Subject: Misinforming the public
This is the second time I’ve misinformed the public and those who follow my blog by relying on the information in the Secular Coalition’s Weekly Wrap Up.
Let me quote from an article in both the email & on the SCA website:
“Secular Americans Disappointed with MA Supreme Court Decision on Pledge of Allegiance
Fri, 05/09/2014 – 11:26
“Washington, DC—The Secular Coalition for America today expressed disappointment with Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s decision in the case of Doe v. Acton-Boxborough Regional School District.
“The case challenged a state law that requires daily school-sponsored and teacher-led classroom recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. The Court sided with the defendant, and ruled that the school district can compel students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance including the wording “under God”.” [Bolding is mine]
If you’ll click on that “decision” link, above, and read the source material, you’ll find that school children’s reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance is stated to be voluntary and this is repeated about half a dozen times in the court summary.
I can’t trust the SCA’s reporting of the facts after being twice burnt and that’s a shame because you are a position to have a command of the facts and events that are vitally important to nonbelievers, freethinkers, etc.
I’ve offered links to SCA and its articles on several occasions in my blog and I apologize to my readers for that and my part in misleading them–more than once.
“Today [This is a quote from the Secular Coalition earlier this week.], the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued another disappointing decision in the case of Doe v. Acton-Boxborough Regional School District.”
“The case challenged a state law that requires daily school-sponsored and teacher-led classroom recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. The Court sided with the defendant, and ruled that the school district can compel students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance including the wording “under God”.”
The earlier decision referred to was the case The Town of Greece v. Galloway before the U.S. Supreme Court about the village starting each meeting with prayer. To me, though, the Massachusetts decision is much more troubling. The Secular Coalition states it quite well:
“The case challenged a state law that requires daily school-sponsored and teacher-led classroom recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. The Court sided with the defendant, and ruled that the school district can compel students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance including the wording “under God”. – See more at: http://secular.org/news/secular-americans-disappointed-ma-supreme-court-decision-pledge-allegiance#sthash.vY0EsrCE.dpuf
“Niose [then president of Secular Coalition] argued that the wording “under God” in the Pledge discriminates against atheists and other nonbelievers, by instilling and defining patriotism according to a god belief.
‘ “Atheist-humanist children love their country no less than do children who believe in God, and it’s just wrong to have a daily patriotic exercise that invalidates them by associating patriotism with God-belief,” Niose said after arguing the case. “If schools conduct a daily exercise to instill national loyalty, it should be inclusive and nondiscriminatory.” ‘
The two points that make this the more heinous decision of the week are these:
state law [ ] requires daily school-sponsored and teacher-led classroom recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance
the school district can compel students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance including the wording “under God”.
I’d like to be a student there and be outted for not saying “under God.” I currently substitute “religious freedom” in the Pledge now.
If I wouldn’t be turned in for that, I’d turn myself in for lying when I say, One nation under God with liberty and justice for all though that now lies at the feet of the Massachusetts Supreme Court.
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I recently picked up a book, the Accidental Masterpiece in which the author speaks of the impact of art on our lives. And says, also, that we can choose to pull that impact into our lives, to create our own art or just a life informed by art, or perhaps, we can even choose a life transformed by art. And art may be ours for the defining.
arguably, are love, death, and sex in no particular ranking. There are aspects or items in life, such as beauty, architecture, or nature which seem to boost us toward those vehicles of transcendence.
Eric Maisel tells us we can create a special place, real or imaginary, which will be a safe, but inspiring place to write. I think what we are doing in setting up that place is creating a spiritual dwelling place for ourselves. (I’m hesitant to use the example, but a church is such a place set up by its members for the spiritual sense it gives them—or failing that—a place for the default rituals—the next best thing.)
For us, receivers of the revealed wisdom that we are “spiritual beings in a secular universe,” we can choose what is spiritual and what is art and what nourishes the human spirit. Those things, those places, those ideas that we can bring together, that we can curate, accumulate, create. We may engage in our own practice of art so it will inspire us further.
This is no small item. Inspiring ourselves. Even when inspired by something or someone else we participate in our own inspiration. Certainly, we must. Art and other creative acts are never truly isolated. We bring them forth as products of ourselves, our world, and our culture.
So it is with our writing, or it can be. This is true, also, of those who don’t think of themselves as writers. Writing is an art or craft like many other endeavors. What you get out of it is in relation to what you put into it.
The short lesson on writing is this: write, revise, and keep going. Perfection is an illusion. Don’t get hung up on it. It doesn’t matter what you write, but write what you want. As an endeavor of the human spirit, write randomly. Leave the topic open. Just keep writing.
After a few pages, some things will draw your attention. Different categories of things. Some things will seem to be negatives—make a note to eliminate or overcome them and move on to write in other directions. Some goal, wish, or desire may pop out of the writing. Acknowledge it and keep writing.
When you’re at this for a while two spiritual things (our secular human spirit) will materialize: What it takes to nurture your spirit and What it is that you do that nurtures your spirit. For me, just this kind of writing does it.
Other things may suggest themselves through your writing that you can do—nature walks, camping trips, art or other museums, or whatever you may find. If you try it all and run out of things come back and write at it some more.
You may just find that words, thoughts, and concepts may do it for you. That is, they may elevate your spirit, your mood, your outlook. You may be moved to write about that experience for others. Even in that process you may find nurturance for your very human spirit, that soul-like thing. If each of us gets the spiritual nurturance we need, we are less likely to point angrily at each other and say, You spoiled my happiness.
Dayton Freethought members clashed over definitions at a recent gathering on the topic of spiritual atheism. More definitions flew around the room than one might have expected.
Surprisingly, the most significant clash was over the meaning of the term atheism. With respect to the definition of atheism, it’s true that it literally means there is no god. We found in discussion, however, that a number of members of Dayton Freethought who claim the title atheist for themselves also have a range of beliefs with respect to a spiritual realm or at least some energies that go beyond strict materialism. I think some who call themselves atheist could also be said to be agnostic about a spiritual realm.
A number of folks in attendance stated that atheism means a person doesn’t believe in anything spiritual. At least, technically, though, some atheists evidently can and do believe in something overtly spiritual. Who’s right? These spiritual atheists can stand on the technical interpretation of the definition of atheism to prove their case.
Still, there has been a common usage of atheism that not only negates any god, but anything nonmaterial as well. I think in much of western culture, atheism has meant materialism. I checked the usage of the word with a number of major writers on the topic of atheism and believe they do mean atheism in the sense that negates anything spiritual. Reading their work to get the context showed it to be consistent with materialism. That was my use of the term and many others at the Dayton Freethought meeting.
Now to complicate this further, writers like Steve Antinoff, Spiritual Atheism, (and myself) talk of a spiritual atheism that does not imply a spiritual realm, supernatural beings or events, or anything nonmaterial.
I’ll speak only for myself. I talk of the traditional sense of atheism consistent with materialism. Given a material world with no supernatural realm, no spooky events, no energies that arise from nonmaterial sources, I parse the word “spiritual” in two ways:
1. This null set of things that believers meant, but that do not exist, and therefore, I set aside as indicating nothing in the real world.
2: (Given the absence of a spiritual/supernatural realm, we potentially are all equally spiritual. It’s all natural and a product of human minds, culture, and genes.) Spiritual in this sense, is the sense of what is real and what takes place within and between humans in the real world. This is what makes us feel a certain spiritual nurturance has taken place. Some call it life-affirming. Others might call it ennobling the human spirit.
What makes me think I have the right to use the word spiritual in this latter sense? Well, because of the reality that spirituality must conform to. I think it is a response we make to an inborn drive for spiritual fulfillment. Not exactly a God Gene, but still a certain drive, one that sponsors religion.
Our rockstar atheists, Dawkins & Dennett, don’t think religion could have ever had benefits to humankind to the extent that it would have become an evolutionary adaptation. Many scientists in the most relevant fields do believe religion is in our genes for several reasons.
1. Universality. Religion is in every culture on earth now and across time as far as we can tell. Universality is the hallmark of a significant evolutionary adaptation.
2. Conversely, No cultures unmarked by religion have survived to the present whether winnowed by competition among groups or by simply not making it through cataclysmic population bottle necks, Mount Tobu eruption, etc.
3. People treat their religions as if vitally important. They’re tenacious about their beliefs and often organize socially on that basis alone.
4. Twins reared apart. Identical twins reared in households with differing levels of religious exuberance match their twin’s religious interest, practice, and activity rather than that of the families who raised them.
(Too involved to fully develop here, I do develop that thesis in my book, see it at this link: http://www.amazon.com/Religion-Showing-Earlier-Evolution-Thought/dp/1458208931)
At any rate, if all the spirituality the world has ever known has occurred as natural phenomena in response to our desire for it supported by our genes, then all actual spirituality has come from within us alone. Every religiously inspired accomplishment by believers, Michelangelo’s David and ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, every cathedral ever built, and anything inspired by a god or any object of worship all come from the same organic source potentially within every human. No dreamed of or contemplated god or saint or spiritual being was at the root cause of the spiritual experience. Though believers may have made these accomplishments inspired by thoughts of such beings, no such beings exist, therefore, any spirituality or spiritual events are of a secular, worldly nature and, arguably, possible for anyone to have.
Would such a spiritual drive be sufficient for that inspiration? Believers and nonbelievers alike enjoy neurochemical rewards for a number of thoughts and actions. That’s the payoff for religiously and secularly inspired accomplishments. Like our artistic and academic achievements, religio-spiritual accomplishments bring neurochemical rewards, pleasure, and/or loftly, uplifting feelings. (See any article on the mutation about 25,000 years ago that doubled the dopamine receptors in the brain.)
So the drive to achieve the spiritual and the reward for achieving it, are all we have. Dopamine, serotonin, and other neurochemicals released internally to give us the reward for that.
Through the use of this filter that we have applied, we have eliminated the misunderstood origin and aspects of spirituality and left us with only the garden variety of spirituality—only what could have occurred in a material world. Why consider this paler version of spirituality? Because we have it. Our genes drive us toward it; we need it. Our psychology, our brains, and our neurochemistry are structured to reward it. Ultimately, when religion is understood and tamed our secular spirituality will serve us well.
|Perhaps, this is just the season of our discontent. Is the atheism movement big enough for all of us? If Christianity is big enough for all of them, I would think so. But more to the point, do we, can we, leave the “old atheists” behind? And the New Atheists, too? And seek a better destination, in the land of neo-atheists or Atheists+plus where we will reveal only the better angels of our nature?
In the branch of atheism that I’ve suggested as neo-atheists, I suggest that we will make the most progress by interacting with believers, showing them we are people of goodwill, having common-ground discussions with them, perhaps doing joint humanitarian projects. Nothing new here, but it takes each of us a while to “process” our thoughts and feelings to be ready for such a step.
Many of us were largely cast as the lot we found ourselves to be in by Christians. Our “godless” natures and other self-applied apellations/epithets can be traced back to our outcast origins. For us, we bought into Christian culture’s role ascribed for us as “bad boys” and the like.
There was, or is, in the zeitgeist the sense that atheists are the demonseed, blasphemers, heretics. Bastards of our type, the holy books said, should be stoned to death. It was easier to stay in the closet than face all that. As we come out, the liberation is heady. It can make us giddy, even a little immature.
Those that came from a different background–say a nonbelieving family–free from such baggage, are more functional than those of us who were liberated later in life. Are these the Eloy who would move on?
Humanity is a story of assent, perhaps, even a spiritual story. To the extent that each of us can incorporate that assent, emulate it, in our lives, we strive for an upward climb. Can we grow as people? Yes. Do we grow?
Here are a few excerpts from a discussion thread on the email blog Humanist Digest.
Mike was also in the conversation as was Paat who said, “…the term, religion; it does indeed, for Americans in particular, denote supernatural.”
I responded to the others in this line of quesitoning:
“Gary & Jack,
RE: What is religion?
As a forty year philosophy major I know the temptation to define religion
from that viewpoint, but it incorporates too little science in the opinion.
Sociologists have been taking a serious crack at for a hundred years now.
Many have hunkered down and affirmed their favorite definition from that
Dennett broke the spell on placing religion above scientific study and
though he is a philosopher, it is of science. Though he does not agree, no
explanation of why we have religion seemed remotely equal to the reality of
it until I came to see it as an evolutionary adaptation*. Nothing short of
that explains its universality across human cultures or the radical depth of
its reach to humanity’s core.
(Overly summarized) Religion is that species specific behavior [most] people
exhibit in response to the innate urge to express their religiosity
[religiousness, spirituality]. This behavior is rewarded in a number of
ways, but the genetic support largely comes from the release of the
neurochemicals of pleasure: dopamine, serotonin, and others.
The point being, for those who place their humanism and respond to it in the
same way members of a religion do, it may be their religion. For others, it
may be a secular placeholder, for others, an intellectual pursuit.
*See THE FAITH INSTINCT by Nicholas Wade for a neutral treatment; See: Religion is God’s Way
of Showing Us it’s a lot earlier in Human Evolution than We Thought for a
nonbeliever’s perspective [browser search: Amazon Douglas Falknor].
Mike made an oberservation that I commented on: “I think Michael brings up a good point and the tip of the iceberg when he says, “[people] will still see religion as being about faith based belief in the supernatural.”
I’ll more than admit that it isn’t the evolutionary source of religion that’s the problem. It’s the incongruity between that source and what the religious THINK is the source of their religion.
I think there are so many attempts at defining religion, and so many that fall short, because of the nature of the “impulse.” If the religious imperative, written in our genes, says nothing more specific than “satisfy the religious urge,” and those genes, given normal variability to start with, undergo replication a few billion times, consider all the errors, mutations, and added variability that normally occurs across isolated populations.
Consider further, the internal rewards for that “religious drive” and how the neurochemical, psychological, and social rewards must be differently programmed, even nuanced in our genes and epigenes, across evolutionary time and global distances.
Consider, too, the cultural differences that have modified the expression of “spiritual desire” [not trying to confuse the issue, but to show how different this religiosity can be] across all cultures. Given enough time, culture too, can seep (feedback) into our heritable characteristics.
Consider all the iterations of religious expression from animism to Catholicism, from Confucianism to voodoo. Isn’t it this same predisposition for religiousness that has driven tribal members to the point of trance through continual rhythmic drumming and nonstop dance rituals? Or the Buddhist practitioner to seek enlightenment?
Now put a definition to this based solely on the person’s activities and desires to relate to what he considers the divine. Without some consideration of all the above and more, there’s going to be little common agreement. Instead of the different experiences of the “eight blind men and the elephant” we will be like the eight blind men and the thousand-headed hydra.
WHAT DO YOU THINK RELIGION IS? AND WHY?