Journal December 23, 2017: Happy Holidays

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December is always a bad month for the blog but good for me. I’m a parent and so December is a magical time of year but it’s also a very busy time of year so posting new material is very hard to do on a regular basis and so my apologies to regular readers. The blog has plenty of ground to cover for the new year but first a holiday post and thoughts and reflections on the past year.

The Holidays

What a powerful time of year for millions. A lot of religious holidays and for the non-religious winter solstice is here. A surprising many people simply celebrate a time to share and be together with friends and family. Whatever your reason for celebrating if you live in the western world you very likely are celebrating something in December. We all know the dangers of the commercialization of the holidays but it is a great time to remember things everyone, not matter what religion or belief can and should be reflecting on:

  • The spirit of giving: Celebrating generosity and charity.
  • Family and relationships: Being grateful for having our loved ones.
  • Lessons from the past year, the good and bad.

Reflections From 2017

This past year year has been one of quite a bit of positive change to the blog.

  1. Not anti-religion but pro-happiness: This blog used to be quite anti-religion but it’s now our firm belief that the dangers of religion are already known to majority of the readers this blog reaches. Even if this is not the case taking a more positive approach will have a better long term effect on helping people leave religion behind. Helping people be happy free of religion is just a better way in all aspects.
  2. Embrace the humanities: Psychology and philosophy already have more relevant facts and reflections on living a happy life than this blog could ever hope to share and so that is now our primary content.
  3. Journal: A more personal addition to the blog. This helps everyone see it’s a real person (I even added my picture) behind the words.

Going into 2018

A surprising fact: I don’t believe in new year’s resolutions.  We should all be resolving to make things better far more often than once a year. If you’ve ever worked in the fitness industry you will know how bad new year’s resolutions are: a sudden influx of fitness club members from Jan-to March. In March or April it’s right back down to normal again, a sad reflection on unrealistic goals and the fragility of new year’s resolutions. However, we do have a few goals for 2018:

  • To break even: Right now this blog is paid out of my own pocket. It would be great to even make enough in a year to pay for the blog itself. Should we even get to the point of profit then we can start donating to charities. At that point we are not only able to donate to charity we are also reaching enough people with our message of hope to make the blog make money, very positive indeed.
  • Reach more people: Hopefully social networking works for us this year. A happy life is possible free of religions and superstitions and it is our hope a lot more people see that this year.
  • Publish the Hope page: Create enough content that the Hope page becomes a place people can go and at least get started on a more psychologically healthy life.

Whatever you are doing through the holidays and whatever your goals keep them positive and you can’t go wrong. Thank you to everyone who reads this blog, we appreciate your support and most of all:

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Not Giving to The Salvation Army again this year

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It seems strange that a group that does so much good can be so backwards in its beliefs. Since nothing has changed here is the original article. My reasons for not tossing my change in their buckets this Christmas are still the same.

It’s that time of year again, when the bell ringers hit the malls and city streets with their buckets asking for donations to help the poor. It’s hard to believe that with all their good work feeding the hungry and clothing the poor that they would hold onto hate-filled and anti-human beliefs that turns any decent human being’s respect for them into contempt instead. The Christian fundamentalism that runs rampant in the Salvation Army has manifested itself in openly fighting the rights of women, homosexuals, and the terminally ill. A great deal of shame lies on the Salvation for not just for having a backwards, anti-human opinion on these matters but for fighting against these things using charity dollars.

Homophobia:

As of  LGBTQNation reports:

  • When New Zealand considered passage of the Homosexual Law Reform Act in 1986, the Salvation Army collected signatures in an attempt to get the legislation killed. The act decriminalized consensual sex between gay men. The measure passed over the charity’s objections.
  • In the United Kingdom, the Salvation Army actively pushed passage of an amendment to the Local Government Act. The amendment stated that local authorities “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.” The law has since been repealed, but it led many schools and colleges to close LGBT student organizations out of fear they’d lose their government funding.
  • In 2001, the organization tried to extract a resolution from the White House that they could ignore local non-discrimination laws that protected LGBT people. While the commitment would have applied to all employees, the group claimed that it needed the resolution so it “did not have to ordain sexually active gay ministers and did not have to provide medical benefits to the same-sex partners of employees.” After lawmakers and civil rights activists revealed the Salvation Army’s active resistance to non-discrimination laws, the White House admitted the charity was seeking the exemptions.
  • Also in 2001, the evangelical charity actively lobbied to change how the Bush administration would distribute over $24 billion in grants and tax deductions by urging the White House deny funding to any cities or states that included LGBT non-discrimination laws. Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary, issued a statement saying the administration was denying a “regulation sought by the church to protect the right of taxpayer-funded religious organizations to discriminate against homosexuals.”
  • In 2004, the Salvation Army threatened to close all their soup kitchens in New York City to protest the city’s decision to require all vendors and charities doing business with the city to adhere to all civil rights laws. The organization balked at having to treat gay employees equal to straight employees.

Women’s Rights

Even their own website makes it clear they are against the rights of a woman to choose (link) “When an unwanted pregnancy occurs, The Salvation Army counsels that the parents receive caring support for their emotional, physical, social and spiritual needs, and that the unborn child be carried to term.”

Euthanasia

“The Salvation Army believes that euthanasia and assisted suicide are morally wrong, and holds that they should continue to be illegal under Canadian law.” There you have it, the Salvation Army would rather see people suffer, this alone is a deal breaker for any one that has even a tiny bit of compassion for other human beings.

Lets not forget the silly ban on Harry Potter and Twilight Toys and their ongoing promotion of religion. When I was a little boy I went to a Salvation Army summer camp and had a great time. So it is with sadness I have to report that they are no longer an organization that deserves supporting. Stay away from the bell-ringers instead donate to to food banks, toy drives or any of these great charities:

Doctors Without Borders  Amnesty InternationalSick Kids HospitalThe Children’s Wish Foundation

or any on this list all do good work.

 

Happy Birthday Who?

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Jesus is the reason for the season! Not quite.

December 25th was celebrated as Horus’ and Osiris’ birthdate since at least 3000 c.BCE and then Attis of Phrygia c.1400 BCE, and then Krishna c. 1400 BCE, then Zarathustra c. 1000 BCE, then Mithra of Persia c. 600 BCE then Heracles c. 800 BCE, then Dionysus c. 186 BCE, then Tammuz c. 400 BCE, then Adonis and Hermes in Greek antiquity. These are just a few of the gods celebrated on December 25th. This video gives a detailed explanation why:

It has been celebrated at Jesus’ birthday since the Emporer Constantine declared Christianity the official religion of the Roman empire around 200 CE. Celebrating his birthday on a day that was already being celebrated across the empire was just convenient. This is how it came to be so widely practiced in the  western world.  As for Jesus’ birthday, if he even existed, experts have a few opinions from April to June but none think it was December 25th.

Christians have every right to celebrate Christmas as Jesus’ birthday if they want to but are they the source of Christmas or do they have ownershop of it? Not even close. So celebrate whatever you want and if any Christian (or anyone else for that matter) tells you that you you’re celebrating for the wrong reasons tell them go to…umm…the library.

Happy Holidays from Never Thought To Question Why

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This isn’t a personal blog, today is an exception. In fact I wont even be promoting this entry on any of the social networking sites that I usually do. I have a few things I would like to share with all of the people following this blog before the holidays:

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Adopted in December 1948 this still stands as a document that should apply to every human being and, hopefully someday, be enforced with the power of law universally.

I would update it to include more rights for same sex couples and to include freedom of and freedom from religion.

Declaration

The Secular Humanist Principles

Humanists trace their values back as far as Plato and are nicely summarized nicely by Paul Kurtz on the Council For Secular Humanism Website.

I put these in a  nicely formatted word document, printed them, framed them and hung them on my wall. Here’s a copy you can experiment with. Moral excellence

Carl Sagan

The anniversary of his death was yesterday (December 20th). I found some words of remembrance around the net and would like to post a speech of his that I find nicely summarizes a value that he and I share and he was able to express more eloquently than I ever could.

If only everyone seen the world this way. R.I.P Carl. We will miss you.

Bill Hicks

His birthday just passed (December 16th) and so I wanted to share the really great piece of wisdom he used to end his shows with.

Some More Wisdom

“Recognize that the very molecules that make up your body, the atoms that construct the molecules, are traceable to the crucibles that were once the centers of high mass stars that exploded their chemically rich guts into the galaxy, enriching pristine gas clouds with the chemistry of life. So that we are all connected to each other biologically, to the earth chemically and to the rest of the universe atomically. That’s kinda cool! That makes me smile and I actually feel quite large at the end of that. It’s not that we are better than the universe, we are part of the universe. We are in the universe and the universe is in us.” -Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Video Link.

“More fundamental than religion is our basic human spirituality. We have a basic human disposition towards love, kindness and affection, irrespective of whether we have a religious framework or not. When we nurture this most basic human resource – when we set about cultivating those basic inner values which we all appreciate in others, then we start to live spiritually.” -Dalia Lama

What do all these things have in common?

These are kinds of things we should be remembering at the holidays. No mythical prophets, no toxic religions, no fear or hatred just love and compassion for ourselves, friends, family, humanity and the world we share together. Real life gets busy and so we all sometimes forget but even the occasional reflection of these values on any holiday would do the world a lot of good. The holidays are a reminder of how lucky we are to even be alive and the significant good we can do living according to values that put people first. These are the things that the holidays mean to me.

Happy Holidays everyone and I will see you all after Boxing Day.

 

The Virgin Mary Tests Positive

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I saw this picture today in a Globe and Mail article outlining the controversy created by the ad. The ad was created by St. Matthew-in-the-City, an Anglican church in Auckland, NZ. The Church’s official statement on the ad says:

“Mary is in the Pink,” is intended “to avoid the sentimental, trite and expected to spark thought and conversation in the community.”

This is an agreeable position. The virgin Mary is not often talked about subject, mainly because there isn’t anything new talk about. Most believers already know the story of the virgin Mary very well.

The Church’s statement goes on to say:

“Christmas is real.  It’s about a real pregnancy, a real mother and a real child”

Christmas is real?

It’s a very real tradition that, if one follows it’s pagan routes, dates back thousands of years. The tradition itself has some very dark routes. As simple to remember.com summarizes:

Roman pagans first introduced the holiday of Saturnalia, a week long period of lawlessness celebrated between December 17-25.  During this period, Roman courts were closed, and Roman law dictated that no one could be punished for damaging property or injuring people during the week long celebration.  The festival began when Roman authorities chose “an enemy of the Roman people” to represent the “Lord of Misrule.”  Each Roman community selected a victim whom they forced to indulge in food and other physical pleasures throughout the week.  At the festival’s conclusion, December 25th, Roman authorities believed they were destroying the forces of darkness by brutally murdering this innocent man or woman.

This is not the Christmas Christians want you to know about. The Christmas tree, The holly, the mistletoe and the Yule log are all pagan traditions adopted by the Romans when they first started celebrating Christmas as Christ’s  birth around 200. a.d.

  • The Christmas Tree comes from the Roman pagans who celebrated the solstice with the feast of Saturnalia by decorating their homes with evergreen boughs. More info here.
  • Holly was considered sacred by Druids and it was the official plant of Saturn. More info here and here
  • The Yule Log is more of a Norse tradition that spread around Europe. More Info here.

A real pregnancy, a real mother and a real child?

There is no evidence for Mary’s existence outside the Bible. The evidence for any peasant that existed 2000 plus years ago is always is going very hard to find, if it exists at all (which is very unlikely). This doesn’t necessarily mean that she didn’t exist, it’s simply unknown. Let’s assume she did exist. Did she have a virgin birth? A David Hume said:

What’s more likely that the entire natural order should be suspended or that a Jewish minx should tell a lie?

‘Jewish Minx’ is a bit harsh but he makes a valid point:  even if she did exist a virgin birth is just impossible. Even the Archdeacon of the church responsible for the ad himself admitted that they don’t take the virgin birth as literal.

“We’re not out just to deliberately stir the pot. We’re out to critique the idea of a male god impregnating Mary and the literalism of the virgin birth.”

So the purpose behind the ad was to start people thinking about the virgin Mary, discussion is almost always a good thing. I just wonder how many will be brave enough to admit not only that a virgin birth just doesn’t happen (especially one accomplished by a being that doesn’t exist) but that the likelihood of Mary’s existence is very slim. Which is better in the mind of the lover of life celebrating an impossible birth of an improbable woman to an equally improbable prophet of an ancient religion or celebrating life, love, family and the goodness and compassion that binds us?

Happy Holidays or Bah Humbug?

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The phrase made famous by Ebeneezer Scrooge has gotten to be synonymous with anyone who shows any kind of discontent for the Christmas season. It has gotten to the point where some Christians will actually accuse you of being a ‘Scrooge’ for not saying Merry Christmas. The arrogant assumption being that everyone celebrates Christmas and that anyone who doesn’t is in such rare occurrence that they don’t matter. Yes, they don’t matter. People who don’t celebrate Christmas don’t matter? According to Stats Canada that was over 6 millions Canadians in 2001. According to a Stats Canada projection that number could easily double even by 2006.

So millions of Canadians don’t count? It is doesn’t take a genius to understand how heartless this position is.

It’s the same situation in the United States, non-Christian and nonreligious account for 20-25% of the population and growing. Again, it is astoundingly inhuman and arrogant to assume that the other person celebrates Christmas.

This is not to say that the Christian celebrations aren’t appreciated. Over many centuries Christmas has grown to be a wonderful combination of Christian and pagan traditions.  As Tracey Spicer of the Telegraph rightly pointed out:

The point is this: Christmas means different things to different people…

But most Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists – and even atheists such as myself – aren’t in the least bit upset by Christian celebrations.

Depictions of the birth of Christ are on display in Malaysia, while the term Merry Christmas is becoming popular in China and Japan because of the influence of the West.

So, before we start singing Frosty the Snowperson, O Little Town of Palestinian Joint Rule, or Vertically Challenged Drummer Child of Indeterminate Gender, let’s remember what we all love about Christmas.

Peace on Earth, goodwill to all men, a drink with mates, a seafood barbie, and kids singing your favourite carols out-of-key.

Let us not cast ourselves in the mould of Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol: “If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding.”

‘Happy Holidays’ doesn’t mean ‘Bah Humbug’ it means we are as excited about the holidays as you are but smart enough to know that it really does mean different things to different people, especially so in a growing multicultural society. Regardless of religion or ethnicity everyone wants to spread the cheer and wish everybody’ Happy Holidays’, except of course the ones who really a scrooge.