Still Here. Still Loving Quotes

Yes, it’s been a while. When you get older, life has a way of cutting into your leisure time. I hope to get back to more in-depth blog posts sometime soon. But for now, I’ll have to be happy sharing a few good quotes. I hope they will illuminate your understanding of Humanism. (I will also have to learn to better use the new WordPress “Block” editor!)

“We are here because one odd group of fishes had a peculiar fin anatomy that could transform into legs for terrestrial creatures; because the earth never froze entirely during an ice age; because a small and tenuous species, arising in Africa a quarter of a million years ago, has managed, so far, to survive by hook and by. 

Stephen J. Gould interview, Life magazine (December 1988)

 


“I do not believe in God, because I believe in man. Whatever his mistakes, man has for thousands of years been working to undo the botched job your god has made. There are … some potentates I would kill by any and all means at my disposal. They are Ignorance, Superstition, and Bigotry — the most sinister and tyrannical rulers on earth.”

EMMA GOLDMAN, 1898 Speech titled, “Living My Life” in Detroit

 

 

 

 


“In India, as elsewhere in our darkening world, religion is the poison in the blood. Where religion intervenes, mere innocence is no excuse. Yet we go on skating around this issue, speaking of religion in the fashionable language of ‘respect.’ What is there to respect in any of this, or in any of the crimes now being committed almost daily around the world in religion’s dreaded name?”

SALMON RUSHDIE, “Slaughter in the Name of God,” Washington Post (March 8, 2002)

 


“I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own—a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotism. It is enough for me to contemplate the mystery of conscious life perpetuating itself through all eternity, to reflect upon the marvelous structure of the universe which we can dimly perceive, and to try humbly to comprehend even an infinitesimal part of the intelligence manifested in nature.”

ALBERT EINSTEIN, column for The New York Times, Nov. 9, 1930 (reprinted in The New York Times obituary,  April 19, 1955


“See the world as a skeptic, not a cynic,

while allowing for the wan possibility of human decency.”

PETE HAMMILL, Piecework: Writings on Men & Women, Fools and Heroes, Lost Cities, Vanished Calamities and How the Weather Was


Skepticism is my nature, freethought is my methodology, agnosticism is my conclusion
after 25 years of being in the ministry, and
atheism is my opinion

–  JERRY DeWITT, CNN Interview (July 22, 2013)

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“So far, I’ve changed my mind twice about God”

I’ve been visiting some old familiar websites, hoping to reactivate my gray matter after months of recovery from two spine surgeries and too many pain killers. After a while I stumbled across the question The Edge Foundation asked of ten prominent people from the worlds of science, philosophy, psychology, and physics: “What have you changed your mind about?” The answers were inspiring.

Alan Alda

ALAN ALDA

Not surprisingly, the great thinkers who answered the question included Alan Alda, who hosted the television shows “Scientific American Frontiers” (1993–2007) and “The Human Spark” (2010). Although he is an accomplished actor, he has always loved science and learned much during eleven years of interviewing six or seven hundred scientists around the world. His answer encouraged me to think, and change my mind.

(Below is from Alan Alda’s 2008 essay for The Edge Foundation)

“So far, I’ve changed my mind twice about God”

“Until I was twenty I was sure there was a being who could see everything I did and who didn’t like most of it. He seemed to care about minute aspects of my life, like on what day of the week I ate a piece of meat. And yet, he let earthquakes and mudslides take out whole communities, apparently ignoring the saints among them who ate their meat on the assigned days.  Eventually, I realized that I didn’t believe there was such a being. It didn’t seem reasonable. And I assumed that I was an atheist. 

As I understood the word, it meant that I was someone who didn’t believe in a God; I was without a God. I didn’t broadcast this in public because I noticed that people who do believe in a god get upset to hear that others don’t.. . .”

“. . .I still don’t like the word agnostic. It’s too fancy. I’m simply not a believer. But, as simple as this notion is, it confuses some people. Someone wrote a Wikipedia entry about me, identifying me as an atheist because I’d said in a book I wrote that I wasn’t a believer. . .”
— Alan Alda

Inspired by Mr. Alda’s comments, I had to ask the question, “am I still an Atheist?” In my post from last month I reiterated my self-labeling by explaining what I’ve been saying for 25 years, “I’m an Atheist, but more importantly, I’m a Secular Humanist.”

But ya know, Alda’s onto something. I’m so frustrated by having to explain the various definitions of the word “Atheist.” I’m tired of seeing the shocked stares when I proudly say that I’m a devout Atheist. I do so enjoy riling people up by using the word devout next to the word Atheist. However, I’d much rather focus my efforts on talking about Secular Humanism. Perhaps they will listen if I didn’t use the “A” word?

So after 25 years I’m changing my mind. Like Mr. Alda I’m content to label myself simply as a non believer. But now I must try it on and wear it around for a while. I can’t wait to test it on my friends. . .and certainly in public!

Are you an Atheist or a non believer?


The 2015 question at The Edge is “What Do You Think About Machines That Think?” There are 186 individual, printable responses. Ideas. Ideas. Ideas!

http://edge.org/responses/q2015


Why Ricky Gervais is an Atheist (or, Non Believer, if you will)

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A Happy Philosophical New Year

happy_new_year

On January 1st I began the day reading my email from Freedom From Religion Foundation and started to contemplate how I would define myself in relationship to FFRF’s quote from Michel Onfray.

“I persist in preferring philosophers to rabbis, priests, imams, ayatollahs, and mullahs. Rather than trust their theological hocus-pocus, I prefer to draw on alternatives to the dominant philosophical historiography: the laughers, materialists, radicals, cynics, hedonists, atheists, sensualists, voluptuaries. They know that there is only one world, and that promotion of an afterlife deprives us of the enjoyment and benefit of the only one there is. A genuinely deadly sin.”

—Michel Onfray, Atheist Manifesto

Michel Onfray

Michel Onfray

After reading Onfray’s quote I thought I might consider my own philosophical historiography using Onfray’s categories. . .one at a time:

Laugher, radical, atheist (yes, I am) (see note below on what I mean by “atheist”)

Materialist, cynic (not me)

Hedonist (yes, I am)

a person whose life is devoted to the pursuit of pleasure and self-gratification

Sensualist (yes, I am) a person given to the indulgence of the senses or appetites

Voluptuary

a person whose life is devoted to the pursuit and enjoyment of luxury and sensual pleasure
(No. I am not “devoted to,” but often “in pursuit of” these things, yet often not very successful at it)

think before believe

ATHEIST DEFINITION
(and some others)

I used the term “Atheist” above, but regularly find it necessary to explain what I mean by this word. There are so many connotations.

The quotes below from “7 Different Types of Non-Believers” by Valerie Tarico may help to unravel this mystery. Originally this was on Alternet. I found it on salon.com.

“Positive atheism asserts that a personal supreme being does not exist. Negative atheism simply asserts a lack of belief in such a deity.”
(I’m a negative atheist, although I hate the use of the word negative here)

To further define myself, I am also an anti-theist.
“The anti-theist says, ‘I think religion is harmful.’  It also implies some form of activism that goes beyond merely advocating church-state separation or science education. Anti-theism challenges the legitimacy of faith as a moral authority or way of knowing. Anti-theists often work to expose harms caused in the name of God like stonings, gay baiting, religious child maltreatment, genital mutilation, unwanted childbearing or black-collar crime. . .”

HUMANIST
Although I am a born skeptic, I am a positive and hopeful person. I am a Humanist. . .trying to exercise reason, compassion, and hope. Humanism gives me that opportunity.

“While terms like atheist or anti-theist focus on a lack of god-belief and agnostic, skeptic and freethinker all focus on ways of knowing—humanist centers in on a set of ethical values. Humanism  seeks to promote broad wellbeing by advancing compassion, equality, self-determination, and other values that allow individuals to flourish and to live in community with each other. These values derive not from revelation, but from human experience.”

How ’bout you?  What do you think about yourself? Happy New Year! 

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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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Who Created THIS Universe?

It’s with great pleasure that I present the work of my brother, Scott Steelman.
I never knew about his theories until this past year when he began to reveal his work into the worlds of multiverse, including parallel universes, at the Institute of Multiverse Research. He has recently made many startling discoveries that will greatly illuminate our understanding of this expanding field. But more about that in an upcoming blog. For now, let’s simply start with a quote from the noted MIT Professor of Physics, Max Tegmark:

“Parallel universes are not just a staple of science fiction. Other universes are a direct implication of cosmological observations.”

Although most Secular Humanists are skeptical about the claims made regarding the supposed “creator” of the universe, these discoveries will convince many.

Yours Truly,
Ron Steelman
___________________________________________________________________

Who Created THIS Universe?
© 2012 – Scott Steelman

Most religions have a Creation Myth that explains the origin of the world. The TRUE STORY of creation has now revealed itself. It is clear and concise, yet many followers remain confused. Lo, they are the Confusionists.

This is the definitive explanation of reality in this world. If you dare to look further you will “see the light”.

Can you handle the TRUTH?  (We report, You decide.)

Annotated Excerpt from The Book of Lunch,
the most sacred text of Confusionism

First there was light…and it was bright.
Swirling energy crystals reflected the light
and projected a glowing image of Perplexus, the Lord of Lunch

There was a blinding flash and Perplexus awoke.
A Sacred Voice proclaimed: “It’s ALIVE! – and it’s hungry!”

Perplexus – the Great One was half-man and half-woman
(constantly bickering with itself, and arguing about where to set the thermostat)

He/She pondered using His/Her powers to create a
Magnificent-Majestic-Wonder-World to hang around in.
“Let creation begin!” He/She said.

The Great One ( or two) then made the NIGHT…and it was dark!

“Now let procreation begin”.
His/Her loins burned to have safe sex in the holy darkness.
It came to pass…..and was called the Big Bang.

The resultant glorious Self-Impregnation (one of the 7 Sacred Mysteries*)
filled Perplexus with offspring.

After a cigarette and periods of gestation elation alternating with guilt
Perplexus laid 3 magic eggs and thereupon immediately
Invented the omelet…and it was good!

Following breakfast, He/She
Laid 3 more magic eggs that eventually brought forth
The 3 fat sisters: Gigunda, Rotunda and Humonga
to help around the house. (At this point there were no houses,
but the Omnipotent Great One planned ahead.)

Within moments, the sisters grew up (and out) to massive dimensions.
Perplexus charged them with creating all further contents of his realm,
figuring they needed the exercise.

Gigunda also discovered Self-Impregnation and begat a son, Lloyd the Little.
The 3 fat sisters and Lloyd commenced to intelligently design every detail of
the Magnificent-Majestic-Wonder-World.

Gigunda made the land, sea and air and then the clouds, the rain and the mountains.
Rotunda brought forth many creatures, abundant vegetation and, of course,
the Vegi-matic. Humonga populated the land with somewhat intelligent creatures
made in her own image. (Mostly fat, but some more like Lloyd the Little.)

“Just a few more things” said Rotunda as she created cities, malls and game shows.
Humonga followed with automobiles, which begat the Drive-Thru Concept, which begat
fast-food, which begat indigestion. Lloyd insisted on adding computer games, cage fighting and Monster Trucks.

Gazing out over His/Her vast expanse of stuff, Perplexus declared
“Mission Accomplished” and summoned his cherished grandson, Lloyd the Little.

“Lloyd”, he said. “You will go down there and live among them, performing occasional miracles to keep my poll numbers high. Later we will compose the official list of rules
for our subjects”

And then they took a nap.
zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

To this day, Confusionists believe that the rumbling after a lightning strike is the sound of the 3 fat sisters walking around upstairs in the penthouse apartment – presumably awakened by the flashing lights.

*The 7 Sacred Mysteries
1. From whence did the First Light come?
2. From whom did the Sacred Voice come?
3. What’s for lunch?
4. Self-Impregnation (How do you do that?)
5. Is there an Afterlunch?
6. Why does Lloyd have two L’s anyway?
7. Who?…. But-a-who?…..Who wrote the Book of Lunch?

The Five Commandments
After napping, Perplexus convened a brainstorming session with all five members of the Holy family to compose the Five Commandments. The original idea was to have every person wear a single white glove with one commandment stitched on each finger. Then it was decided to just require that the commandments be memorized for use in a daily recitation of praise. Lloyd the Little was assigned the task of transcribing and delivering them.

Pictured below is the actual ancient tablet with the Five Commandments etched upon it.
Multiverse
The Five Commandments (translated to English)
1. Worship the “Great One”
2. Follow orders carefully and cheerfully
3. Always attend the “Meet Your Maker” fundraiser
4. Do not question authority
5. Bend over and wait for further instructions

This is the light that most devout Confusionists have seen:

# # #

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?

__________________________________________

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.

After All, We’re All Humans

After All, We’re All Humans
by Ron Steelman

(originally published August 1, 2011, revised after the 2012 Republican Primary debates)

Rick Santorum

Senator Rick Santorum

Many of those involved in fundamentalist religions frequently make inflammatory statements about non-believers. These “true believers” claim that non-believers are responsible for all the problems and evils in the world. Their gods tell them that they should hate non-believers, and just last week media headlines stated that a Christian fundamentalist stalked and killed 91 people in Norway (July 23, 2011). At first the media said that the killer was a Muslim fundamentalist, but then it was discovered the killer was a Christian fundamentalist. What’s the difference?

First off, why would the simple act of not believing in the God of another person cause them to curse you, hate you, and even want to kill you? Religious beliefs such as these are barbaric and unacceptable in modern civilizations, especially democracies. In the U.S.A. we have a Constitution that protects us from many human failings, including the violent acts of religious zealots. Most of the civilized countries in the world have endorsed the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights. Although too many primitive theocracies still exist, we hope they will continue to die out as freedom and democracy spread around the world.

Unfortunately, each religion seems to have what they call a holy book. In these books there are many different laws about how to become a true believer. The trouble is, not all of the laws in the books are good, and each person reading the book will interpret the laws as he or she sees fit. Instead of letting their various gods punish those who break their religious laws, sometimes the pious dogmatists decide to take matters in their own hands. And after a while, others in their tribe believe they too should become the storm troopers for their god. Even moderates within their religion begin to mouth their hate speech.

MosesEach religion has a long list of behaviors/actions it believes are evil and against the laws of its gods. For instance: homosexuality, dancing to music, going out in public with your face or hair showing, sex before marriage, masturbation, playing cards, drinking alcohol, eating pork, killing a cow, or pressing an elevator button on the sabbath.

Now here’s the sad part: no matter who you ask, or in what context, the most hated group, the group at the bottom of every poll, is Atheists.

The following numbers are from a Pew Research Center Poll:
* Born-again Christians who regard the impact of these groups as negative:
Islam: 71%, Buddhism: 76%, Scientology: 81%, Atheism: 92%
* Non-Christians who view the impact of the same groups as negative:
Islam: 24%, Buddhism: 22%, Scientology: 30%, Atheism: 50%

The following numbers are from a USA/Gallup Poll:
“. . .If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be (see below), would you vote for that person?”  
– Catholic               4% No
– Black                   5% No
– Jewish                 7% No
– A Woman            11% No
– Hispanic             12% No
– Mormon              24% No
– Married 3X          30% No
– 72 years old       42% No
– Homosexual       43% No
– An Atheist         53% No

Some of the ridiculous claims against non-believers are:
1) Atheists say they can prove there is no God. I know many, many Atheists and other non-believers, and none of them say they can prove there is no God. They simply say they don’t believe one exists. Besides, you can’t prove a negative. The onus for proof has to be on the people who claim their God exists.
School Prayer2) Non-believers want to make it so that religious people can’t pray in public. I’ve never seen or heard any of my non-believing friends object to other people praying unless they want us to do it with them. Atheists object to religionists who insist on forcing prayer into government events, as if they are sanctioned by the state. They try to insert their prayers in court rooms, public schools, in school sporting events, and on public property.
3) Some of the Atheist haters say that Atheism is a religion. Maybe they think that by calling Atheism a religion, it puts Atheism in a category with the other religions they hate.  My only response to that is, “Saying Atheism is a religion is like saying ‘not collecting stamps’ is a hobby.”
4) Non-believers want to take away other people’s right to religion. There’s a difference between wanting to change people’s minds and wanting to take away their rights. Nobody wants some kind of “you can’t believe in God” law put in place. It’s the religious folks who keep trying to pass legislation to force others to follow their beliefs.
5) I could go on about the false statements made against non-believers, but I’d run out of ink.

Things are changing though. On the positive side, we non-believers are working to dispel the false claims against us. The President of Red Bank Humanists spoke up at a town Council meeting in Red Bank, NJ and asked that the phrase “non-believers” be included in the Council’s about-to-be-minted diversity statement. To our surprise, Mayor Pasquale Menna said, “That’s a no-brainer. After all, we’re all humans.” The amended diversity statement was adopted unanimously by the Council.

Red Bank, NJ Diversity Statement (revised wording):
The dimensions of diversity shall include, but are not limited to the following: race, ethnicity, persons of faith and non-believers, sexual orientation, sex, gender identity, disability, socioeconomic status, cultural orientation, physical abilities, political beliefs, age, and national origin and status.”

Atheism is simply not believing in a god. Although many Secular Humanists are Atheists, Secular Humanists espouse a positive philosophy of life. We think being good and doing good is possible without believing in a supernatural deity. Most Atheists feel the same way. We hope other people begin to adopt a more accepting attitude toward non-believers. Like Mayor Menna said, “After all, we’re all humans.”

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