Friends, This has been a tough summer for me.  Baton Rouge has been in the news, and the death of both Alton Sterling and three of our policemen has been discouraging. Alton was a cousin of an African-American Friend of mine (though they were not close), and two of the policemen are connected to my niece Lauren within a couple of “degrees” of friendship or kinship.  Moveover my mother-in-law had a stroke, and Carolyn and I have been on the front line of caring for her here in our home.

I mention all this because I know that many of you, like me, embrace religious naturalism because it helps make sense of things that would otherwise be crazy in this world.  But of course no worldview makes news like I recount above pleasant.  The question is whether it can give us an orientation from which to contemplate such events and to decide how to act.

You may feel differently, but sickness and even death seem to me to fit satisfactorily into our worldview, sad as it might be in idividual cases.  Social upheavals like racial strife are more difficult, because after all we COULD do better.  While we understand some of the scientific bases for xenophobia, it is upsetting that we haven’t yet found a way to deal with it.

This all ties into a larger project, namely developing moral precepts based on religious naturalism.  One wonderful thing about being secretary of this organization is that I get to communicate with many of you who have ideas about how this might be done.  Keep those ideas coming; I personally enjoy seeing how you navigate the territory, and it is hugely helpful as I figure out how I navigate the territory as well.  And as many of you know, on our forums (Facebook and IRASnet) we discuss details of our various approaches.

Speaking of Facebook, I appeal to any of you who understand that medium better than I, to help me figure out something.  We get lots of people asking to be members via Facebook, and until recently I could send them a Facebook “message” to discuss them becoming members.  But Facebook has made a change, and I can’t do this, unless I friend them first.  I could do that, but if anyone knows an easier way to contact anyone who asks to be a member via Facebook (people who come via the website are no problem at all),  please let me know.

I hope you are all coping with the summer better than I am, and I appreciate all the thoughts you have sent my way.  Things here in Baton Rouge are actually not as bad as one might think from the news, but in fact racism is alive and well here, and we continue to struggle with it.

Michael Cavanaugh, Secretary