Conversation Starter

Conversation Starter
by Ron Steelman

Smile_No_Hell_Black

A friend sent this to me. I immediately added it to my email signature. I may even buy a T-shirt with this image. Why? It’s kind of disarming. It’s simple and pleasantly humorous. . .as opposed to the more “in your face” atheist/humanist buttons and Ts that are out there. For example:
– Atheism Cures Religious Terrorism
– Gods don’t kill people – People with Gods kill people
– Keep Your Rosaries Off My Ovaries
– Hi, I’m going door to door educating Christians about evolution
– Don’t Pray in My School I Won’t Think In Your Church
– Jesus loves me, but I still make him wear a condom.
– I’ve Got Nothing Against God, It’s His Fan Club I Can’t Stand
– Have You Threatened Your Children With Eternal Damnation Today?
– If you burn a Koran, light it with a Bible.

There are hundreds of these quips that are designed to push back against the christian right and to defend ourselves against all the ridiculous ways they are attempting to interfere in our lives and with our laws. In the process of forcing their religious beliefs on all of us, they may ultimately corrupt our U.S. Constitution and demolish the wall of separation between church and state. Of course, this is all under way right now.

There is an ongoing discussion/debate amongst my atheist and humanist friends. There are some humanists who hold that we shouldn’t spend our time insulting the ultra-religious or tearing down religion, because we’ll never win them over anyway and we’ll come off as arrogant and strident. We should focus, instead, on educating the non-fundamental religionists. Maybe, if we speak reason to the reasonable, perhaps they will give up their superstitious religious beliefs. On the other side, my more strident atheist friends think we should loudly challenge all this religious hogwash, pointing out every ludicrous aspect of their dogma.

I can argue with my friends over these issues, but I don’t do well in debates with fundamentalists. I get so angry with them and their lack of reason and rationality. It’s not that I expect to win-over a religious fundy. It’s that these confrontations are a complete exercise in futility.

So, for me, for now, I want to experiment by wearing a T-shirt around that says, “Smile. . .there is no hell.” I want to see if it will spark a conversation with someone who might relate to the quip. Maybe this will get them thinking about some other things that they don’t believe either. Maybe I’ll give them a brochure from my Humanist group before we part. HA!

I’ll keep you posted.

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Podcast #01 – “Pope, Schmope”

Got podcast? Well, we do now. . .at least our first one. We had to talk about the old/new Pope because “Pope news” has saturated the media 24/7 since the day the old Pope resigned. What does it all mean? Hope you enjoy our first effort. Length = 27:43.

Art

Art from Red Bank Humanists is our first guest.

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Letters To The Editor: A Must

Letters To The Editor: A Must
– 
by Ron Steelman

Barry_Klassel

Barry Klassel – Humanist Chaplain, Rutgers University

Barry Klassel, a longtime member of Red Bank Humanists and the New Jersey Humanist Network, become the Humanist Chaplain at Rutgers University several years ago (with the help of Dr. Gary Brill, a Humanist and the Campus Coordinator for the Chaplaincy). Yes, many think “Humanist Chaplain” is an oxymoron. However, since Harvard and Columbia have Humanist Chaplains, why not Rutgers?

Point being, there needs to be someone at colleges and universities to whom non-believing students can go for information and advice. University students are forming many new ideas and have personal questions about ethics and morality. Many want to know how to be good without God. For example, Pew Research Center says one-third of Americans under 30 have no religious affiliation (January 13, 2013).

If it will make you happier, let’s just change the word Chaplain to “adviser.”

targum

Targum: an Aramaic translation or paraphrase
of a portion of the Old Testament

Now to the point. Barry read an editorial in the Rutgers newspaper called the “Daily Targum.” Yes, Targum is a biblical word, but let’s “pass over” that for now.

The title of the editorial says it all: “Successful Society Requires Religion.” What!? And this was in an editorial to boot! When silliness like this gets printed, reasonable, rational people must respond. We all have to write more letters to the editor like this one:

“To the Editor of the Daily Targum:
Humanism Can Form The Basis For A Successful Society

The Targum editorial entitled “Successful society requires religion” is unconvincing.  Non-theistic humanism can provide the philosophical and inspirational underpinnings of a just and forward-looking society. The fact that many countries including the United States are seeing a decline in religiosity does not mean the people are losing their morals or their sense of purpose in life. Rather, they are seeing the world in a way that is more honest and more useful to them.

article-2281475-15435FCF000005DC-848_634x398

Distant Galaxies

As a humanist my focus is on this one lifetime, on this world and the people in it. My family is all of humanity. My history is told in the stars, in the fossil record and in the DNA of all living creatures. I am inspired by human efforts to explore every corner of our universe and our own natures. I am moved by photos of distant galaxies, by freedom fighters around the world and by the touch of a child’s hand. I find beauty in the struggle of each human being to build a meaningful and fulfilling life. My purpose is to help them succeed.

One of the pillars of the humanist philosophy is a concern with morality. In fact, the day your editorial came out coincided with a meeting of the Humanist Chaplaincy at Rutgers on the topic of moral issues we all face. We discussed the areas of ecology, family relationships and world events. Moral questions pervade our lives and humanist principles take that into account.

A statement by the American Humanist Association expresses some of their values regarding a just society:

“Humanists are concerned for the well being of all, are committed to diversity, and respect those of differing yet humane views. We work to uphold the equal enjoyment of human rights and civil liberties in an open, secular society and maintain it is a civic duty to participate in the democratic process and a planetary duty to protect nature’s integrity, diversity, and beauty in a secure, sustainable manner.”

This is certainly a good start if we wish to have the basis for a successful society.

– Barry Klassel, Humanist Chaplain at Rutgers”
Humanist Chaplaincy at Rutgers

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Barry was very rational, reasonable, even polite. That’s how you get letters to the editor printed. I, on the other hand, would have blown it. I’m sure my letter would have been rejected because I wanted to point out all the sophomoric logical fallacies in the editorial.

The Targum editorial is here.
It is filled with logical fallacies, some of which include:

argument from omniscience
argumentum ad baculum
argumentum ad populum
bandwagon fallacy
confirmation bias
red herring

Definitions of Logical Fallacies here.

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Project Reason Video Contest

Project Reason Video Contest (revised after the contest)

Our 2010 Submission:


No, we did not win, but we had great fun creating a witty view of superstitious beliefs. Elaine and Duane employed some sparkling comedic timing.

View The 2012 Entries: http://www.project-reason.org/contests/2012_video_contest/
(the video entries are below the printed rules)  My favorite from the 2012 entries is called, “Conflict” by somebody named, Risenape. I particularly like the last line: (We should) “live with questions that may never be answered, rather than answers that may not be questioned. Choose a side.”
Video Contest Logo

I also enjoyed “Genesis Creation Visualized – Scientifically” Created by TheSkepticalMagician.

What do you think?

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About Project Reason: Noted atheist author Sam Harris created the website Project Reason. This is from the “About” page on the website:

Project Reason is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation devoted to spreading scientific knowledge and secular values in society. Drawing on the talents of the most prominent and creative thinkers across a wide range of disciplines, Project Reason seeks to encourage critical thinking and wise public policy through a variety of interrelated projects. The foundation will convene conferences, produce films, sponsor scientific studies and opinion polls, publish original research, award grants to other charitable organizations, and offer material support to religious dissidents and public intellectuals — all with the purpose of eroding the influence of dogmatism, superstition, and bigotry in our world.

While the foundation is devoted to fostering critical thinking generally, we believe that religious ideas require a special focus. Both science and the arts are built upon cultures of vigorous self-criticism; religious discourse is not. As a result, religious dogmatism still reigns unchallenged in almost every society on earth—dividing humanity from itself, inflaming conflict, preventing wise public policy, and diverting scarce resources. One of the primary goals of Project Reason is to change this increasingly unhealthy status quo.

Project Reason is not affiliated with The Reason Foundation or REASON® magazine.

SEX After Religion

SEX After Religion
by Ron Steelman

(Study shows “Sex Improves Dramatically After Leaving Religion.” )

Religions claim to be good and good for us. But first they require us to accept a picture of the world the way our religion paints it. The requirements generally are: belief in the god of your religion and his/her creation stories; belief in the published sacred book given to you by your god; belief in your god’s explanation of how to seek redemption (because we’re always told we’ve done something bad); belief in your religion’s carrot and the stick (the promise of heaven and the threat of hell); belief in peculiar and very specific dietary laws; belief in the way your genitals should be trimmed; belief in the threats made by your god if you don’t do his bidding: belief in about twenty‐five other things that don’t make much sense to you either; and most importantly, belief in what your religion tells you about how and when and with whom to have sex.

I’m sorry it took me 159 words to finally get to the word SEX, but I hope I’ve got your attention now.

Yes. SEX is very important to gods. It certainly seemed to be important to all of the Christian gods that I ran into growing up. There were so many gods – just within the protestant tent alone – that it was hard to keep track of all known sexual taboos.

From the very beginning, the god in the Bible told me that when Adam messed around with Eve, it was bad, bad, bad. They had to be punished (poor Eve got most of the blame). Therefore, if you have SEX you’d better feel guilty and come back to god and beg for forgiveness, and/or some sort of punishment. Beg, beg, beg. Thus, we have religion to thank for the linking of SEX to guilt. Thank you so much, god. (Next came the begging for the SEX.)

SEX continues to be incredibly important to religionists today. From anti abortion to anti homosexual, from Catholic Priest and Nun Celibacy to Priestly pedophilia, anti masturbation to anti sex before marriage – religions seem obsessed with trying to control SEX. I, however, am now a secular humanist. I like to say I’m “Post‐Theological.” I have
exorcised the religious guilt that attempted to inflict itself upon me up until I was 40 years old. I have to admit though, I really didn’t know much about sex after religion, except that it seemed to be totally free of all that hideous religious guilt.

Recently I saw a headline that said, “Sex Improves Dramatically After Leaving Religion.” That certainly caught my attention. The article was about a new survey/study by Dr. Darrel W. Ray, a psychologist, director of The Institute for Performance Culture and author of the best‐selling book, The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture, and author of two books on organizational psychology. The survey title is “Sex and Secularism: What Happens When You Leave Religion.” Dr. Ray surveyed over 14,500 American Secularists. That’s a relatively large survey and the first of its kind to survey secularists. It’s a ground‐breaking study of sexuality among the non‐religious. The survey gave plenty of data to make some tentative conclusions about the secular community and secular SEX.

Here are some of the key findings: (and to quote)
“1. Sex improves dramatically after leaving religion.
2. Sexual guilt has little staying power after leaving religion.
3. Those raised most religious show no difference from those raised least religious in their sexual behavior.
4. Those raised most religious experience far more guilt but have just as much sex.
5. Religious parents are far worse at educating their children on matters of sex.
6. Religious guilt differs in measurable amounts according to denomination.

The most important finding shows dramatic improvement in sexual satisfaction and a decrease in guilt after people left religion. Approximately 55% of respondents (this is a big number!) said their sex life greatly improved to an 8, 9 or 10 (on a 10 pt. scale) after leaving religion while only 2.2% said it became worse.

. . .The US government has been deeply involved in abstinence only education for almost 10 years. The government’s own research shows that such programs do not work or at best, delay the onset of sexual behavior by months. Results of this survey closely mirror those of abstinence only programs. Children from religious homes don’t delay sexual activities appreciably but they feel guilty about doing it and probably know less about sex and protecting themselves, than their secular counterparts.
. . .In the US, many religious leaders are against sex education in schools and insist that parents and churches should be primarily responsible. Results of this survey show parents, whether religious or not, are not particularly good at talking to their children. More secular parents do talk to their children 38% of the time compared to a mere 13% of religious parents. People from religious homes felt that their education in sex was poor compared to those from less religious homes.”

I suggest that the conclusion we should draw from this new data is: if you want better SEX, become a secularist. Good SEX is part of a good life. Enjoy!

(The press release can be downloaded from http://goo.gl/60etd The release has a chart showing how the respondents’ SEX lives changed. . .by religion. The chart is at the bottom of that page.)

(And for adults only, for some extra fun, there’s a Web Extra: “What do atheists say in bed?” Listen to this radio play, inspired by Jeff Swenson’s “Humanists in Love” comic strip to find out: http://goo.gl/C2l04 . Scroll down most of the page to the link.)
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IMPORTANT NEWS FLASH: (AP, The New York Times, & Steelman’s two cents)
Last night (6‐24‐11) the New York state legislature passed the Gay Rights Marriage Bill and Governor Cuomo signed the bill which will take effect in 30 days.

Gay rights advocates are hoping the vote will galvanize the movement around the country and help it regain momentum after an almost identical bill was defeated here in 2009 and similar measures failed in 2010 in New Jersey and this year in Maryland and Rhode Island.

Though New York is a relative latecomer in allowing gay marriage, it is considered an important prize for advocates, given the state’s size and New York City’s international stature and its role as the birthplace of the gay rights movement, which is considered to have started with the Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village in 1969.

New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg said, “Today’s passage in the New York State Senate of legislation recognizing the right of couples to marry regardless of their gender is a historic triumph for equality and freedom. New York has always been a leader in movements to extend freedom and equality to people who had been denied full membership in the American family. By welcoming all people ‐ no matter where they are from, what faith or philosophy they follow, or whom they love ‐ New York became the strongest, most dynamic city in the world. And today, we are even stronger than we were yesterday.”

Next, the U.S. government should repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), signed into law in 1996 by President Bill Clinton. On February 23, 2011, Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama announced their conclusion that DOMA is unconstitutional and would no longer defend DOMA Section 3 in court. This action is important because freedom of religion also means “freedom from religion.” Oppressive majorities cannot vote away the constitutional rights of a minority. After all, it still takes a two‐thirds vote of all the states to amend the constitution.

THANK GOD!

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