September 2015 Newsletter

First Friday FreeUp, September 4: Why do Americans believe crazy stuff?

Shelley Segal: secular singer-songwriter performing at Sluggos, September 26

In This Issue...

• From the President

• Friday FreeUp September 4: Why do Americans believe crazy stuff?

• Shelley Segal, secular singer-songwriter performing at Sluggos, September 26

• Opportunities for Action and Learning

• Secular scuttlebutt: stories you might have missed in the media

• Get involved: HWF Membership, Board and Committees


From the President...

I am writing this while on vacation in Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown, Virginia. What a good place to get some Early American History 101. It also makes one think again about the Native Americans and the Africans that played such a large role in our history and how they suffered. The way the story of North America's settlement is told, however – how the mission of the new Virginia Company was specific to colonize and proselytize Christianity to the Native Americans and the enslaved  Africans – lends to the realization that these lives didn't matter to the early English. They were just supposed to accept and obey. Still, today, they are fighting to make their lives matter and we should help them.

These issues bring my thoughts back to the present and how we seculars are battling to keep our ways of life still pertinent in today’s world. We try our best to follow the laws of our nation while we watch as others try so hard to circumvent them. The sectarian prayer programs at the county, city, and school board meetings. The Bayview cross on taxpayer land that the city has for many, many years most assuredly known was not legal…. Watch the news as these issues become hot buttoned for sure.

Our Community Outreach fund drive has not taken fruition as we had planned, but we have one big event coming up to help us raise funds for our charitable activities on the Gulf Coast. We are bringing Shelley Segal,  a terrific young secular singer-songwriter from Australia, to perform one night only in Pensacola on Saturday, September 26. We’re fortunate to have her: she gigs in New Orleans on Friday night and then in Tallahassee on Sunday, and is performing in Pensacola at reduced cost to support our fundraising. She has a beautiful voice and a powerful message. Come hear her, bring your friends, and if you can’t make the date, please consider making a contribution to HWF efforts to help the hungry and the homeless.

Again, don't forget to watch for our monthly FreeUps at Sluggo's Vegetarian Bistro. We always have spirited conversations and good food and drink. Please join us for the fun.

Thank you for your support, and best regards to you all,

Buz Ryland, President

Humanists of West Florida


First Friday FreeUp:

Open Discussion: 

Dino Adventureland, The Ark Encounter,

Climate-change deniers ... 

Why do Americans believe this stuff?

Friday, September 4

6:00-8:00 pm

Sluggos Vegetarian Restaurant and Bar
101 S Jefferson Street, Pensacola, FL 32502

Are we really more ignorant than other industrialized societies? Google the phrase “why are Americans so stupid” and you get 39,800,000 results: “The 11 dumbest things that 30 percent of Americans believe,” “Top Ten Reasons People Think Americans Are Stupid,” “US adults are dumber than the average human,” and the list goes on… and on… and on… and – yes – on. Is that deserved? If so, what accounts for our collective ignorance? Is it arrogance, complacency … or perhaps the Jade Helm conspiracy? 

Explore, enlighten, vent, and reflect with other seculars, freethinkers, and humanists over a pint or a platter. Meet and Greet at 6:00 in the backroom at Sluggos, Pensacola, short video at 6:30 to introduce the topic, then open discussion. 

Note: Sluggo's is a VEGAN restaurant – that means no animal products. You can handle that for a night, right? (Try some Angry Orchard cider on tap!) Please place your orders as soon as you arrive, and let the servers know you'll be in the back room at the HWF FreeUp. We're informal – we each will eat as our meal arrives.

Sluggos menu (some items no longer available, but this gives you the gist) – http://sluggosmenu.blogspot.com/


Shelley Segal

Saturday, September 26

6:30-8:30 pm

Sluggos Vegetarian Restaurant and Bar
101 S Jefferson Street, Pensacola, FL 32502

The Aussie singer-song writer is on tour promoting her most recent album, “Strange Feeling,” and will perform one show only in Pensacola, on Saturday, September 26. Tickets are $10 general admission, $5 with student ID.

The Thinking Atheist called her “the unofficial soundtrack of freethought conventions,” and for good reason. She’ll be fitting her Pensacola visit between Apostacon in Irving, Texas,  and Carolinas Secular Conference in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and is performing in Pensacola at a reduced fee in order to support the fundraising efforts of the Humanists of West Florida. Check her out at shelleysegal.com and on youtube, and take advantage of this great opportunity see her live!

To think we are so important, is an obvious crime
We know that we are specks on a tiny dot
Hurtling through space and time
            Shelly Segal, Apocalyptic Love Song (dedicated to Christopher Hitchens)
So when I’m in the dark
In a dark place, In a dark place
I know it’s only me and what I face
            Shelly Segal, I Don’t Believe In Fairies

Opportunities for Action


On Katrina’s 10th Anniversary,

Help Keep FEMA Dollars Where They’re Needed

Call to action from the Secular Coalition for America:

This past August marked the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina devastating New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. While the affected areas have been recovering, recent legislation introduced in Congress would divert limited federal dollars for future disasters to rebuilding houses of worship.

HR 3066, introduced by Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ) would create a new carve-out for houses of worship to receive money from FEMA to rebuild. This bill would divert rebuilding funds funds from secular non-profits, such as libraries, museums, and community centers, all organizations that play vital roles in the community. It would also leave less money for the government to rebuild critical services like water treatment facilities, power plants, schools, and other services that benefit the entire community, not just a select few. The federal government, if this bill becomes law, will literally be paying for the bricks and mortar for religious buildings, in clear violation of the First Amendment.

Federal funds should never be used to fund construction of houses of worship. Write to your Representative now and let them know this is unacceptable. 

Tell Your Representative That Using Federal Dollars to Rebuild Houses of Worship is Unacceptable

It only takes TWO minutes of your time (or less) to sign this petition: 


‪#‎atheistvoter ‪#‎Congress ‪#‎FEMA ‪#‎religion


Opportunities for Learning

Online courses from Partners for Secular Activism 

Moral Reasoning from Theory to Practice: Applying Science and Philosophy in Everyday Life, with Richard Carrier

• registration- $59

• start/end dates – September 1 to September 30, 2015

• DEADLINE – September 7th

Forum with Eagle Man and his book Nature’s Way: Native Wisdom for Living in Balance with the Earth

Required text: Ed McGaa, Nature’s Way, which can be purchased at http://www.amazon.com/Natures-Way-Native-Wisdom-Balance/dp/0060750480

• registration- $59

• start/end dates – October 1, 2015 to October 31, 2015

• deadline to register – October 6


Secular Scuttlebutt

Check out all the local secular groups on Facebook and MeetUp:

• Crestview FL Freethinkers

• Eglin/Hurlburt M.A.S.H (Military Atheists and Secular Humanists)

• Gulf Coast Freethinkers and GCF MeetUp

• Gulf Coast Coalition of Reason

• Humanists of West Florida and HWF MeetUp

• Pensacola Secular Society

• Secular Student Alliance at UWF

• Southeast Alabama Freethought Association

• SW Alabama Free Thinkers


News items you might have missed that have been percolating on the secular media networks: 

Freethinkers Alert Florida Superintendents to “Dirty Dozen” of State/Church Violations: "With nearly as many state/church violation complaints in Florida over the past 24 months as there are school boards in the state, the Central Florida Freethought Community (CFFC) and its parent organization, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), have sent a memo to all 67 public school superintendents across the state. The memo includes the 12 most common complaints—the “dirty dozen”—along with detailed explanations and citations to relevant case law." 

In light of the recent controversy over the cross on public property at Bayview Park, several recent court cases are relevant: 

From the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (normally a good place for liberals) we have a 2-1 ruling in a case very similar to the Pensacola case. Appeals Court Rules That “Big Mountain Jesus” Statue in Montana Is Not Religious

In a case in Pennsylvania, Judge Says School’s Ten Commandments Monument is Illegal, but It Doesn’t Have to Come Down

In Michigan the courts were more progressive: Once Again, Judge Dismisses Christians’ Lawsuit to Keep Giant Cross in Grand Haven, Michigan

More from Florida:

The Friendly Atheist courtesy of Patheos.com, shared a (not very) amusing report of Gospel Baptist Church (Florida) Pastor Bill Lytell's sermon to the women-folk in his congregation: A Christian Pastor’s Advice for Women

On the national front:

The American Humanist Association is among several groups asking President Obama to end Bush-era religious exemptions to nondiscrimination laws for religious groups seeking federal grants. AHA Joins Groups Calling for End to Bush-Era Taxpayer-Funded Discrimination

Sen. Ted Cruz saying something overblown and idiotic is just par for the course by now, but when he compares church/state separation advocates to religious radicals who will kill those who think differently, it's at least worth mentioning. Sen. Ted Cruz Whines About How “Atheist Taliban” is Assaulting Religious Liberty

What do you do to get a leg up over your opponent in a tight runoff election? Candidate in Nashville Mayoral Race Accused of Being an Atheist by Opponent’s Campaign

St. Mary's Academy in Portland, Oregon rescinded a job offer to Lauren Brown because she happened to be gay. That, despite her impeccable credentials and willingness to take a pay cut from her previous job. What made the story even more disturbing than usual was that school officials offered to give Brown a year's salary with benefits if she promised not to go to the press with this story. She declined the money, went to the press,... Following Public Backlash, Catholic School Rescinds Anti-Gay Hiring Policy

What should you do if your child is intimidated by a teacher who refuses to take down an unconstitutional prayer requests board? Call the American Humanist Association. Mississippi Teacher’s Prayer Board Must Come Down, Says Humanist Group

Chanute residents protest removal of picture of Jesus from school “Nobody else in the school seemed to be bothered by it,” said Cody Busby, a 22-year-old fur trapper in Chanute. “There were only one or two evolution kids and they didn’t seem to be bothered by it.” Sigh.

Two views of parenting: One Dad’s Perfect Response After His Son Chooses a Doll at the Toy Store on the one hand, and Christian Evangelist Blasts “Little Mermaid” Dad By Posting Video of His Child Shooting a Gun on the other. Wonder how this will turn out twenty years from now...

Bill O’Reilly Blames Decline in Spirituality for the Deaths of WDBJ Journalists No.

Duke University made headlines recently for something other than their athletic teams: their tremendously "pious" students. Duke Students Balk at Reading Assignment That Conflicts with Their Religious Beliefs

Pastor's bail set at $2 million At a detention hearing, U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie granted Vitaly Korchevsky bail "given the faith that hundreds of people have put in him."  Korchevsky faces charges as "linchpin" of a global insider-trading scheme that netted $100 million.

Recommended reading:

Christianity may be losing its popularity, but predominantly black churches are seeing no loss in attendance. Why Black Churches Are Thriving While America’s Christianity Is Declining

"Unaffiliateds" are now 23 % of the US population, and Protestants are no longer in the majority.10 facts about religion in America

When is it appropriate to introduce a child to religion or non-religion? At What Age Should You Introduce Religion to Your Children? 

The end of religion as we know it: Why churches can no longer hide the truth "Caught in the Pulpit" author Daniel Dennett on closeted atheist clergy and our new age of radical transparency.

In Memoriam

On August 7, the atheist Niloy Chatterjee became the fourth Bangladeshi blogger to be murdered this year for criticizing Islam. He is not expected to be the last. The hit list: Endangered bloggers of Bangladesh

On August 31, 77-year-old M. M. Kalburgi, a notable Indian skeptic who had fought against superstition throughout his career, was shot dead in front of his home. Anti-Superstition Activist M.M. Kalburgi Shot Outside His Home in India

Oliver Sacks, the 82-year-old neurologist and writer who announced his terminal cancer earlier this year, died August 30. Sacks was an atheist and an honorary board member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, though fighting religion was never his primary concern: Neurologist and Author Oliver Sacks Has Died


And finally, let's end with something a little more light-hearted...

Earlier this year, the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Center For Inquiry announced a contest to create a fictional, likable atheist. There were so many angry, bitter ones on scripted television; it was about time for a change. They just announced the winners! In first place: Earth Angel

In the "If only it were real, but it's still funny anyway" category, we have this entry from Detroit: This Interview with a Weird Satanist is the Best Thing You'll See All Week

A little help for Donald Trump from the Twittersphere. After he had some trouble responding to reporters' questions about his favorite parts of the Bible, a hashtag sprouted up immediately to lend a hand #TrumpBible:

Membership: Join or Renew

Membership makes it happen.

In addition to the work supporting the hungry and the homeless, HWF sponsors monthly FreeUps, Freethinker meetups, and periodic picnics and other social events to create a community where non-theists can meet others who share their life view. Through the Gulf Coast Coalition of Reason, HWF supported the “godless” billboards that were placed in Pensacola, Mobile, and Gulfport earlier this year, to let non-theists on the Coast know they aren’t alone. 

Your membership and your membership dues make HWF eligible to solicit donations and apply for grants from corporations and larger organizations like the American Humanist Association. Without your support, HWF won’t exist. Why does that matter? How is HWF different from the many other charitable organizations helping the needy on the Gulf Coast? Because of our stand that we’re doing good for our communities because it’s the rational, human thing to do. HWF’s purpose isn’t just to show compassion for the needy, but to demonstrate that compassion isn’t the sole property of religion. And because a person doesn’t need to believe in god to do good and to be good, there is no need for a state religion to dictate how we live and how we treat each other.

You can join by clicking the big red Membership button on the right, and then select whether you are a new or renewing member. You can pay online using PayPal, or you can send a check to Humanists of West Florida, P.O.Box 15328, Pensacola FL 32514. 

We're a 501c3 organization so your donations are tax deductible


HWF Board of Directors:

President/Treasurer: Buz Ryland, president@hwfl.org

Vice President: Suren Shah, vpres@hwfl.org

Secretary: Kay Rudolph, secretary@hwfl.org


Charles Stauffer, charles@hwfl.org

Sedona Strong, sedona@hwfl.org

Amanda Kondrat'yev, amanda@hwfl.org

Michael Kimball, michael@hwfl.org


Get Involved!


Want to get involved in some of our activities to help build the humanist community on the Gulf Coast? Contact the committee and team chairs and find out how you can help:

Programs, Projects, and Events (PPE) Committee – Buz Ryland (Chair), Suren Shah, Kay Rudolph, Sedona Strong

Civics and Government Team (Buz Ryland, Team Leader): responsible for making sure our voice is heard in the public community, and promoting a positive image in the area.

Events and FreeUps Team (Buz Ryland, Team Leader): responsible for making awesome, interesting and informative social gatherings, special events and picnics to further fellowship within the community.

Homeless and Hungry Team (Buz Ryland, Team Leader): responsible for the homeless outreach programs and coordinating the mass distribution of food to low income families in the Gulf Coast area.

Young and Youth Team (Suren Shah, Team Leader): responsible for identifying strategies to help school children in the area, whether it be academically or with life coaching.


Finance, Fundraising, and Membership (FFM) Committee – Suren Shah (Chair), Buz Ryland, Amanda Kondrat'yev, Sedona Strong

Bylaw Team (Buz Ryland, Team Leader):  responsible for reviewing the chapter’s bylaws.

Fundraising Team (Suren Shah, Team Leader): responsible for encouraging donations from individuals and businesses interested in supporting HWF.

Bylaw Team (Buz Ryland, Team Leader):  responsible for reviewing the chapter’s bylaws.

Fundraising Team (Suren Shah, Team Leader): responsible for encouraging donations from individuals and businesses interested in supporting HWF.

Grant Team (Buz Ryland, Team Leader): responsible for soliciting grants from organizations that support to vision of HWF.

Membership Team (Buz Ryland, Team Leader): responsible for rallying the base and building our membership in HWF.


Communications, Connections, and Promotions (CCP) Committee – Kay Rudolph (Chair), Amanda Kondrat'yev, Michael Kimball, Charles Stauffer

Newsletter Team (Kay Rudolph, Team Leader): responsible for keeping our membership informed and active through monthly newsletters.

Publicity Team (Kay Rudolph, Team Leader): responsible for developing tools to publicize HWF to build membership and member involvement.

Social Media Team (Amanda Kondrat'yev, Team Leader): responsible for cultivating the conversation with the public and keeping our group relevant and fresh.

Website Management Team (Michael Kimball, Team Leader): responsible for designing and managing the humanistsofwestflorida.org website.

HWF Facebook Page

Follow us on Social Media:

Friend us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/humanistswfl/ and join in the conversations about how to create a just and sane society.

We also have a Meetup group where we coordinate our community service and social activities. Please join and sign up to receive emails notices to stay informed: http://www.meetup.com/Humanists-of-West-Florida-Community-Service 


Please share this newsletter with anyone you think might be interested! If you look at the top of this newsletter in your email box, you should see a link that says, "Display problems? View this newsletter in your browser." Click that link and when it opens in your browser, copy and paste the URL into an email or to Facebook or other favorite social media.


The Mission of the Humanists of West Florida

... is to facilitate the advancement of humanist thought and action in Pensacola and surrounding areas by interconnecting groups of humanists, atheists, agnostics and non-religious. We will strive for equal participation in government and societal life through building strategic partnerships with other humanist and freethought organizations and with our religious neighbors to advance the greater good of humanity.