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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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.

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Letters To The Editor: A Must

Letters To The Editor: A Must
– 
by Ron Steelman

Barry_Klassel

Barry Klassel – Humanist Chaplain, Rutgers University

Barry Klassel, a longtime member of Red Bank Humanists and the New Jersey Humanist Network, become the Humanist Chaplain at Rutgers University several years ago (with the help of Dr. Gary Brill, a Humanist and the Campus Coordinator for the Chaplaincy). Yes, many think “Humanist Chaplain” is an oxymoron. However, since Harvard and Columbia have Humanist Chaplains, why not Rutgers?

Point being, there needs to be someone at colleges and universities to whom non-believing students can go for information and advice. University students are forming many new ideas and have personal questions about ethics and morality. Many want to know how to be good without God. For example, Pew Research Center says one-third of Americans under 30 have no religious affiliation (January 13, 2013).

If it will make you happier, let’s just change the word Chaplain to “adviser.”

targum

Targum: an Aramaic translation or paraphrase
of a portion of the Old Testament

Now to the point. Barry read an editorial in the Rutgers newspaper called the “Daily Targum.” Yes, Targum is a biblical word, but let’s “pass over” that for now.

The title of the editorial says it all: “Successful Society Requires Religion.” What!? And this was in an editorial to boot! When silliness like this gets printed, reasonable, rational people must respond. We all have to write more letters to the editor like this one:

“To the Editor of the Daily Targum:
Humanism Can Form The Basis For A Successful Society

The Targum editorial entitled “Successful society requires religion” is unconvincing.  Non-theistic humanism can provide the philosophical and inspirational underpinnings of a just and forward-looking society. The fact that many countries including the United States are seeing a decline in religiosity does not mean the people are losing their morals or their sense of purpose in life. Rather, they are seeing the world in a way that is more honest and more useful to them.

article-2281475-15435FCF000005DC-848_634x398

Distant Galaxies

As a humanist my focus is on this one lifetime, on this world and the people in it. My family is all of humanity. My history is told in the stars, in the fossil record and in the DNA of all living creatures. I am inspired by human efforts to explore every corner of our universe and our own natures. I am moved by photos of distant galaxies, by freedom fighters around the world and by the touch of a child’s hand. I find beauty in the struggle of each human being to build a meaningful and fulfilling life. My purpose is to help them succeed.

One of the pillars of the humanist philosophy is a concern with morality. In fact, the day your editorial came out coincided with a meeting of the Humanist Chaplaincy at Rutgers on the topic of moral issues we all face. We discussed the areas of ecology, family relationships and world events. Moral questions pervade our lives and humanist principles take that into account.

A statement by the American Humanist Association expresses some of their values regarding a just society:

“Humanists are concerned for the well being of all, are committed to diversity, and respect those of differing yet humane views. We work to uphold the equal enjoyment of human rights and civil liberties in an open, secular society and maintain it is a civic duty to participate in the democratic process and a planetary duty to protect nature’s integrity, diversity, and beauty in a secure, sustainable manner.”

This is certainly a good start if we wish to have the basis for a successful society.

– Barry Klassel, Humanist Chaplain at Rutgers”
Humanist Chaplaincy at Rutgers

________________________________________

Barry was very rational, reasonable, even polite. That’s how you get letters to the editor printed. I, on the other hand, would have blown it. I’m sure my letter would have been rejected because I wanted to point out all the sophomoric logical fallacies in the editorial.

The Targum editorial is here.
It is filled with logical fallacies, some of which include:

argument from omniscience
argumentum ad baculum
argumentum ad populum
bandwagon fallacy
confirmation bias
red herring

Definitions of Logical Fallacies here.

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Humanism by Doris

Humanism by Doris
Video Interview by Ron Steelman

Doris is a friend of mine. I met her at the Red Bank Humanists several years back. She is not only a sweet person, but also intelligent and articulate in explaining her understanding of the philosophy of Secular Humanism. Thank you, Doris, for you comments!

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MUSIC CREDIT:
“AIRPORT LOUNGE”
http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/index.html?genre=Jazz
Airport Lounge by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a CC Attribution 3.0.
http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/index.html?isrc=USUAN1100806.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license are available at
http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/licenses/.

Bill Murray Philosopher / Humanist?

Bill Murray Philosopher / Humanist?
by Ron Steelman

I never thought of Bill Murray as a philosopher. I simply viewed him as an actor, a top notch, one-of-a-kind, always surprising clown, who can morph into a serious character on a dime. I greatly admire his acting skills, particularly his later work. Bill MurrayWhat a screwball! He has evolved into a highly regarded actor, one able to create rich characters that reveal many layers of their humanity. He loves to never do what you’d expect of him, both on screen and in real life. I believe that’s what makes him unique
. . .and funny.

As my wife read aloud an article about Mr. Murray in the Sunday, December 2nd Arts section of the New York Times, we chuckled, cackled, and guffawed. A portion of it included an interview with Bill, which was revelatory. My take is that aspects of his personal philosophy seem very Humanist-like. Now I understand how he employs this worldview in his acting. In fact, it’s this sense of reality that makes him so funny and such a great success.

Is he really a humanist? I don’t know. I doubt if you could ever get a straight answer out of him. He’s a master at avoiding direct answers to questions. I do know he’s a lapsed Catholic who is reported to have said, “Religion is the worst enemy of mankind. No single war in the history of humanity has killed as many people as religion has.” Therefore, I think he is now somewhat post-theological (I’ll correct this if he calls to complain). In the Times article his philosophy reveals a gentle compassion towards others, and a belief in hope. Compassion and hope are two of the three pillars of Humanism: reason, compassion, and hope. Well, that’s two out of three anyway. We’ll leave the discussion of his view of “reason” till he calls to explain.

After reading the excerpt from the Times article, please watch the YouTube video below. As usual, Murray’s plan is to never do what you’d expect of him, while sprinkling a little compassion into his interpersonal communication skills.
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(Excerpts from🙂
THE NEW YORK TIMES
With Bill Murray, Just Take the Trip

By DAVE ITZKOFF
Published: November 28, 2012

…”Q. That seems to be a philosophy you apply not only to your work but to your entire life.

A. Well, I’ve made some mistakes in that area too. The more relaxed you are, the better you are at everything: the better you are with your loved ones, the better you are with your enemies, the better you are at your job, the better you are with yourself.”
____________

(describing his authentic self.)

A. …”I spoke about the first time I went to Wrigley Field in Chicago, and I was a big Cubs fan, and I watched all the games on TV, but when I grew up, TV was in black and white. So when I was 7 years old, I was taken to my first Cubs games, and my brother Brian said, “Wait, Billy,” and he put his hands over my eyes, and he walked me up the stairs. And then he took his hands away. [He begins to get choked up.] And there was Wrigley Field, in green. There was this beautiful grass and this beautiful ivy. I’d only seen it in black and white. It was like I was a blind man made to see. It was something.”
____________

…”Q. There seems to be so much serendipity in your life. Are you actively cultivating these moments or just hoping that they come to you?

A. Well, you have to hope that they happen to you. That’s Pandora’s box, right? She opens up the box, and all the nightmares fly out. And slams the lid shut, like, “Oops,” and opens it one more time, and hope pops out of the box. That’s the only thing we really, surely have, is hope. You hope that you can be alive, that things will happen to you that you’ll actually witness, that you’ll participate in. Rather than life just rolling over you, and you wake up and it’s Thursday, and what happened to Monday? Whatever the best part of my life has been, has been as a result of that remembering.”

Q. Are there days where you wake up and think: “Nothing good has come to me in a little while. I’d better prime the pump”?

A. Well, who hasn’t woken up thinking, “God, nothing good has come to me in a while,” right? When I feel like I’m stuck, I do something — not like I’m Mother Teresa or anything, but there’s someone that’s forgotten about in your life, all the time. Someone that could use an “Attaboy” or a “How you doin’ out there.” It’s that sort of scene, that remembering that we die alone. We’re born alone. We do need each other. It’s lonely to really effectively live your life, and anyone you can get help from or give help to, that’s part of your obligation.”
_____________

…”Q. Did you ever think that the lessons you first learned on the stage of an improv comedy theater in Chicago would pay off later in life?

A. It pays off in your life when you’re in an elevator and people are uncomfortable. You can just say, “That’s a beautiful scarf.” It’s just thinking about making someone else feel comfortable. You don’t worry about yourself, because we’re vibrating together. If I can make yours just a little bit groovier, it’ll affect me. It comes back, somehow.”
______________

YouTube: Bill Murray on David Letterman
This clip demonstrates some of Bill Murray’s wacky philosophy:


______________

A couple of online comments about Bill Murray on this Letterman appearance:

“This guy is just charm incarnate. The sweetest, funniest man on earth. You can feel the shyness too, which is just like the cherry on the cake”

“This world is going to collapse in on itself when this man dies…”
______________

Some of Steelman’s favorite Bill Murray films:

– Moonrise Kingdom
– Get Low
– The Darjeeling Limited
– Lost In Translation
– Groundhog Day
– What About Bob
– Hyde Park On The Hudson (soon to be released. . .I’m sure I’ll love him as FDR)

Bill Murray as FDR

Bill Murray as FDR – by Nicola Dove/Focus Features

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Humanist Poetry?

Humanist Poetry?
By Ron Steelman
_________________________

I said, “Why are we doing this?”

Brother Scott said, “It’s just a gift, that’s all.”

I liked the simplicity of that. Even though I’m a devout skeptic, I couldn’t find any reason to object.

Scott said, “You pick some of the poems from the book, the ones that speak to you, and record them. Send the files to me and I’ll score some background music. We’ll put them
on a CD by Thanksgiving and Paul will take it to his dad, the poet, up in Woodstock, New York.”

I selected the poems I liked, rehearsed, and then recorded them — sitting in my pantry with beach towels masking the food on three sides. It makes a good sound booth with dead air, perfect for recording.

As I read the poems they made me think about how universal the human experience is. These poems were not my poems, yet they seemed to dig down and explore aspects of the human spirit to which we all can relate. These poems have nothing to do with secular humanism, but they have everything to do with being human. This isn’t a naive revelation about poetry, but rather a reminder to me that Humanism espouses the arts. The human creativity involved in this project is a demonstration of that philosophy.

The following statements are from  Affirmations of Humanism: A Statement of Principles. Whenever I read through the Affirmations I linger over these two statements, pondering my life, much of it spent in the arts:
“• We are engaged by the arts no less than by the sciences.
• We believe in enjoying life here and now and in developing our creative talents to their fullest.”

My response is always, “Yes, yes, yes, Arts change lives!” The more we experience music, dance, theater, poetry, literature, art — the more we come to realize that we are all one.  As Humanists:
“• We attempt to transcend divisive parochial loyalties based on race, religion, gender, nationality, creed, class, sexual orientation, or ethnicity, and strive to work together for the common good of humanity.”

Paul read two of his father’s poems. Scott read one. Plus, Scott introduced the text-to-voice character, the irreverent Glot Schpeilman. Bob’s poetry will never be the same.

Scott’s skillful musical scoring frames these poems, carefully supporting every word. His music is not background music, but rather, something called “magic.”

Enjoy.

CD Label

Turn up your speakers and play here.


CD Tracks

Quotes Worth Quoting – #1

“The tragedy is that every brain cell devoted to belief in the supernatural is a brain cell one cannot use to make life richer or easier or happier.”
– Kay Nolte Smith, “Truth or Consequences,” speech to the Freedom From
Religion Foundation 1983 national convention.

H. L. Mencken“The most curious social convention of the great age in which we live is the one to the effect that religious opinions should be respected”
– H.L. Mencken (American Mercury, March 1930). D. 1956.


martin luther
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“Reason is the enemy of faith.”
– Martin Luther

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
– Martin Luther King

Michelle Obama“Barack knows the American Dream because he’s lived it, and he wants everyone in this country to have the same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we’re from, or what we look like, or who we love.”
– Michelle Obama, 2012 Democratic National Convention

“Live and let live, be and let be,
Hear and let hear, see and let see,
Sing and let sing, dance and let dance.
.  .  . Live and let live and remember this line:
‘Your bus’ness is your bus’ness and my bus’ness is mine.’ ”
– Cole Porter, “Live and Let Live” from “Can-Can”

ray bradbury“Here lies Ray Bradbury, who loved life completely.  We are all the sons and daughters of time. So I thank the universe for making life on Earth and allowing me to come alive here.”
– Ray Bradbury (quoting him from recorded interview)

“There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me…that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in A, B, C, and D. Just who do they think they are?”
– Senator Barry Goldwater, R-Arizona, Congressional Record, September 16,
1981.
Born Jan. 1, 1909. D. 1998.

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