NO RELIGION FOR CHILDREN! PERIOD.

NO RELIGION FOR CHILDREN! PERIOD.
(but Secular parents, I got a book just for you!)

By Ron Steelman

July 25, 2018

Every day I am reminded of the corruption of moral values actually caused by religion.  Children may not understand exactly what is going on in the today’s ridiculous news, yet they are likely to model some of this behavior as they mature. Here are a few of headlines in the news that make me question what is currently being taught by religions. Most people believe that religion is supposed to teach moral values, not illustrate ways to ignore them.


Catholic
We’ve got the exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art: “Heavenly Bodies – Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” with manikins dressed up in papal robes and accessories from the Sistine Chapel sacristy, revealing the ornate and decadently expensive trappings worn by priests, bishops, etc.

 


Painted_in_Mexico_Met


There were several other art exhibitions featuring famous religious paintings. They were promoted in the newspaper with a photo of three very young children who had been plopped there and left to stare up at a painting of a crucifixion. Nice.

 


Uncle_Dick
Then there’s the extensive story about a bishop who sexually molested an eleven- year-old boy for years (who knows how many others). It included an excruciatingly sad story of how the boy’s entire life was ruined and how only now at age 60 is he finally in recovery and able to confront the
bishop (who is still alive).



Why do these things bother me?
Why am I angry about this? You’ve heard all the answers before. I will review them briefly, then attempt to explain why I must never stop protesting. And, why we should not abdicate the moral teaching of our children to any religious organization.

Numerous people have told me personally that their parents sent them to Sunday school for a moral education by themselves, because their parents had better things to do. Total abdication.

Let’s start with the most egregious example of abdication. Clearly, the Catholic Church has a serious problem with pedophilia. The “black collar” crime is documented by several national organizations and it continues today. My point: why would any parent send their child to a church that cannot (make that, “will not”) keep the pedophile priests away from their child? How can a pedophile priest possibly teach your child about morals and values while they are committing depraved, immoral acts on them?

Two other examples demonstrate how the things children see can corrupt their view of right and wrong.
a) What is right about making children study a painting of a crucifixion? The things children see impact their lives forever. Believing in the fantastic tale that Jesus was the son of God, and yet God sent his son to be crucified, is something adults can choose to believe. However, children shouldn’t have this gruesome fairy tale foisted upon them. When they are grown, let them study all religions and if they buy any of it, then they can choose to believe. Many have grown up in the church and still don’t understand the “why” of that crucifixion story. 

b) The way churches spend the money people donate has got to be confusing. When I was a kid, my church gave me those little envelopes into which I would make my own offerings every Sunday. I thought the money was going to help feed and clothe the poor. I wondered why that money was being used to buy expensive things for the church and for the ministers and priests. The photo above from the Met exhibit is surely an example of how the money can be squandered.
gold-candlestick-holders-pair


WHICH REMINDS ME
In Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible, Rev. Parris wanted golden candlesticks for the altar, and according to the character, John Proctor, the reverend preached about them often. Proctor resented Parris’s rich tastes because he was a poor farmer and considered Rev. Parris to be a 
greedy and ungodly man.



But how can I give my kids a moral compass without sending them to church?
When I first heard of the idea that children should not be exposed to religion until they become adults, I was surprised by the concept. The more I read and studied, the more I am in favor of it. The main worry of parents is that if they don’t have a religion and don’t send their children to church, those kids will become  unsavory characters who will commit some evil act. . .which will then cast a bad light on them. LOL!

Parenting_Beyond_Belief_coverI know you skeptics are saying, “But shouldn’t it be the  church that teaches them their morals? How could I possibly do that?”

Don’t get all nervous, now. I’m not suggesting home-schooling like the fundamental Christians. I believe the best ‘how-to’ book for guidance on is: “Parenting Beyond Belief,” by Dale McGowan. It’s a straight-forward common-sense approach. If there is a better book out there, someone please let me know.

McGowan has pulled together a vast array of voices to give you guidance, including (just to name a few): Julia Sweeney, Richard Dawkins, Dan Barker, Penn Jillette, even Mark Twain and the man who wrote the lyrics for the The Wizard of Oz, Yip Harburg.

How do you raise ethical, caring kids, without religion? Check out “Parenting Beyond Belief.” Or, recommend it to friends/relatives with small children (and no, I do not get a commission). 

Parenting Beyond Belief website

Meet the Author

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DEPRESSION & SUICIDE A SIN?

DEPRESSION & SUICIDE A SIN?
by Ron Steelman
June 19, 2018

Kate_Anthony
(Photo from Today.com)

I happened to see an article in Time magazine about the untimely deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. One point author Belinda Luscombe makes in her article is that the way we often look at those who are extremely successful is through the lens of one of the seven deadly sins: “Envy.” We wish we had what they have (had). That got me thinking about the other deadly sins. I think there’s something worse than envy. 

You remember the whole list, right? In Christian tradition the sins are pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth. As an actor I once played the character Gluttony in the play Doctor Faustus, not the opera Faust, but the original play by Christopher Marlowe (I don’t know why they cast me in that role??). I’m not really an expert on the “seven deadlies,” but let’s say I’ve experienced them all at some point in my life.

While reviewing the definitions of these sins, I discovered the original meaning of the word, “sloth.” It comes from the Latin & Greek word “Acedia.” From Wikipedia: “It’s been translated to “apathetic listlessness; depression without joy. It is related to melancholy: acedia describes the behavior and melancholy suggests the emotion producing it. In early Christian thought, the lack of joy was regarded as a willful refusal to enjoy the goodness of God. . .” Good grief!

This primitive, religious belief that depression and suicide is a sin, is something I’ve been wrestling with for years. It continues poisoning our thoughts. I have had various friends and relatives who have gone into severe depressions, some of them in such pain that it led to them taking their own lives. I don’t know anything about the nature of Kate Spade’s and Anthony Bourdain’s depression. However, it makes me so sad/mad that not only are they gone now, but that they are condemned as sinners in the eyes of the Christian God, and by many Christians who today still harbor this ill-informed belief.Smile_No_Hell_Black

As a modern society/culture we must grow beyond these ancient tribal beliefs and work instead to understand the hideous nature of depression and seek help for those who suffer from it. Too often we try to fix the blame, instead of fixing the problem. Once you fix the blame you are done. That’s easy; you can walk away.

But if you begin with a little empathy and compassion, maybe you can help to fix the problem. Depression is a human problem. It is part of the human condition. It is not a sin, not something about which we should be judgmental. Sorry, we do not get to be vindictive Gods who can send people to hell because they are depressed and not worshiping us properly. Be kind.


Excerpt from the June 25, 2018 Time article by Belinda Luscombe
THINGS ARE NEVER WHAT THEY SEEM:

“Sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, the melancholia, the panic fear which is inherent in the human condition,” wrote Graham Greene in his second autobiography, Ways of Escape, a book which the chef, author and travel show host Anthony Bourdain, who died on June 8 at 61, kept on his nightstand.

The full Time Magazine article – June 25, 2018:

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Prayer Won’t Stop the Gun Violence

I’m now following a new blogger who I think offers an interesting premise: Love Over Religion – Why I Left Christianity (and that’s the title of her book. . .now on Amazon). Excellent. She was following me (so we know she has excellent taste), and I decided to really sign up and follow her blog when I read her post:  “Guns II.” Take a look. Tell us both what you think.

Love Over Religion

HOW TO FIND GOOD LUCK IN 2018 – PART II

HOW TO FIND GOOD LUCK IN 2018
By Ron Steelman

PART II – SUPERSTITION & RELIGIOUS BELIEFS

 

For years I’ve wondered why those who are religious don’t consider their religious beliefs to be superstitions. They scoff at the mere suggestion that religion is a superstition or related to the supernatural. They act shocked that one could possibly equate a major religion, say Christianity, with one of those low-brow, garden variety superstitions such as crossing your fingers for good luck. I’ve also heard religious folks object if you equate Christianity with supernatural claims such as the paranormal or ghosts. That they would object to beliefs in ghosts seems a little silly when the Bible claims Jesus was walking around talking to a number of people after he was crucified.

Whatever Christians might consider to be superstitious mumbo jumbo, they probably have that opinion because they can’t cite any scientific basis to support those beliefs, those claims, or those fears. They would be correct!

However, the dictionary wraps religion and superstition together :

SUPERSTITION:
– an irrational fear of what is unknown or mysterious, especially in connection with religion
– any blindly accepted belief or notion”

Basic Christian beliefs come from an ancient mythology that is rife with seriously complicated superstitions that are blindly accepted.  And even though a vast majority of religious folk refuse to make the connection between their superstitious beliefs and their religious beliefs, when you begin to unpack the stories presented in the Bible, each one seems more fantastic than the last one.

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Let’s take a look at some religious beliefs and some cultural superstitions. The lines in the chart are numbered for reference only. The two columns are separate and not meant to indicate that an item on the left relates to an item in the right.  Also, since I don’t believe in the authenticity of the Bible, please do not quibble about my chronological order. As I’ve heard it said in the South, “It don’t make no nevermind to me.”

TABLE

Holy Ghost, Batman! There is no difference at all! Billions of people believe many of these things are real and order their lives on them, even though none of them can be proven scientifically.
Superstition_Illus_Mag700
While researching superstitions I stumbled upon an exhaustive list of those chronicled in Russia, Russian Superstitions . Many are the same or similar to what I’ve listed here. This silliness has been around for thousands of years, mainly because the scientific method of testing claims of the magical or mystical did not exist until recent centuries. Then as Google states: “Francis Bacon was the first to formalize the concept of a true scientific method, but he didn’t do so in a vacuum. The work of Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) and Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) influenced Bacon tremendously.”
Dream_Meaning

DREAMS

I did not include dream interpretation in the above list. What I have to say won’t fit in one of those little boxes. Dream Interpretation is a pseudoscience that keeps rearing its ugly head, although people insist on knowing what they mean.  I’m reasonably sure humans have been attempting to decipher dreams since caveman days. Those claiming the ability to interpret dreams have made millions of dollars over millennia. These “seers” come in many forms.

There are the “professional seers” who may even have some sort of academic or medical degree after their names. Even many smart scientists continue to study dreams, yet they haven’t coalesced on any one methodology. Numerous theories abound. Is it a pseudoscience? If you want to read about dream analysis, here’s an overview of the field from Time Magazine in September, 2017:  Time Magazine

Let us remember what Mr. Dickens had to say in his famous story, A Christmas Carol. After a visit by that scary ghost of Christmas Past, Scrooge tries to analyze his own nightmares.

Scrooge: “You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”

My literary reference from Mr. Dickens is probably the most accurate of all dream analysis theories. Don’t pay anyone to tell you what your dreams mean. Save your money and conjure up your own analysis of your dreams, preferably something that makes you laugh. Or better yet, chalk it up to the “brain-dump-at-the-end-of-the-day” theory.

Coming soon in “Part III of “How to Find Good Luck in 2018” series:
“Fortune Tellers Can Be Dangerous”

8_Ball

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Sunday Sermon – That Phallic Symbol

Steelman The Humanist Sunday Sermon
(aka “What is that phallic symbol between the trees?”)

Wilshire_n_StataMonica_Jan_1988_750h

It was such a relief to leave NYC in January 1988 to vacation in Los Angeles with my girlfriend, Elaine. The Apple was deep in snow, making it murder to find a parking spot on E. 13 St. every two days. However, we left the cockroaches and the snowy streets behind and couldn’t wait to arrive in La-la land. We had a fabulous time visiting all your basic tourist attractions and I took lots of photos (using real film). Of course, Santa Monica and Venice Beach were very special for us because of the proximity to the ocean. We love the water and even had become sailors on Long Island Sound. The photo above was taken in Santa Monica at the end of Wilshire Blvd. where it intersects with Ocean Avenue.

The statue there didn’t register with us then because we didn’t know what it represented and didn’t care. I saw this scene as we as we crossed the street and immediately said to “E” (that’s my girlfriend, Elaine),  “Stop the cars while I take this shot.” We could only do that in LA where the pedestrians have the right of way. If I had tried that in NYC, I wouldn’t be writing this now.

We got married in October that year, but neither one of us wanted to get hitched in a church. Because we loved the water so much, we came up with the idea of having the ceremony on a boat. Although we were non-believers, we hadn’t been together long enough to work out the specifics about that. As time went by we thought more about religion and identified a number of religious concepts that had driven us away from Christianity. One extraordinary Christian doctrine is original sin.

Today I was going through a box of old photos and when I unearthed those ’88 vacation photos I wondered anew what that monument was there at the end of Wilshire Blvd.  I discovered it was a statue of Saint Monica, the patron saint for the city of Santa Monica. Big surprise, huh? You know who she was, right? The mother of Saint Augustine, that crazy dude who promoted “Original Sin.” If you believe in original sin, you must then believe that you have to be saved. You’re bad, but God will forgive you. (I mean, really? Why did she make such bad human beings? Bla, bla, bla, bla.)

We can be evil or we can be good. It’s our choice. We Humanists believe we can be good without god.

At the bottom I’ve included more about St. Augustine. . .if you’re interested.

Meanwhile, here are a couple of other photos we love from that trip:

Santa Monica Pier with the Cirque du Soleil tent

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Santa Monica Beach

SantaMonicaBch_Jan_1988_750w

With the advent of digital publications, I wonder if this many
newspaper vending machines are still there.

By_SantaMonica_Deli_Jan_1988_750w

Welcome to California!

VeniceBch_Jan_1988_750h

If you’re interested in my earlier blog about St. Augustine,
check it out here. Click on the postcard.

old-postcard-1578910-2

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DESTINY IS A DIRTY WORD

Destiny
“DESTINY” IS A DIRTY WORD
a rant by Ron Steelman, © 2005, 2010
Written for and Performed at the Red Bank Humanists Forum
(read loud, fast, & faux angry)

Destiny is such a small word, and yet it causes so much trouble. Recently I’ve been pondering its insidiousness. Why does it keep forcing its way into my thoughts from a dozen different directions? From where does it come? Who is responsible for it? And how can I keep its promise from becoming a foregone conclusion, which, as the dictionary says, is “a conclusion formed in advance of argument or consideration?” Is my life simply a fait accompli, an open and shut case, a done deal, a fact of life, a grim reality, an irreversible act, a matter of fact? I DON’T THINK SO!

It’s always good to begin with a definition. What does it say about “destiny” in the dictionary? I’ll tell you. It’s the “inevitable or necessary fate to which a particular person or thing is destined; one’s LOT.” Then, more importantly, it goes on to clarify: “a predetermined course of events considered as something beyond human power or control.” And finally, “Destiny: the power or agency thought to predetermine events.” Wait a minute. Who is it, exactly, that’s got the power? “Or Agency?” Agency? Could it be the IRS?

This hideous (dripping with sarcasm) “destiny concept”. . .forces itself into our lives and is reinforced in phrases that we use in everyday conversation:

The-Three-Fates

The Three Fates – Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropo

* A man dies. What do we say, “I guess his number was up.” Or, “It was meant to be.” Or, “His time had come.” And so we shrug and say, “That’s his fate.” His fate?! Look it up! Are you saying the man dropped dead because of three half naked Greek Goddesses named Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos? It must have been some party, huh! I don’t buy it.

* A little boy grows up to become a brilliant concert pianist and the mother says, “He was born to be a concert pianist.” Now there she’s half right because we know that a good portion of his talent came from his genes, from all of his ancestors boiled down into him. But the other part of his brilliance didn’t come from DESTINY, it came from a lot of hard work on his part. And then she really ruins it by saying, “what a wonderful God-given talent.” No, he got his talent from his parents and from years of practice.

* An infant dies of a rare disease. People say, “It was for the best.” Or, “There has to be a good reason. We just don’t know what it is. In time, it will be revealed to us.” SORRY, when an infant dies, it’s a tragedy, pure and simple. Of course, we need to find a way to cope with our loss, but pretending that a supernatural deity did it on purpose and is then making us guess why…is just the (sing-songy) SILLIEST THING! …and I cleaned that up!

* Your house burns down. Your friend says, “It’s part of a larger plan.” Right. It was arson.

* And of course with the hurricane Katrina tragedy, I already heard on the radio that religious fanatics are claiming that the devastation along the Gulf Coast was a punishment by God for the sinful ways of all those people.

Ifh2g4ES

Zeus

Plan, schman!? That is not only crazy, but incredibly stupid. All these clichés are the residual effect of thousands of years of primitive superstitions and religious make-believe. Of course it’s human nature to try to explain things you don’t understand. But, come on…it’s the 21st Century. Even if we can’t explain everything, why do we have to hold on to this ancient fantasy of an all powerful Zeus somewhere up there on a mountaintop controlling everything we do? We’re so pathetic. Why don’t we just perpetuate belief in the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and angels? Oops…we do.

Unfortunately, the concept of destiny is everywhere. And it’s sneaky. Destiny is like an evangelist in sheep’s clothing. Propaganda, pure and simple. It’s everything I reject. It’s antithetical to my philosophy of life. Yet I can’t get away from it. I have to deal with it every day. People want to talk about fate, about horoscopes, about karma, or past lives. 

As a Humanist, a freethinker, the first thing I must do is THINK. OK, so after countless cups of coffee I achieved my target heart rate for the day, and I concluded that there are two reasons humans hold onto destiny with such a death grip. The first reason has to be EGO! Here’s a quote from The Happy Heretic, Judith Hayes. It’s from a piece she wrote entitled “Body and Soul”: “The human soul. It is invisible. Undetectable by any human means… But the majority of the human population nevertheless is convinced that it exists. They believe there is such a thing as the human “soul.”…we don’t want to be just like all other animals…who simply die. Who wants to stay dead? Surely we are far more important than other animals. Surely we are connected somehow to the eternal Cosmos. Surely we have a “soul.”…The human ego knows few bounds. My, we’re important!”

The idea of Destiny is PURE EGO. Our ginormous egos tell us we’re so important that there’s a god up there somewhere so concerned about ME that he took the time to make a specific life-plan with my name on it. And the plan is called my “destiny.” I guess I rate pretty high in his book, huh? It’s true. “The human ego knows few bounds.”

And the second reason we love the whole destiny trip is because if our destiny is written somewhere, we think we have to go find out what it is. So how do we find out what our destiny is?! We have to go on a SPIRITUAL QUEST.

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The Beatles with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

There’s this romantic notion from the 60’s & 70’s that there are many ways to find your spiritual center. After all, the Beatles tried several different ways. Oh, pa-lease! “Spiritual.” What does THAT word mean? Just look it up. Here ya go; right out of the Dictionary…

(italics are my own comments):
Spiritual:

1. having the nature of spirit; not tangible or material. (we can’t prove it exists)
2. concerned with, or affecting the soul. (something we don’t have)
3. relating to God; deific. (I don’t believe in deities)
4. belonging to a church or religion; sacred. (I don’t believe in churches or religions)
5. having the nature of spirits or a spirit; supernatural (I don’t believe in the supernatural)

(yelling up at the heavens) Can we have some SCIENCE, PLEASE! Science was invented some time ago now, you know. Cause and effect have been written about and studied in every high school, college, and university. Shouldn’t science have eliminated this supernatural canker, Destiny? By now it should be gone, but it isn’t.

The destiny concept is actually so deeply embedded in our culture…that. . .(loudly and creepy like a soothsayer “It may take a Humanist exorcism to save us…”

(step toward the audience, making a mock Humanist blessing gesture [there is no such thing] and sprinkle some water on a volunteer helper [it’s just fun to get them wet].)

And now the ritual sayings:

I summon Daw Aung San Suu Kyi:
We achieve everything by our efforts alone. Our fate is not decided by an almighty God. We decide our own fate by our actions. You have to gain mastery over yourself… It is not a matter of sitting back and accepting.

I summon Franklin D. Roosevelt:
Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds.

I summon John F. Kennedy:
Our problems are man-made, therefore they may be solved by man. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.

I summon William Jennings Bryan:
Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.

Hmmm….. “destiny is a thing for me to achieve.”

(exorcism over)  I feel better already.

I suggest the way to find a “spiritual center” without the mythical spirit is to explore our human nature, the beauty of human art and music, the discoveries of science, and the wonders of our natural world. They fill you up inside. They offer the inspiration, awe, joy, and solace that we’re looking for in our quest for a spiritual life. Humanists have such a fantastic life right in front of us, without relying on mythical deities to supply it for us. It’s right here. Enjoy it.

Luckily, my spiritual quest led me to Humanism. And I am inspired by it principles. For those who say, “Well, if you don’t believe in God, then you don’t believe in anything,” they need to be laughed at. They need to be told “Humanists believe in the fullest realization of the best and noblest that we are capable of as human beings.”

We need to share our values with them: “We believe in optimism rather than pessimism, hope rather than despair, learning in the place of dogma, truth instead of ignorance, joy rather than guilt or sin, tolerance in the place of fear, love instead of hatred, and compassion over selfishness, beauty instead of ugliness, and reason rather than blind faith or irrationality.”

These Humanist concepts were not given to us by an outside force. We had these good ideas within us. We humans don’t need the threat of punishment to do good. We know right and wrong when we see it. We don’t need the promise of an afterlife to be good. The point is to do good now, not because we get a prize later, but because it’s the right thing to do. We’re smart enough and fully capable of being good…and doing good…simply by exploring the good side of our human nature.

I don’t believe in ancient superstitions. The words “destiny” or “fate” are dirty little words because they lead us down a path away from our responsibility to be “the best and noblest that we are capable of as human beings.”

I have promised myself that I will attempt to refrain from uttering all clichés related to the concepts of destiny or fate, and that, when necessary and appropriate, I will share the Humanist point of view with others.

I was not born a Humanist. I did not have Humanism thrust upon me. I chose to achieve the best that I’m capable of as a human being. . .all by myself.

Promise never to say the word “destiny” or we’ll just have to wash your mouth out with soap!

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