Journal Nov. 14, 2017

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After much thought and consideration I updated the about page to better reflect the change of direction the blog took a few months ago.  I explained the tagline ‘Happiness if Free’ and how we plan to help people achieve happiness for free. I only didn’t mention ‘Happiness Is Free’ was inspired by the Shania Twain song ‘When’. The lyrics that inspired the tagline:

And the actual Video:

Happiness truly is free for me and I really hope I can help other people see why.

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Secular Sources of Hope Part 2: The Ecological Imperative

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It’s our planet, why would anyone not want to take care of it? It’s our home. It makes sense to want to protect it. The people who understand this are in a constant battle with the selfish and greedy.

‘The state political elites serve capital. They are unable or unwilling to control and regulate capital even when the very survival of the human race is ultimately at stake. One is reminded of the radical literary theorist Frederick Jameson’s quip that ‘it is easier to imagine a total catastrophe which ends all life on earth than it is to imagine a real change in capitalist relations’ –Graham Howes

We are losing this battle and the science supports this.  The Earth’s temperature has risen (source):

And it is human caused (source):

Scientists predict potentially disastrous results from global warming. Including more frequent and severe weather, higher death rates, wildlife extinction and more. It  is not all doom and gloom we can fight it and we can give ourselves and others a lot of hope. The David Suzuki Foundation has ten great ways:

  • Get involved
  • Be energy efficient
  • Choose renewable power
  • Eat wisely
  • Trim your waste
  • Let polluters pay
  • Fly less
  • Get informed
  • Green your commute
  • Support and Donate

All of these things all of us can do. Even if we only do a few we will feel a lot less guilty and a lot more hopeful that we are doing our part to keep the planet healthy. Carl Sagan summarized why caring for this planet (and each other) is so important, quite beautifully, in this video:

 

 

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest.

But for us, it’s different. Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us.

On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.

The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager,

every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love,

every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician,

every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there

– on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena.

Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors, so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner,

how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.

Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark.

In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit yes. Settle, not yet.

Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character building experience.

There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world.

To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

-Carl Sagan

Secular Sources of Hope Part 1: Urban Regeneration And Development

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In 2012 Graham Howe published Sacred and secular sources of hope for a post modern society for SciELO (Scientific Electronic Library Online) and in it he described 4 sources of secular hope:

  1.  Urban regeneration and community development – symbolizing and securing hope for a viable urban future.
  2. The Ecological Imperative – optimizing hope for the perpetuation of ‘Planet Earth’.
  3. Re-Sacralizing the Secular – re-investing ‘post-religious’ secular social theory with overtly religious norms and values.
  4. The Aesthetic Imperative – utilizing the visual Arts- both elite and popular- as a mechanism for social and personal transformation. All four case studies embody explicit sources of ‘hope’ for 21st century individuals, communities and societies.

In the article itself Howe attempts to rectify the cognitive dissonance between the religious and secular thinking of all 4 of these sub-topics. We will  be exploring all except number three in secular terms. We won’t be looking at number three as that is more of a matter of politics and cultural conditioning. But we will look at the other three in terms of why these are secular and why they can provide the non-religious so much hope.

Urban Development

The simplest way to describe urban development is the building of a community. Community can mean anything from a neighborhood to a multinational network.  Urban development covers a wide range of issues for a given urban area such  as:

  • Economics
  • Culture
  • Ecology
  • Inclusiveness
  • Managing urban expansion and congestion
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Resource use (water, mining. ..etc.)
  • Parks

It’s a vast topic and can take years of study to truly be skilled at. However you don’t need to a have university degree to be concerned with and involved in the urban planning of your community. This is of course tied to community development:

Community development is both a process – developing and enhancing the ability to act collectively – and an outcome – a decision to take collective action and the results that action generates. Effective community development occurs when community members work together with organizations and governments to solve problems and realize new opportunities. Community development is an essential ingredient in effective community change efforts: helping to prioritize and align strategies to the community’s context, as well as, revealing, and mobilizing, untapped community resources.(source)

Being a part of a process allows us to also be a part of the outcome. Knowing that we did the work that resulted in our community befitting in some way gives a satisfying and empowering feeling; a feeling of hope that we helped build a better present and future for ourselves, our family and friends. The best way to do this is volunteering and there are countless ways to do this. Moneycrashers has 12 good ways:

  1. Offer to Help Family
  2. Volunteer At Your Local School
  3. Organize a Yard Sale For Charity
  4. Visit a Senior Center
  5. Coach a Local Youth Team
  6. Tutor a Student
  7. Fix and Serve meals
  8. Serve on a Community Board
  9. Become a Docent
  10. Be a Good neighbor
  11. Organize a Food Co-Op
  12. Volunteer At a Hospital

Charities and Community organizations are always happy to take volunteers. Do a little research, find one you like and volunteer. You don’t even necessarily need a community organization. Something as simple as tending a community garden or shoveling the neighbors sidewalk is just as good. Even an hour a week can lead to the powerful sense of hope that comes from contributing. Not because you are trying to please a God or Gods or anyone but simply because the results are always positive and tangible and feels so good.

 

 

 

You don’t lack religion, you lack empathy.

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I have had a few people ask me  ‘without religion and god what’s stopping you from murdering and pillaging?’ My response is always ‘Are you saying that without your religion you would be out murdering and pillaging?’   This sums up the moral debate quite nicely. Once you have empathy then, no matter what your beliefs are, your moral framework has all the support it needs.

Journal Page

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There will now be a journal page. A more personal page, it will occasionally contain entries on how I live happily free from religion and superstition. This first entry will be a brief history of my religious and philosophical journey.

Anglican Catholicism

I remember my Mom telling me our family was Anglican when I was a little boy and so, being just a kid, I identified with that. I even went to a Roman Catholic School. I didn’t like it one bit. Masses were boring and confusing. Looking back now I suppose was lucky religion already made no sense to me. I never really went to church but whenever someone asked I said Catholic.

Buddhism

After high school I started studying very traditional martial arts and since I was already disconnected from religion Buddhism naturally clicked with me. This was a belief system free of wrathful Gods and boring masses with creepy priests. The religion was mainly about using meditation to seek enlightenment. It was during these years I meditated a lot of became a fan of some of the new age beliefs. I really liked  Dan Millman. I was a believer in crystals and other new age mumbo jumbo too. I confess I was pretty content but I believe that was all the exercise and mediation I was doing at the time.

Atheism

Our college psychology teacher asked us to pick an emotion for a presentation and mine was optimism. The research I did would start a change in my thinking that would last the rest of my life. I came across Max More’s Dynamic Optimism in it he suggested that the truly optimistic reject religion’s attitude of mind-body dualism and defeatism. It inspired me to read more about why religion might be a bad thing. Many articles and books later I was firmly convinced that God does not exist.

Humanism

Atheism alone wasn’t enough though. All atheism is an unbelief in the existence of God. Fortunately most humanists also reject religion and God and so I came across authors like Paul Kurtz and Corliss Lamont and discovered humanism. After much reading I decided secular humanism was the belief system I most identify with.

As much as I don’t like labels I am still a secular humanist and that belief system definitely makes me happy and fulfilled.

 

Gratitude Journal

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If you’re reading this right now you’ve probably got it pretty good. Life is tough, for some more than others, but overall most of us are pretty lucky and we often don’t appreciate the things that make us so lucky. Like:

  • We have our freedoms
  • We have access to food and clean water
  • Healthcare
  • Friends
  • Family
  • Pets
  • Fun (Sports and hobbies..etc.)
  • Peace
  • Emotions (good and bad)
  • A bed
  • Heaven right here on Earth

Positive psychologists have found that reminding ourselves of the things we are thankful for can help us have hope in our lives.

Evidence has shown that developing gratitude for the things in your life that you may otherwise take for granted can have a big impact on your outlook and your satisfaction with your life (Davis et al., 2016; Sheldon & Lyubomirsky, 2006).(positivepsychologyprogram.com)

Journal Therapy has been shown to an effective form of psychotherapy since the 1960s. ‘Dr. Ira Progoff, a psychologist in New York City, began offering workshops and classes in the use of what he called the Intensive Journal method’ ‘Journal therapy has been used effectively for grief and loss; coping with life-threatening or chronic illness; recovery from addictions, eating disorders and trauma; repairing troubled marriages and family relationships; increasing communication skills; developing healthier self-esteem; getting a better perspective on life; and clarifying life goals.'(source)

A gratitude journal develops the ‘getting a better perspective on life’ part of journal therapy. Seligman and colleagues recommend either writing three things everyday or five things on a weekly basis and to be specific (source).

If you’re stuck for ideas here are 80 little things that can make us happy in fact there is an entire website dedicated to little things hit shuffle and get your mind thinking of the things we have in our daily life you are thankful for. Greatergood magazine has some great tips for doing a good gratitude journal. Here is a good template as well (source):

Even better we don’t need to thank anything supernatural for the things we are lucky for. We can thank ourselves, our job, our friends, our family, our doctor or many other things and people that will appreciate it. As an added bonus it feels pretty good giving credit where credit is due. In short, a little gratitude can go a long way!