October 7 2018 First Sunday Monthly Service on 1692: The New England Witchcraft Hysteria

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October 7 2018 First Sunday Monthly Service on 1692: The New England Witchcraft Hysteria

Post by tim »

Our October 7th 2018 service included:

1) Introductory remarks on what we mean by “Freethought,” how thinking differs from belief, and why it is so much more important than belief. We noted a few other things that had happened on October 7th including the kiloton or so of explosive energy released over the Nubian desert in Sudan when the asteroid 2008 TC3 detonated upon entering the Earth's atmosphere. This was the first such object detected prior to its impact, about 20 hours beforehand.

2) We appreciated our volunteers!

3) We enjoyed a Moment of Science on “W/(mk)” the measure of thermal conductivity. Recently, improved calculations led to discovering that an overlooked material in pure form had an unanticipated high thermal conductivity. We discussed the importance of this physical property in technical applications and how the process of discovery highlighted by this example has implications for how we learn new things in our everyday lives.

4) We considered what was happening by October of 1692 in New England, that a witchcraft hysteria that had begun in Salem Village – now the town of Danvers, MA – had spread to ensnare hundreds accused of collaborating with The Devil. 19 had been hanged including Salem Village's former minister who recited the Lord's Prayer perfectly on the scaffold, something said to be impossible for a witch. We learned many other things that fed into the anxieties and fears of the colonists at the time, from smallpox to Indian attacks, to events back in England and the uncertain and troubling political status of the colonies such as the recent revocation of the colonial charters and the establishment of The Dominion of New England under the hated Governor Edmund Andros. Of course, the October 12th letter sent back to the Royal Privy Council by Governor Williams Phips saying he had “stopt” the trials and executions are the basis of Freethought Day which we observe every October 12th. The ending of the “Salem Witch Trials” - which many know of but do not know how they were finally ended! - is/was a seminal event in history. It's important for Freethinkers because the reasonable thing was done despite all inclinations – especially theological inclinations – to the contrary. Interestingly, we also noted that October 7th – the date of our service – was the date on which Willis Haviland Carrier died in 1950. Mr. Carrier was the inventor of air-conditioning and considered one of the most important people of the 20th Century. His ancestor, Martha Carrier, was one of those executed during the New England Witch Hysteria, and the only one to consistently and unflaggingly insist on her innocence.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, we considered that the next service, November 4th, will feature Professor Christel J. Manning, a sociologist of religion who has been an atheist since the age of 16. The NTCOF is sponsoring her travel to the DFW area. She will speak on the subject of her most recent book Losing Our Religion: How Unaffiliated Parents are Raising their Children which won the 2016 Distinguished Book Award from Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. We expect to learn a lot about the religious “nones,” those who identify themselves as having no religious affiliation in polls. Some are undoubtedly atheists, or prefer labels such as “agnostic” and “humanist,” or, in our case, “Freethinker.” But some may be lapsed believers of one flavor or another or the “spiritual but not religious.” She is currently researching the subject of how unbelievers view and deal with end-of-life issues and plans to write her next book on that subject. She will interview some of our members age 70 and older on this subject. [contact us if you are willing to be interviewed!] More about Dr. Manning is here:

https://www.sacredheart.edu/academics/c ... anningphd/

Yes, it IS reason for optimism that her employer is a Catholic college!

And then, coming in December, we plan a “Christmas Service” that will reflect something we have heard from many of our members over the years. And this is, roughly: “What a waste of time and energy is this annual ritual, over and over and over again of the same old boring thing!?” Is it an exercise in absurdity and futility? We'll have more on that at our service on December 2nd.

Please post your thoughts on any of these things below!
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