Letters To The Editor: A Must

Letters To The Editor: A Must
– 
by Ron Steelman

Barry_Klassel

Barry Klassel – Humanist Chaplain, Rutgers University

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

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

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

targum

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

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

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

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

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

article-2281475-15435FCF000005DC-848_634x398

Distant Galaxies

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

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

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

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

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

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

________________________________________

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

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

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

Definitions of Logical Fallacies here.

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Humanism by Doris

Humanism by Doris
Video Interview by Ron Steelman

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

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

Humanist Poetry?

Humanist Poetry?
By Ron Steelman
_________________________

I said, “Why are we doing this?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy.

CD Label

Turn up your speakers and play here.


CD Tracks

Who Created THIS Universe?

It’s with great pleasure that I present the work of my brother, Scott Steelman.
I never knew about his theories until this past year when he began to reveal his work into the worlds of multiverse, including parallel universes, at the Institute of Multiverse Research. He has recently made many startling discoveries that will greatly illuminate our understanding of this expanding field. But more about that in an upcoming blog. For now, let’s simply start with a quote from the noted MIT Professor of Physics, Max Tegmark:

“Parallel universes are not just a staple of science fiction. Other universes are a direct implication of cosmological observations.”

Although most Secular Humanists are skeptical about the claims made regarding the supposed “creator” of the universe, these discoveries will convince many.

Yours Truly,
Ron Steelman
___________________________________________________________________

Who Created THIS Universe?
© 2012 – Scott Steelman

Most religions have a Creation Myth that explains the origin of the world. The TRUE STORY of creation has now revealed itself. It is clear and concise, yet many followers remain confused. Lo, they are the Confusionists.

This is the definitive explanation of reality in this world. If you dare to look further you will “see the light”.

Can you handle the TRUTH?  (We report, You decide.)

Annotated Excerpt from The Book of Lunch,
the most sacred text of Confusionism

First there was light…and it was bright.
Swirling energy crystals reflected the light
and projected a glowing image of Perplexus, the Lord of Lunch

There was a blinding flash and Perplexus awoke.
A Sacred Voice proclaimed: “It’s ALIVE! – and it’s hungry!”

Perplexus – the Great One was half-man and half-woman
(constantly bickering with itself, and arguing about where to set the thermostat)

He/She pondered using His/Her powers to create a
Magnificent-Majestic-Wonder-World to hang around in.
“Let creation begin!” He/She said.

The Great One ( or two) then made the NIGHT…and it was dark!

“Now let procreation begin”.
His/Her loins burned to have safe sex in the holy darkness.
It came to pass…..and was called the Big Bang.

The resultant glorious Self-Impregnation (one of the 7 Sacred Mysteries*)
filled Perplexus with offspring.

After a cigarette and periods of gestation elation alternating with guilt
Perplexus laid 3 magic eggs and thereupon immediately
Invented the omelet…and it was good!

Following breakfast, He/She
Laid 3 more magic eggs that eventually brought forth
The 3 fat sisters: Gigunda, Rotunda and Humonga
to help around the house. (At this point there were no houses,
but the Omnipotent Great One planned ahead.)

Within moments, the sisters grew up (and out) to massive dimensions.
Perplexus charged them with creating all further contents of his realm,
figuring they needed the exercise.

Gigunda also discovered Self-Impregnation and begat a son, Lloyd the Little.
The 3 fat sisters and Lloyd commenced to intelligently design every detail of
the Magnificent-Majestic-Wonder-World.

Gigunda made the land, sea and air and then the clouds, the rain and the mountains.
Rotunda brought forth many creatures, abundant vegetation and, of course,
the Vegi-matic. Humonga populated the land with somewhat intelligent creatures
made in her own image. (Mostly fat, but some more like Lloyd the Little.)

“Just a few more things” said Rotunda as she created cities, malls and game shows.
Humonga followed with automobiles, which begat the Drive-Thru Concept, which begat
fast-food, which begat indigestion. Lloyd insisted on adding computer games, cage fighting and Monster Trucks.

Gazing out over His/Her vast expanse of stuff, Perplexus declared
“Mission Accomplished” and summoned his cherished grandson, Lloyd the Little.

“Lloyd”, he said. “You will go down there and live among them, performing occasional miracles to keep my poll numbers high. Later we will compose the official list of rules
for our subjects”

And then they took a nap.
zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

To this day, Confusionists believe that the rumbling after a lightning strike is the sound of the 3 fat sisters walking around upstairs in the penthouse apartment – presumably awakened by the flashing lights.

*The 7 Sacred Mysteries
1. From whence did the First Light come?
2. From whom did the Sacred Voice come?
3. What’s for lunch?
4. Self-Impregnation (How do you do that?)
5. Is there an Afterlunch?
6. Why does Lloyd have two L’s anyway?
7. Who?…. But-a-who?…..Who wrote the Book of Lunch?

The Five Commandments
After napping, Perplexus convened a brainstorming session with all five members of the Holy family to compose the Five Commandments. The original idea was to have every person wear a single white glove with one commandment stitched on each finger. Then it was decided to just require that the commandments be memorized for use in a daily recitation of praise. Lloyd the Little was assigned the task of transcribing and delivering them.

Pictured below is the actual ancient tablet with the Five Commandments etched upon it.
Multiverse
The Five Commandments (translated to English)
1. Worship the “Great One”
2. Follow orders carefully and cheerfully
3. Always attend the “Meet Your Maker” fundraiser
4. Do not question authority
5. Bend over and wait for further instructions

This is the light that most devout Confusionists have seen:

# # #

An Act of God

Act of God Title graphic

An Act of God
by Ron Steelman

It’s been so sad to see the massive suffering caused by what seems to be a recent spate of natural disasters like tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, and tsunamis. The truth is they have been happening every day since the beginning of time. Leaving aside the question as to whether some of our climate change may be caused by us humans, much of the increase in our awareness of natural disasters may be for other reasons. These events are simply more visible to us today because of developing technologies, growing global news networks, and reports from wireless smart phones that can instantly play video on the Internet. However, whether the bad weather and earthquakes are more or less visible is secondary to the understanding of a natural world, a key element of the philosophy of Secular Humanism.

Understanding this won’t mitigate the suffering caused by these tragedies, but it will certainly explain why these events shouldn’t be considered punishments from a vengeful supernatural deity.

The Enlightenment encouraged many philosophers to suggest that supernatural forces need not be considered part of the natural world. As discoveries exploded in the natural sciences – astronomy, biology, chemistry, earth science, physics, atmospheric science, oceanography, and materials sciences – theistic explanations of natural phenomena were left behind along with the flat earth concept. But old superstitions die hard. Some cultural sayings and clichés have taken many generations to finally lose their potency, even though science has disproved them many times over.

One of the most pernicious superstitious beliefs is that everything must happen for a reason. People just don’t know what that reason is. They sincerely hope their personal deity will reveal the reason to them soon. But until then, they’re in the dark. Thus, in the interim their conjecture leads them to all manner of silliness. People grasp at straws. They make things up, hoping to discover an answer. They ask, “Why did this terrible thing happen?” Left to our imaginations we humans can devise some outlandish answers.

A Personal Tragedy
I knew a bright young show business attorney in Los Angeles who was the head of business affairs for a film production company. He saved up for several years for his favorite vintage sports car and finally found one up in Santa Barbara, fully restored. He bought it! On the way back to Los Angeles he was blissfully driving his classic convertible when a car on the other side of the highway crashed into the center divider, flipped up in the air and landed on his side of the road. . .right on top of him. He lasted only a couple of days in the hospital before he died.

At the large funeral, countless people voiced the opinion that “there must be a reason.” Of course we all wanted to make sense somehow out of this terrible tragedy. But then, it got worse. Others, driven by their need for an explanation, said, “Well, this was meant to be,” while others said it had everything to do with the karma of the people in the other car. Really?

It was a random act of circumstance not involving supernaturalism. I am always open to claims of supernaturalism, but I can never get anyone to show me credible proof.

Explaining A Large Natural Disaster
One popular response to a large natural disaster is to blame the victims for some failing or slight against one or another god. That would be like blaming a child for being a victim of sexual abuse, or like blaming the hooker instead of the pimp and the John.

There may be an answer for why natural disasters happen, but waiting for a “revealed” truth and filling in the answer yourself while waiting is to live in the dark ages. A natural disaster is simply a natural disaster. There is no need to assume it happened because of some vindictive god or other. It’s extremely far-fetched to say that victims of a disaster are being punished for doing something bad. The Humanist understanding of the universe requires no supernatural cause. The natural world is the whole of reality. But still, we humans want to make up answers.

The answer is: these natural disasters are random acts of nature. This is life on our planet. There’s no controlling mother nature. There’s no purpose that can be ascribed to these events, except that they are a reaction to something else that has naturally happened on the earth. We may not have the exact scientific answer. It’s actually comforting to me to realize that these events are not aimed at us human beings. If superstitious humans would realize this, it might keep us from being so maniacally egocentric.

“An act of God” is the legal phrase used by many to describe unexplained happenings. It’s a standard part of our legal system. Many contracts have an “act of God” clause
allowing someone to get out of their contract if something happens beyond their
control. We should change that to “a random act of nature” or “a random act of
circumstance.”

The following two statements from “HUMANISM AND ITS ASPIRATIONS,” created by the American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org), describe the world view of most Secular Humanists:
1. Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and
rational analysis. Humanists find that science is the best method for
determining this knowledge as well as for solving problems and developing beneficial technologies.
2. Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change. Humanists recognize nature as self-existing. We accept our life as all and enough, distinguishing things as they are from things as we might wish or imagine them to be.

This is why most secular humanists prefer not to be sworn in at court with their hand on a Bible. It is not necessary in a court of law or to demonstrate that one promises to keep an oath. We may legally “attest” that we promise to honor a commitment or swear something is true by “attestation.” This is important to a Humanist because to promise that something is true by swearing on a Bible, a book about the supernatural, would mean nothing to us.

One thing we can say about us humans is that natural disasters do bring out the best in people as they try to rescue and help their neighbors. That is a good thing. In conclusion, here’s a thought from Robert Brault: “Name the season’s first hurricane Zelda and fool Mother Nature into calling it a year.”

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