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

“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,
Born Jan. 1, 1909. D. 1998.

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My Apostasy

by Ron Steelman  © 2012

Part I – My Baptism
BaptisimUntil now I really didn’t feel it was necessary to personally sign a “DeBaptismal” certificate. I thought that was a little over the top for me. I wasn’t motivated to give that act so much credibility, even though the possibility of doing so struck me as deliciously post-theological. Some of my friends purchased special forms from secular humanist and atheist organizations and have even participated in public ceremonies which were officiated and certified by various high-ranking un-religious wiseacres. But times they are a-changin’. The shrill voices of religious fundamentalists grow louder, accusing non-believers of causing all the evils in the world. I have no choice. I must reevaluate the passive status of my apostasy.

infant baptismSome people have told me that they would never forswear their Baptism as long as their parents were still alive. That act would signify such a gross repudiation of “this loving act” by their parents that it would be like stabbing mom and dad with a dagger. I doubt if I would have told my parents had I renounced my Baptism, but I never renounced it while they were alive. However, after reading the wording on the following DeBaptismal Certificate (from the Freedom From Religion Foundation), I am now ready and happy to sign it. Since both of my parents were cremated they won’t be turning over in their graves.*

So here it goes.

I, Ronald G. Steelman, having been subjected to a Christian baptism before reaching an age of consent, having submitted to baptism before embracing freethought and reason, hereby officially renounce that primitive rite and the Church that imposed it. I categorically reject the creeds, dogmas, and superstitions of my former religion, particularly the pernicious doctrines of ‘Original Sin’ and damnation.

I further denounce as an affront and defamation to humanity the false and demeaning belief that any baby is born with ‘Original Sin’ and must be cleansed of it by baptism. From this day forward, I wish to be excluded from any claims and religious affiliation or membership based on baptismal records.

Signed:  Ronald G. Steelman
on this day   
March 22  in the year of No Lord  2012
Affirmed by:
Please be my witness by commenting on this post below.

Part II – My Apostles’ Creed

While going through some old photos that my sweet mother saved for me, I discovered this photo from my Presbyterian Church Communicants Class. When we finished the prescribed course, we all received our own personal King James Bible. I believe this event was in May 1959 when I was turning thirteen.

Ron with class & Jesus paintingAll the other boys have burr haircuts. That’s me in the center with the Rock & Roll duck tails: my hip, and at the time considered a hood(lum) hairdo. Clearly, I didn’t fit in with this crowd, religiously, philosophically, or socially. Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure there were some good kids in this group who knew the difference between right and wrong, and who were maybe even trying to emulate the good teachings of Jesus.

Rocers Eddie Cochran & Gene vincent

Rockers Eddie Cochran & Gene Vincent

There had to be. This was 1959 for Christ’s sake! And there was a picture of a white Jesus on the wall there. However, what sticks in my mind is the way I was treated and tricked by some of these upper crust Christians. It bothered me that some of these kids were already demonstrating a certain level of hypocrisy when it came to “doing the right thing.” Some were already trying to game the system — and me.

I just didn’t fit. Maybe it was because I was more worldly-wise. I had a paper route and was out on the street delivering newspapers to my 100+ customers every day. To get paid, I had to collect the money from the customers every week and turn it in at noon on Saturday. When I would collect on Thursday night and Saturday morning, many people on my route would ask me in to their apartments while they went to find the money. Let me put it this way, I was hip to all kinds of weird things by the time I was 13.

The only thought I had about the “Communicants” thing at church was that my parents made me take this class. So, I finished it and I received my Bible — just to please them. I actually didn’t think about the class till after it was all over. During the next couple of years that class made me question everything about my real beliefs. Although I had learned about honesty and character at home at my kitchen table, I had to go to church to learn about hypocrisy.

So now, this is part II of certifying my Apostasy. Here we go: I now disavow my being a sworn adherent to the Apostle’s Creed. I was forced into it and I was brain-washed at the time (I was just turning 13!) I tried to forget about it for years. But now I must finally correct the record. Maybe this will encourage others to let go of their old religious baggage.

My Repudiation of the Apostle’s Creed
Greek Apostles CreedI BELIEVE in God the Father Almighty (no), Maker of heaven and earth (no), And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord (no); who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary (you’re kiddin’ me), suffered under Pontius Pilate (not sure about that), was crucified, dead, and buried (there’s no real proof of that); he descended into hell (there is no hell); the third day he rose again from the dead (see Penn & Teller); he ascended into heaven (there is no heaven and I don’t believe the rest of this, especially the resurrection-of-the-body part), and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

Part III – My Belief

I feel so much better now that I have officially shed the religious affiliations that were forced upon me as a child. This should not happen to any child. Moral and ethical lessons can be taught without any religious affiliation, leaving the final choices about spiritual/religious preferences until the child becomes an adult. The child should make their own decisions upon becoming an adult (and I don’t mean 13).

I aspire to be a Secular Humanist. What is Humanism? Well, one important distinction is that Humanism is a philosophy, not a religion. Here is the definition:

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

* The Footnote About My Parents:  I am confident that although my parents went to their church for over 50 years, they went specifically to participate in its noted music program. We never had a discussion about God, or Jesus, or the virgin birth. Even as they were dying I could not engage either one of them about their beliefs in a hereafter, or anything else that was religious. Their lips were sealed. Why? For them it was the music that was their spiritual connection. They were in a huge choir. Mom was the soprano soloist and Dad was the tenor soloist. There was a five manual pipe organ, the best organist around, and exposure to some of the best ‘sacred’ music created by all the world’s best composers like Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, Handel, Haydn, Randall Thompson, Gabriel Fauré, Carlos Menotti. Sometimes they’d add strings and/or brass to the arrangements, using musicians from the local Symphony. I was a choir brat so I sat out front and listened to all this. It was fabulous and moving, but not from a religious sense. It was the beauty of the musical arts that kept Mom and Dad going to church. At the end of Dad’s memorial service in the church, the organist played one of Dad’s favorite organ pieces, the Widor Tocatta. If you don’t know this piece, you should find it and play it on the biggest speakers you can find. I am in awe of the beauty and power of all the music I heard there, magical music created by human beings. That’s inspiring.

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by Ron Steelman

Sometimes life can wear you out, beat you up, and leave you sittin’ by the side of the road. You’re down in the dumps. You’re wonderin’ just how you’re gonna keep smilin’ and where you’re gonna find the will to stand up, dust yourself off and get back on that road again. But right then, somethin’ unexpected happens. Somethin’ you never contemplated happens right on cue. That’s right. It starts to pour down rain! wile-e-coyoteSo now you’re sittin’ there in the mud. Oh, thank you, big machine of random cosmic timing. I think we’ve all been there at one time or another, feeling like life couldn’t get any worse. At times like this you just want to roll up into a little ball and crawl under a rock.

In honor of my mother I’ve always tried to be an optimist. She woke up every day with enough cockeyed optimism to give everyone in our family a double dose to start out the day. We all laughed at her dogged determination to create a happy little party, but every morning she distracted us from our worries, coaxed smiles onto our faces. I want my Mommy now!

Getting older though has taken a toll on my optimism, especially given all the things we’ve lived through in recent years. So many people and events in our world have left me somewhat discouraged. At times I feel like I’m teetering on the abyss of cynicism. I really don’t want to become a cynic, though. Cynicism is so cheap and easy. One simply has to be negative and snide about everything. I will continue to be a skeptic, just not a cynic — for believing that selfishness is the only thing that motivates human actions does not sync with my philosophy of life.

Luckily, in my quest to find something to hang on to, something between cockeyed optimism and cynicism, I discovered HOPE.

Vaclav Havel

Vaclav Havel

In 1989 Vaclav Havel, writer and dramatist and the first President of the Czech Republic, wrote: “Hope is an orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced. . . Hope is not the willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but, rather, an ability to work for something because it is good. Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”

I think I understand now why hope is one of the three themes of the new Humanist holiday, HumanLight: reason, compassion, and hope. Hope gives us a clearer perspective on reason, and it certainly informs our commitment to compassion. I do love my Mother’s cockeyed optimism, yet I think it’s time now for a more mature hopefulness. I am focusing my hope on the goal of Humanism, which is to “lead an ethical life that aspires to the greater good of humanity.” That’s the kind of thing that’s worth hoping for, because as Mr. Havel said, it “. . .makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”

So the next time you’re sittin’ there in the mud, I hope you can summon the hope you need to pick yourself up and get on down that road.

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(originally published for the HumanLight essay contest, December, 2009)

After All, We’re All Humans

After All, We’re All Humans
by Ron Steelman

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

Rick Santorum

Senator Rick Santorum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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It’s February; Let’s Talk About LOVE

It’s February; Let’s Talk About LOVE
by Ron Steelman

Humanism is a philosophy for those in love with life. And there’s no better time to think about love than February. The famous Humanist orator, Robert Green Ingersoll, said it nicely:

Love Is…
Love is the only bow on Life’s dark cloud.
It is the morning and the evening star.
It shines upon the babe, and sheds its radiance on the quiet tomb.
It is the mother of art, inspirer of poet, patriot and philosopher.
It is the air and light of every heart — builder of every home, kindler
of every fire on every hearth. It was the first to dream of immortality.
It fills the world with melody — for music is the voice of love.
Love is the magician, the enchanter that changes worthless things to Joy,
and makes royal kings and queens of common clay.
It is the perfume of that wondrous flower, the heart, and without that
sacred passion, that divine swoon, we are less than beasts;
but with it, earth is heaven, and we are gods.
– Robert Green Ingersoll, Orthodoxy (1884)

A live Italian Cupid statue

A live Italian Cupid statue

In a masterful mistaken-identity-and-spy-on-your-lover-plot, Valentine in Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona finally gets the right girl at the end of the play. I prefer to cite Shakespeare’s Valentine, not St. Valentine, nor that Cupid twit (who was really just a voyeur). I like a man of real action, a guy who truly gives his heart away, rather than that elusive naked cherub who flits about shooting tiny arrows into the unsuspecting. And thus, when in doubt, always look to Will for something illuminating.

At the end of the play Shakespeare’s Valentine has just learned an extremely valuable lesson: love is what makes the world go round. What great excitement! Love ignites such exuberance in the young. Remember? The following lyric was written long after Shakespeare, yet it expresses Valentine’s joy in Broadway musical terms:

Rodgers & Hammerstein – “State Fair”
It’s a grand night for singing,
The moon is flying high,
And somewhere a bird
Who is bound he’ll be heard,
Is throwing his heart at the sky!
It’s a grand night for singing,
The stars are bright above.
The earth is a-glow
And, to add to the show,
I think I am falling in love!  (with emphasis)

Yes, I’m a romantic rapscallion.

At some point after you’ve fallen in love, if you’re lucky, you look at your lover and say to yourself:  “YIKES! SHE/HE LOVES ME. Am I lucky? Yes, very lucky! I need to love her the way she loves me.”

That feeling is captured in the next set of lyrics from the 1928 song, She’s Funny That Way, with music by Neil Moret and lyrics by Richard Whiting. It’s a gentle ballad. I discovered that various vocalists selected just some of the lyrics, and many have even re-written some of them. I have pieced together what I think is the whole song (maybe not exactly). I’m including it all because it’s like a short story as our hero contemplates his relationship with his lover.

She’s Funny That Way
Once she dressed in diamonds and pearls, Owned a Rolls Royce car
Now she seems quite out of place, like a fallen star
While I worry, plan and scheme, over what to do,
Can’t help feeling that it’s a dream. She’s just too good to be true.

I’m not much to look at, I’m nothing to see
I’m glad to be livin’ and lucky to be
I’ve got this girl that’s crazy for me
She’s funny that way.

I ain’t got a dollar, can’t save a cent
She doesn’t holler she’d live in a tent
I got girl who’s mad about me
She’s funny that way.

Tho’ she loves to work and slave for me ev’ry day
She’d be so much better off if I went away.

But why should I leave her, why should I go
She’d be unhappy without me I know
I got this girl crazy for me
She’s funny that way.

She should have the very best, Anyone can see
Still she’s diff’rent from the rest, satisfied with me.
While I worry, plan and scheme, over what to do
Can’t help feeling it’s a dream, too good to be true.

Never had nothin’; no one to care
That’s why I seem to have more than my share,
I got a woman, crazy for me,
She’s funny that way.

When I hurt her feelings, once in a while,
Her only answer is one little smile,
I got a woman crazy for me.
She’s funny that way.

I can see no other way and no better plan,
End it all and let her go to some better man;
But I’m only human, coward at best
I’m more than certain she’d follow me west,
I got a woman crazy for me,
She’s funny that way.

family sculptureIn the arc of life it might take a while for the next level of understanding to set in. When that magic moment materializes, and hopefully it comes well before you die, the reaction usually is: “Of course, it was right in front of me all of the time.” This next level of understanding is one of the great secrets of life: love is a priceless treasure that makes life worth living. It’s something that must be exalted. This reminds me of a Sondheim song from his Broadway musical, Company (I left out the recitative parts his close friends interject throughout, encouraging him and supporting him with their love).

Being Alive
by Stephen Sondheim

Someone to hold you too close
Someone to hurt you too deep
Someone to sit in your chair
To ruin your sleep
To make you aware
Of being alive

Someone to need you too much
Someone to know you too  well
Someone to pull you up short
To put you through hell
To give you support
In being alive
Being alive

Someone you have to let in
Someone whose feelings you spare
Someone who, like it or not
Will want you to share
A little, a lot

Someone to crowd you with love
Someone to force you to care
Someone to make you come through
Who’ll always be there
As frightened as you
Of being alive
Being alive
Being alive
Being alive

Somebody, need me too much
Somebody, know me too well
Somebody, pull me up short
And put me through hell
And give me support
For being alive
Make me alive

Make me confused
Mock me with praise
Let me be used
Vary my days
But alone is alone
Not alive

Somebody, crowd me with love,
Somebody, force me to care,
Somebody, make me come through,
I’ll always be there,
As frightened as you,
To help us survive
Being alive,
Being alive,
Being alive!

Sondheim sure knows how to hit an intimate button. He proves through his music and lyrics that the love of family and friends is definitely one of the “secrets” of a happy life.

That makes me turn again to the truth in Shakespeare and the many ways he looks at love. I like the usual suspects,  Sonnet 116 – “Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments,” or, Sonnet 18 – “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” I’d like to close, though, with this one line from Twelfth Night:

“Love sought is good, but given unsought better.”   – William Shakespeare

Kiss Sculpture

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Life’s Little Miracles

miracle whip jar

I frequently read articles about theater and music. I can’t help it. These particular arts have been such a major part of my life that I continue to study and learn and enjoy them whenever possible. They’re in my DNA.

In a New York Times article by Patrick Healy (and I’m quoting freely here) I read about “actor George Lee Andrews, a Guinness World Record holder for the most performances in the same Broadway show: 23 years in The Phantom of the Opera (9,382 performances).” Yet he was shocked when the powers that be “at Phantom revealed that they were not extending his six-month contract, which had been renewed more than 40 times before. Even though George was still at the top of his game, the producers said they just wanted some ‘new blood to strengthen the show for an indefinite commercial run.’”

Most Broadway shows rarely make it to the 1-year mark, so his 23-year run was a phenomenal anomaly. However, the coda of the story is one of life’s little miracles. “George’s sting of leaving the show was greatly lessened when he learned the name of his replacement: Aaron Galligan-Stierle, 31, a New York stage actor who, as fate would have it, is his son-in-law.” George may have even claimed this was a miracle. Or he might have said that this was ‘meant to be.’ I hope not. I’ll have to ask him.

Actually, life simply happens. There are good things, bad things, and a whole heap of stuff in-between. We try to control it all as best we can, but life has a way of expressing itself with or without our consent. When we hit the jackpot there’s a natural tendency for us humans to want to thank someone or something for our gift. We are so superstitious that our imagination begins to work overtime, perhaps concluding that maybe this gift was a reward for something we did right. And if a bad thing happens, we want to find someone else to blame. Often it’s god. Other times we blame it on imaginary villains, or even an object. That’s humans!

I ran across another heart-warming story, this one on National Public Radio. It was an interview with Gerald Wilson, who at the age of 93 was about to release his latest album. Wilson is a giant of jazz who has written for and played with the orchestras of Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Carter, and many more. On this album he’s joined by his son, Anthony Wilson, and grandson, Eric Otis, who are also composers and musicians.

Otis and Gerald Wilson first began working together when the latter’s eyesight started failing and he needed help transcribing his compositions. Soon Otis starting arranging on his own and this led to Wilson and his prodigious Gerald Wilson Orchestra releasing a new album called, Legacy, including arrangements by Wilson’s son…and grandson. What a joy it must be for them to have three generations in their family collaborating to make beautiful music.

Observation, reason, and experience suggest that there is no supernatural deity to thank when good things happen to us. As Shakespeare said, it’s simply “Giddy Fortune’s furious fickle wheel.” Or as he said in All’s Well That Ends Well:

“Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie,
Which we ascribe to heaven. . .”

The ‘good luck’ examples I’ve cited are light-weight, feel-good events. Not all events are good. And when bad things happen, the blame game begins. Many fix the blame based upon their understanding of their god. For example, after 9/11 Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson said that “god may have allowed what the nation deserved because of the moral decay caused by the ACLU, abortionists, feminists, gays, and the People For The American Way.” Really?

It’s hard for many people to accept that it’s simply nature, the natural world that is influencing our lives. But humans panic and fear that if there is no god pulling the strings, life will be turned into some sort of random chaos. The truth is there are seemingly random acts of nature that we can’t explain. However, they are actually triggered by some natural law. . .or by some living creature. Yes, we’re including humans here, who are a part of the natural world. As we increase our knowledge of the natural world, perhaps fewer and fewer events will be ascribed to the supernatural.

We humans want to be in control and/or believe that we have the cell phone number for whoever runs life on our little planet. I do not believe that supernatural deities exist, let alone claim control over our lives. I have come to this opinion because of the overwhelming lack of evidence to the contrary and because there are thousands of religions, each with a god their adherents claim is the one and only TRUE god. This gives one pause.

Life’s good luck and bad luck isn’t dished out by a supernatural deity. Natural phenomena are is the cause and the events that occur are not miracles, not supernatural. The hardest thing for us is to understand that it’s not PERSONAL. Nature doesn’t have our names. We are simply a part of this natural world, a fabulous ever-changing world. To me, that is miracle enough.

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SEX After Religion

SEX After Religion
by Ron Steelman

(Study shows “Sex Improves Dramatically After Leaving Religion.” )

Religions claim to be good and good for us. But first they require us to accept a picture of the world the way our religion paints it. The requirements generally are: belief in the god of your religion and his/her creation stories; belief in the published sacred book given to you by your god; belief in your god’s explanation of how to seek redemption (because we’re always told we’ve done something bad); belief in your religion’s carrot and the stick (the promise of heaven and the threat of hell); belief in peculiar and very specific dietary laws; belief in the way your genitals should be trimmed; belief in the threats made by your god if you don’t do his bidding: belief in about twenty‐five other things that don’t make much sense to you either; and most importantly, belief in what your religion tells you about how and when and with whom to have sex.

I’m sorry it took me 159 words to finally get to the word SEX, but I hope I’ve got your attention now.

Yes. SEX is very important to gods. It certainly seemed to be important to all of the Christian gods that I ran into growing up. There were so many gods – just within the protestant tent alone – that it was hard to keep track of all known sexual taboos.

From the very beginning, the god in the Bible told me that when Adam messed around with Eve, it was bad, bad, bad. They had to be punished (poor Eve got most of the blame). Therefore, if you have SEX you’d better feel guilty and come back to god and beg for forgiveness, and/or some sort of punishment. Beg, beg, beg. Thus, we have religion to thank for the linking of SEX to guilt. Thank you so much, god. (Next came the begging for the SEX.)

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 like to say I’m “Post‐Theological.” I have
exorcised the religious guilt that attempted to inflict itself upon me up until I was 40 years old. I have to admit though, I really didn’t know much about sex after religion, except that it seemed to be totally free of all that hideous religious guilt.

Recently I saw a headline that said, “Sex Improves Dramatically After Leaving Religion.” That certainly caught my attention. The article was about a new survey/study by Dr. Darrel W. Ray, a psychologist, director of The Institute for Performance Culture and author of the best‐selling book, The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture, and author of two books on organizational psychology. The survey title is “Sex and Secularism: What Happens When You Leave Religion.” Dr. Ray surveyed over 14,500 American Secularists. That’s a relatively large survey and the first of its kind to survey secularists. It’s a ground‐breaking study of sexuality among the non‐religious. The survey gave plenty of data to make some tentative conclusions about the secular community and secular SEX.

Here are some of the key findings: (and to quote)
“1. Sex improves dramatically after leaving religion.
2. Sexual guilt has little staying power after leaving religion.
3. Those raised most religious show no difference from those raised least religious in their sexual behavior.
4. Those raised most religious experience far more guilt but have just as much sex.
5. Religious parents are far worse at educating their children on matters of sex.
6. Religious guilt differs in measurable amounts according to denomination.

The most important finding shows dramatic improvement in sexual satisfaction and a decrease in guilt after people left religion. Approximately 55% of respondents (this is a big number!) said their sex life greatly improved to an 8, 9 or 10 (on a 10 pt. scale) after leaving religion while only 2.2% said it became worse.

. . .The US government has been deeply involved in abstinence only education for almost 10 years. The government’s own research shows that such programs do not work or at best, delay the onset of sexual behavior by months. Results of this survey closely mirror those of abstinence only programs. Children from religious homes don’t delay sexual activities appreciably but they feel guilty about doing it and probably know less about sex and protecting themselves, than their secular counterparts.
. . .In the US, many religious leaders are against sex education in schools and insist that parents and churches should be primarily responsible. Results of this survey show parents, whether religious or not, are not particularly good at talking to their children. More secular parents do talk to their children 38% of the time compared to a mere 13% of religious parents. People from religious homes felt that their education in sex was poor compared to those from less religious homes.”

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

(The press release can be downloaded from http://goo.gl/60etd The release has a chart showing how the respondents’ SEX lives changed. . .by religion. The chart is at the bottom of that page.)

(And for adults only, for some extra fun, there’s a Web Extra: “What do atheists say in bed?” Listen to this radio play, inspired by Jeff Swenson’s “Humanists in Love” comic strip to find out: http://goo.gl/C2l04 . Scroll down most of the page to the link.)
IMPORTANT NEWS FLASH: (AP, The New York Times, & Steelman’s two cents)
Last night (6‐24‐11) the New York state legislature passed the Gay Rights Marriage Bill and Governor Cuomo signed the bill which will take effect in 30 days.

Gay rights advocates are hoping the vote will galvanize the movement around the country and help it regain momentum after an almost identical bill was defeated here in 2009 and similar measures failed in 2010 in New Jersey and this year in Maryland and Rhode Island.

Though New York is a relative latecomer in allowing gay marriage, it is considered an important prize for advocates, given the state’s size and New York City’s international stature and its role as the birthplace of the gay rights movement, which is considered to have started with the Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village in 1969.

New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg said, “Today’s passage in the New York State Senate of legislation recognizing the right of couples to marry regardless of their gender is a historic triumph for equality and freedom. New York has always been a leader in movements to extend freedom and equality to people who had been denied full membership in the American family. By welcoming all people ‐ no matter where they are from, what faith or philosophy they follow, or whom they love ‐ New York became the strongest, most dynamic city in the world. And today, we are even stronger than we were yesterday.”

Next, the U.S. government should repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), signed into law in 1996 by President Bill Clinton. On February 23, 2011, Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama announced their conclusion that DOMA is unconstitutional and would no longer defend DOMA Section 3 in court. This action is important because freedom of religion also means “freedom from religion.” Oppressive majorities cannot vote away the constitutional rights of a minority. After all, it still takes a two‐thirds vote of all the states to amend the constitution.


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