What I Said About What They Said

What I Said About What They Said
by Ron Steelman

I have loved quotes since I was 15 years old. My favorite quotation book from that time is still on my bookshelf with my favorites underlined. When I read a good quote I save it in my “keeper file” hoping to find a good place to work it into a piece I’m writing. But I’ve got so many now, it popped into my brain that I could simply use my current batch of quotes all in one blog post, annotating along the way with some of the Affirmations/Principles of Humanism. I can do this because I have a very large. . .artistic license. So here goes. . . 

Paula Poundstone 3rd cd cover“I’m an atheist. The good news about atheists is that we have no mandate to convert anyone. So you’ll never find me on your doorstep on a Saturday morning with a big smile, saying, ‘Just stopped by to tell you there is no word. I brought along this little blank book I was hoping you could take a look at.’ ”
      —Paula Poundstone, There’s Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say, 2006.

I always say the same thing at this point. Yes, I’m an atheist, but more importantly, I’m a Secular Humanist. I don’t go door to door proselytizing, but I’m happy to explore Humanism with anyone who stumbles onto my blog. Welcome!

winnie-e1472495518630“The Old Testament is responsible for more atheism, agnosticism, disbelief—call it what you will—than any book ever written; it has emptied more churches than all the counter-attractions of cinema, motor bicycle and golf course.”
      —A.A. Milne (creator of Winnie-the-Pooh )

Thousands upon thousands of people have become Humanists because of the Bible. Many other famous writers are atheists. Famous Humanist writers include Kurt Vonnegut, Joyce Carol Oates, and Alice Walker. Also many composers, who ironically had to write “sacred” music for the church in order to make a living, were atheists:  Brahms, Verdi, Vaughn Williams, Camille Saint-Saëns, Rimsky-Korsakov, Dimitri Shostakovich, Richard Wagner, Tchaikovsky, and on and on.

Alice_Walker“I understood at a very early age that in nature, I felt everything I should feel in church but never did. Walking in the woods, I felt in touch with the universe and with the spirit of the universe.”
– Alice Walker

For many years I hiked in the mountains with my wife and my good friend Rick.  It was better than church. And we were allowed to talk if we wanted! Although most of the time we were just there, quietly sensing our little place on those mountains and on this big earth. We were in awe of the mountains and the sky. And for four years in the 1980’s when we were able to sail on Long Island Sound, the power of the wind to move our boat through the water was truly a spiritual experience.

Nietzsche“There’s not enough love and goodness in the world to permit giving it away to imaginary beings.”
          – Nietzsche

“Humanists are committed to the application of reason and science to the understanding of the universe and to the solving of human problems.” I haven’t had an imaginary friend since I was five.  These days I try to be ‘Good Without God’ and let empathy help direct my goodness to others in the world.

true-friends“One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.”
–  Lucius Annaeus Seneca
I’ve always said that my oldest friends were the best, but with my new friends from my Humanist group, I feel we try harder to understand each other. And in turn that has led to some beautiful, true friendships.

large_rec-201701251556“Things are never quite as scary when you’ve got a best friend.” –  Bill Watterson

Yes, Bill Watterson drew that cartoon, and gave Calvin his imaginary best friend, Hobbes.  I think people loved his cartoons for the humor, but also enjoyed how these two were such good friends.

Not All There robertfrost-copy
“I turned to speak to God

About the world’s despair
But to make bad matters worse
I found God wasn’t there.”

A Masque of Mercy
”The kind of Unitarian 
Who having by elimination got 
From many gods to Three, and Three to One, 
Thinks why not taper off to none at all.”
        —Robert Frost

Sometimes poetry can cut to the chase like a surgeon’s knife. It’s true, nothing fails like prayer. . .because there is no God. However, we also think that we Humanists can overcome the world’s despair because,  “We believe in the fullest realization of the best and noblest that we are capable of as human beings.”  It’s up to us to solve the world’s problems and the God we are waiting for has failed miserably. It’s in our hands and we are the ones who must try.

595px-Ruperthughes“As for those who protest that I am robbing people of the great comfort and consolation they gain from Christianity, I can only say that Christianity includes hell, eternal torture for the vast majority of humanity, for most of your relatives and friends. Christianity includes a devil who is really more powerful than God, and who keeps gathering into his furnaces most of the creatures whom God turns out and for whom he sent his son to the cross in vain. If I could feel that I had robbed anybody of his faith in hell, I should not be ashamed or regretful.”

—— Rupert Hughes, “Why I Quit Going to Church,” 1924

I’ll comment by quoting from another of the Affirmations of Humanism:  “We affirm humanism as a realistic alternative to theologies of despair and ideologies of violence and as a source of rich personal significance and genuine satisfaction in the service to others.”

And finally:

“Humanism is a philosophy of joyous service for the greater good of all humanity, of application of new ideas of scientific progress for the benefit of all.”
– Linus Pauling (Nobel Prize in ChemistryNobel Peace Prize, Humanist of
the Year – 1961)

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Calvin Was A Humanist

Calvin Was A Humanist (No, not that Calvin.)
By Ron Steelman

John CalvinMy ten year old son walked up to me and quoted a line from a large book of Calvin & Hobbes comic strips by Bill Watterson — all three volumes are in our home library because my wife loves that rotten little kid Calvin. My son’s selection had Calvin talking to Hobbes about Santa and God and Calvin said, “If he’s real, why doesn’t he show himself to prove it?” I guess I hadn’t been paying attention to the full scope of Watterson’s work. I was curious to find out what other quotes might be of interest to me as a Humanist. I snatched the book out of my son’s hands and told him I needed to borrow it to do some research. As he walked away, he grumbled, “OK, fine. I’ll go read my copy of ‘On the Origin of Species’.” But I want the ‘Calvin & Hobbes’ back in an hour.”

In the introduction of the book it said, “When Watterson was coming up with names for the characters of his comic strip, he decided upon Calvin (after the Protestant reformer John Calvin) and Hobbes (after the social philosopher Thomas Hobbes) as a “tip of the hat” to the political science department at Kenyon” [College where he went to school ].

I won’t digress here into an analysis of the five points of Calvinism (you should thank me for this).  However, I think it’s important to say that although Calvin (Watterson’s Calvin) often commented on and questioned various religious and philosophical concepts in the comic strip, he did not attempt to inflict upon us any of John Calvin’s five goofy theological points. When he occasionally sidled up close to any of that flimflam, it was purely a sideways glace through his bent lens of reality. The result: humor.

Here follow just a few selected Watterson quotes from my search for lines related to Humanism:

>>> “To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.”

>>> “If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I’ll bet they’d live a lot differently.”

 >>>  “We’re so busy watching out for what’s just ahead of us that we don’t take time to enjoy where we are.”

>>> “You know what’s weird? Day by day, nothing seems to change, but pretty soon…everything’s different.”

>>> “The surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that it has never tried to contact us.”
(once quoted by Stephen Hawking, Cambridge University Professor of Astrophysics)

The strip ran in newspapers for 10 years, from 1985 to 1995. There are thousands of great Calvin & Hobbes lines and I discovered that many of my friends seem to have different favorites. . .usually based on their sensibilities.  My friend Bruce likes: “Why waste time on education when ignorance is instantaneous?” While I like: “You know, Hobbes, some days even my lucky rocketship underpants don’t help.”

Watterson is brilliant. If you buy any or all of the books of his collected Calvin & Hobbes strips, you will be happy you did. When my son came back for the book, he said, “Watterson’s right up there with Darwin, he’s just funnier.”
While Googling “Bill Watterson atheist” I discovered a variety of objections to his comics from religious folk. What sound and fury! However, I don’t think anyone knows what his beliefs really are. One blog entry told a story by a guy who was visiting with relatives when he was a kid. He had taken along his big book of Calvin & Hobbes. When his extended family saw what he was reading, they were so upset that they took the C&H book away from him. It’s just another example of how religious people hate it when you ask questions like Calvin does. Also on their ‘bad book list’ is a collection of The Far Side comics by Gary Larson. We own the two-volume set. I’d better abscond with them so I can re-read them before my 10-year-old finds them. Then maybe I’ll be able to keep up with him during a critique of Larson’s work.  He’s almost 11, you know.

The Calvin & Hobbes in question:
Click here for larger size
Calvin & Hobbes

Unconditional Election

Unconditional Election was one of John Calvin’s five points of Calvinism. Unconditional election is the Calvinist teaching that before God created the world, he chose to save some people according to his own purposes and apart from any conditions related to those persons. What about those not on his list? Oh, well. This is how “Predestination” crept in to our minds. I didn’t realize that God played favorites like this. I want to speak to my attorney!

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