Ask an Atheist on Penn Square 10/19/2013

An “Ask an Atheist” informational event was held at Penn Square in the City of Lancaster. LFS members were on the square from 9 AM until 2 PM. It was a very nice day and we had many conversations with both religious and non-religious passers by. We hold these events to provide a human face to positive atheism and to emphasize the constitutional concept of the separation of church and state, as well as let other non-believers know they are not alone.

We received encouragement from people telling us that our “low key” presence is a refreshing change from the proselytizing street preacher who is active on the Square on Fridays. We were also told several people that we are “brave” to do these public events. The positive feedback we receive is uplifting to us and reinforces our desire to continue doing them.

Some of the religious questioners were attempting to convert us, prove us wrong, pray for us and ask that their deity show us “the light“. We reinforced that we were not here to convert anyone to atheism and that we have thought through our position and arrived at atheism due to our questioning and not finding the answers in any scripture. We did want to point out the extremely important concept of the “wall of separation” between the church and the state. We also tried to dispel the pervasive myth that the United States was founded as a “Christian nation”. This seems to be a prevalent concept within some Christian circles that is not able to be substantiated. We reminded our questioners that we have a secular constitution that benefits everyone when this “wall of separation” is maintained. For Christians that would like to see the wall weakened, they may want to think about this quote that was posted from the Freedom From Religion Foundation facebook page:

“In a Christian Theocracy, you’ll never be Christian enough. There’s always going to be somebody there with another version of Christianity that is more Christian than you and you’re going to lose the freedom to make the choice because you didn’t defend the Separation of Church and State when you had the chance.”
~David Silverman, President of American Atheists

Our informational event was due to end at 1 PM but due to continuing public interest, we stayed until nearly 2 PM.

Upcoming Events:

10/19 – Pub Night at Loxley’s @ 6 PM
11/4 -LFS Monthly Meeting at Isaac’s Granite Run Square location

All of the above are advertised at Please RSVP for these events.

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Meeting Minutes – 10/7/2013

Approximately 18 persons attended a meeting of the Lancaster Freethought Society held on Monday, 10/7/2013 from 6 to 8 PM at Isaac’s Restaurant, Manheim Pike, Lancaster, PA.

The meeting began with the LFS President, Scott Rhoads, welcoming the new attendees and asking them to introduce themselves, followed by current members’ introductions to facilitate the group discussion for this meeting. Attendees shared how they came to their current beliefs.

Scott reviewed the purpose of the LFS and the primary focus of providing a community to freethinkers, secular humanists, non-believers, agnostics and atheists. A review of current LFS events and activities was announced for the upcoming month along with membership benefits and how the society is seeking charity/volunteer opportunities.

The meeting then turned to an animated group discussion on topics concerning how a non-believer would or could handle situations where they might feel uncomfortable. These situations included being asked to lead a prayer at a family dinner to telling your family and friends that you are a non-believer and the ramifications within your social and employment sphere.

Scott then discussed the upcoming “Ask An Atheist” event at Penn Square in the city of Lancaster. This event is held to introduce people to the LFS and to give people a chance to meet an atheist. The event is not done to argue or debate, but to give a face to atheism and provide a opportunity to ask us questions. One of the goals of this event is to let believers see that atheists are non-threatening, easy to talk with and not people to avoid.

The final discussion was about Church and State issues. We had a visitor from Ireland who was curious to ask Americans how a non-believer feels in a nation that has such a vocal Christian community. He shared his experiences with European countries in which non-belief is no longer an issue.

The meeting ended at about 8 PM with some attendees remaining to discuss relevant issues.

Upcoming Events:
10/13 – Coffee & Conversation at the Prince Street Cafe @ 9 AM
10/19 – Ask an Atheist at Penn Square @ 9 AM
10/19 – Pub Night at Loxleys @ 6 PM
11/4 -LFS Monthly Meeting at Isaac’s @ 6 PM

All of the above are advertised at Please RSVP for these events.

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Interfaith Panel “Why Marriage?”

On Sunday at 2pm, LFS President Scott Rhoades, will be taking part in an interfaith panel called “Why Marriage?” at First United Methodist Church, E. Walnut St, Lancaster. It will take place in the 2nd floor worship space volunteers will be at the door to direct people to the proper area.

Scott was asked to take part in this panel due to the fact that he performs secular marriage ceremonies as a Humanist Celebrant and will be the lone atheist on a panel full of ministers.

Please come out and support Scott during this thought provoking discussion about marriage!


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Promote LFS with this cool, blue, light of reason Tshirt.

Our most affordable LFS tshirt yes. Help promote LFS by purchasing this shirt or browse our Zazzle store for more great LFS items.

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Meeting Minutes – 6/3/2013

Approximately 10 persons attended a meeeting of the Lancaster Freethought Society held Monday, 6/3 at Isaac’s Restaurant, Manheim Pike, Lancaster, PA.

Pres. Scott Rhoades initiated an informal discussion regarding feminism withing the Freethought movement, and how it’s effects may be described as a, “fracturing”, or, “layering”. Rebecca Watson (skeptic, feminist) and Skepchicks are associated with “Elevatorgate”. Certain POVs have arisen based on an incident, and there is some debate over whether these are reasoned or emotional- (for ex., an anti-homosexual stance taken by an atheist group in Atlanta).

Upcoming Events:

6/9 – Coffee & COnversation, Prince Street Cafe
6/15 – Lancaster Pride Festival
6/22 – Ask an Atheist at Penn Square

All of the above are advertised at

Scott idsucssed that group members are welcome to advertise for their businesses at meetings. Scott briefly discussed that he has recently started, “New Traditions”, (a secular wedding officiant service).

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LFS Meeting Minutes – 5/6/2013

LFS Meeting Minutes – 5/6/2013

Approximately 14 people attended a meeting of Lancaster Freethought Society help Monday, 5/6/2013, 6pm at Isaac’s Restaurant, Manheim Pike, Lancaster, PA.

Scott Rhoades began by discussing the upcoming Atheist/Humanist conference in Philadelphia. Cost will be $113, (to include the Friday PM party). The admission fee covers dinner and lunch.  Embassy Suites Hotel has reserved a block of rooms.  Room fees will include complementary breakfast and happy hour.  Suites include two queen-sized best and a pull-out couch.

Scott discussed conference volunteer opportunities, (inquire via the web site), also gave a run-down of speakers including:
Shelly Saegal (comedian)

George Hrab

Jerry DeWitt (Clergy Project)

Jamila Bey

Ropb Boston

Mark Cohen

JT Eberhard

(and many others)

VIP tickets will be available.  Student tickets will be availbale for $40, (ticket price to include a piza party – in lieu of lunch/dinner).

Board Member Reports:

Dan Mercer briefly discussed recent Habitat for Humanity volunteer events. 

Claire Larson discussed that Pub Night will be held in May, also a Coffee and Conversation event, (possibly at the Pillar Hookah Lounge).

Scott Rhoades discussed Ask An Atheist, (held recently in downtown Lancaster).  The next will be held 6/22w, hosted by Dan & Lisa Mercer.

SPEAKER: The Scientific Methods, by David Kolesar

Key terms/ideas, (as per Claire Larson’s observations):

-Where did it come from?

-Scientific revelation

– Printing Press

– Descartes

– Rationalism-empiricism fusion, (people very susceptible to bias- force observer from the observed)

– Independent/dependent variables

– reliance on assumptions

– Scientism – belief that scientific knowledge is superior

– Two realms of reality we can be certain of – math & logic – cannot be proven by the scientific method.

– Sociological method

– The Moral Landscape – by Sam Harris –  Although we cannot use science to define morals, we can work toward more or less suffering….  Science works on behalf of morality to reduce suffering.  (Book available in LFS library for dues-paying members.)

– John Stuart Mill (Utiles, secular method of coming-out with morality)

– Jeremy Bentham

– The Golden Rule disrespects sadists & masochists

– “Always be skeptical.” – David Kolesar


Scott summarized the meeting by emphasizing that the first priority of LFS is community.

A summer LFS picnic may be scheduled.


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Hearing the Voice

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Meeting Minutes -04/1/2013

Approximately 16 persons attended a meeting of Lancaster Freethought Society at Isaac’s Restaurant on Manheim Pike, Lancaster, PA.

Attendee Al Eckert presented readings from The Portable Atheist, (a compilation of thoughts from famous atheist thinkers through time).

Attendee Scott Bitzer presented a discussion of an article, “Hearing the Voice of God”, (see attachments). 

Attendees discussed continuing pub nights or having a coffee get-together at Prince Street Cafe in lieu of these.

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LFS Meeting Minutes – Monday, 3/4/2013

Approximately 18 people attended the LFS Meeting held Monday, 3/4/2013 at 6pm at Isaac’s Restaurant, Manheim Pike, Lancaster, PA.

Scott discussed his work with the Secular Coalition (lobbying organization) including arrangements for a luncheon with Richard Dawkins on 3/12 in Philadelphia. Lunch will be held at a colonial tavern and will include 4-courses. The event is $300/ticket. Intended to be a small group discussion, members will be able to converse with Dawkins as he gets a feel for the political landscape in Pennsylvania. Secular Coalition flyers were made available at the front of the room for interested parties.

Member Reports

Dan Mercer – Charity Director

Saturday, 3/9, LFS will volunteer at the Habitat for Humanity Restore.  All spots are covered, but interested parties should notify Dan.  Dan solicited three volunteers for a 3/30 volunteer session. 


Claire Larson – Secretary

21-22 persons attended the most recent Pub Night at Loxley’s Restaurant, Lancaster.  Attendees were given a private room, but commented that table arrangement made socialization difficult. 


Beginning in March, Ask an Atheist events will be scheduled monthly, (per recent board decision).  Scott Rhoades provided clarification regarding AaA:

10 or 11am start downtown with sign on the square

we should not consider ourslves alone in a sea of believers- they are not a cohesive group

AaA is not intended to be a debate session, but an invitation to people to ask questions.  Attendees may answer at will.

Attendees were encouraged not to, “gang-up” since others who approach us do so as a minority- we should not appear belligerent

bringing folding chairs is recommended

Use of the Socratic method may be helpful, i.e., asking instead of telling while the other party waits their turn to speak

stay calm and consider your presence there as a member of LFS, not as an individual. 


State Atheist/Humanist Conference – 9/13-15 in Philadelphia

Embassy Suites will host and offer $120/night room accommodations, (rooms include two beds and a couch, plus breakfast and happy hour)

Tickets will be $113 and include meals – reference the Meet-Up site for more info

Speakers to include Jamila Bey, Katie Seagel, (Australian singer), George Hrab, and a representative of the JamesRandi Foundation.  The conference will include a Humanist and an American Atheist panel. 

A $60-80/night budget hotel is located in the vicinity.

Discussion – 10 Commandments-styled lists for atheists, (three discussed):


1) Bertrand Russel’s Liberal Decalogue

2) Alaine Dey Patan (Swiss expat philosopher/writer in Britain, proposed athrist temple) – 10 Commandments/Suggestions

3) 12 Virtues of Rationality – Eliza Yokowski


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LFS Board Meeting – 2/17/2013

Dan Mercer, Scott Rhoades, Claire Larson and Craig Clearwater met at 10am on Sunday, 2/17/2013 for an LFS Board Meeting. Attendees gathered at the hookah lounge, but moved to Fractured Prune when the lounge was found closed until 10:30.

Scott discussed continued review of incorporations documents.

Scott discussed that the LFS treasure includes $657, (mostly comprised of membership fees and Zazzle/online t-shirt sale profits. Incorporation fee will be $125. LFS will need to obtain/budget for a PO box pre/post incorporation.

Other budgeted items:

MeetUp site: $70/six months, (PAN pays $30)

Donations to LFS are non-tax deductible pre-incorporation.

Scott discussed that post-incorporation, we will refine the by-laws and share them with the membership.

Scott discussed that generic LFS business cards may be produced for group members to promote the group. 

Scott may need some office supply subsidization- esp of printer ink. 

The WordPress site cost is covered. 

Scott is unaware of another other known regular expenses, other than that we should try to maintain an approx. $2,000 emergency fund, if possible.

Scott discussed that other freethought groups maintain revenue differently.  PAN, for instance, has a treasury totally approximately $10,000.  Margaret Downey’s group in Philadelphia retains only around $400, (spending money as they get it). 


2013 Atheist/Humanist Conference – Philadelphia, PA

Board members discussed that LFS will likely provide a 2013 conference donation of $100, (consistent with last year’s amount). 

The 2013 conbference attendance fee is likely to be $100.  Groups from New Jersey and other nearby stated should be attracted to this event. 

The 2014 confered location will likely be Pittsburgh. 


Scott discussed that the LFS MeetUp side includes ~200 members, (with a few adds/departures monthly).  Scott encouraged Board Members to plug the monthly LFS meetings at Pub nights. 
Dan Mercer – Charity Director

Dan discussed that Lisa Mercer volunteered at the Lancaster Women’s WInter Shelter recently.  LFS has been active in supporting this organization, (which will be in place until April/May).  LFS will consider another volunteer night at shelter, then seek another chairty to support in spring.  The WWS is supported by the Council of Churches- LFS volunteers since the mission is in line with our secular viewpoint.     

Dan is planning another HFH Restore volunteeer event for Saturday, 3/9. 

Dan will continue to pursue highway clean-up opportunities through the DOR.  Dan will call this week.


LFS intends to hold Ask an Atheist on a monthly basis downtown.  The Board will take responsibility for staffing these events.  At the March meeting, Scott will discuss forming a committee to plan this event in 2013.  The organizer should bring a copy of the rules document on paper.  An emergency back-up person may be designated. 

Board Member Paul Rothrock is moving away soon, but may still be available to assist with the LFS web site, (IT). 

Scott discussed that LFS should eventually name a Vice President- but it cannot be Claire (Secretary), or Craig, (Treasurer). 

Scott discussed using FGO FB page for idea discussion.  Scott and Brian Fields (PAN) are working on an FAQ page for FGO.  Scott is also initiating a PA Freethought Group Organizers group- separate from FGO. 

ZGroup members discussed that Paul has been maintaining the LFS Twitter account.  Claire expressed an interest in helping with the account. 

Board members will solicit local speakers from outside the group for presentations at meetings. 


Upcoming activities:


Lancaster Gay ride Festival

other local festivals and parades as we become aware of them- we may consult PAN’s list

LFS may sponsor a contest for paid tuition to Camp Invention or Camp Quest.  Claire will gaterh info regarding Camp Quest, Scott on Camp Invention, to present at the March LFS Meeting.


Dan will locat online links to incorporation documents and share these on the LFS Board page.


Claire discussed that the most recent LFS Pub Night was attended by more than 25 people.  Claire will try to book a private room at Loxley’s- since the group is commonly very large. 

Next board meeting agenda: Discuss incorporation documents, fundraising activities.

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