HOW TO FIND GOOD LUCK IN 2018

HOW TO FIND GOOD LUCK IN 2018

By Ron Steelman

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Around this time of year, people make toasts with wishes and hopes for the New Year. Certainly we all hope our year goes smoothly. However, some folks will do all kinds of superstitious things like consulting their horoscope or seeking “professional” help from a soothsayer (old-timey talk for a “fortune teller,” you know, like Professor Marvel in The Wizard of Oz). According to the dictionary, a superstition is “an irrational fear of what is unknown or mysterious, especially in connection with religion, or any blindly accepted belief or notion.” 

It’s true: life is mysterious. And, because there are so many things about the natural world that people don’t understand, we often ascribe our own meaning to these mysteries. Unfortunately, since we humans are so superstitious, we have invented a myriad of convoluted trickeries and procedures to explain the inexplicable, to protect ourselves from bad luck, or to provide a peek into the future so that we know what to expect.

Before we leap into the new year for personal predictions about your life (I’ll tell you how to go about that in a minute), let’s take a deep dive into the fortune telling world.

SUPERSTITIONS

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Good Luck/Bad Luck
♦  
crossing your fingers or knocking on wood for good luck
♠  
avoiding bad luck by NOT crossing the path of a black cat
♣  
a lucky rabbit’s foot charm
♥  
convinced that bad luck comes in threes
♦  b
reaking a mirror means seven years bad luck
♠  
actors say it’s bad luck to say the word “Macbeth” while inside a theatre
♣  never put shoes on a table
♥  
Friday the 13th is an unlucky day
♦  Look out for ravens, crows, and magpies. You remember this, right? “Quoth the raven,  ♠  Never more.”  (The heartwarming tale of a defective verb)
♥  Don’t forget those “Lucky Symbols” – here’s a link: Lucky Symbols

Magical Wisdom
– famous people always die in threes
– spiritualism: says you can actually speak to the dead


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FORTUNE TELLING – TOOLS OF THE TRADE
∞ 
– Palmistry
∞ – Tarot cards
∞ – astrology/horoscopes
∞ – psychic readings/clairvoyance
∞ – phrenology
∞ – crystal readings, healings
∞ – metaphysical readings
∞ – ESP
∞ – herbal healing
∞ – rune reading
∞ – aura reading
∞ – numerology
∞ – and I almost forgot, Tasseography, the reading of the tea leaves left in the bottom of          the cup (what have I left out?)
∞ – Oh yes, the Ouija Board
∞ – And, have you heard about an octopus named Paul II at the Sea Life Aquarium at                Oberhausen? People there use him to predict the outcome of matches played by the          German national football team.
∞ 
– I have to admit, I never heard of this fortune-telling method: Ureamancy, a way to              foretell the future by gazing upon the foamy froth of urine created within water.

**** I think I’ll leave the belief in malediction (putting a curse on someone) alone for                 now. Although I can think of various politicians who do need a comeuppance.

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THREE SHORT EXCERPTS FROM AN INTERVIEW WITH KURT ANDERSEN

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Kurt Andersen

 

Three excerpts from “How The Loss Of Critical Reasoning Is Harming America,” an interview with Kurt Andersen by Michael Werner, from The Humanist, The Magazine of the American Humanist Association – Jan/Feb 2018. They discuss Kurt’s latest book, Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire:
A 500-Year History.

 

 

MICHAEL WERNER: Your new book, Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History, is a theory about how the triumph of the radical right, and Donald Trump in particular, are only part of the culmination of a long historical process. Can you explain?

KURT ANDERSEN: We began, of course, as an Enlightenment nation and in our school histories we have most emphasized that proud and self-flattering part of our history. Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin were certainly people of the Enlightenment, but the strange bedfellows of the American idea were these passionate beliefs in the untrue and unprovable held by the Puritans, in their theocracy of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and by the gold hunters in Virginia who, despite no evidence, kept assuming they were going to find gold.

So we began in this new world wishing with all our hearts that this place we imagined as the empty slate could fulfill all the dreams and fantasies the English settlers had, whether they were dreams of a supernatural New Jerusalem and Garden of Eden or dreams of instant wealth, El Dorado. We codified that essential American ultra-liberty and ultra-individualism: “I can believe whatever I want,” which is a residue of the Enlightenment. For most of our history the people in charge of our political and cultural establishments generally kept the various forms of magical thinking, extreme religion, and religious delusion from getting out of control.

There’s a good side to dreaming the impossible dream, which is part of what made America grow and accomplish so much. The downside is that religion has always been more extreme in this country than other places in the developed world. Alexis de Tocqueville observed that, but it has become more and more extreme, especially in the last half-century. It’s not just religious myths of 2,000 years ago—there are beliefs in supernatural events and magical happenings today that simply aren’t widespread elsewhere in the developed world. Over the last century, and especially the last few decades, our divergence from what we used to call the rest of the civilized world has become extreme. . .

. . . Had Trump not been elected, everything I say about Fantasyland would still be true. I just wouldn’t have the convenient vessel that Donald Trump provides to illustrate what I’m talking about. . .

. . .we have to share a common set of facts based on how empirical reality has been understood for the last millennium or so.”

Read the full article here.


Q: How to find good luck in 2018? 
A: Focus on “empirical reality” and never go to a fortune teller or psychic.


NEXT UP: I had so much to share on this one, I had to divide into three posts. Look for my upcoming posts about the “Intersection of Superstition and Religion,” and “Amazing Stories of Evil Fortune Tellers.”

TODAY’S FINALE!

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UNEARTHED FROM ONE OF MY PHOTO ARCHIVE BOXES
When I lived in LA I kept a camera in the car. Every time I saw a store front like those below, I would take a picture. These are real. After a while I gave up because there were so many. This post finally gives me the opportunity to share those photos in a constructive way. By showing them I hope to put a curse on fortune tellers. Or at least by mocking them, dissuade you from ever going to one of these bandits. How many people frequent these joints? There must be hundreds of people going to these dives every week. Apparently, there are enough people to pay the rent and utilities and provide some income. It’s a puzzlement to me. There must be a lot of superstitious suckers out there!


“It’s morally wrong to allow a sucker
to keep his money.” – W. C. Fields


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Sunday Sermon – That Phallic Symbol

Steelman The Humanist Sunday Sermon
(aka “What is that phallic symbol between the trees?”)

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It was such a relief to leave NYC in January 1988 to vacation in Los Angeles with my girlfriend, Elaine. The Apple was deep in snow, making it murder to find a parking spot on E. 13 St. every two days. However, we left the cockroaches and the snowy streets behind and couldn’t wait to arrive in La-la land. We had a fabulous time visiting all your basic tourist attractions and I took lots of photos (using real film). Of course, Santa Monica and Venice Beach were very special for us because of the proximity to the ocean. We love the water and even had become sailors on Long Island Sound. The photo above was taken in Santa Monica at the end of Wilshire Blvd. where it intersects with Ocean Avenue.

The statue there didn’t register with us then because we didn’t know what it represented and didn’t care. I saw this scene as we as we crossed the street and immediately said to “E” (that’s my girlfriend, Elaine),  “Stop the cars while I take this shot.” We could only do that in LA where the pedestrians have the right of way. If I had tried that in NYC, I wouldn’t be writing this now.

We got married in October that year, but neither one of us wanted to get hitched in a church. Because we loved the water so much, we came up with the idea of having the ceremony on a boat. Although we were non-believers, we hadn’t been together long enough to work out the specifics about that. As time went by we thought more about religion and identified a number of religious concepts that had driven us away from Christianity. One extraordinary Christian doctrine is original sin.

Today I was going through a box of old photos and when I unearthed those ’88 vacation photos I wondered anew what that monument was there at the end of Wilshire Blvd.  I discovered it was a statue of Saint Monica, the patron saint for the city of Santa Monica. Big surprise, huh? You know who she was, right? The mother of Saint Augustine, that crazy dude who promoted “Original Sin.” If you believe in original sin, you must then believe that you have to be saved. You’re bad, but God will forgive you. (I mean, really? Why did she make such bad human beings? Bla, bla, bla, bla.)

We can be evil or we can be good. It’s our choice. We Humanists believe we can be good without god.

At the bottom I’ve included more about St. Augustine. . .if you’re interested.

Meanwhile, here are a couple of other photos we love from that trip:

Santa Monica Pier with the Cirque du Soleil tent

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Santa Monica Beach

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With the advent of digital publications, I wonder if this many
newspaper vending machines are still there.

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Welcome to California!

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If you’re interested in my earlier blog about St. Augustine,
check it out here. Click on the postcard.

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DESTINY IS A DIRTY WORD

Destiny
“DESTINY” IS A DIRTY WORD
a rant by Ron Steelman, © 2005, 2010
Written for and Performed at the Red Bank Humanists Forum
(read loud, fast, & faux angry)

Destiny is such a small word, and yet it causes so much trouble. Recently I’ve been pondering its insidiousness. Why does it keep forcing its way into my thoughts from a dozen different directions? From where does it come? Who is responsible for it? And how can I keep its promise from becoming a foregone conclusion, which, as the dictionary says, is “a conclusion formed in advance of argument or consideration?” Is my life simply a fait accompli, an open and shut case, a done deal, a fact of life, a grim reality, an irreversible act, a matter of fact? I DON’T THINK SO!

It’s always good to begin with a definition. What does it say about “destiny” in the dictionary? I’ll tell you. It’s the “inevitable or necessary fate to which a particular person or thing is destined; one’s LOT.” Then, more importantly, it goes on to clarify: “a predetermined course of events considered as something beyond human power or control.” And finally, “Destiny: the power or agency thought to predetermine events.” Wait a minute. Who is it, exactly, that’s got the power? “Or Agency?” Agency? Could it be the IRS?

This hideous (dripping with sarcasm) “destiny concept”. . .forces itself into our lives and is reinforced in phrases that we use in everyday conversation:

The-Three-Fates

The Three Fates – Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropo

* A man dies. What do we say, “I guess his number was up.” Or, “It was meant to be.” Or, “His time had come.” And so we shrug and say, “That’s his fate.” His fate?! Look it up! Are you saying the man dropped dead because of three half naked Greek Goddesses named Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos? It must have been some party, huh! I don’t buy it.

* A little boy grows up to become a brilliant concert pianist and the mother says, “He was born to be a concert pianist.” Now there she’s half right because we know that a good portion of his talent came from his genes, from all of his ancestors boiled down into him. But the other part of his brilliance didn’t come from DESTINY, it came from a lot of hard work on his part. And then she really ruins it by saying, “what a wonderful God-given talent.” No, he got his talent from his parents and from years of practice.

* An infant dies of a rare disease. People say, “It was for the best.” Or, “There has to be a good reason. We just don’t know what it is. In time, it will be revealed to us.” SORRY, when an infant dies, it’s a tragedy, pure and simple. Of course, we need to find a way to cope with our loss, but pretending that a supernatural deity did it on purpose and is then making us guess why…is just the (sing-songy) SILLIEST THING! …and I cleaned that up!

* Your house burns down. Your friend says, “It’s part of a larger plan.” Right. It was arson.

* And of course with the hurricane Katrina tragedy, I already heard on the radio that religious fanatics are claiming that the devastation along the Gulf Coast was a punishment by God for the sinful ways of all those people.

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Zeus

Plan, schman!? That is not only crazy, but incredibly stupid. All these clichés are the residual effect of thousands of years of primitive superstitions and religious make-believe. Of course it’s human nature to try to explain things you don’t understand. But, come on…it’s the 21st Century. Even if we can’t explain everything, why do we have to hold on to this ancient fantasy of an all powerful Zeus somewhere up there on a mountaintop controlling everything we do? We’re so pathetic. Why don’t we just perpetuate belief in the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and angels? Oops…we do.

Unfortunately, the concept of destiny is everywhere. And it’s sneaky. Destiny is like an evangelist in sheep’s clothing. Propaganda, pure and simple. It’s everything I reject. It’s antithetical to my philosophy of life. Yet I can’t get away from it. I have to deal with it every day. People want to talk about fate, about horoscopes, about karma, or past lives. 

As a Humanist, a freethinker, the first thing I must do is THINK. OK, so after countless cups of coffee I achieved my target heart rate for the day, and I concluded that there are two reasons humans hold onto destiny with such a death grip. The first reason has to be EGO! Here’s a quote from The Happy Heretic, Judith Hayes. It’s from a piece she wrote entitled “Body and Soul”: “The human soul. It is invisible. Undetectable by any human means… But the majority of the human population nevertheless is convinced that it exists. They believe there is such a thing as the human “soul.”…we don’t want to be just like all other animals…who simply die. Who wants to stay dead? Surely we are far more important than other animals. Surely we are connected somehow to the eternal Cosmos. Surely we have a “soul.”…The human ego knows few bounds. My, we’re important!”

The idea of Destiny is PURE EGO. Our ginormous egos tell us we’re so important that there’s a god up there somewhere so concerned about ME that he took the time to make a specific life-plan with my name on it. And the plan is called my “destiny.” I guess I rate pretty high in his book, huh? It’s true. “The human ego knows few bounds.”

And the second reason we love the whole destiny trip is because if our destiny is written somewhere, we think we have to go find out what it is. So how do we find out what our destiny is?! We have to go on a SPIRITUAL QUEST.

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The Beatles with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

There’s this romantic notion from the 60’s & 70’s that there are many ways to find your spiritual center. After all, the Beatles tried several different ways. Oh, pa-lease! “Spiritual.” What does THAT word mean? Just look it up. Here ya go; right out of the Dictionary…

(italics are my own comments):
Spiritual:

1. having the nature of spirit; not tangible or material. (we can’t prove it exists)
2. concerned with, or affecting the soul. (something we don’t have)
3. relating to God; deific. (I don’t believe in deities)
4. belonging to a church or religion; sacred. (I don’t believe in churches or religions)
5. having the nature of spirits or a spirit; supernatural (I don’t believe in the supernatural)

(yelling up at the heavens) Can we have some SCIENCE, PLEASE! Science was invented some time ago now, you know. Cause and effect have been written about and studied in every high school, college, and university. Shouldn’t science have eliminated this supernatural canker, Destiny? By now it should be gone, but it isn’t.

The destiny concept is actually so deeply embedded in our culture…that. . .(loudly and creepy like a soothsayer “It may take a Humanist exorcism to save us…”

(step toward the audience, making a mock Humanist blessing gesture [there is no such thing] and sprinkle some water on a volunteer helper [it’s just fun to get them wet].)

And now the ritual sayings:

I summon Daw Aung San Suu Kyi:
We achieve everything by our efforts alone. Our fate is not decided by an almighty God. We decide our own fate by our actions. You have to gain mastery over yourself… It is not a matter of sitting back and accepting.

I summon Franklin D. Roosevelt:
Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds.

I summon John F. Kennedy:
Our problems are man-made, therefore they may be solved by man. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.

I summon William Jennings Bryan:
Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.

Hmmm….. “destiny is a thing for me to achieve.”

(exorcism over)  I feel better already.

I suggest the way to find a “spiritual center” without the mythical spirit is to explore our human nature, the beauty of human art and music, the discoveries of science, and the wonders of our natural world. They fill you up inside. They offer the inspiration, awe, joy, and solace that we’re looking for in our quest for a spiritual life. Humanists have such a fantastic life right in front of us, without relying on mythical deities to supply it for us. It’s right here. Enjoy it.

Luckily, my spiritual quest led me to Humanism. And I am inspired by it principles. For those who say, “Well, if you don’t believe in God, then you don’t believe in anything,” they need to be laughed at. They need to be told “Humanists believe in the fullest realization of the best and noblest that we are capable of as human beings.”

We need to share our values with them: “We believe in optimism rather than pessimism, hope rather than despair, learning in the place of dogma, truth instead of ignorance, joy rather than guilt or sin, tolerance in the place of fear, love instead of hatred, and compassion over selfishness, beauty instead of ugliness, and reason rather than blind faith or irrationality.”

These Humanist concepts were not given to us by an outside force. We had these good ideas within us. We humans don’t need the threat of punishment to do good. We know right and wrong when we see it. We don’t need the promise of an afterlife to be good. The point is to do good now, not because we get a prize later, but because it’s the right thing to do. We’re smart enough and fully capable of being good…and doing good…simply by exploring the good side of our human nature.

I don’t believe in ancient superstitions. The words “destiny” or “fate” are dirty little words because they lead us down a path away from our responsibility to be “the best and noblest that we are capable of as human beings.”

I have promised myself that I will attempt to refrain from uttering all clichés related to the concepts of destiny or fate, and that, when necessary and appropriate, I will share the Humanist point of view with others.

I was not born a Humanist. I did not have Humanism thrust upon me. I chose to achieve the best that I’m capable of as a human being. . .all by myself.

Promise never to say the word “destiny” or we’ll just have to wash your mouth out with soap!

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HOPE REVISITED

(Today I saw a FB post about an interview with Leonard Bernstein. In it, it made clear Bernstein’s feeling that hope is the best weapon to conquer cynicism. It reminded me of my post from five years ago. Perhaps you missed it. I like it because it reminds me of my mother.)

HOPE
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

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)

MY FAVORITE CIVIL WAR MONUMENTS

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I see so many excellent graphics, articles and videos on Facebook, many of which have to do with morals and ethics. One of the reasons I’m a Humanist is to study the human condition and continue to learn how to be “Good Without God.”

Unfortunately, our morally bankrupt President is incapable of conforming to the rules of right conduct. Daily he flaunts his illegal and immoral behavior.

I saw this eloquent tweet displayed on FB and I thought that it brings us all back to the moral humanistic power of our wonderful U.S. Constitution:

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We must be proud of these, protect them, and make sure they’re honored completely, regardless of the political party in power. Here they are for quick reference (Via Wikipedia with links):

– 13th Amendment, 1865 –

Abolishes slavery, and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for
a crime.

– 14th Amendment, 1866 –

Defines citizenship, contains the Privileges or Immunities Clause, the Due Process Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, and deals with post–Civil War issues.

– 15th Amendment, 1869 –

Prohibits the denial of the right to vote based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude.


( I’m new to Facebook. I avoided it until recently. It’s a habit-forming drug. It’s so hard to turn the damn thing off.  
Given the news these days, I need a fix every hour. If you have a technique for turning down FB, please let me know, or make a comment. )

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Oh, God. . .Oh, God. . .Oh, God!

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If you grew up with a God, I know she’s pretty hard to let go of. However, once you do, you’re free to just be a good human being.

It’s so rewarding to be free of “all gods and all masters. ” And to prove it, I love to say that I’m a devout atheist (just for the shock value – LOL). But most importantly, my real goad is to be a good person, a Secular Humanist.

Question: did you flinch when I used the word, “Secular?” Some people tell me that’s an off-putting word, because it’s somehow associated with atheists, and we all know you atheists are “Godless, evil people with no morals.” Of course, that position is espoused primarily by Christian fundamentalists, who don’t understand that they don’t need a god to keep them on the straight and narrow. Maybe they do. They think because atheists don’t believe in God, atheists are capable of just going off willfully, raping and pillaging across the countryside. (Really?!) Religious people are so desperate to keep you in the fold. For example, Muslims in a large part of the world even believe that they must kill apostates, those that quit the religion. As stand-up comics might say, “Tough room.”

As a cornerstone of our democracy our founders included “Freedom of Religion.” You have the right to reject any or all faith, or any or all gods.  You know what an atheist is, don’t you? Answer: someone who doesn’t believe in your god. You simply need to be your “own good self.” Practice using your empathy and compassion for other people. Out of that you will likely become a very moral person, perhaps a secular humanist.

So what’s a good definition of Humanism? Here are two:

Humanism is a progressive lifestance that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead meaningful, ethical lives capable of adding to the greater good of humanity.
– American Humanist Association

But look at the second one as well. It reveals many more aspects of Secular Humanism to ponder. You will see that Humanists are actively trying to be good humans. That’s why we say you can be “Good Without God.” Here’s how. I also like the emphasis of the arts, which can be vehicles to understanding how to be a better person. It has one of my favorite lines as well: “Humanism is a philosophy of those in love with life.” (a quote from prominent humanist, Fred Edwords quote, I think). And finally, it has a kick-ass finish. Humanism is:

A joyous alternative to religions that believe in a supernatural god and life in a hereafter. Humanists believe that this is the only life of which we have certain knowledge and that we owe it to ourselves and others to make it the best life possible for ourselves and all with whom we share this fragile planet. A belief that when people are free to think for themselves, using reason and knowledge as their tools, they are best able to solve this world’s problems. An appreciation of the art, literature, music and crafts that are our heritage from the past and of the creativity that, if nourished, can continuously enrich our lives. Humanism is, in sum, a philosophy of those in love with life. Humanists take responsibility for their own lives and relish the adventure of being part of new discoveries, seeking new knowledge, exploring new options. Instead of finding solace in prefabricated answers to the great questions of life, humanists enjoy the open-endedness of a quest and the freedom of discovery that this entails.
– The Humanist Society of Western New York

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