Easter & April Fools

He_Is_Risen         Steelman_w_Fool_Hat
Easter is on April 1st this year.  So I’m wearing my custom made hat (1982).

Easter & April Fools
by Ron Steelman
March 30, 2018

If you’re struggling over the idea of going (or not going) to church this Easter, just let it go. It’s OK. I might point out that this year Easter falls on April Fools day, which is always April 1st. You can draw your own conclusion from this revealing coincidence. But more importantly, I’d like to share some facts about the changes in our culture. More and more people are leaving their religions and turning into “NONES.” I’ll explain.

Here are some amazing facts from a Scientific American magazine article (April 2018):

“In recent years much has been written about the rise of the “nones”—people who check the box for “none” on surveys of religious affiliation. A 2013 Harris Poll of 2,250 American adults, for example, found that 23 percent of all Americans have forsaken religion altogether. A 2015 Pew Research Center poll reported that 34 to 36 percent of millennials (those born after 1980) are nones and corroborated the 23 percent figure, adding that this was a dramatic increase from 2007, when only 16 percent of Americans said they were affiliated with no religion. In raw numbers, this translates to an increase from 36.6 million to 55.8 million nones. Though lagging far behind the 71 percent of Americans who identified as Christian in the Pew poll, they are still a significant voting block, far larger than Jews (4.7 million), Muslims (2.2 million) and Buddhists (1.7 million) combined (8.6 million) and comparable to politically powerful Christian sects such as Evangelical (25.4 percent) and Catholic (20.8 percent).”

Here is the link to the full article from Scientific American.


You are not alone if you are considering leaving your religion. For me, it was easier to believe in Christmas than Easter. . .I think because we got presents. I still believe in giving presents to the people I love, although I just never could buy that virgin birth thing. Easter was even more off the believability charts.

Reason and rational thought have led me away from religion in search of a positive philosophy of life. I found that in secular humanism.

The moral compass I’ve found in secular humanism far outshines what I gleaned from my Christian upbringing. There were too many contradictions, too much double-talk, and those blatant hypocrisies. I joke that April Fools Day is my high holy day. I say that because I love humor and jokes. I don’t really enjoy playing April Fool tricks on people. However, I am enamored of Shakespeare’s fools. For years I was an actor performing in many of Shakespeare’s plays. I especially loved the comedies and the role of fools in Shakespeare’s plays.  The fools made the king laugh, and yet often imparted a certain amount of wisdom. For example:

God give them wisdom that have it; and those that are fools, let them use their talents.
    -Feste, Twelfth Night, Act I, Scene 5

Better a witty fool than a foolish wit.
    -Feste, Twelfth Night,  Act I, Scene 5

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be
a fool.
     -Touchstone, As You Like It, Act V, Scene 1


When I was in high school I was in the band. But I booked actual paying gigs playing my drums for rock and roll and society dances. For a couple of years I borrowed the tympani from my high school and played Easter services at a church. I only did it because I needed the money. I carted the tympani to the church, and played a big showy piece called “Christ our Passover.” There was a big organ, a 40-member choir, a brass quintet, and me, banging away in the big finale. As I looked out over the people in the sanctuary, I saw everybody in their finest, the ladies with their fancy hats, and even the littlest of boys were wearing ties. I felt like such a hypocrite. These people were buying it, yet I was just there for the money. I felt that maybe they should find a tympanist who was a believer.

It took me many years to finally get the courage to stop going to church. They have this habit of telling you that you will burn in hell if you don’t believe in God. Guess what? Since then I found out there is no hell. So if you’re on the fence, don’t wait. You’ll be much happier. Turn yourself into a “None!”

Some people may put a lot of pressure on you to keep going to church (or mosques or synagogues or whatever). Just ask them if they want you to be a hypocrite. If they say “yes,” you know that’s not a good idea. I don’t mean to be flip about this. Leaving a religion can be similar to PTSD. However, the main area of difficulty seems to be for those who have trouble letting go of their belief in hell. I’m serious. I’ve read the studies. Rejection by family members is another big problem. There are many books about this issue. Check out some of the writings of Dan Barker from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.  It was doubly hard for him, because he was an evangelical minister for 19 years.  Ouch!  
Smile_No_Hell_Black

: : :

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

: : :

 

 

 

 

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”

_____________________________________

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

: : :

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! 

: : :

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.

:  :  :

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.