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North Texas Church of Freethought
Unitarian Universalist Infidels newsletter
Suggestions from Humanists of West Suburban Chicagoland

North Texas Church of Freethought

From: "Timothy Gorski"
To: "Robert Park"
Subject: Re: A few questions
Date: Mon, 23 May 2005

RP - I was very interested to learn that you are a graduate of the UW Medical School. If you still have ties in Madison that bring you back on occasion, we'd love to have you talk to a monthly meeting of the Humanist Union of Madison (

I will keep that in mind. It's quite possible since my mother and one of my 4 brothers still live in Milwaukee.

RP - Have you ever attended a National Convention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (which, as you probably know, is based in Madison)? Perhaps you subscribe to their Freethought Today newspaper.

Yes, I am a Life Member of the FFRF. I think they do very good work.
best wishes,

At 09:32 PM 5/22/2005, you wrote:

Mr. Park,
Thanks for writing.
Yes, my work for the NTCOF is as an unpaid volunteer.
My doctorate is in medicine.  In fact, I graduated from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine right there in Madison, WI in 1982.  That education and subsequent training, of course, included experience in psychiatry and counseling.
We have not considered affiliating with other religious organizations as a) we have not felt the need to and b) we believe that we are pursuing a unique course in our explicit rejection of superstition even as we embrace the project of making sense of what are widely considered to be "religious" questions and issues within the context of a church community.
Dr. Tim Gorski, Pastoral Director
The North Texas Church of Freethought

Unitarian Universalist Infidels newsletter

Date: Mon, 23 May 2005
From: Robert Park
Subject: Fwd: Re: Dan Barker interview

I am also wondering if any part of "In Search of Reason" is going online. Posting a sample article or two from each issue, e.g., could aid in getting the word out and increase subscriber interest. Would you consider a including a state-by-state non-theistic event calendar in both your newsletter on your Web site? That could really help non-theists connect with each other.
Robert Park
Humanist Union of Madison

From: Dan Barker <>
Subject: Re: Dan Barker interview
Date: Mon, 23 May 2005 11:21:53 -0500
To: Robert Park <>

Robert, Timothy,

Thanks for doing this. I have added a link from my own page at

Is "In Search of Reason" going online?

Dan Barker

On May 21, 2005, at 4:32 PM, Robert Park wrote:

Thank you very much. The newsletter has arrived and last year's interview with Dan Barker is now posted, at, with a link to the UUI Web site at the top.

[Dan, if you wanted to link to the interview from the FFRF Web site, that would certainly be welcome. Also, if you wanted to email me the photo of yourself that I assume you provided to the Unitarian Universalist Infidels, I would glad to use that instead of the currently posted newsletter based one, to improve photo quality.]

At 11:10 AM 5/15/2005 -0400, you wrote:

I am mailing a copy of the Spring 2004 issue of In Search of Reason which has the Dan Barker interview. It is excellent, Dan answered Marilyn's questions very well. I do not have it in my computer so cannot e-mail it. U are welcome to copy and post it to the Humanist Union of Madison website. Please reference note it is from the newsletter and reference our website
Thanks for your support.
Timothy Travis
On Sat, 14 May 2005 14:01:21 -0500 Robert Park <> writes:

My subscription to your newsletter started last fall, so I missed your first issue. Are back issues available to purchase?

I hope before long you will make all your back issues available on the Web. (If that is your plan, and I can do anything to help, let me know. I do Web sites.) I think your newsletter content is far too important to be limited to a few hundred subscribers and their friends.

From the interview with Dr. Tim Gorski in the current issue, it sounds like your first issue had an interview with Dan Barker of our Freedom From Religion Foundation here in Madison, WI. I would particularly like to see that. In fact, if UUI was willing to grant permission and email that interview to me, I would like to post it on the Web site of our Humanist Union of Madison ( I was glad to see that the first prize winning Positive Atheism sermon is available online at

Date: Fri, 13 May 2005
From: Robert Park
Subject: Writing Contest winner/UUI newsletter

I would like to call your attention to the first prize winning entry in an annual writing contest sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Infidels. It is a talk given at the Unitarian Church of Charleston SC on February 6, 2005 entitled Positive Atheism by Herb Silverman, and it is available online at

Here is a small sample from the talk:
"When an atrocity is committed in the name of religion [it may be by persons who] are taking their religious faith very seriously. The Good Books of the world's major religions really do contain passages that support violence and vengeance, with decrees by God that infidels must die. ...criticizing a person's faith is still socially unacceptable. It's considered virtuous just to have religious faith, meaning a conviction that can't be shaken by contrary evidence. Well, why should we automatically show reverence to someone of great faith? Respect for religious faith, whatever that faith might be, plays an important role in perpetuating human conflict. We must not be so open-minded that our brains fall out."

The entire talk is reproduced in the current issue of "In Search of Reason", the newsletter published twice a year by the Unitarian Universalist Infidels. (They are the last link on the Links page of our Web site at Also in this issue are a series of letters from readers bemoaning the movement away from reason and humanism in their UU congregations in recent years, an article entitled W(h)ither Humanism? which quotes Sara Oelberg and Mary Beth O'Halloran, an article entitled Do We Have A Bait and Switch UU President, an interview with the pastor of the North Texas Church of Freethought, and more. Subscriptions to the newsletter are only $4 per year. (See for subscription details.)

I will be circulating the current issue among interested HUM participants that I see at the Prairie Meeting House, starting with Rose and Galen Smith. Let me know if you would like to be added to the circulation slip. If you are as favorably impressed with the newsletter as I am, you may want to get your own subscription.

I also have the Autumn 2004 issue to circulate to anyone interested. It includes articles on Emerson's "Originality" vs. The UUA's "Brick in the wall", The Copernican Revolution, Why I Like Buddha Better than Jesus, Why I Am an Athiest, an interview of American Atheists president Ellen Johnson, and a review of the book The End of Faith.

Suggestions from Humanists of West Suburban Chicagoland

From: "Jack Sechrest"
To: "Robert Park"
Subject: Re: DuPage church AHA affiliation
Date: Mon, 23 May 2005

Robert,  Actually, only about two dozen of our members are members of both the AHA and DUUC.  Fully 3/4's of our members have nothing and want nothing to do with the UU's. 
You are right.  Affiliating with the AHA now for the first time would be more than difficult.  However, not absolutely out of the range of possible.
If you need five AHA members, you can have them for $25 a piece.  That is the cost of an introductory membership.
It is well worth it.  Humanist Magazine, Free mind, and a copy of Corlis Lamont's Philosophy of Humanism.
I would argue that the AHA members should form a Membership Chapter, and count the others as friends.
The difference is only technical.  Each AHA full membership will get you $15 per person, and $10 per person for each introductory membership.  That kick back is significant and becomes more so as your group grows.
The Ethical Society of Skokie is excellent.  I am glad to hear that you are going to their retreat. 
I hope to hear about how the event goes.  We count them as very dear and close friends.
Thanks for your posts.
Jack Sechrest
630 554 8058
----- Original Message -----
From: Robert Park
To: Jack Sechrest
Sent: Monday, May 23, 2005 4:36 PM
Subject: Re: DuPage church AHA affiliation

Interesting! It sounds as if the church would be much less likely to affiliate with the AHA if the idea was first being proposed today, but since it is in the group's constitution, it is easiest to just leave it there (especially with a humanist group as active as yours drawing most of it members from the church).

The Humanist Union of Madison has held regular monthly meetings since we formed last fall, with attendance generally falling between 12 and 20. We have heard presentations on and discussed a number of interesting topics, as can be seen by the Past Events table on our Events Page at As our last event before summer, several of us will be attending morning and early afternoon activities on May 29 at the Memorial Day weekend getaway at Lake Geneva held every year by the Ethical Humanist Society of Greater Chicago, at the invitation of Thomas Hoeppner.  Earlier this month we voted to affiliate with the AHA, but we have not yet identified 5 participants who are themselves AHA members as needed to qualify the group for Charter Chapter status.

We have approached the summer months of June through August as outreach opportunities. We are not planning any meetings at the Prairie UU Society Meeting House, but we are exploring meeting the possibilities with members of the UU congregations in Sauk City and Janesville Wis. and with the UU student group on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.

At 04:00 PM 5/18/2005 -0500, you wrote:
Hello, Robert Park,

The Rev. Gene Kreves was the founding minister 50 years ago of the DuPage UU Church.  Gene was fully a naturalistic humanist, and was not uncomfortable calling himself an atheist.  The founding group of members included the affiliation with the AHA and the UUA in their Constitution.  In the years since Gene retired (1979) the DuPage Church as well as the UU denomination has become less Humanist and more mystic.  As with many UU groups the orthopraxy included god language.  I personally have much difficulty with the imposition of god language in those parts of the "services" which request group participation. Much like having people say the Pledge with the under god part when they, in fact, hold no personal belief nor want to be known as holding any such belief, let alone appearing to affirm it.

We  have established a healthy and growing AHA membership chapter here, and have founded a sister/daughter Chapter in Deerfield called the Humanists of North Eastern Illinois.

All of the organized AHA Chapters and Affiliates in Illinois are in the collar counties of Chicago and are in direct contact and cooperation with each other.

How is your Humanist group coming along?

Jack Sechrest
630 554 8058
----- Original Message ----- From: "Robert Park" <>
To: <>
Sent: Monday, May 16, 2005 10:22 AM
Subject: DuPage church AHA affiliation

I see that the DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church is the only UU congregation that is affiliated, as a congregation, with the AHA, according to the listing at Can you tell me how that came to be? I see that, unlike Prairie UU Society, the DuPage church uses the term "worship service" on its Web site.

Bob Park
Humanist Union of Madison

From: "Jack Sechrest" 
To: "Robert W Park" 
Cc: "Jack Sechrest" ,
    "Michael Werner" ,	
    "Jende Huang" ,
    "Tony Hileman" 
Date: Sat, 16 Oct 2004 17:07:17 -0500
Subject: Re: Advice for a humanist discussion group

Robert Park,
I am going to respond further to you in a second and/or third post. I want to let you know that your concerns are ours, and that we, The Humanists of West Suburban Chicagoland, are very interested in helping you repeatedly in making your venture a sterling success.

In this post I want to say basically two things.

First, be exceptionally thorough in keeping your lists of names, addresses, phone and email. Keep two lists. One for your members, and a second for visitors. Be sure to go the extra miles to let the people know that they are important and that you value them. Be diligent in inviting them to every event that you have, and don't just expect that they will come because they have been sent a card, or could read it in the Church Bulletin. Call them on the phone. Really work to assure that they will attend if possible. Don't leave it up to someone else. Do it yourself and do it with evangelical fervor.

When you send out a mass mailing to both your Membership list, and your Friends list, put them in the Bcc line. Reason: Disgruntled people will try to contact your membership and cause trouble. I have that problem going on right now with someone I bounced off our chat list. Fortunately, he did not have the Chapter lists. In your email group lists write Members and Friends of your Chapter, and give that name your address. Therefore all replies will come back to you only.

We have a chat list at and we have a web site, , which you can visit. You will need a web master.

Second point for this post: Determine to be an AHA Membership Chapter from the start. Yes, you will have some who will not want to join the AHA. Count them as friends and invite them to everything. However, they can not vote. They will join later. Besides, everyone interested is welcome to your group.

You will have no trouble being both the Humanist Discussion Group in your Church, and a Membership Chapter of the AHA at the same time.

We hope that your Church will become an affiliate of the AHA. We hope that you will establish your group as a Membership Chapter of the AHA.

There are benefits. There is an initial kick back of personal dues money to one's Membership Chapter. Second, there are several benefits that you might not be able to pay for that comes from the AHA office and staff. I can spell these benefits out in greater detail, however, I will simply say now that Tony Hileman, Executive Director of the AHA, was our guest, here, this last week end, and he addressed the HNEI at Beth Or, and our Chapter, and did two Services at DUUC, all in three days.

I'm sure you get the idea. btw Sarah Oelberg and Mike Werner, our co-founder, know each other well. Just for starters, we could trade speakers at some convenient time.

HWSC is a Humanist Membership Chapter operating within a UU Church, DUUC, and we have 67 members who are AHA members. Two dozen are both DUUC and AHA members, and the rest are Humanists from elsewhere. I consider this a great outreach program for DUUC. We are preaching a "gospel" of ethical living that is completely consistent with the vision and mission of DUUC.

I hope that you are able to promote Humanism within the UU context. I know that David Schafer's hope is to have a Humanist Discussion Group in every UU Church. My hope is that they become AHA Membership Chapters as well.

Jack Sechrest
630 554 8058

btw, Congratulations of having Sarah Oelberg in your midst.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Robert W Park" 
To: Jack Sechrest 
Sent: Saturday, October 16, 2004 4:06 PM
Subject: Advice for a humanist discussion group

> The following article appears in the current issue of the Prairie Fire,
> newsletter of Prairie Unitarian Universalist Society in Madison, WI.
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Sunday, September 26, ten Prairie members joined humanist UU minister
> Sarah Oelberg and her husband for lunch and brainstormed about starting a
> humanist discussion group.  We decided that we would create such a group,
> that we would try meeting once a month, and that others outside of
> Prairie would be invited to join. We set our next meeting for 6:30 p.m.
> on Monday, October 25, at the Prairie Meeting House. At that meeting we
> will decide where future meetings will be held and talk about who we
> might invite as speakers and what discussion topics we may be interested
> in.
> Those attending our September 26 gathering thought "What does it mean to
> be a humanist?" would be a good topic to focus an early meeting on. We
> will be looking for ideas from a successful humanist discussion group at
> a UU congregation in Illinois that Sarah referred us to.
> I am forming mail and e-mail lists of Prairie members and others who
> think they may be interested in participating in this group, starting
> with the 10 who attended September 26.  If you would like to be added to
> that list, please let me know.
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> You are the person that Sarah Oelberg referred us to for ideas. I have
> already called the attention of individuals at each of the other two UU
> groups in the Madison area to the above article. What suggestions do you
> have for us from your successful experience in Illinois?
From: "Jack Sechrest" 
To: "Robert W Park" 
Cc: "Jack Sechrest" 
Date: Tue, 19 Oct 2004 
Subject: When a Humanist Discussion Group is a Humanist Discussion Group
Robert Park,
The discussion about what links to maintain [on Prairie's Web site] brings me to this observation.
Vegetables are usually considered to be the edible part of plants.
There are several parts of plants, and we classify them as leaves, roots, stems and fruit.
One might ask whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable.  The answer is "both".
Reason:  The seed bearing part of the plant is call the "fruit".
Hence, the tomato is both vegetable and fruit at the same time.
Analogy:  When UU's gather, some are of one persuasion and others of another.
Humanists and be and many are both Humanist and UU's at the same time.
Your original post was about setting up a Humanist Discussion group.
It did not talk about setting up a UU Discussion group.
The UU denomination is committed to accepting one another and encouragement to spiritual growth.
Also, to a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.
If an affinity group, e.g.Humanists, must conform to the larger mission of the UUA, the Humanist search will be hobbled by the constraints of considering everyone else's point of view.
Let me know if you are setting up a Humanist group or if it is a UU group.
Truly,  Humanists are "free of supernaturalism".  If you must continuously be tied to equal time for other perspectives in your Humanist group, the task will prove to be frustrating at best.
Sarah will tell you that I am an extreme fundamentalist when it comes to Humanism.
Again, if your are seeking for the truth that Humanism provides, it may be the better course to be Humanists and not attempt to include every other perspective unless it is relevant to your search.
Jack Sechrest
630 554 8058
From: "Jack Sechrest" 
To: "Robert W Park" 
Cc: "Jack Sechrest" 
Date: Wed, 20 Oct 2004 
Subject: Building a viable Humanist Group

Robert Park,
The core of our group, HWSC, originally was the UU Humanists of DUUC, and they continue to be the solid center. You seem to have a group of fifteen or seventeen from which you will find a solid center of six or more.

You say you have a congregation of about 95. If your meeting place can provide a free meeting place for your Humanist Discussion group, you will be able to operate almost "cash" free.

You will need volunteers to provide and make "coffee" and provide "cookies".

While your group is between six and twenty-four, or so, you can rely on one another to present topics for discussion. As the group grows the dynamics change. Increasingly you will need to locate speakers. First depend on one another, and other ministers and friends and associates. Particular areas for programs include epistemology, ethics, evolution, environment, and esthetics.

Try pizza nights and potluck's two or three times each year. Try a picnic in June or early September. We have had a chapter picnic/potluck at my house the last two years on the Sunday of Labor Day week end. At the first one, we had 40 people, and this year we had 56. That is important because that included 60% of our membership. These repeated social events brings the people together, and they establish friendship among themselves. We work at building a sense of Community.

You will find that some of your members are members of other groups like the ACLU, NOW, People for the American Way; People for the Separation of Church and State, Americans for Religious Liberty, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, etc. Ask if any of those groups will provide you with a free speaker. We have used all of these. Also, we have people in our group, and others in our congregation who do social work, counseling, or are escorts at abortion clinics, etc.etc.etc. We ask people to come and talk with us about their personal service organization.

Before I suggested that you become a Membership Chapter of the AHA from the start. You only need five or six AHA members to start the Membership Chapter. Non-members just have to be invited guests. The AHA will provide a kick back from their membership dues, and provide assistance which could be extensive. In the last 12 months we have had Fred Edwords, Jende Huang, Tony Hileman and Edd Doerr from the AHA. Also, we were able to get Howard Radest in September because we knew he was coming to speak at the Ethical Humanist Society in Skokie and he was willing to address our group on a Friday evening. You have a University in Madison that may provide you with contacts for speakers from literature, to evolution, to ethics, etc.

Write up a simple set of by-laws.

Continuously contact your local news papers with your calendar events.

Try having a noon time lunch one a month for those who are retired or self employed. Try having a monthly dinner on the first Monday, for example. Establish a book review club, or make that a meeting topic. Select a good article that provokes discussion.

Plan for a Darwin Day Event in Feb to honor the bd of Charles Darwin on or near Feb 12 th.

Take a firm stand that you are UU Humanists and not all UU's. If you are a Humanist Discussion Group, you must hold to a scientific world view. You most likely are willing to say that you are free of supernaturalism. Now focus on what you are for. Don't spend time god bashing or attacking religion in general like some groups do. Consider the third Humanist Manifesto as a guide for discussion.

Try to encourage all ages to attend your group meetings. Consider providing childcare if you have young parents with children. That does cost money.

Build a sense of "Community".

I am sure I will think of other things to tell. Maybe you have some specific questions.

Jack Sechrest
630 554 8058