On “Nonbeliever Nation”

May 31, 2014 in From RRNA Speakers by RRNALeadership

flag for nonbeliever nationby Richmond Reason and Naturalism Association’s Ernest Wilson, speaker at the June 17th, 2014 Topical Evening:  Nonbeliever Nation

During a 4 hour layover in the Atlanta airport, I came upon Nonbeliever Nation, The Rise of Secular America by David Niose in the religion section of an airport bookstore. I was surprised and intrigued by the title and after a short look through purchased the book.  I was not disappointed and believe you will also be interested, intrigued and perhaps motivated to follow some of his suggestions to for secular activism .

David Noise is president of the Secular Coalition for America, a Washington lobbying group which some of us have supported in the past. He is a practicing attorney who has represented secular interests in the courts as well as author of  the Psycology Today blog Our Humanity, Naturally.

Noise starts off by detailing the proud secular history of America which many of us may not be familiar with giving the lie to the statement that America is a Christian country. He then traces the rise of the Religious Right and the great harm this has done to the country. But there is hope because secularist can do much to oppose this and advance their interests. He urges secular people to stand up for their beliefs and become politically active. He offers suggestions for how this can be done. All and all I think you will agree that this is an exciting and important book.

5 Alternatives to 12-step Meetings

February 10, 2014 in From RRNA Speakers by RRNALeadership

SMART blog pic

by Roxanne Allen, with SMART Recovery, speaker at RRNA’s Topical Evening:  Addiction, on February 18th, 2014

New Options for Addiction Recovery 

In the 1730s Native Americans organized the first abstinence-based  recovery circles. Since that time, a variety of groups have come and  gone, but the efficacy of self-help meetings for addiction recovery has  been well researched and proven to be effective in many ways.

In the 20th century the most well known mutual support groups were  based on the 12-step model, the most widely available of these being  Alcoholics Anonymous. For many years, the 12-step model was an integral  part of the treatment program for many of those who sought professional  assistance to help them quit an addiction.  Over time, the public grew  to perceive that regular attendance and participation in 12-step  meetings was a requirement of recovery.  However, as addiction research has progressed, we now know that there is not one program that is helpful for everyone.  People are different and have different needs. For example, many  people do better with a model that does not involve a spiritual  component; many people do better with a self-empowering approach.  We  also know that people seeking recovery from addiction have a better  outcome when they are able to make informed choices about the mutual  support groups they attend.

Many paths to recovery

There are a number of support groups and alternatives to 12-step  recovery that stand ready to help people overcome their addiction to  substances and behaviors. Each program has merit, and the best outcome  occurs when an individual selects a program that best matches their  needs and beliefs. (Note: some people find that a combination of  programs is more helpful to them than a single program.)

SMART Recovery® 

SMART (Self Management and Recovery Training) is the leading  self-empowering addiction support group. SMART participants learn tools  for recovery based on the latest scientific research.

SMART provides a 4-Point Program:1. Building and Maintaining Motivation; 2. Coping with Urges; 3.  Managing Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviors; and 4. Living a Balanced  life. Tools  include Stages of Change, Change Plan Worksheet,  Cost-Benefit Analysis, Hierarchy of Values, ABCs of REBT for Urge Coping and Emotional Upsets, DISARM (Destructive Imagery and  Self-talk  Awareness & Refusal Method), Role-playing and Rehearsing ,  Brainstorming, and more.  Tools can be found on their website.

Women for Sobriety

Women for Sobriety (WFS) is the first and only self-help program  accounting for the special problems women have in recovery, specifically the need for feelings of self-value and self-worth, and the need to  expatiate feelings of guilt and humiliation. Their purpose is to help  all women with addiction through the discovery of self, gained by  sharing experiences, hopes and encouragement with other women in similar circumstances. The

“New Life” Acceptance Program includes thirteen statements to aid those participating in the program, and can be found on their website.

Secular Organizations for Sobriety/Save Ourselves

SOS takes a self-empowerment approach to recovery, and addresses sobriety (abstinence) as “Priority One, no matter what!”  The program credits the individual for achieving and maintaining  his/her own sobriety, and respects recovery in any form. There are six  suggested guidelines for sobriety, including “Sobriety is our priority”,  and “We are each responsible for our lives and our sobriety”.  The  others can be found on their website.


LifeRing offers sober, secular self-help to abstain from alcohol and  non-medically-indicated drugs by “relying on our own power and the  support of others”. The program operates according to the “3S” Philosophy: 1. Sobriety, 2. Secularity, 3. Self-Help. Meetings are friendly, confidential, non-judgmental gatherings of  peers, and the atmosphere is relaxed, practical and positive.

Moderation Management

Moderation Management (MM) offers education, behavioral change  techniques and peer support for problem drinkers seeking to decrease  their drinking — whether to moderate levels or to total abstinence. MM  offers a variety of behavioral methods for change, guidelines for  responsible drinking, and tools to measure progress. The program follows  9 Steps Toward Moderation and Positive Lifestyle Changes which can be found on their website.

While these programs may not be as widely available geographically as the 12-step programs, they are available to anyone with an internet  connection. Each program offers online services in addition to  face-to-face meetings.

Addiction can create huge health, legal and personal problems for  those afflicted. The good news is that there are many pathways to  recovery, many options available, and each individual deserves to find  what works best for them.

You’ll Never Walk Alone

July 30, 2013 in From RRNA Speakers by RRNALeadership


By Ronnie Childs, RRNA Member and speaker at August 1st, 2013 meeting “Two Ecosystems”

I’m a far cry from a scientist, but science is one of my favorite topics in which to indulge my bookworm tendencies.  One topic I’ve been coming across over and over recently is the human microbiome, which is a fairly new term—my Spell-Check just jumped on it, in fact. It refers collectively to the trillions of microscopic organisms that exist on, around, and in us, and which is altogether separate from us genetically. It is generally considered non-pathogenic; in fact, there is a great deal of it we can’t live without. According to hologenome theory, another Spell-Check reject, it plays a big part in our development, physiology, immunity, nutrition, speciation and other bodily systems.  It acts symbiotically with the host to provide traits we didn’t need to evolve on our own. Within the body of a healthy adult, these microbes outnumber the host cells by about ten to one, although in aggregate they would only weigh about two or three pounds, the cells being much smaller than human cells.

This is a hot field of research.  The findings of the NIH’s recently concluded Human Microbiome Project is providing us with tons of discoveries, some of it quite surprising, and leading to some new ways to look at life on earth.  Take medicine, for example.  Since the advent of antibiotics, a good deal of medical treatment has been to kill-kill-kill (bacteria, that is). We’ve known for a while that antibiotics have been grossly overused, and that germs have become resistant to them.  Now we’re hearing about probiotics (oops! You-know-what again), the opposite of anti-biotics.  The general idea is that instead of killing microbes you introduce microbes into the ailing system, which will re-balance the respective microbial population, resulting in a healthy mix–The good guys will hold the bad guys in check. By speciation, mentioned above, I mean that members of some (non-human) species cannot successfully mate with other members unless their respective microbiomes are compatible. Also, our immune systems exhibit a great deal of dependence on our gut flora. It’s been pretty well-established that it is possible to be too clean, that microbe exposure, particularly in children, plays a vital role in the development of a well-functioning immune system, which can provide life-long protection from disease.  An important microbial infusion for infants comes from mother’s milk.  Some researchers have taken hologenome theory so far as to propose that lactation evolved not as a source of nutrition but for the immunity benefits it confers upon the child.

These are just a few greatly over-simplified examples presented in a slim overview.  I could go on forever relating what’s out there on this rich topic.  Related articles are popping up just about everywhere you look, in the popular press as well as the more scientific.  For what it’s worth, I think big changes are going to come about as a result of this emerging research.  We’ll see.  For starters, try Googling fecal transplants.