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What We Believe
No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine ... any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.
John Donne (Jan 1572 - March 1631)
Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto.
Terence (195? -159 BC)
Passions of Bertrand Russell
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Watch for the youngster at :50 and also for the man with the tear on his cheek at 1:28. Music for all ages!
Slavery By Another Name
Slavery by Another name doesn’t masquerade as a novel but the story is well-told and the characters drawn from history help us consider the realities of a black person’s fearful existence in the era of post-emancipation neoslavery. “Where mob violence or the Ku Klux Klan terrorized black citizens periodically, the return of forced labor as a fixture in black life ground pervasively into the daily lives of far more African Americans.” In Slavery by Another Name, Doug Blackmon chronicles the shocking details of a turn-of-the-century secret service investigation into post-emancipation slavery that led to large-scale indictments of white southern convict leaseholders and their conspirators and the judicial decisions that amounted to little more than slaps on the wrist and enabled atrocities to continue into the 1940s. Notorious and powerful perpetrators were acquitted or merely fined (at affordable costs that their profitable industries made back using forced labor), despite almost ritual abuse of men, women, and children held in slavery on dubious, trumped-up criminal charges or in debt peonage, which had been made a federal crime in the late 1860s. Many southern lawyers succeeded at arguing that slavery had not actually been made a crime since no statutes had yet been made despite the emancipation proclamation and the thirteenth amendment. Indeed, where federal investigators initially stirred near panic among slaveholding farmers when they first arrived in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, the impotence of the investigations was becoming richly obvious. Blackmon’s research reveals the incomprehensible, that a federal grand jury (made up of mostly white but a also a few black jurors) and a federal judge, hoping to deter others and who convicted some of the slaveholders in 1903, actually failed to champion the cause of protecting Americans from being enslaved, laying a merely symbolic sentence on the men who went right out and did their dirty work again up until World War II! President Teddy Roosevelt, his administration, and many northern critics even dropped the cause as it eventually became overwelmingly difficult to pursue, especially considering the intimidation factor brought on by prominent white citizens threatening anyone who spoke up, accusing them of being “nigger lovers.” There were a few heroes that Blackmon depicts, such as Alabama’s U.S. Attorney Warren S. Reese, who seemed to stick with the project longer than most despite severe backlash from his southern peers. Admittedly, I was inclined to believe that pre-war slaveholders treated slaves in a manner that guarded their health and strength as a valuable investment. After emancipation, however, this book depicts a different mindset; gone was the sense of preserving a valuable possession that provides a lifetime of hard work, replaced by the expendable convict that any white man could produce simply by nabbing another black man off the street and falsely accusing him of a petty crime. Only by acknowledging the full extent of slavery’s grip on U.S. society–its intimate connections to present-day wealth and power, the depth of its injury to millions of black Americans, the shocking nearness in time of its true end–can we reconcile the paradoxes of current American life. This Pulitzer-prizewinning book reveals facts that should be incorporated into every American child’s history curriculum. Many of us were never made aware of slavery that went on after the Civil War and halfway through the 20th century. Regardless of our collective moral conscience, those in positions of political or fiscal power over human beings, regardless of either’s race or ethnicity, have always and will continue to exploit humans for forced labor. According to news stories in National Geographic, NPR, and Time, slavery is by no means an artifact of the past; it’s alive and well in the 21st century, in democracies such as our nation and throughout the world. Check the WRL catalog for Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II A PBS documentary film based upon the book and Blackmon’s research was aired in February, 2012, and has been made available for streaming from pbs.org.
A Few Latter-Day Bigots
Sheriff Jim Clark - possibly the worst of all
Nelson Mandela much admired the stoicism implied in William Henley's Invictus and, while imprisoned on Robben Island, frequently recited it to his fellow-inmates to help keep their spirits up.
Perhaps you would like to read it for yourself.
Invictus (Henley Aug 1849-July 1903)
Out of the night that covers me, In the fell clutch of circumstance
Black as the pit from pole to pole, I have not winced nor cried aloud.
I thank whatever gods may be Under the bludgeonings of chance
For my unconquerable soul. My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears It matters not how strait the gate,
Looms but the Horror of the shade, How charged with punishments the scroll.
And yet the menace of the years I am the master of my fate:
Finds and shall find me unafraid. I am the captain of my soul.
In actuality, it was Theodore Roosevelt's The Man In The Arena that especially inspired Mandela.
An excerpt follows: The Man in the Arena-April 23, 1910.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
The Elders - facets of Mandela and, indeed, of others.
Dulce et Decorum
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.
GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
Killed one week before the Armistace 11 Nov, 1918
Letter - in black
The 4 Horsemen!.
Discussion with Sam Harris, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins
From Publishers Weekly In his characteristically provocative fashion, Dennett, author of Darwin's Dangerous Idea and director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University, calls for a scientific, rational examination of religion that will lead us to understand what purpose religion serves in our culture. Much like E.O. Wilson (In Search of Nature), Robert Wright (The Moral Animal), and Richard Dawkins (The Selfish Gene), Dennett explores religion as a cultural phenomenon governed by the processes of evolution and natural selection. Religion survives because it has some kind of beneficial role in human life, yet Dennett argues that it has also played a maleficent role. He elegantly pleads for religions to engage in empirical self-examination to protect future generations from the ignorance so often fostered by religion hiding behind doctrinal smoke screens. Because Dennett offers a tentative proposal for exploring religion as a natural phenomenon, his book is sometimes plagued by generalizations that leave us wanting more ("Only when we can frame a comprehensive view of the many aspects of religion can we formulate defensible policies for how to respond to religions in the future"). Although much of the ground he covers has already been well trod, he clearly throws down a gauntlet to religion. (Feb. 6)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From Scientific American
If nowhere else, the dead live on in our brain cells, not just as memories but as programs— computerlike models compiled over the years capturing how the dearly departed behaved when they were alive. These simulations can be remarkably faithful. In even the craziest dreams the people we know may remain eerily in character, acting as we would expect them to in the real world. Even after the simulation outlasts the simulated, we continue to sense the strong presence of a living being. Sitting beside a gravestone, we might speak and think for a moment that we hear a reply. In the 21st century, cybernetic metaphors provide a rational grip on what prehistoric people had every reason to think of as ghosts, voices of the dead. And that may have been the beginning of religion. If the deceased was a father or a village elder, it would have been natural to ask for advice—which way to go to find water or the best trails for a hunt. If the answers were not forthcoming, the guiding spirits could be summoned by a shaman. Drop a bundle of sticks onto the ground or heat a clay pot until it cracks: the patterns form a map, a communication from the other side. These random walks the gods prescribed may indeed have formed a sensible strategy. The shamans would gain in stature, the rituals would become liturgies, and centuries later people would fill mosques, cathedrals and synagogues, not really knowing how they got there. With speculations like these, scientists try to understand what for most of the world’s population needs no explanation: why there is this powerful force called religion. It is possible, of course, that the world’s faiths are triangulating in on the one true God. But if you forgo that leap, other possibilities arise: Does banding together in groups and acting out certain behaviors confer a reproductive advantage, spreading genes favorable to belief? Or are the seeds of religion more likely to be found among the memes—ideas so powerful that they leap from mind to mind? In Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, Daniel Dennett, director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University, has embarked on another of his seemingly impossible quests. His provocatively titled book Consciousness Explained made a persuasive effort to do just that. More recently, in Freedom Evolves, he took on free will from a Darwinian perspective. This time he may have assumed the hardest task of all—and not just because of the subject matter. Dennett hopes that this book will be read not just by atheists and agnostics but by the religiously faithful—and that they will come to see the wisdom of analyzing their deepest beliefs scientifically, weeding out the harmful from the good. The spell he hopes to break, he suggests, is not religious belief itself but the conviction that its details are off-limits to scientific inquiry, taboo. "I appreciate that many readers will be profoundly distrustful of the tack I am taking here," he writes. "They will see me as just another liberal professor trying to cajole them out of some of their convictions, and they are dead right about that—that’s what I am, and that’s exactly what I am trying to do." This warning comes at the end of a long, two-chapter overture in which Dennett defends the idea that religion is a fit subject for scrutiny. The question is how many of the faithful will follow him that far. For those who do not need to be persuaded, the main draw here is a sharp synthesis of a library of evolutionary, anthropological and psychological research on the origin and spread of religion. Drawing on thinkers such as Pascal Boyer (whose own book is called Religion Explained) and giving their work his own spin, Dennett speculates how a primitive belief in ghosts might have given rise to wind spirits and rain gods, wood nymphs and leprechauns. The world is a scary place. What else to blame for the unexpected than humanlike beings lurking behind the scenes? The result would be a cacophony of superstitions— memes vying with memes—some more likely to proliferate than others. In a world where agriculture was drawing people to aggregate in larger and larger settlements, it would be beneficial to believe you had been commanded by a stern god to honor and protect your neighbors, those who share your beliefs instead of your DNA. Casting this god as a father figure also seems like a natural. Parents have a genetic stake in giving their children advice that improves their odds for survival. You’d have less reason to put your trust in a Flying Spaghetti Monster. At first this winnowing of ghost stories would be unconscious, but as language and self-awareness developed, some ideas would be groomed and domesticated. Folk religion would develop into organized religion, Dennett suggests, somewhat the way folk music bloomed into the music of today. The metaphor is hard to resist. "Every minister in every faith is like a jazz musician," he writes, "keeping traditions alive by playing the beloved standards the way they are supposed to be played, but also incessantly gauging and deciding, slowing the pace or speeding up, deleting or adding another phrase to a prayer, mixing familiarity and novelty in just the right proportions to grab the minds and hearts of the listeners in attendance." Like biological parasites, memes are not necessarily dependent on the welfare of their hosts. One of the most powerful fixations, and one that may have Dennett flummoxed, is that it is sacrilegious to question your own beliefs and an insult for anyone else to try. "What a fine protective screen this virus provides," he observes, "permitting it to shed the antibodies of skepticism effortlessly!" Asides like this seem aimed more at fellow skeptics than at the true believers Dennett hopes to unconvert. A better tack might be for him to start his own religion. Meanwhile his usual readers can deepen their understanding with another of his penetrating books.
George Johnson, a 2005 Templeton-Cambridge Journalism Fellow in Science and Religion, is author of Fire in the Mind: Science, Faith, and the Search for Order and six other books
|American Ethical Union||aeu.org|
|The Gutenberg Project||www.gutenberg.org|
|American Humanist Association||americanhumanist.org|
|Freedom From Religion Foundation||ffrf.org|
|The Gray Panthers||www.graypanthers.org|
|Council of Secular Humanism||secularhumanism.org|
|Institute of Humanist Studies||humaniststudies.org|
|Secular Student Alliance||secularstudents.org|
|Committee for Skeptical Inquiry||csicop.org|
|Jesus and Mo||jesusandmo.net|
|Stiefel Freethought Foundation||stiefelfreethoughtfoundation.org|
|Talks, Ideas, People||www.ted.com|
|The Secular Web||infidels.org|
|Perseus Digital Library||www.perseus.tufts.edu|
Our Mission Statement
The Humanist Group
Humanism, as I see it, is a secular ideology which espouses reason, ethics and justice while specifically rejecting supernatural and religious dogma as a basis for morality and decision making. Where rationality does not provide an answer, we do not resort to supernatural explanations.
Our Humanist Group subscribes to a philosophically secular, non-theistic point-of-view towards our origins and our lives, so that an ethical and moral approach to appropriate actions is of critical concern to us. And while we subscribe to non-supernatural origins of the universe and of our existence, and much admire the new and developing cosmology, our supreme aim in life here-and-now is to contribute, as best and while we can, to a more decent and accepting society that embraces the well-being of all humanity.
For me, at least, atheism and agnosticism are not enough since they are silent on the larger questions of values and meaning. If there is no meaning in life ordained from on high, then what meaning can we work out for ourselves? If an afterlife – an eternal life if you will – is simply illusory, then how do we do our best with the only life we will ever have?
Russell: Why I Am Not A Christian
For Recovering Catholics
A humanist group - so sagacious,
In their readings were simply audacious.
Though they always found time
For writers sublime,
They avoided the merely salacious. (Bill Tuohy)
There was an old preacher from Maine
Who truly was not so humane.
He ranted and raved
That souls would be saved
When women in their homes remained. (Diane Bauman)
Stuck with the name Stoutenborough
Early I learned to my sorrough
That spelling it out
Means living in doubt
That I'll finish it sometime tomorrough. (Don Stoutenborough)
If you've wondered from whence comes the source
Of most politicians discourse,
Your search is now ended,
You'll find it's descended
Unchecked, from the rear of a horse. (Sally Rosoff)
With these immigrants what shall we do?
They take precious jobs, it is true.
Plant our fields, cook our food,
Clean our homes, raise our brood --
Endanger self-sufficiency, too! (Elaine Grist)
Bill once thought as clear as a bell,
But now things are going to hell.
Though mostly intact,
The bell is now cracked;
Sometime later he'll be but a shell. (Committee!)
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away. Shelley (1792-1822)
Liberty, Freedom & Responsibility
Classical Essays on Liberty, Freedom; Responsibility
Self-Reliance Ralph Emerson
On Liberty John Stuart Mill
Good For Letter Writing & Getting Involved
Excellent for letters to the president, politicians; issues
Inner Grace, Inner Balance
Piano Concerto 21 - Andante
Some Unusual Music
Lovely Koto playing
Native American Circle Dance
Rhapsody On A Theme by Paganini
Ravi Shankar - Sitar & Tabla
The Butterfly Lovers - Chinese Traditional
Traditional Chinese-the Erhu
Andean Pan Pipes
Japanese Trad - Lovely Visuals
The Guo Brothers - Evening Song
Traditional Chinese Music
The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand;
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.
Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the A gaean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.
The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
Change the Message
Click here to watch a touching short video.
|Infidel||Ayaan Hirsi Ali|
|On Liberty||John Stuart Mill|
|Self-Reliance||Ralph Waldo Emerson|
|No Stone Unturned||Maggie Kuhn|
|Slavery by Another Name||Douglas Blackmon|
|The End of Biblical Studies||Hector Avalos|
|The God Delusion||Richard Dawkins|
|Anti-Semite and Jew||Jean-Paul Sartre|
|God Is Not Great||Christopher Hitchens|
|Consciousness Explained||Daniel Dennett|
|The Skeptics Dictionary||Robert Carroll|
|Maggie Kuhn on Aging||D. Hessel & Maggie Kuhn|
|Losing Faith In Faith||Dan Barker|
|Darwin's Dangerous Idea||Daniel Dennett|
|The Golden Bough||James Frazer|
|A Critique of Pure Reason||Immanuel Kant|
|The Moral Animal||Robert Wright|
|The Structure of Evolutionary Theory||Steven Jay Gould|
|A Treatise of Human Nature||David Hume|
|The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and ...||Sam Harris|
|The Age of Reason||Thomas Paine|
|An Enquiry Concerning Human Nature||David Hume|
|The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell||Bertrand Russell|
|A Brief History of Time||Stephen Hawking|
|What We Believe But Cannot Prove||John Brockman|
|The Philosophy of Humanism||Corliss Lamont|
|The Humanist Manifestos||Various|
|Free Will||Sam Harris|
|The Rights of Man||Thomas Paine|
|God and the Folly of Faith||Victor Stenger|
|Why Orwell Matters||Christopher Hitchens|
|Why We Believe in God(s)||J. Anderson Thomson|
|A Universe From Nothing||Lawrence Krauss|
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