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Toward Secular Religious Harmony

Updated on September 27, 2013

Promoting the Natural (rather than Supernatural) World View: Reconciling the Healthy and Unhealthy aspects of Religious Doctrine

One of the largest, popular assumptions in the US, is that there is an 'Ultimate Authority' that listens, and may choose to respond. People who speak for, and interpret the 'Will' of this Ultimate Authority, may use it to justify and promote bad ideas, and extraordinarily unhealthy actions. The majority, follow those who claim to speak for God. That our government endorses one religion, any religion, should be a cause for alarm. If another religious group comes to hold the majority of votes, the present religious majority may become more supportive in separating Church from State.

How will society identify and reconcile the healthy and unhealthy, the benificial and the destructive, with regard to certain aspects of religious doctrine? Will we find a peaceful and reasonable way to solve the increasing problems presented by some doctrine, while preserving what is truly wise and truly ageless?

 

- Illustration by Brian Lofgren

What's this all about? - What do you mean by secular, religious harmony?

HumanLight celebration link
HumanLight celebration link

Text and Illustration by Brian Lofgren

My journey has led me to a humanistic perspective. I speak out (at times) against unreasonable claims to "extra"-natural authority, and my view of unjust structure, or systems, includes the monotheistic, "big three". I would like to see the associations attached to deeper meaning, and socially responsible behavior, safely transferred away from archaic systems of belief.

My efforts are designed to help balance out the negative effects of fundamentalism, superstition, supernaturalism, bigotry, the indoctrinated, far-right perspective - and to promote active thinking in general. Earnest dialog and education could help overcome what may be our greatest cause of suffering - ignorance, fear, and hatred.

I have gained a greater awareness of what drives the religious involvement of my theistic friends and family members. But at present, the humanistic perspective is generally unknown, or misunderstood. May this page help us and others to dialog in a cooperative and earnest way, as together we increase our understanding of what constitutes a "good" life, well lived.

Peace, and best wishes for a full and happy life!

Unitarian Universalist Humanist symbol (essay link)
Unitarian Universalist Humanist symbol (essay link)

Brian's personal path to UU Humanism

The author's story

In my case, it took thirty-nine years to arrive as a Unitarian Universalist (UU) Humanist. I'm writing this essay just nine years beyond that memorable crossroad. I was raised in Christian culture. Like my Methodist parents and grandparents, I was conditioned from childhood to suspend critical thinking where religion was concerned, and just believe. This message was reinforced in the Lutheran school I attended from forth, through eighth grade.

The popular God, the "Everything-God", was the 'face' that personified not only the known, but the vast unknown. Religious systems may help followers meet some of their emotional, psychological, and social needs. However, readily accepting mythical-sounding stories as fact, came at a cost.

I returned from South America in 2003, after five years as a Catholic "missioner". I was in the throws of a cultural and religious transition that would last at least four more years. Furthermore, my wife and I had considerably downsized our economic footprint; we were starting over.

The five years of social justice work had brought me up to speed on the workings of Patriarchy, Hierarchy, systemic injustice, and the need for social, and environmental responsibility. During those reflective years, I had reevaluated my Methodist and Lutheran upbringing, my adopted Catholicism, and many other traditional, religious systems. Through a journey of book research and timely conversations, I slowly transitioned to a broader, more natural world view.

Soon after gaining easy, stateside access to the Internet, I stumbled across the religious debates and books of Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins. The candor of their presentations, and the pointedness of their factual evidence, ruptured my remaining bubble of contextual ignorance. In the aftershocks, I went through a period of emotional turbulence, and a sense of alarmed urgency.

Some friends and family members graciously parlayed my long, sometimes agitated email conversations regarding various aspects of opposing world views. During that difficult transition period, I poured my thoughts into one of my web pages titled, "Toward Secular, Religious Harmony". I'll probably place a copy of this essay there, among my earlier musings.

After receiving a graduate degree in May of 2006, I was introduced to The Virtues Project. I had some poignant conversations with the projects' founders and two of its instructors. I created over sixty illustrations for the Project, portraying examples of socially responsible behavior. I latched onto this idea of universal, healthy behavior. I was looking to bridge the gap between my past and present sense of self. I wished to connect with people dear to me on either side of the personal chasm I had crossed. Ethical virtues, and the UU Principles symbolized common ground. These were ideas I could embrace. I didn't want to be fooled again.

Throughout the summer and autumn of 2007, I worked compulsively, meticulously, to write, illustrate, and design a twenty-seven page booklet titled, Guide From Inside. I had nobly (idealistically) decided that this was to be a legacy, a lasting contribution. It incorporated playful sketches, memorable rhymes, and thoughtful reflection questions that explored the benefits of cooperation, courage, creativity, enthusiasm, fairness, forgiveness, kindness, moderation, peacefulness, respect, thankfulness, and truthfulness. I printed a box of books, and placed an e-book on line. Knowing little of marketing techniques, and having accomplished my task, I soon "called it a day" on my book project, and moved on. I'll share a page now and then with one of my children, when a teachable moment presents itself.

2007 was also the year that I joined the Unitarian Universalists of Cedar Lane, Maryland. I chose UUism as a place to land in 2003, and they haven't let me down yet. I'm also fond of Ethical Culture, and hope to visit those communities from time to time. My wife and our three children have joined me at Cedar Lane UU, and we are becoming more involved there each year. As the product designer of the official, UU Humanist, online store, I'm inspired to help promote a natural world view, especially where government policy is concerned. I'm also becoming endeared to the chalice symbol, and it's history.

Religious stories are, arguably, inspired and imaginative, but current understanding has outgrown supernatural beliefs, and magical explanations. I no longer assume to know (through tradition, authority, or claims of revelation) more than current understanding supports. The 2012 Reason Rally in Washington, DC was an exciting show of support for the secular, and progressive religious movements. They are quickly gaining momentum in this age of informational access, and social media.

I hope to retain the feeling of wonder I experienced in my youth. I'm seeing life with fresh eyes through my children, and through the amazing discoveries and images presented almost daily by scientists. Having shaken off the coils of religious Dogma and static Creed, our family has begun to form its own traditions.

I find it freeing to help create and take part in meaningful celebrations such as HumanLight, and Chalica. I've created a web page that shares that experience as well. The growing list of Humanistic celebrations, of course, includes Darwin Day, and Earth Day. I would like our family traditions to be enjoyable, meaningful, educational, and to reflect reason, compassion, social responsibility, and a natural world view. I would like to see our Humanistic traditions evolve with us, as we grow and learn. BL 7/13

Do You Believe in God? - How would you respond?

UU Humanist beliefs link
UU Humanist beliefs link

My response these days is something like, "I do not hold supernatural or superstitious beliefs. I do not claim to know more than we currently understand about nature and natural forces. That would be speculation. As a Humanist, I am inspired by nature and the arts, and guided by reason, compassion, ethics, and social responsibility."

I use to wonder how I might respond to the question, "Do you believe in God?" A simple no, would not convey what I really want to say. Would I stare at the inquirer blankly, wondering where to begin, or would I say something that makes sense to us both?

Which version of God am I to consider worthy of belief? God as a placeholder for personal meaning? God as an expansive metaphor that alludes to the mystery and wonder, the beauty and grandeur of all we can observe and imagine? This poetic version sounds like a good choice, for someone wanting a personal god. This god might be useful as a symbol, or metaphor.

I would not want to inadvertently reinforce the current, tribal god. This god talks to, for example, Republican candidates, televangelists, and others who embellish their personal power as Yahweh's representatives, or messengers. This god frowns upon gender equality, same sex marriage, birth control, athletes and politicians who do not pronounce their belief publicly, and scientific understanding that clashes with religious Dogma.

This omniscient creator is responsible for horrific events described in religious scripture. It is the god of the bliss or torture imagined to exist after death. Maybe the inquirer is referring instead, to the god of perpetual rebirth leading to Nirvana.

Extraordinary claims should require equally impressive supporting evidence. The god of US culture and politics seems to have grown over time, from inspired speculation, to a popular assumption. I do not find this assumption very useful.

Although it is tempting to try (with so much empirical evidence at our disposal) I do not feel compelled to "disprove" claims that cannot be "proven" to begin with. I've put my trust in reason, compassion, hope, ethics, and social responsibility. These reliable guides continue to bring me peace, happiness, and good company.

(BRL March 16, 2012)

Do you "believe in God"?

This poll refers to the god, Yahwey, who listens and responds to people through prayer. Yahweh is the god of Jews, Christians, and Muslims as described in their sacred texts. This god intervenes in human history.

Do you believe that Yahweh actually exists?

See results

Interested in reading more about Humanism? - Add these books to your collection.

UU, Humanist, humanism, reason
UU, Humanist, humanism, reason

Where does the author stand? What's his bias?

The natural world view

Humanism is a natural and democratic outlook, informed by science, inspired by art, and motivated by compassion.

Humanism, as I understand it, is striving to lead a "good" life, guided for the most part by thoughtful reflection, reason, compassion, social responsibility, and ethics, while questioning popular, supernatural beliefs. (Supernatural - beyond what we currently understand about nature and natural forces).

In general, we know quite well what constitutes healthy behavior and social responsibility. One could rely on ethical behavior alone to navigate a "good" and meaningful existence. Skillfully used, reason and compassion are wonderfully balanced guides that direct both thoughts and emotions toward positive action.

Many, if not most people seem to generally believe what they are taught to believe (based on tradition and authority), and they are lead to think that this practice is noble and right. Many are born into a religious tradition modeled on the idea of a willful, intelligent, "Creator". Perhaps, they were also warned by certain authority figures to "believe" without question, or else suffer the consequences. They may also believe the stories of well known figures who claim to have messages, or insights "revealed" to them by a "higher power".

I recommend a healthy dose of skepticism toward anyone who claims to represent a "higher power" and divine authority. Can these people really interpret the "will" and "plan" of a higher power? Should we trust their interpretation of religious doctrine to guide and justify human decisions and behaviors - especially, as this interpretation pertains to human authority, laws and policy? I encourage us to examine these questions with care.

Belief systems (my own included) are generally formed to meet emotional, psychological, and social needs. They can give us a sense of stability and purpose. They may help us to cope with the unpredictable, the mysterious, and the great unknown. They help us grapple with the larger questions. When real evidence is lacking, one may be tempted to rely entirely on personal insights or "divine revelations". If allowed to become rigid, beliefs do not expand to accommodate new findings, and currently well-founded understandings.

I could have started life as a Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, or Sikh depending on where I was born. Mindful of this reality, I do not hold beliefs based purely on tradition, authority, or "revelation". As a child, I was taught to believe incredible explanations on Faith alone. I recognize that this passive way of acquiring religious belief is still the most popular and prevalent, worldwide.

People can perform wonderfully humane, and generous acts in the name of their religion. History and current events show that people also commit destructive, and generally unconscionable acts and behaviors, based on "divine authority". Good works are not dependent on religious institutions. As I continue to learn, so do I continue to find new reasons not to promote or follow these systems of blind belief.

In all likelihood, the universe was not created for humans; we are just one of its many wonders. I am humbled by my fragile scale in an unimaginably immense "multiverse", and I continue to find new beauty, wonder and inspiration all around me. Life and personal consciousness (the awareness that I exist) is fleeting and precious, and death is a natural and necessary conclusion to personal existence. Earth's ecosystems could not sustain life if nothing died. I believe that we do well to honor, give dignity to, and be compassionate in our attitude toward life in general.

Peace, comfort, larger connection, community, meaning, purpose, contemplation, expressions of thanks, petition, and positive change - all of these may be experienced without assuming the presence of a Universal Intelligence. One that is believed to influence human history, reward, punish, grant immortality, or choose one group of people over another. That certainly sounds like ancient, tribal invention with obvious, human motivation at its source.

I believe that it is important to examine the assumptions of the past, and to promote systems grounded in conscience, ethical behavior, reason, democratic process, equality, social responsibility, and the promotion of holistic health and vitality.

Beyond current, scientific understanding, allegory, metaphor and symbolism can be expansive ways to evolve our understanding as we contemplate that which may ultimately transcend conceptualization, such as the infinity small, the infinitely large, the essence of life, and consciousness itself.

Yes, please: A focus on this world, with an emphasis on compassion, and understanding, and the cultivation of a healthy relation toward self and others. Symbol, metaphor, analogy, story... that is expansive and ever-evolving.

Structures that incorporate democracy, equality, and social responsibility. Natural order, meaning, and purpose. "Soul" or spirit as holistic, vital energy. An openness toward experience that transcends concepts, language and analytical reasoning. Meditative reflection, awareness practice, mindfulness. The study of consciousness and being.

No, thank you: Patriarchy, Hierarchy, Creed and Dogma. A Supreme Being who literally wrote Instructional Guides, intervenes, punishes, rewards, or favors a particular group of people over another. Supernaturalism, and superstition. Neither religious Fundamentalism (literal translation), nor Rationalism alone (with its rational limitation). Religious speculation, or assumptions that claim to know more than we currently understand about nature, and natural forces.

Humankind, and kind humans

Humanism may sound like it further glorifies our species and it's already rather large, collective ego. (I would prefer a term that includes all life.) Actually, Humanism stands for living a socially conscious, or responsible, "good" life, while questioning claims of "extra-natural" authority.

A 'Prayer' to All That Sustains Life

I hope that this reflection may be useful for both theists and non-theists.

Quiet reflection - sacred space;

allow me to listen, calmly centered and aware.

Trust beyond my willingness to trust; allow me to let go of the past, let me not grasp at the future. Comfort me and grant me peace. Help me to feel protected, cared for, loved, and understood.

Strength beyond my understanding; impart in me abundant health and vitality.

Help me to heal that which is broken in my heart, mind, and body. When I am afraid, grant me courage.

Wisdom beyond compare; guide my steps.

Help me to understand.

Life's many blessings; let me be always thankful.

Help me find moments of joy and gratitude.

To all that sustains life; I express my intentions - hopes, joys, and concerns. I give them away as I offer them in prayer.

~Amen, may it be so

B. Lofgren July 11, 2009

I am a member of a Unitarian Universalist community, where theists and non-theists share common principles. This is an example of the potentially beneficial use of personification in 'prayer'. Speaking to "all that sustains life" in personal terms. (anthropomorphism).

Non-theists could use this meditation without endorsing Dogma (doctrine literally inspired by a supreme being) and Creed (an unchanging recitation, or "formula" of beliefs).

Religious Humanism? (click to read more)
Religious Humanism? (click to read more)

The Sacred Book

Readers will draw their own message from this "parable". My hope is that this may be a tool for dialog.

The "Sacred Book" alludes to the monotheistic, Sacred texts: Torah (Jewish), Bible (Christian), and Koran (Muslim)

The ancient, Sacred Book was kept housed in a beautiful temple built long, long ago. The people of the world now lived in harmony. The Great Principles helped guide the policy-making process, and sustained a system of worldwide peace. The long held vision of freedom and justice for all people was finally a reality.

The Principles had evolved through many years of worldwide, political discourse, and democratic process. These were indeed times of peace and plenty, and a healthy supply of air, land, and water had been restored to all the Earth. But, it had not always been this way. Throughout recorded history, one could watch the slowly forming collaboration that had lead to this era of harmonious cooperation.

To a certain extent, The Sacred Book was still used as a source of inspiration and guidance by those who practiced forms of spirituality, and ever-evolving forms of religious ritual. Those who distinguished themselves as being guided more purely by reason, conscience, and ethics, as well as the practitioners of consciousness itself, recognized the Sacred Book as the first great, book of its kind.

In ancient times, people had divided themselves into groups who competed and fought with each other over land, resources, and military strength. In the Era of Great Suffering, the Book was considered infallible. It was followed as Law, and as the final Word. But now, ancient writings that, for example, described how and when to sacrifice animals, or how to treat slaves, were, of course, included only in this ancient, sacred text.

Many of the writings from this less informed time were now viewed to be unreasonable, unethical, unconscionable, or simple impractical. For example, although equality between genders was now well established, these writings were from the Patriarchal Period. This was a time when men dominated women and forced their obedience, keeping social and political power for themselves.

In those days, anyone who questioned or criticized the Book was put to death or cast out of society. Nonbelievers, infidels, or heretics, as they were called, were often tortured into professing the Book's perfection. In fact, the torture of these unfortunates was believed to extend even after death, in a place of eternal punishment.

According to the Sacred Book, those who were faithful to the Book and its supporting system would be rewarded after death in a place of eternal joy and happiness. Each generation of children was indoctrinated before their ability to use reason had matured. Blind faith was regarded as the greatest virtue, and the most perfect form of loyalty. The established system made it almost impossible to question the Book in any public way.

Such practices helped to preserve The Sacred Book as a source of divine law and guidance for thousands of years. It was difficult for people in the Era of Harmony to imagine living in a time when political and religious structures merged in these largely unjust and unhealthy ways.

The accounts of coercion and brutality could only be understood in the light of historical context. The Sacred Book also contained ageless wisdom that spoke of love, beauty, wonder, and the great mysteries that had yet to be completely understood, even now, in the Era of Harmony.

Parables, symbolic language, inspired metaphor, music, art, and poetry, were combined with all the other deeply inspired messages of the ages, including those of modern times. The process of understanding these passages was perpetual. Each generation, each layer of evolving thought and discovery, added deeper and more profound meaning to the writings of the past.

Guide from Inside e-book
Guide from Inside e-book

"Guide from Inside"

Timeless "Virtues" ( Universally accepted Healthy Behaviors)

This e-book uses sketches, memorable rhymes, and thoughtful reflection questions to explore the benefits of cooperation, courage, creativity, enthusiasm, fairness, forgiveness, kindness, moderation, peacefulness, respect, thankfulness, and truthfulness.

< Click the illustration and preview the book

Written and illustrated by Brian Lofgren, 2007

Brian's Humanist Store
Brian's Humanist Store

Toward a Workable Solution

We do well to conquer anger with understanding, and to seek to understand, before attempting to be understood. To be heard, one must demonstrate (reflect) understanding of views contrary to one's own perception and opinion.

It seems that both political and religious discourse is becoming more and more polarized. A prevalent, combative attitude asserts that "you are either with us or against us". Dialog is founded in competition, rather than the more favorable tools of collaboration, and cooperation. Must we be drawn into a downward spiral of misunderstanding that pushes us along a path of fear, hatred and aggression? Where is the workable solution?

Surely there is some common ground. After all, we share the same, basic human needs. People generally want the same thing - to be happy. Beyond food, clothing, and shelter, current wisdom suggests that real happiness is found more in how we relate to ourselves and others, than in what we consume, or own.

The world's religions agree that the highest relationship that we can achieve is one of peace, love and understanding. They each contain a version of the "Golden Rule" - treat others the way you would wish to be treated. This is easier said than done, and yet possible to achieve, and certainly a good foundational practice.

Beyond happiness, we want to make sense of our world. Where did we come from? Where are we going? What is the purpose of life? What is the meaning of my life? On these points, the wisdom traditions (religious traditions) attempt to provide answers. There are also explanations based purely on reason, and evidence.

Major religions answer these questions from their worldviews, and age old traditions formed during their founding years. Everyone might agree that live human sacrifice should not happen. Yet, it has happened for centuries as part of an unhealthy religious tradition anchored to an unexamined and incomplete worldview.

We think of ourselves as modern and rational. Upon closer examination, we realize that our current understanding, although more evolved, is also partial, and incomplete. The larger the island of knowledge, the greater the shoreline of wonder, is the quote that captures well this idea of perpetual discovery. Do we examine our religious ideas in the same way? Should we? Or are they too "sacred" to be examined?

The Parable of The Sacred Book comes from my own grappling with these sorts of questions. In it I wish to convey my profound gratitude for the inspired insight and beauty contained in our religious traditions. But, I also wish to express my profound disappointment over the unhealthy and tragically destructive aspects of religious doctrine.

The Sacred Book presents a vision of the future that may offer insights to the open-minded reader. This idea has grown out of my own spiritual journey, and my desire to make a positive contribution to the larger, ongoing conversation. A conversation I have been considering with friends and acquaintances for many years.

If I lived in an age when

it was common knowledge that the world was flat, the sun passed overhead each day, and all things were made to serve our species, I could surely benefit from the opportunity to consider that the planet may be spherical, revolves instead around the sun, and that we are just one of a multitude of wonders that abound in the universe.

We continue to evolve our thinking as we question assumptions and beliefs.

Humanism - These daily products are randomly selected by Amazon

Humanist Charities link
Humanist Charities link

Debunking Claims of Extra-Human Authority

by Brian Lofgren

Dogma seems to decide how "dangerous" a religion is. If 'Ultimate Authority' stresses the importance of killing infidels (and perhaps members of the LGBT community), or helps enable the oppression of women, in page after page of Scriptural reference, then, there it is. Moderates will work around it, but they have to cherry pick. The 'Word' cannot be revised, and it will always be there to justify unhealthy behavior.

What many Theists perceive as "attacks" are mainly attempts to debunk unsupported claims of extra-natural, or extra-human authority. For example, in the struggle for marriage equality, one often sees the slogan, "God says, 1 Man + 1 Woman = Marriage." In the secular arena, that argument carries the same weight as what Zeus, Mitra or any other god might 'say' on the subject, no weight at all. When deciding who should be able to marry and form a family, the principles of civil liberties, human rights, and equality seem better suited in guiding us toward fairness, and real justice.

US, Non-theists are struggling to achieve a level playing field in the social and political arena. One where the merits of the argument and current understanding carry more weight than what was claimed to be 'revealed' to certain groups of people. One way to do this is to question the accuracy of the revelation, and its source. Another is to raise awareness, and to show that non-theists can and do lead ethical, socially responsible lives, simply because this is the healthiest human relation, and a key to a happy existence.

(July 1, 2011)

Volcano 'spoke', Everything 'speaks'

Demystifying mysterious absurdity

by Brian Lofgren

This satire challenges a common assumption that, for many, forms life's central point of reference, a lens through which one views, Everything. The assumption that there is an Ultimate Authority who responds to the needs of His people, is an ancient perception that comes with certain blind spots. A good way to spot these is by changing the vantage point, so that assumptions may be seen more clearly.

Why work toward achieving a more cooperative and peaceful, global community, if one eagerly anticipates the "end of the world"? Why take complete responsibility for anything, when the Everything-God, and His amazing Plan runs the show? What does the assertion that, "Everything-God 'helps' those who help themselves", really mean?

As someone who has lived both a theistic and non-theistic perspective, the author feels motivated to provide an opportunity for others that, in hindsight, could have helped him to see his own conditioning and assumptions more clearly. He is still learning, and laughing at himself, as well.

How the volcano became, Volcano-God

On a particular volcanic island, the inhabitants came to the conclusion that their volcano erupted in anger, as people sometimes do. They were at the massive volcano's mercy. What provocation might cause him to 'blow his top' in a fiery rage that would cook both family and fields? The volcano seemed very much alive, and very much a threat. It was to be feared, worshiped, and treated with the utmost respect. In this way, the volcano became Volcano (with a capital "V"). However, it was given a name that meant something closer to, "Volcano-God."

The islanders thought it a good idea to please and befriend Volcano with singing, bowing, chanting, praying, and with special gifts and offerings. The volcano was, of course, inanimate. It didn't really have intelligence, make willful choices, or have emotions, as people do. The volcano's power, will, and intelligence were really a projection of themselves, in the largest way they could imagine. It couldn't knowingly reward, or punish the inhabitants of the island. Nonetheless, if Volcano-God appeared angry, they would look around and find something they (or a particular person) had done to displease Volcano, and make amends.

People on the island now held a view of the world that made perfect sense to them. There was an Ultimate Authority, Volcano, who could grant wishes. It was a myth, a creation of the mind. It was also comforting, provided meaning, gave them a sense of purpose, bound them as a community, and fired the imagination. What was His Plan for them? Was there any limit to the mysterious power held by Volcano-God? Probably not.

False assumptions, based on a lack of understanding and faulty evidence, were now functioning as 'common knowledge.' It could happen to any society. It would not be fair to mock, or ridicule them as ignorant and primitive. Better to see ourselves in their situation, learn from their mistakes, and not make the same mistake ourselves. Okay, now you may laugh.

Volcano Priest's robe, staff, and enormous hat

Volcanoes can't speak for themselves, but a person can translate the 'will' of the volcano to others who believe he has that ability. The volcano Priest dressed himself in something imaginative that set him apart from the others, less qualified to speak for Volcano. Volcano Priest wore a large, feathery hat, painted symbols, beads, a robe, and an ornate staff.

To the villagers, he appeared highly qualified to be their mediator with Volcano. Truths were 'revealed' to him in visions and dreams that would become the sacred 'Word' of Volcano. Over time, these revelations would be compiled into one, official doctrine. For example, the creation story told how Volcano formed the villagers from lava cooked just-so, spritzed with sea spray, laced with kelp, cooled in a moonbeam, and lovingly polished with pumice.

The villagers believed they were created to serve and obey Volcano. It was part of His Plan. He would look after them in this life, and they imagined living on in a magic, spirit-world, nestled safely in the "Great Father's," radiant interior.

A Creed emerged that was recited by the villagers, and taught to the children. "I believe in Father Volcano, so very big and mighty, who assembled us from scratch, and loves us like little children. Although we will flop over, cold as a mackerel, He will guard our magic-spirits in his cozy interior. He is so very proud of us, and His plan. He punishes those who tick him off in any number of ways...," and so on.

The volcano Priest would speak for the volcano saying, "Volcano is displeased that we take everything for ourselves. Volcano demands a ten percent tithing of crop yield, a bucket of fine pearls, and one lovely, young virgin." We will see more references to virgins. The reader may be lead to infer, that as a general rule, men of old were very keen on (including) virgins.

Of course, a Priestess may have interpreted the volcano's desires quite differently. Remember, this was way, way back when men did not allow women to be Volcano Priests. This was also long before the wise practice we call, "Separation of Church and State." So, along with the temple, "Trust in Volcano-God" was also engraved on the island currency, the government palace, and added to the "Pledge of Solemn Loyalty," recited by island children, each morning before lesson-time.

The people would hurry to comply with Volcano-God's wishes. Rites and rituals were formed and followed, religiously. Social, emotional, and psychological needs were met in one, neat, yet fanciful package. Dogma and dogmatic thinking guided the people for many years. For those favored by he who spoke for the Volcano-God, life was often pleasant. For any who questioned Ultimate Authority, or who wondered (out loud) if Volcano really 'lived' at all, life was made decidedly unpleasant by the volcano Priest, and his followers.

A powerful belief system sustained the island mythology. Volcano had Will, intelligence, and a mysterious Plan. Someone could speak for, and interpret the will of the volcano. Who would dare to question, or challenge 'Ultimate Power,' and the one 'He chose' to interpret 'His Great Will'?

Well, in hindsight, yes. That would have been a really good idea. Here are two questions that you may like to ponder at this point in the story. One, would you tell the islanders that their volcano was not alive in the way they believed it was, and two, how long could you swim in hot lava?

Volcano (and everything else) becomes Everything

More time passed. On the world stage, the smaller gods (Volcano, Sun, Moon, Wind, Rain...) and spirits (Tree, River, Eagle, Bear...) were united as One. Today, several large groups of people "assume on faith," in a willful, super-smart, all powerful something. Besides listening and responding, rewarding and punishing, 'Ultimate Authority' reflects some other, uniquely human qualities.

For instance, it displays emotional outbursts, and erases mistakes to start anew. It does everything Volcano did, but in a much bigger way. These people claim to serve the God of everything, the Everything-God, or Everything for short.

Because they can't yet agree on some important details, there are three main Everything-God groups. Each claims to be in right relation with the "One, True, Everything," and each group considers itself to be the favored, or "chosen people" of Everything. Between them, Everything has written a small library. Much of what He 'wrote,' was tossed, lost, or altered, to reveal the seemingly outdated, yet mysteriously 'perfect,' final "Word of Everything."

Official doctrines, or "Scriptures," explain what Everything was heard saying in visions and dreams, on mountain tops, and from the sacred hollows of a magic, flame-resistant bush. Contradictions were included in the tediously, hand copied Book(s) of Everything. These Human errors are a part of Everything's strange, and wondrous 'Plan'. Ideas supported by evidence, like evolution, are not part of His Plan. Everything's 'chosen people' may not evolve, so long as they are His people.

Wandering worshipers: group number one

The first group, as I recall, does not speak in length about virgins. However, Everything's sacred Book does assert a rule regarding the woman, not yet married, and no longer a virgin. He commands that (male) friends and neighbors, quickly, and lovingly, kill her with stones, or cook her in a bonfire. Just, and merciful, Everything does not single out women for a stony death.

There are numerous qualifying infractions. For example, disobedient children and people who work on the wrong day should also be pummeled by rock throwing men. Group number three (we'll get to them) still enjoys this traditional, projectile punishment. The living targets are often unfortunate women who displease Everything, or his male representatives.

Group number one does much wandering about in sandals. Everything, promised them a special place of their own, but makes them earn it, so they may appreciate it that much more. They have been at this for thousands of years now, along with some others who stake the same claim, on the same patch of land. So, the Plan is working beautifully!

Men may enjoy reading how Everything made Earth for man, woman for man, other species for man, the Carina Nebula (we may infer) for man, and so on. Everything, makes sport of snuffing lives out left and right, with natural disasters, and supernatural creatures. He causes earth-wide flooding, sends plagues and child killing angel-creatures. He kills people with collapsing stone structures, and collapsing walls of water. One may also brush up on how to organize a kitchen, inhabit a large fish, keep slaves, sacrifice animals, and celebrate the story of the magic, lamp oil.

Along with enjoying the promised land, they continue to wait for Everything to become His own Son. In the same fashion that one might install a scarecrow in a cabbage patch, they demanded that local authorities nail a local troublemaker to some heavy lumber. The unfortunate fellow was just trying to be helpful, but they didn't see it that way at the time. They are fairly certain that he was not Everything's Son. Group number two maintains that he was. Group number two also added a rather grim, eternal spanking, to the more enticing idea of an eternal, hot fudge sundae.

Everything becomes His own Son: group number two

Group number two believes that Everything was already born, many years ago, as his own Son. He was not half 'n' half, but rather, completely human, and completely Everything at the same time. He conceived Himself a few miles west of the "Very Salty Sea". There, a cooperative young virgin, came in contact with His 'Magic Spirit'. She was one of his mortal 'children.' It would follow that Everything was also a Virgin. They were the exception to His laws describing when to kill former virgins with stones.

Her impregnation was ill-met by her fiance, before she told him who the lucky Guy was. She related how Everything, wanting to be born as His own Son, had selected her, out of all the available women in the world. Much to her relief, Everything sent over one of His luminescent angel-creatures to explain the details to her fiance.

About three decades later, Everything (temporarily) killed His miraculous Son (and Himself) by way of our first group of Everything worshipers. Not to worry; this was part of the Plan. In His goodness, Everything solves many important issues by way of human sacrifice, and this was no exception. His little, human body was chilled in a cave for a few days, yet at the same time, it walked around saying good bye to friends.

Centuries later, we know for certain, that His health improved from totally dead, to only severely wounded. All-knowing, He had the foresight to let one of His friends poke at, and witness His wounds. Everything, as His own Son, would not be coming back any time soon. Somewhat contradictory accounts were eventually included in the official Book of Everything.

This proves conclusively, that some people said it really happened, and that others still believe them today. The remarkably pregnant virgin, and other elements, were borrowed from even older stories, that Everything worshipers refer to as "myth." Borrowing parts of their story from ancient myth strengthens their conviction that the Book of Everything is not myth at all, because it just isn't.

After resuscitating His Son (and Himself), His Son rose upward to meet Himself. So, assumption-believers point up, when they say Everything, Everything as His own Son, Magic Spirit, or the Virgin Mommy. He wanted a better view of all the little people He had made, by "blowing on some dirt".

Back when Father Everything made a woman, and gave her to the first man, He also made it quite clear that when it comes down to it, men are simply the best. Women need to be okay with this part of the Plan. He created them second best for a reason. His Book does not need to adequately explain this reason to slaves, or to women. That Book was 'revealed' to last thousands of years.

At this point in the story, Everything is one and three Everything's at the same time, which is really something. The story seems to work better this way. When you give Everything a Son, through the Virgin Mommy, by way of Magic Spirit, you get sort of a three-in-one combo of Everything, Son, and Spirit, that is still only one Everything. After all, there can only be one, Everything.

Fear of falling, flames, and forever

You may ask, "What if Everything's people cannot quite believe on faith, what is obviously so amazing, that it simply does not make a lick of sense?" The deterrent to doubt is eternal discomfort-by-torture. A naughty "angel-creature" traded in his shiny-white plumage for goat hooves and horns, a pointy tail, a pointy beard, and pointy ears. In artistic renderings, this sharp fellow uses a pointy farm tool to pitch not hay, but heretics into stinky, eternal bonfires.

He fell to the most uncomfortable part of Everything, and stayed there. So, assumption-believers point down when they refer to him, even though Everything is everywhere. Non-assumption-believers, politely roll their eyes, and point both thumbs downward. This is not to indicate where they are going. Rather, it indicates that they do not believe on faith, that which runs contrary to nature, reason, common sense, and current understandings.

Everything's people are convinced that those who smirk while reading claims and explanations written in the Book of Everything, are headed on down to the "eternal barbecue". Those who claim to be chosen by Everything don't have to read His Book at all, and usually don't. The 'most important' parts are read and interpreted for them, by those who speak for Everything.

In short, He loves, guides, watches over, and occasionally condemns people to eternal torture. This mysteriously amazing act of love and mercy could easily be mistaken for something else. So, assumption-believers redouble the assertion, that the Tradition of Everything is not, in any way, the product of inspired speculation, or the rumors of a volcano Priest, some years back.

The Everything-God's honest truth

Assumption-believers find it helpful to recite a summary of faith, or Creed, at least weekly, so all of this can begin to take on a feeling of solidity. "I believe in Father Everything, so very big and mighty, who assembled us from scratch, loves us dearly, owns our magic-spirit when we are dead as door nails, punishes those who poke fun at us...," and so on. This Creed is far more impressive than the one that was recited to Volcano-God. For starters, the volcano never used magic spirit to be born from a virgin, as his own son.

If you believe on faith that He is more than ancient myth, Everything rewards you, even while you're still alive. He will take responsibility for all your irresponsibility. He gives assumption-believers an eternal pass of forgiveness (so long as they believe the pass exists).

They also believe on faith, that even after they stop breathing, they will keep on living, whether they want to or not. Who wouldn't! They will invisibly go to a super-fantastic place for people (but not dolphins) who are dead, but not really dead. Other living things that die are really dead, but not people. That's what makes His Plan so great!

Mysterious explanations must be true

It's quite a remarkable story. Some might say, without hesitation, that it's a wildly absurd story. Absurd claims and explanations discourage followers from trying to make sense, of what is obviously too amazing for them to grasp.

Those who excel at following and believing are also called "flock." They trust that pain and suffering is our fault, and part of Everything's strange and wondrous Plan. It is certainly not evidence that we are one of many, naturally evolving species. His Book clearly explains how He didn't create things that way. Compared with 'speaking' things into existence, evolving complicated stuff from simple stuff, simply takes too long.

Assumption-believers call all this absurdity related to Everything, "Mystery." One can't question mystery. It's too mysterious, and serious to question. It's not like something one might, even vaguely, understand. If something good happens, just thank Everything, because all goodness comes from Him. If something unfortunate occurs, it's a mysterious part of the Plan, or a deity-sized 'spanking' from Father Everything.

Maybe it's the work of that tricky, fallen-angel-creature. In any case, it's a 'supernatural' part of the Big Plan! No, not Big Bang, that's not super at all, only natural. Men who speak for Everything, and help promote his bestselling Book, will remind you that He didn't 'create' things that way either.

Mysterious absurdity discourages thoughtful debate with people who find belief in Everything more absurd than mysterious. Assumption-believers often speak in capital letters that may end in an abrupt summation of the obvious, "I JUST BELIEVE!" They wonder who could be so arrogant, as to question Everything. The assumption-believer is fairly certain that she may question everything, but not Everything.

Mental texting

Trust in Everything, allows the troublesome, rational mind, to ease into neutral, where mysterious absurdity can produce a comfortable, quiet reverence, for prayerful reflection. Assumption-believers are now free to mentally whisper an uninterrupted monologue of petition, praise, thanks, and more petition, while imagining that they are in the presence of Everything.

Stilling the all too chatty mind, quiet reflection, deepening awareness, broadening perception, is all fine and good. To assume that Everything listens and responds, is quite different. The feeling is a little like a sunset that becomes perfectly spectacular because it's so awfully fond of you, wants you to be happy, and loves that you appreciate all its beautiful colors. However, sunsets don't really do that, and neither does everything.

'Evidence' supporting mysterious absurdity

Evidence of Everything is said to be everywhere you look, because anywhere you look, you see a little of Everything. Evidence that runs contrary to mysterious absurdity, feelings that this is all just too ridiculous, and people who question your beliefs, are said to be put there by Everything, to "test your faith."

It's all written down in Everything's Book. You know the Book is inspired by Everything, because it says so right there in the Book. How you could possibly know which of the Books, is really the One, True, Book of Everything, will probably depend on where you were born, or which Book you 'feel called' to follow.

The odds of choosing the 'wrong' Book are about the same, even if you can't make up your mind. The odds improve when one shifts attention to life-before-death. One is then freer to more easily recognize historical fiction, posing as extra-historical fact. A fallen angel, magic spirits, and a peeping deity, are less likely to haunt the imagination of those who hold a more natural view.

Everything's test

You may have heard that good works, not inspired by Everything, don't really count. Love, compassion, forgiveness, social responsibility, community...doesn't count, sorry. Live a virtuous life, but don't believe in Everything? Set your roast timer to "eternity." Same for children whose parents did not dedicate them to Everything, because they've never even heard of Him.

Again, these seemingly wicked parts of Everything's Plan are designed to "test one's faith." So, Everything's own Book, carbon-dating, and a vast array of faith testing devices, were planted by Everything (and His tricky angel-creature) in quantities as numerous as hairs on a head, stars in the sky...or, consider the lilies. This helps illustrate why, when it comes to faith, the assumption-believer is required to suspend reason, and dodge nimbly around common sense.

Fending off reason and evidence, so one may pass Everything's test, creates a rather defensive mindset. Current, natural understandings can be seen as "tests of faith," rather than what we have learned, so far. The supernatural perspective may challenge the more natural perspective with, "Do you believe in Everything, or just everything!?"

A freethinking fellow once got himself into fatal difficulties by challenging power, and the Everything-God reps. He questioned popular belief by asserting out loud, that the Earth might be roundish, rather than tortilla shaped. Similarly, an assumption-believer may sometimes be so 'weak' as to question what he is told, by those who speak for Everything.

He may wonder, "Crying statues, and miraculous images on toast are great, but why don't miracles include growing back missing body parts? After all, He pasted that guy's ear back on...or, did He?" He panics, knowing that Everything may be watching him, or reading his mind.

He recites the formula to ward off evil doubt, "Fear the flames. Fear the body. Fear the mind. Doubt is dangerous. This is only a test." He confesses his error, and is reconciled with Everything, "Go, and doubt no more."

Domination and submission: group number three

It is now widely known (in the "Big Apple"), that the third group's Everything, grants His most obedient menfolk numerous virgins in the after-death, if they die correctly. Even in the after-death, there is apparently quite a high demand for virgins. For men who look forward to living a life of leisure after death, we have group number three's, self-indulgent Paradise. It closely resembles the exclusive club, for eternal playboys.

Rather than defend their militant flavor of supernaturalism with intelligent debate, group number three currently responds to lampooning with violent street frenzies, and generous bounties for head hunters, literally. This brawn over brain approach works splendidly! The writer who casually observes why he would rather not assume, in the most dastardly Everything-God ever imagined, and who does not wish to go into hiding, should venture no more than three, careful paragraphs, regarding group number three.

Everything, seems to favor the violently intolerant, over evolving thought. The ancient, Greco-Roman saying, "You can't teach an old god new tricks," still applies today. If you enjoy a life that is both regimented and micromanaged, need creative justification for all sorts of harm, fancy male domination and flying horses, this extremely popular group of assumption-believers, may be for you. One likes to imagine that, among their vast numbers, hides a sea of moderates. Today, as in days of old, those who doubt them, out loud, are quiet thereafter.

Group number four only believes in everything, naturally

Although they could applaud "life forever, after dying" as a really creative idea, there are some people who reason this to be an unlikely scenario. A while back, you only heard about people from group four, if they were being stoned, burned, or imprisoned. They doubted out loud, rather than in fearful silence, as many others do. Now, they populate secular lecture halls and chat spaces, the world of science, and the world of religious demystification and debate.

Those who prefer to believe only what we currently understand about nature and natural forces, rather than faith-based-assumption, may appreciate inspired speculation as an expansive metaphor, or they may not. Many of them were indoctrinated, or "fed nonsense" as children. Some are soured on anything that even hints of mysteriously absurdity. I would venture that most are thankful for the natural wonder, and beauty that may often be found in everything. Non-assumers are quite thankful, but not to the popular, parental Everything. They are thankful for everything, not to Everything.

Many, actively support humanistic endeavors. Some can even be found scattered throughout the rooms and community activities of non-dogmatic, religious institutions like The Ethical Society, or the Unitarian Universalist community. Secular "Celebrants" celebrate meaningful moments and rites of passage. Sacred space is not just the domain of assumption-based belief systems. Celebrants may incorporate traditional symbols (like candles, flowers, plant-based oil, images, prose, poetry, and music), while leaving out unwanted reference to mysterious absurdity.

Healthy motivations are readily available that do not include the fear of Everything, an after-death-life, angel-creatures, ghosts, bogymen, or evil spirits. Ethics, conscience, kindness, reason, and compassion, have improved on the mostly self-glorifying commandments of Everything. One might observe that many, if not most thoughtful people attempt to make themselves and others "happier", while generally avoiding actions, and struggling against forces, that cause suffering to themselves and others. Naturally.

Everything is both everywhere, and nowhere

Everything, might 'choose' to remain silently invisible, but one may still find His name on loose bills and pocket change. One may see, or hear Everything's name "shouted" from the underground subway, to the skyscraper's tippy-top. In every direction, one can spot the odd bumper sticker, billboard, or the numerous Everything buildings, adorned with His symbols, and promotional messages. In most of the populated areas of our home planet, Everything is, at least figuratively, everywhere!

Someone can always speak for something that can't really speak. Especially, if it's much bigger than we are, and we don't really understand it, like a volcano, or everything. The reasoning goes that big and powerful friends are better than big and powerful adversaries. If one is looking for an all mighty, all knowing, all loving, all encompassing, wish granting friend, Volcano doesn't even compare, with Everything.

What misguided action will be justified next by stagnated Doctrine? The islanders assumed that there was an Ultimate Authority, Volcano, who could grant them wishes. It was a myth, a creation of the mind. Then came Everything.

July, 2010 (Revised May, 2011)

"Higher Authority"

religion's most influencial tool

is founded on ancient claims and explanations that go far beyond what we currently understand about nature and natural forces. Religious history and other available evidence shows God to be a central concept of meaning, formed to meet psycho-emotional, and social needs. Beyond that, one can only support the concept of a willfully intelligent "Creator", or "Higher Power", with speculation, assumption, and mythical stories.

Humanism relies instead on reason, compassion, and social responsibility. Our most noble aspirations, inspired by natural beauty, wonder, the arts, and philosophy need not rely on supernatural beliefs. What if the majority of people were to reject extra-natural claims to authority and relied instead on reason and compassion as guides to a meaningful existence?

Without their powerful illusion of mystical, magical, supernatural power, religions could no longer impel holy war, suicide bombings, female circumcision, wife burning, "mercy killings", stoning, the oppression and killing of infidels, and so many other atrocities, in the name of a higher power.

Stem cell research, condom use, abortion, cloning, mandatory celibacy, patriarchal power systems, and other current topics would justifiably answer to reasonable standards of personal and social responsibility (social ethics), rather than to the interpretation of ancient, "divine law". By default, people would be required to take responsibility for their decisions, their actions, their behaviors - and this one life would become that much more precious.

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Challenging Popular Assumptions

"A former Christian of 30 years, I ultimately found that religion, faith and scripture lacked any true answers, especially in the (bright) light of scientific discovery and the truth of Evolution by Natural Selection.

Having an insiders perspective of Christianity, I use my skills as a producer to stir the pot of debate and, hopefully, make it uncomfortable for anyone to be a mere spectator in the arena of ideas."

The Everything-God serves the will of man, in the guise of men who claim to represent and interpret the 'Will' of God.

Moderates support the same 'Word' as the Fundamentalists and Extremists, though they try to smooth rough edges and ignore, or reinterpret outdated Scripture.

Progressive religions such as Ethical Society, and Unitarian Universalism have adopted democratic structure, and evolving reference points (rather than Dogmatic thinking). These institutions, their leaders, and their individual members may not credibly claim to represent or speak for ultimate authority, whether they be Jew, Christian, or Muslim. Here, theists and non-theists have common ground and equal footing.

Rather than being propped up by extraordinary claims, ideas must stand on their own merit. Authority, tradition, and claims of revelation do not have the final say. They are not beyond the realm of critical investigation. All ideas may be questioned and examined considering reason, compassion, and current understanding.

Used as metaphor, symbol, and as allegory, God is more useful, more expansive an idea, than the popular God, founded in a less informed era. The monotheistic God, or any other idea that reaches beyond what we currently understand about nature and natural forces is likely to be a false assumption. At best, it is creative, inspired speculation.

That a claim or idea could prove true at some point in the future remains to be seen. Belief based in assumption or inspired speculation may not be credibly claimed as the basis for policy decision, or embellished power and authority. God must not be allowed to serve the will of man, in the guise of men who claim to represent and interpret the will of God.

Moderates support the same Abrahamic God as the Fundamentalists and Extremists, though they try to smooth rough edges and ignore, or reinterpret outdated Scripture. The popular understanding, the Personal God, seems destined to be perpetually misused at great consequence.

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Is it wise or misguided

to bestow extra-natural authority on institutions and various religious leaders?

Most religious systems are built on the assumption of a "higher power" that intervenes in human history. Religious mythology was created throughout human history to meet psycho-emotional, and social needs.

Wonder, and a higher, meaningful connection need not depend on assumptions or beliefs that go beyond what we currently understand about nature and natural forces.

Your responses are welcome in Reader Feedback.

My response to a friend who assumes in 'Ultimate Authority'

An example (I hope) of healthy dialog in an ongoing conversation between non-theists and Theists

Those who spoke for the Volcano, now speak for Everything. If you understand all the connections behind that statement, you will understand why that political element is generally harmful. It seems that a next step would be to separate all the wise, good, and noble elements away from this political dynamic because it is (most likely) based in misconception.

"Everything" has a human feeling, sound, look, and flavor to it because this is how human beings perceive the natural world ("Creation") as a whole. For many people, it feels better to have an overarching power behind it all. Preferably, one that has free will, the ability to love us, reward us, and see to it that we live forever.

I think many if not most people conceptually miss this because they apparently begin with the basic assumption that everything is Everything, that god is God. This explains how God is everywhere and nowhere, Every-thing and no-thing. Although Everything is an illusion, everything remains.

---

Yes, I need to reflect accurate understanding of the person who sees the very best in their faith-based, dogmatic, and Creedal religion. For example, you and I agree that compassion is a common virtue in all religions, and in humanity as a whole. I go farther to say that it is a guiding, behavioral concept independent of supernatural authority or belief.

The central concept we call God is a catalyst for so much suffering in the world today (and throughout the history of monotheism) because it allows people to influence others in the name of a greater, unquestionable authority. And of course, I believe it most likely that we invented that authority in our collective perception, to address psycho-emotional, and social needs.

I just came from my UU church community, where many still personify the God or Spirit concept. However, I view UU as being "more evolved" because the problems to which I allude could not be justified in a non-Creedal non-Dogmatic structure. The process is more democratic. All are encouraged to take an active role in examining current assumptions.

**The crux of the problem seems to be centered around interpreting the Higher Will and then holding others to that interpretation as though that Word is beyond critical thinking or comment by the "followers", the flock, the congregation. Thus, the idea of blind faith. But blind faith in whom, God, or those who interpret the higher Will of an overarching, intelligent Power?**

I struggle, even as I write to you as my individual audience, to present this line of reasoning in a way that can be heard and understood. And although the way I am writing may seem "lay-oriented" among theologians, to my ear it is still to heady and will not convey to the typical churchgoer who has not examined faith in this way, in this type of conversation.

As you say, other humanists will only nod at what I have written. I am trying to convey these thoughts for the consideration of a theistic audience as well. I hope it will resonate with some and encourage a less passive role in how many follow their Faith. Perhaps some will learn to lead, and lead skillfully, to change harmful structure, and lessen the suffering of others (all "sentient beings").

As an exercise, I would find it very helpful to hear you reflect (nutshell) understanding of my central thesis until I can say "that's correct and includes all my central points". If I were to do the same for you, we would truly be in sync as we converse about such things. I think most people benefit greatly from feeling heard and understood from someone of a differing perception.

Thanks for all your valuable comments.

All the best,

Brian

"Empty your cup"

A (slightly frustrated) response to a theistic friend. Hey, part of the process.

...I don't see evidence that you really understand what I am saying. I see my message bouncing as you rephrase a preconceived conclusion, or response.

My web page also addresses beauty, wonder, expansive philosophical speculation, the great, sublime, majestic...awe inspiring aspects of being. I'm not being dry, heady, or boringly clinical in the scope of my coverage. I'm not saying that humans are the be all end all, but quite the opposite. The human species is but one of the many wonders of the natural world, which appears to be an interconnected web of existence.

Again, atheist basically means non-theist. Humanism is a more specific life stance. It is attempting to live what is wise and good, while rejecting as fact, religious "speculation". God is a central concept used in an attempt to tie all that is wise and good together into something that we can relate to in a personal way. But, all those concepts, such as forgiveness, compassion, love, infinity, acceptance, and so on are independent of the God concept. Of course we are part of something larger than ourselves. God is an extraneous concept there as well. It simply personifies what is known and unknown.

God is the story that we use to hold these concepts together in a personal form. It's fine to try to illuminate wisdom with parable and story, but that does not produce a willfully intelligent higher power. That concept is most probably a fabrication of the mind. It was created to meet psycho-emotional and social needs, and has been sustained through (TAR) tradition, authority, and claims of revelation. That, and a healthy dose of persecution directed toward the non-believers, to present date.

On my page, I also speak of the importance of story, metaphor, allegory, and symbols that transcend and allow thought to evolve toward the infinite aspects that are currently unknown to us. That's one of my main tenets in The Sacred Book parable. That's how it ends, even as it warns against literal interpretation of religious doctrine, and idolatries of the mind.

Maybe catalyst was the wrong word choice, but interpreting the will of God certainly does facilitate suffering in historic and current events. People justify their most heinous behavior with higher authority. No higher Authority, nothing to hide behind; no supernatural higher power to rally the masses to destructive action.

Without the personal God concept, people could not scapegoat Biblical (or Koranic) interpretation to justify such unhealthy behavior as slavery, stoning, harsh corporal punishment, male domination, human disregard for other species, homophobia, mandatory celibacy, gender oppression, religious oppression, "outlawing" contraception, etc. Neither could they delude themselves with eternal reward for their misguided actions. This sampling bridges the dogmatic thinking of the monotheistic three (Islam, Christianity, and Judaism) to present date.

Please look at this again with the intent to understand, rather than dismiss this perception. I think it includes understanding of the theistic perspective, as I was once a theist like yourself. Any frustration you may sense is only generated from the feeling that no matter how carefully I explain, I am not understood.

My intent in not to convert you to my way of thinking, but to assure that you comprehend the premise. Otherwise, our conversation is based on misconception and a lack of understanding, and I will miss the opportunity to hear a more meaningful response.

Question claims to authority "from above"

Question "Extra-Natural Authority" (bumber sticker)

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An assumption so large and sweeping

as a willful, higher power, may be inaccurate, or false.

Such inspired and imaginative speculation is intriguing, yet unsupported. A hypothesis does not become fact just by sounding, or feeling right. This protects us from absurd explanations and claims to divine authority.

Remember the example of the flat earth (another once-commonly held belief), and those who suffered for questioning the Earth's placement at the center of the universe. Do we need to be reminded about holy war, religious witch hunts, human and animal sacrifice, the Inquisition and other suffering that claimed to serve a divine purpose?

History and current events clearly show the harm caused by blindly trusting so-called, "divine guidance", and the authority of "divine leaders". The responsibility falls to us, and not to "higher authority".

Perhaps this grand assumption of willful, higher power provides many people with a central concept of meaning. But profound meaning need not depend upon grand assumptions. Isn't it unwise to assume more than we currently understand about nature, and natural forces?

To replace fear-based attitudes with attitudes of respect, compassion, and understanding requires thoughtful dialog. To accurately reflect understanding of an opposing view takes a willingness to risk change, when such change is shown to be the best course of action.


Adaptation of UU and Humanist symbols plus a tagline by Brian Lofgren is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at www.uua.org.

Reader Feedback - What do you think? Thoughtful comments welcome!

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    • Mermaiden profile image

      Mermaiden 5 years ago

      I really enjoyed this very inciteful lens. Very thought-provoking!

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      sunnez 7 years ago

      Examining the assumptions of the past really can help you move forward.

      Thanks for the great info. :-s

    • profile image

      aremsberg 7 years ago

      Brian, Thank-you so much for putting together this thoughtful page.

    • Brian Lofgren profile image
      Author

      Brian Lofgren 7 years ago

      Yes, that is correct, I was speaking about a brighter future. To answer your other question, yes, certainly I envisioned atheists as well as theists in this "Age of Harmony". After all, secular and religious harmony is the main purpose the page. Imagine for a moment that the concept of God came out of a combination of human needs like comfort, safety, control, higher meaning, purpose, guidance, unconditional love, fear of death and the unknown... and our attempts to explain the world around us - the beauty and wonder as well as the suffering and tragedy.

      We would naturally want to speak to this "Supreme Being", feel that it was a real part of our existence, and even yearn for a written Message to guide us. Personification (anthropomorphism) makes perfect sense. Some use it literally, some as metaphor, some not at all. I would hope that these choices are well thought out and not just passed along from generation to generation in an uninformed way. Thanks for your comment!

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      I'm not sure what your perspective is. It seemed at first that you were speaking from the future about how "we" got to more harmony. I didn't get any grasp of the parable invoked in the opening and refered to in the closing. Would there not be room in the Age of Harmony for atheiists? I personally think that no single religion is big enough for "God". We are as unable to usefully concieve of "God" as we are unable to fathom the size of the universe and so we dumb it down and imbue certain individuals with the "power" to interpret for us that which is all around us. The Blessings flow as do the neutrinos that pass right through us every second of every day unheeded and undetected.