Freethinking for Dummies

Skepticism, secular humanism, social issues

We Are Not Broken

I read a lovely blog post.  It is about people with disabilities.  Please read it.

My comment on this:

I grew up with a learning disability.  I was teased, bullied.  But I’ve succeeded beyond what any of those people who made fun of me, or even most of the teachers and guidance counselors could.  My son has autism spectrum disorder.  Family, friends, strangers in the supermarket, all would try to tell me how to handle him, how to raise him, how to “fix” him.  He is not “broken”.  He never was.  He is his own person.  He is my son.  

April 1, 2013 Posted by | Atheism, Humanism, Religion, secular humanism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Atheism+: Doing Good Without God.

It’s been said that getting atheists to agree on something is like herding cats.  I’d say it’s more like trying to herd cats into a tub of water.  Atheists tend to be an inquisitive bunch; an intellectually bunch.  We reject dogma and the authority that goes along with it, hence we are loathed to being told what to do and what to think.  You could say we are fiercely independent (at least I say that we are).  

Given all that, you can see why trying to get a consensus about where to go for breakfast might be hard enough, never mind were we should all stand on a particular social issue.  And that’s the real issue in getting us all to band together for a common cause: we don’t like to be told what we should think or feel.

Still, being openminded and skeptical (yes, they do go hand in hand) we are able to listen to each other and really consider what each one of us has to say.  This attitude tends to lead to civilized debates, respect for each other’s rights to express ideas, and compromise, or at least it should.  I believe that it can and that it does.

The atheist/humanist/secular/(add your own label here) movements have much more in common than they do differences.   Most of us in these movements (and most of us identify with more than one) understand this and this has allowed us to begin to come together in the past few years in greater numbers and with great effect in support of issues that we all feel that we have a stake in.

Still, there is an ugly side to us as well.  Anti-feminism has shown its self to be much more prevalent that most of us imagined it was.  This is both bad and good.  It is bad, for the obvious reason that it shows that we all are not as enlightened as we’d like to be.  It is bad because it distracts us from working together to achieve our common goals.

It is good, however, that this is now out in the open.  You can’t tackle a problem until you can first acknowledge it.  Also, it is an opportunity to clean house, as it were.  By exposing the misogynists in our midst ( actually they tend to expose themselves) we can shame them into recognizing  their misplace sense of privilege or shun them from our ranks.  It is vital that we do so because we have the fight of our lives with the religious and social conservitives on our hands.

This is where Atheism+ comes in.  The new movement is not an attempt to establish an atheist dogma, as some try to claim.  Atheism+ is an attempt to bring together atheists who believe that we have a responsibility to go beyond fighting against superstition or fighting for the separation of church and state.  We strongly believe that we have a responsibility as atheists to fight for social justice for everyone, theist and non-theist, the superstitious and the skeptical, the religious and the non-believers.  

Feminism, gay rights, separation of church and state are just a few of the issues that most of us feel are important and that we are doing a good job of brining to the forefront of the social and political forums.  

We have already begun to raise our profile in the general public’s minds.  Just this year we had the Reason Rally, which made the national news.  We also have many good organizations supporting critical thinking and humanist issues such as the Secular Student Alliance, CFI, FFRF, American Atheists, the JREF, and American Humanists.  

Except for American Atheists and the Secular Student Alliance, most of these, while they might have many atheists as members, are not atheistic groups.  What Atheism+ is, or can be, is a way for those of us who self-identify as atheists to get out and fight for social issues in public where we can meet “average” people and have them get to know us.  It will allow us to be seen as people who care for others, who do good things.  This is vitally important if atheists hope to ever become accepted by a society that currently sees us a amoral, selfish, heartless.

I urge those of you want to fight for social justice for everyone, who want to fight against misogyny, racism, bigotry, homophobia, poverty, and ignorance to consider joining the Atheist+ movement.  Talk about it with your friends and family (if they are still talking to you, that is), write about it, blog about it, tweet about it, set your Facebook profile picture to the Atheists+ symbol (see below), join the Atheist+ forum.

Let’s show the world that we are not only good without God, but we do good without God.

 

Apluslogo sm

Use me as your profile picture on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, or any other site of your choice.

September 4, 2012 Posted by | Atheism, Feminism, GLBT, Humanism, Social Justice | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What I Learned In Church Today

I went to church today because my son was in the choir.  I haven’t been to church for a long time, and not a Catholic one for even longer.

Having been raised Catholic, the service itself was familiar enough, even after all these years, that I could ignore it.  The sermon, on the other hand, I listened to intently.  When I used to go to church, even as a kid, I remember always listening to the sermon.  I listened and I thought about what the priest had to say.  Today was no different.

He talked about desire.  There was some very well thought out and interesting points that he made.  He explained how desire run amok can lead to greed and he used the international banking crisis as an example.  I couldn’t agree more.  Here was a perfect example of greed and how it can affect millions.  Here was a very humanistic call for equality and a curb on selfishness and the policies that promote it.  He contrasted that to a desire to do what is right for everyone.

This would have been a perfect sermon, but then, of course, he pushed that aside and said that the real positive role of desire is to know and see God.  Damn!  

This is where myself, and humanists like me, see the great difference between our goals of those of religions.  We seek to promote the positive aspects of humanity, like channeling our desires to do good for, not just ourselves, but others as well.  While most religions do see this as an important task, it is secondary to a desire to please God.  As far as I can see, this is just as selfish as the desire for personal gain.  It is replacing the desire for money and possessions with the desire to gain wealth in an afterlife that may not exist, and which certainly does no one here on earth any good

Now, if desiring to gain points in a possible afterlife leads you to do good here on earth, great, but there is still a selfishness to this that I thin can, and does, lead easily to arrogance.  Many believers use this thought of reward in heaven to make themselves, in their eyes, better than those who either don’t believe as they do or don’t believe at all.  This can easily lead to the extreme of believing, and worse, telling those people that they will burn for eternity in hell.  This dehumanizes those who disagree and breeds hate.

Most humanists, on the other hand, believe in doing good for others simply because it is the right thing to do.  They expect no reward, no glory, just the satisfaction of doing what’s right and helping others.  All without judgment, arrogance, or hate.

August 12, 2012 Posted by | Atheism, Humanism, Religion, secular humanism | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Christopher Hitchens, 1949–2011

“My chief consolation in this year of living dyingly has been the presence of friends,”.

Christopher Hitchens wrote this in the June 2011 issue of Vanity Fair.  Hitchens was in the presence of those friends when he passed away from complications due to esophageal cancer onThursday at the age of 62.

Hitchens was fearlessly outspoken on every topic he cared to cast his sharp, insightful mind on, wether it be atheism, Mother Teresa, or the latest health fad.  Not only was he outspoken, but he spoke more eloquently and persuasively than anyone I’ve ever heard.  His command of the English language, and his powerful and precise use of it was second to none.  He is the only modern author that I’ve read where I would need to look up a word at least every four or five pages.  Yet his vocabulary was never archaic or pedantic, but rich, flowing, and precise.

He is probably best known for his championing of atheism.  Considered one of the founders of the New Atheists, as well as one of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse (along with Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennet), he was unapologetic, even harsh, in his criticism of religion and faith.  As he persuasively and beautifully put it:

“Faith is the surrender of the mind; it’s the surrender of reason, it’s the surrender of the only thing that makes us different from other mammals. It’s our need to believe, and to surrender our skepticism and our reason, our yearning to discard that and put all our trust or faith in someone or something, that is the sinister thing to me. Of all the supposed virtues, faith must be the most overrated.”

He was reviled, yet often respected, by those of faith with whom he corresponded or debated.  Many of these, upon the announcement last year that he had terminal cancer, offered their prayers for him.  While he had no belief in prayer, rather than scoffing at them, he responded:

…that, if they want to pray for him, it’s fine by him. “I think of it as a nice gesture,” he said. “And it may well make them feel better, which is a good thing in itself.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2010/sep/20/christopher-hitchens-prayers)

As always, he showed his great and deep understanding of humanity, both the good and the bad, and sought to expose it’s ills, while steadfastly supporting the inalienable human rights that we all share.

Others have eulogized him much better than I can.  Steven Novella beautifully states:

“His fellow materialists have to face this reality as well. Hitchens is gone. His brain – which was everything he thought, felt, remembered, and all the insight he had to offer the world – no longer functions, and never will function again. The same fate awaits us all. Without regret, Hitchens seemed to understand the flip side of this reality – we are the lucky few who get to live.  So make the most of it while you can.”

A sentiment Hitch would have totally agreed with.

PZ Myers plainly and persuasively wrote:

“Hitch is dead. We are a diminished people for the loss. There can be and should be no consolation, no soft words that encourage an illusion of heavenly rescue, no balm of lies. We should feel as we do with every death, that a part of us has been ripped from our hearts, and suffer pain and grief — and we are reminded that this is the fate we all face, that someday we too will die, and that we are all “living dyingly”, as Hitch put it so well.

As atheists, I think none of us can find solace in the cliches or numbness in the delusion of an afterlife. Instead, embrace the fierce strong emotions of anger and sorrow, feel the pain, rage against the darkness, fight back against our mortal enemy Death, and live exuberantly while we can. Confront mortality clear-eyed and pugnacious, uncompromising and aggressive.

It’s what Hitch would have wanted of us.

It’s how Hitch lived.”

The non-beleiving and humanist community has lost a great spokesperson, but more importantly, the world has lost a great human being.  I think the world would be a much better place if we could all follow Hitch’s example of living life to the fullest and fearlessly seeking justice for all of us.

 

December 17, 2011 Posted by | Atheism, Humanism, Religion, secular humanism, Skepticism, Social Justice | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Secular Humanist Anthem

My pick for a Secular Humanist (or agnostic, or atheist, or just plain sensible) anthem:

Imagine there’s no Heaven 
It’s easy if you try 
No hell below us 
Above us only sky 
Imagine all the people 
Living for today 

Imagine there’s no countries 
It isn’t hard to do 
Nothing to kill or die for 
And no religion too 
Imagine all the people 
Living life in peace 

You may say that I’m a dreamer 
But I’m not the only one 
I hope someday you’ll join us 
And the world will be as one 

Imagine no possessions 
I wonder if you can 
No need for greed or hunger 
A brotherhood of man 
Imagine all the people 
Sharing all the world 

You may say that I’m a dreamer 
But I’m not the only one 
I hope someday you’ll join us 
And the world will live as one

- John Lennon

November 3, 2011 Posted by | Atheism, Humanism, Religion, secular humanism | , , , , , | 6 Comments

Trying to Get Back in the Saddle

I haven’t posted much on this blog lately.  There are several reasons for this which I want to let you know about because I believe that I owe it to you, my readers, who (hopefully) look forward to reading my blog.

The first reason is that I moved from an apartment to a townhouse about a month ago and have been pretty busy settling in.

The second reason is personal family issues, the details of which I can’t go into here.

The final reason is that I have met the woman of my dreams and we have been spending as much time together as possible.  After two failed marriages to narcissists (for both of us), being with someone who is honest, open, and giving is an amazing experience, one which we intend to make the most of.  

Now that I’ve settled into the new home, and my sweetheart and I are settling down into something of a routine, I think I will be able to start devoting more time to writing, especially on this blog.

June 6, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 4 Comments

A Message From The Dead – A Skeptic’s Last Words to The World

Phil Plait blogged about Derek today.  Derek was a skeptic who I never knew, nor herd of, until today.  He died of cancer May 3rd and he left a final message on his blog.  Please, go and read it.  It embodies everything I believe about living my daily life, which is; never take anything for granted, enjoy every moment, and always tell those you love that you love them, as often as you can.

This life, as far as anyone can tell, is all that we have.  The people in our lives are what give it meaning, and it is to the people in our lives that we will leave our legacy.  Once we die, we will live on in thier memoires, the stories they will tell about us, the influence that we had upon them. 

I lost my father in 1992, my sister in 1997, and my mother in 1999.  They all died suddenly and I never got to say goodbye to any of them, but I had no regrets because I always kept in touch, and I always let them know that I loved them.  I learned more from these loses about living day-to-day than anything else in my life. 

You never know when you, or someone you love, might be taken from this life.  Cherish every moment you have with those that you love, and tell them and show them, as often as you can, that you love them and value them.  It will be your legacy to them and it will enrich thier lives more than you can imagine.

I will leave you by quoting Phil Plait, who quoted Slau, who quoted Warren Zevon:  “Enjoy every sandwich.”

May 5, 2011 Posted by | Skepticism | , , , | 4 Comments

The Shame of the Shame of Sex

I had an amazing, day-long conversation on FB with an old, dear friend and a new friend of hers that she introduced me to.  The conversation was about sex.  It ranged from the innate beauty of the penis,  the importance (or lack thereof) of penis size, the the sensitivity and depth of the vaginal canal, female ejaculation,  what constitutes real intimacy,  the consciousness  shattering of shared mutual orgasms, to my new friend (a woman) giving me male masturbation advice that included interesting and clever devices.

There was mutual agreement that the shame associated with sex in our society is almost always motivated by males trying to maintain their supposed privilege where they feel that they have control over women, especially their sexuality.  This we all also agreed is complete and utter bullshit.

I’ve said it before here, anything that happens between consenting adults, regardless of gender, orientation, or numbers of people involved, is perfectly OK and, more importantly, perfectly natural.

In the end, intimacy, both physical and emotional, come down to the following:  openness, honesty, and respect.  One of these lovely women mentioned to me that she had problems with men because they viewed her openness as a invitation to hit on her.  She said that she never could figure out the rules.  I told her that I have three rules, which are stated above: openness, honesty, and respect.  And those rules apply to all relationships of all types, not just sexual ones.

It was one of the most fascinating and stimulating (pun intended) conversations I’ve ever had.  I found it so refreshing to be able to talk to women who were so comfortable with their sexuality and so confident in themselves.  They are both also very articulate and intelligentand they showed great respect to myself and each other.  I find these traits in a women to be irresistibly attractive.

The problem with many men is that they find these traits in women to be highly threatening.  They can’t deal with a woman who is so secure and comfortable in her sexuality.  I believe it truly frightens them.  It is because they have this false sense of privilege that leads them to believe that they must control the women in their lives.

Personally, I find it liberating, fascinating, and beautiful.

Oh and I learned something else very interesting in the discussion yesterday.  One of the women has studied the sexual practices and mores of ancient societies.  Did you know that women in ancient  Greece loved small penises?  They considered large penises grotesque.  As Spock would say, fascinating!

How comfortable are you with your sexuality?  How about with the sexuality of others?   Comments are most welcomed and encouraged.

 

March 19, 2011 Posted by | Feminism, Humanism | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What We Can Learn From Bonobos

There is an article at Physorg.com that discusses the peaceful bonobos, a species with which we share more than 98% of our genetic material.  Violence has never been observed within bonobo communities and it seems that they have perfected a wonderful way of dealing with tension among members.

“One way bonobos deal with conflict and tension is to have sex. Yes, they’re the ultimate hippies–they make love, not war. “Whenever things get tense in the bonobo world, they’ll usually have some kind of sociosexual activity and this seems to really help everybody get along. But another one of the ways that they sort of have this peaceful society is they’re naturally more tolerant. They share more, and if one of them gets upset, it’s not just sex but they can also hug and comfort one another.””

Let us all take a page from the bonobo play book.  Hugs and sex for everyone!  Get out there and spread the love!

March 9, 2011 Posted by | Humanism, Science | , , , | 1 Comment

Religious Thinking Hits Home

A good friend of mine from my Army days has unfriended me on Facebook. He took issue with my post of the morality of sex acts. Here I present his message and my response. Other that my response to him, I don’t really have anything more to say about this, except that it make me very sad.

Ed Connor February 1 at 2:42pm Report
Jay

I saw your extremist writing on sex not being connected to morality. As a father and a husband, you should really be ashamed of yourself and deeply embarassed and you really need to get a grip on reality. I doubt that hurt spouses whose partners have commited adultery, or prosititutes whose lives have been destroyed or children who have been sexually exploited, or those suffering from aids or other veneral diseases would agree with your bizarre and warped views promoting sexual immorality on a wholesale scale. Your children are in deep trouble given your bizzare views. So given your criterea, I guess your ex “Holly” was justified in engaing in beastiality and other infidelities. I guess the the children victimized by pedophile priests are in the wrong and need to put up with having their persons violated by these perverts. I guess you want one big Soddom and Gommorah to prevail. I see through you and other perverts like you and that is this: You want a life of unrestrained immorality with no accountability or consequences. That is what you promote and I’m sure that is what you teach your children and you deride and insult any people AKA Christians, who disagree with you.

You are not the same person I was friends with and we have nothing in common and I want no part of what you espouse. As such, I do not want to have any further contact with you. Thanks.

Ed

Jay Walker February 1 at 7:32pm
You know, Holly cheated on me. She tore out my heart and ground it into the dust. But it wasn’t the sex, it was the betrayal of trust. It was taking me for granted.

I teach my children to respect each other and other people and to treat people as they would like to be treated (you know, that do unto others stuff from that bible of your). Most importantly I teach them to be honest, with themselves and with others.

I am all about accountability and consequences. I’m about adults being open and honest with each other about their feelings and emotions, their needs and their desires.

Immorality is lying, to yourself and to others. It is hiding the secret desires that you have and pretending that they don’t exist. When you are open and honest about everything then you can decide to act or not act on those desires, but if you do decide to act you must do so with the understanding and support and agreement of the one you love. If they don’t agree or support you, then you have a moral obligation not to act. The morality comes from your respect of one another. The immorality comes from disrespect, selfishness and disregard of other’s feelings and well being, not from the acts themselves. The actual act has no morality attached to it, only the intent and execution makes it moral or immoral.

I am sad that you choose not to have anything to do with me. I certainly don’t agree with your religious views, but I believe you have every right to believe as you choose and I would never let that fact that you believe in some things that I find disagreeable influence our friendship. Unless you have done me harm by believing as you do, then I have no reason to not be friends with you. You haven’t done me harm with your beliefs and I don’t see how I have harmed you in any way with mine.

You must do as your conscience tells you, but your reaction proves one of my main points about the religious: you may espouse forgiveness as a central tenant of your religion, but you don’t mean it and you certainly don’t practice it. The bible also teaches you to judge not lest ye be judged, but I don’t see much of that going on here either.

I don’t follow any book or writings and I don’t let anyone tell me what to believe so I don’t have anything to refer back to to justify how I live my life, only my espoused belief in honesty, truthfulness and respecting my fellow human beings. You may not agree with what I believe, but at least I have the honesty to live my life by own words. You, and those like you, on the other hand, don’t have the honesty to live by the words you claim to revere.

I’ll always consider you a friend, Ed, regardless if you don’t consider me yours. But I will respect your wishes and will leave you alone.

February 1, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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