Freethought Trail

SkepSun #150 (08_09_2015)

It’s birthday and anniversary week on the show.  Skeptical Sunday celebrates three years on WRFI this month and our 150th show with this broadcast. We’re also celebrating the August 11 birthday of the great 19th-century freethinking orator Robert Green Ingersoll.  I’ll talk to Jeff Ingersoll, Royal Bob’s seventh cousin four times removed who lives in Hammondsport, NY. He’s founder of Hammondsport Humanists who are hosting a picnic at the Ingersoll Birthplace Museum in Dresden today at 1 PM. In Hour Two we’re going to hear Susan Jacoby’s lecture from last years’ Ingersoll and the Reform Imperative Conference at the Center for Inquiry in Amherst, NY entitled “Where are you Robert Ingersoll, Now That We Need You Again?” Freethought Radio is also celebrating: We’ll hear Dan Barker’s musical version of Ingersoll’s famous “Trinity” lyrics. In addition to all the Ingersollia,  we’ll also hear from Ryan Jayne, FFRF’s law clerk and soon-to-be legal fellow, about many state/church victories accomplished by FFRF’s attorneys. Then Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker interview author, poet and filmmaker Jeremiah Camara about his new feature-length documentary “Contradiction: A Question of Faith” that examines the effect of religion on African-Americans. Also today we ask the question “How strong do you like your water?” Gordon Bonnet of Skeptophilia reports those clever homeopaths have discovered water diluted with water is good for.

For more on Sunday’s picnic at the RG Ingersoll Birthplace Museum in Dresden, see this link.

Susan Jacoby delivering her address

Susan Jacoby delivering her address “Where Are You, Robert Ingersoll, Now That We Need You Again? at the Ingersoll and the Reform Imperative Conference at CFI in Amherst, NY, August 2014.

SkepSun #149 (08_02_2015)

On Freethought Radio Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker tell us about a Jesus sign on city property, “In God We Trust” on patrol cars, Ten Commandments on high-school property, atheists barred from Boy Scouts, and a Tennessee freethought proclamation proposed. After talking about fish, large and small–Melville’s Moby Dick and Rupert Brooke’s Heaven–Annie Laurie and Dan interview Nebraska State Senator Ernie Chambers about his recent victory overturning capital punishment in that state.  After Freethought Radio, Gordon Bonnet tells about a woman in Duck, West Virginia supposedly with a math degree who has calculated the that the author of the book of Genesis had less than one chance in 479 million to get the order of creation events correct without divine inspiration. Say what? Then, continuing with our portraits of the giants of Freethought and radical reform from this region in the 19th Century, we’ll hear about an extraordinary woman whom you’ve likely never heard of: Matilda Joslyn Gage. Dr. Sally Roesch Wagner, the foremost authority on Gage, enlightens about this amazing woman “lost from history.” Wagner is Founding Director of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation, which in 2010 opened Gage’s home in Fayetteville, NY to the public as an innovative museum. We’ll hear her talk from last year’s Ingersoll and the Reform Imperative conference held at CFI in Amherst, New York.

Matilda Joslyn Gage (1826-1898) from Fayetteville, NY: suffragist, Native American rights activist, abolitionist, freethinker.

Matilda Joslyn Gage (1826-1898) from Fayetteville, NY: suffragist, Native American rights activist, abolitionist, freethinker.

SkepSun #145 (07_05_2015)

On this Independence Day weekend Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker, co-Presidents of the Freedom From Religion Foundation celebrate the Supreme Court decision recognizing gay marriage, and the July 4 birthday of American songwriter Stephen Foster. They talk with FFRF attorney Katherine Paige about the Colorado Supreme Court nixing vouchers to private religious schools. Then they interview Brady Henderson, legal director of the ACLU of Oklahoma, about their state supreme court victory this week calling for the removal of the Ten Commandments from the state capitol. After Freethought Radio, Gordon Bonnet says  we need resist our natural tendency to surround ourselves with the like-minded in a piece from the Skeptophilia blog called “Leaving the Echo Chamber.” We’ll hear an inspiring outtake from Carl Sagan’s last interview before his death with Charlie Rose, from a YouTube video entitled “A Way of Thinking.” And in hour two, a real treat, we continue our profiles of 19th Century Freethinkers featured on the West-Central New York Freethought Trail with Melinda Grube, Adjunct Lecturer in History at Cayuga Community College who spoke at the Robert Green Ingersoll and Reform Imperative Conference held at the Center For Inquiry in Amherst, New York last year.  She will, at least at the start of her talk, “channel” first-wave feminist and Freethinker Elizabeth Cady Stanton, of Seneca Falls, NY as she leads us through Stanton’s extraordinary life.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902)  of Seneca Falls, New York. Feminist,  Abolitionist, Freethinker.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) of Seneca Falls, New York. Feminist, Abolitionist, Freethinker.

SkepSun #144 (06_28_2015)

On Freethought Radio, after co-hosts Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker report FFRF victories in Arkansas and Wisconsin and a complaint about a Florida sheriff who preaches in uniform, Annie Laurie analyzes what is wrong with the pope’s recent encyclical on climate change and what is right about South Carolina’s move to remove the confederate flag. Then they talk with Rita Swan, founder and director of C.H.I.L.D—Children’s Healthcare is a Legal Duty—about her decades-long effort to fight the religious medical neglect of children after she lost her own child due to Christian Science practices. Then on the Philosophy Bites podcast: Stoicism. William B. Irvine makes the case that this Greco-Roman philosophy that promotes avoiding needless anxiety, enjoying the world around us, and  remaining optimistic in the face of setbacks is relevant to us in the 21st Century. He talks with Nigel Warburton on the Philosophy Bites podcast. We’ll hear from Gordon Bonnet of Skeptophilia who has a look at the six alien species that are fighting for control the Earth, according some people who are clearly well informed. Then continuing with our Freehtought Trail series, we’ll hear a lecture by historian Christopher Cameron from University of North Carolina, Charlotte entitled “Frederick Douglass as antislavery campaigner, feminist, and freethinker.” An escaped slave, Douglass became America’s most prominent African-American critic of slavery in the South. He spent the most productive quarter-century of his life in Rochester, New York, where he is buried.

Frederick Douglass, Antislavery campaigner, Feminist, & Freethinker.

Frederick Douglass: antislavery campaigner, feminist, & freethinker

SkepSun #143 (06_21_2015)

This week’s Freethought Radio is dedicated to the memory of FFRF’s principal founder Anne Nicol Gaylor, who died June 14 at 88. Annie Laurie and Dan will play recordings of Anne, read from the New York Times obituary/article about her and then we read two of Anne Gaylor’s articles from her 1983 book, Lead Us Not Into Penn Station. Then, where did some people get the idea that the United States military training exercise called Jade Helm 15 really a covert operation to establish martial law in Texas? Can the governor of that state and action hero movie-star Chuck Norris be serious? Skeptoid focuses its skeptical eye at a very influential conspiracy theory of very recent vintage. Then: If you you’re a skeptical blogger, you’ll probably get some interesting e-mail. Gordon Bonnet of Skeptophilia does, and he talks about some of it. Finally in hour two of the show: you know about the wine trail, the beer trail and maybe even the cheese trail here in the Finger Lakes, but do you know about the Freethought Trail? In recognition of the summer solstice, we begin Skeptical Sunday’s “Freethought Trail” summer. Over the next few weeks, we will be playing recorded presentations from last year’s two-day conference at the Center for Inquiry in Amherst, New York that was entitled “Robert Green Ingersoll and the Reform Imperative.” It highlighted Ingersoll, known as the “Great Agnostic,” as well as other freethinking social reformers of the 19th Century from our part of New York state such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Matilda Joslyn Gage whose homes are featured on what might be the most educational of all our trails here in the Finger Lakes: the Freethought Trail.

Still relevant: Dresden, NY native Robert Green Ingersoll on a sign held up by the Westboro Baptist Church at the 2012 Reason Rally in Washington, DC.

Dresden, NY native Robert Green Ingersoll on a sign held up by the Westboro Baptist Church at the 2012 Reason Rally in Washington, DC.

SkepSun #47 (07_14_2013)

This week on Skeptical Sunday: does the Pope rule Ireland as well as Texas and Wisconsin?  On Freethought Radio, Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor look at the recent assaults on abortion rights backed by the RC Church in the U.S. and abroad. Then they speak with Jerry Coyne, evolutionary biologist at the U. of Chicago and author of “Why Evolution is True” about creationism sneaking into public universities. I make some summer entertainment and recreation suggestions: first the Freethougtht Trail, including the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum in Dresden, NY, and the Hill Cumorah Pageant which runs July 16-20 up in Palmyra, NY. In the second half of Skeptical Sunday we hear two talks from the recent Women in Secularism II conference in Washington, DC: we’ll hear feminist poet and essayist Katha Pollitt “Sexism and Religion: Can the Knot be Untied” and journalist and historian Susan Jacoby “Why the Lost History of Secular Women Matters Today.”


The Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum in Dresden, NY