths to this gateway.
The tree of grace is flowering in gold
Out of the cool sap of the earth.
But see: in pure light, glowing
There on the table: bread and wine.~Georg Trakl
On January 18, members congregated at Jesse and Courtney’s home for the first annual MHA Winter Party. The potluck was incredible, the atmosphere sublime, and the company perfect!
Humanists picked guitars, told stories around fire pits, laughed, danced, consumed a banquet, and generally made merry. It was the perfect remedy for winter doldrums and a wonderful opportunity to have fellowship with like minded humans.
On January 21, MHA members turned out in force to join hundreds of other concerned citizens for the Women’s March on Morganton which was held in conjunction with the Women’s March on Washington and over 250 sister marches worldwide. Per The Women’s March on Morganton website, the march was organized as a positive experience to “uplift women, invalidate discrimination, and raise much-needed awareness for issues such as equal pay, healthcare, and education.”
PINTS FOR PEOPLES
On February 13, our good friends at Brown Mountain Bottleworks hosted a benefit for the MHA Ronno Cooke Memorial Scholarship. The outpouring of love and generosity from our community for this special cause was incredible!
Karla Busch, Ed Gildea, Courtney Christenbury, John Clark, Isaac Crouch, Meredith Potter, Josh Propst, and Jesse Meyers took turns at the MHA information table. Brown Mountain Bottleworks donated $1 for every pint of draft beer sold all day! The two Pints for Peoples benefits have generated $1000 in scholarship funds!
ATHEIST? AGNOSTIC? NEITHER? OR BOTH?
by Rusty Harrison, MHA member and newsletter editor
A·the·ist – a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods.
Ag·nos·tic – a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.
Atheism answers the question, “Do you believe a god exists?” This should be distinguished from the common misconception that atheism answers the question, “Does a god exist?” It does not.
The evidence for the existence of all 4000-odd gods and goddesses people have worshiped from the beginning of recorded time is identical:
- Personal, spiritual experiences have led the believer to an intuitive sense or “gut feeling” that his/her god is real.
- Other people within the believer’s culture (especially respected people in positions of authority) share a belief in said god.
- The believer has been exposed to stories passed on through the spoken or written word indicating the existence of the god in question.
Since Christian God, Muslim God, the Greek gods, the Roman gods, the Nordic gods, the gods from shamanistic cultures, and so on are all validated subjectively, they each have an equal likelihood of existing.
One could create stories of a newly invented god and convince others to believe in this new god. If successful, belief in the newly invented god would eventually inspire in the same spiritual “feelings” that have been used to validate established gods. Any entity conjured up by the human mind has the same likelihood of existing as any of the gods and goddesses worshiped by humans.
So, based on the low probability that established or newly invented gods are real, the atheist makes the claim, “I don’t believe god exists.”
Agnosticism answers a different question, “Can we know if god exists?” Agnostic is also a term that needs some clarification. Many consider the agnostic a fence sitter who thinks that god’s existence is as likely as not.
In a universe of infinite time and space, anything is possible. We truly cannot know for certain that god(s) do not exist. We cannot know for certain that fairies and leprechauns do not exist. It is possible that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles exist in another dimension. The probability of this is astronomically low. However, the probability that the Ninja Turtles exist in another dimension is identical to the probability that Thor and Odin exist in Valhalla or that Jesus and Allah exist in their respective heavens.
So, the agnostic states that he/she cannot know if god exists (but does not necessarily consider the likelihood of existence equal to that of non-existence). And, the atheist states that, based on the available evidence, he/she does not believe god exists.
WISDOM FROM ROB
by Rob Nelson, MHA member and board secretary
The NY Times called humanism the “gentler, kinder cousin of atheism.” I kind of like that… We aren’t technically atheists, but our focus on making sense of the world using both reason and our own hearts, WITHOUT the need of anything supernatural, means that “God” is left out of how we think about the world, for the most part. We aim to be “Good Without a God.” And although some individual humanists may be anti-religion, our spirit as a group is positive and inclusive. So it’s not our aim to tear religion down like some vocal atheists try to do. We spend our time trying to do good things for the community since we feel a deep sense of connection to our fellow human beings. We are there as a group to help each other and to help people in need, just like churches and other religious groups. There’s just no theology behind it – just a sense that what unites us as human beings is greater than what divides us.
“Well, that’s the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”
I’ve begun to think of the Humanist Alliance very much as a small town, like the fictional one in Garrison Keillor’s running monolog, with each of us unwittingly appearing in the cast of characters simply by being who we actually are. Rob Nelson
MHA MEETINGS AND INFORMATION:
Regular meetings are held the first Thursday of every month at 7:00 pm, usually at Western Piedmont Community College, JBH 160
Social gatherings are held the second Thursday of every month. Locations will be announced as events are posted.
Family gatherings are held monthly, alternating between a Saturday and a Sunday. Dates and locations will be announced when the events are posted.
For information about the American Humanist Association, visit their website.