Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Council for Secular Humanism

Originally publiched December 2007

I stumbled across a website called the Council for Secular Humanism. Whoa! I didn't know that secular humanism was a real body of knowledge. I always thought it was a slur, spit out of the mouths of uber religious folks. But there it is.

Here are the FAQ's about this organization:

About the Council for Secular Humanism

The Council for Secular Humanism cultivates rational inquiry, ethical values, and human development through the advancement of secular humanism. To carry out its mission the Council for Secular Humanism sponsors publications, programs, and organizes meetings and other group activities. The Council's specific objectives are:

• To promote secular humanist principles to the public, media, and policy-makers

• To provide secular humanist activities and communities to serve the needs of nonreligious
people and foster human enrichment

• To demonstrate the viability of the secular humanist eupraxophy as an alternative naturalistic life-stance

• To engage in research relating to the critical examination of religious and supernatural claims and the humanist outlook

• To conduct educational programs for all age levels

Wow! did you see the word eupraxophy? Never knew the word existed so I Googled it and Wikipedia gave this entry:

Eupraxsophy (previously "eupraxophy" but updated) [1] is a nonreligious life stance or worldview emphasizing the importance of living an ethical and exuberant life, and relying on rational methods such as logic, observation and science (rather than faith, mysticism or revelation) toward that end. The word "eupraxsophy" was coined by Paul Kurtz, and comes from the Greek words for "good practice and wisdom." Eupraxsophies, like religions, are cosmic in their outlook, but eschew the supernatural component of religion, avoiding the "transcendental temptation," as Kurtz puts it.

So now we know. Perhaps some folks, when asked, "What is your faith?" could respond, "I'm an Eupraxscophist!" Maybe I'm one of them and never knew it. Let's see: cosmic in my outlook [√] eschew the supernatural component of religion [√] avoiding transcendental temptation [√]

Well, that about does it: I'm an Eupraxsophist! Now I'll have to learn how to spell it.
[here is a link to Paul Kurtz's editorial on this topic]

Friday, December 26, 2008

Catholic Priest and Sister Applaud Toledo's Domestic Partnership Registry

An older post from December 2007

Homophobes are still in denial and anger over the decision by Toledo City Council to offer partnership-registry for couples who might enjoy work-related benefits from such a partnership. 

Homophobes are an angry lot, aren't they? You have to wonder what the source of their outrage is. Especially so-called Christians because Jesus never spoke out about homosexuality and, in fact, attracted quite a few disenfranchised and marginalized folks to his following. Three words say it all: 'Love one another."

A Catholic sister from Adrian, Sr. Pat Schnapp, no doubt a Dominican Sister, penned a letter to the editor of The Blade today praising the partnership registry. Apparently she understands Jesus' message very clearly. She begins her letter:

Congratulations to Mayor Carty Finkbeiner and Toledo City Council for their creation of a domestic partner registry. In a climate where, sadly, even the churches are often ambivalent about embracing their homosexual members, it's heartening to see this humane and compassionate response.

Fr. Earl Loeffler, a wise retired Catholic priest wrote:

Has anyone observed or commented that the majority of the letters regarding the civil registration of same-sex persons sharing a residence assume that sexual behavior is occurring? We don't assume such for heterosexual couples, do we? No wonder, these prejudged couples seek some form of legal status and protection.

Perhaps Catholics are more tolerant than other expressions of Christianity if we can judge by these two letters. Two weeks ago, Lutheran pastor Rev. Martin Zimmann wrote about this issue:

"I will say this - faith and human reason show me that we strengthen a community if we are willing to welcome people into it. If we choose to define our community by whom we exclude from it, we run the risk of shunning talents and resources that we cannot afford to lose."

It is good to see that ministers of the church understand the message and commandments of Jesus and practice them with those they encounter in their lives.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

I'm Invited to a Kwanzaa Celebration Tonight

Originally published December 2007.

The word Kwanzaa often brings a bit of smirk to the faces of some people. In fact, quite a few joke about it or ridicule the celebration. Right-wingers love to scoff at it altogether. I suppose that is because it essentially is for black folks and you know how the right-wingers like to have their kicks over 'those' people.

Seven candles, each with an African name, each with a quality of life that is deemed an important element in the quality of life in a societal setting. Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, former chair of the black studies department at California State University, Long Beach, to "reaffirm and restore our rootedness in African culture."

Another reason that the right-wingers dislike Kwanzaa is because it is viewed as anti-Christian, especially as it begins right after Christmas. They feel that it takes away from the birth-story of Jesus.

The celebration teaches the 7 elements of family and community living:

Umoja (Unity)To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.

Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.

Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)To build and maintain our community together and make our brother's and sister's problems our problems and to solve them together.

Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.

Nia (Purpose)To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

Kuumba (Creativity)To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

Imani (Faith)To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

I find it interesting that many right-wingers trash and negate the Kwanzaa celebration without knowing what it is all about. If they did understand the seven principles, would they realize that this celebration attempts to uplift the black child and his family, perhaps giving him a lesson in self-determination, a lesson of hope to be a better person, a better citizen, a better parent?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Many Americans Looking for a Scapegoat

Originally posted in December 2007.

A young Incan girl sacrificed to the gods so that the people would have a good harvest was a yearly custom.

A goat that driven off into the cliff as part of the ceremonies of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, in Judaism during the times of the Temple in Jerusalem was prescribed in Leviticus 16.

Jesus, himself, was the scapegoat for an original sin thought to stain the soul according to many Christians.

The Lottery, a short story by Shirley Jackson that I read with mouth gaping in college, is another example of a society's need for scapegoating.

Today that word has become a metaphor, referring to someone who is blamed for misfortunes, generally as a way of distracting attention from the real causes.

An interesting conjunction of events has occurred that may or may not have any bearing on scapegoating here in America. We are a depressed nation at this time in our history. The economy is in a grand slump. Oh, not for the wealthy, but for the middle and low income families: rising gasoline prices, food, insurance, and heating costs and no compensatory increases in wages. The housing market is dead and mortgage rate fiasco has snagged millions of Americans. The Christmas buying season is upon us as we struggle to pay our bills on time. And behind all of this the wars go on and on.

It a depressing time in America and even more so in the rustbelt city of Toledo. Population is falling, taxes and fees have risen, jobs are going overseas, schools are under-performing, and the dark days of winter cast long shadows om empty factories and businesses.

We need a scapegoat, a distraction from what is going on all around us.Somebody, some group of people to pay the price, to appease the gods, to satiate or ameliorate our nervousness and uncertainty.

But who? What group? Let's think about the victim or victims we should choose...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

We Came From Outer Space!

A post from November 2007 while I am on sabbatical.

"We are star-stuff." I loved to hear Carl Sagan say those words each week as our family watched his series, Cosmos. One can float back to those wonderful episodes [complete with music] at the Carl Sagan Portal.

Well, in fact, he was right some 30 years ago. In a new article entitled, New evidence for extragalactic life-forming matter, it states:

"Astrophysicists believe that organic molecules were present in the cloud of dust and gas from which our solar system formed, providing the raw materials for life on Earth. Astronomers can see these molecules throughout our galaxy, which is one reason why many believe conditions may also be ripe for life in other parts of the Milky Way, and perhaps further afield."

The article goes on to say that scientists are looking to find carbon-based molecules in other galaxies similar to the ones that once floated in interstellar space are thought to have been later incorporated into Earth, providing the raw materials for life.

Through spectral analysis the chemical signature of a class of organic compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons [PAC] can be seen in the way they absorb light from distant stars. The second word, aromatic, conjures up the smell of life-stuff, whatever that is.

Star stuff. Hug a friend; touch a star!

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Theistic God is All But Unemployed; Outsourced

A post from September 2007 while on sabbatical.

So many of the things that we once attributed to the theistic deity, the God in the Sky, we now explain with no mention of supernatural power at all. English theologian, Michael D.Goulder, a New Testament professor at the University of Birmingham, explaining his withdrawal from the Christian church, said that the theistic God of traditional Christianity no longer had any real work to do. He was unwilling to worship what he called an "unemployed deity."

What an interesting phrase: unemployed Deity. Ought we to feel sorry for this state of affairs or breathe a sigh of relief? For millennia, that deity, whatever the name, was 'busy' keeping order here on earth: the winds, the rain, hurricanes, floods and all sorts of weather-related duties. Old texts call upon this deity to calm winds, bring rain, stop floods and all sorts of meteorological deeds. Today, of course, we know better: meteorological science explains it all.

Let's see what else? Oh, yes, cures. The Great Deity was called upon to cure illnesses that fell upon the people. Naturally [rather supernaturally], illness was often seen as punishment for sin, but people still prayed for a cure. Today microbiology and medicines take care of that task.

Weather and illness take a rest. Gosh, I almost forgot about holding up the heavens so that they do not come crashing down to earth. The Great Deity held the sun, moon, and stars in place so that there was a regular day and night cycle along with the seasons. The Deity also stopped the sun from slipping further and further down into the depths of winter. Luckily our prayers and bonfires appeased this Deity and the sun began to rise once again in the sky. Galileo and Newton rescued the Deity from that duty.

Smiting the enemy was big stuff for the Deity, especially for his chosen people. This Deity even held the sun from setting during one battle so that his chosen people could completely destroy their enemies. The Deity was also asked to whip up several plagues of locusts as well as drought to smite the enemy. Today military science has produced smart bombs and Agent Orange to take care of that smiting thing.

Smiting, weather, juggling the universe, medical cures all now 'outsourced' from the Deity. What about magic? Aha! There you go: magic- levitation, ghosts, bi-location- things like that. Now we are in the realm of the Great Deity. So, unless some smarty can come up with how this magic happens, there will still be plenty of work to do.



I was thinking about how deflating the concept must be to those who have been snugly wrapped up in this theistic deity all of their lives. What if it is true? Is that a devastating psychological blow? If one has, for all of their lives, 'depended' upon this deity to guide them, to help them, to reward them at the end time, and there is no such entity, then is everything for naught?

It could lead to massive depression among the believers. In fact, I suppose that many folks will cling to their 'belief' despite the logic of reality. After all, what else is there to live for, if not for some eternal reward at the end? And what about the punishment for all of those 'bad' people who have not 'obeyed' the laws of righteousness? After all, they deserve eternal damnation, don't they?

So many thoughts about this issue will, I'm afraid, make the believers cling to their sinking ship rather than seeking real life in their own humanity. After all, Jesus, speaking through John said: "I have come that you have life and have it more abundantly."

Abundant life here on earth, fully alive, fully human- being all that you can be as a fellow traveler here on earth. Lifting up others along the way, helping them be all that they can be so that they, too, can have life and have it more abundantly.

update 12/22/2008

There were 29 comments on this original post, more than half from the resident 'authority' on all things biblical [and her alter-ego son].  In one of the comments Mrs. Righteous was castigating the group of people on a French blog for not accepting her beliefs.  It is to be noted that, after hijacking that French blog, she was forced to leave it, but, naturally, returned , hijacked it again, and was forced to leave it permanently.

Since then she hijacked this blog and twice was asked to not post here, but, of course, in her most-righteous style, refused to do so.  The sad thing about these righteous fundamentalists is that their 'belief system' is so entangled and depends on an interconnected  string of beliefs, that when one 'belief' is tugged, the entire 'system' comes unraveled.  Thus the need to post volumes of quotations in a defensive strategy, much akin to using a machine gun to kill a squirrel.

Were this group to merely proclaim their set of beliefs and go about their own business, that would be perfectly tolerable. The Amish are a great example of a knot of people who hold a particular set of beliefs and customs and go about their lives in rather a parallel culture to ours.  The Christian fundamentalists, on the other hand, are not happy at all merely interacting with each other.  Sadly, they feel a missionary spirit is demanded of them and therefore take an active role in culture and society, hoping to change or modify society with their belief-system.  They are determined to 'fix' our society and bring their Bible-based rules and regulations into this American culture.

Naturally they are now in mourning because of the Obama victory.  You can be sure, thought, that they will spend the next 4 years attempting to disrupt, criticize and end his presidency much like the right-wing Republicans sought to impeach President Clinton on specious charges.  The righteousness of the Christian fundamentalists knows no boundaries.  They alone have the knowledge.  They alone know what is best for our American society.  Be careful.  They are a dangerous lot.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The 3 Most Scary Sentences George Bush Uttered

An older post [September 2007] while I am on sabbatical.

Two days ago I read the headline on BBC about a conversation between President Bush and former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar during which Bush has said something revealing. I did not read the details. This morning has the story with the headline, Learning From Bush's Mistakes: How a prewar conversation can help us pick the next president.

I was curious, so I dove in. Apparently Mr. Bush had asked Aznar to join him as a charter member of 'The Coalition of the Willing" in Bush's preemptive invasion of Iraq. No doubt, Aznar asked Bush about the details, the facts which led him to the conclusion that the preemptive invasion was the right thing to do.

The question in the back of Aznar's mind after he heard the plan was this: "The only thing that worries me about you is your optimism."

Seems a good question and a great observation. Perhaps Aznar knew that Mr. Bush's life was excessively parochial: he had not travelled the world; he had not been interested in geopolitical studies; he had a limited knowledge of world history. No doubt, Mr. Aznar was aghast at this first-ever preemptive military plan that Mr. Bush had just laid out before him.

"The only thing that worries me about you is your optimism," might be a tangential question to the real question that was not said [according to the transcript] in the meeting. Were I the president of Spain, a member of the EU, a nation dependent on EU commerce and EU cooperation, I might have asked Mr. Bush: "Why won't France and Germany join your confederation?" Why not Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Ireland? Perhaps that would be too embarrassing to ask; after all, Europeans have learned politeness.

Rather, the question was, "The only thing that worries me about you is your optimism."

Not unexpectedly, the Bush response was philosophical rather than militarily. It was, well, a hunch. We have come to expect that from Mr. Bush: why use your brain, your advisers, the lessons of history to guide decisions? One's hunch is a perfect guide. Often my own adolescent years were based on hunches. Nearly all were wrong, then I grew up.

BUSH: I'm an optimist because I believe that I'm right. I'm a person at peace with myself. It was our turn to face a serious threat to peace.

Yes, that's what he said.

That's what he believed.

That explains the mess we're in.

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