Posts tagged ‘religion’

Is Humanism a Religion?

Recently a judge ruled in a federal court case (http://www.scribd.com/doc/245271872/American-Humansits-v-US {sic}) in favor of a prisoner that Humanism is a religion for Establishment Clause purposes. The inmate had been denied approval to form a humanist study group. The prisoner, Holden, was at FCI Sheridan since 2010. (Note that atheism was already recognized for the purpose of designating prisoners’ religious preferences as were many religions and sects.)

The Center for Inquiry, in its newsletter, said “While we were glad that humanism was declared to be on equal footing with religious beliefs in this case, we are also concerned that this decision will now have unforeseen negative consequences for secular humanism more generally.”
Humanists especially the self-espoused secular variety have wanted the First Amendment protection that is afforded to religion(s), but as a body, secular humanists might aspire to being separate from and even rising above religion, often critical of religion’s many faults. Some might say humanists can’t have it both ways.

I think Humanism is a religion-alternative and necessarily must have the same protections or it will be at the unfair mercy of some religions and some religious people. That’s not to say it is a religion. And that’s not to say it functions like one (though it might for some).

There is a rebuttal by the humanists most opposed to the general implications of accepting Humanism as a religion. read it right now at Tom Flynn’s blog at Free Thinking.

The overlooked obvious in every instance of these debates is the question of terms—the definition and meaning of the words we use. Meanings vary. Consider all the definitions the dictionary gives for the terms we use: religion, spirituality, etc. We all act as if there is only one meaning for a word when there are a number.

The definition of religion itself is elusive. Some have many gods, others have none. Spirituality is essential to the practitioners of some religions but reduced to ritual-by-rote for others. The line between some religions and the so-called graceful life philosophies is blurred.
If we don’t mean the same thing with our words, we are not communicating, we are miscommunicating. Talk under those circumstances is talk at cross purposes.

In the various meanings of religion, Humanism might meet the spiritual needs of some of its followers. Does that make it a religion? And if a believer religion fails to be spiritually fulfilling, does it stop being a religion? No that’s just modern religion.

November 16, 2014 at 10:10 pm Leave a comment

Boycott Pepsi?

I just read a call to boycott Pepsi, as the blogger relates the offense, for omitting “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance so as not to be divisive.  Pepsi supposedly did that when printing the phrase “one nation…indivisible…” on cans.  The call came from a Christian I know.  To put words in her mouth, she is probably saying that the Pledge should be recited as Congress has dictated it.

It took about ten seconds of my time to search on the words “Pepsi Pledge of Allegiance” to find that this is a rumor started about a decade ago over something Dr. Pepper may have done.    The “one nation…indivisible” phrase, it would seem obvious, is what one might say in saluting the nation.  “One nation, under God” is a religious observation.

Once again, though, we nonbelievers would have received the default discrimination, one that some beverage company would have tried to save the world from–sticking religion into everything–when religion was the intrusion in the first place.  (I’m sure you know, but around 1954 in the communist-obsessed environment overheated by Senator Joe McCarthy and others,  Congress thought they’d trip up the Commies but injecting God into the Pledge–the same environment that brought us Vietnam–because Commies wouldn’t say “under God” if it was in the Pledge.  Will someone one please answer my question:  Why would the Commies say the Pledge as it was?  And if they were going to falsely recite the Pledge, why wouldn’t they falsely Pledge to God as well?).

That’s what it is, you know.  A Pledge or acknowledgement that we recognize that the U.S. nation is under God’s charge and loyal to Him.  I would venture to say that the communist threat from within has passed… so is Congress likely to remove the phrase?   Congress has not only shifted Right, it has shifted even more to the Christian Right.  Individually, those congressmen and senators will tell you that their first loyalty is to God… just like their radicalized Muslim brothers would.

You may be familiar with my theory of why or how the religiously affected get that way (Religion is God’s Way of Showing Us it’s a lot Earlier in Human Evolution than We Thought).  If they are deceived, even if willingly, that makes ours a rough row to hoe.  Everywhere that religion encroaches, once it’s there, it’s locked on.  Marked territory not only to never be freed again–the religious are blind to it.  It no longer is open to question.  Religion gets a free ride, a pass.   It is outside the questions, outside the equation of things that can be examined for fairness or equality.

That’s why it is so hard for us to gain any ground even though religion has encroached so much into are world.  Blind justice may treat us fairly, but not if justice is blinded by religion.  Why do they think they should be able to treat us unfairly?  Well, they pay lip service to tradition, but it’s the underestimated effect religion has on the religious that  they are most blind to.

If you consider civil rights laws, and rest assured that is the field where the discrimination against us lies, we are being discriminated against due to religion.  The bigots among the religious say we can’t be because we have no religion.

IT’S NOT DUE TO OUR RELIGION THAT WE ARE BEING DISCRIMINATED AGAINST.  IT IS, RATHER, BECAUSE OF THEIR RELIGION THAT THE BIGOT DISCRIMINATES AGAINST US.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 19, 2014 at 4:20 pm Leave a comment

What’s in a name? Namely, a book title?

The question occurs, why the title to my current book, Religion is God’s Way of Showing Us it’s earlier in Human Evolution than We Thought?  Does it take a cheap shot a religion?  Is it unnecessarily cryptic?

Even though it’s not literally true that any god gave us religion, most believers must certainly think that religion has a divine sanction as well as proceeding from their deity, or in the absence of one, their sacred supernatural source.

Who, then, is shown the marker of religion revealing that we haven’t evolved beyond religion?  I would say those who get an accurate picture of our evolution and religion’s place in it.   To the consternation of the fundamentalist, I would say religion was an evolutionary adaptation that was necessary for the survival of every existing human population of today.  But, too, it can be to the chagrin of the nonbeliever.

 

Religion is a product of evolution

Why to the fundamentalist’s consternation?  Rather than the study of human evolution being the sin of fallen angels, it appears that religion is a product of human evolution such that we ascendant “apes” were equipped with it by natural selection.

The truth will set us free!

The truth is, it will take a little longer.  The mass exodus to humanism didn’t happen as predicted.  And this because religion was underestimated by nonbelievers who had examined philosophically and logically its truth value and, yet, overlooked its strength and contribution as an adaptation.  No modern society of any significance survived until today without it.

Yes, religion has waned in some areas such as Europe, but that’s the lifecycle of a religion, not all religion.  Certainly, we nonbelievers would all like to see the final enlightenment.  Each individual religion can wane and cultures and civilizations can evolve and advance, but religion’s grip on humanity is strong enough that it hasn’t let go so far.  If humanity had been ready, we would have seen religion’s end in the Classical Period.  Yet even after the gods of Greece and Rome became a farce, piety was extolled and blasphemy punished.  Rather, we saw the rise of Christianity because even the more enlightened Greco-Roman culture was not done with religion.  The balance of humanity lagged further behind than that.

Certainly, the New Atheists (Dawkins, Dennett, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens) are not interested in saying religion is or was good for humanity.  I can sympathize with that.   At the same time, there are a number of scientists, writers, and thinkers who do say matter of factly that they believe some predisposition to religion is in our genes.

I can’t give you a specific episode, but I’ve heard Chris Mooney on Center for Inquiry’s internet/radio podcast, Point of Inquiry, get an affirmative answer to the various iterations of the question (i.e., a heritable component to human religiosity). 

I credit Pinky with a similar sentiment in her comment recently on this blog, and in a way, it’s an interpretation or restatement of the book title in question:  “I am vastly disappointed in my species. Homo Sapiens Sapiens have had plenty of time to grow up, or at least to have made more of an effort to mature, but the religious keep busy squashing forward movement.”

August 23, 2013 at 12:08 pm Leave a comment

Affirming motto In God We Trust is the religious equivalent of marking territory

Affirming the motto In God We Trust is the Religious Equivalent of Marking Territory 

The next time someone asks why are atheists so strident–so militant?  Just hold up the headline–Congress passes the nonbinding (unnecessary) resolution reaffirming “In God we Trust” as the national motto.   

But why are atheists so angry? Because it’s RUDE. It’s Believers Behaving Badly.  

In every other sphere we suppress our antisocial and baser instincts for the good of society, harmony. But religion gets a pass.  NO, not really religion, just Christianity.   The one that claims the Golden Rule even though similar sentiments were expressed before it came along.

How shall we observe the Golden Rule in your seeming violation of it? Do you want the same treatment in return? Is this the treatment you want from nonbelievers or the other religions?

On the face of it, they say the resolution before congress wasn’t divisible, but those who should know say it was.  Boehner probably didn’t get my email.   He governs me, but evidently doesn’t represent me.  Why should I pay taxes to a religious organization–the U.S. government?

This action is an outstanding example of what’s wrong with modern day Christianity especially in politics.   This is an act of religion.  Worse, religion is so confusing to the victim’s mind, and yet it dopes them with neurochemicals to the effect that they feel confident in their action.   Perhaps, they feel a tiny nano-rapture. 

This is the kind of thing that goads us to make our rhetoric sound almost as programmed as theirs. This is what makes us crazy.

Are they crazy?  A lot of us think so. Or maybe they’re just deluded? That’s closer. They are undeniably under the effect of religion and guilty of VUI–voting under the influence. Obviously, they need an intervention. A 396 member intervention.  Let’s plan one for March.  Peaceful though, only First Amendment solutions.  None of that stuff that their sacred text recommends they do to us.

It’s sad that they can’t differentiate God from Country. Nor do they seem capable of admitting they have a problem.  (See elsewhere my thesis of how radical God & Country really is in this brand of believer.  And believe them when they invoke it, because the people come in a distant third.    

If you go deep enough, though, in the soul of the believer, you’ll find at the final depth, that they’ll throw over Country in favor of God.  It’s only at the last, though, when they must stand as Christian soldiers and reveal themselves as being for God over country or people.   You may have heard Newt Gingrich describing how his leader of the freeworld couldn’t be trusted if he didn’t pray.  That might take you nostalgic folk back to George H.W. Bush’s comment that he made while he was president that he didn’t think atheist were citizens of the U.S.  

Because religion is so intertwined in our genes and there fore in our minds, a majority of people are unable to see these actions as the unAmerican activities that they are.  

It is the invasion of the body snatchers and they are screaming God. If this was an alien presence invading our citizens we wouldn’t let them suffer.  But the snatchees have control.  How do they rationalize it–with the cry, Christian Nation! Yes, sadly Christianity has had its fist around the heart of the nation since the beginning. True patriots–those who didn’t think someone’s religion should come before our country–struggled to birth the nation in religious freedom.

If you’re not sure that they are talking only about the Christian God, ask them if you can display the name of every god below “our” motto as they will display it in public schools and public buildings.  No, they’ll say, that would be tantamount to prayer in the schools.  Oh right. But wait! What’s the difference between a religious affirmation on the school building and a prayer inside?  Nothing if we do it right, they’ll whisper. 

It promotes our one religion at the expense of everybody’s beliefs and for that matter, at everybody’s expense–and they buy it because they’ve never been able to break our grip on our government, it’s a tradition, you know, like slavery and has to continue.

November 5, 2011 at 7:24 pm 3 comments

The Anthropological Origins of Religion

(There is some conjecture in this thesis or groups of theses. I can’t take credit for all these ideas. They’ve been garnered from many sources. I’m stringing them together which has probably been done by others before. I would especially like to cite The Faith Instinct by Nicholas Wade. He is opposed on one point by Richard Dawkins: group level selection. Wade believes that the ubiquity of religion points to group level selection. That is, group, clan, troupe, tribe being “naturally” selected as an evolution adaptation.)

For the sake of argument I’d like to transport you to the Aurignation culture, one of the early European cultures of Cro-Magnon man. The culture of that troupe or tribe was their way of knowing the world and who they were. The need for identity, for the self and the group is very strong. It is inextricably intertwined, this group identity, with the group’s origin and leadership. Natural questions about self and group put to the test the alpha male (leadership), the group, and the self. Such questions as: Is the leader’s authority legitimate? Is the group fair and just? Am I in the right group?”

Cro-Magnon is a term that has been largely dropped. Anatomically modern humans is the more correct term. Consider them synonymous.

Religion was that interlocking puzzle piece that meshed with so many of the unknowns, the unanswerable questions of life, into one little black box. Religion said ‘this is who we are because this is how we answer these questions.’ Another way to put it, religion was a tool of man’s among very few tools because his mind was way ahead of his culture. At the Cro-Magnon point, those individuals had the rough equivalent of our minds… but their culture was just budding, wholly inadequate to their fears and concerns.

Cro-Magnon’s mind demanded answers, but he was the only one around who cared about his questions. So he could only reason from what he could see–with his limited understanding. He saw things that had visible effects in his world, sun, water, weather, animals, and so he reasoned backward via an anthropocentric apotheosis of those effects to some personified cause that must have intended them. ‘The great spirit was angry with us and flooded our camp.”

Religion can go to the root man’s sociopolitical nature because it offers God or his nominee as an overarching ‘alpha male.’ For the human troupe this is the ultimate or extreme legitimate leader. Maybe this is one reason that religion offers so much, as it evidently does, around the world to its followers—it locks into eons old primate evolutionary realities. If you’re unable to visualize the hierarchy in, say, a chimpanzee troupe, consider the feudal system—it shares a variation of the organizational structure of a primate (subsuming human as well) troupe: serfs, their lords, then kings with their divine right—authority validated by God. Just ask them, eh?

Certainly, today every person is a social critic and may be ‘hardwired’ to be one. Every primate troupe has a leader who is potentially subject to continual challenge, in a real way this is an ongoing quest for an authority that is beyond question. In reality, society is typically flawed, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Religion offers something of a utopia, a society perfected. To the extent that societies are less than perfect, religion, typically with a deity, offers the answers to the mysteries of the world by a personal embodiment of those mysteries in a caring entity who’s involved in the world and its being.

Believers may have gone for this package deal. That is, rather than accepting the idea that ‘there is a god’ as a first premise, they simply wanted the entire operational frame work of belief, reverence for the sacred, the favor of the satiated god, avoiding the wrath of unplacated gods, etc. In reality the individual’s culture presupposed a god’s existence before the individual was on the scene. Thus there was a tradition, and as far as the culture was concerned: ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’, i.e., if you are going to partake in the culture, you accept it in its entirety, religious beliefs and all. Early on, the culture projected a god or gods; this Great Spirit was the apotheosis of nature. It was the existential equivalent of the question, ‘All right! Who’s in charge here?’ that mankind seems to have the burning need to know. Religion, then, was yet another aspect of how the banding together of the social tribe met the needs of the individual as well as the group: the culture had religious answers for the unfathomable mysteries of the world.

Later in prehistory, as cultures met, the possibility of abandoning one god and accepting another became feasible—though still not easy. If people liked the god-ideas of another culture, they may have imagined a god-message something like this: ‘Since you know there must be a god you should believe in me for I am He.’

The original dialogue between man and god carried over from pre-history into historical times. There had to be some feedback from the divine or else questions would arise: Weren’t the priests any good or was the religion false? And, lo, the word of god was invented. The priests learned to write in order to take divine dictation. After all it was their caste who would receive THE WORD.

Various tools were employed to facilitate communing with the divine. Fasting was cheap. Drugs were somewhat effective. Dreams were a source, and dreams under the influence of fasting or drugs also yielded some results. Really, anything that would produce altered states or hallucinations was viable. Great suffering was a theme in Christianity that nominated the sufferer for worthiness to receive the divine communication.

So the Written Words accumulated in sacred scrolls and texts and this body of work became revered. It was necessary for the viability of a god and his religion that this was a knowledge that subsumed all knowledge, all culture, that was eternal and transcendent. With a religion’s tradition, rituals, and integral place in the culture, it’s a wonder a believer would ever stray. Though I suppose if one’s own god seemed ineffective, as I expect occasionally they must, the believer might well see greener grass in another tribe’s beliefs, ‘Yeah, there must be a god. This guy’s myth from his culture says that God is Their Grand-High Mucky-Muck. He’s got a tradition and a lot of followers. He must know who he is. Therefore, he is GOD.’ ”

I prefaced these thoughts with Richard Dawkin’s opposition to group level natural selection. He has also said that religion is a group activity so natural selection at the individual level would have no effect. In other words, religion isn’t an evolutionary adaptation at the individual level either.

Dawkins is an authority, of course, but in logical arguments, an appeal to authority is a fallacy. Dawkins lock on his position is his statement that groups don’t have genes only individuals do. Meaning tht the natural selection of nonexistent genes mean no natural selection at all.

We all to often consider evolution as a driving force. With all that has been accomplished in the world around us, it certainly seems so. But the mechanism of evolution is as much a deletion of genes that have the less successful “survival strategy.”

Religion confers benefit on individual and the group of which they are a part. Some of those benefits have implication for survival. Sincere caring for each other, ministering to mind and body, a social network, food and other emergency aid, support for the family. The holier thou art, the more likely thou art to find a bride and ‘be fruitful and multiply.’

Group membership vs. group ostracism meant life and death up into the 1900’s. Is there any doubt about how effective being cast our of the group would have been a hundred thousand years ago?

These are first individual benefits, though. Religion’s presence in every human culture speaks for itself. Is there any doubt how much more strength and resolve a human tribe would have when bolstered by religion–bring that identity, that solidarity, that resolve into battle against a tribe that didn’t and, all other things being equal, the outcome can be anticipated.

Victorious in battle leads to increasing population. Tribes split when they get too large. But who will be able to call for help when attacked. Those godless heathens on the attack or all the children of the Grand-High Mucky-Muck?

It is too easy to underestimate religion’s place in a lot of lives. True, that place has eroded some in modern society. The responsive cultures and social safety nets offer alternatives to being a member of a religion. The humanistic caring within a culture and even by one culture for another has been a source that has reached out to those in need.

Where will it go from here? The wish, the aspiration, the caring and the outreach of modern society is in flux. Humanity has made a tremenous upward climb. There have been some horrendous backslides, too. But the social and ethical progress of even that last few hundred years is impressive. Humankind is toying with the ability to direct its own future. The liberal believers and the nearly-believers and the humanists will be seen as a cooperative force for good. We should offer that level of cooperation openly. If we embrace it, it will embrace us. We can help believers keep the best their religions have to offer. We might all find happiness in that quasi-utopia.

August 13, 2011 at 8:00 am Leave a comment


Hello

I write for agnostics, freethinkers, atheists and humanists. In my nonfiction, the purpose is the celebration of our noble human spirit. The general pursuit may be Evolutionary Theology, though believers seem to populate that field (so maybe it's evolutionary Humanism). By looking at who we are and where we came from, we can derive much meaning, and perhaps more importantly, understanding, as well as some sense of where we could go.

Religion is God’s Way of Showing Us it’s Earlier in Human Evolution than We Thought

This title is an upcoming book at the publisher's now. I'd like feedback on this title. It's meant to make people think and feel something. And to hint at things for both believers and non- on multiple levels. The book is of a wider scope, though, one which is ultimately a way to grasp more meaning for ourselves. Believers are always telling us our lives don't have meaning without a god. We often counter that it's more meaningful to be looking for our own meaning than to be arbitrarily ascribed it by an imaginary supernatural being. Ultimately, and this is what I think is unique about this book, you'll see how we can be just as spiritual in our own way. Since we've inhertited a capacity for religion (some more than others) as an evolutionary adaptation, believers and non- are both potentially spritual in the same way--but it is an earthly, secular spirituality in which we all can share.