What I Said About What They Said

What I Said About What They Said
by Ron Steelman
2-2-19

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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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.

Untitled-1

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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SEX After Religion – II

(Updated/totally revised post from 2012,
with additional cartoons & a video with Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry)

 

SEX After Religion – II
by Ron Steelman
liam-walsh-a-man-is-in-bed-having-a-post-sex-cigarette-and-a-woman-is-putting-a-note-new-yorker-cartoon_a-G-9560794-8419449

“Sex Improves Dramatically After Leaving Religion”

Religions claim to be good and good for you. But first they require you to accept their view of the world. They demand a belief in their god; belief in that God’s sacred book; belief in that god’s explanation of how to seek redemption (because we’ve been told relentlessly that we’re bad); belief in the promise of heaven and the threat of hell; belief in peculiar dietary laws; some, even a belief that your genitals should be altered in a certain way. Let’s face it, many religions tell you how, when, and with whom to have sex. . . or not to have sex.

Yes, for some reason sex is very important to the gods. In fact, they’ve laid out many dos and don’ts, and described various sexual taboos.

It_Was_Original_2

From the very beginning, the god in my Bible told me that when Adam made love with Eve, it was bad, bad, bad. The two of them must be punished (although poor Eve got most of the blame). The act of sex was declared bad from the outset and you’d better feel guilty about it. Thus, we have religion to thank for the linking of guilt to sex. Thank you so much, god.

Unfortunately, begging our god to be forgiven for our sexual sins then sadly morphed into begging for sex. 

For Men
Close_My_Eyes

For Women
Touch_Anywhere

Resist

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 simply like to say that I’m “Post‐Theological.” I have exorcised that hideous religious guilt
that attempted to infect me. 

GoodSexFairy
The New Survey

Happily, a new survey has confirmed my personal experience. The headline in the newspaper read, “Sex Improves Dramatically After Leaving Religion.” The survey/study is by Dr. Darrel W. Ray, a psychologist, and director of The Institute for Performance Culture, and Amanda Brown. The survey title is “Sex and Secularism: What Happens When You Leave Religion.”

They surveyed over 14,500 American Secularists. It’s a ground‐breaking study of sexuality among the non‐religious. As stated in the editorial comment of the study, “. . .almost all religions suppress and distort sexuality in measurable increments. While most religions do not have as powerful an impact as a cult, they still have a negative impact in terms of guilt.”

new-yorker-24-jan-2011-easier-religion2

The survey gave plenty of data to make some tentative conclusions about the secular community and secular sex. The most important finding shows dramatic improvement in sexual satisfaction and a decrease in guilt after people left their religions.

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

The Full Survey

Sex_and_Secularism

Education

In the US, many religious leaders are against sex education in schools and insist that parents and churches should be primarily responsible. Back in 1989, Hugh Laurie (from the U.S. television show House) had a skit-comedy TV show in England. Along with his old college buddy, Stephen Fry, they happily mocked how many parents resist teaching their children about sex, and object to the schools teaching it as well. 

_____________________________________

Finale: X-rated Humor

For adults only: what do atheists say in bed? The link below will take you to Jeff Swenson’s “Humanists in Love” comic. Don’t look at this if you are easily offended by sexual humor:

Jeff Swenson’s
“HUMANISTS IN LOVE – Deist on Top”

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(Thanks to The New Yorker and those wonderful New Yorker cartoonists)

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THE INVENTION OF SEX

“He rescued Adam and Eve from obscurity, devised the doctrine of original sin—and the rest is sexual history.”

Of course, the New Yorker article entitled “The Invention of Sex” caught my eye, especially since it was about St. Augustine. I thought, did a saint really invent sex? Turns out the article by Stephen Greenblatt is about Sarah Ruden’s new, ‘strikingly colloquial translation’ of St Augustine’s, “The Confessions.”  The more I read the more I realized I didn’t care much for Mr. Augustine. Seems he was the one who really promoted original sin and wrote about it for 15 years. I always hated the idea of original sin and the torment that this concept has leashed upon the human race. And he was made a saint for this?! In his book, “Confessions,” written around 397 C.E., Augustine described an event in the bathhouse many years earlier. That day, his father Patricius, saw in him the signs of inquieta adulescentia, restless young manhood, and was thrilled that this might lead to grandchildren.

There are many ways to interpret ancient religious texts, and I personally forswore this fruitless enterprise many years ago. We are reminded by this article of the preposterous intellectual exercises that engage theologians.

Augustine apparently became obsessed with the fact that his penis seemed to have a mind of its own. As a result, his view of Genesis is that, “. . .the consequence of Eve’s disobedience is twofold: women are condemned to bring forth children in pain and to yearn for the husbands who dominate them.” Clearly he blames Eve for the behavior of his randy little penis. Very convenient and a belief that has tormented men and women since the man-made creation of the Bible.

I apologize to all women for this Adam and Eve torment. It’s really embarrassing to me as a human. I have selected certain paragraphs from the article to show why this religious mumbo-jumbo should be deep-sixed in the quicksand of time!

Photo selected by me

“The archaic story of the naked man and woman, the talking snake, and the magical trees was something of an embarrassment. It was Augustine who rescued it from the decorous oblivion to which it seemed to be heading. He bears principal responsibility for its prominence, including the fact that four in ten Americans today profess to believe in its literal truth.”

 

. . .”Pagans ridiculed that story as primitive and ethically incoherent. How could a god worthy of respect try to keep humans from the knowledge of good and evil?. . .To Augustine sex was a touch of evil. “Surely, any friend of wisdom and holy joys.  . .would prefer, if possible, to beget children without lust.”

Yeah, right.

. . .”Pelagius and his followers were moral optimists. They believed that human beings were born innocent. Infants do not enter the world with a special endowment of virtue, but neither do they carry the innate stain of vice. “

. . .” Augustine embarked on a work, “The Literal Meaning of Genesis,” that aimed at discussing “the scriptures according to their proper meaning . . . For some fifteen years, he labored on this work. . .In the end, it defeated him, and he knew it. The problem is that not every word of Genesis can be taken literally. . .”

From the 1999 film,                            “The Loss of Sexual Innocence”

“. . .How, specifically, were they meant to reproduce, if it was not in the way that all humans have done for as long as anyone can remember? In Paradise, Augustine argued, Adam and Eve would have had sex without involuntary arousal: “They would not have had the activity of turbulent lust in their flesh, however, but only the movement of peaceful will by which we command the other members of the body.” Without feeling any passion—without sensing that strange goad—“the husband would have relaxed on his wife’s bosom in tranquility of mind.” (What about the snake???)

How would this have been possible, the Pelagians asked, if the bodies of Adam and Eve were substantially the same as our bodies? Just consider, Augustine replied, that even now, in our current condition, some people can do things with their bodies that others find impossible. “Some people can even move their ears, either one at a time or both together. . .Others, as he personally had witnessed, could sweat whenever they chose, and there were even people who could “produce at will such musical sounds from their behind (without any stink) that they seem to be singing from that region.”  (Doesn’t this say it all!)

(illustration from felixbennett.com)

“Adam had fallen, Augustine wrote in “The City of God,” not because the serpent had deceived him. He chose to sin, and, in doing so, he lost Paradise, because he could not endure being severed from his sole companion ♦”

__________________________________

Adam did fall. . .he fell in love with Eve. Give it up, Mr. Augustine.

 

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“Aren’t ya gonna read some words over him, Bret?”

graphic_words_over_him
(or, a real “Good Book”)

Introduction
You’ve seen the classic western film where one of the good guys gets shot by one of the bad guys. They’re out in the middle of “nowhere big sky country.” There’s no way they can get their dead sidekick (the cowpoke who weighed 300 pounds yet they called him Slim) back to town to the undertaker (a twitchy little guy named Aloysius P. McCreepy,
who sported a glass eye). They’re stuck.

They must follow the rules of the Olde West and bury their stiff compatriot right there where their horses stopped. The movie screeches to a halt while they supposedly dig a grave and plunk him “six feet under.” They must bury him right away for two reasons: the beautiful heroine with the ripped skirt really likes Slim’s horse, plus they’d hate
to see Slim devoured by the buzzards lurking overhead. Since the director of the film realizes that cowboys never carried shovels, making the audience watch the gang dig a six foot hole with their bare hands would not win him an Oscar. He wisely skips that scene and jumps to the scene where they are about to plant a rough‐hewn cross in the rocks they piled on top of good old Slim. At this point they start to saddle up, but the chick who’s showing too much leg (for this period in history) turns to our hero and says, “Aren’t ya gonna read some words over him, Bret?”

Bret turns to Cookie, a smiley and smelly old geezer with a limp, with the brim of his grungy cowboy hat turned up in front. Bret says, “Cookie’ll say’em betterin’ me.”

The camera cuts to Cookie, the chef who ritually burns the beans and biscuits. Cookie gives Bret a dirty look. But when Cookie eyes the gal’s legs and she gives him a big smile, he caves. He says, “Well, I ain’t got no Good Book, so I’ll just say what I always say at times like these.”

As Cookie looks to heaven and opens his mouth to say his favorite “few words,” an arrow zings through the top of his rumpled hat, sending it flying.

Cookie yells, “Dang nabbit,” grabs an enormous black skillet to shield his head, as another arrow ricochets off with a clang. . .

‐ Fade to black ‐

The Main Part – About the New Bible
Speaking of the “Good Book,” aka, the Bible, the world now has a new one. This tome is not for religious people, though. It’s called The Good Book – A Humanist Bible, by A.C. Grayling, the noted British philosopher. It’s important to note that there’s no mention of God or other supernatural phenomena in this book. The following description from Amazon.com provides a
concise overview of the book.

“Few, if any, thinkers and writers today would have the imagination, the breadth of knowledge, the literary skill, and yes‐the audacity to conceive of a powerful, secular alternative to the Bible. But that is exactly what A.C. Grayling has done by creating a non‐religious Bible, drawn from the wealth of secular literature and philosophy in both Western and Eastern traditions, using the same techniques of editing, redaction, and adaptation that produced the holy books of the Judaeo‐Christian and Islamic religions. The Good Book consciously takes its design and presentation from the Bible, in its
beauty of language and arrangement into short chapters and verses for ease of reading and quotability, offering to the non‐religious seeker all the wisdom, insight, solace, inspiration, and perspective of secular humanist traditions that are older, far richer and more various than Christianity. Organized in 12 main sections‐‐‐‐Genesis, Histories, Wisdom, The Sages, Parables, Consolations, Lamentations, Proverbs, Songs, Epistles, Acts, and the Good‐‐‐‐The Good Book opens with meditations on the origin and progress of the world and human life in it, then devotes attention to the question of how life should be lived, how we relate to one another, and how vicissitudes are to be faced and joys appreciated. Incorporating the writing of Herodotus and Lucretius, Confucius and Mencius, Seneca and Cicero, Montaigne, Bacon, and so many others, The Good Book will fulfill its audacious purpose in every way.”

As Stephen Colbert said in his goofy, faux‐far‐right interview of A.C. Grayling, “How can this be a Bible if there’s no God in it? Is this book against God and religion?”

A.C. Grayling answered, “There’s nothing in this book against religion. It’s just a different take on how we live the good life and about ethics, really. The point is we have to take responsibility to think carefully for ourselves about what kind of values we pursue in life and how we form really good relationships with other people.”

Without exploring the premise that the traditional Bible itself is not actually a “good” book, I must say that Grayling’s The Good Book seems to truly be a good book. I also discovered that you can read it from cover to cover, or pick it up and consider one page at a time. Throughout, it is a “good book,” filled with wisdom and advice on how to be good and how to live the good life. . .without a deity.

(An Excerpt)
Here is the last chapter of the last book in Grayling’s The Good Book – A Humanist Bible:
“1. Seek always for the good that abides. There can be none except as the mind finds it within itself;
2. Wisdom alone affords everlasting and peace‐giving joy, for then, even if some obstacle arises,
3. It is only like an intervening cloud, which floats beneath the sun but never prevails against it.
4. When will you attain this joy? It will begin when you think for yourself,
5. When you truly take responsibility for your own life,
6. When you join the fellowship of all who have stood up as free individuals and said,
7. ‘We are of the company of those who seek the true and the right, and live accordingly;
8. ‘In our human world, in the short time we each have,
9. ‘We see our duty to make and find something good for ourselves and our companions in the human predicament.’
10. Let us help one another, therefore; let us build the city together,
11. Where the best future might inhabit, and the true promise of humanity be realized at last.”

Pretty good, huh?

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