The Secular Times: Issue 6

Midsummer Equinox Fairy Fiesta Party

Lucy and Mike Mull converted their home into fairyland and provided entertainment for all ages. Humanists enjoyed a delicious potluck, home grown music, stars, fairy wings, fairy jars, a jumping castle water slide, a mystical campfire, and myriad libations. Made us all wish Midsummer lasted forever!

Paddy’s Creek Trip

Humanists young and old(er) descended on Paddy’s Creek for fun, sand, water, fellowship, and sun… well maybe not so much sun. Thanks to Nicole Anne for bringing us together come hell, rain, or high water!

“I think I have a true talent for planning events – boat sinking and kids nearly drowning in May and today we got rained out!! At least we had about 4 hours before the downpour started!! Thanks for everyone who braved the dark clouds with us!!” Nicole Anne

“Rain shmain… it was a fun day!!” Karla Busch

“We had a great time!” Lucy Mull

A Visit to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Caldwell County

by Morgan Nicole Frost, MHA member

So today some of us visited the UU of Caldwell County. I’m not the best at articulating but I’m going to try to give a recap of my perspective.

Attending any event with a toddler is a challenge. But, even though I was worried about his behavior, they welcomed everybody, including an active 2-year-old, with open arms. They made it clear that they enjoyed the sound of a child, which eased my anxiety some.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by a couple members. As more people arrived, the introductions continued. Nametags were provided for everybody. We went inside, did some socializing with the congregation, and enjoyed an assortment of muffins, cookies, coffee, tea, and more.

The service was a very pleasant experience, although I had some trouble attending due to my kid. The songs, readings, and introductions left a lot open for each person to gather from the words what they wanted. There wasn’t a religious feel to it, but rather more of love and inspiration. They lit candles to mark joyous news or concerns. FYI, John Clark has four kittens that need homes (info learned from his candle lighting). During the service, I believe they also read the UU statement of beliefs.

Afterward, we joined them for lunch. The meeting room was turned into one long family style eating table where we were able to interact as we ate. There was a tomato pie, broccoli and bacon salad, orzo salad, fresh fruits and veggies, too many entrees to mention, and an assortment of amazing desserts. One lady even made my plate while I wrangled the kid.

Here are some things that surprised me.

1. This particular congregation was older than I expected. There were quite a few elders there, but they were so open and accepting. Much more so than the elders I was raised with.

2. Not everybody associated with a congregation is going to shove their ideals down your throat. This was a nice discovery.

I could go on but I’ve bored you enough. All in all, it was a pleasant experience. I may go back eventually to visit again and get a second view, but I honestly feel it will be the same welcoming environment.

Fun and Games at Yianni’s with a Surprise Visit from UU of Caldwell County Congregants

MHA 2017-2018 Scholarship Awards

The Morganton Humanist Alliance (MHA) has awarded two scholarships to local students Kazoua Lor and Jarrett Patrick who will be attending Western Piedmont Community College this fall. The Ronno Cooke Memorial Scholarship is an annual scholarship for $500 awarded to selected students who reside in Burke County and will be attending Western Piedmont Community College.

Founded in March 2016, MHA is a secular support and community action group for those who value compassion, rationality, and critical thinking. The scholarship was founded on the group’s recognition of the indispensable value of education to society, and with a desire to remove the financial barriers some local students face in obtaining a college degree.

Ronno Cooke was a Burke County humanitarian whose life exemplified secular humanist values. Mr. Cooke was an artist and educator involved in conservation, green technology, occupational safety, rehabilitation, and progressive journalism.

The scholarship is made possible due to collaboration with Brown Mountain Bottleworks in downtown Morganton, where a quarterly “Pints For Peoples” fundraiser is hosted. During the event, one dollar is donated for each draft beverage purchased throughout the day.

Humanists Care about the Environment: Here are some helpful tips!

By Karl Busch, MHA Treasurer


You’ve probably heard about or witnessed many of the problems associated with using plastic bags, including excess litter, landfill costs, petroleum usage, danger to marine life, and so forth. For a refresher, check out 30 Breathtaking Reasons to Switch to Reusable Bags. Even if you thought you knew all of the reasons, we’ll bet you’ll learn something new (we did!).

But don’t despair! Recycling your plastic bags, wrap, and film in Burke County is easy. All it takes is a little effort and planning. The good news is that from your efforts, bags/wraps/film can get recycled and turned into new products, such as backyard decking, fences, playground equipment, pipes, and even new plastic bags. And they have a much better chance of staying out of our oceans.

Where to recycle plastic bags/film/wrap

At least nine locations in Burke County provide collection bins for plastic bags/wraps/film, including Ingles, Food Lion, Lowes Home Improvement, and the Walmart Supercenter. Click HERE and then enter your zip code for a complete list of collection sites near you.

What to recycle

Recycle only clean, dry plastic bags, wrap, and film (sometimes called stretch film), specifically:

  • Plastic bags from grocery and retail stores, newspapers, dry cleaning, bread, produce, and any other plastic bags labeled #2 and #4
  • Plastic bags and film that cover new furniture, electronics, or other products
  • Zip-close food storage bags (like all bags, these need to be clean and dry)
  • Plastic cereal box liners (If it tears like paper, do not include it; put it with your paper recycling instead.)
  • Plastic shipping envelopes, including Tyvek, bubble wrap, and air pillows (remove labels and/or deflate)
  • Product wrap used on paper towels, diapers, bathroom tissue, cases of water bottles, etc.
  • Any film packaging or bag that has the How2Recycle label for Plastic Bags/Film/Wrap
  • Be sure to remove paper receipts, stickers, and labels from the bags.

What NOT to recycle

DO NOT include any degradable/compostable film or bags, pre-washed salad mix bags, or frozen food bags.

DO NOT include any paper that crinkles loudly when you crush it in your hand (like candy wrappers, flower bouquet wrap or chip bags). These are made of a different kind of plastic and are not currently acceptable for recycling.

And importantly…

DO NOT put plastic bags/wrap/film in with the plastics, glass, etc., that you put out curbside or take to a municipal recycling drop-off station. The bags and wraps have to be clean and dry to be recycled, and collecting them in bins along with bottles and containers generally leaves them too dirty and wet to be recycled. Additionally, bags and films can jam sorting machinery, creating problems for the businesses that sort recyclables.

To learn more, check out

New Members

My name is Heidi Gould. I grew up in upstate NY and moved to North Carolina after college 16 years ago. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Strategic Leadership. I work for a private foster care agency. My family and I live in Lenoir. My husband and I have been married 11 years and have two and a half children. Our son, Brandon turns 11 this month, our daughter Katie is 3 1/2, and we just found out we are expecting another child on Thanksgiving Day later this year. Baby #3 was a complete surprise! I love volunteering, especially at my son’s school, Morganton Day School, and at the homeless shelter in Lenoir. I found about MHA from the Vasile Family. I was so excited to find like-minded individuals in this area. The fact that we ended the last MHA meeting with a TED video sealed the deal for me. I have found my people!

 I am Mark Vitrone. I joined MHA to support human solutions to human problems. I really enjoyed every time I have hung out with everyone. I only wish I had more time. I use logic and reason over mythology to understand what happens on earth. I am a teacher, an activist, and current Chair of the BCDP. I like to play guitar, to go boating, to hike, and to climb. My vision is to continue the cause of humanity.

My name is Kurt Loveland. I know that I have not told my story. Unlike most of us, my beginnings occurred at a young age and are self-actualized, but with tacit support from my parents. My sister and son in GSO have similar views!

Why You Can’t Always Trust Gut Feelings: A Lesson in Critical Thinking

By Rusty Harrison, MHA Newsletter Editor

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Morganton Humanist Alliance

A “gut feeling” is an automatic, cognitive, short-cut that provides a crude, organic, meta-analysis of the culmination of one’s entire life experience relating to a given concept.

Life experiences are three-fold. First, they involve sensations, real or imagined sensory stimulation from the environment such as light, sound, fragrance, texture, etcetera.

Second, experiences require cognitions and perceptions. These are your thoughts about the sensory stimuli. While driving, your eyes and brain may sense a red light, and then your mind interprets, “Oh, the car in front of me just put on the brakes.”

Third, experiences are bathed in varying levels of emotion. So, the car in front of you suddenly hits the brakes and you feel a quick twinge of fear that you may rear end the other car. Emotions are the body’s security system. They evolved as a mechanism to aid us in survival. Emotions warn us of danger and reward us for behaviors that have historically resulted in increased odds for survival of the species.

In the course of a lifetime, you have an incomprehensible number of experiences. Some of these experiences are available to the conscious mind, but most are not. It would be impossible to function if you had to process your lifetime of experiences every time you needed to answer a question or make a decision. So, the mind provides a shortcut we call the “gut feeling.”

If I ask, “Do you like raisins?” the answer will lie in an overview of every life experience you have ever had with the concept called “raisin” and the most dominant emotion relating to those experiences.

…raisins are dehydrated grapes

…the dancing California Raisins

…raisin bran cereal

…raisins look like flies

…raisins are high in antioxidants

…as a kid, I threw up after eating a box of raisins

…raisins are sweet

…raisins have a funny texture

…I got raisins in my lunchbox when I was in grade school

…raisins smell bad

…and on and on and on and on

Because filtering through these millions of experiences would be impossible and impractical, your mind makes a snapshot using the most powerful, overshadowing emotion related to the concept called, “raisin.” This provides your gut feeling and your answer… “No, raisins are gross.

Gut feelings are absolutely necessary to navigate the complex terrain of human life. Without them, we would be paralyzed. However, gut feelings are also the root of a fundamental cognitive error that interferes with individual and collective human advancement, “if it feels true, it is true.” Our nature, like all animals, is to accept gut feelings as “truth.” If I approach a squirrel with the intention of giving it a walnut, the squirrel’s gut feeling may be that I am a threat, so the squirrel runs away. The truth is that I intended to help the squirrel by giving it food. In this case, the squirrel’s gut feelings cost her a meal. Gut feelings are not the same as truth.  Validation of truth is not simple and automatic. Truth must be supported by reason and objective evidence.

So, if I am interested in finding “truth,” I must understand that my gut feeling is an extremely fallible resource completely dependent on my very limited and unique fund of life experiences. To find “truth,“ I must test my gut feeling against objective litmuses like logic, mathematics, physical properties, etc. The gut feeling is often a necessary place to start, but it can be a foolish place to end.

The ability to override “gut feelings” is the characteristic that enables the human to operate beyond the confines of biological and environmental programming. It is at the foundation of a developed intellect. Every animal on the planet is a slave to gut feelings. Throughout the majority of human history, we have operated exactly like every other species in this respect. However, the advent of formal logic and the scientific method has provided a means for humans to break the bonds of our animal nature and rise above superstition and intuition. It is a tragedy that so few take advantage of this magnificent opportunity.



Regular meetings are held the first Thursday of every month at 7:00 pm. Locations to be announced.

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 more information about the Morganton Humanist Alliance, check out our facebook page or email

For information about the American Humanist Association, visit their website.