Spirituality & Humanism

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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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THE PERFECT MATE

The Perfect Mate
by Ron Steelman

(Case study #03059)

Success is a science; if you have the conditions, you get the result.
– Oscar Wilde

Just about everyone I know hopes for success in finding a compatible mate with whom they can share a happy life. However, it is inevitable that one falls in love without any control whatsoever. Affairs of the heart do not seem to fit into the scientific arena. The idea that one could create a list of personality, philosophical, and physical attributes for a potential mate, then find this person, and then have that person fall for you at the same time you fall for them, is simply laughable.

Love won’t play that game. Love doesn’t want to be a controlled experiment that can be replicated precisely in a laboratory. Love is messy, mad, and marvelous. Attempting to control the elements of love in a scientific way is like trying to herd cats, or nail Jell-O to a wall.

My second marriage is working out much better than my first. I’d like to say I had complete control over the conditions that led to falling in love with my current wife of 29 years, but that is not true. I’d also like to say that I utilized all I had learned from the mistakes in the choice of my first wife. I’d like to say that I was totally in control at the moment thunder and lightning struck – I may be mistaken, but I believe the Italian for that is: “tuoni e fulmini.” But, alas, I was simply a pawn. I was not in charge of the experiment. The attraction was too powerful. I was struck dumb with love.

I do think there are a few things I’ve learned about our relationship that may be helpful to analyze. Experience has demonstrated that there are certain compatibilities – certain conditions, if you will – which have proven to be the keys to the success of our particular relationship. This is real science and I will present the supporting data and results at the end. Therefore, here are the four conditions for compatibility.

  1. bone-jokeHumor is our joy. We love to laugh. We both laugh at the same things. We love to make each other laugh. Some people prefer whips and chains for love-making; we are likely to fall out of the bed in hysterical laughter. We often make each other laugh a split-second after we wake up, or even while falling asleep. We share things that make us laugh. Sharing a sense of humor is one important condition.
  2. Civility is critical. ignore-the-snide-comments-quoteWe made a pact early on not to snipe at each other. We don’t use sarcasm in our speech to each other. Snide and mean remarks are not allowed. This forces us to speak to each other in civil tones. And when we don’t, the air turns heavy and dark, and we know why we agreed to this covenant in the first place. We sit down then and figure out what the misunderstanding was between us, or what was the cause of the “hurt” that made us break our agreement.
  3. Item #2 above leads directly to this: Respect. I loathe the typical “battle of the sexes” clichés that many men moan about women over and over behind their backs, and that women wail about men when they’re not around. I love my wife aretha-franklin-respect-1967-30-1and who she is and all of the good things in her character that make her an intelligent, witty, charming, loving partner. When I sometimes hear men trash women, I am surprised. For me, I love women. They’re neat! I’d have two or three if my wife would allow it! (this will make her laugh; see Item #1 above) I stand on my soapbox frequently lecturing others, “My wife is not my ball and chain, she is my accomplice. Life can be hard enough at times. We must help each other get through the day, and nights.” She is truly my partner. She must have my respect.
  4. Religion and Sex. Yes, they do go together. Seek someone who is compatible with your religion or life philosophy. This is key. Sometimes one of the lovers is willing to convert, but I always wonder about that. If you don’t share a religion or a philosophical view of life, you may be on thin ice. If you fail at this, you may also have trouble when it comes to the bedroom. Many religions seek to control your sexual life and birth control. eve_in_the_garden_of_eden_by_whimsicalmoon-d38i967Some religions also like to blame women for the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. Some even attempt to punish women through mutilation of sexual organs. . . to diminish their pleasure during sex. This seems to me to be grossly unfair as well as primitive.  However, once you are aligned in your religious or non-religious beliefs, then be sure to seek a partner who happily shares your desires when it comes to the bedroom. It takes two to tango (if that’s the way you like to do it).

The results of my “scientific study” demonstrate that certain minimum conditions must be present to create a successful partnership. However, before you set out on your journey toward a permanent partnership, you must take some time to conduct the proper experiments yourself to test your assumptions about a potential mate. This chart reveals the possibilities for success given the results of your research.

Mate_Chart

If you have achieved proper test levels, i.e. the target conditions in the four areas of compatibility, this will certainly produce excellent results. Happy hunting!

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SEX After Religion – II

(Updated/totally revised post from 2012,
with additional cartoons & a video with Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry)

 

SEX After Religion – II
by Ron Steelman
liam-walsh-a-man-is-in-bed-having-a-post-sex-cigarette-and-a-woman-is-putting-a-note-new-yorker-cartoon_a-G-9560794-8419449

“Sex Improves Dramatically After Leaving Religion”

Religions claim to be good and good for you. But first they require you to accept their view of the world. They demand a belief in their god; belief in that God’s sacred book; belief in that god’s explanation of how to seek redemption (because we’ve been told relentlessly that we’re bad); belief in the promise of heaven and the threat of hell; belief in peculiar dietary laws; some, even a belief that your genitals should be altered in a certain way. Let’s face it, many religions tell you how, when, and with whom to have sex. . . or not to have sex.

Yes, for some reason sex is very important to the gods. In fact, they’ve laid out many dos and don’ts, and described various sexual taboos.

It_Was_Original_2

From the very beginning, the god in my Bible told me that when Adam made love with Eve, it was bad, bad, bad. The two of them must be punished (although poor Eve got most of the blame). The act of sex was declared bad from the outset and you’d better feel guilty about it. Thus, we have religion to thank for the linking of guilt to sex. Thank you so much, god.

Unfortunately, begging our god to be forgiven for our sexual sins then sadly morphed into begging for sex. 

For Men
Close_My_Eyes

For Women
Touch_Anywhere

Resist

Sex continues to be incredibly important to religionists today. From anti-abortion to anti-homosexual, from Catholic priest and nun celibacy to priestly pedophilia, anti-masturbation to anti-sex before marriage – religions seem obsessed with trying to control sex. I, however, am now a secular humanist. I simply like to say that I’m “Post‐Theological.” I have exorcised that hideous religious guilt
that attempted to infect me. 

GoodSexFairy
The New Survey

Happily, a new survey has confirmed my personal experience. The headline in the newspaper read, “Sex Improves Dramatically After Leaving Religion.” The survey/study is by Dr. Darrel W. Ray, a psychologist, and director of The Institute for Performance Culture, and Amanda Brown. The survey title is “Sex and Secularism: What Happens When You Leave Religion.”

They surveyed over 14,500 American Secularists. It’s a ground‐breaking study of sexuality among the non‐religious. As stated in the editorial comment of the study, “. . .almost all religions suppress and distort sexuality in measurable increments. While most religions do not have as powerful an impact as a cult, they still have a negative impact in terms of guilt.”

new-yorker-24-jan-2011-easier-religion2

The survey gave plenty of data to make some tentative conclusions about the secular community and secular sex. The most important finding shows dramatic improvement in sexual satisfaction and a decrease in guilt after people left their religions.

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

The Full Survey

Sex_and_Secularism

Education

In the US, many religious leaders are against sex education in schools and insist that parents and churches should be primarily responsible. Back in 1989, Hugh Laurie (from the U.S. television show House) had a skit-comedy TV show in England. Along with his old college buddy, Stephen Fry, they happily mocked how many parents resist teaching their children about sex, and object to the schools teaching it as well. 

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Finale: X-rated Humor

For adults only: what do atheists say in bed? The link below will take you to Jeff Swenson’s “Humanists in Love” comic. Don’t look at this if you are easily offended by sexual humor:

Jeff Swenson’s
“HUMANISTS IN LOVE – Deist on Top”

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(Thanks to The New Yorker and those wonderful New Yorker cartoonists)

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THE INVENTION OF SEX

“He rescued Adam and Eve from obscurity, devised the doctrine of original sin—and the rest is sexual history.”

Of course, the New Yorker article entitled “The Invention of Sex” caught my eye, especially since it was about St. Augustine. I thought, did a saint really invent sex? Turns out the article by Stephen Greenblatt is about Sarah Ruden’s new, ‘strikingly colloquial translation’ of St Augustine’s, “The Confessions.”  The more I read the more I realized I didn’t care much for Mr. Augustine. Seems he was the one who really promoted original sin and wrote about it for 15 years. I always hated the idea of original sin and the torment that this concept has leashed upon the human race. And he was made a saint for this?! In his book, “Confessions,” written around 397 C.E., Augustine described an event in the bathhouse many years earlier. That day, his father Patricius, saw in him the signs of inquieta adulescentia, restless young manhood, and was thrilled that this might lead to grandchildren.

There are many ways to interpret ancient religious texts, and I personally forswore this fruitless enterprise many years ago. We are reminded by this article of the preposterous intellectual exercises that engage theologians.

Augustine apparently became obsessed with the fact that his penis seemed to have a mind of its own. As a result, his view of Genesis is that, “. . .the consequence of Eve’s disobedience is twofold: women are condemned to bring forth children in pain and to yearn for the husbands who dominate them.” Clearly he blames Eve for the behavior of his randy little penis. Very convenient and a belief that has tormented men and women since the man-made creation of the Bible.

I apologize to all women for this Adam and Eve torment. It’s really embarrassing to me as a human. I have selected certain paragraphs from the article to show why this religious mumbo-jumbo should be deep-sixed in the quicksand of time!

Photo selected by me

“The archaic story of the naked man and woman, the talking snake, and the magical trees was something of an embarrassment. It was Augustine who rescued it from the decorous oblivion to which it seemed to be heading. He bears principal responsibility for its prominence, including the fact that four in ten Americans today profess to believe in its literal truth.”

 

. . .”Pagans ridiculed that story as primitive and ethically incoherent. How could a god worthy of respect try to keep humans from the knowledge of good and evil?. . .To Augustine sex was a touch of evil. “Surely, any friend of wisdom and holy joys.  . .would prefer, if possible, to beget children without lust.”

Yeah, right.

. . .”Pelagius and his followers were moral optimists. They believed that human beings were born innocent. Infants do not enter the world with a special endowment of virtue, but neither do they carry the innate stain of vice. “

. . .” Augustine embarked on a work, “The Literal Meaning of Genesis,” that aimed at discussing “the scriptures according to their proper meaning . . . For some fifteen years, he labored on this work. . .In the end, it defeated him, and he knew it. The problem is that not every word of Genesis can be taken literally. . .”

From the 1999 film,                            “The Loss of Sexual Innocence”

“. . .How, specifically, were they meant to reproduce, if it was not in the way that all humans have done for as long as anyone can remember? In Paradise, Augustine argued, Adam and Eve would have had sex without involuntary arousal: “They would not have had the activity of turbulent lust in their flesh, however, but only the movement of peaceful will by which we command the other members of the body.” Without feeling any passion—without sensing that strange goad—“the husband would have relaxed on his wife’s bosom in tranquility of mind.” (What about the snake???)

How would this have been possible, the Pelagians asked, if the bodies of Adam and Eve were substantially the same as our bodies? Just consider, Augustine replied, that even now, in our current condition, some people can do things with their bodies that others find impossible. “Some people can even move their ears, either one at a time or both together. . .Others, as he personally had witnessed, could sweat whenever they chose, and there were even people who could “produce at will such musical sounds from their behind (without any stink) that they seem to be singing from that region.”  (Doesn’t this say it all!)

(illustration from felixbennett.com)

“Adam had fallen, Augustine wrote in “The City of God,” not because the serpent had deceived him. He chose to sin, and, in doing so, he lost Paradise, because he could not endure being severed from his sole companion ♦”

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Adam did fall. . .he fell in love with Eve. Give it up, Mr. Augustine.

 

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Podcast #01 – “Pope, Schmope”

Got podcast? Well, we do now. . .at least our first one. We had to talk about the old/new Pope because “Pope news” has saturated the media 24/7 since the day the old Pope resigned. What does it all mean? Hope you enjoy our first effort. Length = 27:43.

Art

Art from Red Bank Humanists is our first guest.

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SEX After Religion

SEX After Religion
by Ron Steelman

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

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

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

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

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

SEX continues to be incredibly important to religionists today. From anti abortion to anti homosexual, from Catholic Priest and Nun Celibacy to Priestly pedophilia, anti masturbation to anti sex before marriage – religions seem obsessed with trying to control SEX. I, however, am now a secular humanist. I like to say I’m “Post‐Theological.” I have
exorcised the religious guilt that attempted to inflict itself upon me up until I was 40 years old. I have to admit though, I really didn’t know much about sex after religion, except that it seemed to be totally free of all that hideous religious guilt.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THANK GOD!

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