Why Can’t I Own a Canadian?
Dr. Laura Schlessinger is a radio personality who dispenses advice to people who call in to her radio show. Recently, she said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22 and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The following is an open letter to Dr. Laura penned by a east coast resident, which was posted on the Internet. It’s funny, as well as informative:
Dear Dr. Laura:
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other specific laws and how to follow them:
When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness – Lev.15:19- 24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.
Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?
I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?
A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination – Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this?
Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?
Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?
I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? – Lev.24:10-16. Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)
I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.
Your devoted fan,
Note to Stumblers:
Some comments criticizing this piece indicate that it was “hijacked” from a West Wing episode. This is a chicken and egg argument in my opinion. I don’t really know which came first, and frankly don’t care.
What You Can Do
by Richard Garrard
Do you hate what’s happening in our country? Feel like democracy is slipping away? Feel like the nation is racing toward war and destruction, while important questions are not being answered or even asked? What about all of our other problems, concerns? Who is listening? Feel helpless? Hopeless? Angry? Read on.
Get a computer and get on the internet. Quit making excuses-if you have to, use the one at the public library. Politics is history, and, even if you’ve lived through a lot of it, remember that you perceived it largely through the opinions of family members, through newspapers and television news that may or may not have reflected reality. Much of what happened during World War II and Vietnam, for instance, was classified for decades. We are only now beginning to have a clear and comprehensive picture of those complex eras. Most of the major newspapers and magazines of today have online content that you can, for now at least, read without paying a fee. Take advantage of this. There are also websites available that have, not only text archives, but even photographic archives. Some of these are private collections, others academic. A sampling of political and historical websites are available at the end of this article. Keep in mind that websites are often fronts for organizations that have political agenda, so “consumer beware.” Besides the web, internet newsgroups are sources for postings. Many of the postings are of the “spam” variety, but you can also post questions of your own and often a helpful fellow netizen can answer your questions or refer you to sources that can.
Read. You can’t possibly buy all the books, so go to the library. One way to find interesting and relevant books is by using the internet. I go to Amazon.com and read their reviews, then find the books in the local library. A card for the Salt Lake City system also gives you access to the Salt Lake County system. Both have internet access to their collections, so you can see if a book is available. If it’s a hot book, you may have to put a hold on it. If it’s a rare book, you may have to request it through interlibrary loan. Your reference librarian can guide you through this process.
Change the Channel-with a very few notable exceptions, it’s corporate fluff and propaganda. “Survivor” will survive without you and the “Wheel of Fortune” will go on turning. Your brain deserves better. Some alternative news is available through satellite channels.
Listen to Community Radio. Go ahead and enjoy your musical programs, too, but recognize that there is newsworthy stuff on community radio. KRCL (KZMU in Moab) and KUER provide intelligent talk radio. You won’t even miss Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. I promise.
Watch movies and videos. Huh? Yes. Go to your local library and browse their video selection. You might be surprised. Documentaries abound. Not just travelogues, but historical productions and political and cultural commentaries that you may not have even known existed. Be sure to consider unusual local video outlets, such as the Tower Theater.
Take a deep breath and call up your Congressman, Senator, State Representative, Governor. Bitch loud and long and often. After the first time it gets easier. Also, be sure to tell them what they’re doing right. Program their phone numbers into your phone and have fun! In the words of Thomas Edison, “Restlessness and discontent are the first necessities of progress.” Contact information for your representatives can be found in the blue pages of your phone book or visit our Humanists of Utah web site.
Write letters to the Editor all over the local area: to dailies, weeklies. If you have a great letter, send it to everybody. Again, some addresses are to be found on our web site.
Find good groups involved in significant causes and support them, if not by time and labor, then by money, even if it’s only a few bucks a year.
Call local television and radio stations and ask them to air more issue-based political coverage. Get involved in the Free Air Time Campaign
Fed up with the political parties fielding lousy candidates? Call them up and complain. Tell them they need to stop assuming you’ll be some partisan robot, writing them a blank check every other year. Tell them you want answers, competent leadership and accountability!
Top 10 Reasons to Register and Vote-from the League of Women Voters
It’s your democracy. Make it work. Register and Vote.
The following sources are available on the Internet.
Discussion Group Report
What Do We Tell the Children?
By Richard Layton
“Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Not always true, says Nicholas Humphrey in the Journal of Social Research, Vol. 65. “Words can hurt people indirectly by inciting others to hurt them: a crusade preached, racist propaganda from the Nazis, malevolent gossip from a rival…. They can hurt people, not so indirectly, by inciting them to take actions that harm themselves: the lies of a false prophet, the blackmail of a bully, the flattery of a seducer…. And words can hurt directly, too: the lash of a malicious tongue, the feared message carried by a telegram, the spiteful onslaught that makes the hearer beg his tormentor say no more.” Words have a unique power to hurt.
Should we be campaigning for the rights of human beings to be protected from verbal oppression and manipulation? No, says Humphrey; but what about moral and religious education, especially the education a child receives at home, where parents are allowed–even expected–to determine for their children what counts as truth and falsehood, right and wrong?
Children, he argues, have a right not to have their minds crippled by exposure to other people’s bad ideas–no matter who these people are. And parents have no God-given license to enculturate their children in whatever ways they personally choose: no right to limit the horizons of their children’s knowledge, to bring them up in an atmosphere of dogma and superstition, or to insist they follow the straight and narrow paths of their own faith.
“In short they have a right not to have their minds addled by nonsense. And we as a society have a duty to protect them from it. So we should no more allow parents to teach their children to believe, for example, in the literal truth of the Bible, or that the planets rule their lives, than we should allow parents to knock their children’s teeth out or lock them in a dungeon…”
On the positive side, children also “have a right to be succored by the truth. And we as a society have a duty to provide it. Therefore we should feel as much obliged to pass on to our children the best scientific and philosophical understanding of the natural world–to teach, for example, the truths of evolution and cosmology, or the methods of rational analysis–as we already feel obliged to feed and shelter them.”
How can we have the nerve to argue that the modern scientific view of the world is the only true view there is, when the post-modernists and relativists have taught us that more or less anything can be true in its own way? And even if it is truer, who is to say it’s the better one? Isn’t it possible that particular individuals would be better served by one of the not-so-true worldviews? Might not the more traditional way of thinking actually work better for them? Do we really want everyone living in a dreary scientific monoculture? Don’t we want pluralism and cultural diversity? And what about other people’s rights, not just children’s. Don’t parents have their own rights, too, as parents?
Look around close to home. We ourselves live in a society where most adults, not just a few crazies, subscribe to a whole variety of weird and nonsensical beliefs that, in one way or another, they shamelessly impose upon their children. The problem is not just that so many adults positively believe in things that flatly contradict the modern scientific world view, but that so many do not believe in things that are absolutely central to the scientific view. A survey published last year showed that half the American people do not know, for example that the earth goes around the sun once a year. More than half do not accept that human beings have evolved from animal ancestors. While we should be careful about relying too much on the results of surveys without examining the methodology, including the wording of questions used in them, there are a number of surveys that show evidence of a great deal of scientific illiteracy in the population.
There are small, but significant, communities where not only are superstition and ignorance firmly entrenched, but where this goes hand-in-hand with the imposition of repressive regimes of social and interpersonal conduct–in relation to hygiene, diet, dress, sex, gender roles, marriage arrangements, etc. Examples are Amish Christians, Hasidic Jews, Orthodox Muslims…and radical New Agers, which are alike in providing an intellectual and cultural dungeon for those who live among them. A mother who believes that holding a crystal to her head is the best cure for depression is hardly likely to withhold such a matter from her offspring. Anthropologist Donald Kraybill, who made a close study of an Amish community in Pennsylvania, writes, “Groups threatened by cultural extinction must indoctrinate their offspring if they want to preserve their unique heritage.”
“All sects that are serious about their own survival do indeed make every attempt to flood the child’s mind with their own propaganda, and to deny the child access to any alternative viewpoints,” states Humphrey. In the United States this kind of restricted education has continually received the blessing of the law. Parents have the legal right to educate their children at home, and nearly one million families do. But many more who wish to limit what their children learn rely on the thousands of sectarian schools that are permitted to function subject to only minimal state supervision. A U.S. court recently recognized that “the whole purpose of such a school is to foster the development of their children’s minds in a religious environment” and therefore that the school should be allowed to teach all subjects “in its own way,” which meant, as it happened, presenting all subjects only from a biblical point of view, and requiring all teachers, supervisors, and assistants to agree with the church’s doctrinal position.
Discussion Group Report
By Richard Layton
Last December, The Salt Lake Tribune carried a special feature of several pages with the same title as the present article. It was introduced with the caption, “Intolerance, misinformation, insensitivity exist on both sides of a gap that seems to many to separate Utah Mormons and non-Mormons.” The Tribune has received more requests for extra copies of this feature than for any feature it has ever run. It was a year in the making.
Its articles were written by Tribune reporters and prominent business and community leaders and contain quotes from some ordinary people. Here are some salient thoughts expressed by them:
Alex, 11 years old, lost his best friend, because Alex wasn’t Mormon. When he went to a sleepover at his friend’s house, his friend told him he couldn’t come over because his parents said he was a bad influence. Some years later Alex at the high school graduation ceremony was given special recognition for having been selected to attend Harvard. Alex wondered, were his friends looking and thinking, “Oh the bad influence is going to Harvard?”
Such hard feelings haunt every Utah community. “It is a bad flood that flows both ways, and for some it is bitter,” says the article by Dan Egan.
When Mormons sit down at dinner and never take a drink, they can be very judgmental of those drinking [alcohol], but sometimes Mormons are also judged for not drinking.
Countless friendships, partnerships and marriages have bridged the Mormon/non-Mormon divide. But every day secret scores are kept on both sides. Classifications are so constant as to be almost unconscious. “He is one of us. She is one of them.”
Sometimes non-Mormons use pejorative, ugly words to talk about Mormons, for example “cult,” “self-righteous,” “narrow-minded” and “Mo.” Sometimes that nastiness is unbridled religious bigotry. At times it comes from people rubbed raw from persistent attempts by missionaries and well-meaning Mormon neighbors’ attempts to sell them a religion other than their own. Other times it comes from frustration at a religious institution that is a cultural and political powerhouse. One source of such frustration was the conversion of a block of Salt Lake’s Main Street into a religious park after the Mormon members of the City council voted to sell it to their church. Other irritants are the ubiquity of the LDS presence in Utah; seminaries adjacent to public high schools; the Salt Lake Temple as the unofficial state icon; the exclusivity non-Mormons believe the Temple represents, including the exclusion of family members, even of some who are Mormons but who don’t qualify for a ‘recommend,’ a pass giving a person the right to participate in Temple rites; stereotyping statements like, ” If you don’t like it here, leave;” LDS family members shunned by their Salt Lake City neighbors when they are spotted heading for Sunday services with scriptures in hand; and the agnostic office worker being antagonized with such questions as, “What ward do you belong to?”
The LDS church demands a lot of time from its members, and that fact is hard for non-Mormons to fathom. Sometimes high school students are surprised to find a popular student is a non-Mormon, since it is generally assumed that only Mormons are popular. Some of the instances of non-Mormon children being excluded from play by other children in their neighborhoods are heart-rending. Some parents say Utah is probably the only place where kids are defined by religion, not race or social class. Some complain that Mormons have the perception that only Mormons are nice. Some non-Mormons cope by finding their own circle of friends.
Bruce Smith, publisher of the Herald Journal in Logan is often stunned by the insensitivity of fellow Mormons. He says they chat about mission calls and conference talks at football games and dinner parties, as if everyone around is LDS. At the same time, he says, some non-Mormons “get their noses bent out of joint” for no reason.
The Tribune is seen is seen as at least a secondary player in the cultural-religious divide. Bob Fatheringham, a businessman, cites these examples: 1) Efforts to discredit the church’s offers of support in staging the 2002 Olympic games by labeling them as self-serving and dishonest, 2) The charges of duplicity regarding the church’s role surrounding the legal battle over future ownership of the Tribune, 3) Nominating President Hinckley as a candidate for Man of the Year in 2000 and then listing one of his accomplishments as that of trying to “culturally cleanse” the newspaper, and 4) the Mountain Meadows Massacre series, run just after Hinckley had just offered a historic olive branch to current-generation families of the victims. But Shelley Thomas, former KSL TV news anchor and now a businesswoman, says the Tribunereflects the rift but isn’t the cause. “The cultural divide is real, and it would exist if we relied on tribal drums for morning news.”
LDS leaders acknowledge that there is a problem. “We must not be clannish,” President Gordon B. Hinckley has said. “We must never adopt a holier-than thou attitude.” He described Utah as a state of great diversity. He asked his people to make non-Mormons feel welcome, to befriend them and associate with them.
In some places in the state, particularly in rural areas, people have taken steps to bridge the gap between the two cultures. In one case local Mormons helped non-LDS persons to build a church for their own faith, Catholic, then flocked to the consecration of the church buildings. In one case a quilting group, mostly Mormon, meets in a Catholic Church. It is simply a healthy respect for differences.
It is time, says John Huntsman, Alliance for Unity co-founder, philanthropist, and practicing Mormon, to “start healing the wounds of the state.”
Uncle Sam’s Xmas ’02 Wish List
To Buy Me These New Toys for Christmas!!
The ‘hit’ of this holiday season! As seen in Afghanistan. Our popular “Predator” Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, now with “Hellfire” Missles! Covert ops ready! In limited supply, so act now!
Discussion Group Report
The Two Cultures of the Human Race
By Richard Layton
C. P. Snow first articulated a powerful metaphor of human culture four decades ago. This is discussed in an article called “Science and the Nature of Awe” by Rudy Baum in the June 4, 2001, issue of C & E N. Snow said mankind is divided into two cultures, according to their ways of knowing the world: the scientific and the nonscientific. The problem of the difference in their orientations will not be alleviated, he said, by education. It is far deeper and more intractable than that.
Science’s handmaiden, technology, continues to alter the landscape of human existence with its nearly incomprehensible array of inventions and the products that spring from them. At the same time, articulate, thoughtful critics continue to insist that the reductionism that is at the heart of scientific understanding is a cold and heartless intellectual construct that robs nature and humanity of their grandeur- and worse, that understanding life mechanistically amounts to sacrilege. The clash between these world views continues in two recent essays, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, by Edward O. Wilson and Life Is a Miracle: an Essay Against Modern Superstition, by Wendell Berry. The latter is largely a highly negative response to Consilience.
Baum says most scientists he talks to in recent years express surprise that the “two cultures” debate continues; they probably generally take for granted the central place their disciplines hold in modern intellectual endeavors. But he suspects Berry’s arguments against reductionism strike a deep chord with many nonscientists. What many scientists bemoan as scientific illiteracy may be something far more disturbing: a distrust and fear of the scientific method and a conscious rejection of scientific understanding.
Snow deplored this state of affairs, maintaining that both the scientific culture and what he called the “traditional” culture were impoverished by their ignorance of each other. His greatest concern was with the lack of scientific understanding by the traditional culture. The unscientific flavor is often, much more than we admit, on the point of turning antiscientific. Members of the traditional culture, he said, “are impoverished too…they like to pretend that the traditional culture is the whole of ‘culture,’ as though the natural order didn’t exist. As though the exploration of the natural order was of no interest either in its own value or its consequences. As though the scientific edifice of the physical world was not, in its intellectual depth, complexity, and articulation, the most beautiful and wonderful collective work of the mind of man.”
Advancing scientific knowledge and technological development would, he said, inevitably benefit humanity. He was contemptuous of those members of the traditional culture who pined over the loss of a “preindustrial Eden” that never existed. “The scientific revolution,” he proffered, “is the only method by which most people can gain the primal things (years of life, freedom from hunger, survival for children)…Curiously enough, there are many who would call themselves liberals and yet who are antipathetic to this change. Almost as though sleepwalking they drift into an attitude which, to the poor of the world, is a denial of all human hope.”
He presents demographic evidence about the lives of agricultural laborers in 17th-and 18th-century England and France to argue that the vast majority of such people lived short, brutal lives characterized by hunger, famine, disease, and suffering. Much other evidence from many kinds of provenance all point in the same direction. No one should feel it seriously possible to talk about a preindustrial Eden, from which our ancestors were, by the wicked machinations of applied science, brutally expelled. “Consilience,” according to Wilson, is the unification of all knowledge. Wilson says, “Today the greatest divide within humanity is not between races, or religions, or even, as widely believed, between the literate and the illiterate. It is the chasm that separates scientific from prescientific cultures. Without the instruments and accumulated knowledge of the natural sciences–physics, chemistry, and biology–humans are trapped in a cognitive prison. They are like intelligent fish born in a deep shadowed pool.
“Wondering and restless, longing to reach out, they think about the world outside. They invent ingenious speculations and myths about the origin of the confining waters, of the sun and the sky and the stars above, and the meaning of their own existence. But they are wrong, always wrong, because the world is too remote from the ordinary experience to be merely imagined…
“There is only one way to unite the great branches of learning and end the culture wars. It is to view the boundary between the scientific and literary (nonscientific) cultures not as a territorial line but as a broad and mostly unexplored terrain awaiting cooperative entry from both sides. The misunderstandings arise from ignorance of the terrain, not from a fundamental difference in mentality… The question remaining is how biology and culture interact…and in particular how they interact across all societies to create the commonalities of human nature.”
Baum feels this assertion by Wilson is incorrect because it proposes an endeavor to be conducted entirely on the terms of the scientific culture. It is a program not to bridge the two cultures but, rather, one that demolishes the barriers that separate them and appropriates to the scientific culture all of human knowledge. He states, “The two cultures are not separated by misunderstandings arising from ignorance of the terrain between them. They are separated by a fundamental difference of mentality…that is rooted in how we appreciate beauty and experience awe.”
“What can be explained?” asks Berry. “I don’t think creatures can be explained. I don’t think lives can be explained. What we know about creatures and lives must be pictured or told or sung or danced. And I don’t think pictures or stories or dances can be explained. The arts are indispensable precisely because they are so nearly antithetical to explanation.
“Wilson, in his quest for consilience, wants to know why people tell stories and sing songs and dance dances,” claims Baum. “Berry, in his contempt for reductionist analysis and the social and economic structures he believes it buttresses, tells Wilson to keep his mitts off that which is sacred.”
Baum describes the team of chemists who obtained the first high-resolution crystal structure of the large subunit of the ribosome, the fantastic agglomeration of RNA and proteins that translates messenger RNA into proteins. This wondrous molecular machine assembles the molecules that make up all living organisms. The process is utterly fundamental to life. Analysis of the conserved nucleotides of the ribosome’s active site shows that the structure evolved before life split into phylogenetic kingdoms. “This feat of human understanding isn’t magic,” says Baum. “It doesn’t require a story. It will never inspire a song. It’s just true and at the same time beautiful….Why isn’t the beauty of the structure and function of the ribosome as worthy of awe as the beauty of an orchid or a child’s face or a deep pool in a forest?”
Honoring Florien J. Wineriter
Flo has served Humanists of Utah since the chapter was incorporated in February 1991. He has served as President since December 1991. February 2002 marks the end of his tenure as President, but the Board unanimously adopted a resolution making him an honorary member of the board for life.
Flo’s health is declining; he suffers from macular degeneration which has made him nearly blind. He also suffers from spinal stenosis which has made it very difficult fro him to get around.
In the spring of 2002 Flo had some serious health issues and we collected memories and tributes from chapter members and others in the freethought community. They remembered Flo and the tireless efforts he has unselfishly given to the cause of humanism.
If you would like to add your thoughts to this page please send an email to: Tribute to Flo and your comments will be added.
Flo is my hero! When I grow up I want to be just like him.
As I approach eighty, the pleasures are few and far between. But one pleasure I still have is the weekly lunch with my dear friend Flo.
My heartfelt gratitude to Flo for giving Humanism a voice in Utah–and what a voice: deep, rich quality combined with solid Humanist philosophy. Thanks so very much, Flo, for making Humanism a reality in this unlikely state of Utah, and for working in perfect harmony with the Unitarians. You are a true community builder, and your passion and conviction serve as wonderful inspiration to us all.
For the wedding of our daughter Alice in the garden gazebo in Ogden, Flo in his red vest presided with dignity, humane hope and encouragement.
–William and Helen Mulder
Flo Wineriter is one of the great voices in this valley. I look up to, admire, and respect Flo and his accomplishments as much as any Utahn I’ve known or heard of. He is a truly great role model for all of us.
I first encountered Flo Wineriter in my youth, as a voice on the radio. Not only was Flo’s voice rich and melodious, but he always delivered interesting and thoughtful messages. And what an unforgettable name!
Fast forward to the year 2000. My wife-to-be and I were deliberating over the wedding ceremony. We wanted to be married by someone in harmony with our beliefs. As confirmed “non-believers,” it was difficult to find a judge or other official to preside over a wedding without reference to a god. Someone referred me to Flo. I contacted him, we met, he offered us a draft of a wonderful ceremony that was in harmony with us. When the happy day arrived, Flo was there. Our ceremony was perfect. We were–and are–so grateful to him. In getting to know Flo a little, we were introduced to the Humanists of Utah, and knew that we had found an oasis of sanity in the theocratic desert of Utah. Thank you, Flo.
I can’t express how much you have influenced me–I thought I was alone in the world as a Utah atheist. I can never thank you enough for the experiences you have provided me and my husband with the Humanists of Utah organization. Have a wonderful retirement.
–Brenda and Terry Wright
Flo-You are a teacher. My first remembrance of you was the two of us sitting in your backyard and talking about grief. We were both younger and thought we knew a lot. I listened, I learned (as I always have from you), and I have become a better person, able to help others because of what I have learned from you. Your influence is wide and always for good.
Since no scientific evidence posits a life after death, when my father was dying from cancer, I was discouraged that I may never see him again. Flo gave me comfort and support.
We have been associated with you, Flo, for 21 years. When we think of you, we are struck by your many talents. The Humanists, and other organizations, have all been blessed by your organizational skills, speaking ability, marketing sense, and willingness to “hang in there” by acclamation as our President all these years. It is a rare human being who can often speak his mind and yet not significantly offend others. Yes Flo, the courage to speak out and to speak your mind often is what we all can try to emulate. Thank you for your great service to us all.
Much love and admiration,
–Ron and Janet Anderson
I bet you don’t know how many times you have been responsible for the smile on my face…seeing you at the board meetings, humanist gatherings, sharing a hug. I remember when you called me at work and the secretary came into my office, big-eyed and excited, “Is that the Flo Wineriter?” Another smile and smug reply, “Yes, he’s my friend.” Well, my friend, thank you for the extraordinary services you have given the Humanists of Utah. Thank you for bringing excellent speakers, organizing meetings, hauling chairs, calling those who needed attention, recognizing the efforts of others and being so generous with your time. Thank you for exemplifying humanism. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being such a good friend. Thank you for the many smiles that have risen on my face and seeped into my heart. I love you.
Flo, what you’ve gifted to me in the short time that I have known you is a more profound respect for the power of determination. Thank You!
–Mary K. Sanderson
When I first attended a general meeting of the Humanists of Utah, I remember best those dulcet tones coming from the podium as Flo opened the meeting. His presence lent warmth and legitimacy to the gathering. I wish to thank him whole-heartedly for all that he has done for us in many ways.
Thanks for this opportunity to praise Flo…he deserves every word everyone writes, plus a whole lot more. My words of praise for Flo would take a book, but as you suggest around 25 words…
Flo is, without a doubt, the best Treasurer the AHA has ever had! And I am so deeply grateful to Flo for keeping alive the Humanist flame in Salt Lake City that was first ignited by our mutual mentor, Edwin H. Wilson.
I’ve known Flo for nearly seventeen years. I met him at the First Unitarian Church. I was surprised and impressed by his energy for a man who could be only about fifty. Even today, Flo seems no older. His booming, very articulate voice and words recommend him to anyone to know and seek advice from his obvious maturity and wisdom. Eventually, I found myself to be a humanist by many definitions. Only eleven years ago I found myself married for the second time in my life to a delightful person named Leona who was also, clearly a humanist but not the same as me. She lacked interest in my church but eagerly participated in activities outside of church. I consulted with Flo on this phenomenon and expressed my concern to him and asked him why she seemed less interested in attending church than I was. His advice: “Don’t worry about it Dave; she’s a secular humanist.” And it all cleared up for me a bit! Flo’s wisdom and wise council (off the cuff, no less) is most valuable to me as a friend and a religious humanist! Flo will surely be missed as our past president but no doubt some younger and even more energetic than I first thought Flo to be will assume his titular position but there is no doubt that Flo will be consulted from time to time by many who have grown to love this superb member of the human family.
Flo, like George Washington, you have been the perfect captain of our ship on its initial voyage through the challenging seas. Best wishes always.
I doubt that Humanists of Utah would be as successful as it has been if it had not been for Flo Wineriter’s leadership. He has consistently found excellent speakers for our general membership meetings. He has presided over our meetings with dignity and good taste. His unwavering enthusiasm for humanism has been an inspiration for us deviates from the sea of superstitious belief and authoritarian, dogmatic religion we find around us in our everyday lives. At the same time his consistent courtesy and respect for other people’s right to freedom of religion has helped us to resist the temptation to become dogmatic in our own expression of our humanistic worldview. Thanks, Flo!
It’s easy to call yourself a Humanist–the trick is to BE a Humanist! Flo personifies all the qualities that I think of when using that term. He’s a thoughtful and critical thinker. He’s accepting of diversity but not of dogma. His analytical approach to subjects provides us with insight and a new depth of understanding. He isn’t devoid of humor, either–his laugh can make anyone smile–even his critics!
I’ve known Flo for 45 years. He has provided leadership in many selfless endeavors that would lead to a saner and safer planet.
I would like to join others in expressing my great appreciation for Flo’s splendiferous leadership of our little band of heretics of the past years. Flo, whom I love and josh by calling him “Bishop,” has been a magnificent representative of humanism right here in Zion where, need I say, not everyone shares our point-of-view, unfortunately. But Flo has led the way on an enlightened path for those who have “eyes to see and ears to hear.” Bravo Flo!
Good show-all the way!
We often wonder in introspective review whether or not we’ve measured up to our expectations of ourselves.
From my point-of-view, your many contributions to your fellow beings–carried out with vigor, good humor and sensitivity–have earned you a special award for “expectations fulfilled.”
If we were to focus upon only one significant contribution–your extraordinary founding of Hospice–with its comforting benefits to patients and families–that one alone should cause you to experience supreme satisfactions. I cannot tell you the number of times I have been told, “Hospice has been the most wonderful aid to us–we could not have done without it.” And, to think, I could proudly say that I know its founder.
You will leave your station with the Humanists of Utah in excellent hands and you will simply be adopting “additional” projects. We know you Flo.
Thank you for sharing your energy, enthusiasms, and cheer with all of us.
I have known Flo for approximately 30 years. I knew of him for several as he was a member of the church, and often referred to. I knew him as a fellow church-committtee-panel member for several, was a very close friend for several and now have faded once again to a casual pattern of an occasional phone call or E-Mail, but still count him as a good friend. Flo had always impressed me as a person who was always “on.” Being a member of the entertainment industry for so long a period, I assumed that that persona was the real Flo. As I got to know Flo the political analyst and other aspects of this person I realized what an informed individual he was and came to appreciate how well he could present information to an audience thus revealing a public speaker to be heeded.
Now I know Flo as the organizational energy behind the Humanists of Utah and appreciate that aspect to the fullest.
He deserves to retire if that is his wish. He has done many things throughout his impressive life leaving many, many people in this valley and beyond with a smile and a chuckle as they think of Flo and his stories, wise and otherwise.
Thank you, Flo, for your unfailing willingness to educate others (especially my U of U students) through the sharing of your knowledge, wisdom, and experience. Your kind heart and great respect for humankind is appreciated more than I can express.
Flo has been the main leader of our Humanist organization since early in its beginnings. We owe him a great thank you for his hard work in our behalf, and for being President of Humanists of Utah for all these years. One thing I thank Flo for is doing the ceremony at my grand daughters wedding. The ceremony was beautifully done and nobody could have done it better.
A comment I heard from a couple of guests was that god was not even mentioned in the wedding ceremony. Maybe they just don’t get it. Thanks again Flo
–Harvey G. Gaster
When I think of Flo some special adjectives come to my mind, like friendly, warm, intelligent, compassionate, articulate, a true gentlemen with that incredible and beautiful voice.”
I first worked with Flo 25 years ago teaching a class for teenagers called “About Your Sexuality.” He was honest, kind and not judgmental. They were taught to know rather than “just say no.”
Although Margie and I “only” moved to Salt Lake City in 1968, it seems as though we have known Flo Wineriter forever. He has always been among the most distinguished members of the First Unitarian Church and always a friend in times of need. When my aging parents–devoted humanists, both–moved out here from Kansas in 1986, Flo was one of the first to welcome them and make them feel at home. I can think of no one more consistent in living the ideals of humanism every day. The organization will miss his inspirational leadership.
Twenty-five years ago, fresh faced and without the slightest idea of what it meant to be a professional journalist, I met Florien Wineriter. He instantly became a role model for me. His voice would resonate through the radio-smooth, distinguished and insightful. For a kid fresh out of college, Flo’s ability to communicate was inspiring…and more than a little intimidating!
But Flo made his greatest impact through his generous and friendly manner. In an industry driven by competition, he was dependably open, engaging and encouraging. As the years passed, he would always take a moment to share a kind word.
When he retired from broadcasting, he brought that same range of wonderful qualities to his work with the Humanists. Always seeking insight to the world around him, he would encourage the dialogue on local and world events. In the process he would involve his old friends and make new ones for himself and the organization.
Flo is one of my quiet heroes. A man of dignity, wisdom and unfailing good humor who has made a difference in many lives. His service as President of the Humanists of Utah has made a wonderful contribution to the diversity of opinion and quality of dialogue in our community.
Thanks for all you have done, my friend!
It is not nice to say that I hardly remember Flo. It is not true, either. But it is hard for me to remember a time when Flo did something in a memorable way, when he made a grand gesture or an impressive speech, or when he forced an issue to gain a victory.
In my memories of the funnest time of my life so far, when we got the Utah Humanists started, Flo is always there, but he is content to be in the background. I know that at times he did have to be in the focus of attention, to welcome people to a big meeting or so. But he would use the occasion to make us all feel what nice people we were, not what a great guy he was.
According to some Chinese philosophers, the best rider is not the one who whips and spurs, but the one who can make the horse go without effort. And the best leader is not the one who can bend people to his will, pushing and punishing and purging, but the one who gets things done without raising his voice.
Flo is like that; a mover, but not a shaker. He is there, and things get done. That makes him not just an all-round nice guy, but also a very tough act to follow. You guys had better cut the next president some slack.
As one of the most dynamic and insightful humanists of the last decade, we have been privileged to have Flo head humanism in Utah. Tonya and I treasure our humanist wedding that Flo presided over as an AHA humanist celebrant, and a caring friend.
–David and Tonya Evans
We met Flo in the Forties when Channing club was a popular refuge for the college crowd. We saw the Socratic Method in action while gathered before the fireplace in Eliot hall when Professor Jarrett would question Flo as a devils advocate in the beginnings of noticing race relation problems. I remember picketing a bowling alley in Sugarhouse that refused entry to dark-complected foreign students.
We met Flo in the Fifties at World Federalist meetings as well as around the church. We left town for a few years and when we came back in the Sixties found a much enlarged Eliot Hall and a bigger kitchen but no more fireplace. Some dissidents known as Salt Lake Acting Company made some resounding productions on our stage. Many said that bringing “Oh, Calcutta” to Utah might turn out the lights in our church, and they were right! We still are not sure if that nude scene was for real. We met Flo in the Seventies when his mellifluous voice was carried by KSL and his “Unitarians in History” was the hit of the Sunday school.
Together with the Wineriters, we shepherded our teenaged children through the campouts and parties and the beginnings of “About Your Sexuality” training. We served on the board of Trustees together during Dick Henry’s ministry, and between Flo and Bangs Tapscott, those meetings were often exciting, and usually l o n g.
Whether officiating at a wedding or funeral, explaining the budget, or welcoming new members Flo has been an invaluable asset to our church.
–Justin and Barbara Kreek
Ten years ago I moved from the “liberal” East Coast to the hot bed of “illiberality”, Utah County. But I was flabbergasted to find that for a short drive north round point of the mountain, I could actually mingle with a group of free-thinking, clear-headed people called the Humanists of Utah, led by the most amazing and warmly welcoming gentleman, Flo Wineriter. At the very first meeting I attended, I realized that I could at last exhale. And I’ve been breathing the exhilarating air of rationalism ever since, though seldom in the company of the general meetings now that I’m not a night driver. But just knowing that the Humanist of Utah is going strong, thanks to Flo, and also getting a quick hello from him as he leaves the early Unitarian Church service and I cruise into the second service. Just to have his warm smile shine on me is well worth the drive up.
Thank you for helping me feel more at home in the rarified atmosphere of this strangely beautiful and beautifully strange land, Flo
Through the Looking Glass
Some days I feel like I fell down a rabbit hole and woke up in 21st century America. How do we live in such surreal times?
I don’t worship flags, eagles, songs or uniforms. Instead, I affirm compassion, reason and creativity.
I cannot believe that all political and social positions fit neatly on the one-dimensional continuum of left to right; I live in a three-dimensional universe, moving and evolving through time.
I will not resign myself to the exploitive puppetry of parties, sects and corporations. I am more than a vote, a prayer or a purchase. I don’t have to wear a label to know who I am.
I have also learned that contemplation can become inertia, and that activism can become militancy. These realities do not obscure the present crisis: America, and the world, need, more than ever, thoughtful action, real reform, honest dialogue.
Bumper stickers, bombast and bullshit are not enough.
The Road To War
by Richard Garrard
Twenty years ago, before there was an “Axis of Evil”–when there was only an “Evil Empire” –the U.S. State Department removed Iraq from its official list of sponsors of terrorism. Soon thereafter, Saddam Hussein began purchasing civilian helicopters from the United States. A second order of helicopters brought some congressional opposition but, with the blessing of the Reagan administration, the sale was approved in August, 1983.
Months later, in December, 1983, Middle East envoy Donald Rumsfeld arrived in Bagdad, the capital of Iraq. He brought a message from President Ronald Reagan: the United States is interested in resuming diplomatic relations with Iraq. An estrangement of 16 years was coming to an end. Rumsfeld would later tell the New York Times “it struck us as useful to have a relationship, given that we were interested in solving the Middle East problems.” The United States plainly saw value in using Iraq as a foil against the U.S. nemesis, Iran.
On March 24, 1984, Rumsfeld was back in Bagdad for meetings with Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz. The day the two men met, UPI reported that Iraq had used Mustard and VX gas against Iran. Days later, on March 29, 1984, The New York Times reported from Bagdad that “American diplomats pronounce themselves satisfied with relations between Iraq and the United States and suggest that normal diplomatic ties have been restored in all but name.”
November, 1984. Full diplomatic ties between the U.S. and Iraq are restored. During 1984, the State Department approves the sale of military-type helicopters to Iraq.
In 1988, Saddam’s military launches attacks on Kurdish civilians, using chemical weapons. U.S. intelligence sources later, in 1991, told the LA Times that they “believe that the American-built helicopters were among those dropping the deadly bombs.”
There is a phrase–possibly apocryphal, because it has been attributed to both Franklin Roosevelt and Secretary of State Cordell Hull–that refers to “OUR son of a bitch.” The story goes that, when the brutishness of an ally such as Somoza or Trujillo was mentioned in diplomatic circles, the retort was, “yes, he’s a son of a bitch, but he’s OUR son of a bitch.” Previous SOBs of ours had included the Shah of Iran and even Josef Stalin. Saddam was our SOB throughout most of the Reagan administration. Somewhere along the line, possibly in 1990, we dropped the “our.” It did not happen when Saddam used chemical weapons against Iran, in clear violation of the Geneva Convention. It did not even happen in 1988, when Saddam used GB nerve agent against an uprising of the Kurds–an ethnic minority of his open people–in Northern Iraq. It only happened when he ran afoul of the administration of George H.W. Bush.
Fast forward to the Brave New Millenium. The United States, still reeling from a terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, has not apprehended the chief villains of the tragedy: Osama Bin Laden and Mulla Omar. The FBI has not apprehended a suspect in the mailings of anthrax to Federal legislators and other government officials. A massive, unprecedented series of corporate scandals, involving billions of dollars in fraud, has seriously shaken the U.S. economy. The president–who is in office because of a Supreme Court decision made by a slim majority of his ideological sympathizers–sees his approval ratings plummeting, sees the dominance of his party in Congress swiftly eroding. Israel and the Palestinians, India and Pakistan are teetering on the brink of wide scale conflict, perhaps even war, perhaps even nuclear war.
So–it’s time to return to Iraq?
George W. Bush, who proudly proclaimed himself as the first “CEO President,” places great stock in his Board. The Board of the Bush presidency is strong indeed. The Chairman of the Board is unquestionably Vice President Richard “Dick” Cheney: past Secretary of Defense, Senator from Wyoming, successful oil company executive and friend of the Bushes. Cheney was SecDef during Father Bush’s greatest hours: the fall of the Soviet Union and the Gulf War. For a lifelong civilian, Cheney knows the war business.
The collapse of the Evil Empire took Cheney and many others in the defense establishment by surprise, but one Pentagon official was vindicated: Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz. Wolfowitz was skeptical of U.S. intelligence estimates of Soviet strength and disarmament strategies. As the discrediting of the mighty USSR military took place, Wolfowitz’s influence with Cheney grew. Wolfowitz predicted that the ensuing power vacuum in the Gulf, where the US-USSR spheres of influence had met, would encourage the aggression of elements like Saddam Hussein.
Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 took place in the face of U.S. intelligence that indicated that Hussein had not made extensive plans for such an action. Once again, the intelligence community had failed. Wolfowitz complained, “When signs started to turn up that the projected scenario regarding Iraq behavior was not unfolding as we wished, somebody within the Community should have said, ‘Wait a minute, here are facts that we ought to take some account of.’ Analysis, in this instance, would have usefully pointed to the fact that events were not going in the direction we had expected or hoped for.” Wolfowitz added, “We made enormous use of intelligence throughout the lead-up to the Gulf war, and during the Gulf war. But it was primarily used to figure out how to implement policy, not to debate policy preferences.”
The ‘policy preferences’ of the present Bush administration heavily favor the geopolitics of oil. Not only did the president receive almost $2 million from the oil industry in his last campaign, the elder Bush is heavily involved in the Carlyle Group, a transnational corporation deeply invested in energy and defense resources; the vice President was chair of Halliburton, a Dallas-based oil services company; his National Security Advisor, Condoleeza Rice, is a former Chevron board member; his Deputy Secretary of the Interior is a former CEO of a Denver oil and gas company; and numerous other members of his administration came from the same industry. In fact, eighteen of the energy industry’s top 25 donors to the Republican Party helped the Vice President’s energy task force develop its plan. The minutes of that task force are still in dispute, embroiled in a lawsuit from the General Accounting Office. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham met with 109 representatives from the nuclear, electric utility, coal, oil and gas industries during the three months he spent preparing Bush’s national energy policy; by contrast, representatives of only 11 environmental groups were consulted, and were allowed only 48 hours to fax in their comments.
As Paul Wolfowitz has demonstrated, policy trumps intelligence in this administration. In the Bush presidencies, policy comes from economics, not from human rights. During the first Gulf War, much was made of the outrages committed by Saddam Hussein in the gassing of the Kurds; yet, as is noted above, these atrocities had little influence on U.S. foreign policy at the time. Even the highly publicized accounts of “babies thrown out of incubators” was revealed by the New York Times to be a public-relations hoax orchestrated by the Kuwaiti government and the PR firm Hill & Knowlton.
What of the assassination attempt made on the elder George Bush in 1993? The Clinton administration confirmed the existence of an Iraqi-designed car bomb, apparently intended for the former president and a high-ranking Kuwaiti. Such an assassination attempt is inexcusable, but not exactly rare in the world of covert operations. The U.S. has variously attempted assassinations of foreign leaders such as Fidel Castro, Muamar Qadafi, and Saddam himself. At the time, the Clinton administration responded with an escalation of bombings of Iraq.
In fact, in addition to the imposition of sanctions against Iraq, bombings continued throughout the end of the first Bush administration and the duration of the Clinton presidency. Though controversial, the sanctions themselves are considered by objective groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as counterproductive in the toll they take on the lives of the ordinary Iraqis. The U.S. State Department proclaims that Saddam misdirects or misuses the “Food for Oil” transactions, but UN observers are not convinced.
What of Saddam’s potential for developing WMD–“weapons of mass destruction”? Reports vary as to the potential and the actual. UN weapons inspectors have not been in Iraq since 1998. Crude chemical and biological weapons are easily produced and hidden. There is little in the way of inspection regimens that could provide assurances. Weaponized versions of anthrax and the delivery systems (ballistic missiles) required involve much more sophisticated technologies that should be verifiable. True nuclear (fission and fusion) weapons are even more amenable to detection, while so-called “dirty” radioactive bombs require substantial quantities of radioactive dust and could not easily be delivered over a large target area in any effective way. Even if Saddam were to attack Israel with WMD, the reprisal would be swift and devastating: Israeli nuclear capabilities are estimated at around 200 tactical nuclear warheads.
Is Iraq connected to 9/11? One report has surfaced of a contact between Iraqi and Al-Qaeda operatives in the Czech Republic in 2001, but the report has since been discounted by both the Czechs and the U.S. Government. Israeli intelligence sources have argued for Iraq-Al-Qaeda connections, but there is much greater evidence of Taliban and even Saudi (but not official Saudi government) involvement, particularly the fact that three-fourths of the suspected hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi citizens. Israel clearly views Saddam as a threat, especially since the launching of Scud missiles against Israel during the Gulf War, but the case of a clear provocation against the U.S. has not been made.
In fact, the lack of evidence is why the United States has only two potential allies in a war against Iraq: Israel and Great Britain. Israel’s position relates to their past experience, and the alliance with Britain is questionable. A clear majority of Brits disagree with British involvement in a war with Iraq. The coalition that preceded the initiation of Operation Desert Storm does not exist. Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Germany, France and Japan have clearly stated that they would not support such action.
While a majority of the American public supports military action against Saddam, a recent Washington Post-ABC news poll found that “66 percent of Republicans and 82 percent of Democrats said Bush should seek congressional consent before attacking Iraq.” At this time the Congress has not been consulted and Congressional support is steadily eroding. The latest casualty is Richard Armey, Republican House leader and fellow Texan. Concerns have been expressed by top national security strategists of previous administrations: Brent Scowcroft, who warned in a Wall Street Journal article of “an Armageddon in the Middle East.” Lawrence Eagleburger, who stated that unless Saddam had “his hand on the trigger” of a weapon of mass destruction, an attack was unwarranted; and Henry Kissinger, who cautioned against unilateral action as a dangerous precedent.
So why is this president so adamant? Could it be because of the stratospheric popularity of many wartime presidents? Could he be concerned that, historically, the party in the White House loses seats during midterm elections? Could it be because the president’s corporate managerial credentials–and those of the bulk of his appointees–are in disrepute? Or because the federal budget surplus turned to deep deficits on his watch? Could it be, with the failure of the “war on terrorism,” the president needs another chance, in another war? The growth of executive power to make war is a disturbing trend of administrations over the last fifty years, especially since Vietnam. The war proposed is remote in geographical distance and also psychic distance: the enemies are 10,000 miles away, they are Muslims; we kill them with smart bombs, stealth aircraft and unmanned Predators at little risk to ourselves; we can even subdue them with nonlethal microwave “pain rays.” War has never been so un-warlike…right? If the gore is not televised, does it exist? Everywhere bumper stickers proclaim, “US Troops Kick Ass!” as if war is some sort of Superbowl game.
Should we care? Yes. The United States should not embark on a war in the Middle East without Congressional oversight and support. The American public must hear a full and open debate on the issues and the options. The U.S. should seek an international consensus, as well. War should not be seen as an exercise in patriotism, but a dreaded last resort. In the sanitized, public-relations managed era of remote, high-tech war, we easily forget: War is killing. War not only destroys others but, in the end, destroys us as well.
Still Thankful for Humanism in Our Tradition
by Hugh Gillilan
December 1, 2002
The following sermon was given to the First Unitarian Church in response to Tom Goldsmith’s sermon a few weeks earlier
Late last summer our family gathered for a reunion at an idyllic campground in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton Forest. On one of the camping nights I found myself awake about 3:00 AM. All was delightfully peaceful, a mountain stream was rippling nearby and in the distance a Great Horned Owl was calling its mournful cry–which some bird commentators have said sounds like, “Who’s awake? Me too”. As sometimes happens in such wakeful circumstances my mind was flitting from subject to subject and I began thinking about what I might discuss on this occasion. Tom, in his typical efficiency, had asked me earlier in the summer whether I would consider speaking on this fall date, and so I was ruminating that night on what was really meaningful to me and hopefully worthy of your time as well. My nocturnal conclusion was that I wanted to discuss humanism and my title would be, “Thankful for Humanism In Our Tradition”, because I really am very thankful for the humanistic philosophy that has vitally enriched our Unitarian Universalist history down through the decades to the present. So after returning to the city and in the weeks that followed I began gathering my thoughts when the unexpected occurred. Lo and behold, in late October Tom chose to deliver a thoughtful sermon on humanism and what he deemed to be its limitations. At that point I decided to change my title slightly “to Still Thankful for Humanism In Our Tradition”, and what I would like to share with you in our next few minutes together is a somewhat different perspective on humanism in our religious movement.
But first let’s turn back the clock a bit, quite a ways back as a matter of fact to the spring of 1952. I was a freshman at Ohio University and a student in Dr. Horace Houff’s Life’s Meaning and Morals philosophy class. On one memorable occasion Dr. Houff invited into our classroom a guest speaker from Yellow Springs, Ohio, who was the Executive Director of the American Humanist Association. The gentleman in question proceeded to discuss the philosophy of humanism. He was quite emphatic that persons could live decidedly moral lives without believing in a personal God. I have to tell you I was aghast at such heresy. I regarded myself a committed Christian, I was very active in Wesley Foundation, the Methodist student group on campus, and I prayed daily and diligently about numerous matters large and small –probably including forthcoming tests. I was also embarked upon preparation for the Methodist ministry at a Methodist seminary after completion of my college work . Morality without God! How could it be conceived?
Just nine years after that humanist presentation at Ohio University, in the summer of 1961, I candidated in this church and was invited to become the minister of this religious community. I came with great enthusiasm as an ardent humanist, and I relished the fact that this church had an illustrious history of humanist ministers preceding me including Jacob Trapp, Ed Wilson, Raymond Cope, and Harold Scott. Clearly, then, some radical changes had taken place in my philosophy and religious life between 1952 and 1961.
To quickly summarize those catalytic years:
A liberal arts degree at Ohio University did what a liberal education is supposed to do. I was introduced to the world. Philosophy, psychology, history, science, world religions, my English major and even ROTC all opened up vast new intellectual horizons as the world came flooding into my psyche. And in that very same psyche were also subterranean doubts that had a disconcerting way of rising to the surface on occasion to trouble my Christian aspirations. I well remember a visit to campus by a Methodist bishop, and believe me, bishops in the Methodist tradition have considerably more power and august authority than bishops here in Zion –whether deserved or not. This particular bishop made himself available for counseling sessions and I responded to his offer and with him tried to sort out some troubling religious questions. I found his counsel similar to but no more helpful than my mother’s response years earlier when as a young boy I asked her how one could go on living after death when one’s brain died. Both she and the bishop essentially said, “Son, you have to have faith.”
None the less, still enjoying Methodist associations and setting doubts aside, following college I went off to Garrett Biblical Institute in Evanston, Illinois, a graduate school decidedly more progressive than its fundamentalist sounding name would imply. There I thrived in pastoral psychology and counseling classes where for the first time I could delve into the provocative writings of such diverse personality theorists as Sigmund Freud and Carl Rogers. In Old and New Testament classes I was
introduced to more sophisticated methods of evaluating biblical writings, a process called “higher criticism”. Philosophy of religion classes offered new intellectual tools to evaluate religious tenets and traditions. Sociology of religion classes brought an inspirational awareness of noted proponents of the Social Gospel, men like Walter Rauschenbusch and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who insisted that the Christian Gospel must come to fruition in activities to promote social justice, world peace and the greater welfare of all the world’s inhabitants. I was privileged to hear Dr.King address a large crowd when he visited the nearby Northwestern campus. I remember well his stirring call for freedom for all persons without regard for race, color or creed, a theme familiar to all of us now via his “I Have a Dream” speech delivered in Washington, D.C.
Where I did not thrive in my seminary education was in the theology classes. One professor in particular was enamored with neo-orthodox theologians such as Reinhold Niehbur and Karl Barth, and he relished quoting the early church father, Tertullian, who reportedly said, “I believe because it is absurd”. Amazing! This learned professor also liked to quote other church fathers who declared reason to be the whore of religion leading believers down false paths. That’s w-h-o-r-e, but I think he could just as easily have said, reason as the horror, h-o-r-r-o-r, of religion. I’m here to tell you that during some of those theology classes I found far greater satisfaction and inspiration outdoors exploring the nearby gardens and wooded areas along Lake Michigan with binoculars in hand, especially during spring migration when the air was filled with beautiful warblers and other avian migrants.
And then a pivotal event occurred in my graduate education at Garrett. In a religious education class we were given an assignment to compare the religious education curriculum of the Methodist Church with that of another denomination of our choosing. I picked the Unitarian curriculum for my comparison and eureka! In that assigned task I encountered for the first time the writings of Sophia Fahs, a central figure in creating Unitarian religious education materials of that day, and her delightful book, Today’s Children and Yesterday’s Heritage, as well as another volume, The Church Across the Street , which actually suggested that it was important to understand what other churches believed as well as one’s own. As I read these books and other Unitarian curriculum items I realized that here were religious education materials I could wholeheartedly believe in and covet for my own children. I knew then that I had to find out more about the hitherto unfamiliar Unitarian tradition which I proceeded to do.
There was another concurrent and crucial process going on in my life during my seminary days. To work on some personal issues I entered into psychotherapy with a psychoanalyst in the community, and among the many benefits of that process I gained the courage to look resolutely at some of the religious doubts that had nagged at me throughout my earlier life. I gained an increased confidence in my own perceptions, thoughts and intuition and a concomitant decreasing certainty in my previous Christian beliefs.
And yet, upon graduation from seminary I resolved to try to function as a liberal Methodist minister since I had enjoyed many rich experiences and associations in that tradition as well as a first rate graduate education, theology classes not withstanding. But that noble experiment only lasted two years. Intellectual integrity and increasing frustration caught up with me and on Ash Wednesday of 1961, at the beginning of the Lenten season with its intensification of Christian thought and practice, I mailed my ministerial credentials to my Methodist bishop, relinquished my position as the associate minister in the large Methodist church which I had been serving, and as I have noted on other occasions, I gave up the Methodist Church for Lent… and thereafter. After five interesting, challenging and economically vulnerable months that followed I had the privilege of becoming the minister of this church.
I might add that during those two Methodist ministerial years I discovered Julian Huxley’s very helpful book, Religion Without Revelation, which is still a classic presentation of humanist thought. I also had delightful conversations with David Pohl, then the Unitarian minister at Shaker Heights, Ohio, and Janet and I visited when we could the West Shore Unitarian church in Rocky River, Ohio, where Peter Sampson was a very effective minister. In addition I found welcome inspiration and enlightenment through the sermons of various Unitarian ministers distributed by the Church of the Larger Fellowship, then a correspondence church for Unitarians who were scattered around the globe.
With that prologue I would like now to offer some reactions to Tom’s sermon on humanism which he delivered last October.
I was very pleased when Tom paid high tribute to Ed Wilson, the minister of this church from 1946 to 1949 and a very forceful and tireless promoter of humanism within Unitarianism and Universalism as well as outside of those traditions. When Ed left the ministry of this church he moved to Yellow Springs, Ohio, to become the Executive Director of the American Humanist Association, and yes, Ed was the one who thoroughly rattled my cage in that philosophy class at Ohio University in 1952. He and I had occasion to chuckle over that coincidence in later years. I was decidedly pleased when Ed invited me along with numerous others to be a signer of the Second Humanist Manifesto published in 1973. Ed was also a prime promoter and signer of the original Humanist Manifesto in 1933 and for many years he was the editor of The Humanist magazine including during the time of his ministry here in Salt Lake City. Lorille Miller and Stan Larson note in their history of this church that Ed received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Meadville Theological School in 1949 “in recognition of his contributions to the humanist cause and his performance as a Unitarian minister”. He helped create the Fellowship of Religious Humanists, primarily an association of Unitarian ministers, and established the journal, Religious Humanism. In 1978 he received the Unitarian Universalist award for distinguished service. And after returning to live in Salt Lake City in his later years Ed helped us to organize a Humanists of Utah chapter of the American Humanist Association, right here in Zion. Ed was 94 when he died. Can I make a case for saying humanism is good for ones health? In any event, I am most appreciative, despite my distressing first encounter with Ed, for his contribution to my life and to countless other humanists throughout his long and illustrious lifetime.
A little further on in Tom’s sermon he quoted a 1925 statement by Eustace Haydon, then a humanist professor at the University of Chicago and later the leader of the Ethical Culture Society in Chicago. The Haydon item that Tom quoted as reported in William Schultz’s book, Making the Manifesto, read thus:
“Through science man will become master of the earth and rise to undreamed heights. Science…will release the potentialities of every soul…In the new world the production of sick souls will no longer be possible…Purpose will be given to life. The old tragedies, the ancient evils will pass away.”
Hayden clearly over reached in these dated sentiments which almost sound like a parody today such was his moment of excessive exuberance for the advance of science. However, there was a footnote in the back of Bill Schultz’s book related to that quote which read:
In fairness to Haydon, he also called for stricter controls over the uses of science, saying, “The humanist recognizes that science in the hands of selfish men, allowed to create a civilization without the blessing or control of social idealism, has given us the modern age with its cruel maladjustments and its perversion of all human values”…
Bill Schultz also continued in that footnote:
He also disparaged uncritical visions [and again quoting Hayden] “Idealism is sobered by knowledge. Utopias are outmoded. There is no longer a search for panaceas…There will always be problems and new forms of evil.”
The footnote stands in decided contrast to the original quote both Schultz and Tom cited and I would contend these latter sentiments still have relevance today.
If Tom wanted to quote from that era I might have preferred a short sentence of Walter Lippman’s who wrote in his classic work, A Preface to Morals, in 1929: “When men can no longer be theists, they must, if they are civilized, become humanists.”
Following Tom’s quotation of Haydon’s I was really startled to hear him say, “I have not heard humanism offer much different in the last 60 years”. The obvious suggestion was that whatever original thinking might have been done by humanists had ceased 60 to 70 years ago and was now passe. My own experience has been so very different! As a minister and later teacher, psychologist and therapist both my life and professional practice have been greatly enriched through the years by humanistic psychologists such as Rollo May, Erich Fromm, Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, Albert Ellis, James Bugental, Alan Watts and Irvin Yalom. Within our Unitarian Universalist tradition I have been inspired not only by the early humanists writers, Curtis Reese, William Diedrich, Ed Wilson, and Lester Mondale but also in more recent years by Khoren Arisian, Mason Olds, William Schultz, and numerous other humanist ministers and writers whose work has been published in the UU World, in the journal of the Fellowship of Religious Humanists, and other similar publications. In the wider world of humanist thought I have found continuing intellectual stimulation and provocative insights in the writings of such persons as that feisty philosopher from England, Bertrand Russell; Harvard’s scientist par excellence, twice Pulitzer prize winning author, and in the words of one commentator “towering figure in modern science,” Edward O. Wilson; the Renaissance man and author of approximately 500 books (the exact number is in dispute), Isaac Asimov; the unforgettable astronomer, author and TV figure who knew a lot about pursuing mysteries of the universe, Carl Sagan; the tireless promoter of humanism and civil rights and the author of the classic Philosophy of Humanism, Corliss Lamont; and a host of other writers including Gerald Larue and Paul Kurtz whose writings have often been published in the pages of the American Humanists Association’s magazine, The Humanist , as well as The Council for Secular Humanism’s magazine, Free Inquiry. I have also been delving recently into the publications emanating from The North American Committee for Humanism and the Humanist Institute which grapple in a significant way with contemporary social and philosophical issues. Tom said he has set aside his American Humanists Association card. I think that by so doing he may have deprived himself of some vital and relevant material through the years that would have even further enriched his voluminous reading. Indeed, my problem has never been in exhausting enlightening humanist writings relevant to each successive decade but rather to find the time for all the reading I would like to do whether humanistically oriented or otherwise. I should have the T-shirt which reads, “So many books, so little time!”
In Tom’s sermon I was also surprised to hear him extol “mystery,” a concept he said was “frightening to humanists” but essential to our well being. And he offered an esoteric redefinition of the word. I find myself not frightened but decidedly mystified. What we are dealing with at this point is something called epistemology which is a branch of philosophy that deals with, in dictionary verbiage, “the study or a theory of the nature and grounds of knowledge especially with reference to its limits and validity”. In other words, how do we really know what we think we know and how valid is our belief system? We routinely say, “I know…” something or other when deeper analysis often reveals that we are deluded, misinformed, misperceiving or misinterpreting information from our senses. Both unconscious drives and conscious biases muddy the waters and make our supposed knowledge decidedly questionable. Think of the widely divergent witness reports of accidents and faulty reports of crime scenes, the supposed white van sightings in the sniper shootings back East as a much publicized recent example. In the bird watching realm we often say facetiously, “I wouldn’t have seen it if I hadn’t believed it”. Knowing anything with certainty is really very complex though we blithely take our assumptions for granted. In truth, or more appropriately, I think that all we believe and claim we know is based on an element of faith in the veracity of our senses and the validity of our thinking processes, not in spite of or contrary to reason, but based on assumptions that we can not ultimately prove with absolute certainty. In overly extolling reason in the past humanists as well as theists and others have forgotten the inherent faith assumptions upon which we live and move and carry out our everyday existence. That ought to keep everyone humble! We can not ultimately prove that love is better than hate, justice better than injustice, beauty better than ugliness, etc., however obvious such values may seem to us. We may have our preferences, beliefs and values that we are willing to pay a high price for even to the point of death. We may point to both history and the present day to show how we think some values promote human welfare better than others and yet ultimate truth and absolute proof forever elude us. This is what prompts some Post Modernists to claim that we can’t really know anything. However, that stance seems ridiculous on its face. Such persons might better remain silent because from their point of view they don’t really know what they are talking about and further, their listeners wouldn’t really know what they were talking about either. In any event, in the existential living of our lives, we all have to make never ending decisions large and small to maintain, preserve and enrich our lives even if we often do so with fingers crossed. We humanists prefer to utilize reasonableness, experience and the scientific method to guide our thinking complemented by the less obviously reason oriented processes of intuition and aesthetic appreciation. At our best we are open to whatever wisdom is available coming down through the ages from the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, Hellenism, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the varying world religions and the multitudinous productions of countless thoughtful persons throughout the world, in every era down to the present.
So where does the notion of mystery fit into all of this? And how are we to be nurtured by the unknowable, by definition? We often stand in awe and wonder at marvels here on our little planet, and as we look outward into the boundless universe and seek to understand and appreciate more and more with an insatiable appetite. But “Mystery” with a capital M eludes me and doesn’t strike a responsive chord as either a source of guidance or inspiration. Tom said that “it is mystery that nourishes the very center of our lives”. For myself, rather, it is the love of my family and friends, the beauty of the earth, the resplendent arts, the ability to move and think and learn and create and dream, and the opportunity to love, to serve and interact with others that nourishes the very center of my life.
I’m going to over generalize and over simplify here for a few moments before concluding. My working assumption is that the geography we grow up in or spend a lot of time in quite naturally influences both our temperaments and our thinking. Tom has spent a significant portion of his life in New England which is rich in both history and intellectual ferment over the last two centuries including those famous proponents of transcendentalism such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Amos Bronson Alcott, William Ellery Channing, and others. Harvard Divinity School, which Tom attended, has for many years enjoyed a well deserved reputation for ministerial training and as a repository for fine scholarship including that of the well known transcendentalist authors. Perhaps here again a dictionary definition, in this case of transcendentalism, is a succinct and helpful contribution to our discussion:
I think there is a familiar ring here in thinking of Tom’s emphasis on “mystery” and other similar themes in his sermons.
I, on the other hand grew up in the Midwest which I would describe in short hand fashion as meat and potatoes country and I am a meat and potatoes sort of person…or actually semi-vegetarian these days. (It just goes to show that environment isn’t all determinative.) But I might just as well have grown up in Missouri, the “Show Me State” that prides itself on pragmatism and evidence. Indeed, the midwestern segment of our country has reveled in pragmatism and decidedly less esoteric themes than New England. Thoreau could wax eloquently on Whippoorwills, butterflies and other flora and fauna while the poet of the Midwest, Carl Sandburg, later penned such spartan lines focused on such things as:
Or his poem entitled, Happiness:
One can easily think of many other examples of the pragmatic/liberal approach to life in the Midwest from the liberalism of such schools as the University of Wisconsin to the well known liberal politicians of both Wisconsin and Minnesota including Humphrey, Mondale, and Wellstone . There were the well known academics such as John Dewey, perhaps America’s best known philosopher and educator, who in the naturalistic tradition developed his philosophy of Pragmatism at the University of Chicago. I think we could even cite NPR’s broadcasts emanating from Minnesota featuring that delightful raconteur,Garrison Keillor and the fictitious inhabitants of Lake Woebegone . Meadville Theological School in Chicago was the spawning ground for many of the early humanist ministers in Unitarianism and thus was very influential in the spread of humanism throughout the Midwest. Again, as a generalization, as the Unitarian movement moved west across the country from its New England roots the more humanistic the tradition became. Many of you may not be aware that the original name of this church was The First Unitarian Society and continued with that name until 1962 when I, for better or worse, initiated the move to rename our organization The First Unitarian Church, a decision much lamented by some humanists in the congregation at the time. The vote at a congregational meeting was 53 in favor and 18 opposed to the name change which I must confess has been a very minor source of ambivalence for me in subsequent years. You see, we humanists are up front about getting rather twitchy about traditional religious terms such as “worship,” “prayer”, “spiritual” and the biggy, “God,” in association with our religious community even as we try to remember our emphasis upon our prized diversity and “deeds, not creeds.” The terms in question carry so much baggage and ambiguity for many of us that they have lost much of their luster and attraction. I took due note of a recent ad for a new Volkswagen Beetle convertible which spoke of its “spiritual” qualities. (That must be some automobile!) Many of us have worked with such diligence to evolve a philosophical position of integrity that we are undoubtedly over sensitive to the persistence of some words in our religious gatherings that have decidedly lost their appeal.
But to move this discussion to a close I would point out the obvious, that my generalizations about New England as contrasted with the Midwest and the thought forms therein are decidedly limited. I thoroughly enjoy reading Thoreau as one of my heroes and Emerson as well, and I imagine Tom could also say a few good words for the likes of Dewey and Sandburg. And I believe that Tom and I, whatever our philosophical differences might be in some particulars, are united on much common ground. I feel confident neither of us expects supernatural assistance in helping us with multitudinous and ever present human dilemmas. Both of us would agree that it is vitally important for each of us to develop a belief system that is satisfying, promotes ones well being, and is congruent with the best information available from whatever source. Both of us would agree that it is essential to keep both head and heart involved in our religious quest. Both of us would be in agreement that our religious beliefs, ethics and practices need to be borne out with diligence in the daily round and in unstinting efforts to create a better world for all of its inhabitants. As Ed Abbey once said, “passion without action is the ruin of the soul.” There are so many challenges facing all of us, personally and collectively, locally and throughout the world, that we must continually renew our vision, tap into our courage, join with others in our efforts, and do what needs to be done as long as we are able. So let us take heart and proceed with high resolve as we pursue those challenges together. And thanks to Tom for offering me this opportunity to share a different point of view.
Steven Jay Gould
September 10, 1941-May 20, 2002
“Science is not a heartless pursuit of objective information. It is a creative human activity, its geniuses acting more as artists than as information processors.”
“Humans are not the end result of predictable evolutionary progress, but rather a fortuitous cosmic afterthought, a tiny little twig on the enormously arborescent bush of life, which if replanted from seed, would almost surely not grow this twig again.”
Discussion Group Report
The Seeds of Enmity
By Richard Layton
In the October issue of The Utah Humanist we presented the chronological first half of the genesis of the present Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Here we are describing the last half, based on the discussion of the topic by David Schafer in the September-October, 2002, issue of The Humanist.
In 1920 The League of Nations bestowed on Great Britain a mandate to administrate Palestine and Transjordan (present-day Jordan). France was given a similar mandate over Syria and Lebanon. The British mandate, taking effect 3 1/2 years later, lasted a quarter of a century and left an indelible imprint upon the future course of events in the area. The League made preparation for self-government a principal goal of the mandates. The establishment of Britain as the ruling power inevitably led to increasing resentment by the Palestinians toward their new overlords. Up to World War I Britain had been primarily concerned in the Near East with maintaining its access to petroleum and other natural resources there, as well as control of sea and land routes to India and the Far East. Its policies in Palestine required attempting to balance the aspirations of the indigenous Arabs against those of ever-growing numbers of immigrant Jews, but this balance was never fully achieved. Arabs came to view Jewish immigration as a conspiracy between the British government and the Jews to create a colonialist Jewish state out of the whole of Palestine, excluding most Arabs.
Palestine’s Arab neighbors were angry about the situation, and various discords occurred among them. In general Arabs were hostile toward Zionist intrusions into “their” Palestine. With an eye to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s emphasis on self-determination, Colonel Edward Mandel House, his aide, wrote of the British plan for Palestine, “It is all bad and I told [Lord Alfred] Balfour so. They are making the [Middle East] a breeding place for future war.” David Ben-Gurion told leaders of the Yishuv (Jewish settlers), “…not everybody sees that there is no solution to this question. No solution!…We as a nation want this country to be ours; the Arabs, as a nation, want this country to be theirs.”
The Yishuv had some distinct advantages over the Arabs. The latter were disunited, comparatively uneducated, and unused to European thoughts styles of thought and organization. Many of the Jews had the benefits of European education and experience in various kinds of work.
Unprecedented rioting took place April 4-7, 1920 in which six Jews were killed and over 200 injured. The Zionists began to strengthen their militia, the Haganah. Renewed violence on May 1 claimed the lives of 47 Jews and 48 Arabs and wounded 146 Jews and 73 Arabs. British colonial secretary Winston Churchill sought to soothe Arab feelings by declaring that it was right that the scattered Jews should have a national center and home in Palestine. This would be good for the world, the Jews, the British Empire, and the Arabs in Palestine, since the Arabs could share in the benefits and progress of Zionism. He asked the Zionists to consider “the great alarm” the Arabs were feeling. The Jews organized the Herut Party, which later became the Likud.
Palestine enjoyed relative quiet, prosperity and development between the summers of 1921 and 1928,while Jewish immigration rates remained low. The quiet was broken September, 1928, in a dispute revolving around the Wailing Wall, the most sacred place in the world to Jews and the third most sacred place, after Mecca and Medina, to the Arabs. Within a week 133 Jews and 116 Arabs were killed and many more wounded. A British investigation concluded the Arabs had caused the violence, and trials condemned 25 Arabs to death. The British then issued a White Paper of 1930, intended to slow Jewish immigration. After pressure from the Zionists the White Paper was reversed. A deceptive calm fell over Palestine for several years. Both Jews and Arabs had learned they couldn’t depend on the British to defend them. With the rise of Adolph Hitler to power some Arab leaders welcomed the new regime and hoped for the extension of the fascist, antidemocratic governmental system to other countries. Secret Jihad societies arose, composed mostly of poor peasants. They conducted minor raids, killing a few Jews at a time. After a general strike in April, 1936, terrorism spread rapidly throughout the countryside. Britain brought in 20,000 soldiers and provided arms to Jewish settlements and 2.700 extra Jewish police. The Zionists became the soul of compromise and reasonableness. The Palestinians, confident of the righteousness of their cause and convinced that nothing but total victory for their side would do, pleaded the justice of their case in absolute terms, saying, “There is no compromise.” Repeated efforts by the British to settle the hostilities failed. Then the Jewish defense forces abandoned their “reasonableness” in favor of “aggressive defense” and counterterrorism, resorting for the first time to suicide bombings to kill Arab civilians.
The British used severe measures to suppress the rebellion, resulting in the Palestinians’ being worse off than they had ever been, becoming wards of the Arab states. A number of concerted attempts by the British during World War II to resolve the hostilities failed. Toward the end of the war, the Jews looked for an opportunity to resume their revolt against Britain. In February 1944, a Jewish terrorist organization, the Irgun, now led by Menachem Begin, began to blow up or attack British government buildings in Palestine; and another Jewish group, the Stern Gang, assassinated Lord Moyne, the British minister resident in the Middle East and a close friend of Prime Minister Churchill. Up until then the British had been promoting a policy of partitioning Palestine between the Jews and the Palestinians, but now Churchill withdrew support for that stance.
U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt died in April, 1945. The British then ousted Churchill from the prime ministership in July. These two leadership changes made the United States much more receptive to Zionist claims and Britain much less. Britain wanted to avoid offending the Arab nations. It was fatigued and its empire on the verge of decline as its colonies asserted their desire for independence. “The United States, by contrast, was just beginning to feel like one of the world’s superpowers and thus only too happy to show the British how things should be done,” says Schafer.
After Germany’s surrender, the Irgun and the Stern Gang in effect resumed war against Britain when the British foreign minister, Ernest Bevin hinted he was going to follow a pro-Arab line. The United Nations set up a Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) of eleven neutral nations. The Committee recommended the termination of the British mandate and independence for Palestine after a transitional period. Seven states favored partition into an Arab state, a Jewish state and an international Jerusalem. Three favored an independent federal state, and one abstained. The Jews accepted the majority report but the Arabs threatened war if either report was accepted. In November, 1947, the General Assembly barely passed Resolution 181, allowing for partitioning Palestine into an Arab state of 4,500 square miles with about 800,000 Arabs and 20,000 Jews, and a Jewish state of 5,500 square miles with 538,000 Jews and 397,000 Arabs. In January, 1948, a volunteer “Arab liberation army,” mostly from Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, started to enter Palestine and secured some of its infrastructure. Then the Haganah came in and swiftly turned events around. After a particularly infamous massacre of an Arab village near Jerusalem and an Arab retaliation in kind, the Haganah took by force most of the territory allotted to the new Jewish state by Resolution 181.
On May 14,1948, the Union Jack was hauled down and the British mandate came to an end. David Ben-Gurion read the Proclamation of Independence, announcing the establishment of Israel, to the Yishuv. A new chapter had begun in the history of the Middle East–unfortunately with new hostilities initiated the very next day by Israel’s Arab neighbors.
Journey to Humanism
I was ten years old. It was 1965. I was standing in the living room of a tiny house on Third East in Salt Lake City, talking to my brother and my mother when it happened: my first epiphany.
The sheer fact of my own existence struck me like a thunderbolt. “I’m here,” I said suddenly, gasping in wonder. “I’m really here–right now!” Everyone was amused but me. I was shaking with exhilaration, with awe. I had no language for what I had experienced, but I knew that it was powerful and real.
A few months later came the second revelation. I was in the bathtub, a favorite place for experimenting with bubbles and for meditating on the dancing reflections of the overhead light fixture and the water-puckered wrinkles of my fingers and toes. At the end of the bath I pulled out the rubber stopper and I watched the vortex of the bathwater twisting down into the drain. It hit me, then: “I’m going to die someday. Me. I’m going to die.”
Everything changed. I began taking long walks in lonely places. Sometimes I walked under the stars, and I loved their cold beauty and even their lifeless, deathless inhumanity. I wanted to be like that. But I felt fear and hurt and doubt. Somehow I had to find a way to live with my awful knowledge.
At first I escaped into fantastic novels of other worlds and godlike characters, but the fantasy always came to an end and I returned to my mortal, cringing self. Then I began to read about mystics who had experienced the “timeless moment,” the “peak experience” that transcended death. The mystics seemed to retreat behind subjectivity and to find refuge within religions that I could not accept.
I began to look to the philosophers, and soon discovered the existentialists. While I could appreciate their honesty in appraising the absurdity of life, I did not have the will or the confidence to construct meanings of my own. I wandered through the Eastern religions, American versions of Zen and Mahayana Buddhism, but they seemed ill-suited to modern life. And so I drifted.
At seventeen I met a lovely girl and her fascinating, creative family. There was only one catch; they were Mormons. Yet, I told myself, if you could be an intellectual and an artist and still be a Mormon, perhaps the religion was not so restrictive after all. And so I was baptized at the age of eighteen and soon left for Brigham Young University.
I was not prepared for the terrific cultural shock that enveloped me. My relationship with the girl and her family ended, but I began another one with the woman I would marry. I underestimated the power of a dominant culture with highly developed methods of persuasion and seduction. My faith in Mormonism did not survive my time at BYU, but I was still caught in a web of relationships that included the church.
For the next twenty odd years I would live on the fringes of a religion, an outsider who wanted to be accepted but who would never belong. Over the course of my marriage I became a stranger to myself. I would play a role. I would try to become the perfect father, the perfect husband. I would try to be respectable. I sought validation in the opinions of others, but never from myself.
The marriage crumbled and crashed. As the layers of my false self were stripped away, I wondered what would be left. At last, alone, in an empty house, with my children far away and my future dark, I sat down with my day planner and began a new section. It would be my “Book of Beliefs.”
The first entry read, “We must choose whether or not to live or die. This is not a choice that is made once, but may have to be decided every day. Without this, nothing else matters.”
Later, I added a quote from Henry Miller: “The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.”
After a couple of years alone I met my beloved wife. When we knew that we wanted to be together, we wanted a wedding that reflected us and the lessons we had learned in discovering our true selves. We met Flo Wineriter, and he married us on a beautiful October day almost two years ago.
It has been a long journey, and there is much more to do, much to learn. My guiding principle these days is “Passion without illusion.” I think it may lead me to social and political activism, to self-expression, to a fuller and richer life.
I still recognize my fallibility and my mortality. But I also know that, “I’m really here–right now.”
Kathy Elton presented the following ideas regarding “Restorative Justice” to the July general meeting of the Humanists of Utah:
Crime consists of more than a violation of the criminal law and defiance of government authority.
Crime involves disruptions in a three-dimensional relationship of victim, community and offender.
Because crime harms the victim and the community, the primary goals should be to repair the harm and heal the victim and the community.
The victim, the community, and the offender should all participate in determining the response to crime; government should surrender its monopoly over that process.
Case disposition should be based on the victim’s and the community’s needs-not solely on the offender’s needs or culpability, the dangers he presents, of his criminal history.
What the research shows:
Victims of crime who meet their offender are far more likely to be satisfied (79%) with the justice system response to their case than similar victims who go through the normal court process (57%).
After meeting with their offender, victims are significantly less fearful of being victimized.
Offenders who meet their victims are far more likely to complete their restitution obligation to the victim (81%) than similar offenders who did not participate in a victim offender mediation session (58%).
Considerably fewer and less serious crimes were committed by offenders who participated in victim offender mediation (18%) when compared to similar offenders who did not meet with their victim (27%).
Discussion Group Report
Religion Is Not Withering Away
By Richard Layton
“Religion didn’t begin to wither away during the twentieth century, as some academic experts had prophesied. Far from it,” says Toby Lester in his article, “Oh, Gods!” in the February 2002, Atlantic Monthly. “And the new century will probably explode–in both intensity and variety. New religions are springing up everywhere. Old ones are mutating with Darwinian restlessness. And the big ‘problem religion’ of the 21st century may not be the one you think.”
“The assumption is that advances in the rational understanding of the world will inevitably diminish the influence of that last, vexing sphere of irrationality in human culture, religion.” But the world today is as awash in religious novelty, flux, and dynamism as it has ever been–and religious change is likely to intensify in the coming decades. The spectacular emergence of militant Islamist movements during the 20th century is only a first indication of how quickly, and with what profound implications, change can occur. We usually think of a few clashing civilizations as made up primarily of a few well-delineated, static religious blocks: Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. That’s dangerously simplistic, assuming a stability that is completely at odds with reality. New religions are born all the time, and old ones transform themselves dramatically. Schism, evolution, death, and rebirth are the norm–and not just for cults. Today hundreds of widely divergent forms of Christianity are practiced around the world.” Islam, usually referred to as monolithic, has more than 50 million members of the Naqshabandiya order of Sufi Islam and 20 million members of schismatic groups. Buddhism is a vast family of more than 200 religious bodies. Major strands of Hinduism were profoundly reshaped in the 19th century, revealing strong Western and Christian influences.
History bears out the continuing changes in religion. Early Christianity was deemed pathetic by the religious establishment. Islam, initially a faith of a band of little-known desert Arabs, astonished the world with its rapid spread. Protestantism started out as a note of protest nailed to a door. In 1871 Ralph Waldo Emerson dismissed Mormonism as nothing more than an “afterclap of Puritanism.” Until the 1940’s Pentecostalists were often dismissed as “holy rollers,” but today there may be more than a billion people affiliated with the movement. After World War II so many new religious movements grew up in Japan that local scholars had to distinguish between “new religions” and “new new religions.” One Western writer referred to the time as “the rush hour of the gods.” What is now dismissed as a fundamentalist sect, a fanatical cult, or a mushy New Age fad could become the next big thing.
The only serious reference work in existence that attempts both to survey and to analyze the present religious make-up of the entire world is the World Christian Encyclopedia. Its mover and long-time editor, David B. Barrett, recently observed that 9,900 religions have been identified in the world and that this number is increasing by two or three new religions every day. “It’s massive, it’s complex, and it’s continual…new religious movements (long derided and persecuted as cults) are not just a curiosity,…they are a very serious subject.”
The study of new religious movements (NRM’s) has become a growth industry. NRM scholars examine such matters as how new movements arise; what internal dynamics are at work as the movements evolve; how they spread and grow; how societies react to them; and how and why they move toward the mainstream. NRM scholars played a key role in de-fanging the influential anti-cult movement in the U.S. in the 1970’s and 1980’s, which engaged in the illegal practice of kidnapping and “deprogramming” members of new religious movements. Since Waco, the Heaven’s Gate and Solar Temple suicides, and the subway poisonings in Tokyo by Aum Shinrikyo, NRM scholars are regularly consulted by the FBI, Scotland Yard and other law-enforcement agencies to avoid future tragedies. They are currently battling the anti-cult legislation in France, passed last year for the “repression of cultic movements which undermine human rights and fundamental freedoms.” The law was rooted in a blacklist targeting 173 movements, including the Center for Gnostic Studies, Hare Krishnas, some evangelical Protestant groups, practitioners of Transcendental Meditation, Rosicrucians, Scientologists, Wiccans, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Even the Vatican hired NRM’s as advisors to help them meet the challenges posed by neo-religious, quasi-religious and pseudo-religious groups. The surprisingly liberal report of the advisors, not referring to NRM’s as “cults” or “sects,” suggested that these movements had something to teach the church about how to make its missionary activity more dynamic.
The one significant religious fact of our time is the failure of religion to wither away on schedule. Why? British sociologist Colin Campbell suggests an answer. It is to examine what happens on the religious fringe, where new movements are born. Maybe the very processes of secularization which have brought about the “cutting back” of the established forms of religion have allowed “harder varieties” to flourish. The groups that generally grab all the attention–Moonies, Scientologists, Hare Krishnas, Wiccans–amount to a tiny and not particularly significant proportion of what’s out there. Here are some samples: 1. The Ahmadis, a messianic Muslim sect based in Pakistan, with perhaps 8 million members in 70 countries. Mirza Gulam Ahmad, a Moslem, proclaimed, “Almighty God has, at the beginning of this 14th century (in the Islamic calendar) appointed me from Himself for the revival and support of the true faith of Islam, who must, under divine command be obeyed by all Muslims.” Members are considered heretics by most Moslems and are accordingly persecuted. They say Jesus escaped from the cross and made his way to India, where he died at the age of 120; 2. The Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University, a prosperous ascetic meditation movement based in India with a half-million members, mostly women. The group was founded by Dada Lekh Raj, a Hindu diamond merchant who in the 1930’s experienced a series of powerful visions revealing “The mysterious entity of God and explaining the process of world transformation.” It was rooted in a desire to give self-determination and self-esteem to Indian women. Members wear white, abstain from meat and sex, and are committed to social-welfare projects. They believe in an eternal, karmic scheme of time involving recurring 1,250 year cycles through a Golden Age (perfection), a Silver Age (incipient degeneration), a Copper Age (decadence ascendant) and an Iron Age (rampant violence, greed and lust–our present stage); 3. Cao Dai, a syncretistic religion based in Vietnam, established in 1926, with more than three million members in 50 countries. It combines the teachings of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism and builds on elements of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Geniism. It has a pantheon of divine beings, including the Buddha, Confucius, Lao Tzu, Qnan am, Ly Thai Bach, Quan Than De Quan, and Jesus Christ. Its three saints are Sun Yat-sen, the Vietnamese poet Trang Trinh, and Victor Hugo. The movement gained more adherents in its first year of existence than Catholic missionaries had attracted during the church’s previous 300 years in Vietnam. Four other examples given by Lester of new religions were the Raelians (Canada, Europe and Japan), Soka Gakkai International (Japan), the Toronto Blessing and Umbanda (Brazil). In order to save space, I won’t describe these except to point out that the last one has 20 million members and was founded in the 1920’s. It leaves the LDS Church, founded in 1830 and vaunted for its rapid growth, in the dust with only 11 million members.
Lester used to expect that people he would find in cults would be strange and mysterious, but experience has shown him that they demonstrate an essential blandness. They are no more or less eccentric, interesting, or threatening than people he rides with every morning on the London underground. They are very ordinary people. New religious movements are not as exotic as they are made out to be, or as they themselves would make themselves out to be.
What have the NRM scholars learned? Lester says several ideas recur again and again. “In an environment of religious freedom, NRMs emerge constantly and are the primary agents of religious change. They tend to respond quickly and directly to the evolving spiritual demands of the times, they are the ‘midwives of changing sensibilities.’ They exist at a high level of tension with society, but they nevertheless represent social and spiritual reconfigurations that are already under way, they almost never emerge out of thin air. Their views can rapidly change from being considered deviant to being considered orthodox. The people who join NRMs tend to be young, well-educated, and relatively affluent. They also tend to have been born into an established religious order but to profess a lack of religious belief prior to joining. They are drawn to new religious movements primarily for social reasons rather than theological ones–usually because of the participation of friends or family members… This last phenomenon is profoundly symptomatic because the fact is that almost all new religious movements fail.”
Sociologist Rodney Stark is one of few people who have tried to develop specific ideas about what makes religious movements succeed. He summarizes his thoughts, “The main thing you’ve got to recognize is that success is really about relationships and not about faith. People form relationships and only then come to embrace a religion. It doesn’t come the other way around, it’s something you can only learn by going out and watching people convert to new movements. We would never, ever, have figured that out in the library. You can never find that sort of thing out after the fact–because after the fact people do think it’s about faith. And they’re not lying, they’re just projecting backwards.
“Something else, give people things to do. The folks in the Vineyard are geniuses at that. The Mormons are great at giving people things to do too, they not only tithe money, but they also tithe time. They do an enormous amount of social services for one another, all of which builds community bonds. It also gives you this incredible sense of security–I’m going to be okay when I’m in a position of need; there are going to be people to look out for me…And if you want to build commitment, send your kids out on missions when they’re nineteen! Go out and save the world for two years! Even if you don’t get a single convert, it’s worth it in terms of the bonds you develop.
“You’ve also got to have a serious conception of God and the supernatural to succeed. Just having some ‘essence of goodness,’ like the Tao isn’t going to do it…even…in Asian countries. They hang a whole collection of supernatural beings around these essences. So to succeed you do best by starting with a very active God who’s virtuous and makes demands, because people have a tendency to value religions on the basis of cost.”
Stark’s rational choice theory of religion proposes that in an environment of religious freedom people choose to develop and maintain their religious beliefs in accordance with the laws of a “religious economy.” The essence of the idea is this: people act rationally in choosing their religion. If they are believers, they make a constant cost-benefit analysis, consciously or unconsciously, about what form of religion to practice. Religious beliefs and practices make up the product that is on sale in the market, and current and potential followers are the consumers. In a free-market religious economy there is a healthy abundance of choice, which leads naturally to vigorous competition and efficient supply (new and old religious movements). The more competition there is, the higher the level of consumption. This would explain the paradox that the United States is one of the most religious countries in the world but also one of the strongest enforcers of a separation of Church and State.
Stark argues that all social science is based on the idea that human behavior is essentially explainable, and it therefore makes no sense to exclude a major and apparently constant behavior like religion-building from what should be studied scientifically. The sources of religious experience may be mysterious, irrational, and highly personal, but religion itself is not. It is a social rather than a psychological phenomenon, and absent conditions of active repression, it unfolds according to observable rules of group behavior.
Religious institutions often go to pot, but religion doesn’t. Early Christianity was a rational choice for converts because its emphasis on helping the needy “prompted and sustained attractive, liberating, and effective social relations and organizations.”
“What new religious movements will come to light in the 21st century? Who knows?” asks Lester.
African NRMs have been successful,” says Rosalind I. J. Hackett, “because they help people survive…People forget how critical that is.” The course of missionary activity is now moving from South to North. African, Asian and Latin American missionaries are establishing themselves in Europe and North America. The present rate of growth of the new Christian movements and their geographical range suggest they will become a major social and political force in the coming century.
Phillip Jenkins makes a prediction, “I think that the big ‘problem cult’ of the 21st century will be Christianity.”
Reflections on Being Tried for Murder
I have recently had the misfortune of being tried for the “untimely deaths” of five of my patients, not just once but twice. In each of the two trials I learned a great deal about the judicial system, some of it positive and illuminating, and some of it quite distasteful. It was certainly positive to finally have my innocence vindicated, but unfortunate to have spent every last cent and then six months in prison.
The first trial lasted five and a half weeks. The prosecution tediously presented volumes of trivial detail and irrelevant minutia that not only confused the jury but also left them bored to distraction. This first jury refused to convict me of the charge of first degree murder, as requested by the state lawyers, but compromised with a verdict of guilty on three counts of negligent homicide and two of manslaughter, leading to a sentence of fifteen years. The second trial of three weeks was conducted in a much more expeditious way; the defense witnesses were knowledgeable and informative in their testimonies, while the state witnesses were a bit more circumspect than the last time. The jury quickly acquitted me of all charges.
Prior to my arrest none of the patients’ families had filed a complaint with the hospital, state agencies, or the medical societies, nor apparently had any even met with a lawyer. I can only imagine the scenario, but there came a day when a state investigator knocked on the door of each family to announce that their loved ones had not died natural deaths but had been murdered. One can imagine the rush of emotions that each of these individuals must have felt, running from fear, to guilt, anger, and pain. The loss of the departed had already been grieved, the dead had been buried, and the pain had been accepted and resolved. Then the prosecutors arrived to exhume the bodies. The survivors were now given a new and grisly burden to bear. The exhumations raised again the grief of their loss, not this second time to be so properly borne, endured, and buried.
As I sat in court each day listening carefully to the ebb and flow, the whole significance of our system of trial by jury became clear to me. I watched the families of the alleged victims sit through every pretrial hearing and both courtroom trials, waiting impatiently for the justice they felt they deserved. I was dismayed that they had become so righteously indignant over care I had provided and believed was appropriate and ethical. I now listened with the hope that after these family members had heard the facts and the expert explanations, they would feel relieved. I hoped they would find some peace when they learned that their decision had been a rational and wise one: to have me withdraw aggressive medical interventions from their dying, demented loved one and to replace that with compassionate comfort care.
It is now clear that the second jury did indeed hear the message. Justice was done, although at great expense to the state. The parade of experts provided a thorough explanation for those family members who were open to hearing it. This opportunity to hear a full disclosure of all the relevant facts is the true intent and meaning of justice, so that those who continue to harbor inner conflicts or ill will may be able to reach closure.
Among those less well informed I have no doubt that many questions, suspicious, and unresolved issues remain, many of which I believe arise from our widespread ignorance about the process of dying. Our society has essentially denied the reality of death. Most people have very little contact with death, and with our prolonged life expectancies we are not touched by it as closely or frequently as were people only a generation or two past.
A Latin term used in Medicine, in extremis, denotes not simply a state beyond which nothing further can be done to save life; it describes a process through which the body passes as it prepares to shut itself down, permanently: The process of dying.
Lewis Thomas in his book Medusa and the Snail has a chapter entitled, “On Natural Death,” which contains ideas so important to this subject it should be included in every pamphlet provided by hospice services. Thomas describes a process that takes place in the mouse at the instant it is caught by a cat. He writes,
He ends with,
Thomas then quotes the 16th century French philosopher Montaigne, who had had a near death experience which led him to write,
It should certainly serve to support the faith of those who believe in a merciful Creator to know that with all the violence built into the law of the jungle, prey are provided with this mechanism to guarantee a gentle and merciful demise. And this mechanism is fully active in humans.
During my second trial some experts discussed the notion of delirium, which is commonly seen in the demented. Since the five patients who died under my care were all in advanced stages of dementia, there was also substantial testimony about both the nature of dementia and the meaning of delirium. Dementia, a disease condition of the brain, results in destruction of large amounts of brain matter, leaving the afflicted individual trapped inside a tangle of non-functioning brain structure. In the later stages of dementia the process also leads to a general wasting of the entire body, eventually and inevitable leading to death. It is not in any way the same as psychiatric diseases such as phobia or neurosis, which are conditions of the mind, not the brain.
Delirium is rather difficult to define, but it is an altered state of mind that may incorporate hallucinations or other reality distortions, frequently associated with wild swings in brain activity. Delirium can be either pleasant or tragic. The endorphins provide a kind of quiet, pleasant delirium, but dementia can result in a delirium that is frenzied and destructive. The experienced caregiver knows it when she sees it, just as the knowledgeable caregiver can recognize the dying process when she sees it.
The demented individual presents many difficult problems for the caregiver, but one of the most perplexing is the inability of the demented to be able to identify and describe physical pain. The destroyed brain not only does not allow effective communication, it frequently does not even give the demented patient a correct interpretation of the problem, so they may not even recognize that they are in pain. Such patients may exhibit agitation or bizarre behavior in their response to unrecognized, painful stimuli. Since we have no blood test or “pain-o-meter” to measure the symptom of pain, we can sometimes only ascertain this by giving an opioid to see if the patient’s behavior improves.
In the normal, natural death, passing is made gentle and pleasant by the brain’s release of its own natural endorphins. Although we know of the severe pain many cancer patients suffer, once the dying process begins their pain is often relieved. In many of the demented, however, there appears to be the worst of all possible worlds; the brain seems to be both unable to discern the pain and unable to release nature’s merciful endorphins. This necessitates the administering of powerful pain relievers in generous dosage to help nature do what the disease process has forestalled, if one is to be as kind as we have seen nature to be when death is natural.
Our country is currently experiencing something just short of a war occurring between the regulatory agencies and those physicians responsible for compassionate pain treatment. The knowledge gained just in the past ten years about the proper use of opioids has been significant, and the new knowledge suggests that much of our past use of opioids has been meager and stinting. Now that bureaucrats, middle managers and lawyers have an ever increasing involvement in the way health care is delivered, innovative modalities and changing treatment practices are challenged almost everywhere, as one might expect. Perhaps the successful outcome in State v. Weitzel will help to further assertive and compassionate palliative care; I hope so.
I am very happy that I have been acquitted and that I may once again look forward to regaining my livelihood and respectability, but my greatest happiness comes from knowing that a jury of laypersons can and did hear the message; they saw the bigger picture. Although all my own assets have been spent, as well as considerable funds provided by donors, I still feel my optimism has been redeemed, and I am hopeful for my own future as well as that of conscientious and compassionate physicians everywhere, and most important, the patients we serve.
–Robert Weitzel MD
Proposed Changes to the Bylaws
The Board of Directors have discussed and agreed to changes to our bylaws concerning the way elections are held. There are two primary changes: 1) The board will consist of officers and five other directors. 2) All board members will serve 2-year terms. Half of the directors will be elected every year. Provisions are made detailing how elections will be held for the next two years in order to achieve staggered director membership.
The board believes that clarification of our election process, creation of a static sized board, and having continuity of officers and directors serving for two years will enhance the leadership of our chapter.
It is necessary for a simple majority of members at a public chapter meeting to approve the proposed changes to ratify them. A vote will be held at our August meeting. If you have comments or questions, please contact any member of the board .
Humanists of Utah Bylaws, proposed revisions
Problems of the Mormon Intellectual
From an address, “On Being Secular,” to the Humanists of Utah, March 2002. Dr. Mulder is a former professor at the University of Utah, and a chapter member.
A continuing problem of the Mormon intellectual is to remain both Mormon and intellectual. His is the problem of religious intellectuals generally: to dare to follow where the mind leads, to prevent the indecision that comes when intellectually they are persuaded in one direction but drawn emotionally in another. If one is robust he may, like William James, will to believe and find pragmatic reasons for the utility of faith, even when the premises are uncomfortable.
The Mormon intellectual, like intellectuals everywhere, wants to know the truth and shares their faith that the mind can lead the way to it. But the mind is only a tiny light in the great surrounding dark of the universe. Sometimes the seeker has to grope his way by other sensibilities, and senses other than sight, to move to an elevation where the little light he does have throws a farther illumination. Because he believes that faith is a s much a dimension of total experience as is reason, the Mormon intellectual may tolerate premises, doctrines, attitudes, and practices in his church which, rationally examined, seem archaic, untenable, even at times repugnant, on the chance these contain values he cannot now appreciate but some day will, or on the chance that he himself may be instrumental in changing them. When faith itself becomes unreasonable, however, putting too great a strain on his credulity, he has to make the hard choice of silence or separation.
The Mormon intellectual as scientist has a higher threshold than as humanist because, more familiar with natural fact than with social value, as scientist he is more willing to assign matters of value to the area of faith, where religious authorities can resolve doubts and make decisions. His religion is not in conflict with science because they don’t really meet. The Mormon intellectual as humanist, on the other hand, finds himself deeply entangled in kinds of truth not as readily verifiable as in chemistry or mathematics, but relative. In the humanities and social sciences, truth is not so much discovered as created. Social and moral and religious “truths” leave more room for argument and require, in any effort to institutionalize them, greater latitude of interpretation and application.
Abstract Mormonism, to the loyal intellectual, provides such latitude. Unfortunately, the concrete Church, or its officialdom, does not. Officially, spiritual truths are revealed truths, absolutes, and there can be no conflict between revealed truth and the discoveries about the natural universe, including human nature. In any apparent conflict, man-made truth must yield. Such an a priori commitment makes an apologist of the Mormon intellectual, not a seeker. The early church was full of vigorous thinkers whose main task in proving a doctrine true was to prove it scriptural. They were “intellectuals,” scholars and theologians, working, like the Puritans before them, with the Bible as the primary text and skilled in accommodating advancing knowledge to Biblical explanations. Mormonism, in the words of a twentieth-century apologist, a university man, prided itself on having a “rational theology.”
From the point of view of the Church, the intellectual is himself a problem. The Church is fearful that his findings will loosen his loyalties and may influence others to find a basis for their faith which is not simple and old-fashioned enough to be called religious. Work for the dead, the Negro question, the narrow proscriptions of the Word of Wisdom are matters where the Church would prefer not to have sophisticated answers because these might mean radical change. History is hard on Mormonism because Mormonism stakes so much on history, and if the evidence fails-if there really were no gold plates, if Joseph Smith really was more scoundrel than prophet-Mormonism faces a serious dilemma. Mormonism without a Book of Mormon as miracle is like Christianity without the Virgin Birth. But the intellectual may, in fact, provide the mystery religion requires and, with proper encouragement, give Mormonism its Sufis and Vedantists. When Mormonism can embrace both superstition and sophistication in the same fold, the intellectual will have found a productive place and revitalize the professed doctrine of the glory of God as intelligence.
Meanwhile, the Mormon intellectual faces a great test of humility to remain in an organization led by anti-intellectuals. If he is not to lose the name of action, he must, like Hamlet, resolve his dilemma. If to remain within the Church means paralysis of will and denial of the deepest urgings of his thought, he must make a break for the open sea. He leaves one haven, as every institution is a haven. There waits, perhaps, the larger harbor of a more inclusive humanity.
Prison Services Project
Humanists of Utah is planning to direct Chapter Assemblies Grant funds-and volunteer help, if available-to the prison literacy program, “Booked,” run by the Salt Lake County Criminal Justice Service Division. “Booked” was formed in 1992 to foster literacy in prisons and jails with the aim of reducing recidivism. An estimated 79% of all criminals are functionally illiterate. Of those, about 60% leave prison only to be re-incarcerated for new crimes, but of those inmates who manage to earn a college degree, 80% stay out of prison.
At the Salt Lake County Metropolitan and Oxbow Jails, over 1,000 have earned their GED’s or High School Diplomas through the Booked program. The County extends a strong hand of reinforcement to these academic achievers. The ones who attain a High School Diploma are granted 90 days sentence reduction. For completion of every six-week course, the County reduces the sentence by five days. And the County gives them a completion certificate.
“Booked” is seeking tutors to teach literacy courses in the program: suitable volunteers with math, art, science, parenting, basic reading, anger management, computer overview, English as a second language, and coping skills. The County will arrange course scheduling and class sizes to suit volunteers’ needs. It requires that tutors have at least a high school education and take a training course to become familiar with the kinds of problems and pressures likely to arise in tutoring prisoners.
Since the early 1990’s jails and prisons have shown in their numbers an alarmingly high proportion of minor drug offenders. The War on Drugs has often produced disproportionate sentences, for example, many years of imprisonment for marijuana-related offenses. As a result hopes are numbed, while futures are suspended and personal contributions to society lost. The Board agrees that becoming involved in the literacy program allies with Humanist beliefs and principles of faith in human capacity, rational thought, enhancing quality of life, human dignity and compassion.
This project was completed in June 2002. Click here to see a report and some pictures.
HoU Donates $2500 to Prison Literacy Fund
June 27, 2002
From left to right Dennis Hunter, Prison Official, Sgt. Jaren Tame, Prison Literacy Fund Director Lisa Hilden, Board Member Florien Wineriter, Chapter President Heather Dorrell, Chapter Treasurer Leona Blackbird.
Sgt. Tame, Mr. Hunter, Board member Rolf Kay, Ms. Hilden, Ms. Dorrell, Mr. Wineriter, Ms. Blackbird and Board Wayne Wilson.
Mr. Hunter, Sgt. Tame, Mr. Kay, Ms. Hilden, Mr. Wineriter, Ms. Dorrell, Ms. Blackbird.
Mr. Hunter, Sgt. Tame, Ms. Hilden, Mr. Wineriter, Ms. Dorrell, Ms. Blackbird.
HoU Donates $2500 to Prison Literacy Fund
June 27, 2002
Chapter President Heather Dorrell spearheaded an application to The American Humanist Association for a grant to promote humanism in Utah.
The application was enthusiastically accepted with a note that Booked, a prison literacy project was just the sort of thing that chapters should be supporting to put humanism in a favorable public light. The AHA granted a little more than $1000 and Humanists of Utah added funds from our treasury to bring the total gift up to $2500.
A ceremony was held June 27, 2002 where project lead Lisa Hilden gratefully accepted the monies and roundly praised our chapter for its generosity. She stated, “Humanists of Utah, in conjunction wither their national organization donated $2500.00 to Prisoner Services Booked program. Humanists of Utah was founded in 1991 and is a chapter of the American Humanist Association. They are a non-profit corporation organized to advocate ethical, rational, and democratic humanism among their membership and the larger community. The money donated to Booked will be used to purchase supplies, textbooks, and exercise equipment for Salt Lake County Jail prisoners. Prisoner Services thanks the Humanists of Utah for their support and Generosity.”
Chapter President Heather Dorrell noted, “Our gift reaches those who have in the past made possibly many wrong choices but still deserve to receive humane consideration. They have forfeited freedom but can still think, reason and learn. Our gift gives a second opportunity, a chance to make better choices, to be responsible for one’s own growth and destiny.
More pictures are available here. These images may take several minutes to display if you are using a dial-up connection.
From the New President
I want to thank my supportive colleagues on the Board, who could serve equally well, and Flo, my esteemed mentor and friend. I have no hesitation in saying this is one of the most important and exciting events of my life. I will wear the mantle Flo has lent me, with joy and respect for all that Humanism means, and hope to be worthy of this office. In that challenge I will try to listen well to others, recognize common ground and build consensus, and work actively to reach Humanist ends in Utah.
Many of you know that my father, Justin Stewart, was an activist and freethinker. In 1990 he received a plaque naming him “Utah Hell-Raiser of the Year.” My mother, too, is known to give breakfasts where dangerous ideas are discussed, and I have no doubt some hint of this radicalism is going to manifest itself in my leadership style. From my experience on the board I can promise you we will keep reminding religious groups that they don’t have a corner on doing moral works in the community. (Sorry, Wayne, I stole that last line from you)
I want to share some words that express something of my philosophy, by the Humanist writer, Arnold Walker: “I marvel at the miracle of my existence. I have no idea why I am here or whether I have some purpose in being here. I have the ability to encompass thousands of years of human history. The world into which I was born has been built by millions of predecessors, unknown and known. I am a beneficiary of their work, and I have an obligation to contribute in whatever way I can.”
This passage celebrates existence joyfully, without fear, and insists on ethical responsibility without promise of a gold medal in an afterlife. The Olympics has shown us Utah is capable of much more diversity than it has ever shown before. Now that we have lit “the fire within,” let’s light the fire up here, and think of rational, responsible ways to enhance human dignity, addressing social problems such as homelessness, hunger and prisons. I look forward to the coming year, and to the possibility, with your help, of increasing our membership.
–Heather Stewart Dorrell
Point – Counter Point
Tom Goldsmith, pastor of the First Unitarian Church in Salt Lake City presented a sermon entitled The Limits of Humanism on October 27, 2002. Hugh Gillilan, a former pastor in the same pulpit, and also a chapter member of Humanists of Utah gave a rebuttal he called Still Thankful for Humanism in Our Tradition on December 1, 2002. Click the links below to see the full text of both sermons.
“And I believe that Tom and I, whatever our philosophical differences might be in some particulars, are united on much common ground. I feel confident neither of us expects supernatural assistance in helping us with multitudinous and ever present human dilemmas. Both of us would agree that it is vitally important for each of us to develop a belief system that is satisfying, promotes ones well being, and is congruent with the best information available from whatever source. Both of us would agree that it is essential to keep both head and heart involved in our religious quest. Both of us would be in agreement that our religious beliefs, ethics and practices need to be borne out with diligence in the daily round and in unstinting efforts to create a better world for all of its inhabitants. As Ed Abbey once said, “passion without action is the ruin of the soul.” There are so many challenges facing all of us, personally and collectively, locally and throughout the world, that we must continually renew our vision, tap into our courage, join with others in our efforts, and do what needs to be done as long as we are able. So let us take heart and proceed with high resolve as we pursue those challenges together. “
Discussion Group Report
Origins of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
By Richard Layton
Israelis and Palestinians keep killing each other; and the world looks on in dismay, wondering whether it will ever stop.
How did it all get started? David Shaffer outlines the etiology of the conflict in an article with the same title as the present one in the July-August issue of The Humanist. He says we could blame it on one of several causes. One is Sarai, wife of Abram (now Abraham), who wanted him to have a child by her handmaid, Hagar. But 13 years later Sarai herself gave birth to a baby named Isaac. According to the tradition, rivalry developed between descendents of the two sons; and Isaac became the progenitor of the Jews and Ishmael of the northern Arabs, who were then exiled with their mother to the southern desert. Another is Pope Urban II, who in 1095 CE instigated the first Crusade. It was actually carried out against Jews, rather than Arabs, because the latter were deemed Christ-killers and were located in a place of much easier access than the latter. A third is Charles Darwin, whose idea of natural selection in the mid-19th century was twisted by “Social Darwinists” to justify anti-Semitic campaigns throughout Europe to support the notion that Aryans were inherently superior to Semites. Please note that the above persecutions were carried out, not by Palestinian Muslims, but by European Christians. Those Jews who chose to emigrate to Palestine saw it at the time as a better and safer place to be.
In 1800 there were only 25,000 Jews in Palestine. This number increased to 60,000 by 1914. During the same period the population of Jews in Europe grew from two million to 13 million.
In the 1860s A German Jew, Moses Hess, began advocating a Jewish “national home” in Palestine. At that time most European Jews did not take the idea seriously. Emancipated by 18th century Enlightenment ideas they had successfully integrated into their societies and were comfortable where they were. However, by the 1880s they were beginning to get used to the idea. Leo Pinsker proposed a secular Jewish state. Nathan Birnbaum apparently was the first to propose the term Zionism in 1886.
But the real impetus for his program came from Theodor Herzl, who was shocked by the anti-Semitism demonstrated in the rigged trial and conviction for treason of Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer (in Enlightenment France). In 1896 the first Zionist Congress met in Basel “to create for the Jewish people a home in Palestine secured by public law.” Himself not committed to Palestine as the location of the state, Herzl seriously considered such places as the Sinai Peninsula, Kenya, and Cyprus.
Nowadays the present situation is not blamed on Christian anti-Semitism, but on intrinsic hostility between Palestinians and Jews. Some serious students of the problem hesitate to offer religious intolerance as a fundamental explanation of current events. Muhammad considered himself to be the last in a series of Jewish prophets, including Jesus, and his mission to be to renew the Jewish prophets’ mission to Jews, Christians, and the whole world. Jews and Christians have special status in the Quran as believers in the Torah and the Gospels. But he did reject those Jews who did not accept him as their prophet, and he regarded the Christian belief that Jesus was the son of God to be a form of polytheism. There were instances where Jews and Christians fared badly in areas ruled by Moslems, but there were other cases, such as Cordoba, Spain, where Muslims, Jews and Christians lived at peace together and even created a remarkably unified kind of community.
From Greek and Roman times, Palestine was often combined administratively with Syria to form Syro-Palestine. At the start of the 19th century, a weakened Ottoman Empire was forced to accept a semi-autonomous Egypt, which then captured the area now known as Palestine. Egypt returned it to the Ottoman Empire in 1840. Between 1854 and 1869 Egypt built the Suez Canal, but in so doing drove itself into bankruptcy and in 1882 became a British protectorate
At that time events in Russia and western Europe were leading toward the development of a Zionist movement and the start of Jewish immigration into Palestine. From then on proximity to the canal and to British power was to have a profound influence on Palestinian-Jewish relations. The Jewish community began small and grew slowly during the years leading up to World War I. Immigration was funded mainly by a small number of wealthy European Jews. Initially the land was owned by a few rich, mainly absentee landlords who lived in or near urban areas and was occupied and worked by many poor peasant farmers (fellahin). Usually the fellahin were driven off the land so that Jewish immigrants could occupy it.
“Initial Arab peasant opposition subsided when peasants realized that Jewish landowners would maintain the tradition of permitting them to work the land and keep their income,” say historians I. J. Bickerton and C. L. Klausner. “Interestingly, public opposition to Zionist settlement was led by the Greek Orthodox Christians of Palestine.” Some immigrants gave up and emigrated from Palestine. By 1914 there were still only about 40 Jewish settlements in Palestine, owning about 100,000 acres. The total population of Palestine was about 722,000, of which only 60,000 (8 percent) were Jews.
After World War I, however, a radical change took place, Schafer points out. The British presence in India and the Far East depended increasingly on control of the Suez Canal and the Persian Gulf. Britain strengthened its long-term position in the Middle East by courting support from Jews and especially Arabs, many of whom had long chafed under Ottoman rule. In 1915 Sir Henry McMahon, the British high commissioner in Egypt, offered independence to the Arabs who would support the British war effort. The following June, led by Faisal, the son of Hussain, Sharif of Mecca, the Arab revolt began, a romanticized version of which is depicted in the film Lawrence of Arabia. Faisal, T. E. Lawrence, and General E. H. H. Allenby took Damascus and forced the Turks to sign an armistice in 1918. This effort was aided by a Jewish spy ring. The British now had a commanding position over this region during the ensuing peace negotiations.
Meanwhile the British had signed the Sykes-Picot agreement with France in 1916, which gave France control of present-day Syria, southeastern Turkey and the upper Tigris-Euphrates valley of Iraq. The area corresponding closely to modern Palestine would be governed by an “allied condiminium.” Lord Arthur James Balfour sent a “declaration” to Lord L. W. Rothschild, head of the British Zionist Organization, which affirmed that Britain viewed with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people and promised “to facilitate the achievement of this object.” It also provided that nothing would be done to prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status of Jews in any other country. At the request of the British, Faisal and the Russian Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann negotiated a tentative agreement in an effort to find common ground between the Jews and the Arabs, only to find out that everyone had underestimated the growing opposition of local Arabs, now becoming fearful of Zionist expansion. The British and French then settled Middle East divisions by agreeing that France would have a “mandate” including Lebanon and Syria and the British a mandate that would take in modern Palestine, Jordan and Iraq.
Neither the Jews nor the Arabs were happy with this outcome, the Jews because they would be prohibited from immigration in Jordan. A Jewish military group was formed, which later became the terrorist organization Irgun. Later outgrowths were the rise of Menachem Begin and the Likud party. Many Arabs felt betrayed by the possibility of an eventual Jewish state within Palestine. The British government tried to manage Jewish population growth by limiting or prohibiting Jewish immigration between 1922 and 1939. Enforcement of this policy was finally abandoned when opposition to it mounted to an unacceptable level. Immigration reflected conditions in Europe with the approach and reality of World War II. Between 1922 and 1936 the population of Palestine grew by almost 600,000, with the percentage of the annual population increase who were Jews being 12% in 1922, 16% in 1931 and 28% in 1936.
This alarmed the Arabs. William Cleveland comments, “It is little wonder that in a region of limited agricultural potential, the ownership of arable land became a matter of contention.” He concludes, “The cumulative effect of land transfers, British policy, and Arab notable attitudes was the increasing impoverishment and marginalization of the Palestinian Arab peasantry. Alienated from their own political elite, who seemed to profit from their plight; from the British, who appeared unwilling to prevent their expulsion from the land; and the Zionists, who were perceived to be at the root of their problems, they expressed their discontent in outbreaks of violence against all three parties.”
All the troubles of the present situation are latent in the story told thus far. The September-October edition of the Humanist explores the rest of the story that leads to the present situation.
Operation Endless War
The U.S. troops in Afghanistan have nearly concluded the first part of their mission, the disruption and destruction of the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda network of terrorists in the region.
President George W. Bush has declared a war on terrorism, citing an “Axis of Evil” which is comprised of disparate countries (Iran, North Korea, Iraq) without any common characteristic save their distrust of the United States. In the course of prosecuting a war which he claims might require fifty years, the President and his Attorney General have dramatically expanded the security and surveillance powers of the Executive branch through passage of the USA PATRIOT act. Nuclear weapons policy has been overhauled to permit a proliferation of smaller nuclear weapons.
This combination of expanded, unilateral aggression of the United States in foreign and military policy, combined with expanded domestic surveillance and investigation powers, does not bode well for human rights, either at home or abroad. The “War on Terrorism,” without a narrow focus and without Congressional oversight, can easily turn into “Operation Endless War.”
I hope that our national leaders will reconsider our present course and return to the calm deliberative policies of tolerance, rationalism and compassion, recognizing the rights of Americans and all others to live peaceably together, without the use of military and police power.
One True Thing
by Anna Quindlen
By Wayne Wilson
For some time now I have enjoyed reading Anna Quindlen’s syndicated column on the newspaper’s editorial page. Sometime last year I discovered that she has published a few novels. One True Thing (Dell Publishing, 1995) tells the story of a successful young lady, a family crisis, and the subsequent fallout. Ellen Gulden started her writing career in high school when she won a statewide essay contest for her piece defending euthanasia. After college she had an excellent first job as a staff writer with a popular magazine based in New York City and seemed to be well on her way to a successful career and life.
A call came from her father that changed everything. He demanded that she quit her job, come home, and take care of her mother who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. While growing up she hardly even knew her mother, preferring instead the company of her father, an English professor.. She was more than a little insulted by the demand, but ended up being her mother’s closest companion for the elder Gulden’s last six months of life.
The autopsy revealed an overdose of the prescribed pain medications–who had administered them? Ellen knew that she had not. She had seen her father spoon feeding her mother’s last meal of rice pudding but did not say anything about it to anyone, not even at the grand jury investigation into her mother’s death where Ellen was the prime suspect.
Like Quindlen’s other novels, One True Thing does not fit easily into a well defined category. The ending is challenging, surprising, and thought provoking. There are no heroes in her work, only people trying to live with themselves within human society.
Muriel Zwick Dies
Murial Hood Zwick was born October 6, 1914, San Francisco, CA, to Marie Stanz Hood and George Garfield Hood. She attended San Jose State College. She married Martin Zwick 1953 in Salt Lake City.
She is survived by husband; son and two grandsons, Patrick Dylan Zwick and Merek Martin Zwick; also two cousins, Robert Hood and Harry Stanz of Wisconsin; and brother, George M. Hood, California
Long active in civic affairs was a member of Humanists of Utah, President of Ballet Society, forerunner of Ballet West; charter member Utah League of Women Voters, Chamber Music Society, Fine Arts Museum and Utah Symphony Guild; Board member Art Barn, forerunner of Salt Lake Art Center, member Pioneer Memorial Theater Guild, Salt Lake Art Center, Utah Ballet Guild and board member of Utah District Metropolitan Opera auditions organization. Active member First Unitarian Church since 1949, served on its Board of Directors and many committees as well as Trustee of Friendship Manor representing the Unitarian Church and as fulltime administrator of Friendship Manor from 1969 to 1976. She held many offices in Salt Lake Alliance of Unitarian Women and represented them on Women’s State Legislative Council. Member Utah Federation of Women Democrats. Before and after retirement she enjoyed music and travel abroad with her husband.
Muriel was featured in Member Spotlight in October 1999.
History of Martin Luther King Day in Utah
Limits of Humanism
by Rev. Tom Goldsmith
October 27, 2002
Text of a sermon offered to the First Unitarian Church in Salt Lake City
I just got back from meeting with my study group in Boston, a loosely configured band of 18 UU ministers who have been meeting for 22 years. Originally we were all Boston based, but over time our church settlements have spread us throughout the country. Nonetheless, most of us make it back to Mecca and I especially enjoy breathing the air of Unitarian dominance. I understand, however, that no effort will be made by Boston Unitarians to purchase Beacon Street, now or in the future.
During one of our happy hour occasions, we reminisced about mistakes we have made in the ministry, which we surely would never make again. We seemed to center on memorial services, and all that could possibly go wrong. One dear colleague of mine shared the story from the earlier years of his ministry when a woman from his congregation died unexpectedly. She was very well liked, admired, and her death was a jolt to everyone. I believe her name was Nancy.
Nancy’s sister from California whom nobody knew, came out for the service and asked the minister if she could say a few words. He of course agreed. His mistake, however, was in failing to warn the congregation that Nancy’s sister was an identical twin. He has never heard a congregation gasp and shriek like that ever again. Their entire theological underpinnings came unglued.
Death and the possibility of an afterlife – let alone a resurrection, which about 200 Unitarians thought, they witnessed during that memorial service – lies pretty much at the heart of a person’s theology. We all ask: Is there really some special place other than this world to which we may go after death? Many religions have myths that speak this way. It’s quite a dualistic system whereby this present world and an entirely “other” reality somehow co-exist. The other reality may be a place where we go when we die, and it also somehow represents cosmic head quarters that sends communications down to this world from above. And in turn, we mortals pray that our requests of those who inhabit the heavens are heard clearly and compassionately.
In this particular cosmic scheme humanity has really no power of any significance. In fact, all human responsibility is undermined by this dualism because truth and authority dwell in another realm. We’re pretty helpless, or at least humbled by our powerlessness.
In traditional Christian thought, God is conceived largely as a personal agent. That is, the point of reference is based on the model of a human person. God is thought of and referred to as a king, or lord… as father, as a Being who judges and speaks and acts and loves and hates and rules and creates all and who will ultimately bring all to its end.
The tendency to frame God in our likeness and to understand God as a concrete reality existing in some identifiable form is increasingly difficult to defend. Human beings have progressed greatly in their understanding of the world and the universe to the point where contemporary thinking clashes significantly with traditional views. A very simple example of a radical shift in human intellectual development reveals grave doubts that we ever entered into a covenant with God. We tend now to dismiss a special relationship between God and Humanity, one that was never realized between God and other creatures. Now that we have grown so very conscious of the ecological interdependence and interconnection of all of life, we see an exclusive relationship between God and us as highly problematical.
A Christian theology professor of mine, (from way back), Gordon Kaufman, questioned whether ‘Christian God-talk” can even continue to be regarded as intelligible. I believe he would take the position similar to Paul Tillich who emphasized that “God does not exist.” That is, God as a particular being does not exist but that God should be thought of simply as “being-itself.” “The Ground of Being” is the phrase that Tillich popularized. The Power of Being.” The modern mind can’t help but resist the concept of God as an object, or a concrete reality out there. If space exploration has taught us anything it’s that there is no such concept as “out there.” There’s no up or down in the universe.
The Humanist movement, originating in the early 20th century, embodied a philosophical pragmatism that reinforced the premise that a dualism between creator and created just didn’t compute. And by rejecting God, Lord, Father, other worldly being, a new religious orientation developed making traditional faith highly suspect.
But Humanism actually contributed more to religious conversation than just negating God. By eliminating an anthropomorphic God, Humanism stirred the pot by proclaiming that the future of the world rested in human hands. That is to say, we are not helpless after all, and we need to make the world a better place because our fate is not left up for grabs, to be determined by an angry or judgmental God. Humanity has the power to save itself, save the earth, and we had better not squander this gift of life by our propensity for greed and war and intolerance.
The formal beginnings of Humanism lie within Unitarianism. Perhaps the first Unitarian to use the word “Humanism” was Frank Doan, in 1908. He was a professor of psychology and philosophy of religion at Meadville Theological School. He had great influence over young Unitarian minds, and several of Doan’s students were signers of the Humanist Manifesto in 1933. (1) The big Unitarian names often associated with launching Humanism more formally in a religious context were John Dietrich and Curtis Reese, who in their meeting in 1917 discovered that they had compiled a similar volume of Humanist sermons. The Humanist disdain for traditional theology and language began making significant inroads in Unitarian churches, especially in the west.
In 1937, Frederick May Eliot was elected president of the American Unitarian Association. He is part of the Eliot family who founded our church in Salt Lake City, a nephew I believe, but his election proved quite a turning point for our denomination. Eliot, not really a flag waving Humanist himself, but rightfully considered an ally of the Humanist movement, raised the anxiety of New England theists when he ran for president. Don’t forget that the Unitarian establishment in Boston even at that time, consisted mainly of liberal Christians, but Christian theists nevertheless. They may not have been Trinitarians, but their theism did produce hymns and liturgy that offered all the trappings of mainline Protestantism. (I have the old hymnbooks from that era in my office, and -with your permission – we may want to do a traditional Unitarian service from say…1930. That might be a good Sunday for you to bring your conservative friends to church).
At any rate, the nervous theists felt obliged to challenge Frederick May Eliot and nominated their own candidate, a Rev. Joy. But just before the election there was so much fear of yet another theological controversy within Unitarianism that Joy withdrew and Eliot ran unopposed – similar to Saddam Hussein’s sweeping victory last week in Iraq. But the point is, Unitarianism and Humanism were now somehow fused at the hip.
Humanism obviously did not evolve out of thin air. There existed a climate or a liberal impulse that made Humanism possible. Let me briefly summarize just some of the milestone publications that (in my opinion) served as building blocks for Humanism.
Back in 1835 when Transcendentalists challenged the corpse cold Unitarianism in Boston, a German theologian named David Strauss wrote “The Life of Jesus.” The book offered (perhaps) the first wave of good biblical criticism where he stated that the bible needed to be scrutinized with the same requirements of consistency, accuracy and supportive evidence as are reserved for any historical document. And in doing so, he concluded, we were left with no option than to view the miracles of Jesus as symbolic.
Another German, the philosopher Ludwig Fuerbach wrote “The Essence of Christianity” in 1855. Fuerbach challenged the conventional views of religion in that he attempted to understand divinity as a projection of human needs, desires, and fears. In other words, he formulated the old cliché: God is made in man’s image not man in God’s image.
Moving ahead to the turn of the century, just as Humanism was being formulated, Sigmund Freud explodes onto the scene with “The Future of an Illusion.” God, as Freud maintained, serves merely as a projection of human fears and wishes.
Humanism gives us much to be grateful for, namely a clear departure from a judgmental God who fills us with fear and guilt. Humanism brought science and reason to the religious table. Humanism shook all the superstition out of religion and forced us to look squarely at the world with humans as responsible for charting the future course.
This church in Salt Lake was served by one of the greatest Humanist ministers of the 20th century. Ed Wilson, a signer of the Humanist manifesto and editor of the Humanist Press Association, ministered here from 1946-1949. Ed was raised a Unitarian in Concord, MA, but that church shaped him into a fine theist. While at first he thought of a career in business, he went instead to Meadville Theological School to become a Unitarian minister. Meadville, as you’ll recall, was influenced greatly by professor Frank Doan, the Humanist. And the last words Ed heard from his family as he embarked by train to Meadville was “Don’t let those Humanists take away your faith.” (2)
It was on the train, however, not at Meadville, that Ed had a conversion experience. He sat next to a philosophy professor who upon learning that Ed was headed to seminary, told him that it was a shame that such a bright young man would throw away his life for a profession grounded on such false premises. By the time Ed got off the train, he had converted to Humanism and was hungry for the Humanist teaching he would receive at Meadville.
Ed finished his life at Friendship Manor, and he was a wonderful support to me, and also a personal friend. Thus it’s with some trepidation that I dare speak this morning to the limits of Humanism. Ed’s ghost may still lurk in this chapel, and this church has (historically) been very committed to Humanism. I once owned an American Humanist membership card myself, and although I would never burn it, I have put it aside.
Humanism was right when it declared that religion need not involve a relationship with the supernatural to be justified, but Humanism simply substitutes scientific truth for the old religious truth. Whether the truth you seek to order the universe comes by way of God’s revelation or the laboratory, the same kind of desire exists to find certainty in a terrifying world.
Religion for me must deal with life and death and all its inherent problems, difficulties, and anxieties. The very human needs that religion must address gave birth to Christianity, for example. Early Christians had no need for a miracle based religion among the Jews, but the profound need to address those same fundamental human issues that still confront us today. For the early Jewish Christians, Jesus was a prophet who called God, “Abba” or father. It was a way to connect personally with the frightening elements in the universe because people felt alienated and alone…unbelievably alone in the vastness of it all.
Jesus’ suffering gave them meaning in that they no longer suffered alone. And when Jesus asked, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” the Jewish Christians no longer felt isolated and abandoned themselves. Because in life, even today with all the science at our disposal, we feel abandoned in our suffering and just alone in the universe. Religion must address how we live and how we die. Forrest Church, my Unitarian Colleague and friend from New York, defines religion as “our human response to the dual reality of being alive and having to die.” Knowing that we are going to die we question what life means.
For me, the Humanist “statement of truth” however grounded in scientific inquiry, offers little to quench the thirst for a deeper understanding of what life means. Or, as the Buddha might put it – “What is useful to bring the fullness of life to human beings?” The Buddha says, “I have taught a doctrine similar to a raft. It is for crossing over to the other side, not something to be grasped or clung to.” (3)
And Jesus’ ministry, understood in so many different ways, always comes back to figuring out what is meant by “an abundant life.”
Empirical evidence, one of the hallmarks of Humanism, seems poorly suited in dealing with these dynamic human concerns about meaning, bringing fullness to life, and discerning an abundant life. Humanism debunks supernatural orders, which I appreciate – I think we all do – but even in that generation that followed the early Humanists like Reese and Dietrich, we have the likes of Eustace Haydon who said: “Through science man will become master of the earth and rise to undreamed heights. Science will release the potentialities of every soul in the new world, and the production of sick souls will no longer be possible. Purpose will be given to life. The old tragedies, the ancient evils, will pass away.” (4) I have not heard Humanism offer much different in the last 60 years.
Old tragedies and ancient evils have not passed away, and I doubt they ever will. It seems to me that Humanism either ignores or stoically endures hardships. There is no room in Humanism’s sunny disposition and its teaching of human progress forever upward and onward, for evil, suffering, and tragedy.
I want to introduce a new term, which frightens Humanists and many Unitarians as well. The word is “mystery,” and it smacks of other words like “unclear,” or “obscure,” denoting some distant object (possibly God), which we cannot quite discern. Mystery is unfortunately associated with the notion of God or some transcendent reality enveloped in a fog that can’t be scientifically proven, and thus rendered inconsequential.
But the theologian, Karl Rahner, gives “mystery” a totally different understanding that I find helpful. Life itself confronts us as mystery. “Mystery” say Rahner, “is something with which we are always familiar. In the ultimate depth of our being we know nothing more surely than that our knowledge, that is, what is called knowledge in everyday parlance, is only a small island in a vast sea that has not been traveled. It is a floating island, and it might be more familiar to us than the sea, but ultimately it is borne by the sea. Hence the deepest question for us humans is this: which do we love more, the small island of our so-called knowledge or the sea of infinite mystery?”(5)
This crucial question prompts me to consider that Humanism remains confined to the small island of our so-called knowledge rather than admit – let alone love – the sense of infinite mystery.
Mystery, then, does not refer to a direct perceptual experience of something like darkness or dense fog. Instead, mystery is an intellectual term rather than an experiential one. When we explore whether life has meaning or why anything exists, we are (to be honest) baffled. We’re dealing with questions, concerns, issues, that exceed what our minds can handle.
I try to be comfortable (not always easy), acknowledging the mystery of existence. I am prepared to leave the tiny island of empirical evidence and embrace the infinite sea of mystery – a dimension that surpasses the very limits of my intellectual capacity.
When I confront loneliness and suffering and tragedy…
When I confront the puzzles and conundrums of life’s meaning and death’s meaning…
I am dealing with the very stuff of religion.
Life is more than the sum of its parts. It’s not just about understanding the physical, biological and historical processes. It’s more in line with “what brings about life’s fullness? How do we live abundantly? Or as Thoreau put it, how, at our deathbed do we avoid feeling we were never alive?”
It is mystery that nourishes the very center of our lives. The small island of our so-called knowledge provides us perhaps with a bit of certainty that we crave. But it is the infinite sea of mystery, that which baffles and befuddles, that ultimately engages our hearts and our passions in the business of religion. Answers will always be illusive, but the adventure in the sea of mystery, the continual search for some illumination fuels our religious sensibilities and keeps us fully engaged in trying to plumb life’s meaning as we breathe, love, exist…while always in the shadow of death.
Humanism has helped us think critically, and underscores the virtue of rational thought. Humanism is limited from my experience in that it refuses to honor the mystery in which the real fullness of our lives must be explored.
Letter to the Editor
I’m not sure if I like the evolution of The Utah Humanist publication.
First, when unable to attend a general meeting, a more comprehensive synopsis of the speeches is desirable instead of the scant ones now published as was, for example, Professor Boyer Jarvis’s in January 2002 issue. No synopsis of the January speech was in February 2002 issue, so possibly an elimination of the speeches is forthcoming–an unacceptable decision.
Second, of all articles, except for the monthly meeting speeches, I find Richard Layton’s articles the most enlightening, informative, varied, and interesting. I hope these, too, will not be curtailed and eventually eliminated.
Third, I am concerned a preponderance of material is provided every month by the editor and not enough by other varied and interesting writers. To obtain wider participation, one suggestion is to publish on a rotating basis articles/essays by each member of the Humanist board. Another suggestion is to personally invite specific individuals to provide an article, like Deen Chatterjee or Rocky Anderson.
Fourth, also disappointing and unsatisfactory are the shortened book reviews like those found in December 2001 issue written by Flo Wineriter and Wayne Wilson.
Fifth, while the graphics on the front pages are proper, this valuable space might be more efficiently used for e.g. fuller synopses of meeting speeches and longer book reviews.
Sixth, the calendar of events placed in the middle of The Utah Humanist is inconvenient. On the outer pages where the calendar used to be, looking up schedules was faster and easier.
Seventh, while the Bill of Rights (December 2001) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (January 2002) are important, I wonder how many read them. More interesting and inviting might be to single one or two amendments/articles and provide discussion on how they affect and influence our lives.
I appreciate those who expend time and energy into The Utah Humanist, and hope the points in this letter are useful to generate an even more relevant publication.
Thank you for your honest remarks. Your use of the term “evolution” is especially apt, because evolution involves a series of more or less successful mutations. I’ve introduced a few mutations to The Utah Humanist, and I have to rely on readers like you to know if I’m on the right track.
I do hope to have more articles on the general meetings, but am not always able to attend or listen to recordings. Perhaps someone in the chapter would like to write up a summary?
Richard Layton’s articles will, I hope, continue forever. His articles are known to humanist chapters throughout the nation, and for good reason.
More writers? I would love to feature more articles by others. I hope all who read this will consider writing something for these pages.
The book reviews are, alas, few and far between. We all read, we should spread the good word about the good books.
The graphics and the calendar insert are definitely experimental. My intent is to be stimulating and yet informative, and this is often a delicate balance. I welcome feedback on these matters.
Some of the material reflects my own subjective, editorial judgment and interests. You can help me produce a better journal by suggesting topics for greater discussion.
Letters to the Editor
The Utah Humanist is a superb publication, both for its eye-appeal and for its great content! In addition to the excellent articles, I really enjoy the Quotes by Sagan and Ingersoll. So nicely presented that they make good “clip and post” items. Thank you for all the work that you put into keeping us all in touch.
I am the editor of A Matter of FACT, the newsletter of FACT, The Freethinkers of Central Texas. I am interested in reprinting in our newsletter the article “What a Tangled Web We Weave, When We Practice to Believe” by Richard Layton in your November 2001 The Utah Humanist. Could you please send me a copy of it electronically? I also really enjoyed David Egan Evans’s “Five Years a Humanist” in that issue. Thanks!
Deriving Joy From An Understanding of Science
by Robert Lane
In an effort to explain the pleasure I get from science, I have often told the story about a conversation I once had with a religious individual.
Years ago I used to backpack frequently in the Uintah Mountains, studying and taking pictures of the area. As a student in the University of Utah Geography Department, these trips served my needs in several ways. They were welcome excursions away from civilization and into nature, they were good experiences in self-sufficiency and survival, and they were also a way for me to gather information for undergraduate projects. My interests were those of a student of physical geography: basic geology, recent geomorphologic events (the last glacial period) and the current alpine environment. As might be expected, I gained a fair amount of knowledge of this area. I particularly enjoyed discovering the evidence of the last glaciation and also the factors that influence the upper timberline.
One summer I had planned a trip to a place called Naturalist Basin. I was alone the first day and evening, but a friend was to meet me the next day. He was bringing a troop of Boy Scouts and a few other adults to help supervise the Scouts.
I was fly fishing along the shore of Lake Jordan when one of the scout leaders came up to me and we started to chat. I told him I was a Geography major at the University of Utah. I also remember that I was eager to tell him how I found great joy in my knowledge of the dynamics of the area and felt closer to nature when I was up in the mountains observing their beauty, and, that an understanding of how many of the features were formed by the last glaciation helped to heighten this appreciation.
What I remember best is his response. I was somewhat surprised when he said that he didn’t want to know about all the scientific stuff because it would ruin his appreciation of God’s creation. After that, the conversation kind of trailed off and I was left alone to shake my head in amazement at what had just occurred.
I would still expect this response from a great many religious people in the world. I believe that many stick their heads in the sand and ignore knowledge that might challenge what they believe, especially if that information comes with the proof and facts that science brings to light.
The reason I’m relating this is not to argue about creationism versus science, but rather to point out that dogma and faith are not the only way to garner great joy.
Imagine, if you will, this scene: It is a beautiful late spring day in the High Uintahs. I am taking a hike and listening to some favorite classical music pieces. When the trail reaches the top of a pass and is about to descend down into another drainage system, I break away from the beaten path and start up the slope of one of the mountains that flank the pass. Climbing as far as is possible without having to do any serious climbing, I soon reach an elevation of about twelve thousand feet. Here I sit down, eat my lunch and look out on the vast vista surrounding me.
The slope of the area curves around fairly uniformly from a north-facing to a west-facing slope in line with the pass below and continues around until it is a south-facing slope. This all takes place in about half of a mile. But the really interesting thing about this transition is that, in this short distance, one can observe the change in plant species on the North Slope with succulent plant types covering the rocks and poor soil nearly like a carpet. As you move around to the south-facing slope the flora changes and thins out until there is a mostly sparse, high desert like foliage. But this is only one aspect of the vista. At this elevation, when a wisp of a cloud goes past, you become aware of how fast they are moving. Sometimes you are engulfed in their cold mist for a moment or two.
This beautiful vista is not only close at hand, but also allows you to look out on the distant features and observe many other wonders of nature. The glacially carved features are apparent in the way the ice had smoothed and rounded most of the features of this mountain range. The observant eye will also see that the trees seem to end abruptly at about eleven thousand feet. These are only a few of the things that can be viewed and studied when hiking through this alpine mountain environment.
When I sit on this slope gazing out at all these wonders, and listening to Mozart, the feeling of closeness to nature is enormous, and it is enhanced by the scientific knowledge I have gained that makes me aware of the processes in nature that have made this area what it is.
For me, it is this knowledge that makes the experience so very enjoyable and satisfying.
Discussion Group Report
Inside the Mind of Joseph Smith
By Richard Layton
Why did Joseph Smith behave the way he did? And why did his followers so gullibly accept his pronouncements as the Word of God? Psychiatrist Robert D. Anderson attempts to answer these questions in his book, Inside the Mind of Joseph Smith: Psychobiography and the Book of Mormon. He begins by noting that Smith rode the backlash to the Age of Enlightenment. This was a century of practical and philosophical writings featuring attacks on theology by an international group called the philosophes, who were centered around France. They were led by Voltaire and Thomas Paine. John Wesley lamented about it, “To give up belief in witchcraft, one might as well give up belief in the Bible. The infidels have hooted witchcraft out of the world.” Nevertheless, “Proof” of a supernatural world now came back in the dramatic effects of the Holy Spirit in the revival and conversion meetings, but these emotional reactions were not the longed-for solid evidence needed psychologically to buttress belief in the Bible. The Book of Mormon led converts back from the edge of existential despair by sanctioning the emotional proofs, adding another buttress of miraculous conversions and angelic visions. It was a “second” and “new” witness for Christ. Mormonism provided security while rapid change and scientific development demolished social myths.
Anderson theorizes that Joseph Smith suffered from the narcissistic personality disorder. He points out that there is a danger in attempting to explain human behavior through psychodynamic theory. Accepting such theory as fact can cause damage. A few decades ago psychiatrists speculated that some serious mental illnesses were caused by the influence of the mother or of the environment. Now we know that chemical treatments such as lithium can effectively treat some of these illnesses. It is possible that in the future narcissistic personalities may respond favorably to specific medications. The fact is that the cause and source of the narcissistic personality are not known. However, the psychodynamic setting provides an unusual laboratory for studying this emotional problem, and some individuals do seem to respond to prolonged intensive psychotherapy. In his analysis of Joseph Smith, Anderson draws upon the body of literature, especially theBook of Mormon, produced by observation, experiment, theory, and psychiatric experience in his attempt to understand the founder of Mormonism. He says that splitting, a fundamental of personality weakness, is a major psychological defense demonstrated by the prophet. Its most obvious manifestations are 1) the division of the world into polar opposites and 2) the lack of integration of the various parts of the patient’s psyche. The individual may oscillate between two opposite positions. This behavior can be seen in the polarized opposites of the Nephite and Lamanite people depicted in the Book of Mormon, as well as in Smith’s ability to present one face in public (such as denying polygamy) while simultaneously converting associates and new plural wives to the principle in private. The individual may also exhibit psychological reversal of attitudes toward particular persons, by switching instantly from compliments to vilification, or of oscillation in moral positions, yet not be troubled in the contradiction. Examples are the instantaneous conversions of Alma, Jr., Zeezrom and the whole Lamanite population in 30 BCE in the Book of Mormon. Another example was Smith’s strong opposition to Masonry as a young man, followed by his later becoming a Mason himself and drawing on Masonic ritual for temple ceremonies.
Most psychiatrists believe that small children exhibit splitting because of lack of neurological development but that psychotic, narcissistic and borderline patients retain it into adulthood as a defense against disturbing emotional states. Anderson estimates Smith’s basic emotional age as pre-Oedipal, that is, somewhere before the age of four. He also argues that Smith experienced Oedipal fears of castration as a result of some very traumatic surgery on his leg between the ages of five and seven. On a psychological level he oscillated between the deprivation of an unstable childhood and the trauma of his surgery. Consequently, he regressed, drawing on the magic and impotent defense of very early childhood to resolve the later Oedipal fears. He was locked in at a childhood stage characterized by magic, fantasy, splitting, omnipotence, devaluation, projection and denial. A very young child has a sense of omnipotence because his or her mother is always at his beck and call to satisfy every physical need. Anderson says Smith later in life applied this omnipotent privilege and counterphobic defense to his sexual life. These attempts account for the Book of Mormon‘s compensating and conquering fantasies of invincibility and conquest by the sword. They also suggest the rather gloomy prognosis that he would never escape from extreme fantasy compensation for his real life.
The day to day purpose of the narcissistic personality is to block shame, avoid humiliation and maintain self-esteem. Smith’s court trial in 1826 for being a “disorderly person, and an imposter” brought great shame and humiliation on him, and he never mentioned it in any of his public writings. His imposture was bilking Josiah Stowell out of money by claiming to have a seer stone which would lead him to discover a buried treasure. Anderson thinks this trial appears in the Book of Mormon under three narrative guises: first, as a gigantic geophysical holocaust; second, as a literal court trial, after which the jail, guards and lawyers and the whole town were destroyed by the Lamanites a instruments of God’s vengeance; and, third, as a supernal ministry of angels in a literal prison that converted the whole Lamanite nation. Smith also had experienced a great personal humiliation when his first child was stillborn badly malformed. He had previously boasted that the child after its birth would have grandiose powers in his life on earth.
Anderson describes the present state of psychological theory on the formation of the narcissist: “in response to very early frustrations too great for the child to handle, internal mental images of violence and destruction emerge that interfere with normal development and function, accompanied by unrealistic images of himself as perfect and wished-for images of perfection in his caretakers, usually his parents. These become fused into an idealized picture of himself which is superimposed over the destructive images and have a quality of grandiosity. This superimposed idealized image, the “false self,” becomes the basis for the socially functioning personality of the narcissist and has even been labeled the ‘grandiose self’. This personality compensates for the feelings of helpless rage experienced in childhood and presents to the world what sometimes appears to be successful functioning.
“However, the origins of, and responses to, frustration never fully disappear and demonstrate themselves in the fantasies of violence and conquest that the psychiatrist hears in therapy and uncovers in works of fantasy. Further, the personality of the narcissist may appear warm and charming, but will demonstrate the characteristics of splitting, devaluing others, idealizing relationships until they falter, making grandiose claims of specialness and special abilities, feeling constant threats to his self-esteem, needing perpetual admiration, and overreacting to shame and humiliation. These techniques of faulty personality interactions are necessary, it is believed, to help keep away from the original feelings of helpless and fury: ‘oral rage.’ Full maturation and integration of personality require moving past splitting and facing the underlying fury and helplessness, which is difficult, if not impossible for the narcissist to do; as a consequence, full maturation is not possible.”
Failure to get another to meet his needs makes the child feel inadequate. He returns to the previous feelings of omnipotence (fantasies) that compensate for this insufficient world. Rather than relinquishing his primitive memory of a world of power and perfection, he absorbs it into his view of himself His ultimate, underlying goal is to return to that initial stage of bliss he has now lost. In contrast, a child at about age two who is developing normally transfers the characteristic of omnipotence from himself to his parents, who seem godlike, giant, omniscient and omnipotent. Through the years he learns his parents are imperfect, but this potentially terrifying knowledge becomes tolerable as the child learns of his own abilities. In contrast the narcissistic personality must see himself as perfect or almost perfect to feel contentment. Because of his previous helplessness, his difficulty in truly trusting anyone, and the fear of shame and humiliation, his relationships with others tend to be controlling, usually by manipulation and coercion. The technique most commonly used is his attitude of superior abilities and confidence, which attracts less secure people to him.
Anderson posits three modifications to Smith’s narcissism: antisocial personality, pseudologica fantastica, and the imposter. The first consists of a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others. Characteristics of narcissism that may overlap with milder antisocial attitudes include feelings of special entitlement, exploitation, lack of empathy, and arrogance. These may be characterized by sexual promiscuity and/or financial exploitation of followers, yet the person may be honest and consistent in other dealings. He may blame others and offer rationalizations for troubles. “In the case of Smith, the theme of deceiving self and others is not a thread, but a steel cable,” says Anderson. “Seldom has such a characteristic been so well documented. It includes money-digging, seer-stone peeping, and sexual conquests under the guise of religious practice. The second modification is pathological misrepresentation, which varies from ordinary lying and daydreams in that the person intermittently believes in his fantasies or holds them for intervals long enough that he acts on them. Smith admitted the falsehood of his seer-stone claims to his father-in-law, Isaac Hale, and promised to give up money-digging; but later, under prodding from his family, returned to his stories of magic, the gold book, and the guardian angel. The third modification is the making of fraudulent claims, as in Smith’s affirmations of having had visits from angels and being able to translate ancient documents.
The narcissist spends his life desperately trying to return to that “eternal world of omnipotent perfection.” He therefore creates an artificial, omnipotent self, whose fantasies compensate for the failures of the real world. In a vicious cycle, he consoles himself for his failures by retreating into his fantasies, which, while providing comfort, assure continued failure by preventing him from finding more effective ways to seek success. This pattern continues as a technique throughout life. If his family responds favorably to this false self, as Smith’s family did, it will be enhanced.
How does a person like Joseph Smith attract and retain followers? Through projective identification. To compensate for his own feelings of inadequacy, a follower interacting with the narcissist must remain attached to this charismatic leader (narcissists in many cases are charismatic), who radiates value to him, as long as he does the leader’s bidding. Early Mormons achieved the illusion of returning to the eternal world of omnipotent perfection through personal contact with Smith, through the omnipotent stories of the Book of Mormon, and through attachment to the priesthood and group activities. He could not claim enough miracles for his followers, and they suspended critical evaluation of him.
What has come out of Smith’s interaction with his followers? “Mormonism,” offers Anderson, “has become the only truly American religion, now international in scope and capable of wielding social and political power.”
In God We Trust: What Does It Mean?
Representative Richard M. Siddoway, Republican of Bountiful and published author of religious fiction, believes. He believes in the importance of posting the national motto, “In God We Trust,” in the Utah’s public schools.
House Bill 0079 is urgently needed, according to Siddoway. Why? In a letter to the Ogden Standard Examiner on January 6, 2002, Siddoway stated:
“Simply speaking, we are a nation that has deep religious roots and in a time when it appears some are working to remove any acknowledgment of God from our public life, the motto of the United States seems not only appropriate but unifying.”
This clearly sounds as if Mr. Siddoway thinks that there is not enough of God in our public life. Yet, he also claims that, “There may be great differences in the God that I worship and the God that you worship. We may call him by different names-Elohim, Allah, the Great Spirit-or we may choose to not recognize him at all.” Mr. Siddoway is asking that we “acknowledge” but need not “recognize” a deity. What does that mean?
Mr. Siddoway’s contradictions continue throughout his letter when he states, “The posting of the national motto is not an attempt to sway anyone’s thinking toward any particular religion, and certainly is not the establishment of a religion. It is the posting of the motto of the United States of America as adopted by Congress.” In his next paragraph he continues, “This nation is founded on freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.”
Harumph. First of all, Mr. Siddoway seems eager to conflate all concepts of God. This simply does not reflect reality. Brahma does not equal Jehovah does not equal Coyote, any more than French is the same language as Swahili or Pashtu. To dismiss the uniqueness of religious concepts and traditions is both ignorance and arrogance. So much for a generic “God.”
The “We” of the motto is equally troubling, Again, “we” do not all believe, let alone trust, in the same God. Who speaks for all of us in our beliefs? Why do we not simply speak for ourselves?
To “Trust” God is to invoke an ancient paradox: the problem of the origin of evil. If God is good, why does he create or allow evil? Why should we “trust” the God that either permits or directs the most horrific tragedies on a daily basis. On September 11, whose God was on duty? The God of the victims or the God of the murderers?
If Mr. Siddoway continues his disingenuous claims that IGWT is merely the national motto, he may well shoehorn it into the schools. But what has he accomplished? He has forced an element of religious belief-his religious belief-upon a captive audience.
In order to assess the spiritual needs of our community, consider some numbers for a moment. According to my current telephone directories, there are about 300 public schools in the Salt Lake valley. How many churches are there? At least 1,500. How many bumper stickers, store signs, billboards proclaim “God Bless America”? Thousands! There are religious television stations (broadcast and cable), religious radio stations, religious book stores, and parochial schools. There is release time in the middle of the school day for religious instruction. There are religion books in the public libraries. There is religious language in the legislature, in the courts, in the city council meetings, the Pledge of Allegiance.
In addition to all of this, all U. S. currency bears the motto of “In God We Trust,” an interesting association of worship and money. From a marketing perspective, our money consists of hundreds of millions of advertisements for a deity as they constantly circulate through American society. Not enough statements of belief?
Ironically, the motto of the state of Utah says nothing about God. It is a single word: “Industry.” The first motto of the United States also omitted mention of a deity. That motto is still found on currency and in a few official places: E Pluribus Unum, or, “From Many, One.” In fact, I believe that motto better reflects our America than “In God We Trust.”
If, indeed, Mr. Siddoway is right, we can expect that the most moral and estimable of our citizens are those with the greatest exposure to the national motto. Here, at last, we have a means of verifying the positive effects of IGWT. It should be a simple matter to demonstrate the ethical superiority of:
Okay, so maybe that wasn’t such a strong argument. Still, in the wake of September 11th, America is turning back to God and traditional values. Right?
Actually, no. From the Associated Press, January 16, 2002:
A November poll by the Pew Forum found 78 percent of Americans–the highest in four decades–believed the role of religion was increasing, more than double the number who said the same thing in March. Yet the same respondents, only a month after the terror attacks, said their church attendance had not changed from four in 10 Americans going once a week.
So, it seems that Representative Siddoway-and the American Family Association, the conservative Christian group promoting the IGWT posters-have no faith in their own faith. They find it necessary to use and abuse government and public education in order to further their belief. This is not about belief or patriotism, but about power. Somehow, the bloody wars and repressions of religious tyranny, which were so fresh in the minds of Jefferson, Madison and Paine, mean nothing to the AFA. The AFA advocates the use of the Bible in establishing social norms. In their zeal, they are simply following the instructions in Psalms 2:8, 9:
I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron.
Or, consider the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:14-17:
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?
There is enough religion in Utah without having to force it into the schools. Perhaps the religious motto of the United States will find its way into the public schools of Utah, but it will be an empty victory for its proponents. Those who believe will continue to; but those who do not will feel that they do not matter. Rather than a phrase that divides, why not post the phrase that includes us all?
“From Many, One.”
Human Rights in Utah
Professor Boyer Jarvis provided the inspiration for this issue with his December 13th address on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, also linked through our web site. Born out of the horrors of the last world war, the Declaration remains a vision of hope for humans everywhere.
It took far too many years for the Utah Legislature to finally recognize the birth day of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Utah was one of the last states to do so, and first only as “Human Rights Day” (see the chronology elsewhere on this page). Today, however, Ogden has an African-American mayor, George Garwood, Jr., the first black mayor in the state of Utah.
But all is not well. Recent dragnets at the Salt Lake Airport were criticized for alleged racist tactics. Planned Parenthood of Utah still has to contend with threats, although they have not had to deal with an anthrax threat since 1998.
Utahns of the Democratic persuasion will remember 2001 as the year that legislators cut up the map of Utah and stitched it back together into an electoral Frankenstein, hideously deformed and lacking the breath and vigor of life. “Love it or leave it” letters to the editor provided a drumbeat of intolerance in our local daily newspapers.
And then there is the War on Terrorism, a demonstration of Surrealism as the operative philosophy for conducting foreign policy and trimming civil liberties.
Human rights? Have you used yours lately? Do you really have some? How do you know?
Humanism: A Joyous View
You may be among the thousands who do not realize they are humanists. If this is so, you may be missing out on a great deal. Your search for meaning in life which is in harmony with your intelligence can be over. You can have a thoroughly consistent basis for meaning, moral values, and inspiration.
Humanism, an alternative to religious faith, can fulfill many of today’s desires and needs. It is in tune with the revolutionary growing knowledge of our physical and mental worlds. It reinforces positive aspects of rational thinking and feeling, and now when some old ideas no longer seem relevant it may provide an alternative source of joy and strength. Rational thinking and its handmaiden science free one from the guilt brought about by giving lip service to ideas which are not actually believed. We no longer find ourselves existing in a waiting room to enter heaven or hell. Humanism encourages service to others and offers the sense of community and connectedness with others.
–Lloyd and Mary Morain
Humanists of Utah
The purpose of the Humanists of Utah is to offer an affirmative nontheistic educational program based on developing one’s human talents in order to practice the art of living; to promote meaningful activities and compassionate services that exemplify humanism; and to be an association where humanists can have a sense of belonging to a larger community that supports a positive philosophy of reason, integrity, and dignity.
II. NAME and AFFILIATION
VII. AMENDING BYLAWS
HoU Recognized by Catholic Nun
One of the results of Humanists of Utah support of the Prison Literacy project was an invitation to provide information at a recent presentation by Helen Prejean to the University of Utah School of Social Work. Prejean, a Catholic nun, author of Dead Men Walking, and opponent of capital punishment, paused at the end of her talk to express gratitude to the Humanists of Utah for their contribution to the prison literacy program. “Thank God for the humanists,” she said, then: “Oops.”
Journey to Humanism
The story of my life as I have told it to myself includes being born on the coldest day ever recorded in history of the United States–a record broken only quite recently–when on February 10th, 1933, the temperature in West Yellowstone was recorded at seventy degrees below zero. In Logan, my birthplace, it was just forty below. But even as a newcomer, I must have noticed that it was a cold, if not cruel, world I had come into. My parents were impressed and convinced themselves, and me, that there was something wonderful about my birth. I have achieved their prophecies and have lately recorded in my India memoirs how I became a goddess. But that is a development which I’ll explain later.
Because I learned to walk at eight months and learned to read by the age of three, my parents and grandparents enfolded me in an aura of wonder and admiration. And then, since no other children came into my family to rival my “clouds of glory,” for a long time there was no challenge to this illusion. It also created an environment where I was destined to grow up alone, introspective, and bookish. To this day, the characters I have known in literature seem far more real and dear to me than the ordinary folks of my everyday acquaintance.
I early preferred the mythology of the classical world to that of the Judeo-Christian tradition and considered the Bible myths of negligible interest. When I consider why that was so, it could be that my maternal grandfather studied a Classics curriculum at Amherst College in Massachusetts and my mother was herself an English literature M.A. from the University of Michigan in the early 1920’s when most western women did not pursue postgraduate studies. My father was a scientist, first a geologist, a teacher, then a medical doctor from Columbia University in New York. My paternal grandfather was a university graduate and a superintendent of schools in Cache Valley. With this overburden, it is evident that from the beginning I was being constantly formed and informed. The landmark books of my early childhood were Alice in Wonderland , with the grinning but disappearing Cheshire cat and the Red Queen who screamed, “off with her head”. This wildly imaginative text surely imparted to me a quirky preference for the inventive and absurd. Quite a different book, Robinson Crusoe, suggested to my impressionable self a strong confirmation that I, too, was alone on an island challenged to survive by my wit and endurance, sustained largely by raisins.
I began writing poetry at Ogden High School under the expert and legendary tutelage of Wilson Thornley, an innovator in teaching creative writing. Before his retirement, Mr. Thornley had become the mentor of several professional writers. A lifelong love of poetry and the foundation of my professional career as teacher began, then and there, with a veneration of language and the literary tradition, all richly awakened in my eighteenth year.
Next, at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, I won the freshman poetry prize, a cause for momentary jubilation, but that mood was soon countered by a suicidal depression brought on when I walked through the open stacks in Taylor Library, a Neo-Gothic building with towers and leaded glass windows, and despaired, realizing that I could not, in a hundred lifetimes, be able to absorb the knowledge encapsulated in the shelf after shelf of books each representing the scholarly effort of another human being. And this was just the section on the classics, Greek and Latin. I felt an affinity akin to mystical appreciation for the original texts and the scholarly commentaries. I realized that the throngs of dusty volumes each represented a life of devotion to learning, a living voice from the past. I was vastly outnumbered and overwhelmed. This epiphany created an impossible appetite to know everything–and soon.
It was during that year, also, that I ventured into the college’s Neo-Gothic chapel for midmorning services and heard the best and brightest visiting clergy from up and down the east coast. It was the first time I had heard intelligent discourse from a pulpit, and I began to wish in an envious way that I, too, could kneel and cross myself unselfconsciously like the others and feel comfortable doing so. I longed to be part of an ancient and solemn tradition. While the aesthetics were appealing, I was blocked by skepticism and consigned to being always a sympathetic observer.
When I was twenty, my parents sent me to Europe for four months, on the Grand Tour. I was in London in 1953, witness to the Empire’s millions who made the pilgrimage to London for Elizabeth II’s coronation. My experience of golden coaches and high pomp and circumstance was extremely limited. I was enthralled by the formal protocol, the elaborate and colorful rituals handed down from distant times and adhered to with precision The tattered flags from bygone military campaigns hanging from the chapel at Christ Church College, Oxford; the illustrious figures from history who had paced across the university courtyards; the deep and resonant sense of the past that seeps from the very stones; each cold marble figure reclining atop his sarcophagus awakened an urgent need in me to absorb the totality of meaning of the vast human history, everywhere ambient and insistent. I wrote my parents, “Sell the house and car and come!” My father wisely continued his surgeries to pay for my trip, and I was further isolated from my peers at home in Utah where I saw local history as a paltry thing, reiterated each year and marked with a Pioneer Day Queen, a rodeo and parade.
Back at the University of Utah, I was fortunate to have major professors who could fill those empty spaces in my understanding that I had discovered while in England and Europe. Dr. Clarice Short in Romantic and Victorian poetry; Emil Lucki in English History; Sterling McMurrin, James Jarrett, and Waldemer Read in many philosophy courses, all sped me on my way to a triple major in English, History and Philosophy with Latin as my B.A. language. None could have been finer. I took a few courses in American literature and came to know my future husband.
Through his offices, I secured my first teaching position at the University of Buffalo in 1960. We were married in 1961. Skip over five children. Anyone with a family knows just how the love and concern for children can humanize a person.
The next life-altering experience was our first time in India. I was most reluctant to leave behind my blooming roses, and I suffered agonies of claustrophobia on the 24-hour flight, clinging to my nine-month-old boy as to a life preserver. However, the initial experience of India jolted me out of my comfortably formed self. The “mysterious east” required the creation of a radically different world view and a new self to inhabit it. I was aided by Indian friends, Parsi, Muslim, and Hindu who, themselves, were rich embodiments of their communities’ cultural and religious traditions. Love conquers all, and I came to love our hundred-year-old villa, each of our eight servants, my students: both the boys at Hyderabad Public School and the girls at St. Francis Women’s College. I loved the ancient banyan trees, the Gul Mohor, and Neem and the wealth of bird life that flocked and sang. I had time to read and write. I discovered Joseph Campbell whose explanations of the Hindu temple sculptures, and the life force behind the multiplicity of gods and goddesses suggested parallels to the Greek and Roman pantheon. A world of undiscovered mythology lay before me. My husband’s position as director of a research library in American Studies gave us opportunity to travel and visit member academic institutions and scholars countrywide. There was no going back to a provincial world view nor ever to accept one religion’s version of things.
After three years we reluctantly returned to Utah where sometimes greeting old friends, they would say innocently, “We haven’t seen you in a while,” not realizing we were not at all the same people who had left. I began a seven-year stint teaching British and World Literature, Art History as well as Creative Writing at Rowland Hall-St. Mark’s School. As an enhancement to my interest in human history, I was led by the headmaster, Bill Purdy, to the works of Loren Eiseley. A paleo-biologist, a scientist and humanist, Eiseley in his many books conveys an earth historian’s cosmic sense of time. After reading The Immense Journey or the Firmament of Time, I could relish the local topography, the ancient sand dunes pressed into stone, fossils and shells found in badlands once ancient seas, present and ambient. Trips with students to “read the landscape” allowed me to cherish our local environment and accept my own ephemeral place in the whirling and changing universe.
Ten years after our first “at home” in Hyderabad, India, we returned for another three years, this time with children who were in high school and college. Another one hundred-year-old villa, even more age-old trees and birds, some of the same–now older–servants and a joyous reunion with dear friends made it a true homecoming. We absorbed the Indo-Saracenic mosques, the massive f rts and ancient temples with wiser eyes and learned to accept the mysteries of a complex culture instead of settling for easy answers. A five thousand-year-old civilization has accretions, sediments, and fossils much like the diverse rock formations of Utah.
And now, partake of some mysteries. We watched with growing wonder the process by which a stone mile-marker beside the 16th century structure the Char Minar (four towers) in the center of the thronging bazaars of the Old City was, little by little, transformed into a holy shrine. The mile marker, a simple, oblong, granite upright, did resemble a Shiva-lingam, the male phallus, the creative force in Hindu mythology. Someone coming out of the nearby fever hospital carrying a wilting garland of flowers may have draped them over the stone. Another person passing by may have taken the discarded flowers as a ritual offering to Shiva. In the three years that we observed, a Hindu priest took up residence beside the stone to receive offerings and dispense blessings. Before long a miniature temple was being erected to house the “shrine.” encroaching on the Muslim monument and clogging street traffic. While we had watched, a holy site was born.
Then three separate events transpired that became linked in my mind. On a trip to the great Meenakshi temple complex at Madurai, we we taken to a cave-like shrine in a hill where, during a special religious festival, devotees were lined up to pay obeisance to a white temple elephant and receive his blessings. Moved to the front of the line as visiting dignitaries, we were presented to the priests. The expectation was that we would step forward and receive a benediction from the elephant, a huge beast capable of killing with one blow. There was some hesitation and embarrassment, so I stepped forward. I bent my head, and as the elephant fixed my eyes with his, he gently lowered his trunk to rest on my head. The communion with another living creature, and the “peace that passes understanding” surged between us.
Some time later another greeting was given to me when a shadow passed my French door screen. I rose from my needlepoint work to see if a rat were trying to gain entry. I found myself face to face with a giant cobra, erect and unwavering, whose stare stopped my breath until I was finally able to scream for my son and the gardener. They ran in time to see him retreat behind the verandah palms and vanish into the stonework of the house foundation. A cobra bite means almost instant death. I was stunned with the potential of his visit. But there was a different response from my servants. They were eager to fall at my feet and touch me in veneration of one so honored as to be chosen for a visit from the god Shiva in the form of a snake. The snake is both the embodiment of creation and destruction since he carries within his body the power of death through venom. Moreover, he gains renewal or immortality through shedding his skin and thus being born afresh. I accepted, and shared, their gestures of wonderment.
After the beautiful six-year-old only son of our widowed maid servant died from the bite of a rabid dog–to our horror knocked down and attacked as we watched in our own compound–I saw the world through the eyes of Ahab, understood the ravaging indifference of the cosmos that we call cold evil. That young death tainted my optimism.
Later, when out of deep compassion for the grief of his mother, I took great care of her during a difficult and hard-to-diagnose illness, involving many trips to different doctors, labs, and, finally, ultrasound and an emergency operation that saved her life. She remained grateful for what we had done. Much later when she had regained her health, I made a rare visit to her room in the servants’ quarters. I admired her domestic shrine: a calendar-art picture of Shiva over a rough table where she could light incense and place fruit and sweets as puja offerings to her deity. Next to Shiva, she had hung my photograph! To my astonishment, I had become a goddess myself, joining the Hindu pantheon of 333,333 gods and goddesses.
Since It had become so easy to attain the reverence of others–even achieving a pseudo-divinity, my longtime conviction was strengthened that being truly human embodies all that there is of the divine.
As a postscript, I should mention the twelve years I had teaching the gifted Brighton high school students in Advanced Placement English. Offered to the top ten per cent of the graduating seniors, this course in world literature and composition was designed to give them a year’s equivalent credit for a college level class. The epics, plays, novels and poetry we read made indelible, and living, those characters and situations that inhabit the classics. Every year we read the third millennium B.C. Sumerian epic Gilgamesh. In this tale, after many heroic adventures with his companion at arms, Enkidu, Gilgamesh is distraught when his friend dies. He can not sleep, fears death, and in a wild and despairing state roves the world looking for immortality. Nearly at the end of the world, having subdued lions and braving the dark mountain passes, he comes upon Siduri the wine maker for the gods. She says, “Gilgamesh, where are you hurrying to? You will never find that life for which you are looking. When the gods created man they allotted to him death, but life they retained in their own keeping. As for you, Gilgamesh, fill you belly with good things day and night night and day, dance and be merry, feast and rejoice. Let your clothes be fresh, bathe yourself in water, cherish the little child that holds your hand, and make your wife happy in your embrace; for this is the lot of man.”
Are these not the basic human values? From nearly five thousand years ago comes this insight. Human focus should be on love of family, simple pleasures, and the joy of life itself. To seek beyond this world is to chase the wind. Since Siduri is the winemaker to the gods, in vino veritas, in wine is truth.
Another moment that is particularly appropriate in these times is a scene from Virgil’s epic, the Aeneid. Having escaped with a band of followers from the ravages of the Trojan war where his city burned around him , having suffered there the loss of his wife, and weary with travels to establish a new Troy, grieving the recent death of his father, Aeneas lands on the shores of North Africa. Exploring inland, he finds people building a city, their first completed construction, a temple. On its walls is a sculpted relief telling the tragic story of the fall of Troy, the slaughter and suffering, but also the heroic deeds. Aeneas concludes upon seeing this tribute that he has come upon a people who understand lacrimae rerum, the tears of things, the sadness of the human condition. He feels it would be safe to seek aid from people who through their art show compassion and empathy. Encouraged, he moves to to appeal for sanctuary and assistance from Dido, queen of Carthage, herself a refugee from Phoenicia. Our country has recently understood the tears of things. We are moving toward shared compassion.
A poem which all my students memorized is a carpe diem poem by Ezra Pound which affirms love and beauty even in the face of loss.
“Thank you, whatever comes.” And then she turned
And, as the ray of sun on hanging flowers
Fades when the wind hath lifted them aside,
Went swiftly from me. Nay, whatever comes
One hour was sunlit and the most high gods
May not make boast of any better thing
Than to have watched that hour as it passed.
Discussion Group Report
What Freedom is Found in the Local Culture?
By Richard Layton
In a lecture in the University of Utah “Great Issues Forum” in the early 1960’s, Professor Waldemar P. Read of the University’s Philosophy Department addressed the question posed in the title of this article.
In preparing himself for the talk, he said, he, who had been born and raised a Mormon and had left the church, had asked himself the question, “Why should I have the effrontery to talk to my own people about their bondage? Then he on one occasion heard the sound of the Nauvoo (Illinois) bell and heard the announcer declare that this bell had special significance. It rings for freedom? But his own reflections had led him to this conclusion: In Utah we enjoy the political and civil liberties that are characteristic of America as a whole. “In themselves,” he states, “they scarcely justify the distinctive claim made for the Nauvoo Bell. Such justification would seem to require that this culture and its people have a greater than usual appreciation of these freedoms, and a greater than usual zeal for their protection, preservation, and enhancement. It has been my impression that such has not been the case.”
During the rise of Naziism Utahns were not distinctively clairvoyant nor concerned about the nature and seriousness of its threat to freedom. Almost boasting reports came from missionaries in Germany and their mission president that, though the Catholic and Protestant clergies were having difficulties with Hitler, the Nazis saw nothing in the activities of the Mormon missionaries to alarm them. Perhaps the claim that the Nauvoo Bell tolled for freedom had an eschatological (i.e., an other worldly) reference and had nothing to do with the political freedoms and civil liberties of the here and now, Read suggested.
In his opinion McCarthyism had been the most serious internal threat to freedom to which Americans had been exposed, at least during the previous half-century. Local leadership, in both church and press, had been woefully silent on this subject.
Reid put forth a definition of human freedom as freedom of the mind. The ability to prosecute one’s desires is a condition of freedom. Increase in the ability to do increases freedom. Therefore, the literate man is more free than the illiterate. All increase in mental powers is an increase in freedom. Other conditions being equal, the individual who can think new thoughts–thoughts that no one before has thought–is freer than those who cannot; and the society whose membership includes individuals who can think new thoughts is free–to a degree which varies directly with the proportion of its membership having this capacity. Excessive stability in the degree of channelization, stabilization of the patterns of imagination, of conception, and of judgment and belief is the foe of creativity and “the friend of the status quo, of sameness, monotony, and death, Read said. He quoted A. P. Ushenko: “perpetual endurance of the actual status quo degenerates into stagnation.”
William F. Allbright observes, “A group may be so completely integrated that it exhibits little internal friction, a high degree of efficiency in accomplishing its purposes, together with self-sufficiency and smugness–but it will accomplish little of value for the world.” And Bertrand Russell adds:”…those who believe that the voice of the people is the voice of God may infer that an unusual opinion or peculiar taste is almost a form of impiety, and is to be viewed as culpable rebellion against the legitimate authority of the herd. This will be avoided if liberty is as much valued as democracy, and it is realized that a society in which each is a slave of all is only a little better than one in which each is the slave of a despot.” John Stuart Mill made an eloquent appeal for freedom of thought and speech, freedom of action, taste and pursuit as essential conditions for freshness, vigor, vitality, and the continued enrichment of the life of the human spirit. Von Humboldt supported the idea of individuality “as one of the elements of well-being.”
Also vital to our well-being, said Read, is independence of judgment and belief. We can discern truth from falsehood only if we have an adequate sense of evidence, i.e, a sense for what sorts of consideration should guide the attempt to identify the true. It is not clearly recognized that belief is not in itself an indication of truth, that subjective certainty is of no evidential significance. Faith is no substitute for evidence. Nor is the comfort which an idea gives a mark of its truth. Only two sorts of considerations are legitimate for the identification of true propositions: considerations of empirical fact and of logical relation.
Human beings can be controlled through control of their minds–thought control. The more sophisticated of us have known that since the beginning of human society men and women have been committed to beliefs, policies and practices without knowing why they were committed. Logic texts have pointed out a group of fallacies that often lead people off-track in the search for truth. These fallacies are generated when by the arousal of the emotions the critical faculties are thrown off guard, the attention is diverted, and the idea being advanced gets past the censor without being examined for its credentials–and once accepted by the mind will be defended by the mind. A process of “conditioned response” has occurred, which is logically invalid though psychologically effective. It is what is back of tenacious beliefs which cannot be intellectually justified. It is often used as a means of manipulation, an instrument of control of people. Individuals become members of society, not through reasoning, but by conditioning. Through conditioning, every family and church group recruits and controls its members. This is not necessarily bad. It is good up to a point, for we are institutional animals; but beyond that point it is deadening. Institutional control is good if the institution is open at the top so that the individual may transcend the very forms that lifted him. But, if the institution is closed, then the control is bad. It shields him but limits him and uses him as one of the elements in the truss which holds him up. Institutions of the first sort liberate the human spirit; those of the latter kind imprison it.
Read made two points about the local culture: 1) that the controls in this culture are excessive; and 2) that they are unfortunately so. There is a stifling uniformity of belief. Imagination is not stimulated and judgments are not challenged by conflicting opinions. Rather the belief of each reinforces and sustains the belief of others. A condition which is requisite for the cultivation of freedom is diversity of opinion, making possible habituation in the search for and examination of possible alternatives. In Mormonism the beliefs tend to reinforce the uniformity. They tend to insure that no discussion will get out of hand, that no heretic will run away with the argument, that The Truth will always prevail. Three such beliefs are: 1) belief in the absolute certainty of the doctrine (the dogmatic attitude); 2) belief in the wickedness of doubt; and 3) belief in the authoritative hierarchy–all three conditioned responses. Dogmatism is inimical to freedom of thought. It denies the need of inquiry–for further research. On the adoration of faith and the distrust of doubt, Read says, “The free mind recognizes that the question of truth …is prior to the obligation to believe. The insistence upon faith begs the question of truth. The local culture penalizes the reluctant believer by holding him suspect as to character.” The virtue of deference to authority is thought to be one of the strongest assurances of salvation, but it is an abnegation of individual responsibility in thought. Another factor of control is the highly articulated ideology. One begins with acceptance of the scriptures as authoritatively interpreted, and from there on all is clear sailing. Not many members are fully aware of the extent to which their conclusions rest ultimately upon psychological grounds rather than logical grounds. Finally, a feature of the culture which makes for excessive control is the monopolistic nature of the program. The home is a conditioning agency for the church Meetings, suppers, socials, lessons, dances, celebrations, testimonials, fellowship, fireside meetings, seminaries and church institutes, and the church basketball league are conditioning agents dedicated to the psychological sale of the central beliefs. There is a persistent attempt to get every individual involved for as many of the waking hours of his life as possible in church activity, even often at the expense of other legitimate individual interests. As in all cultures the cords that bind the minds of people do not chafe or gall like the chains in the ancient dungeon. Rather they warm and comfort. The sweetness of the bondage is its greatest strength. As Rousseau said, “They love their servitude.”
If the people, then, love this control, why, then, is it unfortunate? For one thing, there is the monotony resulting from a successful perpetuation of the status quo. We would seem to be headed for Russell’s “new prison, just, perhaps, since none will be outside it, but dreary and joyless and spiritually dead.” However, whether we like it or not, tomorrow things will be different. “There never was a time when the world, and, particularly the United States, had greater need for new ideas,” says Read. What is to be regretted is…that the local culture is so geared to preserve its theology that it is incapacitated to contribute or support needed new insights and conceptions bearing upon national policy and action. The people under the local culture are saddled with the following ideological hindrances which make it unlikely they will contribute anything of significance to the solution of the problems that confront this nation and the world: 1) an antiquated doctrinaire economic conservatism with business-corporation mindedness which incapacitates people for solving the problems of human well-being; 2) a built-in isolationism which prevents enthusiastic participation in efforts to establish world peace; 3) an “exclusivism”–the “we are right and you are wrong” attitude requiring that the world be made over in their own image instead of a vision of peaceful coexistence, preserving and protecting the distinctive values of each culture; and 4) a built-in racial prejudice. This last item has been somewhat ameliorated since this speech was given, but I would suggest adding in to the list of hindrances a built-in sexism.
One might wish that Utah’s contribution to solving the great problems could be more than foot-dragging, Read says; “…but such would require a quality of inner freedom that we do not have, and that we are not about to develop.”
Free Air Waves
The airwaves belong to the public. Broadcasters have been granted hundreds of billions of dollars worth of exclusive licenses to operate on these airwaves, free of charge, on the condition that they serve the public interest.
The biggest expense in modern communications is the cost of communicating on television. Broadcasters have been raising their ad rates just before elections and scaling back on substantive coverage of campaign issues.
To fulfill their public interest obligation and to strengthen our democracy, broadcasters should be required to provide a reasonable amount of free air time for candidate ads, debates and issue discussion before every election, as is done in virtually all of the world’s other democracies.
According to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, in a survey done in May 2002, 73 percent of the public supports free air time, with 20 percent opposed and seven percent having no opinion. The poll also found that just 31 percent of Americans realize that the public owns the airwaves, and that 70 percent mistakenly assume that broadcasters pay license fees to use assigned frequencies on the airwaves, while just 11 percent know they get them for free.
Throughout 2002, Utah Progressive Network, Common Cause, and the League of Women Voters will host forums across the state at which civic activists, community leaders and elected officials will discuss the free air time issue.
What can you do? Contact the Alliance for Better Campaigns at Better Campaigns, or call: 1-888-6-FreeTV to get the information you need to become a Free Air Time Activist. You can sign our Free Air Time Declaration, gather signatures in your community, show “The Case for Free Air Time” video to neighbors and friends, and sign up to receive updates and action alerts about the Free Air Time Campaign.
Information on this and related causes is available by visiting the Utah Progressive Network website or by calling 801-466-0955, extension 102.
March 21, 1921 – April 24, 2002
Humanists of Utah member Frank Miller, husband of our chapter Librarian Lorille, the only child of Etsa Johnson Miller Talmage and Frank R. Miller, was born in Seattle, WA. Shortly before his first birthday, he was hospitalized with TB of the left hip. His father died of acute peritonitis when Frank was 21 months old. As soon as he could be released from the hospital he and his mother returned to Salt Lake City where they lived with his grandparents, Soren and Sophie Dorius Johnson, Uncle Bob and Aunt Doris “Dodo.”
The Shriners offered treatment when Frank was six. He was hospitalized two and a half years until he was strong enough to tolerate surgery–a noteworthy success. He attended Lafayette, Horace Mann, West High and the U of U. Against all odds, having been told he would never walk, he made the tennis teams at West and the “U.” He also swam, rode bicycle and bowled in a league until 75.
Frank danced the hours away at Lagoon, The Terrace, and The Manhattan with many girl friends until he met Lorille. From that time on he only had eyes for her. On June 3, 1948 he married Rill, the love of his life, who came as a package with Larry and Judy whom he adopted in 1949. Thomas Frank came three years later and Charlene Etsa three years after that.
Frank spent most of his working career, 36 years, with Phillips Petroleum in Woods Cross. He also worked many years part time at the old Deseret Gym and YMCA. After retirement he worked with his son, Larry, “to keep me young.” He was a diehard U of U football and basketball fan. After Larry acquired the Jazz, he, Lorille, Char and many grandkids didn’t miss a home game as long as he was able. Due to the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s Disease, Lorille took care of him at home for his last two years.
A celebration of Frank’s life was held at the First Unitarian on Saturday April 27th. Anyone wishing to honor Frank is encouraged to send donations to Shriner’s Hospital in Frank’s name.
AHA Praises Court Decision
Execution of Mentally Retarded Ruled Cruel
(Washington, DC-June 21, 2002) Leaders of the American Humanist Association give high praise to today’s Supreme Court ruling that execution of the mentally retarded is “unconstitutionally cruel.” AHA executive director Tony Hileman reacts, “It is a triumph that the Supreme Court recognized the severity and injustice of existing capital punishment laws and has taken a bold step in the right direction.”
Since people with intellectual disabilities are at a higher risk of being convicted and sentenced to death for crimes they did not commit, the Court’s ruling will save innocent Americans from irrevocable penalties. This reversal of earlier court opinions reflects society’s changing attitude concerning both the justice of our current capital punishment system and the meaning of “cruel and unusual.”
Hileman continues: “The freedom and dignity of the individual person is a central Humanist value. The United States’ administration of capital punishment lacks rationale and fairness and, until these deficiencies are addressed, we must acknowledge that use of the death penalty is dangerous to individual life and liberty.
“In identifying the unconstitutionality of executing the mentally retarded, the Court is recognizing that there are mistakes in the system and is beginning to take steps to correct them.”
As seen in AHA’s June 2000 coalition statement with the American Ethical Union, AHA continues supporting “moratoriums on carrying out capital verdicts and opposing legislation that would make executions more likely.”
The Evolution of Religion
“The Evolution of Religion” was first published in Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism, volume 9, an annual publication of the Humanists of Houston. Robert Finch is the current Chairman of the Board for the American Humanists Association Chapter Assembly.
The central thrust of this essay is the assertion that religions evolve. Furthermore, we will argue that the direction of evolution is towards forms of Humanism. We will point out that Humanism is itself evolving, and that in this case the direction of evolution can be consciously determined by humanists. This guided evolution may be thought of as a series of experiments, whereby, humanists adapt their systems to changes in the world in which they function, and to improvements in human understanding of the natural world. From this viewpoint, we will argue that religions, and their humanist successors, are part of the integrative systems vital to all individuals and societies, and as such will continue to have an important role to play in the future.
Our purpose here is not to present a survey of religions in all their profusion of wonderful beliefs and practices: a subject covered in extensive literature, and with which it is assumed the reader has some familiarity. Monroe’s (1995) work on comparative religion would provide a useful reference in this regard. However, our first point of focus is the very fact of the diversity of religion. Sources on comparative religion (see for example http://www.adherents.com) commonly list a dozen major religions: Babi and Baha’i faiths, Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Shinto, Sikhism, Taoism and Zoroastrianism. Virtually all of these religions have several branches. For example, in the case of Christianity, the same source lists the following eighteen major denominational families, in order of number of adherents: Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, African indigenous sects, Pentecostal, reformed (Presbyterian, Congregational etc), Baptist, Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Latter Day Saints, Adventist, Apostolic and New Apostolic, Stone-Campbell (Restoration Movement), New Thought (Unity, Christian Science etc), Brethren (including Plymouth Brethren), Mennonite and Friends (Quakers). This classification omits the many “primitive” religions of Africa, North and South America, Polynesia and Australia. We might also mention the many New Age religions. There are also a number of quasi-religions, and loosely organized cults. The anthropologist Anthony Wallace (1966) has estimated that mankind has produced on the order of one-hundred-thousand religions. In addition, there are the many varieties of “unbelief”: atheism, agnosticism, freethought and humanism. We also have historical evidence for the existence of religions which have passed out of existence: those of Babylon and Egypt, ancient Greece and Rome, and the Paganism of Europe. We know from comparative studies that many of these religions, and their branches, share doctrines, beliefs and practises. We know from the historical record that many of them have emerged as a result of schisms and divisions of others. Putting such ideas together, we come up with Figure 1, a rather sketchy and whimsical rendition of the “trees of religion.” Granted, this construction omits many details, and cross-linkages, but will serve to illustrate that the World’s religions are related together in one or more family trees. The questions of interest are why this should be so, and what lessons would the answer to the first question teach us.
To understand the evolution of religion we must first understand its nature. We can begin by considering the meanings of the word “religion” in modern English. Most frequently religion is taken to be a belief in the existence of a supernatural power, or powers, which should be worshipped as the creator[s] of the universe. It is also used as a name for the conduct and ritual associated with this belief. Specific systems of belief, worship, and conduct are termed religions, as for example the Christian, Buddhist or Muslim religions. We may also apply the word to the state of mind, or way of life, of an individual follower of a particular religion. The derivation of the word “religion” from the Latin religare, to bind back, probably arises from the sense that the beliefs are that which binds the individual to his way of life. The dictionary tells us that the word can also be used to designate any set of principles or practices which govern an individual’s life, (as in cleanliness was a religion to him. The word in this usage is no longer connected with the supernatural or the superhuman. This use of the word could be extended to cover cosmology, a theory of the existence of the universe, and our place in it. In this sense, we might argue that Humanism could be classified as a religion. There is other useful vocabulary which we might clarify this point. A “cult” is a loosely organized religion, and a “church” refers to an independent religious organization, particularly a Christian church. The word “cult” has a somewhat pejorative connotation. A “denomination” refers to a sub-division of a religion, which can be distinguished by doctrine, or in some other way, from its peers, as in a protestant denomination. A “sect” refers to a small denomination, usually one which has broken away from an established church. Sects, religions, churches, cults, and denominations are all examples of what may be called “complex adaptive human activity systems.”
2. Religious Systems
A system is an entity which has some constant character which we are able to recognize. The constancy can be associated with some underlying schema, or governing law, which can often be stated in mathematically precise terms. A system might be as simple as a mass vibrating on a spring, in which case the underlying schema is stated by Newton’s Law of Motion. A human being is a system whose constancy is governed by the genome. We can recognize that a human being is made up of many sub-systems, the bodily organs, each of which is determined by the action of the genes in building up particular proteins. We can also recognize constancy in the way a person behaves, termed human activity systems; and there is constancy in the behavior of groups of humans, which we term social systems. We can still recognize the continuity of a system with a slowly changing, or even an adaptive, schema. An adaptive system has the ability to change its “output” in response to changes in its environment. The central thesis of an earlier essay was that evolution is nothing other than the slowly changing expression of an adaptive system. The present purpose is to point out that there is evidence that evolution has occurred in the case of a particular complex system, namely, religion. The irony is that religion has been the very home of the most intransigent opposition to evolutionary theory. But since Darwin’s time, the evidence has been steadily mounting that such an evolutionary process has indeed been going on in the area of biology, with its great variety of forms, living and dead. We now have a variety of methods, ranging from studying the fossil record, to changes in DNA, which enable us to construct “trees” of life tracing the lineage of these evolutionary changes. There are similar “trees” to be found in connection with the development of other types of complex systems, notably languages and artifacts.
One religious system can be distinguished from others through its characteristic beliefs, practices and forms, and these same essentials (with perhaps slight changes) allow us to recognize a religion’s persistence from one generation to the next. But in any system analysis, a key question is, “Why does the system persist?” As an example, we might ask how it is that the Catholic Church is able to live on through the centuries as its individual members pass away? Sets of beliefs are held by individual people. Obviously the mechanism of persistence involves the addition of new adherents to the membership. Many of these may have been born into, and educated in, the ways of the religion, while others came by way of conversion in later life. The experiences of these children and adult converts, which cause them to adhere to the religious society, must be in some sense satisfactory, or they would not stay. Comfort may be derived from the familiarity of rituals, especially in extreme and life changing situations. Religions may offer “glad tidings,” extending hope to those whose lives are otherwise poor and dreary. Religion may be an important part of providing a sense of identity, which is of enormous importance where a country has ethnic divisions. Religion may offer a world-view, not only of the physical universe, but also of human society, and a justification of the individual’s place within it. Although there is a cognitive element in religion (a theory of everything), it is clear that the ties that bind most individuals to their faiths are emotional, and are the subject of psychology, (a study famously associated with James, and his work “The Varieties of Religious Experience”).
It was E.O. Wilson who pointed out that there is a strong biological influence on the psychology and behavior of individuals, including the behavior of individuals in groups, and an argument that many cultural, moral and religious behaviors could have developed under the tutelage of Darwinian evolution. The subject is termed sociobiology, or evolutionary psychology. Wilson argues that we have an underlying Human Nature developed over hundreds of thousands of years, encoded in our genes, and regulated by hormones and neural transmitters which predispose our behavior in certain directions. All religions are associated with morality, a basic set of rules for human behavior which carry with us in the form of powerful emotional reactions which we call values. Taking care of our children, refraining from murder and mayhem, and even telling the truth are all policies which have obvious benefits for the survival of our species. Various forms of altruistic behavior which are difficult to explain on the basis of the evolutionary benefit alone, can be understood much more readily if we consider the survival of the genes of the group, or the species as a whole. Thus after hundreds of thousands of years we find these behaviors “hard-wired” into our human natures. Wilson asserts that: the predisposition to religious belief is the most complex and powerful force in the human mind, and in all probability an ineradicable part of human nature. He looks to scientific naturalism to explain traditional religion, its chief competitor, as a wholly material phenomenon. He does not profess to have all the details of such an explanation marshalled at this time, but believes that the outlines of an explanation lie in the ability of the human genes to “program the functioning of the nervous, sensory, and hormonal systems of the body, and thereby almost certainly influence the learning process. They constrain the maturation of some behaviors, and the learning rules of other behaviors. Incest taboos, taboos in general, xenophobia, the dichotomization of objects into the sacred and profane, nosism, hierarchical dominance systems, intense attention towards leaders, charisma, trophyism, and trance induction are among the elements of religious behavior most likely to be shaped by developmental programs and learning rules. All of these processes act to circumscribe a social group, and bind its members together in unquestioning allegiance”.
It seems to this author that there is a very straightforward explanation of the importance of religion to the individual, in the sense of its being a cosmology and regulator of the way of life. Once animals evolved to a level of conscious awareness, then it would be only a small incremental step to wonder how the individual might fit into the overall scheme of things. If the “theory” of one’s place in the Universe led to a realistic model of the world and an optimistic assessment of one’s chances of success then the incipient “religion” would have survival value. There is no evidence that pre-human animals had religion, but it seems to have first appeared with the Neanderthals. This explanation of the importance of religion in our lives also explains why it is so closely tied in with our sense of identity. If the lesson of the value of a theory of our place in the universe were genetically encoded, as Wilson suggests, then religion might indeed have a biological basis. These “theories” could also be easily encoded in the form of myths and thus be societally reinforced into the bargain. Gods and magic would certainly provide ready explanations for the vagaries of the natural world, and would engender confidence in the votaries of the religions which portrayed the gods as on our side. Even though today many of us have ceased to invoke magic and the supernatural in explaining the universe, there remains a legitimate yearning for an understanding of who we are and where we are going.
One of the primary characteristics of religions is their component cultural systems, i.e. their creeds, tenets and literature: the beliefs which are more or less shared by the membership. In primitive religions the culture is populated by spirits, demons, and gods. Childbirth, puberty, growing old and death are all the subject of legends and magical practises. The weather, other natural phenomena and warfare are all springboards of emotion and belief expressed in invocations, incantations and myths. This culture permeates the whole of daily life, including the practises of hunting and fishing. For an account of the myths and legends which grew up based on these beliefs one can refer to “The Golden Bough” by Frazer (1922).
One important development was the emergence of monotheism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. So important is the almighty to these religions that the entire culture is termed theology. This can be argued to be an improvement in religious theory in that it replaced the arbitrary caprice of a pantheon of petty gods with the wishes and demands of a single theistic authority. Over the passage of time theologians have refined the accounts of how this omnipotent God acts, and the nature of the morality he calls for. It is the variations in these beliefs, and the practices of his followers, that show up as the branches of the trees in Fig. 1. God however remains supernatural, over and above the forces of nature, and as such as much beyond nature as his magical predecessors. For an account of how religious adherents have seen change take place, one might refer to Ann Armstrong’s “A History of God” (1993).
Religion has a sociological aspect. The religions which are usually of the greatest interest and concern are those that are shared by large communities, sometimes numbering in the millions. We quickly recognize that such sharing does not come about fortuitously: there is teaching, reading, meetings and other communal activities which are the instrumentalities whereby the beliefs get shared. Furthermore these actions of belief transmission are not mere transient events, but rather the result of more or less permanent organization with specialist agents devoted to the ongoing process of socialization of the religious culture. These are the priests, preachers, missionaries and bishops who dedicate their lives to the purpose and whose livelihoods frequently depend upon it. There may be substantial economic resources devoted to the service of a religion: buildings, land, monetary and financial investments. Religion in the past has at times permeated the economic sphere and the polity. There are still countries where interest payments are forbidden. Kings have risen or fallen depending on the wishes of the churches. Class divisions and civil wars have paralleled religious distinctions.
Social evolution was first proposed in the nineteenth century by Herbert Spencer (1852) as a part of his wide-ranging theory, predating Darwin, that the whole universe evolves. Many theologians claim that the study of evolutionary change in religion is of little interest, and brush the topic aside. The pioneers in the sociology of religion were Spencer, Durkheim and Weber. The aim of their enquiries was to understand the nature of change in the chosen field. One way to understand change in religion is by tracing the necessary adaptations to the emotional and cognitive supports it offers to the individual. Weber was particularly motivated to explain the rise of capitalism in Europe. His theory came about as a consequence of the protestant ethic, the idea that every individual is responsible for his own conduct. This contrasted with the medieval attitude that the church and its priests would intercede with God on the individual’s behalf. Another sociologist of some influence in the field was Talcott Parsons (1975) who propounded a general theory of sociological evolution which can be applied to the case of religious development. Parsons maintained that our human actions can be thought of as being driven by four main systems: the cultural, the personality, the social and the behavioral organism. These correspond to the influences we have outlined in the preceeding paragraphs. Parson explained evolution as a growth of adaptive capacity arising from the differentiation of these sub-systems. Parsons also proposed a similar theory for the evolution of society as a whole, to which we shall return in a later section. Martin (1978) was one of the first sociologists to categorize these and certain other changes as a trend to secularization, but the theory has been most extensively developed by Bruce (1996).
Let us now examine some of the major tendencies in religious evolution resting heavily on Bruce’s work.
3. The Decline of Magic and the Supernatural
It appears that the family trees of religion arose from various magical beliefs invented by our ancient forbears in contemplating the innumerable strange and often frightening phenomena of their lives, from wild beasts to meteorological and geophysical events which they explained in terms of spirits and anthropomorphic gods. These beliefs are represented by the bramble patch in Fig. 1, from which the modern religions have grown. As science and philosophy have provided an increasingly successful naturalistic account of the world so has the role of magic and superstition receded in religion. Bruce (1996) has recently presented an updated summary of the decline of the supernatural in the period since the time of the reformation. The trend is most clearly seen in Europe, and Bruce cites evidence gathered in Britain on which to base the case. Before the reformation, nine out of ten of the rural population were members of the Church of England. Everyone wanted protection against evil, with blessing for their houses, fields, food and weapons. During the middle ages belief in the Devil and hell-fire was widespread, but is no longer a tenet of mainstream Christianity. The ritual churching of women after childbirth has completely disappeared. Membership of the Church of England had declined to about 18 percent of the total population in 1800, and although it rose somewhat during the nineteenth century to about 26 percent in 1900 it had declined to 14 percent by 1990. Bruce cites figures for the town of Cheltenham in 1882, when some 47 percent of the population was found to attend some kind of Christian church on a wet Sunday, increasing to 61 percent in fine weather. The figure nowadays is 12 percent. In 1947 six percent of the population were found not to believe in any sort of spirit/God or life force. By 1968 this number was 11 percent. By 1981 4 percent were reported to be atheist and by 1991 10 and 13 percent respectively claimed to be atheist and agnostic. Nowadays, 25 percent claim “no religion”. Although 72 percent claimed to believe in some sort of supernatural power, in the same survey only 50 percent said they believed in God. Only 24 percent said they believed in the Devil or in hell.
There are other evidences of decline of religious belief in Britain. In 1900, 65 percent of births were baptized in the Church of England, while this had declined to 27 percent by 1993. In 1900, 70 percent of weddings were white, i.e. carried out in church, a number which had fallen to 53 percent by 1990. Religious radio broadcasts have been losing their audiences, and sales of religious books are down. In the Middle Ages there was wide acceptance of the doctrine of trans-substantiation, i.e. that the bread and wine of the mass actually became Christ’s sacrificed flesh and blood. Many of the famous Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England would embarrass most contemporary Anglican clergymen. Major elements of the Christian faith have been quietly dropped: e.g. miracles, the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection of Christ, the expectation of his return and the reality of eternal damnation. The faith has been relativized: a tenet is judged by how useful its effects are on adherents. Now competing convictions are seen as equally valid. No longer is the world divided into the saved and the damned: we are all God’s children now. Bruce notes that this pattern is common to most industrial countries, except the USA.
4. Religion and the Growth of Social Complexity
What then is the explanation of this decline in belief in the supernatural as detailed in the preceding section? Bruce first attempts to eliminate what he believes to be a misleading explanation, namely that religion has declined because people have become better educated and less credulous. He continues “committed atheists–the sort of people who join rationalist and humanist associations–and some very liberal Christians believe that religion has lost its medieval dominance because modern people are too clever to believe in old superstitions.” Bruce dismisses this by pointing to the dreadful nonsense that people do believe. Whether something is true, and whether it becomes widely accepted, are two very different questions. Now despite the fact that this author is one of those who join rationalist and humanist associations, and finds the arguments for atheism unassailable as presented by Smith (1989) and Flew (1984). I am inclined to agree with Bruce that such direct cognitive appeals probably do not completely explain the decline of the supernatural in the religion of the majority of people. It seems to me that Bruce’s contention that such evolution is driven by “social forces” is quite likely.
What are these “social forces”? Bruce reasons that the whole process of modernization, of which the religious changes are a part is an economic one. One obvious feature of modernization is the division of social institutions into smaller, more specialized units, a process Bruce terms fragmentation. The family was once the sole locus of economic production, of education and of socialization. Now we have factories and schools. Religious institutions have been pushed out of many spheres: firstly the economy, then from education and then from social welfare. The pre-reformation church was often the government bureaucracy and keeper of national records. The church was frequently an arbiter of legal disputes, including claims to thrones. The church was also involved in ‘health care’, many of the first hospitals being religious foundations. In education both religious schools and universities are now indistinguishable from their secular counterparts. People increasingly move out of their ‘class’ or ‘station’ in life. Serfdom has collapsed and has been gradually replaced by democracy.
Different churches have become attached to different religious world-views which made sense of the lives of their adherents in different ways. The Church of England is episcopalian: God at the top talks to the archbishop who talks to the bishop, who talks to the dean, who talks to the clergy, who talk to the lay people in regard of what to believe and to do. The upper classes stayed with it after the reformation. James I understood the situation well when he said “No bishop, no king”. In England the Church of England is strongest among the gentry and their farm servants. Independent farmers and the middle classes became Presbyterians, Methodists and Congregationalists. The churches with the strongest belief in the responsibilities of the individual in finding religious salvation adopted democratic procedures in their governance with policy and doctrine being subject to majority voting in local congregations and national assemblies. These same “liberal” denominations were the first to open the ministry to women. The polity in many churches has become so complex as to justify the establishment of institutions of church law.
Another important trend to influence religion was the emergence of the nation state and the reorganization of life away from the local community toward the larger society of industrial and commercial enterprise, a process Bruce calls ‘societalization’. We quote from Bruce: “When every birth, marriage and death in generation after generation was celebrated and marked with the same rituals in the same building, then the religion that legitimated those rituals was powerful and persuasive because it was woven into the life of the village. When the total, all-embracing community, working and playing together, gives way to the dormitory town or suburb, there is less held in common to celebrate. Anything approaching the innocence of the tribe by the lagoon with its shared single world-view is no longer possible”. Diversity has been created by migration of people. In other settings it has resulted from the creation of new nation states by mergers of smaller political units. A third source of cultural pluralism has been the internal fragmentation of the dominant culture. In Bruce’s opinion the latter presents the greatest psychological threat. “The nineteenth century Scot, as well as knowing that, somewhere out there, were African pagans and Arab muslims, and, closer to home, Irish Catholics and English Episcopalians, had to come to terms with the presence among his own people of divisions into Kirk, free Church, Free Presbyterian Kirk, Old Seceders, United Seceders, Brethren and Baptists. In rural France, modern Catholicism has been pushed towards a transcendent humanism, according to Bruce. While dominant religious traditions have tried to enforce conformity the social costs of coercion have usually become too high and the state has had to give up.
The final major trend which Bruce maintains as an explanation for secularization is ‘rationalization’, by which he means a concern with routines and procedures, predictability and order, improvement and ever-increasing efficiency. We live in a world of timetables and calendars. We do not expect invasions of the supernatural. Science showed the earth to be round and not flat. It proved that the Earth moves round the Sun and not vice-versa. The Earth and life are much older than the Bible suggests. And Darwin’s theory of evolution is a better explanation of the origin of species than the account of divine creation. Nevertheless Bruce argues that the overthrow of some of the early Christian beliefs was not the primary reason for the loss of plausibility of the supernatural. There are many ways in which people can get around unpalatable specifics, as indeed the fundamentalists manage to avoid the evidence for evolution. But it is far less easy to avoid being influenced by the general climate of the scientific and technological world. We believe, for example, that complex entities can be broken down into components. We believe that complex actions can be broken down into simple acts which are reproducible; that a given cause has a given unvarying effect. We look for natural causal explanations and there is little space for the eruption of the divine or supernatural. There are fewer disagreements among scientists than among the clergy. The secular professions enjoy the sort of respect that the Church commanded in the Middle Ages. Technology has been very successful in delivering the goods and we no longer need the supernatural in ever wider spheres of public life. Another way in which science and technology reduce the place for traditional religion is through the social power of their institutions. For example, life and death are now mostly administered for us by doctors and medical technicians in hospitals.
The shamans’ use of magic in prehistoric religion was the beginning of the praxis of the various engineering professions and the priests deserve much credit for starting the systematic acquisition of knowledge which has since grown into science. The universities by the time of the Middle Ages were for the most part, organs of the church. It was not until the nineteenth century that the universities finally overthrew the authority of the church on the academic campus. The academic disciplines are now fiercely independent and feel no obligation to contribute to, or to fit into any overarching cosmology. It takes an outstanding figure such as E.O.Wilson in his book “Consilience” (1998) to remind the academic world of the importance of the unification of knowledge in various disciplines to build up a single coherent picture of everything.
5. Religion and Ethnicity
There are a number of examples where religion has become inextricably entwined with the ethnicity of some group. Bruce (1996) gives an interesting account of this phenomenom. Perhaps the leading example of such a situation is that of the Jews and Judaism. Judaism has long been the religion of the “chosen race” who are the descendants of the ancient Hebrews. They do not believe in universal salvation. But of course there are other examples. The Scots who were settled in Northern Ireland by William of Orange retained their protestant faiths and thus made religion into an identifying factor to differentiate themselves from the indigenous Catholics. There have been periods in the history of Northern Ireland when recriminations and counter recriminations became the order of the day leading eventually to endless provocation and civil strife, which is the situation at this day. Similarly in the Balkans the contending parties were Catholics and Orthodox with the admixture of followers of Islam since the time of Turkish occupation. In the Indian sub-continent we have the apparently unresolvable conflict between the Hindus and Muslims. The conflict between the Jews and Arabs in the Middle East is assuming religious dimensions. During times of oppression such as experienced by the Irish before the creation of the Irish Free State the Catholic Church was the only organization able to oppose the oppressors and thus the Church grew in strength as the defender of Irish ethnicity. The situation was similar in Poland under communist rule where again it was the Catholic Church that provided the only shelter for Polish nationalism. In the case of the Afrikaners and the Ulster Protestants we have examples of Protestantism serving as a legitimator and guarantor of ethnic identity.
Another example is the case of religion in America. As waves of immigrants settled in the new world they brought their cultures with them and religious affiliations are primary among these. The pilgrims sought refuge from persecution in Britain and established the puritan tradition in New England. Martin (1996) traces the rise of the modern “religious right” all the way back to these early settlers. The Irish brought Catholicism to the USA. For the blacks, imported as slaves, and living under conditions often calculated to destroy their culture, the Christian religion provided the only sociality permissible. Their identity grew from spirituals through jazz to black consciousness. Immigrants from Germany, Sweden, Norway and Finland each brought their own native language varieties of Lutheranism. With the Russians came Orthodoxy. The separation of church and state under the US constitution meant that all churches were equal and had to compete for membership. So it is small wonder that the situation in the USA was and is different from that in Britain and Europe. Church membership especially among fundamentalists flourishes in the USA.
Nevertheless, even in America Bruce reports evidence that secularization is in progress. Although Americans claim a high degree of church involvement the churches themselves find their denominations are shrinking. Evangelical churches are growing but not sufficiently to offset the observed overall membership declines. It was de Toqueville who first suggested that the success of American Christianity was due to the need to appeal to the people directly in the absence of state financing. De Toqueville’s experience in France led him to believe that a close association of church and state alienates people from religion if they become disenchanted with the old social order. In the Catholic countries, Spain, Italy and France there is a polarization between the church and the secular block comprising the communists and socialists. However, as Bruce points out, in protestant countries where the idea is well established that any individual can discern the will of God, and that bishops and priests are not necessary then one can form one’s own religious organization. The British did just that as Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Quakers, and numerous other denominations. De Toqueville believed that the American clergy worked hard from economic necessity, but others have suggested that pioneering clergy (especially the uneducated Methodists and Baptists) had such zeal that they could sustain congregations anywhere. Religious communities have tended to take root and grow in certain localities in the US: Congregationalists and Episcopalians in New England, Baptists in the South, Mormons in Utah, Lutherans in the Mid-West etc. The churches tend to play the same role of legitimator and guarantor of ethnic identity as they do in some parts of the old world. Bruce maintains that this is the reason for the strength of religion in America. Bruce does not mention another striking piece of evidence for this thesis: the rapid growth of Islamic and Buddhist communities in many American cities in support of the many Asian immigrants of recent years.
There are a number of reactionary counter trends to the processes of rationalization and growth of complexity in religion. In the first place there are the fundamentalists who simply demand that the processes of modernization and secularization should be reversed and that the clock should be turned back to the olden times of the pure religion. In America we have the puritanical moralizing religious right who have entered the political arena in an attempt to force their agenda on the whole country. This movement has been described by Martin (1996) in his book “With God on our Side”. From crusading against the teaching of Darwin’s theory of evolution the effort has expanded to opposing birth control, sex education, and abortion. But the reaction in the West pales by comparison with that in the Islamic nations. There women are to be returned to subjugation, veiled and without education. Primitive barbaric concepts of justice with flogging and maiming for punishment are being brought back in Allah’s name. Boys are sent to die in holy wars in the belief that they will earn eternal glory in exchange for martyrdom. In both East and West the most egregious manifestations of fundamentalism are being contested by the secular world and in addition, forces of moderation are growing within the religions themselves. Thus in the West the internal inconsistencies of the creationist movement may yet prove its undoing, and in the East the moderate mullahs may wrest away the leadership of Islam. Some of the Christian fundamentalists, as we have noted already, are heavily committed politically, whereas others completely eschew politics, seeking instead the “kingdom of God”. Followers of the Socinian tradition, as recounted by Hillar (199X) believed in the importance of men using their individual reason, and proceeded to strip the traditional Christian theology of its Greek appendages (the Trinity, for example) and returned to the beliefs of the early church. Perhaps eventually these denominations will ask themselves why they should wish to model their lives on 2000 year old religious myths and prejudices.
A number of new religions arose in the 1970’s. How do we understand these occurrences in terms of the secularization thesis? Bruce points out that that these new religions were of two principle varieties: world affirming or world rejecting. The world rejecting new religions include the Rev Moon’s Unification Church (the Moonies), the Hare Krishna, Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple in Guyana and Charles Manson’s “Family” in California. According to Bruce, the world affirming new religions include the Norman Vincent Peale’s Power of Positive Thinking, Scientology, Transcendental Meditation (TM), Rajneeshism, as it appeared in Antelope, Oregon and Insight Weekends. The world rejectors renounce secular society and are typically puritan and totalitarian. On the other hand the world affirmers, for the most part are quite happy with the world, are mainly concerned with freeing the inner self (perhaps as a take-off from humanistic psychology), and are only vaguely theistic but may use drug induced experience to achieve their purposes. Bruce points out that typical adherents of the new religions are upper or middle class, with few members from the working class. Stark and Bainbridge (1985, 1987) have argued that the occurrence of these new religions is proof that the secularization thesis is incorrect, and that religion is inevitable since however much we have, we always need more. In support of this we are reminded that Durkheim explained the rise in suicide rates in times of prosperity in just such a way. To counter the argument Bruce points out that it is the world affirming new religions which have been successful and that the world denying ones have either self destructed or mutated into conventional forms.
Another counter-trend is found in the “New Age”. Bruce describes this as a term used loosely to describe a wide range of beliefs and practises, many with roots in the esoteric culture of the late nineteenth century and others which are extensions of the new religions of the 1970’s. Most elements of New Age are cultic and organized around commercial enterprises and magazines. A typical advertisement is for tarot, crystals, oils, lava lamps, jewelry, incense, cards etc. A typical magazine could be “Wicca Brief”, a newsletter for Wiccans and pagans in German. The popularity of the New Age cannot be measured from memberships. It is hard to estimate the popularity of UFO-ology, Ouija, Astrology, Tarot, Hypnosis, Crystals, Reflexology, Channelling and I-Ching but they are obviously attractive to many people. The volume of New Age books sold is one gage of this. Magic lives on. Channellers hear voices, including that of the Almighty. New Age practitioners believe they are developing new science, liberated from ‘Newtonian’ thinking, i.e. rationality. Conventional scientists work in specialized disciplines but New Agers feel free to connect ideas from different fields on an Ad-hoc basis. New Agers are greens who believe in Gaia and that small is beautiful. Human potential movements tend to become increasingly spiritual. New Agers are typically quite tolerant except when they begin to approach medicine, when demands for standards arise, as in the case of the accreditation of aromatherapists. The Protestant notion that we can all discern God’s will is amplified in the New Age. But even some astrologers are trying to institute professional organization. One problem with the widespread tolerance in the New Age movement is that there are no widely accepted grounds for disagreeing with any idea. Once again it is to be observed that there are no working class New Agers. There are many more women involved than men, a phenomenon also discussed by Bruce at some length. There are some aspects of the New Age which are progressive, the holism of New Science for example. However the rejection of the technological as opposed to the natural does not seem to be humanistic. Finally we note that the New Agers are not very effective at the promotion of radical or specific change because they lack they lack the cohesion and discipline of a sect.
The New Age is closely akin to Postmodernism. This is a movement within academic departments of Philosophy and Sociology which formally tries to reverse the pre-eminence given to rationality since the time of the Enlightenment. It almost appears as if some sociologists have fallen into the trap of accepting the New Age beliefs of their subjects. This sorry state of affairs is described by Gross and Levitt (1994) in their volume “Higher Superstitution: the Academic Left and its Quarrels with Science”. In “The Golem” Collins and Pinch bring their sociological biases to bear on Einstein. They attempt to dismiss the Theory of Relativity as a product of purely social influences. This gross failure to comprehend the nature of the hard sciences and mathematics unfortunately detracts from some observations about the adequacy of Science in the overall scheme of things. The first major point in this respect is that many scientists themselves fail to understand the distinction between the technological and the observational sciences. Sociologists themselves cannot decide if Sociology is a science or a member of the humanities. Religion was thrown off the campus, and rightly so at the time, but has not been replaced by any other integrative discipline. Even if academics understand the work of their colleagues in other departments (which they rarely do), there is almost no attempt these days to offer any overview of the state of the total academic enterprise. The philosophers who in past times produced cosmologies and systems are no longer to be found and the discipline of philosophy is used only for the analysis of truths proposed by others. Religion, banished from the campus, struggles to satisfy many needs science overlooks. It continues to be the principle vehicle for instruction in ethics and morality. The academy has only just come to the realization, through the writings of E.O. Wilson that much morality is instinctive. The campus offers no department of glad tidings, although futurology may help in the future. Economics ignores the integrative system. Emotions and the aesthetic are vital parts of the lives of ordinary people but which are not properly integrated into the scientific worldview.
7. Religion in the World
We may speculate that the family was the prototypical human social system. We can imagine that the polity, the economy, religious and educational institutions might have begun as parts of family life. As social evolution progresses the tendency is for subsystems to become more specialized, as we have already mentioned, and for these units eventually to achieve greater and greater autonomy. Parsons presents us with a picture of the evolution of the social system which is similar to his view of the systems encompassing the individual. He portrays the principal divisions of the social system as the maintenance of institutionalized cultural patterns, the societal community, the polity and the economy. Parsons saw cultural evolution as the growth in complexity of these divisions. A similar but more detailed exposition again along systems-theoretical lines has been presented by Boulding (1978). Both Parsons and Boulding see religion as a part of the integrative system which is in turn a part of the cultural system. Over the years the religious system has had extensive responsibility in education, health care, economics and even political and civic administration. In Europe and America these functions have been largely stripped away from the churches although in Islamic countries the fundamentalists have at least temporarily reversed the situation. What remains in Europe and America are those functions by which people take cognizance of their lives and determine the cultural basis of future trends. Bruce discusses the internal structures of certain churches whereby these functions are fulfilled. The Catholics have a hierarchical system with pope, cardinals, bishops and parish priests. They also have a staff, the Curia, located in the Vatican which includes not only the offices required to interact with the secular world in political (foreign) affairs and church investments, publications and education but also an office for correct belief. Other denominations are much less structured and may include deliberative councils of lay members. Many Christian denominations have governance that is complex enough to require institutions of church law. I have not found a comparative study of the internal structure of various church institutions.
One problem for all religions and for their free-thinking successors is that educational levels vary considerably throughout the membership. Christ said “in my father’s house are many mansions”, a delightful mis-translation in the King James version, which should have been rendered “in my father’s house are many rooms”, meaning that there must be tolerance for people at varying levels of understanding. One solution is to establish a priesthood who are well educated and respected by the laity who will then permit them to speak for the community. But where every member considers himself a spokesman the religion will remain a cult. The problem is particularly acute among non-believers (i.e. freethinkers, atheists, agnostics and humanists) where the difficulties of organization have been compared to trying to herd cats. As Bruce points out the structure adopted by a particular religion will reflect its beliefs. If we believe in democracy the laity must certainly have a voice in church affairs but we need to be sufficiently disciplined to arrange matters that decisions can be made and adhered to long enough to assess their validity. Another problem which can arise is when the membership suspends its critical judgement allowing itself to be swayed by emotional appeals and simplistic reasoning. Such ideological demagoguery was common in the fascist and communist movements giving rise to fanaticism among the membership but can be found in religion as well, as described in Hoffer’s (1951) “The True Believer”.
8. The Future of Religion
The secularization thesis, as propounded by Martin (1975) and Bruce (1996) proposes that there are three major changes going on in religious evolution: 1) a decline in popular involvement in religion; 2) a decline in the scope and influence of religious institutions; and, 3) a decline in the popularity and impact of religious beliefs. The evidence for these trends has been summarized in preceding sections. The measures of religiosity in which Bruce finds the greatest decline are those involving the supernatural. The decline in scope and influence of religious institutions involves the growing complexity of social life and the partition of various sub-systems away from the religious. I would like to suggest that what is happening could equally well be described as Humanization, i.e. a tendency for the various religions to evolve towards forms of Humanism. In one instance at least (the Catholic church in France) Bruce actually states that this is so. We would find certain other groups, such as the Unitarians, much further along the road than the French Catholics. In the USA the Humanist Movement was instigated by Unitarians and continues to have a close association with them. On this basis we would expect the future of religion to continue the ongoing trends. We would expect the various ramifications of the tree of religion to persist in the future, but with all branches becoming increasingly humanistic.
The Humanist Movement fulfills a function in the lives of humanists, namely as an integrating system which provides a cosmological explanation of the Universe and helps in the definition of desirable behavior. But this is much the same as the role that religions have settled upon, or are at least approaching in this modern age. Every complex adaptive system needs a defining module in its structure: a theory for its existence. The Humanist worldview is naturalistic, explicitly repudiating the supernatural, whereas most religions still retain some traces of the supernatural, usually in the form of some vague belief in divinity. One ventures to predict therefore that the last remnants of the supernatural will eventually be dropped from religion. Perhaps the search for God will be replaced by the search for Humanity. The promise of Humanism must surely be extended to everyone in so far as each individual can comprehend the attainment of a humane world.
9. The Evolution of Humanism
Humanistic thinking has arisen in different parts of the world apparently quite independantly. Buddha and Confucius first brought a philosophical approach to the human condition in the East. Humanism first appeared in the West through the thinking of the Greek philosophers and we tend to look to Thales, Democritus, Protagoras, Socrates, Aristotle, and Epicurus, as early Humanists. Among the Romans we had Lucretius, Cicero and Marcus Aurelius. Classical thought was revived with the renaissance and flourished with the growth of science and the universities. The period of the Enlightenment saw the growth of confidence in human reason and an expansion of the sphere of classical thought through the work of such thinkers as Erasmus, Moore, Descartes, Spinoza, Pascal, Bacon, Voltaire, Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Condorcet and Kant. Although Humanistic thought flourished within certain of the churches, philosophers who wished to completely discard the old beliefs in the supernatural worked largely as isolated individuals. It was not until the nineteenth century that substantial numbers of people began to declare themselves “freethinkers” or “non-believers” and began to associate together independent of the religious world. For the most part they listened to lectures, or held discussions. Compte’s Religion of Humanity was an early attempt to reinvent traditional Christianity. In his early beliefs Marx was quite humanistic, but the present day humanist movement is strongly democratic following the leads of Russell and Dewey. In the nineteenth century the important contributors included Darwin, Ingersoll and Spencer. The knee-jerk left wing ideology has been left behind in favor of an engineering approach based on a knowledge of political systems. The term “Humanism” came to be widely adopted in the early years of the twentieth century. For more detailed accounts of the history and philosophy of Humanism the reader is referred to works by Dewey (1934), Lamont (1949), Kurtz (1983) van Praag (1982), Erickson (1988) and the Morains (1998). Ayn Rand is close to the humanist position but not completely there.
There are Humanist organizations now in over 100 countries and the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) represents over four million members world-wide. Humanism does not have organizational continuity with any religion or, for that matter, with any other institution. However, most of its members came from other organizations bringing ideas on structure with them. These ideas constitute the base from which Humanism will evolve. Huxley’s book “Religion without Revelation” (1957) is a source for “religious” humanists. Some humanist organizations have put an emphasis on growing as secular institutions, and indeed the humanist movement could learn much from the academic world and professional organizations. The Humanist Movement has similarities to, for instance the ISSS (International Society for the System Sciences) or the AAAS (Association for the Advancement of American Science). One problem here is that these societies are elitist in their membership whereas Humanism, like religion, has to accommodate members of all educational levels. Rather than be torn apart by the religious – secular dichototmy we should try to learn from Dewey (1934) who observed that there is a continuum from the religious to the secular. We should recognize that what we are building is neither religious nor secular in any traditional sense, but something new which draws on the best of both worlds. Activities were limited at first by lack of resources, but now many humanist groups have buildings, and full or part-time employees. We aim to teach through conferences and publications, through courses, discussion groups, book clubs, film clubs and with whatever other media come to hand, how people can better themselves and the society in which they live. As other religions or social movements become more humanistic in their outlook, and approaches, we should be able to find common causes for improvements in the social world, for charities and specific causes or political programs. The Humanist life-stance (see Finch ) rests heavily on the humanist psychology of Fromm and Maslow and should emphasize learning from experience.
Socrates’ aphorism: Good people in a Good Society, is still an apt summary of Humanism and its objectives. To express a similar thought in the language of Immanuel Kant, our search is for humanity both in ourselves and in society. But Humanism, unlike many religions, regards change as inevitable and if handled correctly, beneficial. The reason for this is that our understanding of what constitutes a good person, or a good society changes with time. Evolution is therefore, more than a matter of static doctrine for the Humanist Movement. Every so often the Humanist movement puts out a new Manifesto to reflect our improving understanding. The major discovery that Humanists have to show the world is evolution itself. We hope that Humanism will evolve, taking the lessons of history to heart, so that it will adapt more readily than has been the case with religion. The evolution of Humanism is however, self-conscious and self-directed. Humanism will benefit from academic knowledge in all areas, starting with mathematics and the natural sciences but extending into the social sciences, medicine, engineering, law and business. As already mentioned some earlier humanists were beguiled into accepting Marxist theories. Surely the failure of communism should show us that capitalist economic systems are superior. This is not to say that the capitalist system cannot itself evolve and improve. But surely the Humanist Movement will benefit from adopting business-like methods and building endowment to finance its work. Similarly it could learn from studying political systems. Some separation of powers among the institutions of the Humanist Movement seems to have evolved and to be of benefit to the health of the total system. However there does seem to be a problem of resolving conflicts between these bodies and for this the author suggests the establishment of a judicial system, similar in function to the legal system in the body politic. Another problem that the Humanist Movement has in trying to operate a democratic governance is in adopting suitable procedures for operating the various Boards it has set up at national and local levels. As various procedures are tried we need to describe the results and pass the information on to other groups instead of repeating past mistakes. One of the problems of the past has been the difficulty of communication for a community widely scattered over vast areas such as the USA. Electronic “meetings” present unique challenges and we need an electronic version of Roberts Rules of Order to keep matters under control.
The American Humanist Association was incorporated in 1941 and the IHEU was founded in 1952 and thus we see that organized Humanism in comparison with most religions is a recent development. What is the justification for starting a new movement as opposed to remaining within the existing religions to accelerate their evolution? The hope is that as a new venture without the old supernaturalistic and magical encumbrances, Humanism can offer not only a rational life-stance for the present, as mentioned above, but also unclouded visions for the future (see Humanist Futures by Finch . As opposed to the “glad tidings” offered by Christianity, namely, the false promise of immortality in a mythical heaven, Humanism projects attainable possibilities in this real world. There are many options with our evolutionary approach for the development of our destinies. In other words there may be many different Humanisms. But Humanism suffers from some of the same problems as mainstream Christianity, as detailed in this essay, in its inability to compete with fundamentalism and the New Age. How can we Humanists be possessed of the most subtle truths the world has ever known, or contemplate the most profound changes in technology and biology but be unable to persuade our fellow humans to give up superstition and the rituals of millenia long passed? The Humanist message is not simple or calculated to appeal to the emotions that governed our Stone Age ancestors. We need substitutes for the myths of religion, the beauty of the church buildings, music and liturgy. It is crucial that we humanists find ways to open the doors to deeper emotional artistry, feeling and commitment to accompany our scientific knowledge and philosophical reserve.
Copyright 2000 © by Robert D. Finch
Discussion Group Report
A Look At Distributive Justice
By Richard Layton
“As the income and wealth disparity between classes has grown in recent years, and American society has become increasingly fractured, I fear that our collective conscience has seriously eroded. ‘To have is to deserve’ seems to be our moral motto,” opines Richard S. Gilbert in his article, “How Much Do We Deserve? A Look at Distributive Justice,” in the November/December, 2001, issue of UU World.
“Yet at the deepest levels of our being,” he continues, “we who take pleasure in our unparalleled prosperity are vaguely anxious that millions of others in our midst are living in poverty.” There is a question of distributive justice, defined by the Westminster Dictionary of Christian Ethics as the “virtue by which goods and burdens of the community are distributed with due proportion among citizens.” Is a distributive ethic possible, one that will be fair to all people and at the same time produce abundance to be shared?
Gilbert thinks there is. In our specialized world, he believes, economics seems totally divorced from moral analysis. He proposes that ethics and economics be rejoined in a common dialogue in which the economic system should be the servant, not the master, of humanity. He proposes six canons, or principles, as tests for the justice of our economic policies, drawing on principles developed almost 80 years ago in Father John Ryan’s landmark book, Distributive Justice. These canons strive to balance the lofty requirements of economic ethics and the hard requirements of an efficient economic system. They are as follows:
NEED: He says, “All human beings have the inherent right to have their basic human needs met before any economic surplus is distributed to others. Simply stated, the basic needs of the poor transcend the superfluous desires of the rich in moral importance.” This principle is affirmed in religious and philosophical traditions from Plato to the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scriptures. It is based on the idea that all human beings are worthwhile. Human beings are not to be used as a means to some higher end. They are ends in themselves. This canon recognizes the individual as a center of freedom with the ability to make real choices. Self-determination requires a minimal economic package, however. To exclude some members from that community because they have not produced enough is to erode the community’s foundation in human solidarity. A society may be judged by how it treats its poorest, weakest, and most vulnerable people.
PROPORTIONAL EQUALITY: Every human being should be limited in his or her consumption of income and wealth by the principal of sufficiency. This is an ethic of limits, a floor based on need and a ceiling based on proportionality, as articulated in Plato’s Laws. Robert Reich in The American Prospect points out that the average pay of a chief executive in the U.S. rose 18% in 1999 to $12 million. At the other end were 1) 400 janitors in Los Angeles protesting wages of less than $16,000 a year, 2) More than 2 million Americans earning between $7 and $8 an hour working in nursing homes, “bathing and feeding frail elderly people, etc.,” and 3) 700,000 home health care aids who earn $8 to $10 an hour. By comparison many law firms pay first year associates $120,000 plus a signing bonus, and Wall Street investment banks pay more than $75,000 a year for financial analysts. Reich says the policy of the Federal Reserve Board, which raises interest rates to check inflation, makes life harder for the people on the bottom rungs of the ladder, who end up paying more for first mortgages, car loans and other borrowing. “This year the richest 2.7 million Americans, comprising the top 1 percent will have as many after-tax dollars to spend as the bottom 100 million put together, and they’ll have 40 percent of the nation’s wealth.” These examples of extreme inequality attack the democratic egalitarian ideal as well as common sense standards of decency,” says Gilbert. “The class warfare under way in the United States undermines the principles of proportion and balance one might expect to see in a truly prosperous society.” Thorsten Veblen indicated the corrupting potential of excessive income and wealth. It is based on an ethic of “enough.” Beyond a certain level income is not only superfluous but morally and spiritually corrupting.
CONTRIBUTION TO THE COMMON GOOD: Work that served the community should be valued more highly than work that serves only a few. A study by the National Opinion Research Center evaluated 90 occupations in terms of social value. Physicians, who ranked second in social value, and college professors, who ranked seventh, are close in social value and work in professions that require the same amount of education and training. Yet physicians, on average, earn more than twice as much as professors. Sherwin Rosen in the 1983 issue of The American Scholar asks if the principle of payment by contribution has been abandoned. According to Rosen, “the distribution of earnings is far from proportionate to the distribution of ability…How can it be that many a mediocre free agent [in professional sports] earns far more than the Secretary of State or the President of the United States. The average family can hardly afford to attend professional sports games, which are often held in stadiums using tax dollars because the ticket prices are too high.
Gilbert suggests that contributions that can be shared by the citizenry at large should take precedence over those enjoyed by the elite. He does not naively expect that this view has a chance of becoming public or private policy, but nonetheless the issue should be engaged. It would prompt a fascinating exercise in values clarification. The principle is that people who work in the service of the community must be rewarded more generously than those who work to further self-aggrandizement. Carol Gilligan in In a Different Voice, points out that the U.S. economy is based on the perspective that the world is composed of individuals in conflict with one another over claims to resources. This represents the male ethos. The feminist view, however sees the world as an arena not so much for conflict resolution as for preserving connections. This ethos is grounded in human attachment, the principle of caring. A distributive ethic needs to factor in this community-building value.
PRODUCTIVITY: Productivity is well established in the American economic and moral psyche and needs mainly to be disestablished as a canon of divine right. It is a useful and important principle of distribution–but not a sacred one. Why? To the extent that one’s remuneration is based on the skills one has acquired through a lifetime, this canon gives an unfair advantage to those who have backgrounds conducive to acquiring those skills. Economists Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis reported in 1997 that children from the wealthiest 10 percent of the population are 27 times as likely as children from the bottom 10 percent to be in the top 10 percent in terms of income. Society should work to ameliorate, not to compound, the natural inequity in people’s genetic ability to succeed. A just economy will encourage productivity among all its citizens who are able to produce economically. American society stresses incentives for the affluent at the expense of incentives for the poor. The plight of the working poor, the relatively high tax burden on the poor, and the social welfare system, which still tends to discourage people from working by dropping medical and other benefits for those who take jobs–all contribute to a reduction of productivity. People with limited ability nevertheless deserve to have their needs met because they are likewise members of the human community.
EFFORT AND SACRIFICE: It seems fair to reward effort, leisure being a form of income; but what about those who, by virtue of genetics or environment, are unable to work? Some people, for example, the very young and the very old or people with disabilities, are able to contribute relatively little economically, yet they should not be excluded from the community. Caregivers in the family who perform the tasks of maintaining a home and caring for children and elders, the costs of which would be enormous on the open market, are on the low end of the income scale. Also, unpleasant or unsafe working conditions should be considered in determining economic rewards.
SCARCITY: Rewarding the scarcity of a particular talent fails to recognize the joint inputs that mark so many economic endeavors. In professional sports, one superstar may be highly rewarded when the team wins a championship, but in most cases there is a kitty that is shared by all team members. The profit-sharing plans of some businesses could be said to follow a similar system of economic reward. Clearly, people with valuable skills must be rewarded. Given the realities of human nature, incentives must be included in any realistic economic scheme. Gilbert suggests only that the canon of scarcity find its proper place. Given an affluent society, it is quite possible to remunerate people by means of the other canons and still have a surplus from which to reward those who have rare skills.
Gilbert suggests the following steps for a more equitable distribution in the American economy:
Deluge Or Glaciation?
Flat earth or round? A crystal sphere around the earth as the heavens, or a cosmos filled with planets, stars, galaxies, and nebulas? An earth-centered planetary system, or a sun-centered solar system? An earth that is 6,000 years old, or an earth over 4.5 billion years old? Adam and Eve as the first humans, or a long hominid evolution? Evidence of a deluge or evidence of greater glaciations in the past?
In the past, whenever religion and science have been in conflict over some aspect of the nature of the physical world, the religious-I believe-have always been wrong. And when science has been shown to be in error, it has been scientists who have corrected the error, not someone “doing religion.” This is not to say that all scientists, past and present, are non-religious-quite the contrary. Most people, including scientists, have a religious belief. But I believe the really successful scientists are those who can keep their religious beliefs and their scientific endeavors separated. One good example was Austrian monk Gregor Mendel, who, by way of experiments in cross-pollination of garden peas and the careful statistical analysis of the results, gave us the basic tenets of genetics.
Sometimes new discoveries cause controversy, such as the well-known examples of Galileo and Darwin. Galileo was brought before the Inquisition for upholding the Copernican system, which put the sun in the center of our solar system, rather than the earth. Darwin’s studies and book Origin of Species established the theory of organic evolution and started the controversy about evolution that is still disputed by creationists today.
Another example is the biblical story of Noah and the flood. Most skeptics, including me, are unconvinced that it ever happened as presented in the bible. However, there is an interesting side story, involving the birth of glaciology. If you were to go back in time to around 1800, you would find that a fair number of scientists might be termed “religious scientists”. Coming from colleges and universities dominated and funded by various religions of the world and being religious individuals themselves, they approached science in a very different way than most modern scientists.
In the case of the biblical flood, these “religious scientists” set out to verify the flood by finding evidence to fit their beliefs. As they gazed upon the landscapes of northern Europe, they found what they were looking for: a rugged, seemingly chaotic topography, which was surely the work of the turbid waters of the flood. Their mistake, however, was setting out with their minds already made up, making the evidence fit pre-determined conclusions. This is not the scientific method.
In 1821, a Swiss engineer named J. Venetz presented lucid and organized arguments about the extent of past alpine glaciers. He argued that glaciers once extended much further down their pathways and that when they receded, they left behind large boulders, which were of the rock types from further up the path of the glacier. The glaciers also left behind poorly sorted surface materials and the U-shaped canyons. His arguments were not well received, as you may well expect. It wasn’t until 1837, when Louis Agassiz took up the argument, that this theory began to be accepted. Agassiz, along with a number of other associates, argued for years in favor of glaciers as the origin of the rugged topographical features observed in northern Europe. From those years of persistence and study came glaciology. To be fair, it should be noted that resistance to these new ideas did not only come from religious individuals but also from scientific orthodoxy (humans of all persuasions are stubborn to change).
The study of the historical origins of glaciology and the study of glaciers and their effects is a fascinating one. Suffice it to say that most geologists and other scientists interested in earth history accept glaciers as the origin of the features that were once considered evidence of the flood. They are now known as glacial moraines, till, erratics, eskers, and other well-studied and verified phenomenon.
Interestingly, a modern version of the “religious scientist” exists and is gaining momentum. One example is a television program called Origins, which presents varying aspects of what is called “creation science.” One episode sets forth the premise that the entire stratigraphic column was laid down in that one event, known as, you guessed it, Noah’s flood.
That’s right: all the rocks and sediments of the continents were laid out in differentiated layers, with igneous (volcanic) layers not mentioned. Thus, all the mountains are only as old as the flood (I presume), and the remains of living organisms became fossilized in the relatively short time since the flood. Having studied geology and physical geography, and having walked the trail from the North rim of the Grand Canyon to the Colorado River and observed the grandeur of the stratigraphic column as it really is, I find this particular “creation science” notion rather amusing, to say the least.
My intention is not to be anti-religious. I realize that faith in a deity brings great comfort to the majority of humans on earth. That faith, combined with human emotions, adds a richness to humanity, especially through the arts. But when the stubbornness of religious orthodoxy tries to hold on to mythological ideas about the physical world in the light of scientific fact they make a big mistake, and are often, if not always, in error. The religious faithful may get satisfaction from the mysteries that surround us, but for me, I prefer the ways of science: the ways of Agassiz, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Einstein, Pasteur, Darwin, Faraday, Maxwell, Edison, Marconi, Bell, Fleming, Heisenberg, Harvey, Rutherford, Mendel, Planck, Lister, Jenner, Roentgen, Fermi, Bronowski, Hubble, Asimov, Gould, Sagan, Feynman, Dawkins, and many more. These scientists and hundreds more like them were not just awed by the mysteries around them, but allowed these curiosities to pique their interest, leading to experimentation, observation, testing, and coming up with answers, which have solved many a mystery before going on to the next. Again, the scientific method proves itself superior to the ways of religious science.
A quote from author Douglas Walton seems appropriate to end with: “The rise of science brought with it a kind of positivist way of thinking, to the effect that knowledge should be based on scientific experimentation and mathematical calculation, and that all else is subjective.”
Corporate Control of America
by Richard Garrard
Have you ever met an artificial person? No, I’m not talking about robots or androids. This is not the stuff of science fiction. It’s strictly business. Chances are you’ve worked for an artificial person. You may even have been told it was a ‘corporation.’ You may have heard of the explosive growth of corporations, the global reach of the transnational corporations. Corporations are our friends. They give us entertainment, jobs, junk food. Corporations are the vehicles of capitalism, the free market, of freedom itself–right? Wrong.
What happened? In the beginning corporations were very useful, a means of managing risk and ensuring continuity and capitalization. The negative features of corporations were limited. In fact, they were created and operated under greater constraints:
The corporations of today straddle the world. They walk the halls of Congress and your state legislature. They move money from account to account, currency to currency, country to country, to escape regulation and taxation. They dictate environmental laws and foreign policy. They redistribute wealth unfairly.
Why is this permitted? Well, partly because corporations are such generous campaign contributors (directly or through PACs), and well, in the United States of America all natural persons are supposed to have inalienable rights. These rights are recognized, for instance, in the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment. Corporations are considered persons, created by the state. And this leads us to the concept of corporate personhood.
Corporate personhood is the idea (a legal fiction, currently with force of law) that corporations have constitutional rights just like real, natural, human persons. The doctrine derives from a 1886 lawsuit, Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad. This decision was augmented by many rulings since, which have greatly expanded corporate rights.
While corporations certainly served a useful purpose in the first century of our country, the increasing power aggregated to the corporations began to endanger our democracy. The bizarre status of these organizations allowed them to compete successfully with many other interests. In the last fifty years, corporations have not only triumphed against organized labor, but against government itself.
The tendency in recent decades toward deregulation, acquisitions and mergers has often resulted in a consolidation of market position that often borders on monopoly. Naturally, under such conditions, the “free and open competition” that is necessary to a healthy and functioning capitalist economy does not occur. The lack of regulation has, unfortunately, permitted horrendous abuses (as in the Enron crisis) in the form of ‘paper companies’ with no other purpose than to hide taxable income and manipulate pricing.
As Arianna Huffington notes, “In the last two years, more than 400 public companies–including Enron, Global Crossing and Kmart–have declared bankruptcy. Two million Americans have lost their jobs. Four trillion dollars in market value has been lost on Wall Street.” This sounds as if the corporate-based economy has become unstable.
Corporations increasingly dictate American foreign policy goals and values. The U.S. State Department and the Department of Defense have repeatedly stated that our foreign and military policy must protect U.S. “commercial interests.” The prominence of the Middle Eastern oil reserves in our nation’s recent history reveals corporate influence to a frightening extent. It is significant that many key members of the current administration, including both the President and Vice President, have come from the oil industry. Campaign finance contributions from corporations have reached record levels. Individual taxes for the middle class have gone up while taxes on the wealthy and corporations have gone down. Why do the few artificial persons have so much more representation than the real people?
The answer is not to eliminate corporations but to reverse judicial trends that have granted these entities such tremendous power. Corporations must be transparent to investors and regulators. They must be reformed and held accountable. They must reveal their activities relevant to the formation of legislation and policy.
And, most important of all, American citizens and consumers must insist that we are more real than any product or brand or marketing campaign; that this democratic republic is not merely a corporate welfare state, but is about us and for us: for “We the People.”
Discussion Group Report
Clash of Civilizations
By Richard Layton
“The West may one day have to fight for its most cherished values, and, indeed, physical survival against extremists from other cultures who despise our country and will embroil us in a civilizational war that is real…” So says Harvard scholar Samuel Phillips Huntington, who is discussed in the article “Looking the World in the Eye,” by Robert Kaplan in the December 2001 issue of The Atlantic Monthly.
Kaplan says that Huntington’s opinions “about the role of the military in a liberal society have proved to be as prescient as they have been controversial. Huntington has been ridiculed and vilified, but in the decades ahead his view of the world will be the way it really looks.”
“Foreign policy,” Huntington explains, “is not about the relationship among individuals living under the rule of law but about the relationship among states and other groups operating in a largely lawless realm.” His main points are summarized by Kaplan:
Huntington says American security has been mostly the result of sheer luck–the luck of geography–and may one day have to be earned. Liberalism thrives only when security can be taken for granted–and in the future we may not have that luxury. He disdains the “rational choice theory” the reigning fad in political science, which assumes human behavior is predictable but which fails to take account of fear, envy, hatred, self-sacrifice, and other human passions essential to understanding politics. He represents a dying breed: someone who combines liberal ideals with a deeply conservative understanding of history and foreign policy. A lifelong Democrat, he was a speechwriter for Adlai Stevenson in the 1950’s, a foreign-policy advisor to Hubert Humphrey in the 1960’s, and an author of Jimmy Carter’s speeches on human rights in the 1970’s, but he is the founder of Harvard’s John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies, a redoubt of foreign-policy realism financed by conservative philanthropies.
Liberalism, he wrote, is an ideology of individualism, free markets, liberty, and the rule of law. “Classic conservatism,” in contrast, has no particular vision; it is a rationale, “high and necessary,” for ensuring the survival of liberal institutions. It is the “rational defense of being against mind, of order against chaos.” Real conservatism is about conserving what is, rather than crusading abroad for what is not or proposing radical changes at home. John Adams and Alexander Hamilton expounded conservative principles to defend a liberal constitution. “The American political genius,” Huntington wrote, “is manifest not in our ideas but in our institutions.”
The advance of technology culminating in World War II, with Pearl Harbor and the atomic bomb, meant that geography was no longer a barrier that protected us. Security at times might have to take precedence over liberal values. “The heart of liberalism is individualism,” Huntington wrote. “It emphasizes the reason and moral dignity of the individual.” But the military man, because of the nature of his job, has to assume irrationality and the permanence of violent conflict in human relations. “The liberal glorifies self-expression” because he takes national security for granted; the military man glorifies “obedience” because he does not take that for granted. Nevertheless a truly liberal military would lack the lethal effectiveness required to defend a liberal society threatened by technologically empowered illiberal adversaries.
Our very greatness, he said, is what makes it difficult for the American liberal mind to deal with the outside world. “American nationalism has been an idealistic nationalism, justified, not by the superiority of the American people over other peoples, but by the assertion of the superiority of American ideals over other ideals.” American foreign policy is judged by the criteria of universal principles. This leads to a pacifism in American liberalism when it comes to defending our hard-core national interests, and an aggressive strain when it comes to defending human rights. Although the professional soldier accepts the reality of never-ending and limited conflict, “the liberal tendency is to absolutize and dichotomize war and peace.” Liberals most readily support a war if they can turn it into a crusade for humanistic ideals. That is why liberals seek to reduce the defense budget even as they periodically demand an adventurous foreign policy. The same intellectuals and opinion-makers who consistently under-appreciated NATO in the 1970’s and 1980’s, when the outcome of the Cold War remained in doubt, demanded aggressive NATO involvement in the 1990s, in Bosnia and Kosovo, when the stakes for our national security were much lower, but the assault on liberal principles was vivid and clear-cut.
The only way to preserve a liberal society, opines Huntington, is to define the limits of military control. The way to do that across the uncertain decades and centuries ahead is to keep the military and the advice it offers strictly professional. A soldier should recommend battle only in the case of national interest. If he is to fight for other reasons, including humanitarian ones, the pressure to do so must come from his civilian superiors. Harry Truman was a harbinger of an emerging order, liberal at home but profoundly conservative in foreign affairs, merging a liberal society and a vast new defense establishment.
Huntington believes we should proclaim our values abroad in ways that allow us to take advantage of our adversaries but do not force us to remake societies from within. He has remained skeptical about putting troops on the ground to build Western-style democracy in places with no tradition of it. If he is correct, one might ask, how does he explain the turnabout of Germany and Japan after World War II, when the Allies helped those countries to build democracies where they had had a tradition of dictatorship before?
He outlines a road map to what developing countries face in their attempts to establish stable and responsive governments in an era of globalization: “The most important distinction among countries concerns not their form of government but their degree of government. The differences between democracy and dictatorship are less than the differences between those countries whose politics embodies consensus, community, legitimacy, organization, effectiveness, [and] stability, and those countries whose politics is deficient in these qualities.”
American history taught us how to limit government, not how to build it from scratch. The Constitution is about controlling authority; throughout Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the formerly communist world the difficulty is to establish authority. The problem, Huntington says, is not to hold elections but to create organizations. In politically advanced states loyalty is to institutions, not to groups.
The United States has trouble understanding revolutionary ferment in the rest of the world because it never experienced a real revolution. Instead it went through a war of independence–and not even one of nations against alien conquerors, but of settlers against the home country. Real revolutions are different–bad–and fortunately rare. Even as the proletariat in Third World slums continues to radicalize, the middle classes become increasingly conservative and more willing to fight for the existing order. When a revolution does occur, continued economic deprivation “may well be essential to its success,” but the idea that food shortages and other hardships caused by economic sanctions will lead to the overthrow of a revolutionary regime like Hussein’s or Castro’s is nonsense. Material sacrifices, although intolerable in a normal situation, are proof of ideological commitment in a revolutionary one.” Revolutionary governments may be undermined by affluence; but they are never overthrown by poverty.” Spanish and Canadian developers now building hotels in Havana may know better than the American government does how to undermine a revolutionary regime…great revolutions have followed periods of reform, not periods of stagnation and repression.
What Huntington calls the American Creed, he believes, is the touchstone of our national identity. Unlike other national creeds ours is universalistic, democratic, egalitarian, and individualistic. “Opposition to power, and suspicion of government as the most dangerous embodiment of power, are the central themes of American political thought.” Whereas both the right and the left in Europe have traditionally favored a strong state, right-wing and left wing radicals in America have always demanded more “popular control.”
Creedal passion is at the core of America’s greatness. By holding officials and institutions to impossible standards in a way no other country does, the United States has periodically reinvented itself through evolution rather than revolution. Power is now seen as corporate. So the next outburst of creedal passion may be against hegemonic corporate capitalism.
Huntington thinks the great divisions among humankind will be cultural, not ideological or primarily economic. The principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. Whereas the West has generated ideologies, the East has generated religions. Religion is now the more menacing force on the international scene. The Cold War was a fleeting event compared with the age-old struggle between the West and Islam. Dangerous clashes of the future are likely to arise from the interaction between Western arrogance, Islamic intolerance, and Sinic [Chinese] assertiveness.
It is pointless, he avers, to expect people who are not at all like us to become significantly more like us; this well-meaning instinct only causes harm. In the incipient war being led by the United States, the utmost caution is required to keep the focus on the brute fact of terrorism. Osama bin Laden , for his part, clearly hopes to incite civilizational conflict between Islam and the West. The United States must prevent this from happening, chiefly by assembling a coalition against terrorism that crosses civilizational lines. Beyond that, the U.S. must, first, draw the nations of the West more tightly together, and, second, try to understand more realistically how the world looks through the eyes of other people. The world is a dangerous place, in which large numbers of people resent our wealth, power, and culture, and vigorously oppose our efforts to persuade or coerce them to accept our values of human rights, democracy, and capitalism. America must learn to distinguish among our true friends who will be with us and we with them through thick and thin; opportunistic allies with whom we have some but not all interests in common; strategic partner-competitors with whom we have a mixed relationship; antagonists who are rivals but with whom negotiation is possible; and unrelenting enemies who will try to destroy us unless we destroy them first.
“Critics say that America is a lie,” says Huntington, “because its reality falls so far short of its ideals. They are wrong. America is not a lie; it is a disappointment. But it can be a disappointment only because it is also a hope.”
Journey to Humanism
I am an endangered species; yes, I am Utah Democrat, but I am from an even more endangered species, which is a third generation native Utah Unitarian. I lack any formal schooling of Judeo-Christian upbringing. My journey to humanism starts with a strong opinionated family and Corliss Lamont’s book The Philosophy of Humanism, that I received from my Humanist minister Uncle as teenager. Along my journey there have been many “fascinations of distractions” that have tried to test my belief that: “all human problems can and will be solved by humans.” To do this humans have to do one of the hardest things: communicate. They have to use a language that is understandable to all, but confusing too most. My adult passion is using Robert Fulghum’s definition of a government worker being a United States Citizen. I have specialized as an environmental citizen activist dealing with hazardous and nuclear waste. I believe that hazardous and nuclear waste issues cause the greatest harm to humans, and there are better ways to treat the waste, including not making so much of it in the first place.
I will be sharing three brief examples of my “fascinations of distractions” on my journey to humanism as an environmental citizen activist.
In closing, I will say I have learned two things so far in journey of Humanism “fascinations of distractions”: (1) communication skills are one of the hardest things to do, and (2) never leave your communication skills to any one else.
Chris Sampson Walker
November 19, 1936-June 10, 2002
Christine N. (Chris) Sampson Walker, long time HoU member, died in Salt Lake City June 10, 2002.
Born in Salt Lake on Nov. 19, 1936 and adopted by Thea Almsteadt Nilsen. Attended schools in Salt Lake and Los Angeles and graduated from West High school in 1954. She worked for American Oil Company from 1960 until 1971. Attended the University of Utah and worked part time for the Utah Museum of Natural History for approximately 10 years. She graduated from the University with a BA in 1980 and a MA in 1981 in Linguistics. She was employed by Salt Lake Community College from 1982 until 1998 beginning in the ESL Program and left on long-term disability from the Admissions Office where she served as coordinator for 10 years. Married to Gordon Sampson in 1971. He died in 1984. Married to Edwin E. Walker in 1986.
Christine leaves one daughter, Deena Slye McCain of Boulder, CO; and one granddaughter, Erin McCain.
She loved traveling, sewing, reading and above all, music. As long as she could listen to her beloved music while working on a project of one sort or another, she was happy. Making things for others was one of her greatest joys.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Idaho Youth Ranch or the Humane Society. Send condolences to www.MeM.com
Changing Utah Values
Govenor Mike Leavitt refused to sign a proclamation declaring “World Population Awareness Week,” citing zero population growth as not being consistent with Utah values (Rolly & Wells, Oct. 21). “Not consistent with Utah values.”
Hmmm, I have seen Utah values change based on social pressures in my lifetime. I remember when the civil rights movement threatened the LDS Church. There was a great deal of public discussion, some called it prayer, among the majority.
I encourage my LDS friends and neighbors to join the rest of us in discussions about the growing population problems. Fewer people means more water, smaller-sized classes in our public schools, less need for more highways and a generally higher availability of so called scarce resources. Let’s give our grandchildren and their children a comfortable, peaceful place to live.
This Letter to the Editor was published in The Salt Lake Tribune on November 2, 2002
CEDAW: Mormon Family Values and the UN
by Richard Garrard
The year was 1946. American and allied planes droned over Berlin, carrying not bombs but food, as humanitarian efforts continued to save the vanquished Germans from starvation. Weary statesmen named Truman, Stalin and Churchill had recently met in the city of Yalta to plan the postwar western world.
In this sober, exhausted yet hopeful time, a group of men and women first met and established a group known as the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. For thirty-three years, women and men from all over the planet discussed, debated and defined what would finally come to be the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women-CEDAW. CEDAW was finally adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 18, 1979.
What is the aim of CEDAW? Most simply put, “To modify the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women, with a view to achieving the elimination of prejudices and customs and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority or the superiority of either of the sexes or on stereotyped roles for men and women.” And, “To ensure that family education includes a proper understanding of maternity as a social function and the recognition of the common responsibility of men and women in the upbringing and development of their children, it being understood that the interest of the children is the primordial consideration in all cases.” Finally, “States parties shall take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to suppress all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of prostitution of women.”
The convention document consists of a preamble and thirty articles. The first sixteen articles set out the aims of the convention; the remaining fourteen articles describe the process for achieving these aims, including the creation of a committee to review the reports of signatories and “make suggestions and general recommendations.” States may sign the Convention with the intent of “achieving the full realization of the right recognized in the present Convention.” Any of the signatories may request a revision, which would be voted upon by the General Assembly. Any of the States may make a “reservation,” meaning that the state will not accept certain articles at the time of ratification. The Committee has no means of directly forcing a state to comply with its suggestions or recommendations.
CEDAW has been signed by 169 countries. A broad spectrum of organizations have also endorsed it, including the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Lutheran World Federation, Haddasah, World Young Women’s Christian Association, the American Humanist Association, the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, the League of Women Voters (USA), and many others. In July, 2002, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in a vote of 12 to 7, sent CEDAW to the full Senate for ratification. All of the Committee’s Democratic Senators and two Republicans, Lincoln Chaffee and Gordon Smith, voted in favor.
While no explicit or specific criticism of CEDAW has yet been made by the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, some “general authorities” of the church and high-profile Mormon activists have. Some of the most visible “non-governmental organizations” (NGOs) are headquartered at Brigham Young University. The World Family Policy Center operate out of the David Kennedy Law Center of the university, with LDS funding. For this reason, the expressed opinions of the directors of these organizations could be seen as representative of the church’s position.
Professor Richard Wilkins of the J. Reuben Clark Law School at BYU is the most measured and thoughtful of the voices. Wilkins became a legend among the Mormons when he unexpectedly (“miraculously” claim some supporters) was given a large audience at the Habitat II UN Conference in Istanbul, Turkey. Wilkins claims that the only text he used in preparing his talk was the LDS church’s The Family: A Proclamation to the World. Wilkins’ primary concerns regarding CEDAW, and the other UN conferences referring to the family are that they may influence domestic laws, could undermine national sovereignty and do not reflect democratic debate.
Kathryn Balmforth is much more negative regarding CEDAW. An attorney and a mother, she addresses cultural issues head on in an extreme, flamboyant style. She refers often to “the radical feminists, population control ideologues, and homosexual rights activists who make up the anti-family movement.” The “anti-family movement,” according to Balmforth, aims to “eliminate all opposition and force all countries and cultures to conform to their radical vision.”
Bruce Hafen, member of the First Quorum of Seventy of the LDS church, has been President of Ricks College and Dean of the Clark Law School at BYU. Hafen presided as provost over BYU during the years when the university was under fire for academic freedom issues and the controversial firing or purging of feminist scholars. Hafen is a frequent contributor to First Things, a neoconservative magazine promoting on the further integration of religion and American society. Hafen has described the UN as “a very undemocratic forum that is far from the world’s homes and families.”
These outspoken Latter-day saints are to be found on the op-ed pages of major newspapers and magazines, on websites and widely distributed emails. But the views that they articulate are also backed by the tremendous political and economic power of the LDS Church. Under the guise of addressing “moral issues,” the LDS Church was instrumental in stopping the national passage of the Equal Rights Amendment; the defeat of initiatives permitting expanded rights for gays and lesbians, including same-sex marriage. By influencing the activities of the United Nations, the LDS Church can shape the policies of nations all over the world.
In 1995, after years of bad press regarding the firing of academic feminists and excommunications of intellectuals, the LDS church hired Edelman Worldwide, a high-powered public relations firm, to recast the church’s image. Soon thereafter the church changed its logo and issued The Family: A Proclamation to the World. The Proclamation has become indispensable to Mormons in discussions regarding the family.
The Family: CEDAW does not define the family. CEDAW, however, refers to the need to strengthen the family, and “the great contribution of women to the welfare of the family and to the development of society, so far not fully recognized, the social significance of maternity and the role of both parents in the family in the upbringing of children.” Ironically, the LDS document most quoted on the family-the Proclamation-does not define the family, but only defines marriage. As Jennifer Butler, of Ecumenical Women 2000+ explains, “The Women’s Convention …strengthens families by advancing the status of women. When women have civil and political rights, access to education, health care and employment, they are better able to care for themselves and their children.”
Definition of Marriage. CEDAW states that women shall have “the same right to enter into marriage” as men, but does not address the definition of marriage. The Proclamation does, however, stating that “marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God” and that “God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.”
This definition of marriage is of special interest when placed in a historical and theological context. Leaders of the LDS church began to practice polygyny (a man married to more than one woman) as a sacred principle, beginning with the church’s founder, Joseph Smith. The practice was publicly disavowed in 1890, but subsequent investigation by federal officials demonstrated that ‘plural marriages’ were secretly and illegally performed for at least 15 years afterward. After a “second Manifesto,” the church stopped the practice and began excommunicating church members who entered into such marriages. The practice of “sealing” multiple wives to husbands, however, continues to the present day. These posthumous marriages are clearly polygynous in nature, in contradiction to the Proclamation.
Reproductive Rights. CEDAW urges states to ensure “on a basis of equality of men and women, access to health care services, including those related to family planning.” Kathryn Balmforth is suspicious of this language. Referring to a recent conference, she stated (parentheses hers): “Anti-family NGOs were up to their usual antics, proposing language supportive of ‘reproductive health services’ (abortion), ‘diverse family norms’ (homosexual families), and portraying the traditional family as a harmful entity from which children should be protected.” The LDS church’s position on family planning, however, is that it is up to the individual family. According to the 1998 Church Handbook of Instructions, “The decision as to how many children to have and when to have them is extremely intimate and private and should be left between the couple and the Lord. Church members should not judge one another in this matter.”
While the Proclamation states that “We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed,” church authorities do not excommunicate church members who have abortions, particularly in cases of the usual ‘rape, incest, or to preserve the health of the mother.’ The advocacy of high profile LDS figures (Senator Orrin Hatch, philanthropist Jon Huntsman) for stem-cell research clearly indicates that this is a theological and moral gray area for the church.
Gay/Lesbian Issues. There is no mention in CEDAW of homosexuality, gay or lesbian issues. Female sexuality is not addressed, although female health concerns are. There are elements of the Mormon activist media, however, which publish sensational and erroneous stories of liberal UN activists in which feminists are linked with the pedophile North American Man-Boy Love Association (according to Kathryn Balmforth in The Family Reporter) or it is even claimed that they “provide sex-education for teens which promote abortion, homosexuality, and even sex with animals” (Kathy Wall, Meridian Magazine).
National Sovereignty. Professor Wilkins addresses the concerns of those who fear the United States coming under United Nations control:
“We have grown accustomed to federal lawmakers in Washington, D.C. imposing their will upon local decision makers. Unless the current direction of the UN is altered, we will also become accustomed to international lawmakers having the same impact.
“CEDAW…could embody the most advanced and intelligent approach to gender relations ever devised by civilized society. The point is that, even if they are, those principles have been adopted and implemented without the democratic debates and procedures devised by this civilized society for any set of norms that purports to call itself ‘law.'”
The irony of Wilkins’ position is that he admits using, as his primary text in evaluating UN family and feminist concepts, the LDS Proclamation to the World. The Proclamation was not reached at through any democratic means, and is manifestly religious in nature, proclaimed by the “First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles”-not a democratic body, but a theocratic organization without even female representatives. The Proclamation features elements of LDS theology (such as the concept of “divine parents”) which are not held in common with other Christians, let alone represents the views of all religious or secular entities-yet this would become the standard for promotion throughout the world?
Theology and Human Rights: A Mormon Dilemma. In 1978, the LDS church reversed its stand prohibiting African-American males from holding the priesthood. The practice was clearly an instance of racial discrimination. Although church founder Joseph Smith had ordained at least one black man, such ordinations were prohibited from the founder’s death in 1844 until the presidency of Spencer W. Kimball. Explanations were various. At first, blacks were claimed to bear the mark of Cain, conveyed through the lineage of Ham, in accordance with Old Testament interpretations; but in the twentieth century the most common justification was that an entire race of people had been ‘less valiant’ in the pre-existent state, failing to take sides in the “War in Heaven” between the forces of Jehovah and those of Satan. Secular commentators consider the ‘second-class’ status of blacks to have been an accommodation to social pressures in the pre-civil war United States. This example demonstrates an inclination of the church leadership to give theological explanations for discriminatory practices. While church leaders denied that they were racist, they nevertheless perpetuated what was clearly a racist, discriminatory practice.
The Proclamation to the World describes fathers and mothers as “equal partners,” but also states that “By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.” While “circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation,” the Proclamation makes clear a divinely ordained ‘division of labor.’ While this division of labor may be “divine” to the Latter-day Saints, it is not the consensus of all religious traditions, as demonstrated by the religious signatories.
Stone Her! the Amina Lawal Story. According to Kathryn Balmforth of the World Family Policy Center, “The CEDAW Committee’s hostility to religion is open and explicit. Religion and culture are routinely identified as the primary obstacles to women’s rights….The Committee even explicitly instructed one Islamic country that it should reinterpret the Koran in ways that were considered ‘permissible’ by the Committee.”
As of this writing, in Nigeria, a mother named Amina Lawal is under sentence to be stoned to death for having extramarital sex. The sentence was handed down by a Sharia appellate judge, who has justified the punishment from the Quran and the Hadith of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and various other organizations are seeking mercy for Lawal. Her sentence will not be carried out until 2004, so that she can finish suckling her baby daughter, Wasila. Then, she will be buried to the waist and stoned by the members of her village. The father of the child was released for lack of evidence. Under Sharia law, for him to be convicted requires that he must confess or four other men must testify that they witnessed the offender’s act.
Nigeria is a signatory to CEDAW, and obviously not living up to their commitments to the convention. But at least, with CEDAW, there may be international pressures and sanctions brought to bear against such horrific injustice. The LDS church, though it claims a “heavenly mother” in its theology, will not permit public discussion of her by members without the threat of excommunication. Hopefully the church will permit discussion of the terrible abuses against the Amina Lawals, of the victims of female genital mutilation and sex trafficking, rather than focusing on the distortions and fabrications of right-wing extremists. Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon is a Latter-day Saint and a supporter of CEDAW-and he is listening, at least.
The church will not be aligned with the Christian right as a political action group. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints limits its involvement in politics to issues the church deems to have religious or moral implications, such as abortion or same-sex marriage. For everything else, the political process is fine as it is.
— Elder Bruce Hafen
Bush Signs Into Law US Subjugation To God
November 13, 2002: President Bush signed into law a bill reaffirming the reference in the Pledge of Allegiance to ours being one nation “under God.” Tony Hileman, executive director of the American Humanist Association(AHA) responded, “This legislation divides us when we need uniting, attacks the First Amendment when it needs bolstering, and places responsibility outside ourselves when we most need to accept it. “It is paradoxical that the words ‘under God’ and ‘indivisible’ are side by side in our nation’s Pledge of Allegiance. Our constitution intentionally had no reference to God because it’s not the job of the government to impose religious belief. How can a declaration of America’s subjugation to God unite the thirty million people in our country with no religious affiliation?
“Over recent months we’ve seen an overabundance of public religious endorsements by government officials. This latest action is just another swipe at Thomas Jefferson’s wall of separation between church and state. Our leaders forget that such separation is what maintains religious liberty and protects us from theocracy.” By placing our trust in a higher power we relinquish responsibility at a time when we are struggling with a war on terrorism and contemplating preemptive military action against another nation. Will Bush be relying on divine inspiration to guide his executive decisions as he places our citizens in harm’s way? I hope not.” Congress was overwhelmingly supportive of this latest legislation with only Barney Frank of Massachusetts, Michael Honda and Pete Stark of California, Jim McDermott of Washington, and Bobby Scott of Virginia voting against the measure.
Hileman concludes, “On behalf of the American Humanist Association, I commend these representatives who were brave enough to vote against this uncalled-for measure. AHA will continue to support those who speak out for religious liberty and freedom of conscience in defense of an indivisible nation.”
Bush Sets Religious Litmus Test For Judges
(Washington, DC–June 28, 2002) Yesterday President Bush denounced the common sense San Francisco court ruling that decided children should not have to feel coerced to give false statements of sectarian belief in public school. With this decision by the court, there is now a hope that the Pledge of Allegiance can be returned to its original form, without the “under God” wording that the Knights of Columbus lobbied successfully for in the 1950s.
Bush then went on to establish a criterion of particular religious belief for judicial appointments, saying, “I believe that it points up the fact that we need common sense judges who understand that our rights were derived from God. Those are the kind of judges I intend to put on the bench.”
“Bush’s public statement of intent to discriminate on religious grounds makes a mockery of the US Constitution,” says Tony Hileman, executive director of the American Humanist Association (AHA). Article VI of the Constitution states “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
Hileman continues, “Bush ignores the 30 million Americans who identify with no religion, as well as faithful Buddhists, Hindus and others who do not subscribe to his monotheistic test for judicial competency.
“We have begun to mobilize the Humanist community across the nation to speak-out against this outrageous violation of our rights as American citizens. Not only are we activating our network of 62 AHA chapters and 18 affiliate groups, we are also reaching out to the broader community of reason, made up of atheists, skeptics, agnostics, freethinkers and others.
“‘One nation under God’ is clearly an unconstitutional endorsement of religion,” states Hileman. “While the US Supreme Court has ruled in the past that it is not a requirement of public school students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, students without sectarian faith were placed in the intimidating position of either refusing in front of their peers to recite the Pledge or being forced to pledge to something they do not believe.”
“…no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”
–Article VI, U.S. Constitution
Creed Trumps Deeds for BSA
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) this week gave one of their top ranked Eagle Scouts an ultimatum: affirm a belief in a higher power or quit the Boy Scouts. “This is the kind of lesson the Boy Scout leadership is teaching young men: despite devotion to a cause, despite dedication to others, despite accomplished service, if supernatural beliefs differ, then loyalty is cast aside. Creed clearly trumps deed,” points out Tony Hileman, executive director of the American Humanist Association (AHA).
Darrel Lambert earned the rank of Eagle Scout after ten years of dedication to the organization and community. If Lambert followed BSA’s advice and professed belief in a supreme being, it would be a lie. “I wouldn’t be a good Scout then, would I?” he asked.
The Bedrock of Scouting Values, a BSA publication asserts, “Our commitment is that no child can develop to his/her fullest potential without a spiritual element.” Derek Sweetman, a Humanist Eagle Scout asks, “Why doesn’t performance alone prove worthiness? If the dedication and service is there, how is the person’s attitude toward religion relevant?”
“Lambert is a prime example that a failure to believe in God does not equate to a failure of good citizenship,” said Hileman.
The BSA is teaching youth to ignore accomplishments in favor of a declaration, sincere or not. By attempting to force a statement from Mr. Lambert the Boy Scouts of America are trivializing the meaning of belief. Hileman declared, “Its time for the BSA to live up to its own standards and end this practice of exclusion.”
Journey to Humanism
Just what do we mean by “Journey to Humanism” I guess it is an obvious and straightforward statement. But each of our journeys is unique, similar in some ways but unique. Some of you were lucky enough to grow up in secular or nonreligious families and some like me grew up in religious families.
As I have been thinking about what to say tonight, I wondered if there was something I left out the last time I spoke about my “Journey to humanism” a few years back. Or perhaps, if something needed more emphasis. Here is my revision.
I was born to Mormon parents, and was raised by my mother and stepfather. I attended Church every Sunday until I went to a military school for my junior year in high school.
First signs of my skepticism were early doubts about the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, and Santa. No Tinker Bell with coins for your teeth, no giant bunnies with eggs and candy and no Santa (Down the chimney? Give me a break)
Probably one of the earliest things that happened to start me on the path that would take me away from the path of religion was when I received for Christmas a small microscope with a small lab kit to go with it. I enjoyed it immensely; I remember that it had this packet of some kind of eggs something like brine shrimp or something similar. On the low magnifying setting you could add a little water to some of them on a slide and then come back a while later and watch them hatch and begin to grow. It had other things to do and some polarizing lenses and stuff for a few projects.
But in my family, church came first, always. My interest in science was never recognized much less encouraged. My first inklings that the grown ups in my life didn’t know as much as I thought they did came at about age fourteen. I remember asking an adult after priesthood meeting the question, “If God created everything, who created God”. His answer wasn’t as memorable as his attitude. He was not happy that I had asked the question. I also remember asking about the “war in Heaven” which is essential too most if not all of the religions of the Bible, for it establishes the existence of the devil. But it seemed illogical that anyone, in the presence of God the creator, knowing that he was God the creator could, to his face defy him. I mean how stupid can you be? I believe this is when I was beginning to think for myself. In those teen years I was becoming more and more rebellious, which is why I was sent to a military school. But if my parents had known how that year away from happy Valley would affect me, I’m sure they never would have sent me.
Military school was a big wake up. I went from being around almost all Mormons to being one of only two or three Mormon students. This was also when I started to enjoy Learning. I especially enjoyed gaining scientific knowledge. Science became so much more interesting to me than the static unchangeable nature of religious teachings. At this school, the most memorable class was “Advanced biology and physiology.” The class was held two hours a day, three days a week for the entire year. It had a college like setting with a good lab. I remember that the professor had a human arm that was striped of its skin. He also had a juvenile Dolphin he acquired somewhere and dissected it in class over several class and lab periods. We also did team dissections of lab rats and a couple of different reptiles in order to compare the physiology of warm and cold-blooded animals. We also did our own blood typing and Rh factor. We studied evolution, and had a section on sex education, and this was in the mid 60’s.
Also at this Military school, my roommate introduced me to certain Science fiction books. Most notably Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, One of the characters while discussing religion with other characters mentions an incident in the bible as instructive of how nasty God is. The story in second kings is about Elijah and how when some kids make fun of his bald head, he calls on God and God sends a she bear out of the woods which tears up these kids. This is an act of God?
The next big change in my life came when I spent four years in the United States Air Force. The year in Thailand was quite an experience. When you spend a year somewhere you get more than just a “vacation like glimpse” of a place and its people. You have time to explore the culture, the Buddhist religion, and the food. (That’s where I learned to love rice.)
But my final break with organized religion came when I was on leave during the holidays of 1970. I was given a book for Christmas from the stake presidency called The Miracle of Forgiveness, by Spencer W. Kimball. While thumbing through this book, I came across a passage in a chapter called “The Sin Next to Murder.” The passage, attributed to Heber J. Grant, is part of a larger discourse about chastity, and ties the Word of Wisdom to chastity. In part it is as follows. (Speaking of young people)
“Partaking of Tobacco and Liquor is calculated to make them a prey to those things which, if indulged in, are worse than death itself. There is no true Latter-day Saint who would not rather bury a son or a daughter than have him or her lose his or her chastity –realizing that chastity is of more value than anything else in all the world.”
When I read that passage I knew that I had nothing left in common with Mormonism.
When I got out of the Air Force I started attending the University of Utah and became a Geography major and eventually graduated with a B.Sc. in physical Geography. It was here that all the science classes in Geography, Geology, Anthropology, helped hone my knowledge of evolution, Earth history, and the processes that make the physical world what it is.
I consider myself a humanist, an agnostic, and an evolutionist. I feel that they are all grounded in my knowledge of and enjoyment of Science.
Now I would like to mention the names of some of the people both past and present that have had an influence on me by what they did or what they wrote.
Galileo, Kepler, Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Crick and Watson, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Jay Gould, E. O. Wilson, Professor Donald Currey, Professor Frank Brown, Robert Ingersoll, Jacob Bronowski, Steve Allen, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, George Orwell, H.G. Wells, and Robert A. Heinlein.
I would like to end by reading one of the quotes of a fictional character of Robert A. Heinleins named Lazarus Long. I believe it speaks to the essence of science.
“What are the facts? Again and again and again–What are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what “the stars foretell,” avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the ‘unguessable’ verdict of history”–What are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!”
Bob Green Dies
Robert Hansen Green died early Monday morning, September 9, 2002 after a 10-year struggle with lymphoma.
He was born in Mona, Utah, on May 20, 1927, where he spent his early childhood. He graduated from South High School, Salt Lake City, served in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II, and then served in the Spanish-American Mission for the LDS Church. He graduated from George Washington University with a BA in American Thought and Civilization and spent 13 years in government service, several of them in Central and South America. After recovering from a severe illness, he worked for the Social Services Division of the State of Utah for 10 years. He was a founding member of Humanists of Utah and started their newsletter, The Utah Humanist, which he edited for several years. He is preceded in death by his brother, Harmon Green and sister, Carol McKissick.
A memorial service was held at the First Unitarian Church Saturday, September. 14.
Bob’s Journey to Humanism was published in The Utah Humanist in September 1991.
Following are some brief thoughts from Dr. Mulder’s presentation on Being Secular.
To be secular is to be free from endless theological debates.
To be secular is to see world religions and their mythologies from a rational, naturalistic perspective, and to enjoy the art and literature those mythologies have produced for the imaginative creations they are.
To be secular is to be free from Job’s great question about suffering: we need neither blame nor thank a non-existent deity for our good or bad fortune.
The Ascent of Man
by Bob Lane
When I think about my “Journey to Humanism” there are, of course, many things that have influenced my thinking and led me to where I am today. In the months ahead I hope to share some of these things with you (personal experiences, favorite quotes, even some song lyrics).
As someone who approaches humanism from a scientific point of view, I’d like to start with a passage from one of my favorite books, Jacob Bronowski’s, The Ascent of Man.
For a long time I had accepted evolution in the Darwinian sense, that is to say as strictly biological. But two phrases in the passage below helped lead me to a greater understanding of the scope of evolution: “the evolution of nature” and “matter itself evolves.”
Transmutation was, of course, an age-old dream. But to men like me, with a theoretical bent of mind, what was most exciting about the 1930s was that there began to open up the evolution of nature. I must explain that phrase. I begin here by talking about the day of creation, and I will do that again… Archbishop James Ussher of Armagh, a long time ago, about 1650, said that the universe was created in 4004 BC. Armed as he was with dogma and ignorance, he brooked no rebuttal. He or another cleric knew the year, the date the day of the week, the hour… But the puzzle of the age of the world remained, and remained a paradox, well into the 1900s: because, while it was then clear that the earth was many, many million years old, we could not conceive where the energy came from in the sun and the stars to keep them going so long. By then we had Einstein’s equations, of course, which showed that the loss of matter would produce energy. But how was the matter rearranged?
Very well. That is really the crux of energy and the door of understanding that Chadwick’s discovery opened. In 1939 Hans Bethe, working at Cornell University, for the first time explained in very precise terms the transformation of hydrogen to helium in the sun, by which a loss of mass streams out to us as this proud gift of energy… Hans Bethe’s explanation is as vivid to me as my own wedding day… Because what was revealed in the years that followed (and finally sealed in what I suppose to be the definitive analysis in 1957) is that in all the stars there are going on processes which build up the atoms one by one into more and more complex structures. Matter itself evolves. The word comes from Darwin and biology, but it is the word that changed physics in my lifetime.
The first step in the evolution of the elements takes place in young stars, such as the sun. It is the step from hydrogen to helium, and it needs the great heat of the interior; what we see on the surface of the sun are only storms produced by that action… What happens in effect is that from time to time a pair of nuclei of heavy hydrogen collide and fuse to make a nucleus of helium.”
In time the sun will become mostly helium. And then it will become a hotter star in which helium nuclei collide to make heavier atoms in turn. Carbon, for instance, is formed whenever three helium nuclei collide at one spot within less than a millionth of a millionth of a second. Every carbon atom in every living creature has been formed by such a wildly improbable collision. Beyond carbon, oxygen is formed, silicon, sulphur and heavier elements.
I think it is a mistake to view evolution as only a biological phenomenon. For me, it helps to clarify and enhance my understanding of the cosmos to understand that biological evolution is only possible when the matter we are made of first comes into existence. It comes into existence (as Bronowski puts it) by those “wildly improbable” collisions, known as nuclear fusion.
As you can see from this passage, Bronowski is a learned and passionate author whose writings have long inspired and intrigued me. The Ascent of Man has a prominent place in my library and I definitely recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about the evolution of man. However, The Ascent of Man is not only an eloquent treatise of science, but also a fascinating journey into history, anthropology, architecture and mathematics. I hope you will find it as inspirational and thought-provoking as I have.
ARL, AHA SPEAK OUT!
Vouchers For Religious Schools
Contact Information: Edd Doerr 301-260-2988
Today’s 5-4 Supreme Court ruling in favor of school vouchers “is a serious setback for religious liberty, public education and our American constitutional principle of separation of church and state,” declared Edd Doerr, president of Americans for Religious Liberty, a 20-year old watchdog and research organization.” Today’s Court majority set aside more than 50 years of its own precedents and thumbed its nose at the vast majority of Americans who, in 25 statewide referendum elections from coast to coast over the last 35 years, have registered 68% to 32% opposition to school vouchers or their analogs,” Doerr added.
“The Court has blithely ignored the pervasively sectarian and discriminatory nature of most nonpublic education and has shown contempt for the basic right of all Americans who wish not to be compelled through taxation to contribute involuntarily to religious institutions, their own or someone else’s,” continued Doerr, a former teacher in public and private schools and a graduate of church schools.” This Court has opened a Pandora’s box,” Doerr added.
“From this day forward every session of Congress and every state legislature will be torn by demands of sectarian special interests for direct or indirect support of what is, frankly, denominational indoctrination. Vouchers or their analogs will greatly weaken public education, fragment our school population along religious, ethnic, class, ideological, and other lines, while greatly increasing school costs and reducing quality.”
Americans for Religious Liberty is a nonprofit public interest educational organization dedicated to preserving the American tradition of religious, intellectual, and personal freedom in a secular democratic state.
AHA Leader Writes President Bush
Gay and Lesbian Pride
Dear Mr. President:
On behalf of the members of the American Humanist Association, I would like to thank you for taking a step in the right direction. Your decision to sign the bill allowing death benefits to be paid to the domestic partners of firefighters and police officers who die in the line of duty is praiseworthy. By supporting this new law, you have shown acceptance toward societies’ increasingly accepting attitudes concerning same-sex couples and recognition that they deserve the rights heterosexual couples have.
However, your refusal to recognize June as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month is particularly disappointing. Your staying silent on this issue, while others in your office have spoken is disheartening for American homosexual citizens as well as those of us who accept them as worthy citizens. Especially during this time of tragic events, it is necessary to show acceptance for all people of different race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. You have signed proclamations for Black History Month, Women’s History Month and Irish-American Heritage Month. By refusing to recognize Gay Pride Month, you are pointedly excluding a large group of Americans. If we are to stay united as a country, we must remember that America is a diverse nation, celebrating freedom, peace, and prosperity. We commend your appointment of Scott Evertz, who is openly gay, to head the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, and hope that such actions will continue.
Mr. President, on behalf of the American Humanist Association, the oldest and largest organization promoting Humanism in the United States, I ask you to continue showing support for same-sex couples and support the diversity of mainstream America. It is necessary for the United States to show foreign nations how accepting we are of all people, regardless of their religious background, race, gender, and sexual orientation.
“…with liberty and justice for all.” *
* Except non-Caucasians, women, gays, lesbians, mentally or physically challenged, middle class or poor, atheists, humanists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and all other adherents of minority creeds, religions, belief systems or political philosophies or other attributes distasteful to wealthy, white, Christian males.
AHA Commends Return to Original Pledge of Allegiance
(Washington, D.C. – June 26, 2002) Today the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the 1954 act of Congress which modified our Pledge of Allegiance. “This is a recognition, after nearly fifty years, that requiring the recitation of the phrase ‘One nation under God’ is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion,” states Tony Hileman, executive director of the American Humanist Association (AHA).
Hileman continues, “This ruling shows that the court is willing to strengthen religion-government separation and that it will leave the teaching of religion where it belongs, with parents and in houses of worship. The court now recognizes that this is not the language of patriotic ceremony, but rather, governmental sponsorship of sectarian religion.
“While the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in the past that it is not a requirement of public school students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, students without sectarian faith were placed in the intimidating position of either refusing in front of their peers to recite the Pledge or being forced to pledge to something they do not believe.”
With this ruling the Court of Appeals has acknowledged that the current Pledge imposes a religious belief on those without such faith. “The First Amendment does not require hostility towards religion, but mandates government neutrality toward religion,” explains Hileman.
The AHA applauds the court for upholding the United States Constitution and preventing public schools from endorsing conformity to a particular religious position.
Americans For Religious Liberty
Americans for Religious Liberty (ARL) and the American Humanist Association are joining forces! The boards of both organizations have approved a plan whereby ARL becomes part of the AHA family.
ARL was founded in 1981 by Edward L. Ericson, former president of the American Ethical Union, and Sherwin T. Wine, founder of the Humanistic Judaism movement. Edd Doerr, currently president of the AHA, has been executive director of ARL since 1982. ARL’s mission is to defend freedom of religion and separation of church and state through research, publishing, litigation, and public speaking. This mission has meant strong support for religious neutrality in public education, defense of reproductive rights, and opposition to vouchers and other attempts to divert public funds to religious institutions.
ARL has published over 25 books, presented amicus curiae briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court and lower courts, engaged in direct litigations, and presented testimony to congressional committees. ARL also publishes the quarterly newsletter Voice of Reason. Both Edd and ARL Associate Director Al Menendez have spoken widely around the United States and appeared on radio and television and in the print media.
ARL will now be housed in the new AHA headquarters, the Mary and Lloyd Morain Humanist Center in Washington, D.C. “Both the ARL and the AHA will benefit from this new partnership,” said Edd. “ARL is not a Humanist organization itself but, rather, a broad-based organization that includes Humanists, Unitarian Universalists, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and others who recognize the importance of the constitutional principle of separation of church and state.”
May 23, 1916-June 5, 2002
Alice Humphrey Jensen, long time HoU Chapter member, was cut down in the prime of her life at age 86 on June 5, 2002.
Alice lived life to the fullest and every day was the prime of her life.
Born in Panguitch, Utah, May 23, 1916 to Joseph William and Helga Nielson Humphrey. Married Paul Elliott Jensen, April 3, 1935, raised five children: Eugene Jensen, Portland, OR; Jerry (Lee) Jensen, American Fork; Doris King, Murray; Linda (Kirk) Granat, Salt Lake; Julie (Bob) Mayhew, Salt Lake. She had many grandchildren, great-grandchildren and countless friends the world over who will miss her dearly.
Graduated Snow College 1951, BS from BYU 1952, MS from U of U 1966. Served on State Board of Alcohol & Drugs, Utah Mental Health Comm., ACLU Board, Andrews Committee Against Capital Punishment, Gina Bachauer Board, and the NAACP. Received COPE (Community of Political Education) Award from the AFL-CIO and co-founded a half way house for mentally ill returning to society from the State Hospital. Ahead of her time she began an “Adopt a Grandparent” Program in the late ’50’s, pairing 8th grade students with convalescent home residents and set up a remedial reading program enlisting parent involvement.
She was a mother, teacher, counselor, political activist, promoter of the arts, and respected community leader. Alice was the ultimate human being and saw and brought out the best in people. A lifelong “Liberal” Democrat she was a tireless crusader for the underdog. Open minded and accepting she was a haven for anyone who didn’t fit the mold. She treated people from all walks of life equally and believed in the value and worth of every individual.
She adored working with junior high students, an age when, in her words, “even their own parents don’t like them” and as the school counselor at Orem Junior High, she made a difference in countless lives. She had a passion for the arts and advocated to keep art programs in the schools.
We already miss her very much.
Alice was profiled in our Member Spotlight in April 1999.
African Humanism Come of Age
From a welcome address presented by Leo Igwe, Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Humanist Movement at the 1st African Humanist Conference, October 8-10, 2001 at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria:.
“Fellow Humanists, Ladies and Gentlemen. I feel honored to welcome you all to this conference on behalf of the Nigerian Humanist Movement and other humanist and free thought societies in Nigeria. This conference is of enormous historical significance. For this is the first major humanist event to take place in sub-Saharan Africa. And more especially, this is the first international celebration of humanism right here at the home of Homo sapiens. For so many years now, like a bird outside its nest, humanism has been wandering and hovering in other lands. But today, with this conference, the humanist bird has come to perch and perch forever in Africa. Humanism is back to its nest. Humanism is back to its home. Humanism is back to its root. So, it is most fitting and proper that such an historic event is taking place in Nigeria, a nation and a people that mirrors the travails and triumphs, the prospects and possibilities of the black continent early in this 21st Century. Africa has a long history of humanity but a short history of modern humanism. And by participating in this conference, we are partaking in that history, we are rewriting that history, we are enriching that history.”