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supportive Humanism
Posted: 22 May 2011 01:53 PM   [ Ignore ]
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We Humanists are not known for our warmth, at least within our organizations. Perhaps this is because our steadfast commitment to reason, which I trust none of us would abandon, has been allowed to shut out the emotive elements of Humanism. I count this a misinterpretation of what Humanism is and ought to be.

Just as there can be no values system without conscious beings who value, there can be no Humanism without a commitment to the human condition. CFI’s commitment to a planetary ethics speaks to that directly.

So how can we overcome what I maintain is and has been a debilitating problem within our movements?

As with virtually any cake, there are many ways to bake it. I propose one method. It works for me, so I offer it as an invitation for consideration.

The question is: “HOW?” The answer is “honesty, openness and willingness.” In order to unblock any obstacle, a person must be willing to tackle the problem, and must approach it honestly and with an openness to change, including an examination of the self. This is no mere rhetorical device.

The real answer is “WHO,” because that acronym reflects the order in which the process proceeds. Willingness resides mainly in the emotions, which are processed in the midbrain. Once that willingness becomes well-incorporated into a person’s attitude, it spreads into the intellect (processed in the cerebral cortex, the outer layers of the brain) and becomes honesty, still retaining a refined emotional component, which we might call sincerity. In the final stage, the person opens fully and is open in every dimension of being: in the emotions (we could call it open-heartedness), in the intellect (open-mindedness) and in action (welcoming, actively caring, loving, etc.). At this level of integration, the individual is no longer blocked from supporting others on an emotional level.

I am prepared to defend this thesis but honesty compels me to give credit to the person who taught it to me: see http://www.humanismtoday.org/vol13/chatlos.html.

[ Edited: 23 May 2011 05:24 AM by PLaClair ]
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Posted: 22 May 2011 06:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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PLaClair - 22 May 2011 01:53 PM

We Humanists are not known for our warmth, at least within our organizations. Perhaps this is because our steadfast commitment to reason, which I trust none of us would abandon, has been allowed to shut out the emotive elements of Humanism. I count this a misinterpretation of what Humanism is and ought to be.

Just as there can be no values system without conscious beings who value, there can be no Humanism without a commitment to the human condition. CFI’s commitment to a planetary ethics speaks to that directly.

So how can we overcome what I maintain is and has been a debilitating problem within our movements?

As with virtually any cake, there are many ways to bake it. I propose one method. It works for me, so I offer it as an invitation for consideration.

The question is: “HOW?” The answer is “honesty, willingness and openness.” In order to unblock any obstacle, a person must be willing to tackle the problem, and must approach it honestly and with an openness to change, including an examination of the self. This is no mere rhetorical device.

The real answer is “WHO,” because that acronym reflects the order in which the process proceeds. Willingness resides mainly in the emotions, which are processed in the midbrain. Once that willingness becomes well-incorporated into a person’s attitude, it spreads into the intellect (processed in the cerebral cortex, the outer layers of the brain) and becomes honesty, still retaining a refined emotional component, which we might call sincerity. In the final stage, the person opens fully and is open in every dimension of being: in the emotions (we could call it open-heartedness), in the intellect (open-mindedness) and in action (welcoming, actively caring, loving, etc.). At this level of integration, the individual is no longer blocked from supporting others on an emotional level.

I am prepared to defend this thesis but honesty compels me to give credit to the person who taught it to me: see http://www.humanismtoday.org/vol13/chatlos.html.

I don’t disagree with any of that. If you look at Humanism as a type of non-theist religion, the main ingredient we seem to be missing is fellowship. We often believe that we are getting together for “nothing.” It seems ridiculous to gather in the name of “there is no tooth fairy.” In fact, we need to gather with the purpose of proving what we believe - that compassion, love, brotherhood/sisterhood, and community matter. I’m guilty of non-participation in things like the pot-luck dinner and movies available at the local CFI. I’m going to try to change that. The same way many people have to make an effort to attend church, we need to make an effort to meet, talk, laugh, and share.

I’m reading a book on Freethinkers. This caught my attention:
“Every brand of religion maintains and is a permanent mechanism for transmitting ideas and values - whether one regards those values as admirable or repugnant. Secularist movements, with thei gernerally loose, nonhierarchical organization, lack the power to hand down and disseminate their heritage in a systematic way.”
and
“The most regrettable consequence of the discontinuity in the record of American rationalist dissent is that its moral lessons must be relearned in every generation. it is telling that even so voracious a reader as Garrison was beyond the midpoint of his life when he discovered his spiritual ancestor Thomas Paine. When your own mind is your own church, it can take a very long time for future generations to make their way to the sanctuary.”

It seems necessary to get to know and like each other in real life. Then we need to extend that group dynamic in order to attract the millions of others who feel as we do but don’t bother to organize. If the theists organize (several churches in every little town!) but we don’t, then our secular goals are less effective (ineffective?). It’s a tall order.

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Posted: 22 May 2011 07:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Are you in the New York City area? If so, let’s arrange a meeting. I’d like to walk the talk.

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Posted: 23 May 2011 04:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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My impression, perhaps incorrect, is that people here are highly individualistic, and independent and wary of organizations.  Another guess is that many are well educated and can function well in society and don’t need the emotional, physical, and sometimes financial support that a church may provide. (I know some churches exploit their members, but clearly many don’t.)  These are guesses, inferred from the discussions here, so if I’m wrong please correct my misapprehensions.

My uninformed guess is that the group represented here don’t particularly miss the “good” services churches offer.  But, by not having a means of, or a commitment to, offering those kinds of support do we choose to remain a small group with a primarily intellectual focus?  That may not be a bad thing.

I, personally, conjecture, (I hate to use the word believe here), that the planet would be a more rational, better, place if more people were skeptics.  I HATE the idea of proselytizing, it has so many bad associations, but if I’m firm in my convictions should I feel obligated to, (ugh),“spread the word”? 

If there was a means of offering the non-theistic benefits, is that a lure that would attract people who are not intellectually committed, who could happily be taught some kind of skeptical “dogma”? (I hope that’s an oxymoron)! I don’t want to hang out with sheep. On the other hand, I’ve known some fine human beings, many on the fringes of society, who embody the humanist ideals, but are not religious, or particularly intellectually gifted or interested.  Does Humanism have a place for that sort of person?

As a dedicated Humanist would some kind of social structure allow me to exercise my empathy and humanity more effectively?  And on what is perhaps a more selfish level:  Do I want to belong to a community which I could turn to if I were in need?

I find I’m only just pondering in print here.  I’m not even sure if my thoughts are appropriate to this topic.  If they are, I’m finding that I don’t have much in the way of convictions, but I can sure come up with a lot of questions.

[ Edited: 23 May 2011 06:34 AM by Jeciron ]
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Posted: 23 May 2011 05:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Jeciron - 23 May 2011 04:23 AM

My impression, perhaps incorrect, is that people here are highly individualistic, and independent and wary of organizations.  Another guess is that many are well educated and can function well in society and don’t need the emotional, physical, and sometimes financial support that a church may provide. (I know some churches exploit their members, but clearly many don’t.)  These are guesses, inferred from the discussions here, so if I’m wrong please correct my misapprehensions.

My uniformed guess is that the group represented here don’t particularly miss the “good” services churches offer.  But, by not having a means of, or a commitment to, offering those kinds of support do we choose to remain a small group with a primarily intellectual focus?  That may not be a bad thing.

I, personally, conjecture, (I hate to use the word believe here), that the planet would be a more rational, better, place if more people were skeptics.  I HATE the idea of proselytizing, it has so many bad associations, but if I’m firm in my convictions should I feel obligated to, (ugh),“spread the word”? 

If there was a means of offering the non-theistic benefits, is that a lure that would attract people who are not intellectually committed, who could happily be taught some kind of skeptical “dogma”? (I hope that’s an oxymoron)! I don’t want to hang out with sheep. On the other hand, I’ve known some fine human beings, many on the fringes of society, who embody the humanist ideals, but are not religious, or particularly intellectually gifted or interested.  Does Humanism have a place for that sort of person?

As a dedicated Humanist would some kind of social structure allow me to exercise my empathy and humanity more effectively?  And on what is perhaps a more selfish level:  Do I want to belong to a community which I could turn to if I were in need?

I find I’m only just pondering in print here.  I’m not even sure if my thoughts are appropriate to this topic.  If they are, I’m finding that I don’t have much in the way of convictions, but I can sure come up with a lot of questions.

I think you’ve nailed the reasons why non-theists tend not to seek out the kinds of community experiences that other people find in their churches. We have to remember, though, that we don’t live in isolation and that the economic and political forces around us define our choices and the future course of the world. If we allow ourselves to be seen as old cranks who don’t have any use for other people and who don’t understand experiences like joy and love, then we will have a harder time being accepted, let alone winning people over to our way of thinking. I want to live in a society in which non-theism, scientific naturalism and Humanism are respected and honored. In fact, I value the legal protections afforded to us under our Constitution and think those protections are necessary to justice; but I also recognize that if the culture does not respect our viewpoint, we will have trouble gaining those protections and maintaining them if we ever get them. Our numbers in the public opinion polls clearly show that we have a long way to go in this regard, and the statement by Bush I that an atheist is not a good American confirms that fact.

So like all people, we have to choose. Living in spelendid isolation is not consistent with our stated commitment to a planetary ethic; and if we then congratulate ourselves for being smarter than the unwashed masses, it’s not hard to see why we are having the problems we have, or how we are contributing to them.

We are all here on this forum spreading our version of the word. Perhaps only a few or none see it that way but the point of communication is to share thoughts, feelings, experiences, etc. On this forum, the main thing communicated is the idea and the main reason to do that is to persuade. So the difference between proselytizing and reasoned persuading needs some fleshing out.

I see no reason why we cannot be skeptical of fact claims and simultaneously support other people in their hopes and aspirations. If we are to pride ourselves in our ability to reason, then we should value an incisive view of life that recognizes the difference between a fact claim and emotional support. I maintain that as a group we have been intellectually lazy amid our own arrogance, asserting on the one hand that we are the reasoned ones and on the other hand oblivious to - in fact, disdainful of - the emotive quality of human life. And if that is what we are doing - and I maintain that it is - then it’s no wonder the “unwashed masses” think we don’t get it.

[ Edited: 23 May 2011 05:20 AM by PLaClair ]
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Posted: 23 May 2011 06:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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PLaClair - 22 May 2011 07:26 PM

Are you in the New York City area? If so, let’s arrange a meeting. I’d like to walk the talk.

I’m in Buffalo. If I do get near NYC, I will call you before making the trip so we can meet. Let me know if you come to Buffalo - I would love to meet you.

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Posted: 24 May 2011 05:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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The question is: “HOW?” The answer is “honesty, openness and willingness.” In order to unblock any obstacle, a person must be willing to tackle the problem, and must approach it honestly and with an openness to change, including an examination of the self. This is no mere rhetorical device.

The real answer is “WHO,” because that acronym reflects the order in which the process proceeds. Willingness resides mainly in the emotions, which are processed in the midbrain. Once that willingness becomes well-incorporated into a person’s attitude, it spreads into the intellect (processed in the cerebral cortex, the outer layers of the brain) and becomes honesty, still retaining a refined emotional component, which we might call sincerity. In the final stage, the person opens fully and is open in every dimension of being: in the emotions (we could call it open-heartedness), in the intellect (open-mindedness) and in action (welcoming, actively caring, loving, etc.). At this level of integration, the individual is no longer blocked from supporting others on an emotional level.

Am I correct in interpreting the above as a suggestion of a method to look for solutions to address the various deficiencies; the lack of social commitment, continuity, etc., or do you mean that the above paragraphs outline a solution?  I’m sorry to be dense, but perhaps you could clarify that for me?


I am interested in at least discussing building community and creating an open and inviting skeptical/humanist society.  I’m careful about extolling the idea, I don’t have to tell you that people are pretty wary of anything that smacks of an organization that parallels the traditional church structure, or implies obligation.

I live in Centre County, PA, in an area densely populated with Amish.  In my experience the Amish are not exactly what people believe them to be.  (I could expound on that, but it’s not important here.)  What they have that I think is worth examining is a powerful community ethic.  This empowers them to have a lifestyle that would be difficult, if not impossible for an individual to maintain.  They self insure, (they don’t call it that), their health care and property with a non profit organization run by volunteers.  There is no such thing as a homeless Amish person. Elderly, disabled, infirm, or challenged individuals are taken care of within the community. They have larges pools of capital they use among themselves, and are a very powerful, and successful economic force here.  I’ve heard that one of the reasons so few leave the church/community is because they find our society isolating and insecure.

That’s not to say they are not a cult with an intense belief in the supernatural, nor do I have any desire to be Amish, there is another side to their society that can be pretty grim, I’m focusing on the what look, to me, like benefits created by a group of people willing to commit to each other.  I accept that for many of us in the skeptic/humanist arena this is largely a philosophical exercise, people belong to other communities, and meet their needs through other organizations.  I don’t mean to sound like I’m condemning that.  But, for me, I’d like to feel a stronger sense of community, and I wonder if a stronger community would increase it’s ability to achieve it’s chosen goals, which might not look anything like a traditional religious agenda.

It may be I’m talking about reinventing the wheel.  I’m pretty isolated here, due to geography and things going on in my life.  There’s a Unitarian church 20 miles away, which I admit I’ve never attended, and I suppose there are other groups out there.

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Posted: 24 May 2011 05:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Jeciron - 24 May 2011 05:14 AM

Am I correct in interpreting the above as a suggestion of a method to look for solutions to address the various deficiencies; the lack of social commitment, continuity, etc., or do you mean that the above paragraphs outline a solution?  I’m sorry to be dense, but perhaps you could clarify that for me?

It’s a method, which I propose offers ways to achieve ends that may not be achieved without the method.

Jeciron - 24 May 2011 05:14 AM

. . . I don’t have to tell you that people are pretty wary of anything that smacks of an organization that parallels the traditional church structure, or implies obligation.

I know but in fact, that is what works, so unless we can change the nature of human interaction, the problem is our attitude. As for obligation, it’s offensive to me that people think they can live in a society and not have any obligations. And this is coming from people who tend to be on the left politically, as I am. Espousing a politically left politics and then recoiling from anything that suggests a personal obligation is not a consistent worldview, or a sustainable community norm.

Jeciron - 24 May 2011 05:14 AM

I live in Centre County, PA, in an area densely populated with Amish.  In my experience the Amish are not exactly what people believe them to be.  (I could expound on that, but it’s not important here.)  What they have that I think is worth examining is a powerful community ethic.  This empowers them to have a lifestyle that would be difficult, if not impossible for an individual to maintain.  They self insure, (they don’t call it that), their health care and property with a non profit organization run by volunteers.  There is no such thing as a homeless Amish person. Elderly, disabled, infirm, or challenged individuals are taken care of within the community. They have larges pools of capital they use among themselves, and are a very powerful, and successful economic force here.  I’ve heard that one of the reasons so few leave the church/community is because they find our society isolating and insecure.

That’s not to say they are not a cult with an intense belief in the supernatural, nor do I have any desire to be Amish, there is another side to their society that can be pretty grim, I’m focusing on the what look, to me, like benefits created by a group of people willing to commit to each other.  I accept that for many of us in the skeptic/humanist arena this is largely a philosophical exercise, people belong to other communities, and meet their needs through other organizations.  I don’t mean to sound like I’m condemning that.  But, for me, I’d like to feel a stronger sense of community, and I wonder if a stronger community would increase it’s ability to achieve it’s chosen goals, which might not look anything like a traditional religious agenda.

We can learn something from the Amish. Again, incisive thinking is key. We don’t have to adopt their supernaturalist worldview to appreciate and practice the aspects of their community life that we find valuable.

[ Edited: 24 May 2011 05:46 AM by PLaClair ]
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Posted: 24 May 2011 06:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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As for obligation, it’s offensive to me that people think they can live in a society and not have any obligations.

I’d agree with this, and admit I can find room for self criticism in this area.  But, someone could actively embrace skeptical/humanist ideals and be very involved in, say, environmental issues, local politics, or running a homeless shelter with another organization.  Perhaps, for someone who is primarily a skeptic, the absence of a belief in the supernatural doesn’t seem like an idea that requires community.  I don’t know how common that is, my skepticism, and especially my humanist philosophy, are pretty central to me and I’d like to believe that are the primary factor in my decision making, but I can understand that it could be more peripheral for some people.

I think this idea is well expressed by traveler, and I, personally, agree with his response.

I don’t disagree with any of that. If you look at Humanism as a type of non-theist religion, the main ingredient we seem to be missing is fellowship. We often believe that we are getting together for “nothing.” It seems ridiculous to gather in the name of “there is no tooth fairy.” In fact, we need to gather with the purpose of proving what we believe - that compassion, love, brotherhood/sisterhood, and community matter.

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Posted: 24 May 2011 08:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Jeciron - 24 May 2011 06:24 AM

As for obligation, it’s offensive to me that people think they can live in a society and not have any obligations.

I’d agree with this, and admit I can find room for self criticism in this area.  But, someone could actively embrace skeptical/humanist ideals and be very involved in, say, environmental issues, local politics, or running a homeless shelter with another organization.  Perhaps, for someone who is primarily a skeptic, the absence of a belief in the supernatural doesn’t seem like an idea that requires community.  I don’t know how common that is, my skepticism, and especially my humanist philosophy, are pretty central to me and I’d like to believe that are the primary factor in my decision making, but I can understand that it could be more peripheral for some people.

I think this idea is well expressed by traveler, and I, personally, agree with his response.

I don’t disagree with any of that. If you look at Humanism as a type of non-theist religion, the main ingredient we seem to be missing is fellowship. We often believe that we are getting together for “nothing.” It seems ridiculous to gather in the name of “there is no tooth fairy.” In fact, we need to gather with the purpose of proving what we believe - that compassion, love, brotherhood/sisterhood, and community matter.

Seems that the three of us are pretty much in agreement. My point is not to have every Humanist being part of an organization that looks and feels like a church, but rather that Humanism should offer that as a matter of course and routine. There’s a void in our presentation, which we must fill if we hope to achieve the level of success that our ideas merit.

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Posted: 24 May 2011 08:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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PLaClair - 24 May 2011 08:40 AM

Seems that the three of us are pretty much in agreement. My point is not to have every Humanist being part of an organization that looks and feels like a church, but rather that Humanism should offer that as a matter of course and routine. There’s a void in our presentation, which we must fill if we hope to achieve the level of success that our ideas merit.

Bingo night at CFI. I’d go! Wait, you said *not* like a church.  tongue wink

Seriously, the 3 of us - and I’m sure many others - are in agreement on this. I have a strong belief in love (aka compassion, sympathy/empathy for others). And I know that God is NOT love.

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Posted: 24 May 2011 05:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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traveler - 24 May 2011 08:58 AM
PLaClair - 24 May 2011 08:40 AM

Seems that the three of us are pretty much in agreement. My point is not to have every Humanist being part of an organization that looks and feels like a church, but rather that Humanism should offer that as a matter of course and routine. There’s a void in our presentation, which we must fill if we hope to achieve the level of success that our ideas merit.

Bingo night at CFI. I’d go! Wait, you said *not* like a church.  tongue wink

Seriously, the 3 of us - and I’m sure many others - are in agreement on this. I have a strong belief in love (aka compassion, sympathy/empathy for others). And I know that God is NOT love.

I know you’re joking but this is what I mean by the theists having gotten into our heads. We need to do our own thing without constantly referencing what theists are doing. If Bingo is fun, then do it.

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Posted: 24 May 2011 05:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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PLaClair - 24 May 2011 05:02 PM
traveler - 24 May 2011 08:58 AM
PLaClair - 24 May 2011 08:40 AM

Seems that the three of us are pretty much in agreement. My point is not to have every Humanist being part of an organization that looks and feels like a church, but rather that Humanism should offer that as a matter of course and routine. There’s a void in our presentation, which we must fill if we hope to achieve the level of success that our ideas merit.

Bingo night at CFI. I’d go! Wait, you said *not* like a church.  tongue wink

Seriously, the 3 of us - and I’m sure many others - are in agreement on this. I have a strong belief in love (aka compassion, sympathy/empathy for others). And I know that God is NOT love.

I know you’re joking but this is what I mean by the theists having gotten into our heads. We need to do our own thing without constantly referencing what theists are doing. If Bingo is fun, then do it.

I wasn’t kidding about going to Bingo night (or some suitable substitute). I agree that we need to start having some fun together

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Posted: 26 May 2011 06:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Let me start with my current personal situation.  My 92 yr. old mother was taken ill about six weeks ago.  Prior to this she was a very active person, still driving during daylight hours, worked with the local historical society, the local women’s club, library,  hosts a monthly stamp club at her home, and belonged to a church.  Since she has been ill she is now in the hospital for the third time and a rehab center in between, one of the doctors has now told us that she probably will never be able to come back home.

She is frustrated and bored with all this and the only relief she gets is when someone visits.  It is her friends from the church, many that she has known since her childhood, that most often visit and provide her with comfort.  One of the ministers, whom I didn’t like at all prior to this, has been helping us with the medical bureaucracy, in particular when she had a mattress that was broken down and uncomfortable was able to get a new one for her, after I had been trying to do so for two days.

The problem I have always had with my non-believing acquaintances (which are mostly academics) is that they don’t see the need for forming mutual support organizations, which are what gives the religious their real strength.  Today’s secular society raises their children in day care, sends them to school and then back to daycare so both parents can “achieve their highest potential” by working long hours.  When we finally hit retirement we may have a few good years to relax and enjoy, but most likely are children have relocated away from us so they can pursue their careers, as we have earlier moved away from our families for the same reason, so we have no persons we are really close with.  When our health finally fails we go to the death warehouse (nursing home) to wait to die without causing inconvenience to others who are still “active”

I am not at all certain that this is a lifestyle that will meet the Darwinian test of survivability that we profess to believe in.  We have become mere cogs in the machine, while the religious, not through their sometimes very crazy theologies, but through their recognition that building social support groups as the key to survival will come out ahead in the evolutionary battle.  All gods are created by humans and this is done because it is often a successful evolutionary strategy.

[ Edited: 26 May 2011 07:25 AM by garythehuman ]
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Posted: 26 May 2011 06:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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garythehuman - 26 May 2011 06:40 AM

Travler;

I wasn’t kidding about going to Bingo night (or some suitable substitute). I agree that we need to start having some fun together


We do have a monthly potluck dinner here in Buffalo 7:00 pm 2nd Weds of the month at CFI in Amherst.

I know… my wife and I will have to make one of those. We have not attended primarily because we are vegan and we doubt there will be much there for us.

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Posted: 26 May 2011 07:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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traveler - 26 May 2011 06:42 AM
garythehuman - 26 May 2011 06:40 AM

Travler;

I wasn’t kidding about going to Bingo night (or some suitable substitute). I agree that we need to start having some fun together


We do have a monthly potluck dinner here in Buffalo 7:00 pm 2nd Weds of the month at CFI in Amherst.

I know… my wife and I will have to make one of those. We have not attended primarily because we are vegan and we doubt there will be much there for us.

Sorry, I didn’t know you wereon line so I edited and changed the post you resonded to.  The potlucks are fun and you may make new friends.  We have had some problems setting up a local group here, but it needs to be done.

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Gary the Human

All the Gods and all religions are created by humans, to meet human needs and accomplish human ends.

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