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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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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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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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

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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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PLEASE DON’T BE SHOCKED . . .when I say I’m an atheist

09madagascar.xlarge1
I always like to point out to people that there are many famous atheists in every profession. To demonstrate that fact, I have prepared a short list of classical composers, many of whom were obliged to create religious music simply to pay their bills, yet they were sincere atheists. Why are there so many atheist composers?

You might expect scientists to be atheists because they haven’t found any proof that there is a God. However, I think many “creative types” may be predisposed to atheism as well. This is pure speculation on my part (or possibly the ramblings of an idiot savant). I think the creative process allows the mind to explore all possibilities – including the denial of the existence of a supernatural being. Once accomplished, that denial sure eliminates a ton of spiritual baggage.

I have included several modern atheist composers as well, just to see if you can find them in the list.

THE LIST:

Béla Bartók

Hector Berlioz

Georges Bizet

Johannes Brahms

Claude Debussy

Frederick Delius

Brian Eno

Leoš Janáček

Tom Lehrer

Tim Minchin

Sergei Prokofiev

Sergei Rachmaninoff

Maurice Ravel

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

Richard Rodgers

Camille Saint-Saëns

Franz Peter Schubert

Dmitri Shostakovitch

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Richard Wagner

Vaughan Williams

Frank Zappa
(yes, he was a serious composer of modern classical music)

Smile_No_Hell_Black

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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. 

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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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