Lucifer's Echo

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=================================================================== ******************************************************************* =================================================================== ____ / ) ___ () / __ * / / ^ / / / / ) / _/_ ___ /__ / \ __| / / / / / /___) / ) \/ \ (_/ \____(__/___(___)___/_____/______(________/________/\___ ) _____ / ) / / _ / _ _ >-- / ) /___ / (_)___ / / / ) / / (_______)___(___)___/ (____(____/ =================================================================== ******The*E-Zine*of*Atheistic*Secular*Humanism*and*Freethought***** =================================================================== ################################################################### ########## Volume I, Number 2 ***A Collector's Item!***########## ###################### ISSN 1198-4619 ########################### ######################### JUNE 1994 ############################### ################################################################### In the mythology and symbolism of our name, "Lucifer" is not to be confused with ha-Satan, the mythological source of evil. Lucifer's ancient identity was a bearer of light, the morning star, and it is as such that this journal intends to publish. As the religion virus depends on obscurity, obfuscation, confusion, irrationality and darkness in order to flourish, it is natural that it would see light as an enemy. Rational, skeptical inquiry has ever been the enemy of all religions and is ultimately fatal to all gods. The purpose of this magazine is to provide a source of articles dealing with many aspects of humanism. Humanists have been vilified by the religious as immoral. Apparently, the most horrible thing they can think of is an atheist. As we find their values, such as faith in the non-existent, obedience to the imaginary and reverence of the ridiculous, repulsive, we adopt the name of their ancient antagonist with pride. We are atheistic as we do not believe in the actual existence of any supernatural beings or any transcendental reality. We are secular because the evidence of history and the daily horrors in the news show the pernicious and destructive consequences of allowing religions to be involved with politics and nationalism. We are humanists and we focus on what is good for humanity, in the real world. We will not be put off with offers of pie in the sky, bye and bye. ==><====><====><====><====><====><====><====><====><====><== || Begging portion of the Zine || ==><====><====><====><====><====><====><====><====><====><== This is a "sharezine." There is no charge for receiving this, and there is no charge for distributing copies to any electronic medium. Nor is there a restriction on printing a copy for use in discussion. You may not charge to do so, and you may not do so without attributing it to the proper author and source. If you would like to support our efforts, and help us acquire better equipment to bring you more and better articles, you may send money to Greg Erwin at: 29, ch Grimes / Aylmer, Qc / J9J 1H4 / CANADA. Address to change on 1994 July 1 to: 100 Terrasse Eardley / Aylmer, Qc J9H 6B5 ==><====><====><====><====><====><====><====><====><====><== || End of Begging portion of the Zine || ==><====><====><====><====><====><====><====><====><====><== Articles will be welcomed IF: ( they are emailed to: ai815@FreeNet.Carleton.CA; or, sent on diskette to me at the above Aylmer address in any format that an IBM copy of WordPerfect can read; ) and they don't require huge amounts of editing; and I like them. If you wish to receive a subscription, email a simple request to ai815@FreeNet.Carleton.CA, with a clear request for a subscription. It will be assumed that the "From:" address is where it is to be sent. We will automate this process as soon as we know how. 1994-06-01 Yes, please DO make copies! Please DO send copies of Lucifer's Echo to anyone who might be interested. The only limitations are: You must copy the whole document, without making any changes to it. You do NOT have permission to copy this document for commercial purposes. The contents of this document are copyright (c) 1994, Greg Erwin, except as otherwise noted where the original author retains copyright and are on deposit at the National Library of Canada Avant propos: The more I think about it, the more I like the name Lucifer's Echo. The Pope has just announced that the Roman Catholic Church will *never* ordain women as priests. Catholic bishops in Ontario are purveying their hatred of gays and lesbians from the pulpits, urging their congregations not to abandon the church's bigotry. The Catholics make the statement that they don't hate homosexuals, but that the practice of homosexual sex is immoral and sinful. This is like the Catholic attitude towards free speech: it is OK, as long as you don't use it. If this is what religion represents (and it is) then I am proud to be an enemy of religion, and hope to be a bearer of light to illuminate some of its darker corners. --Greg Now, the echoes -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-TABLE OF CONTENTS-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- 1. Christianity on Trial for Crimes against Humanity by Wendell W. Watters, MD 2. The Promise of Humanism, by Frederick Edwords 3. From a speech by Robert G. Ingersoll 4. A Song. 5. A Statement: In Defense of Secularism 6. Foundation Advises New Jersey County to Stop Illegal Promotion of Religion 7. No Longer Awash In Religion, By Catherine Fahringer \/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/ Christianity on Trial for Crimes against Humanity by Wendell W. Watters, MD \/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/ For subscriptions to Humanist in Canada send Can$15 for one year, Can$28 for two years. Outside of Canada, US$16 for one year, (or Can$19), US$30 for two years (Can$36). Back issues available, write for free ten year index. Send large SASE. Address all correspondence to: Humanist in Canada, P.O. Box 3769, Stn C, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1Y 4J8 This article will be continued in the next three issues of Lucifer's Echo. [Dr. Watters is Professor Emeritus of psychiatry at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario. The following is a transcript of his talk to the 1991 Hamilton conference of the Humanist Association of Canada, which was published in the _Humanist in Canada_ quarterly magazine as a series of six articles] Part I of IV Introduction Many of my fellow Humanists feel that we should adopt a tolerant, forbearing attitude towards supernatural belief systems, that, while working to give the Humanist alternative a high profile in this religious society, we should not be religion bashers. The idea is that if we are openly critical of religions, then we have sunk to the level of those televangelists who use the words "Humanist" and "Humanism" as if they had a mouthful of rotten fish. How then am I to deal with the conclusion I have come to, namely that Christianity in particular, and probably religion in general, is a very harmful existential soother, like a pain-killer with serious side effects? The conclusions I draw about what Christianity does to people come from four sources of data: my own experience as a one-time member of the Anglican Church of Canada, by accident of birth; my thirty years of experience as a psychoanalytically-trained psychiatrist with a special interest in psychotherapy, couple-sex therapy and family therapy; the available scientific evidence concerning the effect of Christianity on individuals and on society; and my reading in behaviourial science, history, religion, humanism and many other areas. If I behaved in accordance with the views of some fellow Humanists, I would keep these conclusions to myself since Humanists are not supposed to be religion bashers. After all, while these are my conclusions, they are, in another sense, nothing but unproven hypotheses, empirically arrived at. Some of my psychiatric colleagues would argue that they should not be made public until they have been confirmed by means of intensive and extensive scientific study using flawless research design. This flawless methodology does not yet exist, of course, but I could rationalize my way into keeping quiet by using justifications of this sort. And mind you, I would most certainly welcome more scientific study of my hypotheses even with the crude methodology available today. But we would have made no progress in medicine and psychiatry if we had waited for that kind of research to validate hypotheses before empirical conclusions were shared with others. Science moves ahead by taking very crude steps at first. While I would like to see my thesis subjected to rigorous study, I am also a physician interested in preventative medicine. So I feel I must speak out in the same way certain physicians spoke out about the first crude evidence that cigarette smoke was harmful to humans. Thus, my obligation to Humanism appears to be in conflict with my perception of my role as a physician. These charges are brought against Christianity, not against Christians, who are really victims of this belief system. I could not call myself a Humanist were I to criticize human beings who have been as victimized as the average Christian has. Before we go further, it is worth reviewing what the core doctrine of Christianity is. God, the male anthropomorphisation of the great unknown, a mythical being derived probably from the Egyptians by way of the Jews, decided that his human creatures had been won over by his evil alter-ego, Satan. He magically sired a son, Jesus, by a mortal woman. This woman, Mary, was a member of his favoured people, the Jews. God then caused this son, Jesus, to be crucified as a sacrifice for the sinfulness of these wayward human creatures. Presumably this innate sin was washed away by (as we have heard with nauseating frequency) "the blood of the lamb". Jesus did not stay dead however, but rose again from the dead and ascended into heaven to be with his Father and to prepare a place for all those who accepted this ghastly myth as "truth." Meanwhile these wretched human creatures had three very good reasons for accepting this myth. First, they were freed from the burden of original sin. This was something people didn't know they had until they were told by the Christians, just as most of us didn't know we were victims of B.O. until we were told by the soap manufacturers in the 1930s. Second, people were promised all kinds of celestial goodies after they died if they bought this particular brand of spiritual snake oil. The pledge of spending eternity strolling on streets paved with gold, beats out the promise of "younger looking skin" or "losing ten pounds in ten days" or even winning millions in Lotto 649. Third, people were threatened with the rack, thumbscrews and the flames of the stake, not to mention the fires of hell, if they allowed their human intelligence and their innate humanism to question this vicious myth. Endless quibbling about the various teachings of the Christian church over the centuries has lead to a massive proliferation of Christian denominations. And there have been many liberal shifts of policy and teaching in a number of areas, in response to pressure from the culture at large. But this core doctrine remains unchanged. Every denomination agrees on the divinity of the man Jesus; they all agree on the afterlife and they all agree on the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, without which there would be no Christianity. People fail to appreciate the role Christianity has played in shaping social attitudes about a wide variety of issues in the western world. These attitudes are so much a part of the social fabric that we do not realize their Christian origins. A good example is the issue of masturbation, a practice roundly criticized by traditional Christianity for reasons we'll examine later. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, big names in my own discipline of psychiatry gave support to this anti-human prohib- ition by claiming that masturbation caused insanity. Among them were Henry Maudsley, who gave his name to the world famous Maudsley Institute in London, and Benjamin Rush, considered the father of American psychiatry. When some people have a strong commitment to a particular notion, it is very difficult to challenge that notion, no matter how much evidence suggests that it is false and harmful. In 1975 the Pope declared that, in spite of all the psychological and sociological evidence that masturbation was a normal aspect of sexual development and behaviour, as far as the Roman Catholic Church was concerned, it was still "an intrinsically and seriously disordered act." There are many attitudes derived from or shaped by centuries of Christian domination of western society. Once these attitudes become engrained in a society and held by a majority of people, they exert considerable influence, partly through group pressure, to the point where people will deny the evidence of their own perception and intelligence. To demonstrate this point, I want to refer to a review article by social psychologist Solomon E. Asch that appeared in the November 1955 issue of _Scientific American_ and is a classic in its field. The paper is called "Opinions and Social Pressure" and deals with the role of social pressure, in contrast to independent, individual thought and action, in influencing not only attitudes and beliefs, but perceptions as well. The hypothesis was that group pressure would cause some individuals to deny the evidence of their own senses in order to conform to the majority. Briefly, the experiment went as follows: Some groups of undergraduate university students were asked to participate in an experiment in visual judgment. The initial group consisted of seven to nine young men. The groups were presented with one card that had nothing on it but a straight line; this was the standard to which three lines on a second card were to be compared. Only one of the lines on the second card was identical in length to the line on the first card, the other two lines being of varying lengths, but different from the line on card # 1. In the initial two rounds with each group of subjects, everyone correctly identified the line on card # 2 that matched the line on card # 1. Then the fun started. All but one of the subjects had been briefed on how to respond after the first two trials; in effect they had been instructed to deny the evidence of their senses. The subject who has been left out of the briefing was the stooge, the only real subject of the experiment. The object was to determine how many such subjects would capitulate to the group pressure inherent in a situation where seven or eight of their peers give an incorrect answer to the test. The subject had two choices. He could capitulate and give an answer that was obviously incorrect to him or he could buck the group pressure and remain true to his own perceptions. Remember that only the mildest form of group pressure was operating here. And what were the results? Among 123 subjects, drawn from three institutions of higher learning, the subjects went along with the majority in 36.8 percent of the selections. The author sums up the situation: "Those who strike out on the path of independence (25% of the subjects) do not succumb to the majority even over an extended series of trials, while those who choose the path of compliance are unable to free themselves as the ordeal is prolonged." He concludes, "That we have found the tendency to conformity in our society so strong that reasonably intelligent and well-meaning young people are willing to call white black is a matter of concern. It raises questions about our ways of education and about the values that guide our conduct." To repeat, only the subtlest form of group pressure was operating in these studies to get the subjects to deny the evidence of their senses, yet in 36.8% of instances, that is what happened. There was no added pressure to conform due to the threat of the rack, the thumbscrews or the flames. There was no threat of eternal damnation and hellfire if the subjects did not deny the evidence of their own senses. There was no attempt to blackmail the subjects through the stimulation and exploitation of guilt. Here are just a few of the charges that can be laid against Christianity: 1. Christianity's teachings about sexuality have contributed in a major way to human misery in this area. 2. Policies of coercive pronatalism and demographic aggression, implicit in Christianity's opposition to reproductive regulation, have been directly responsible for sixteen centuries of human suffering, mainly on the part of women. 3. Christianity's teachings about gender roles are a major cause of couple relationship stress. 4. Christianity's emphasis on the primacy of the human-to-god bond has made it extremely difficult for human beings to develop the supportive human-to-human bonds required for adaptive interpersonal and social functioning. 5. Christianity's promotion of infantile strategies for problem solving compromises the natural human impulse to learn adult problem solving strategies as part of the maturing process. 6. Christianity's reliance on the stimulation and exploitation of existential fear and guilt as strategies for gaining and wielding power produces low self-esteem in those individuals who are influenced by those strategies. 7. Christianity is guilty of making fraudulent claims about the after-life. In the next few issues of _HiC_, we'll weigh each of these charges in detail. End of Part I Christianity on trial =================================================================== =================================================================== || END OF ARTICLE || =================================================================== THE PROMISE OF HUMANISM by Frederick Edwords Every religion has its promise, the special reward it offers to the faithful. Such a promise is often the main feature that attracts outsiders in. As such, it can become a primary selling point and motivator. The ancient promise of Christianity is eternal life in heaven. I can remember a number of years ago listening to one radio preacher describing it in detail with vivid word pictures as he rhapsodized over how wonderful it would feel to be there. I can remember as a child learning about the streets paved with gold and rivers flowing with milk and honey. Different denominations also offer secondary promises, such as wealth and happiness in this life, God's helping hand in times of trouble, and even physical healings. In Buddhism, the promise is somewhat different. If you follow the Noble Eightfold Path of conduct, you will experience inner peace and eventually, through a series of rebirths, the state of Nirvana. This state is the blowing out of all craving, attachment, and desire. New Age religions tend to promise increased powers of mind that will bring about inner peace, happiness, power over external events, cosmic knowledge, and ultimate union with God. Like in politics, so in religion: the key is PROMISE BIG. In the past, Humanists have sometimes thought of themselves as too noble and honest to stoop to such strategies for gaining converts. So, instead of offering our own "campaign promises," we used to prefer to run down the promises of all the other groups. Instead of focusing on a better way of our own, we kept the spotlight on those ideas we disagreed with. Only we didn't seem able to do it with the captivating music of Omar Khayyam: Of threats of Hell and Hopes of Paradise! One thing at least is certain--This Life flies; One thing is certain and the rest is Lies; The Flower that once has blown for ever dies. This seemed to be our message, and to some it still is. But, if this is our message, are Humanists merely the consumer crusaders of the metaphysical world, the Ralph Naders of the religious realm? Is our only role that of protecting the gullible from the purveyors of spiritual Florida swamp land? This is, of course, a noble calling, worthy of the best efforts of talented individuals. But is it ALL we should be about? From much of our older rhetoric, you would think so. On the other hand, today many Humanists are directing their focus on what HUMANISM has to offer. And when that is done, the relevant question becomes "What is the promise of Humanism?" Well, we already know what we can't promise. As sober realists and no-nonsense straight-shooters, we're experts in throwing the wet blanket of rationalism over the fondest hopes of our fellows. We know the "bad news," but what's our "good news," what is the gospel of Humanism? One way to find out is to ask ourselves how we would present Humanism to someone who has never been exposed to traditional religion. Here would be a person in no need of disillusionment and possessing no idols in need of smashing. We could now go directly to the goal of offering the "good news" of Humanism. If some Humanists would find themselves speechless in a situation like this, it could be because they believe Humanism is simply the "default" condition of humanity, the "natural state" that prevails when no brainwash is present. And I've known a number of Humanists who have put it to me in exactly those terms. But, if that's the case, then the solemn duty of every Humanist when confronting a person unexposed to religion is to immediately teach him or her all about it! In this way, the person will learn what to watch out for, will be prepared, and will be put on guard. But I don't accept that Humanism is the default condition of humanity. And I am indeed confronted with individuals unexposed to traditional religion. I confront them every day. They are my children. How do I teach my children Humanism? Well, I don't do it by running down religions they have never heard about. I don't do it by exposing them to the varieties of religious experience. Instead, I expose them to the varieties of worldly experience. My children, ages 4 and 5, already enjoy travel, pictures, movies, music, people, animals, flowers, daydreams, stories, words, numbers, shapes, colors, and the joy of learning. I want them to live the good life envisioned by Humanism, to experience the promise first hand. That's why, when I asked my eldest daughter, Livia, what the praying hands in front of the Oral Roberts medical complex were doing, she exclaimed, "They're clapping!" Are my children Humanists yet? Time will tell, but other Humanist parents I know who have used a similar approach have been pleased with the results. And the implication is clear. The promise of Humanism is a good life here and now. So, let's discuss it in detail. What IS the "good life?" Can it be pursued directly? Can EVERYONE have it (that is, do we have a promise we can keep; can Humanism deliver the goods)? And finally, will it play in Peoria? Lloyd and Mary Morain talked about the good life in their 1954 Beacon Press book, Humanism as the Next Step, when they wrote: As a starting point let us take the idea that this life should be experienced deeply, lived fully, with sensitive awareness and appreciation of that which is around us. This was the first of their seven key ideas of Humanism. They elaborated further, saying: Back through the centuries whenever people have enjoyed keenly the sights and sounds and other sensations of the world about them, and enjoyed these for what they were--not because they stood for something else--they were experiencing life humanistically. Whenever they felt keen interest in the drama of human life about them and ardently desired to take part in it they felt as humanists. Referring to this attitude as "zest for living," they were following the lead of Bertrand Russell who, in his book The Conquest of Happiness, referred to "zest" as "the most universal and distinctive mark" of the happy individual. People with this quality, Russell argued, are those who come at life with a sound appetite, are glad to have what is before them, partake of things until they have enough, and know when to stop. This vision reminds us again of Omar Khayyam: A Book of Verses underneath the Bough, A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread--and Thou Beside me singing in the Wilderness-- Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow! Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend, Before we too into the Dust descend; Dust into Dust, and under Dust to lie, Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and--sans End! Which sounds like the hedonistic doctrine Humanists are accused of advocating: Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Or, as Mad magazine once put it -- A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread, and Thou-- Pretty soon I'll be drunk, fat, and in trouble. But there is much more involved in the Humanist notion of the good life. The physical pleasures are only a part of it, not to be denied of course, but far from representing the whole. For the Humanist there are also the pleasures of an unfettered mind making new discoveries, solving problems, and creating. There is the enjoyment of art, music, dance, and drama. There is the joy of helping others and the challenge of working to make the world a better and more peaceful place. And, of course, there are the joys associated with love and family. The Humanist seeks the enjoyment of as many of these as possible. In this, we are clearly at one with the ancient Greek ideal of wholeness and the integration of life. For example, in the ancient Olympic games, competition included not only athletics but drama, music, poetry, and philosophy. And the whole combination was viewed as a religious event. The Greeks put it together and did it all. So can we. In having zest for living, we join with the ancient Chinese who, in following Confucius, saw much of life as play--which accounted for their enjoyment of ceremony and especially their love of toys. This worldly and good-natured view of life that claims no ultimate knowledge, stands out when contrasted with Hinduism. Whereas the Yogi is often seen as renouncing desire, living an ascetic life-style, and acquiring eternal knowledge, Socrates, the sage of the ancient Greeks, deliberately provoked certain appetites in himself, lived a social and active life, and professed to have no knowledge whatever! It is also radically different from traditional Christianity, which has sometimes called this world a veil of tears, has seen pleasures as vanity, and seems to find the goal of human life beyond the grave. Such believers might quote Ecclesiastes-- Better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting; for to this end all men come, let the living take this to heart. Better sadness than laughter, a severe face confers some benefit. Jerusalem Bible As an antidote, Robert Louis Stevenson offered these words in his Christmas Sermon: Gentleness and cheerfulness, these come before all morality: they are the perfect duties. If your morals make you dreary, depend on it they are wrong. I do not say, "give them up," for they may be all you have; but conceal them like a vice, lest they should spoil the lives of better men. Edwin H. Wilson, the grand old man of religious Humanism who, for 90 plus years, lived the promise, summed it up when he wrote: The Humanist lives as if this world were all and enough. He is not otherworldly. He holds that the time spent on the contemplation of a possible afterlife is time wasted. He fears no hell and seeks no heaven, save that which he and others created on earth. He willingly accepts the world that exists on this side of the grave as the place for moral struggle and creative living. He seeks the life abundant for his neighbor as for himself. He is content to live one world at a time and let the next life--if such there may be--take care of itself. He need not deny immortality; he simply is not interested. His interests are here. The way those interests should be carried out here is described by Havelock Ellis in his book, The Dance of Life. There he presents living as an art, one best characterized as a dance. In this, he follows the ancient Greeks who chose the image of dancing because, unlike walking or running, dancing is not generally viewed as a goal-oriented activity leading from point A to B. One dances for the sheer joy of the activity. It is the process more than the product that counts. And this is how the Humanist good life is to be lived. So, when someone asks a Humanist, "What is the purpose of life?" the Humanist should answer, "Life is not purpose, life is art." The meaning is found in the doing. This is a revolutionary and truly unique way of looking at the world. It is a way that finds the question of cosmic purpose irrelevant, one that is unmoved by the author of Ecclesiastes who, in contemplating the question of ultimate value, writes-- I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and what vanity it all is, what chasing of the wind! The Humanist response is that Solomon missed the point. The people, ideas, things, and actions we love do not depend for their worth on how long they last or their supposed cosmic significance. They are things in themselves to be enjoyed for their own sakes. Life is an art, not a task. Life is for us, not for the universe. And life is for now, not for eternity. But there's more. We can take Edwin Wilson's statement that this life is all and enough and beef it up a bit to declare that this life is more than enough. Then it will express the Humanist optimism of Robert Louis Stevenson when he wrote: The world is so full of a number of things, I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings. (We ought to get some rosary beads and repeat this every day.) There is more in this world than I could experience in a thousand different lifetimes. There is a richness here, a cornucopia of choices, a wealth of opportunities. There is so much to see, to do, to read, to learn. The question is not, "What shall I do with my life?" but "What shall I do next?!" Different people choose different things. Most Humanists will choose a life oriented outward, not only to enjoying the good life, but sharing the good life through helping others. Yet other people may choose the inner life of meditation. By making such a choice, each one misses something the other is enjoying. But that can't be helped. Any time one makes a choice in the use of one's time, one fails to engage in all the other possible uses for that time, including having other experiences. So, if a monk or celibate priest speaks to me about the ecstasies of spiritual contemplation, I respond by sharing how thrilled I was in the birthing room watching my children being born. If a young fundamentalist describes to me the experience of being "born again," I can't wait to talk about the exciting moment when I first appreciated geometry. If heaven is described to me in graphic detail, I immediately want to show my slides of sunsets, seascapes, and mountain ranges. I'm in love with life, and too busy with it to find time for things allegedly outside it. But now we can ask, if this is the promise of Humanism--if this is the promise of liberal religion--is it a promise limited only to the affluent, the intelligent, the educated? If so, then are we making a promise we can't always keep? This is the criticism leveled against us by the otherworldly religions. While we say that they can't keep their otherworldly promises, they explain that they turned to this other world because we Humanists didn't keep our worldly promises. Otherworldly faiths offer the "joys of the spirit" to those who have been denied "the pleasures of the flesh." And the claim is that such spiritual joys are more permanent and universal than is our pleasure. But why give up so easily, denying oneself worldly pleasure to feed on a mirage in its stead? Isn't this settling for less, and retreating into an unwarranted resignation? Bertrand Russell thought so when, in chapter 2 of The Conquest of Happiness, he took the author of Ecclesiastes to task for denouncing the very things that make happiness possible and give life meaning. Nonetheless, I must admit that I benefit from growing up in a middle-class environment in a wealthy country where I have access to such variety. But all is not lost in more impoverished environments in less wealthy countries. At the Atheist Centre in Vijayawada, India, an extended family of Humanists teach the poor the joys of traditional folk dance, music, athletics (especially acrobatics), science, animal husbandry, occupational skills, and, most important of all, the vast world made possible only through reading. Many of the beneficiaries of this effort are not only poor and uneducated, but are often crippled and abandoned. Yet in a country steeped in an ancient tradition of other-worldliness due to just such harsh realities, the promise of Humanism is offered and met. The International Association for Religious Freedom, the world organization of liberal religions, has similar projects in India and is getting similar results. The promise is no illusion. And I look at my own life, asking myself how useful the promise of the good life would be to me if I suddenly went deaf, or blind, or couldn't walk. And yet I can answer with Robert Louis Stevenson that the world is indeed so full of things that can make me happy. A calamity is a limitation, but if I were limited only to reading, I would find the world is so full of a number of books that I could not read them all in this lifetime. If I were limited only to seeing, I could not see all I want to see in this lifetime. If I were limited only to hearing, I could not hear all I want to hear in this lifetime. I have not tested all the thoughts I want to test, or worked out all the ideas I have started but don't have time to develop. I haven't written all the speeches I want to write. I haven't met all the people I could meet or faced all the challenges I could face. Calamities destroy the promise usually because we concentrate on what we have lost instead of letting the misfortune simply focus our pursuits in a new direction. The Stoic remedy for misfortune is as much a part of this promise as is the Cyrenaic enjoyment of good fortune. When misfortune limits you, shift your focus and move on. I would argue that we can, in most cases, keep the promise of joy in the here and now. And even when all cannot be joy--for life indeed includes a large share of obligations, struggles, sorrows, and pain--the larger context can still be that of an artful life. And when, in those rare instances, we find that the realization of the promise is futile, as in the case of an agonizing terminal illness, Humanism offers the freedom to exit this life at will and with dignity. This is voluntary euthanasia, an area of great importance to Humanists, so much so that there will be two major workshops on this topic at the national conference of the American Humanist Association next weekend. So, in the end, the promise is not a perfect one. But we admit that. Others may seem to offer more perfect promises, but can they deliver? I have no evidence that anyone has ever gotten to heaven, realized Nirvana, or merged with God. But I see evidence every day that the promise of the good life is no mirage. So, I'll stick with the honesty of Humanism, that this life is all there is, and with the promise of Humanism, that this can be more than enough. And this promise will serve as my motivation to make life better when all is not as it should be. For I can better enjoy the promise on a clean rather than a dirty planet. And I can enjoy it better when I am helping others to participate in it. This is a philosophy I can be proud of. And, being proud of it, I can confidently share it with others. I can offer the "good news" of its promise and know I am doing something valuable for others. As a result, Humanism need no longer be a philosophy exclusively for those bold enough to face an uncaring cosmos with defiance, for those fearless enough "to go where no one has gone before," and for those impudent enough to call the majority of humanity cowards for fleeing to a sweeter tale. Most people are moved by exciting promises. They are captivated by thrilling visions. And this philosophy can be for them to. There's nothing wrong with offering a zesty promise if we have one. And have one we do. So let us Humanists stress it, publicize it, and present it as our entry in the religious/ philosophical sweepstakes. I submit to you that this one shift in our focus will do more to counter the harmful effects of otherworldly belief than all the rationalistic arguments of history's greatest freethinkers. So let's give it a shot. We have nothing to lose but our minority status. ------------------------------------------------------------------ This is the text of a talk presented to various audiences over the years. Its author is the executive director of the American Humanist Association. (C) Copyright 1989 by Frederick Edwords So long as profit is not your motive and you always include this copyright notice, please feel free to reproduce and distribute this material in electronic form as widely as you please. Nonprofit Humanist and Freethought publications have additional permission to publish this in print form. All other permission must be sought from the author through the American Humanist Association, which can be contacted at the following address: AMERICAN HUMANIST ASSOCIATION PO BOX 1188 AMHERST NY 14226-7188 Phone: (800) 743-6646 Contact the above address for membership and subscription information. Tell 'em Lucifer sent you. Subscriptions to _The Humanist_ US$19.95/year Membership in the American Humanist Association US$42/year =================================================================== || END OF ARTICLE || =================================================================== >From a speech by Robert G. Ingersoll When I became convinced that the universe is natural DDthat all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood, the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom. The walls of my prison crumbled and fell, the dungeon was flooded with light and all the bolts, and bars, and manacles became dust. I was no longer a servant, a serf, or a slave. There was for me no master in all the world --not even in infinite space. I was free --free to think, to express my thoughts --free to live to my own ideal --free to live for myself and those I loved --free to use all my faculties, all my senses --free to spread imagination's wings --free to investigate, to guess and dream and hope --free to judge and determine for myself --free to reject all ignorant and cruel creeds, all the "inspired" books that savages have produced, and all the barbarous legends of the past --free from popes and priests --free from all the "called" and "set apart" --free from sanctified mistakes and holy lies --free from the fear of eternal pain --free from the winged monsters of the night --free from devils, ghosts, and gods. For the first time I was free. There were no prohibited places in all the realms of thought --no air, no space, where fancy could not spread her painted wings --no chains for my limbs --no lashes for my back --no fires for my flesh --no master's frown or threat --no following another's steps --no need to bow, or cringe, or crawl, or utter lying words. I was free. I stood erect and fearlessly, joyously, faced all worlds. --Robert Green Ingersoll layout by Greg Erwin ================================================================== A little tune based on Ingersoll's Speech Amazing Reason Amazing reason, human thought, how great their works can be! That can vanquish superstition's power and set its prisoners free. When first I knew a natural world and all gods and demons ceased, my mind was filled with freedom's joy, my reason was released. My mental prison walls fell down, my dungeon filled with light, my shackles vanished into dust and ended faith's dark night. I am free from priests and popes and creeds, from blessings and cursings and spells, from gods and ghosts and holy books, from karma, nirvana and hell. Now gods and masters have I none, I no more a slave will be, I am the equal of anyone and all are peers to me. I will visit all the realms of thought, I will never cringe or crawl, I will die at peace in unbelief, I will live while standing tall. Words based on Ingersoll, tune: just as you suspect. =================================================================== || END OF ARTICLE || =================================================================== Magazine: Free Inquiry Issue: Spring 1994 (Vol. 14 No. 2) Title: A Statement: In Defense of Secularism A Statement: In Defense of Secularism American democracy draws its special vitality from the First Amendment, which incorporates the principle of a separation of church and state. In essence, the United States is a secular republic; this means that the government cannot establish a religion. It cannot favor religion over non- religion. The unique character of the American experiment is the existence of a wide diversity of creeds, sects, and voluntary organizations, each free to flourish on its own terms without any special encouragement by the state, with tolerance for a wide range of beliefs and values. We therefore deplore the growing hostility toward secularism that has emerged across the political spectrum. Leaders from the center and left, including President Bill Clinton, have recently joined the familiar voices on the right in scapegoating secular ideals. It is naive to indict secularism for the alleged decline of society. It is divisive to imagine that the moral prescriptions of any single religious faith alone can serve to raise our diverse nation out of a real or imagined malaise. We urge leaders of the American mainstream to resist being co-opted to the polarizing agenda of the religious right. Secular humanists are committed to the use of reason, compassion, and science to enhance the human condition in this life. Through the use of human faculties we derive ethical values from the world around us. Secular humanism has enabled millions of Americans who are not religious to find meaning and a moral anchor in their lives. A broader secularism has helped a wide spectrum of believers to accept religious diversity and to work cooperatively with adherents of other faiths, or of none, to pursue human betterment. It is difficult to recognize secularism as we know it in the straw man figure Bill Clinton targeted when he recently decried the alleged "crisis of the spirit that is gripping America today." Clinton cited crime statistics and suggested the answer lay in an "honest reaffirmation of faith" by which Americans might "seek to heal this troubled land." He perpetuates the myth that "the family . . . has been under assault for thirty years," making common cause with ideologues who trace the decline of our nation to the removal of prayer from the public schools in the early 1960s. "Hurray for Bill Clinton," former Vice President Dan Quayle has said of Clinton's apparent conversion to a family values agenda whose true meaning is unclear. We regret Clinton's repeated statements that "freedom of religion doesn't mean freedom from religion," which seem to defend the propriety of treating the non-religious as second-class citizens. We question his stated preference for spiritual leap-taking in place of "some purely rational solution of a problem." On the contrary, we submit that if America discards rationality we are truly rudderless, helpless against sectarian strife when differing groups may seek to impose their peculiar spiritual visions on American life. We lament what amounts to intellectual abdication by many leading opinion makers on America's center and left. We reject pat formulas and call for free inquiry into the causes and cures of America's problems. Answers are not to be found in preemptive renewals of spiritual language, nor by re-imposing the Judeo-Christian faith on a public sphere that has become the joint domain of many faiths--and of none. We reiterate the convictions of a large number of American citizens, who are committed to the application of reason and science to the understanding of the universe and to the solving of human problems. We believe in an open and pluralistic society and that democracy is the best guarantee of protecting human rights from authoritarian elites and repressive majorities. Secular humanism is a distinguished perspective. It is committed to the cultivation of ethical excellence. Far from being discredited, it has much to contribute to the contemporary debate. To dismiss secularism, to threaten it in a "pincers" movement between left and right, can only worsen, rather than lessen, the nation's problems. Steve Allen, author and TV personality Bonnie Bullough, Prof. of Nursing, University of Southern California Vern Bullough, Prof. of History, California State University, Northridge Thomas Flynn, Senior Editor, FREE INQUIRY Marilyn French, author Martin Gardner, author, former columnist for Scientific American Adolf Grunbaum, Prof. of Philosophy, Univ. of Pittsburgh Herbert Hauptman, Nobel Laureate, Prof. of Biophysical Sciences, SUNY at Buffalo Alfie Kohn, author Paul Krassner, editor, The Realist Lisa Kuhmerker, editor, Moral Education Forum Paul Kurtz, editor, FREE INQUIRY, Prof. Emeritus of Philosophy, SUNY at Buffalo Gerald Larue, Prof. Emeritus of Biblical Archaeology, University of Southern California Timothy J. Madigan, Executive Editor, FREE INQUIRY Michael Martin, Prof. of Philosophy, Boston University Skipp Porteous, President, Institute for First Amendment Studies; editor, The Freedom Writer James "The Amazing" Randi, conjurer, investigator, author F. Kingsley Sanders, Prof. of Biology, Columbia Univ. Victor Stenger, Prof. of Astronomy, Univ. of Hawaii Joan Kennedy Taylor, author Richard Taylor, Prof. of Philosophy,, Hartwick College Lionel Tiger, Prof. of Anthropology, Rutgers University E. O. Wilson, Prof. of Entomology, Harvard University, author, The Diversity of Life Forrest G. Wood, Prof. of History, California State University, Bakersfield (Affiliations are for identification purposes only.) __________________________________________________________________ |From Free Inquiry, (ISSN 0272-0701) published quarterly by the |Council for Democratic and Secular Humanism (CODESH, Inc.). |Domestic subscription rates are: US$25 for one year, US$43 for |two years and US$59 for three years. Back issues are available. |Address all subscription enquiries to: Free Inquiry, Box 664, |Buffalo, NY 14226-0064. Phone (716) 636-7571. FAX (716) 636- 1733. Tell 'em Lucifer sent you. |_________________________________________________________________ Foundation Advises New Jersey County to Stop Illegal Promotion of Religion The Freedom From Religion Foundation protested "a flagrant violation of state/church separation" at the Bergen County Division of Youth & Family Services (DYFS), following an announcement in March by its district office manager that troubled families will be advised to go to church and turn to religion for help. DYFS office manager Jon Sergi claimed religion is the answer for social problems, and that the county needs to turn to churches to relive overworked county staff. "Not only is it unconstitutional for a county worker to promote church attendance or belief in religion, it is difficult to imagine a worse cop-out!" wrote the Foundation in letter of complaint about the Bergen County policy to Nick Scalera, state director of DYFS in Trenton. The Foundation called upon Scalera to launch an immediate investigation of the illegal use of county/state offices and resources for religious purposes. Ms. Sergi not only advised caseworkers to promote church attendance, but has formed an official Bergen Co. "Inter-Religious Outreach Committee," including 13 DYFS staff on it. The county agency also is compiling a list of religious entities offering "spiritual" help and religious counseling to distribute to clients. The Foundation warned, "Such referral is not only naive and illegal, but would seem to open the county to legal risk if harm occurs through the church.... The efficacy of such advice, however, is secondary to the fact that it is illegal." The Foundation's complaint, joined by that of its New Jersey chapter director Jo Kotula, was publicized widely through Associated Press in New Jersey. The Foundation also complained to official parties concerning the much publicized case of the Fort Worth, Texas federal judge who sentenced a woman and her four children to attend Sunday church services for a year as a condition of probation on a drug charge. The sentence by U.S. Dist. Judge David O. Belew, Jr., who cofounded a nondenominational church, delighted the defendant, who is the daughter of a preacher. The Foundation noted religion had already failed to solve this religious woman's problems, and that the judge broke guarantees of the Texas constitution in giving a criminal a choice between going to church and going to jail. In a related story of outrageous judicial prejudice, a municipal court judge in Cincinnati, Ohio, claims he sees jesus on a pillar at the Hamilton County Courthouse: "I saw his crown of thorns, a bloodstained eye, his beard, the look of sorrow on his face. I felt I got a wake-up call from God." Judge Leslie Gaines sent a letter to reporters before Easter urging others to pray at the pillar every day, as he does. "A judge has a right to personal religious beliefs, however bizarre, but should not be urging citizens to pray at a county courthouse! How could nonChristians and nonreligious citizens feel comfortable in his courtroom?" the Foundation asked. =================================================================== || END OF ARTICLE || =================================================================== No Longer Awash In Religion By Catherine Fahringer [Freethought Today, April 1994] Rick Geraci and I have been telephone acquaintances for a bit over a year. He was alerted to my TV access program (San Antonio, Texas), Freethought Forum, by a Christian friend who suggested it might be "right up your alley." Rick got my number off the screen and called. Rick told me that he worked as an escort at the State Hospital. After learning that he wasn't the only freethinker in the world, and after becoming a member of the Foundation and our chapter, he had someone to voice his concerns to about the heavily Christian ambience at the hospital. During the 1992 Christmas season, hospital escorts discussed putting up a decorative Christmas message to the patients and signing all their names. Rick said that if it was going to be heavily Christian, they couldn't count on his signature. Well, the decorative "billboard" (nearly six feet long and about 3 1/2 feet wide) was hung. It featured a little church with an oversized cross on it, a star, of course, and astonishingly, some trees in full leaf. Since Rick, who is the only artistic one of the group, was not asked to participate, the "artwork" was extremely bad. Rick decided to contribute his own greeting: a neatly printed, trimmed poem about the solstice. Within a couple of hours, it disappeared. At the end of the day his supervisor called a meeting to discuss the hanging of things on walls. Rick asked what had become of his poem. The supervisor said that he had taken it down, torn it up and thrown it away. He then proceeded to lay down the rules of what could be displayed. Every thing was to be neat and framed. Keep in mind that the Christmas scene was on butcher paper with raggedly torn edges. Rick let the matter drop, but began revving up well ahead of time in 1993. As it was the custom at the hospital to hold regular meetings to discuss gripes that the employees might have, Rick brought up the expression of religious beliefs. He felt that a fair policy should be established and that he ought to be included. If others could wear Jesus T-shirts, then he wanted to wear his "I'm your friendly neighborhood atheist" one. This sparked a heated discussion of some length which was not commented on in the minutes as read at the next meeting. Last October Rick wore his friendly atheist T-shirt and was promptly told by his immediate supervisor in no uncertain terms that he was not to wear any shirts, badges or anything else that made any statement about atheism. Rick wrote to the superintendent regarding this public chastisement, saying that he felt that this was "a personal attack on my freedom of religious expression and freedom of speech as guaranteed in the Constitution." He further stated that he wanted "to be afforded the exact same rights and privileges governing the display of religious ideation now enjoyed by all other employees of the San Antonio State Hospital. The letter of reply, written in November by the superintendent, stated that while he supported Rick's right to his beliefs, "I can safely say that professional staff engaged in treatment perceive the slogans as having a high risk of affecting some of the patients adversely," admonishing him to "refrain from wearing such slogans at S.A.S.H." Rick again wrote for clarification. Was everyone allowed to wear whatever symbols or slogans they liked while he could not? This letter was never answered, so on December 24 Rick wrote again. Rick described all of the religious decorations and symbols with which he was confronted daily. He got tired after the eleventh. The six creches were combined as only one of those eleven. Poor Rick was awash in religion! This letter prompted an invitation to Rick from the superintendent to meet with him in person for a discussion. Surprisingly, he told Rick that because he himself was Catholic, he was never really aware of all the symbols that Rick had mentioned. He further stated that he would have the hospital attorney discuss the matter with the head office in Austin. Nothing happened overnight, of course, but in early February Rick received a letter from his superintendent saying that, "In consultation with our Legal Office and Director of Clinical Services, I have determined that buttons and/or clothing worn by individuals which reference 'religious beliefs' will be allowed. 1) Patients need to adjust to a diversity of beliefs, and 2) this organization must not be perceived to be suppressing or endorsing specific individual beliefs." But it gets even better! The superintendent went on to say that he was appointing a temporary task force to help formulate a final directive regarding these issues and that he would like Rick to be a member of it to assist in establishing "guidelines regarding what may be perceived as 'State-sponsorship' of particular religious practices." I perceive this as a solid win for Rick due to his perseverance, patience, diplomacy, unfailing good humor and courtesy in dealing with the industrial-strength Christians he works for and with. Cheers, Rick! It was a well carried-out campaign, and your example may give others the courage to wage similar ones. Postscript: After this article was completed, the numerous religious symbols, including crosses and an open bible, were removed from the State Hospital lobby. ============================================================== Editorial Comment: Let this be an example of atheist and humanist activism for us all. ============================================================== /-\-/-\/-\-/-\/-\-/-\/-\-/-\/-\-/-\/-\-/-\/-\-/-\/-\-/-\/-\-/-\ The Freedom From Religion Foundation publishes Freethought Today, an approximately monthly newspaper. Subscription is $20/year. Membership in FFRF is $35, single and $40 household, and includes the subscription. The folks at FFRF do a remarkable job of fighting freethought legal battles all over the US. There are large numbers of people in wrecking crews trying to demolish the wall of separation between church and state, and very few people actively working at wall maintenance. They deserve your support. /-\-/-\/-\-/-\/-\-/-\/-\-/-\/-\-/-\/-\-/-\/-\-/-\/-\-/-\/-\-/-\ =================================================================== || END OF ARTICLE || =================================================================== =================================================================== || END OF ISSUE || =================================================================== Once again: ISSN: 1198-4619 Lucifer's Echo. Volume I, Number 2: JUNE 1994. -- --The hands that help are better far than the lips that pray. / Truth scorns the assistance of wonders. A fact never went into partnership with a miracle. --Robert G. Ingersoll ///\\\ Greg Erwin, President, Humanist ai815@FreeNet.Carleton.CA \\\/// Association of Ottawa


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