Monday, November 3, 2014

    The Bookworm Report #3: Humanism - An Introduction

    By Russell Pizer
    •  •  •  •  •
    Humanism - An Introduction by Jim Herrick -- the subject of this Bookworm Report #3 -- is a small paperback (105 pp)that begins with this introduction written by Laurie Taylor.
    “It sounded like an easy way to win half-a-crown.  All I had to do was to stand in the middle of the playground at my Catholic school and shout out in a voice that was loud enough to be heard by the giggling crowd of fellow [students] who’d come up with the bet: ‘If there really is a God then I challenge him here and now to strike me dead.’  But I can still recall the drumming of my heart as I slowly walked towards what I still secretly feared might be a date with destiny.
    “I’d brought it on myself. For the best part of a year, I’d been trying to convince my school friends there was no proper basis for the religious dogmas that we were being force fed in class. It had earned me a certain mild notoriety but I was only too well aware that my dismal failure to effect any conversions to atheism had something to do with the shallowness of my own arguments. I’d told my classmates, for example, that the idea of a virgin birth was a contradiction in terms. You simply couldn’t be a virgin and have a baby. Didn’t they know the facts of life? I’d also argued that the miracles of the loaves and fishes and the rising of Lazarus were really nothing more than cleverly conjuring tricks and even made the profoundly heretical suggestions that if Jesus was God and God was all knowing and all powerful then surely he could have avoided his own crucifixion and gone on teaching until a ripe old age.
    “As I struck my pose in the middle of the playground, I made a resolution which nearly captured my adolescent moral capacity to have it both ways at the same time. If God failed to strike me dead after I’d made my challenge then I would devote myself to the task of discovering some rather better reasons for not believing in his existence. . . .”
    “[Jim Herrick’s] account of humanism [in this book] does much to trace its historical development, its philosophical underpinnings and its current status as an alternative to systems of religious belief.  But he is always faithful to his underlying contention that ‘humanism is a position which thinking individuals can reach as a personal conviction.’ . . .”
    On page 1 (Chapter 1 - Humanism Outlined), Mr. Herrick begins with this: “Humanism is a most human philosophy of life. Its emphasis is on the human, the here-and-now, the humane. It is not a religion and it has no formal creed, though humanists have beliefs. Humanists are atheists or agnostics* and do not expect an afterlife. It is essential to humanism that it brings values and meaning into life.
    “As we move away from the morass of the 20th century, we can hope that humanism will be a beacon to help us through the 21st century. It is an approach that is neither optimistic nor pessimistic, but realistic. 
    Chapter 2 begins: “The tradition of humanism is a long one. It questions existing ideas and quests for new one. People have asked what powers control our lives, what is the nature of the world about us, what is our personal potential? From the documents of ancient history to the flowering of thought in ancient Greece, from renaissance Italy to the 18th century Enlightenment, from the wide developments in philosophy and science in the 19th century to the crystallization of humanist ideas in the 20th century, the humanist temper has developed through time.”
    He then continues with: “Some Greek philosophers laid down the essential foundations of humanism. In his work Of the Gods, Protagoras (481-411 B.C.E.) stated, ‘About the gods I have no means of knowing either that they exist or that they do not exist . . .’
    - - - - -
    *Many Humanists that would disagree that there are only two such categories.

    Monday, October 27, 2014

    An popular-press article talking about evolution that actually gets some things right

    Anyone else get frustrated with writing on evolution that implies that species evolve toward a planned goal?   Even when used as a figure of speech, it annoys the heck out of me.  Here's a fun article, with some delightful images, and it actually mentions that evolution can be pretty wacky at times.  How refreshing!

    Finally someone notices that Ark Encounter project has a little religion/state problem

    For some reason, the lawmakers in Kentucky failed to notice until recently that state support of Ken Ham's enterprises violates the law.  I'm not sure who to thank (one of the few down-sides of being a non-believer) but perhaps someone in the state has finally come to their senses.

    Monday, October 6, 2014

    Where the Nones are

    From The  Guardian, this set of maps showing where the godless and the non-godless live in various cities in England and Wales.  We've frequently noticed that the Brits are much more inclined to self-identify as non-religious than Americans and this data visualization bears out the observation.

    Be sure to click on the link "It's not about atheism" above the maps to get another viewpoint on what these maps mean.

    Tuesday, September 30, 2014

    Bookworm report for October 2014: The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors

    By Russell Pizer

    This Bookworm Report  is regarding a paperback reprint dated 2007 from an original book dated 1875.  Whereas it might be intriguing for Humanists, it would probably be shocking for Christians. 

    The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors was written by Kersey Graves who was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania on November 12, 1813. The rear cover states: “His parents were Quakers. As a young man he accepted the observances of his parents then later, moved to a different wing of Quakerism. He was disowned by his Quaker meeting group due to his neglect of attendance and also setting up a rival group.”  

    That disownment was, no doubt, also a result of the many ideas he must have acquired through a book titled: The Anacalypsis by Sir Godfrey Higgins dated 1833. Mr. Graves used much of that book’s contents for the basis of his 1875 publication.

    I have read many books about what would be called “anti-Jesus literature” but this was incredible. I thought I knew a lot of the incongruities that exist in The Bible, however, this is full of additional and surprising revelations.

    Beginning on page 33, Graves begins: “The following considerations exhibit some of the numerous absurdities involved in the story of the miraculous birth of Jesus . . .”  He then gives, by actual number, 17 items.  Here are the first three:
     “1.  The evangelical narratives show that Christ himself did not claim to have a miraculous birth.  He did not once allude to such an event; while if, as Christians claim, it is the principal evidence of his deityship, he certainly would have done so. . . 2.  His parental genealogy, as made out by Matthew and Luke, completely disproves the story of his miraculous conception by a virgin. . . .  3. [H]is own disciple (Philip) declared him to be the son of Joseph . . .  [This] is still further confirmation of the conclusion [that he did not come to earth via a virgin birth] . . . ”

    The next excerpt begins on page 39. “There is much evidence that the Christian Savior was a black man, or at least a dark man . . .  And that evidence is the testimony of his disciples who had nearly as good an opportunity of knowing what his complexion was as the evangelists who omit to say anything about it. In the picturers and portraits of Jesus by the early Christians, he is uniformly represented as being black. . . [T]he only text in the Christian bible quoted by orthodox Christians, as describing his complexion, represents it as being black.  Solomon’s declaration, “I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem. . . .” (Sol. I.5) . . .”

    Mr. Graves goes on to speculate . . . “Let us suppose that, at some future time, he makes his second advent to the earth, as some Christians anticipate he will do, and that he goes to . . . one of our fashionable churches . . .   Would the [usher] show him to a seat? . . .”

    This next except is especially amusing.  It appears on page 46.  “. . . observe the absurdity in Matthew’s story, which teaches that the wise men followed the star in the east, when they, coming from the east, were, as a matter of course, traveling westward, which would placed the star at their backs. . . .”

    Chapter XXXII is titled: “Three Hundred and Forty-Six Striking Analogies Between Christ and Krishna.”  (Krishna’s birth is given as 3228 B.C.E.)  This shows, if the book’s contents are true, those ghost writers of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John, borrowed almost all of their material for the story of the man the Christians call Jesus of Nazarus from the life and teachings of The Lord Krishna of India.

    Needless to say, there are some vociferous criticisms of this book to be found on the Internet.

    Sunday, September 28, 2014

    Humanist Invocation given by Dianne Post at Maricopa Board of Supervisors meeting

    The Humanist Minute at the September 21, 2014 meeting consisted of reading an invocation given by HSGP member Dianne Post at the September 10, 2014 meeting of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors meeting.  The invocation is published here to allow both those who missed it and those who heard it to read it for themselves and reflect on Dianne's words.

    My name is Dianne Post.  I've been a resident of Maricopa County since 1980.  I'm speaking as a humanist.

    I ask you not to bow your heads but instead to open your eyes.

    Look at the world as it is but imagine what it could be if we all brought our good hearts to work every day.

    The word "invocation" has several meanings:

    First one:  the act or process of petitioning for help or support.

    Today I petition for support for our democracy: a democracy that includes all people regardless of their individual characteristics or choices.

    A democracy that does not elevate one person, one ideology or one belief over another.  A participatory democracy that stands for human rights and social justice.

    Second meaning:  calling upon for authority or justification.

    Today I call upon the authority of evidence, facts and reason as justification for the decisions made by this governmental body.

    Decisions that will benefit all of the people of this county, not just the rich, not just the vocal, not just the powerful - but all of us.

    Third meaning of invocation is:  a formula for conjuring.

    Today I conjure up the best of what's in all our hearts, kindness and concern for others, acceptance and understanding, the ability to think for ourselves using reason and knowledge.

    The last meaning is:  an act of legal or moral implementation.

    Implementation is, of course, the most important aspect of any "invocation".

    What do we want to implement?

    We want to lead meaningful lives.

    We want to be free from dogma and fear.

    We want to have compassion for our fellow citizens.

    We want to leave the world a better place than we found it.

    We owe it to ourselves and all with whom we sure this fragile planet now and in the future to make our lives the best we can.

    Let us embrace a code of ethics driven by a sincere thirst for justice.  A code that does not depend on threat or punishment but can only be found within ourselves by understanding the connections to our mutual well-being.

    A friend of mine, Olivia Free-woman said "the table of peace will be set with justice."  May we have both in our hearts this day and every day.

    More about CO2 to go along with our recent climate change presentation

    Recent HSGP Sunday speaker LuAnn Dahlman spoke about the effects of CO2 on Earth's climate.  Here's more explanation of CO2 and what we might do about it from the NY Times

    If you missed LuAnn's presentation, you can find a summary of it along with some great web links by going to, selecting Past Speakers from the right hand column and scrolling down to September 21, 2014.