International Day Of Peace

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It’s international day of peace and I am sad. Sad because it will go almost unnoticed. The news won’t cover it and posts about it aren’t going viral on the internet, it seems like nobody cares. World peace seems like a cliche. Some will call it a ‘hippy-dippy’ goal not tied to reality but the value of the ideal remains as prudent today as anytime in history. According to the Council of Foreign relations there are at least 25 active armed conflicts in the world. When you include crime in this assessment the Earth is definitely in need of a day of peace. We can make it happen one day we just have keep fighting the good fight.

Happy International Day Of Peace!

The Following Video has some disturbing images

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Hope And Meaning

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A broad subject for a single website post but an important one.  Religion provides hope in many powerful ways and not many can see getting that kind of inspiration from nonreligious beliefs. However, nonreligious beliefs do have the ability to make life meaningful in equally powerful ways. By knowing what hope is we can  look at how nonreligious beliefs can provide it.

By the strictest definition hope is:

Hope: hoped; hoping. intransitive verb.1 :to cherish a desire with anticipation :to want something to happen or be true. Hopes for a promotion. Hoping for the best. I hope so. (Merriam-Webster)

This blog will be using the definition provided by Hope Theory: ‘Hope consists of agency and pathways.  The person who has hope has the will and determination that goals will be achieved, and a set of different strategies at their disposal to reach their goals. Put simply: hope involves the will to get there, and different ways to get there.’ (source). Psychologists describe hope as more than emotion, it’s a cognitive motivational system. In hope theory emotions come before thoughts. Once hope is accomplished we are better able to set and strive for goals that lead to growth and development. Without hope people set mastery goals:

 People with mastery goals choose easy tasks that don’t offer a challenge or opportunity for growth. When they fail, they quit. People with mastery goals act helpless, and feel a lack of control over their environment. They don’t believe in their capacity to obtain the kind of future they want. They have no hope. (Kaufman)

The theory says ‘the person who has hope‘ so what if you have very little or none at all? Maybe you don’t know how to achieve it without some kind of religious belief: How do you achieve hope without religion? There are 5 primary ways:

  • Personal Responsibility: Taking responsibility for ourselves and our lives. This crucially involves living according to our values. Personal responsibility has two main facets:
    • Process: Our choices, our actions and consequences. We don’t always control every part of the process but it is always possible to try to take responsibility for as much of the process as we can. Even as little as responsibly handling our emotional reaction to a situation we can’t control can be a very empowering feeling.
    • Reward: When we take responsibility of our lives we boost our own self-respect and gain the respect of others. We also gain a rewarding sense of power over ourselves and our situation.
  • Human Potential: The melioristic belief that the world can be improved through human effort. Not necessarily a belief in humanity or human nature but in the potential for human greatness.
  • Courage: Facing fear and uncertainty with courage.
  • Acceptance: An acknowledgement that sometimes life is not so great, especially for some. Important to make a distinction between acceptance and apathy. Acceptance helps us detach negative emotion from things beyond our control.

All of these can be greatly expanded and will be explored more thoroughly on the hope page. It’s also not a cut and dry issue. Human psychology is tangled web of thoughts, emotions and memory. However, hope can be defined by and achieved in equally powerful ways without religion. Hope is also intimately tied to meaning, something that gives our lives value. We define meaning in the following way:

Meaning: Something outside of ourselves that fulfills the existential void. An external force that gives our lives value.

Frankl rightly asked: When all else is lost, what do we have? Meaning can be provided in nearly countless ways from hobbies to sports, family, friends, career and so on. Meaning can also come from the nonphysical things such as love and compassion.

Some people look at the need for meaning as a weakness but the reality is that hope and meaning are an important part of of getting through life and we hope to show how it is possible to have it without Gods or religion. We don’t need to rely on external forces we can’t understand or prove exists, instead we believe in ourselves and each other . Once a person experiences how powerful this is they may ask themselves why they ever had religion to begin with.

 

Make Smart Sexy, It Could Save Us All

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For any thinking person sometimes it seems as though we’re drowning in a sea of stupidity. Anti-intellectualism has gotten so bad that a growing movement of people believe the Earth is flat, a staggering 12 million Americans believe alien shape sifting lizard people rules us and the president of the most powerful country on Earth is so frequently incorrect that it is hard to keep up with. Anti-intellectuals have managed to root into western culture the idea that intelligence, reason and science are cold, robotic, boring and difficult. Ideas that could save lives are often easily dismissed in favor of theories and conspiracies that appeal to emotion and not reason.

Richard Hofstadter, Dabiel J. Rigney, Diane S. Claussen defined three types of anti-intellectualism:

  • Religious: Viewing various scientific endeavors as unholy, sinful or against scripture in various ways.
  • Populist: Undue skepticism of ‘the establishment’ and intellectual elites.
  • Unreflective Instrumentalism: Valuing education that leads to immediate monetary or material gain over humanities and social sciences.

A historical examination  shows that anti-intellectualism has been been a problem since the Enlightenment:

For all these thinkers, rationalism was the source of the evil: it led to ‘‘materialism,’’ to utopias, to the supremely pernicious idea that man is able to change things. It killed instinct and vital forces; it destroyed the almost carnal connection between the members of an ethnic community and made one live in an unreal world. ()

It doesn’t help that people are entertained by people acting stupidly, from simple slapstick to dangerous stunts (Jackass 1 and 2 made over 130 million at the box office). The success of these types of movies and T.V. shows helps glorify stupidity and enhance the cultural tumour of anti-intellectualism. The dangerous results of this anti-intellectualism are not hard to see:

  • Anti-Vaccination: The Anti-Vaccination movement, started by one falsified study, has caused the resurgence of preventable diseases like whooping cough, rubella and measles worldwide. Thousands of people are getting sick and many are dying as a result.
  • Global Warming: We are on the brink of a global disaster. If global warming continues we will see more frequent and severe weather, higher death rates due to illness exasperated by  heat (such as cardiovascular and kidney diseases), worsened air pollution, more frequent animal extinctions, more acidic oceans and higher sea levels. 

Anti-Intellectualism is linked to lower quality of life (human development index), higher incarceration rates and high teen pregnancy rates.  The Catholic church and other religions have put us behind scientifically, by some estimates, as much as a thousand years.

Fighting Anti-Intellectualism

Given the strong and pervasive nature of anti-intellectualism prevalent in modern Western Culture fighting it could be a daunting task for it will require a multifaceted approach that attacks many part of western culture itself. The first step is to start taking it more seriously. The current backlash against the Trump administration and its supporters could have the hidden benefit of showing everyone why anti-intellectualism is such a big problem.  But more raising awareness is needed to truly counter it. Everyone is capable fighting the fallacies common to anti-intellectuals such as appeal to emotion or fear, pandering and appeal to emotion.

In fact, especially in a democracy, the fight against anti-reason can ultimately be won only at the grassroots, via a general population that recognizes it, rejects it, and demands more rational public policy that reflects real human interests. (David Niose)

Niose recognizes  four areas in western culture that need changing to stem the rising tide of anti-intellectualism:

  1. The Government: Using our votes and pressuring our representatives to pass rational policies.
  2. The Corporate Sector: Using media to distract people and promote mass consumption and using their wealth manipulate government.
  3. Fundamentalist Religion: The sometimes vague nature of religious scripture can leave it open to interpretation leading to opposition of everything from music and beauty products to stem cell research.
  4.  Ourselves: Recognizing our irrational thinking and not letting it lead us.

The corporate sector also realizes that an entertained and poorly informed population is much less likely to engage in political activity that might oppose corporate-friendly public policy. Distracted citizens will passively allow large corporate interests to dominate government. As such, anti-intellectualism is the magic weapon that the corporate sector has used to maintain control. (Niose)

From the Game Mastermind

I would suggest a fifth approach: Making intellectualism more appealing, even sexy. In Western culture sexy is currently tied to wealth and beauty, a standard defined primarily by the mass media. The entirely impossible modern standards of sexy where women are expected to be impossibly thin and men are expected to be buff and/or ‘rugged’ and both must dress a certain way (usually requiring wealth). All of these modern standards of sexy are purely physical. Magazines don’t feature cover models for their IQ and very few movies and television shows make their main characters sexy based on their intelligence (although this is slowly changing). A shift in appeal to intellect as attractive would have enormously good long term benefits for everyone.

Whatever our approach stemming the tide of anti-intellectualism is in everyone’s best interest. A cultural change won’t happen overnight and our human nature wants us to take the easy route but anti-intellectualism is a dangerous weed we must all do our part in rooting out, our future depends on it.

Humanism and Positive Psychology

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One of the primary purposes of this blog is to help people lead more meaningful lives outside of religion or superstition. So I have always kind of wondered why there isn’t a branch of psychology, or perhaps sociology, that focuses what helps people live more meaningful lives. It turns out there is such a branch called humanistic psychology:

Humanistic psychology (humanism) is grounded in the belief that people are innately good. This type of psychology holds that morality, ethical values, and good intentions are the driving forces of behavior, while adverse social or psychological experiences can be attributed to deviations from natural tendencies.

Humanism incorporates a variety of therapeutic techniques, including Rogerian (person-centered) therapy, and often emphasizes a goal of self-actualization. (source)

Humanistic psychology originated in the 1950’s after a growing group of psychologists began to view the two most popular fields of psychology at the time, behaviorism and psychoanalysis, as having serious limitations. Abraham Maslow and Clark Moustakas spearheaded a campaign to start a professional organization dedicated to humanistic psychology. In 1961 they founded The American Association for Humanistic Psychology which states as its mission:

In it’s first iteration, AHP and Humanistic Psychology, in general, focused almost exclusively on the growth of the individual. While we believe that principle continues to be necessary, in the words of one of our founders, it is no longer sufficient. We also recognize the importance of change and growth in relationships, families, communities, societies, and in a global context.

As a result of this progress, AHP is re-envisioning its purpose and responsibility to its members and supporters. It is now time to reach further into the awareness of individuals and communities, and to reach higher into the sphere of translating new knowledge, policy, and practice into humanistic terms. The impact of humanistic psychology will be strengthened through the use of social media and other technologies that will allow AHP to increase its visibility and accessibility to the public; helping them to integrate humanistic ideas into their lives on multiple levels.

This approach will also provide a platform for the creation of online learning communities designed to enrich the humanistic work of groups and communities, professional networks, and government organizations. Our primary focus will be in bringing together new knowledge and practices from a variety of emerging fields (science, policy, education, politics, the arts, therapeutic/healing practices, community and cultural growth, and personal and spiritual growth), and translating those new ideas through the lens of Humanistic Psychology.

Full Vision Statement

Humanistic psychology, while certainly not perfect shares goals similar to our own and so we are happy to have found it. A full examination can be found here.

There is a really great variation of humanistic psychology called Positive Psychology. Founded primarily by Martin Seligman, during his tenure as president of the American Psychological Association and supported by Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi and Christopher Peterson.

Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play. (source)

Seligman outlined an approach he calls P.E.R.M.A.

Positive Emotion: Developing an optimistic view of life.

Engagement: Engagement in activities that encourage learning,  and personal growth

Relationships:  Building and maintaining relationships with people that support, encourage and love.

Meaning: Developing meaning and purpose.

Accomplishments: Setting and achieving goals.

A More Detailed Look

Humanistic and positive psychology share goals too similar to our own not to include them in Humanist resource page and other lists around the site. Another great resource in our effort to help people move away from religion and superstition.