Round Table Chatter

First of all I would like to thank you for allowing me to speak. I feel honored. I’ve loved these meeting—and meeting you—and listening to your incredible stories has made me happy
I am an atheist. But today I’ll be talking about Secular Humanism. Not all secular humanists are atheists, nor are all atheists secular humanists, but we all have several things in common. We base our life, our existence, on solid ground. Three strong blocks of foundation.
Reason.
Democracy.
Science.
Democracy because we think democracy is the best social structure.
Reason because we prefer to think our way through life. To reason things out. To attempt to use our heads as something more than something to hang our hats on. We need proof. We need evidence. I—and I can’t speak for all humanists or atheists—almost always ask, when told about something: is it the truth?
I think we all—atheist and secular humanists— love knowledge. Once again, speaking for myself, I am fascinated with the study of comparative religion. What religious people believe—have believed—is a fascinating story of human kind down through the ages. It’s history. Our story. Religions and gods have evolved, just as all of us have evolved from a major catastrophy 400 million years ago when nothing was left alive on this planet that weighed over fifty pounds.
My husband was an engineer, also a non believer, and he taught me if you can measure it, it exists. Today we can scientifically measure this truth. I like to think of a little animal, whose bones from this terrible time— after the catastrophe…have been found and weighed– less than fifty pounds–had toes and stood eighteen inches high at the shoulders. Little iohippus,
Today we call him the horse.
That’s evolution.
And, too, just as we can scientifically measure CO2 levels from the beginning of the industrial revolution and watch it rise to the levels it is today. CO2, a green house gas can be a very dangerous element in the atmosphere, but you now what? There are scientist, brilliant young men who claim they can build a device that can consume CO2 as fast as it is created and that may save the planet from becoming another Venus as Richard Dawkins has predicted.
I don’t know about you but I suspect you love our home, planet earth as much as I….
And you know what else I know? An aside—as I look around this table—if, for some strange reason everything you believe was proved not to be true, not one of you here would go out and rob a bank or abuse a child or murder someone. If I didn’t know that I wouldn’t be here and I hope to get back to this later
But now let me go on with the history of our past beliefs. Literally thousands of religions–thousands of gods–almost all of them dead and gone have been around. Gods do die and religious beliefs change. Today, I’ve read, there are something like 25 gods and 25 religions. I think all of us disbelievers are awed by the wisdom and great funding of beautiful literature found in so many of these different concepts. We respect them and learn from them, but we simply do not ‘believe’ them.
Here again I speak for myself: I am a devout disbeliever. I am not religious, I don’t go to church, I don’t pray. But none of us buy the notion that hell exists. Or heaven. Or satan.
…Or fairies. Or unicorns. Or menehunes or leprechaons.
But I speak for myself here because, if you turn to the page entitled The Affirmation of Humanism you will find many of these statements use the word ‘belief’. For an example on the fifth line down you will read “We believe that scientific discovery and technology can contribute to the betterment of human life.” I would say “I think that scientific discovery and technology can contribute to the betterment of human life”
There’s a difference. to me there is a profound difference between thinking and believing. It’s true one can think—believe— anything one wants, but to me, and it’s back to proof and evidence which my mindinsist upon, that one can think—believe— 2+2=5, but all of us can prove, with leaves or stones, or toothpicks that 2+2=4. To measure, to use math to solve a problem is essential to us.
Again, speaking for myself: there two words I try very hard not to use. Hate is one. Hate only destroys the hater. And belief. I prefer to use the word think
We look at the three largest religions today: Christian, Muslim and Jew with wonder and I hope to get back to this fascinating bunch of humans later, but first I’d like to talk, for a minute about science.
Now I am not a scientist, but I love—I think we all do—- the way a scientist works his way through the quandaries of everyday life and reminds all of us that we use the same tools he uses everyday.
1. Honest observation. 2. Creative imagination. 3. Motivation. 4. Persistence, patience and perseverance to solve the problem we’re motivated to solve.
Dr. Corlis Lamont in his book The Philosophy of Humanism has a neat story about how he used this method to solve a time when be was trying to get back into his locked car during a snow storm when his key was so frozen it wouldn’t fit in the lock. If you find it, I think you’ll like the story.
I’ve placed before you several books: Dr. Lamont’s book The Philosophy of Humanist as it passes your way please read the back cover. Dr. Lamont was an extraordinary man. Brilliant, He taught at Columbia, Cornell and Harvard and was honorary president of the American Humanist Society. I’ve passed two books and hope to be able to leave one here in the library. The other I will give to the person seated at the table who hits me hardest with his thoughts and mind when we get to the discussion time. You guys vote.
I’ve also brought another book I’d like to leave here. It’s one of my favorites. It’s been an important part of research library. 2000 Years of Disbelief by James Haught. One of the reviews states “(A) jewel to brighten bookshelves that attempt to cover our priceless heritage.” The Churchman’s Human Quest.
I wish I’d been able to bring one for each of you. It is a story of real people, you’ll be surprised to find out who, who had the courage to speak out against religion. Many of our Founding Fathers. Those responsible for the greatness of our country. Who included these amendments to our constition: our right to Freedom of the Press. Freedom of speech. Freedom of religion. I can speak. Bill Bulley can publish, I can declare myself an atheist. Without a terrifying pounding on my door in the dark and dead of night How far we’ve come. How much farther we have to go. And we can.
There is also another book I love, which I hope to see on a shelf here ADDICTED TO WAR by Joel Andreas. Please give it a glance. I think we must face the reality of what’s going on. To do that is not negative, it is a most positive —————-.
There are also two plastic bound papers. One an introduction to Humanism The 10 Points of Humanism: A Definition a gift which I hope you’ll take with you and peruse.
And 10 pages of an abridged version of quotes from the Old Testamont. Which is another gift I hope you’ll glance at.
If I didn’t bring enough of these please share and we’ll get back to them later.
I’d like to get a little serious for a moment, I’ll try to be diplomatic. I think I speak here for all of us—atheist , agnostic, Secular Humanist—we have a major concern— and this has to do with the three major religions today: Christian, Muslim, Jew—particularly the Patriarchs and the Fundamentaists.
I don’t want to pick on these three powerful groups but I must speak out about those who insist there god is the true god and every word in their sacred books, The Old Testament, The New Testament and the Koran is the word of god and must be believed. Actually we kind of of wish they’d stop fighting with each other. The world, I’m sure would be a more peaceful place.
There is nothing worse than a religious war. Nothing and we do seem to be involved in one today.
We all know there are powerful voices in these three beliefs who preach horror.
Strap a bomb to you back, kid climb in a bus and blow everybody to hell and gone and you and all your relatives will go directly to paradise.
We know that story. We also know it is a true statement.
What we don’t always except, in the west at least, is while we are drawn into Christanity by Jesus’ marvelous words about peace and love, there is here a dimension that eimply cannot be avoided, Jesus, this incredible human being, the world is a better place because of the Sermon on the Mount—too bad so few people listen and learn—he is not god. He is the son of god, a part of the story you must believe in order to be a Christian. One has a right to ask, then, “Which god. Zeus. Thor. Appollo? Or the god of the old Testament the great god Jehovah.
There are atheists who get pretty descriptive about this fellow, I’ll try not to be, I won’t quote Richard Hawkins, Chris Hitchens, Sam Harris but I can assure you if a great voice from the sky, and I will quote “Every one that is found shall be thrust through; and everyone that is joined unto them shall fall by the sword. Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes, their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished.” (Isiah 13:15-16) I know I would tell him, sweetly, “Sir you are a cosmic psychopath and I will do no such thing.”
Nonbelievers shake their heads at those who accept these verses as the word and command from god.
I am not ‘picking’ on the Christian or Jewish god, I am simply stating a passage that exists in the Bible.
Such ferocious passages exist in the Koran.
And these passages are always dragged out when the true believers decided it’s time to go off and kill a bunch of people. God said.
Believers have a habit of cherry picking. They ignore or deny the bad stuff. They don’t want to hear about it or partake but there are those in their folds who use these horrors to drive a wedge and divide us.
It is my fondest hope that more and more religious people speak out against these goings on. I’ve been an outspoken peace advocate for years. I worked in the Church of the Crossroads in Honolulu helping to feed house find safe haven for deserters crippled by what they’d seen in Vietnam. AWOLS who said, “No more.” Marched with human of every faith—and no faith—in peaceful marches. I’ve palled with Friends, although I am not a Quaker. And witnessed, because of human power, the demise of that terrible war. I never thought I would hae to do it again, but here I am.
As an atheist, as a Secular Humanist I am constantly filled with the joy of being a human being. Overwhelmed with the beauty of our dance, our music, our art. Our creative and imaginative and wonderful minds. Our love. Our desire for peace. Our goodwill. Our empathy, generosity, our passion. Our lust for life and living things.
All the good qualities of humanity are within us. Not given to us, but part of us. We can pluck happiness, awareness of beauty, culture, liberty, harmony—I could go on and on and on about these precious gems of goodness that lie within us— that we can reach inward, bring out and polish.
We can check out the seven baddies—gluttony, greed, envy, lust, wrath, pride, sloth and sweep them out of our lives as our mother’s swept the kitchen floor. Changed diapers. Washed dirty clothes.
I know this: we are not born Muslim, Jew, Christian. Sech. Hindu. Whatever. We are created that.
But I would like to move on. I told you I paled with the Friends and they do this wonderful thing: they sit in silence for several minutes. They don’t bow their heads or fold their hands or close their eyes and I would like us to do that
I have with me my dear friend Margaret Clark, she’s my prompter in case I flounder—87 years has a habit of doing that and she has a watch. I think five minutes would be long enough.
If at the end of that time you have some words to say, some questions to ask, I’ll do my best to answer.
And then I have an idea about the books in your hand.
So. Let us go.
Margaret you’re the time.
Relax. Get comfortable. Remember don’t bow our heads. Don’t fold our hands. Don’t close your eyes.

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