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:
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.
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.
There were several other artexhibitions 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.
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 startwith 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.
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!
I 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 TheWizard 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).
DEPRESSION & SUICIDE A SIN? by Ron Steelman June 19, 2018
(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.
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 Religious Tolerance of the Mongols by Ron Steelman (really, a video by John Green) June 3, 2018
My 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.
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).
FROM A HUMANIST PERSPECTIVE By Ron Steelman 5-20-18
Here are 10 things I thought were worth sharing this week:
(I have stolen this opening line from the blog posts of a writer/artist whose blog I follow, Austin Kleon, author of “Steal Like An Artist.”)
1. As an actor I was trained in classic repertory theaters. I acted in over a hundred professional productions including Shakespeare, many classic plays, and numerous modern American classics. However, the comedies were my first love. You can keep the tragedies and the dramas and the histories. Which leads me to this quote from a 95-year-old comedy genius:
“Laughter adds time to your life.” – Norman Lear
We don’t have hard proof of this, but a few years back there was an article with some anecdotal evidence about how long famous comedians lived. Their lives consisted of writing, testing and performing jokes. If they laughed, then they knew the audience would. The article is here in Psychology Today. Also, studies show people can learn to embrace the absurdity of life at any age, see Scientific American.
2. Having spent a good deal of my life as an actor, I wouldn’t encourage my children to go into the theater. I’d just have to tie them up and keep them in the attic until they came to their senses (you know I’m kidding, of course). But I saw this recently and it has something to do with being human.
3. There’s so much I didn’t know about poet Walt Whitman and his classic poem, Leaves of Grass. For example: “(the) responses to different aspects of the poem – its understanding of nature, its celebration of sexuality, its advocacy of a radical equality and democracy.” This is from a book review of Poet as Prophet: The Religious Whitman and His Disciples, by David E. Anderson. He begins with a little historical perspective: “Before the twentieth century there was a long tradition of the poet as prophet and seer, and poetry as a form of religious language.”
From Wikipedia: “Leaves of Grassis a poetry collection by theAmerican poetWalt Whitman(1819–1892). Although the first edition was published in 1855, Whitman spent most of his professional life writing and re-writing Leaves of Grass, revising it multiple times until his death. This resulted in vastly different editions over four decades—the first, a small book of twelve poems and the last, a compilation of over 400.”
‘I get tired of God getting credit for all the things the human race achieves.’ – Lorraine Hansberry, “Raisin in the Sun” (words ascribed to Beneatha)
5. “The purpose of life is not to be happy – but to matter, to be productive, to be useful, to have it make some difference that you lived at all.” – Leo Rosten, “The Myths by Which We Live”
6. Ricky Gervais – Religion Explained in Two Minutes.
We should not be pushing religion on children. That may sound shocking at first, especially if you were brought up going to religious services every week as a child. But listen to his logic.
7. The following title made no sense to me until I read this short article. Grief and mourning is something we all deal with, both the religious and the non-religious. You may have never thought about it, but we all lose family and friends and we need to find ways to deal with it.
“When I think of death, and of late the idea has come with alarming frequency, I seem at peace with the idea that a day will dawn when I will no longer be among those living in this valley of strange humors. I can accept the idea of my own demise, but I am unable to accept the death of anyone else. I find it impossible to let a friend or relative go into that country of no return. Disbelief becomes my close companion, and anger follows in its wake. I answer the heroic question ‘Death, where is thy sting? ‘ with ‘ it is here in my heart and mind and memories.'”
9. On Being 72
Today I’m actually 72!
I grew up in Columbus, OH, and when I was 18 or so, I transcribed a track from the 1959, 33- rpm Broadway album of Hal Holbrook’s Mark Twain Tonight. I had performed in ten plays while in high school, several times playing old men. I had my old geezer voice perfected. Therefore, it did not seem out of character for me to mimic Mr. Holbrook’s version of the famous Twain speech. I made my own recording of “How to be 70” on a small reel-to-reel audio tape ( I wish I still had that recording). That was one of two audition recordings I sent to a performing arts college in San Diego, CA, hoping to get accepted. Although San Diego was way out there on the left coast, I had visited my aunt and uncle there and various relatives several times, so I was not worried about leaving Columbus at all. I loved California and surfing life. I have to admit that I never surfed myself. My cousin Mike did. I figured I’d try it if I got back out there again (and got the nerve). My bag was packed and waiting by the front door. I received the acceptance letter and I was thrilled. Then I read a little further in the letter. They offered me a “1/2” scholarship.Trouble was, my Dad had been out of work for an extended illness and my parents couldn’t afford the other “1/2.” So long Southern California, Hollywood, and the beach. So long slick new cool surf board (not). Anyway, it was heartening to learn that somebody was willing to pay me to act. Kinda. At least “1/2” worth.
I learned so much about acting from Hal Holbrook, and so much about timing. He also taught me a lot about Mark Twain.
So even though I’m two years past 70 now, I could listen to masterful Mr. Holbrook play Mark Twain any day of any year. Enjoy.
Mark Twain Tonight – How to be 70 (couldn’t find the video, but here’s the audio)
10.Here are two clips. One is from a Mark Twain Tonight performance by Hal Holbrook. The other is Michael Eisner ( the Disney guy) talking to Hal Holbrook at 90.
I am a member of Freedom From Religion Foundation, American Humanist Association, and Center For Inquiry. But you probably know this. And you may know that it makes me crazy that some of our federal tax dollars get spent on various church programs and buildings, private religious schools through vouchers, and giving tax breaks to religious leaders – all in violation of our U.S. Constitution.
Christian organizations continue trying to sneak prayer programs into schools through athletic programs and after-school clubs. They also have to be stopped from placing and maintaining crosses on public property – over and over again. All three of the organizations listed above are constantly in court shooting down these religious zealots. And it takes all three organizations to keep up with the onslaught of illegal activity. It’s against the Constitution for Christ’s sake!
Happily, the New Jersey Supreme Court has responded to a suit filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), finding in their favor once again. This time the infraction was against two churches in Morristown, NJ. In a 7-0 decision today, the New Jersey Supreme Court upheld the state Constitution’s ban against taxpayer funds being used for “building or repairing any church or churches.”
Of course, this is covered big-time in the U.S. Constitution, in the First Amendment and in the Establishment clause. In the Supreme Court it takes longer, but even this decision in the NJ Supreme Court took three years. The Christians won’t quit trying either. They’re like New York City cockroaches that keep turning up even after you spray.
Easter is on April 1st this year. So I’m wearing my custom made hat (1982).
Easter & April Fools by Ron Steelman March 30, 2018
If you’re struggling over the idea of going (or not going) to church this Easter, just let it go. It’s OK. I might point out that this year Easter falls on April Fools day, which is always April 1st. You can draw your own conclusion from this revealing coincidence. But more importantly, I’d like to share some facts about the changes in our culture. More and more people are leaving their religions and turning into “NONES.” I’ll explain.
Here are some amazing facts from a Scientific American magazine article (April 2018):
“In recent years much has been written about the rise of the “nones”—people who check the box for “none” on surveys of religious affiliation. A 2013 Harris Poll of 2,250 American adults, for example, found that 23 percent of all Americans have forsaken religion altogether. A 2015 Pew Research Center poll reported that 34 to 36 percent of millennials (those born after 1980) are nones and corroborated the 23 percent figure, adding that this was a dramatic increase from 2007, when only 16 percent of Americans said they were affiliated with no religion. In raw numbers, this translates to an increase from 36.6 million to 55.8 million nones. Though lagging far behind the 71 percent of Americans who identified as Christian in the Pew poll, they are still a significant voting block, far larger than Jews (4.7 million), Muslims (2.2 million) and Buddhists (1.7 million) combined (8.6 million) and comparable to politically powerful Christian sects such as Evangelical (25.4 percent) and Catholic (20.8 percent).”
You are not alone if you are considering leaving your religion. For me, it was easier to believe in Christmas than Easter. . .I think because we got presents. I still believe in giving presents to the people I love, although I just never could buy that virgin birth thing. Easter was even more off the believability charts.
Reason and rational thought have led me away from religion in search of a positive philosophy of life. I found that in secular humanism.
The moral compass I’ve found in secular humanism far outshines what I gleaned from my Christian upbringing. There were too many contradictions, too much double-talk, and those blatant hypocrisies. I joke that April Fools Day is my high holy day. I say that because I love humor and jokes. I don’t really enjoy playing April Fool tricks on people. However, I am enamored of Shakespeare’s fools. For years I was an actor performing in many of Shakespeare’s plays. I especially loved the comedies and the role of fools in Shakespeare’s plays. The fools made the king laugh, and yet often imparted a certain amount of wisdom. For example:
God give them wisdom that have it; and those that are fools, let them use their talents. -Feste, Twelfth Night, Act I, Scene 5
Better a witty fool than a foolish wit. -Feste, Twelfth Night, Act I, Scene 5
The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool. -Touchstone, As You Like It, Act V, Scene 1
When I was in high school I was in the band. But I booked actual paying gigs playing my drums for rock and roll and society dances. For a couple of years I borrowed the tympani from my high school and played Easter services at a church. I only did it because I needed the money. I carted the tympani to the church, and played a big showy piece called “Christ our Passover.” There was a big organ, a 40-member choir, a brass quintet, and me, banging away in the big finale. As I looked out over the people in the sanctuary, I saw everybody in their finest, the ladies with their fancy hats, and even the littlest of boys were wearing ties. I felt like such a hypocrite. These people were buying it, yet I was just there for the money. I felt that maybe they should find a tympanist who was a believer.
It took me many years to finally get the courage to stop going to church. They have this habit of telling you that you will burn in hell if you don’t believe in God. Guess what? Since then I found out there is no hell. So if you’re on the fence, don’t wait. You’ll be much happier. Turn yourself into a “None!”
Some people may put a lot of pressure on you to keep going to church (or mosques or synagogues or whatever). Just ask them if they want you to be a hypocrite. If they say “yes,” you know that’s not a good idea. I don’t mean to be flip about this. Leaving a religion can be similar to PTSD. However, the main area of difficulty seems to be for those who have trouble letting go of their belief in hell. I’m serious. I’ve read the studies. Rejection by family members is another big problem. There are many books about this issue. Check out some of the writings of Dan Barker from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. It was doubly hard for him, because he was an evangelical minister for 19 years. Ouch!