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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Spirituality & Humanism

Featured

Spirituality & Humanism
By Ron Steelman (sort of) 

The word “spirituality” is difficult to define. We Humanists equate the word with religion and even with folks who say, “I’m spiritual, but not religious.” Of course most people can’t define what “spiritual” means. With the help of some others, I will attempt this audacious feat.

       [Also, see my blog post on this:   “I’m Spiritual, But Not Religious” (Bronx Cheer)]

[DISCLAIMER]

I’d like to share a good article I just read on Humanist-UK website HumanistLife.  The article is Spirituality and Humanism – by Jeremy Rodell. I have selected those parts that best help to define that terrible “S-word.” I also have illustrated his article with a few of my photographs. These photos may not qualify for you as spiritual, but I hope you can enjoy them and remember for yourselves your spiritual moments. But first we must define that damn word. 


Spirituality and Humanism – by Jeremy Rodell
http://humanistlife.org.uk/2014/08/19/spirituality-and-humanism/

(Here’s where I pick it up     “. . .Experiential spirituality”)


“. . .here’s Andre Comte-Sponville, former Professor of Philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris, from his Book of Atheist Spirituality :

‘The first time it happened I was in the forest in the north of France. I must have been twenty five or twenty six. I had just been hired to teach high-school philosophy in a school on the edge of a canal, up in the fields near the Belgian border. That particular evening, some friends and I had gone for a walk in the forest we liked so much. Night had fallen. We were walking. Gradually our laughter faded, and the conversation died down. Nothing remained but our friendship, our mutual trust and shared presence, the mildness of the night air and of everything around us…My mind empty of thought, I was simply registering the world around me – the darkness of the undergrowth, the incredible luminosity of the sky, the faint sounds of the forest…only making the silence more palpable. And then, all of a sudden…What? Nothing: everything! No words, no meanings, no questions, only – a surprise. Only – this. A seemingly infinite happiness. A seemingly eternal sense of peace. Above me, the starry sky was immense, luminous and unfathomable, and within me there was nothing but the sky, of which I was a part, and the silence, and the light, like a warm hum, and a sense of joy with neither subject nor object …Yes, in the darkness of that night, I contained only the dazzling presence of the All….

…’This is what Spinoza meant by eternity’, I said to myself – and naturally, that put an end to it.’

(Headed West in 1988)
headed_west_nov_1988_3

What he’s talking about is an intense human experience. I recognise it because I’ve had one too. Most religious people, as well as Comte-Sponville himself, as an Atheist, would call this a ‘spiritual experience’. In this example, it’s particularly powerful. But it’s on the same spectrum as the experience created by great art, whether it’s the shiver down the spine from a Beethoven slow movement, or the instant of human connectedness from a great painting, novel, film or play, or the sense of wonder from seeing the stars on a dark night.

(Mt. Baldy’s Devil’s Backbone trail – over 9,000 feet down. . .on each side)
devilsbackbone

Albert Einstein put it in a cosmological context:
‘There are moments when one feels free from one’s own identification with human limitations and inadequacies. At such moments one imagines that one stands on some spot of a small planet, gazing in amazement at the cold yet profoundly moving beauty of the eternal, the unfathomable; life and death flow into one, and there is neither evolution nor destiny, only being.’

(San Diego Harbor double rainbow with my Uncle Bob on his birthday – 3-7-92)
uncle_bobs_78th_bday_sd_harbor_3-7-92

This is non-religious ‘spirituality’ in Comte-Sponville’s sense. Einstein isn’t suggesting there’s a spiritual realm or nature-defying miracles. He’s talking about enhanced human experience, in this case triggered by the natural world. Many artists try to do the same thing. As the painter Mark Rothko said: ‘A painting is not about an experience. It is an experience.’


(Sunset Peak off the Angeles Crest Highway, CA)

sunset_peak_in_front_mtbaldy_6-3-89

There are a few things that these artistic and natural examples of ‘experiential spirituality’ have in common:

  • For a start, they are non-intellectual. As Comte-Sponville found, as soon as you try to analyse what’s happening – in his case by thinking about Spinoza – it disappears. Beethoven didn’t want you to think about the structure of his music, he wanted you to be transported by it.

    (Mt. San Jacinto by Palm Springs, CAds with my wife, Elaine)

    ron_n_e_san_jacinto
  • Secondly, the core of the experience is a sense of transcendence or connectedness. That may mean other people, wider humanity, the rest of the universe, or simply ‘something greater’. The experience carries with it a diminishment of the ego, sometimes to the point where there is no self-awareness, or separation between subject and object. Rather than ‘you’ looking at ‘it’, there is simply ‘looking’.
  • The feeling that goes with it is powerful and positive – elation, joy, compassion. Sadly, for most people, especially those of us who tend to over-intellectualise, it’s often short-lived. We quickly come back to normality as we start to think about it.

    (Kelso Dunes – Death Valley, CA)

    e_kelso_dunes_ca_3-14-94
  • The final characteristic is that the experience is individual. As far as we know, the others in Comte-Sponville’s party just had a nice walk. Even sharing art with others in a concert hall, or a gallery, our experience is entirely subjective and individual.

The big difference between a religious person and a humanist in considering any type of spiritual experience is that the religious person may see it as a religious experience, a manifestation of the spiritual realm, perhaps of the divine. The humanist would say it is a subjective human experience, available to anyone, taking place in a human brain, triggered by a complex combination of external sensory inputs and internal memories and processes, and nothing to do with a spiritual realm or deity, both of which she thinks are imaginary. Spiritual experiences can even be created in the laboratory or by taking the right drugs.

(Mt. Whitney – 14,445 Ft.  Scary, insanely intense.  Early snow on the trail forced us off the mountain. We felt very small up there, and Wow!)
top_whitney13_2

But knowing all that does little or nothing to diminish the power of the experience. Our ability to have a sense of transcendence and connectedness with others is arguably one of the defining features of our humanity.

(In the happy mirror together: transcendence and connectedness – 2004)
101_0198_edited

There is nothing magic here, just the still-mysterious characteristics of human consciousness. . . should humanists actually use the word ‘spiritual’ in this experiential sense? Other terms might do just as well to convey what we mean without confusing the two. ‘Sense of the transcendent’ maybe?

. . . This is from an article by Joe Cornish, the respected British landscape photographer:

‘For some landscape photographers, Nature’s beauty is all the evidence they need of a Divine Creator. For others, scientific curiosity reveals an alternative explanation, where over unimaginable aeons our plant has evolved into the unique wonder that is our home today. This is a form of ‘terrestrial theology’, a belief in the fundamental, non-negotiable laws of physics. It’s not by any means depressing, reductionist scientific thinking based on the inevitability of nature’s immutable laws, but a broad church which encourages compassion and wonder in the beauty that we find in landscape, and humility in the face of what the world has to teach us. There is little doubt that for many of us, landscape photography is a spiritual journey.’

Is anyone going to say to him ‘Sorry Joe, you’re obviously an atheist, so you’re not allowed to use that word’?

(“over unimaginable aeons” – Flying over the Grand Canyon – 1988)
flying_grand_canyon_2

‘Spirituality’ is an ambiguous term. . .The ambiguity lies in its breadth of meaning. . .

. . .Humanists may prefer not to use the S word if there’s another way of conveying what we mean, maybe aesthetic awareness, sense of transcendence, love of nature, or simply love. On the other hand, we shouldn’t let the baggage of religious spirituality put us off if it’s the best word available, or if we need to reclaim it from those who seek to use it to exclude the non-religious.

Whatever terms we use, spiritual experience, and awareness of our own and others’ profound inner lives, are important parts of what it means to be human – and a humanist. And while this will remain an area of difference between humanists and the religious, we can also recognise it as an important area of common ground.

(Reading the notes other hikers had left for us above Death Valley atop Mt. Rose, added to our transcendent moment. The others were as thrilled and overwhelmed with this experience as we were.)e_rosepeak_death_v

Finally, Steelman Says:

If we Humanists can define the word, then we can use it (most people can’t). The best definitions I have found. . .as of today.

Spirituality is the sense of the transcendent.
– Jeremy Rodell, Humanist UK

Spirituality is emotional and psychological well-being.

– Paula Kirby, Washington Post

Spirituality is an awareness of the gap between what you can experience and what you can describe.
– Doug Murder, UU World

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Steelman Presents Aging Video

Here is the flyer from Red Bank Humanists promoting the presentation of the aging video I created . . .”with the help of my friends.” I blogged about it last May. If you haven’t seen it, come to the RBH Forum and put in your own two cents, or watch it here:

AGING VIDEO

PS – That picture is when I still had a little hair:)

RBH_Flyer

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NO RELIGION FOR CHILDREN! PERIOD.

NO RELIGION FOR CHILDREN! PERIOD.
(but Secular parents, I got a book just for you!)

By Ron Steelman

July 25, 2018

Every day I am reminded of the corruption of moral values actually caused by religion.  Children may not understand exactly what is going on in the today’s ridiculous news, yet they are likely to model some of this behavior as they mature. Here are a few of headlines in the news that make me question what is currently being taught by religions. Most people believe that religion is supposed to teach moral values, not illustrate ways to ignore them.


Catholic
We’ve got the exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art: “Heavenly Bodies – Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” with manikins dressed up in papal robes and accessories from the Sistine Chapel sacristy, revealing the ornate and decadently expensive trappings worn by priests, bishops, etc.

 


Painted_in_Mexico_Met


There were several other art exhibitions featuring famous religious paintings. They were promoted in the newspaper with a photo of three very young children who had been plopped there and left to stare up at a painting of a crucifixion. Nice.

 


Uncle_Dick
Then there’s the extensive story about a bishop who sexually molested an eleven- year-old boy for years (who knows how many others). It included an excruciatingly sad story of how the boy’s entire life was ruined and how only now at age 60 is he finally in recovery and able to confront the
bishop (who is still alive).



Why do these things bother me?
Why am I angry about this? You’ve heard all the answers before. I will review them briefly, then attempt to explain why I must never stop protesting. And, why we should not abdicate the moral teaching of our children to any religious organization.

Numerous people have told me personally that their parents sent them to Sunday school for a moral education by themselves, because their parents had better things to do. Total abdication.

Let’s start with the most egregious example of abdication. Clearly, the Catholic Church has a serious problem with pedophilia. The “black collar” crime is documented by several national organizations and it continues today. My point: why would any parent send their child to a church that cannot (make that, “will not”) keep the pedophile priests away from their child? How can a pedophile priest possibly teach your child about morals and values while they are committing depraved, immoral acts on them?

Two other examples demonstrate how the things children see can corrupt their view of right and wrong.
a) What is right about making children study a painting of a crucifixion? The things children see impact their lives forever. Believing in the fantastic tale that Jesus was the son of God, and yet God sent his son to be crucified, is something adults can choose to believe. However, children shouldn’t have this gruesome fairy tale foisted upon them. When they are grown, let them study all religions and if they buy any of it, then they can choose to believe. Many have grown up in the church and still don’t understand the “why” of that crucifixion story. 

b) The way churches spend the money people donate has got to be confusing. When I was a kid, my church gave me those little envelopes into which I would make my own offerings every Sunday. I thought the money was going to help feed and clothe the poor. I wondered why that money was being used to buy expensive things for the church and for the ministers and priests. The photo above from the Met exhibit is surely an example of how the money can be squandered.
gold-candlestick-holders-pair


WHICH REMINDS ME
In Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible, Rev. Parris wanted golden candlesticks for the altar, and according to the character, John Proctor, the reverend preached about them often. Proctor resented Parris’s rich tastes because he was a poor farmer and considered Rev. Parris to be a 
greedy and ungodly man.



But how can I give my kids a moral compass without sending them to church?
When I first heard of the idea that children should not be exposed to religion until they become adults, I was surprised by the concept. The more I read and studied, the more I am in favor of it. The main worry of parents is that if they don’t have a religion and don’t send their children to church, those kids will become  unsavory characters who will commit some evil act. . .which will then cast a bad light on them. LOL!

Parenting_Beyond_Belief_coverI know you skeptics are saying, “But shouldn’t it be the  church that teaches them their morals? How could I possibly do that?”

Don’t get all nervous, now. I’m not suggesting home-schooling like the fundamental Christians. I believe the best ‘how-to’ book for guidance on is: “Parenting Beyond Belief,” by Dale McGowan. It’s a straight-forward common-sense approach. If there is a better book out there, someone please let me know.

McGowan has pulled together a vast array of voices to give you guidance, including (just to name a few): Julia Sweeney, Richard Dawkins, Dan Barker, Penn Jillette, even Mark Twain and the man who wrote the lyrics for the The Wizard of Oz, Yip Harburg.

How do you raise ethical, caring kids, without religion? Check out “Parenting Beyond Belief.” Or, recommend it to friends/relatives with small children (and no, I do not get a commission). 

Parenting Beyond Belief website

Meet the Author

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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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The Religious Tolerance of the Mongols

The Religious Tolerance of the Mongols
by Ron Steelman (really, a video by John Green)
June 3, 2018

main-qimg-1c2a8fb166a8db14c0677743c15a63f1-cMy son mentioned seeing some short videos at school via YouTube, “Crash Course in World History – with John Green.”  The video that he saw mentioned a few interesting things that I didn’t know about Mongols.

For example, a) they were renowned for their religious tolerance, b) they had less patriarchal domination, c) Genghis Khan promoted people based on merit rather than family position (that seems topical). All of these points caught my attention. I must have missed this stuff in history class. My typical excuse for missing certain classes: “I must have been making out with my girlfriend in the library.”

John Green’s presentation is fast-paced and intentionally quite humorous. Attempts at humor often fail for various reasons. Those reasons are something I’ve studied my entire life. I love humor, even when it fails. I’m like a chemist doing studies in his laughter lab. How about a little more of this, a little less of that, and we must not forget TIMING! Very important. Mr. Green has a good sense of humor and the quick edits in the video take care of his timing. Even though this was created for high school students, I smiled a lot and did chuckle a few times. However, I’m not sharing this because of the humor, but rather because some of the content tickled my interest.

132

So hang on to your hat and enjoy a high-speed history lesson. He mentions five good things about Mongols (of course, he also mentions five bad things about Mongols).