Saturday, February 28, 2015

Why My Family Attends a Unitarian Universalist Fellowship

This is how I inoculate my children against the glittering false promise of eternal life and the frightening empty threat of eternal torture.

There's a lot of people in the atheist community who bristle at anything which resembles a church. And I can sympathize with those feelings. However, since my wife and I have different religious views, it's important that I remain at least a little respectful towards the "I believe it because it makes me feel good" perspective.

My wife wanted a community where our kids would learn about different religions, where acceptance of all people would be a standard value that's taught.

On our first visit, the minister Amy, approached us and welcomed us to the community. She asked what we were specifically looking for, and my wife described our differing religious views. When my wife mentioned that I am an atheist, Amy said that this particular service included some prayer from the Christian tradition, and she hoped it wouldn't be off-putting for me. The mere thought of receiving such a warm welcome at my parents' Presbyterian Church is laughable.

During social time after the service, I have met a great many welcoming people of a wide range of faith traditions. All Have been welcoming of my atheist / humanist views, and a significant fraction share them. This isn't the "welcome" I might get from my parents' Presbyterian church, which is more of a "your wrong beliefs are welcome so we can try to fix them". Rather a sincere welcome as I am. Without the slightest inference there's anything wrong or that needs to be changed. The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship is a small island where I can be open and honest about my views deep in the heart of the Ohio Bible belt.

When there was interest in volunteers to teach Sunday school, I was skeptical that out atheist such as myself would be welcome teaching religious education courses. My contributions were warmly welcomed, and I was pleasantly surprised by the particular curriculum being taught. There was no dogmatic "one true answer", rather there was a concerted effort to teach a broad range of different religious beliefs. This, in my view, it is one of the strongest defenses I can provide my children against the irrational beliefs of the various Christian (mostly) theologies that surround them here in Southwest Ohio.

After Sunday school, I discuss the lessons with my kids. We talk honestly about what was good and what wasn't. We talk about why some people believe and why other people don't. We talk about the failure of faith to result in consistent worldviews between the thousands of religions around the world and throughout time.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Secular Quotes for Chalice Lightings on Meaning and Purpose

I'm leading a Unitarian Universalist parent group this morning.  We're reading Parenting Beyond Belief,   and the class is mostly atheist, with a few skeptical believers  mixed in.  I am leading chapter 5: "Values, Virtues, Meaning, and Purpose".  So I needed to find something that expresses our general view that meaning and purpose in life don't come from a higher authority.  I thought I'd share the resources I found in the process in the hopes that others might find them valuable.

I found some good quotes on Good Reads.

“If I were a dictator, religion and state would be separate. I swear by my religion. I will die for it. But it is my personal affair. The state has nothing to do with it. The state would look after your secular welfare, health, communications, foreign relations, currency and so on, but not your or my religion. That is everybody's personal concern!” ― Mahatma Gandhi

This one made me think.  I don't consider myself to be the center of the universe.  If anything, Science has taught me that I'm small and insignificant on the scale of things and that defining something like a "center" is almost a nonsequitur.

“The person with a secular mentality feels himself to be the center of the universe. Yet he is likely to suffer from a sense of meaninglessness and insignificance because he knows he’s but one human among five billion others - all feeling themselves to be the center of things - scratching out an existence on the surface of a medium-sized planet circling a small star among countless stars in a galaxy lost among countless galaxies. The person with the sacred mentality, on the other hand, does not feel herself to be the center of the universe. She considers the Center to be elsewhere and other. Yet she is unlikely to feel lost or insignificant precisely because she draws her significance and meaning from her relationship, her connection, with that center, that Other.” ― M. Scott PeckA World Waiting to Be Born: Civility Rediscovered

I'm considering a quote from American Humanists' Definition of Humanism:
Humanism is the light of my life and the fire in my soul. It is the deep felt conviction, in every fiber of my being that human love is a power far transcending the relentless, onward rush of our largely deterministic cosmos. All human life must seek a reason for existence within the bounds of an uncaring physical world, and it is love coupled with empathy, democracy, and a commitment to selfless service which undergirds the faith of a humanist. • Bette Chambers, former president of the AHA
Humanism is an approach to life based on reason and our common humanity, recognizing that moral values are properly founded on human nature and experience alone.• The Bristol Humanist Group
Humanism is a progressive lifestance that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead meaningful, ethical lives capable of adding to the greater good of humanity. • American Humanist Association
Humanism is a democratic and ethical lifestance which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethics based on human and other natural values in a spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality. • The International Humanist and Ethical Union
This one is long (also from AHA), but it's a winner. I didn't read the whole thing -- just the bolded parts.
Humanism is a philosophy of life that considers the welfare of humankind - rather than the welfare of a supposed God or gods - to be of paramount importance. Humanism maintains there is no evidence a supernatural power ever needed or wanted anything from people, ever communicated to them, or ever interfered with the laws of nature to assist or harm anyone. Humanism's focus, then, is on using human efforts to meet human needs and wants in this world. History shows that those efforts are most effective when they involve both compassion and the scientific method - which includes reliance on reason, evidence, and free inquiry. Humanism says people can find purpose in life and maximize their long-term happiness by developing their talents and using those talents for the service of humanity. Humanists believe that this approach to life is more productive and leads to a deeper and longer-lasting satisfaction than a hedonistic pursuit of material or sensual pleasures that soon fade. While service to others is a major focus of Humanism, recreation and relaxation are not ignored, for these too are necessary for long-term health and happiness. The key is moderation in all things. Humanism considers the universe to be the result of an extremely long and complex evolution under immutable laws of nature. Humanists view this natural world as wondrous and precious, and as offering limitless opportunities for exploration, fascination, creativity, companionship, and joy. Because science cannot now and probably never will be able to explain the ultimate origin or destiny of the universe, I think Humanism can include more than atheists and agnostics. The lack of definite answers to these ultimate questions leaves room for reasonable people to hypothesize about the origin of the natural universe, and even to hope for some form of life beyond this one. In fact, two of Humanism's greatest luminaries, Thomas Paine and Robert Ingersoll, maintained a hope for an afterlife. On the issue of whether God exists, Ingersoll was agnostic, and Paine believed in a deistic God who established the laws of nature but then stepped away and never intervenes in the world. Those beliefs did not interfere with their ability to lead outstanding humanistic lives. Thus, in my opinion, people holding such views can be Humanists if they believe that humanity is on its own in this world, and the lack of any evidence for an afterlife means this life should be lived as though it's the only one we have. • Joseph C. Sommer
As an aside, @BekoLazarus suggested the poem, "A Thunderstorm In Town".  I liked the poem, but it's more romantic.  And we all know that parenting now has absolutely nothing to do with romance. *sigh*

If you have suggestions, please leave a comment.

Friday, February 6, 2015

AiG Files Frivolous Lawsuit Over Not Getting Their Christian Privilege

Here's their press release:

I'm sorry, Ken Ham, but it wasn't "religious discrimination" that led the state of Kentucky to reject your request for a tax incentive.  It's that your bigoted Answers in Genesis organization intends to discriminate in its hiring based on religious affiliation and sexuality.

You can't have it both ways, Ken. If you want our secular society to invest in the success of your monument to mass genocide, you'll need to demonstrate that the economic benefit will support all citizens, not just your fellow religious kooks.  So build your homage to horrific destruction with the money you bilked out of the gullible. But don't come asking us for a hand out.

And fuck you for wasting our money on a frivolous lawsuit.