Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix   - -
Board Members

Richard Dewey

Vice President:
Chris Wojno

Tim Bedient

James Osborn

Program Director:
Al Wendler

Property Director:
Ann Marie Eisentraut

Membership Director:
Anita Romanowski

Members at Large:
Vici Duarte
Linda Wendler

Committee Chairs & Other Leadership:
J.B. Wright

Bruce Pettycrew


Safety Officer:
Ann Marie Eisentraut

Service Outreach Coordinator:
Gwindolynn Gentry

Facility Use Management:
Vici Duarte

Food Management:

Linda Wendler

Science Night:

Matt Ferrin

Information Technology:
James Osborn

Girl Scout Troop:
Ann Marie Eisentraut

Book Club:
Roy Towne

Inquiring Minds:
Richard Dewey

Ted Talks:
Anna Carter

Game Nights:
Bruce Stiles
Ann Marie Eisentraut
Anna Carter

Immediate Past President:
Shelley Newman (2011)

President Emeritus:
Susan Sackett

President's Message

In keeping with the pattern of picking interesting and possibly controversial subjects, I decided to write this month about a topic that I seem to keep getting into conversations about with our members and that is a source of some controversy and confusion. That topic is "spirituality". Yep, I'm really going there. What the heck, it's fun to stir things up a bit.

So, let's throw out some definitions off of the internet. I found two that I like and I'll quote them for starters just to get this going. The first one is: "Spirituality is a broad concept with room for many perspectives. In general, it includes a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, and it typically involves a search for meaning in life. As such, it is a universal human experience—something that touches us all." I like this one because it doesn't reference a "higher power" per se, even as it mentions "something bigger than ourselves". The second one that I really like is just a short excerpt from a Wiki page: "Those who speak of spirituality outside of religion often define themselves as spiritual but not religious and generally believe in the existence of different "spiritual paths," emphasizing the importance of finding one's own individual path to spirituality. According to one 2005 poll, about 24% of the United States population identifies itself as spiritual but not religious." I've said that about myself for a very long time, and I've been an atheist my whole life.

By now, many of you reading this have already tried searching the internet for definitions and you have found that many are strictly referring to religion. In other places, it is clearly stated that the word has many definitions and none are specifically the most widely accepted. That may well be the reason for so much controversy and confusion within our community. For me, the two above hit close to home and I feel comfortable with them. If you haven't searched the internet for definitions yet, you might find it quite interesting reading. In any case, since ours is a largely non-religious community (in the traditional sense - another subject for another time), I'll go forward from here focusing on the two definitions that I've quoted above.

So, "... a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves" means what exactly? Most, if not all of us understand the basic concept of evolution. We now know the basics of how life started on this planet in a relatively simple form (even if we don't know yet the exact mechanism that started the first life-form) and spread out into many branches that ended up with about 8.7 million species of such magnificent beauty and complexity that should fill anyone who is paying attention with a serious sense of awe and wonder. And we are just one of those species but, as scientists keep reaffirming, we are very much connected to every single one of those other species. If you watch nature channels or spend much time in the wilderness, it's difficult not to notice the beauty of it all. And to look at another aspect of it, one of our more famous scientists said in a song by Nightwish, "we are all going to die ... and that makes us the lucky ones!". He was referring to the fact that none of us alive today existed for billions of years and then, against "stupefying odds", we came to be alive for a cosmic blink of an eye and, based on the complexity of our DNA and the incredible variety of individuals "who could have been born in our place", we have the opportunity to experience all of the wonders that we are able to understand with our limited senses and current knowledge. And now we know that all life on this planet is possible only because of the debris from exploding stars. From stardust we come and back to stardust we go after we die. Contemplating all of this fills me with more than just awe and wonder, but also a deep sense of joy at knowing that I'm alive to experience all of this. Awe, wonder, joy - what does that sound like to you? It sounds like spirituality to me. Maybe you want to call it something else, but I'm fine with the word as-is. And maybe you find a "different path". That's fine too. I think/hope that we all get the point.

What I was referring to above focused mostly on life as we know it. I didn't mention the enormous expanse of the known universe. We know now that even our majestic and beautiful planet barely registers as a speck of dust in just our galaxy, let alone the entire known universe. When I'm away from the city lights and air pollution, especially in higher altitudes, and I gaze up at the night sky, I don't just see specks of light. I see many different sizes of stars, galaxies, nebulae and massive expanses of nothing at all in between. Well, actually, scientists are now understanding that the "nothing" that I just mentioned is, in fact, filled with something called dark energy and possibly much more. I'm not an astrophysicist but, from what I do know, that is so incredibly amazing that I could easily stare up at the night sky for hours and feel just utterly dumbfounded to say the least. And then I remember how long it took for light to get here from those celestial bodies that I can see. Proxima Centauri, the closest star to us other than the sun, is 4.24 light years away meaning that it's light that we see in the night sky started it's journey to us 4.24 years ago. And that's a close one. Some of the stars that we can see are much further away. For instance, "The farthest star we can see with our naked eye is V762 Cas in Cassiopeia at 16,308 light-years away." And some of those stars burned out long ago but we're still seeing their light as though they are still there. How can you not feel awe and wonder just thinking about these things, especially when gazing up at the night sky? That, to me, is spirituality.

I have to pause for a moment to mention that, while I'm writing this, I'm listening to piano music by George Winston. Periodically, I get slightly distracted from what I'm writing and drift away to the sound of the music. And I get goosebumps quite frequently. Yet another way to feel the awe, wonder, and joy.

I want to write on this all day but I can't and I know you don't want me to anyway. I'll just briefly mention that meditation is another way to get that feeling, and there are many other "paths" that I know people find to get this feeling. But I do want to describe a couple of my own experiences, of the many that I've had, where I had that overwhelming feeling. One was a few years ago, and one was quite recent.

The first is one I'll never forget and can easily recall vivid details of even now, and this was at least ten years ago. I was camping in one of my favorite spots and decided to go for a walk just before nightfall. It was lightly raining so I didn't want to sit at the edge of a nearby clearing like I usually do to see if I can catch some wildlife activity. I wasn't looking to freeze (it was late October). I was walking slowly on a game trail, with a dark brown poncho on and a walking stick in my right hand, and walking very slowly and quietly in hopes of catching a glimpse of some wildlife without scaring it off (I am most definitely not a hunter in case you were wondering). After about a mile, I thought that I had gone far enough so I stopped, turned around, and promptly froze in my tracks. Following behind me, quite close, was a herd of about 30 elk! All single file and all following their leader, which was at that moment .... me. They had no idea that I was human and weren't at all afraid. I waited until they all very quietly passed by me before I moved. Can you imagine what I felt? That's the feeling that I'm talking about.

The other happened just the other day. I had the great fortune to work with a group of people from HSGP, led by Gwyndolynn Gentry (see her column to the right), helping to feed people experiencing homelessness a very nice dinner. Standing in the serving line and heaping food on their plates, with a cheery smile and "hello", and getting that in return more often than not from people at rock bottom, was both humbling and fulfilling to me. And yes, there were moments where I felt that connection to something bigger than me that has nothing whatsoever to do with anything supernatural. So yes, I'd call that a spiritual experience as well.

So now you know what I mean when I mention spirituality or that I'm spiritual. And I barely even touched the surface of this topic. What does it mean to you? If you're so inclined, write to me at the address listed below or post something on our Facebook Group page (link provided below as well) to get a conversation going.

Here are links to some of our important webpages. Our Meetup page is at HSGP Meetup. Our Facebook page at HSGP Facebook Page. Our Facebook Group can be found at HSGP Facebook Group. And lastly, since you're reading this, you probably already know but our main website is at HSGP website.


You can email me at or look on the left side of this page to find out who your board members and committee chairs are to contact to them.

Richard Dewey
President, HSGP

Turn Business into Fundraising for HSGP

One easy way Humanists can raise funds for HSGP is by giving our business to businesses that return a percentage of the proceeds to HSGP. For example, Bashas', Fry's and Albertson's grocery stores will return a percentage of the money our members spend at their store's. Amazon will also donate a percentage of sales that are made through the HSGP link. But first you need to enroll in the program(s) of your choice for this to happen. See article at lower right for more information.

HSGP member and Professional Realtor Vici Duarte has announced that she is offering a similar program. Vici will donate 10% of her net commission to HSGP. If you plan to buy or sell a home, speak to Vici at any HSGP event, or contact her by email at

We are looking for other business people who might be interested in increasing their sales and then giving back to the Humanists. If you have an interest in a business, consider if you would like to offer a way to increase your business and support HSGP. Please contact our fundraising committee at about setting up a similar program.

Upcoming Meetings and Topics
Jun 25th
Creation: A Novel by Gore Vidal
event:  Book Club

Join us to discuss Creation: A Novel by Gore Vidal.

from Amazon.... A sweeping novel of politics, war, philosophy, and adventure–in a restored edition, featuring never-before-published material from Gore Vidal’s original manuscript–Creation offers a captivating grand tour of the ancient world.

If you purchase this book from Amazon through the Amazon Smile program, HSGP will benefit. Click on the link below.

Jul 02nd
Should we create a Humanist political party?
Event:  Inquiring Minds Discussion Group
Topic: Should we create a Humanist political party?

Considering all that's happening in the political scene this year, this could be a very interesting subject indeed! What would a Humanist political party look like? Being largely freethinkers, what would the platform look like? Come prepared to have a lively discussion!

If anybody can get there early, by around 9:00, I will need help setting up tables and chairs. I'm not supposed to lift anything heavy right now. Much appreciated.

Find some articles or links to help with the discussion if you like and feel free to post related articles in the comments section below.

If you are interested, a group of us like to go out to lunch afterward. We will wrap up the meeting around noon so you just might be hungry by then.

Hosted by Richard Dewey the first Saturday of each month.

Please go to our Meetup page to RSVP and to see related articles: HSGP Inquiring Minds Meetup.

Hosted by Richard Dewey the first Saturday of each month.

Jul 06th
Topics chosen by attendees
Event:  TED Video and Interesting Topic Discussion Group

Attendees who have topics present (5 minutes per presentation discussion lengths vary)

TED video (or any public domain video) is voted on for presentation order

Videos are watched and discussed in order as time permits

Led by Anna Carter

Jul 08th
Brunelleschi, presented by Debra Neill - Details Soon
Event:  Humanities Project Monthly Cultural Presentation & Meeting
Professor of History and good friend Deb Neill will give us a presentation about Filippo Brunelleschi, "an Italian designer and a key figure in architecture, recognised to be the first modern engineer, planner and sole construction supervisor". (Wikipedia)

Talk about STEAM!

Details TBA very soon.

BYOB and snacks to share always welcome.

The HSGP Humanities Project holds free and open meetings on the 2nd Friday of each month at 7pm at HCC. The majority of the evening is given over to one or more of our HSGP members or guests, to share with us some aspect of arts & humanities that they are passionate about!

Throughout the year we will invite you to join us at free or inexpensive excursions to various arts & humanities events around the Valley.

We are committed to bringing outstanding people from the world of humanities to present to HSGP at least once per year at the Sunday Speaker Meetings.

Your HSGP Humanities Project Committee.

Jul 09th
Event:  Service Outreach - Crochet Sleeping Mats
Jul 09th
Event:  Game Night - Joint Event with Mensa
Jul 10th
Speaker:  Ian Pettycrew
Jul 24th
Aug 03rd
Event:  TED Video and Interesting Topic Discussion Group
Aug 06th
Event:  Inquiring Minds Discussion Group
Aug 07th
Speaker:  A video by Bart Campolo
Aug 12th
Event:  Humanities Project Monthly Cultural Presentation & Meeting
Aug 13th
Event:  Service Outreach - Crochet Sleeping Mats
Aug 13th
Event:  Game Night - Joint Event with Mensa
Aug 21st
Speaker:  Dr. James Richardson
Sep 03rd
Event:  Inquiring Minds Discussion Group
Sep 07th
Event:  TED Video and Interesting Topic Discussion Group
Sep 09th
Event:  Humanities Project Monthly Cultural Presentation & Meeting
Sep 10th
Event:  Service Outreach - Crochet Sleeping Mats
Sep 10th
Event:  Game Night - Joint Event with Mensa
Sep 11th
Sep 25th
Oct 01st
Event:  Inquiring Minds Discussion Group

The Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix is open to presentations on a variety of topics, many of which are controversial. Please note that the opinions expressed by our guest speakers do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or philosophy of HSGP.

Message from the Membership Director

The HSGP Board would like to share with our members some financial information about the organization's operating expenses. As you read this, please keep in mind that we have no intention of raising the annual dues. However, also bear in mind that dues payments and additional donations that many of you generously contribute are absolutely necessary to run the Humanist Community Center.

The per person share of our entire operating budget for 2016 is $140.00 calculated on an average of 300 members.

Here's an overview of our income:

Dues: Other than lifetime members and non-member donations, each member pays an average of $45 per person in dues.

Event Income: Other events, such as Darwin Day, Solstice Party, FSM Dinner, etc. yield additional income as do the pre-meeting breakfasts. This income equals about $12 per member.

Contributions: Currently, we receive about $40 per member in other general contributions.

The bottom line: Doing the math, we get $45 (dues), event income ($12) and member donations ($40) for a total of $97 per member. This results in a shortfall of $43 per member ($140 - $97) to meet our operating budget requirements. We hope to meet this shortfall through additional donations from the membership.

Where does the money go? Expenditures include inside and outside maintenance, cleaning, utilities, wi-fi, telephone, breakfast food and event preparations, office supplies and printing services, insurance, legal advice, etc.

Anyone who would like to know our actual monthly intake/outgo is welcome to attend the board meetings which are held after the second Sunday meeting of each month.

Hopefully this explains why we doggedly remind you to keep your membership dues current. This helps to ensure that we all have this wonderful Community Center to share with each other for ourselves and future generations.

Welcome New Members

Martha O'Connor
Ursula Daniels


Wonderful Humanist Project: As many of you already know, I have been conducting a monthly workshop to crochet sleeping mats from plastic grocery bags. The next workshop date is Saturday, June 11 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and future events will be conducted on the second Saturday of every month. Please consider joining in this fun project to assist people who are experiencing homelessness in the Phoenix area.

You don't have to know how to crochet, I can teach anyone who wants to learn. For those who don't want to crochet, you will be making "plarn" (plastic yarn). The only materials you need to bring are plastic bags; only the ones that the cashiers put your groceries in. I have crochet hooks available for $3.00 each. Note: this is not a suitable project for young children.

Please see the Meetup post: Crochet Mats for Homeless June 11

Volunteer Opportunities

We are always in need of volunteers to supply breakfast casseroles, help set up before and clean up after meetings and events, serve on various committees. We have a brochure with a complete list of volunteer opportunities on the info table at the front of the meeting hall. Contact Volunteer Coordinator Matt Ferrin at for additional information or questions.

To volunteer for a Sunday meeting opportunity or other event, click on this button and select the event for which you'd like to volunteer.

Sign Up Now!

You can also find the SignUp Genius button on the home page of by scrolling down.

Your Participation is Welcome

This column is for the members. I'd like it to also be about and by the members by encouraging all of you to send me announcements of life events, questions about HSGP, contribute a piece for this column or suggestions of subjects you'd like to see posted here.

Please contact me if you need any membership information or have a change of address, phone number, or email. Anita Romanowski Membership Director

HSGP Service Outreach Project

by Gwyndolynn Gentry

Hi HSGP Friends!

Saturday May 28, 2016 HSGP members volunteered for 3 hours at Paz De Cristo, a local homeless outreach program. Eleven members showed up before 4pm to prepare a tasty meal of spicy peppers, brats sausages, fruit salad, salad, pastries and a variety of drinks. Then around 5:00 our members served the people of Mesa who needed a meal, and by 6:45 we were making the kitchen and dinning areas sparkle with our elbow grease and great attitudes. Everyone who came had a great time not only helping others, but sharing the camaraderie and fellowship of being with likeminded while doing good.  

June 11, 2016 from 9 to noon is your next chance to join the fun. We will be going to UMOM to do a very similar service, but focused on lunch. Please RSVP on Meet-Up at UMOM June 11 . We will limit this to the first 10 to sign up - so if you want to come sign up early.  

July 23, 2016 will be our next chance to serve as a group at Paz De Cristo.  We will be volunteering for the dinner service again from 4 to 7pm.  You may sign up on Meet-Up at Paz July 23 .  Spaces are limited. 

This groups offers a variety of other services for those experiencing homelessness or food shortage, such as food boxes, help with job hunting, weekly showers, and mentoring. If you would like to volunteer as an individual directly please go to their website at .

I can be reached at .

Keeping Up With HSGP
Social Media Matters

by Jennifer White

Time for an overview and update on our social media presence!

HSGP Meetup

I would say that Meetup has the biggest impact on HSGP’s reach. More people say they found out about us there than anywhere else. As of now, we have 1,504 folks signed up on our Meetup group! Some of them join us at our Sunday Speaker meetings and/or other events like Game Night, Humanities Project, Inquiring Minds, Book Club, Ted Talks/Interesting Discussion, and various charity/volunteer opportunities. Meetup is how we get great turnouts for special events like the Flying Spaghetti Monster Dinner, the Winter Solstice Celebration, the Darwin Day Luncheon, concerts, and visiting guest luminaries, resulting in income to help pay for our Community Center. A few of these folks even become dues-paying members of HSGP. Join us at Meetup now so you will always be abreast of what’s happening next at the Humanist Center!

Facebook Discussion Group

This is an open group on Facebook, where people share posts and participate in conversations. Anyone on Facebook can see the fascinating articles and discussions, but you must be a member of the group to post or comment. Just go there and request to become a member. Richard or I will approve you. You must have a Facebook account. We do our best to keep out spammers (trying to sell you stuff) and we don’t allow abusive comments. As of today we have 802 members in our group!

Facebook Page

A traditional Facebook page. Anyone can see it. You can react to and comment on the articles, events, and memes on the page. Only posts by authorized admins will appear on the wall. The public may post, but they will appear to the left of the wall. Stop by the page and check it out - then be sure to LIKE us!

Twitter @hsgp on

Yes, we do have a Twitter account, but it has been all but abandoned. We really need someone who can take it over and start us tweeting again! Let me know if you are interested or know someone else who may be.

HSGP Website

Ok, so not exactly social media, but internet presence for sure. When people google Humanism in Arizona, what pops up is our welcoming, attractive, and informative website. It is our face on the internet, where one can learn about Humanism in general and HSGP in particular – everything one needs and wants to find out is on our site, including contact information to find out even more! One can see our upcoming events, read our newsletter (as you are doing now), click on links to HSGP on Meetup and Facebook, learn about the charities and causes we support, utilize links to find other interesting Humanist sites, and much more.

Questions or need help?
Grab me if you see me at the Humanist Center in Mesa,
Message me on Meetup or Facebook (use links above), or

Email me at

Meanwhile, have fun on the social media!

HSGP Humanities Project Fundraiser
Books & Music Bookshelf

HSGP's Humanities Project has a Book & Music Bookshelf for your convenient shopping pleasure. Books, CDs and DVDs on the bookshelf are for sale at a great price. The deals are even better on the 2-for-a-dollar bottom shelf. The Bookshelf is located under the bulletin board near the entrance to the restrooms.

The prices on these items are so great that some folks are using it like a rental library: They buy a book for a super-cheap price, read it, and bring it back as a donation. The book goes up for sale again, and they "buy" another one! Cool!

Take a look at the Bookshelf next time you're at the Humanist Community Center and consider buying or donating to this fun new effort.

Human Inspiration

"Homo sapiens is the species that invents symbols in which to invest passion and authority, then forgets that symbols are inventions."
Attributed to Joyce Carol Oates.

"The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction not a destination."
Attributed to Carl Rogers.

Quotes courtesy of

Programs to Support HSGP from Grocery Stores and Amazon

If you shop at any of the Bashas' stores (Bashas', AJ's Fine Foods, Food City), your local Fry's Food Store, or your local Albertson's HSGP can receive a percentage of the money you spend. In addition, when you shop at using our HSGP link, we receive a percentage of the sale.

To activate any of these no-cost-to-you revenue streams for HSGP, go to the HSGP Supporting Businesses page Supporting Businesses and follow the instructions for the program you want to use.

If you shop at any of the local stores that participate in this program, please consider obtaining and using an HSGP community support card whenever you make purchases. When we support our local merchants, they support us!

Susan Sackett, Certified Humanist Celebrant, would like to remind you that she is available for all your life passage ceremonies, including weddings and commitment ceremonies, baby namings, coming-of-age celebrations, funerals/memorial services, and even divorce celebrations! Special 10% discount for all HSGP members and their immediate families! Humanist Celebrant. Discounts for HSGP members! Contact her at Susan Sackett .

Have you joined our parent organizations? If so, you still must pay dues to be a member of HSGP - your enrollment in either of our parent organizations (American Humanist Association or Council for Secular Humanism) does NOT automatically include membership in the local chapter, HSGP. And conversely, if you join HSGP, you are not automatically enrolled in our parent organizations! Each is separate and must be joined separately. Why not join all three today? Humanism depends on your financial as well as emotional support!
HSGP is a Chartered chapter of the American Humanist Association and also a chapter of the Council for Secular Humanism.

American Humanist Association
1777 T. Street
Washington, DC 20009-7102
Council for Secular Humanism
Box 664
Amherst, NY 14226-0664