The Mr. Rogers Movie

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Even though he was an ordained Presbyterian minister if there was ever anyone who set the example of humanist values it was Fred Rogers.   He was one of the most pure of heart and dedicated his life to improving the lives of others, especially children.  This blog wholeheartedly endorses this movie.

“Anyone who does anything to help a child in his life is a hero to me. ” -Fred Rogers

“The greatest thing that we can do is to help somebody know that they’re loved and capable of loving.” -Fred Rogers

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Forgiveness Is…

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When one considers the stress of carrying all the resentment, anger and hate that goes with not forgiving “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” (Louis B. Smedes). Forgiveness is important for many reasons and Positive psychology says forgiveness is:

“a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.”

It’s also important to recognize what forgiveness is not. Forgiveness doesn’t mean idly accepting wrongdoings or forgetting that a person has a tendency to act badly in some way. ‘You do not gloss over or deny the seriousness of an offense against you. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offenses. Though forgiveness can help repair a damaged relationship, it doesn’t obligate you to reconcile with the person who harmed you, or release them from legal accountability.’ (Greater Good Berkeley)

Psychology Tools has an excellent PDF defining what forgiveness is and what it is not:

Once we understand forgiveness the next step is practicing it and lucky for us experts like Robert Enright have defined a process for doing this. Enright’s  Eight Keys to Forgiveness:

  1. Know what forgiveness is and why it matters: We understand what forgiveness is and what it is not (see above). So why does it matter? Psychologically it relieves us of the burden of resentment, anger and hate. Depending on the situation forgiveness also allows for a rebuilding of damaged relationships,  closure in unfortunate situations (moving on), and the learning that goes with positive reflection on a wrongdoing.
  2. Become “forgivingly fit: Forgiveness, like most things, improves with practice. “It’s important to cultivate this mindset of valuing our common humanity, so that it becomes harder to discount someone who has harmed you as unworthy.”
  3. Address your inner pain: Know who has hurt and why. Acknowledge the bad feeling or harm that person has caused you and address it in a healthy way (i.e. talk to someone or seek professional help) “There are many forms of emotional pain; but the common forms are anxiety, depression, unhealthy anger, lack of trust, self-loathing or low self-esteem, an overall negative worldview, and a lack of confidence in one’s ability to change. All of these harms can be addressed by forgiveness; so it’s important to identify the kind of pain you are suffering from and to acknowledge it. “
  4. Develop a forgiving mind through empathy: Research shows that forgiving someone activates the parts of your brain responsible for empathy. When we forgive we begin to see why the person responsible did what they did and what issues they might be dealing with that caused them to do you harm. It works both ways: when we understand we can forgive and when we forgive can begin to understand. “Recognizing that we all carry wounds in our hearts can help open the door to forgiveness.”
  5. Find meaning in your suffering: This can be hard to do when feeling angry, resentful or hurt by someone but an important part of the process. We can learn from what went wrong and ‘try to see how our suffering has changed us in a positive way.’ Some people see it as learning experience (i.e. that’s a person I can’t trust or that person doesn’t like it when I so such and such or I need to be better prepared next time….etc.). Some people view suffering as a building of their ability to cope (resilience) “To find meaning is not to diminish your pain or to say, I’ll just make the best of it or all things happen for a reason. You must always take care to address the woundedness in yourself and to recognize the injustice of the experience, or forgiveness will be shallow.”
  6. When forgiveness is hard, call upon other strengths: Forgiveness can be hard, even seemingly impossible and in these times we can call upon other supports to help us.  We can do this by first accepting that we aren’t perfect either and forgiveness will not always be easy. We can then call upon other supports in our lives to find the courage to forgive.
  7. Forgive yourself: We can be hard on ourselves when we are the ones who have done wrong in some way. However when we forgive ourselves we “offer to yourself what you offer to others who have hurt you: a sense of inherent worth, despite your actions.”
  8. Develop a forgiving heart: I’m not one to simply copy and paste content but I could not find better words:When we overcome suffering, we gain a more mature understanding of what it means to be humble, courageous, and loving in the world. We may be moved to create an atmosphere of forgiveness in our homes and workplaces, to help others who’ve been harmed overcome their suffering, or to protect our communities from a cycle of hatred and violence. All of these choices can lighten the heart and bring joy to one’s life. Some people may believe that love for another who’s harmed you is not possible. But, I’ve found that many people who forgive eventually find a way to open their hearts. If you shed bitterness and put love in its place, and then repeat this with many, many other people, you become freed to love more widely and deeply. This kind of transformation can create a legacy of love that will live on long after you’re gone.” (Enright, 2015)

As a humanist the sentence “a legacy of love that will live on long after you’re gone” as a lot of meaning.  Humanists like myself don’t believe in the afterlife as described by religion.  Our only eternal life is the one that resides in people’s memories of us and so we strive to make that afterlife a good one and it must include forgiveness.

 

“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

 

 

https://psychologytools.com/positive-psychology.html

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/forgiveness/definition#what-is

https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/forgiveness/

Top Insights for 2017 from Greater Good Magazine at University of Berkeley

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We are a big fans of Greater Good Magazine and in December they released their top ten insights from 2017. All ten are fantastic:

      1. Emotional experience is much richer than we thought: The research suggests that not only do we have a lot more emotions but they exist on a spectrum from one emotion to another “This research dovetails with the emerging notion that a happy and meaningful life is not just about feeling good. In fact, experiencing a greater variety of emotions—even mixed emotions—may be key to our health and well-being.”
      2. Young people aren’t the only ones who need a sense of purpose: Hope and meaning helps older adults deal with the effects of aging. Cognitive function is higher in adults with a sense of purpose.”In combination with earlier findings that link purpose to better health and lower disease risk, these studies lend more credence to the claim that a sense of purpose is an important component of a healthy lifestyle for older adults”
      3. We know less than we thought about the impact of mindfulness and meditation: Small sample sizes and other poor research designs plague studies on the effects mindfulness.  Scientists often don’t even agree on the definition on ‘mindfulness’ or ‘meditation’. This in no way devalues its usefulness but it does push the need for truth about the practice and that more thorough research is needed before we can say we understand it.
      4. You can probably change your relationship style—and even your personality: Up until this year majority of studies suggest our attachment style is set in childhood but this year two studies suggest that this may not be true. “After the intimacy-building exercises, participants with more avoidant attachment styles rated their relationships as higher-quality than they had beforehand. And according to a survey of participants one month later, the more avoidant participants had become less so (less distanced from their partners and more willing to be close).”
      5. Music can make you a more creative, mindful person: “Our shared love of music helps connect us socially, in part by enhancing kind, helpful, generous behaviors. But recent research suggests that music has other potential benefits that we are only beginning to understand—namely, it seems to increase our mindfulness and our ability to think creatively.”
      6. Taking care of others might be good for your own resilience: A small but eye opening study suggests that helping people when they have problems acts like a stress resilience building exercise. “Helping [others] regulate their emotional reactions to stressful situations may be a particularly powerful way to practice and hone our own regulation skills, which can then be applied to improve our own emotional well-being,” the researchers write.
      7. “Phubbing” could hurt your relationships: No surprise here but because the act of snubbing someone for your phone is a recent phenomena so not many studies have been released on its effects. However last year two surveys found exactly what could be expected: Snubbing someone for your phone hurts our relationship with that person.  Interestingly the studies also suggest that being snubbed for someone’s phone feeds technology addiction “The phubbing group reported feeling more excluded in interactions with others, which (in turn) led to a greater need for attention, more intense social media use, and poorer well-being. “
      8. Kindness at work seems to be contagious: It was already widely known that kindness begets kindness but recent studies show that this can happen at the workplace as well. Even a cold, competitive environment like a corporate office can benefit from random acts of kindness that people have tendency to pay forward.
      9. Students of all ethnicities could benefit from diverse classrooms: Another study that furthered an already known fact: Diversity creates creates less racial prejudice and higher education and income levels later in life. A recent study found this to be a universal truth across all ethnicities. “As classrooms became more racially balanced, students of all ethnicities felt safer, less bullied, and less lonely.”
      10. The individual and social impact of SEL might last a long time: SEL (social-emotional learning) has been shown to improve moods, social skills, school performance…etc. Up until currently however it was not known that it could last as long as four years. “The review looked at studies of 82 SEL programs for K-12 students. Comparing students who participated in SEL programs to those who didn’t, the results showed significant benefits that persisted from one to nearly four years afterward”

I really like all of these, all show the benefits of the sciences on our ability to cope. Even this one article shows that emotion is a rich and diverse experience, everyone benefits from a sense of purpose,  caring for others is good for you too and we can always change for the better.  The entire article is worth a closer look.

 

A Printable Humanist Declaration Of Values

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This is a repost but given the change in the direction of the blog it seems appropriate. This is taken almost entirely from Paul Kurtz’ declaration he wrote for the Council For Secular Humanism many years ago. Seems prudent after so many years to re-examine it but for now here it is: the-affirmations-of-humanism and in Word format the-affirmations-of-humanism

 

This will be our ‘Values’ page as well.  

 

 

 

A Different Direction: The Alternative to Religion.

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When this blog was started 6 years ago we had a goal of ridding the world of religion, superstition, the pseudosciences and all the harms they cause. It has been our great pleasure to see atheism and humanism grow so much in popularity worldwide. The internet has been at the forefront of the battle against dogma and superstition. The internet has opened the floodgates of information to the world and the result has been a new enlightenment. Unbeliever’s such as myself no longer feel alone in their beliefs (or lack thereof). Atheist and humanist organizations, and chat rooms have popped up in droves, and even atheist churches exist now. These are things were virtually unheard of as little as ten years ago. A cultural shift is occurring and the diminishing of religion is certainly a part of that.

Some careful reflection of this cultural shift has lead to us to make a change in the content of this blog. We are still against the evils of religion and superstitions but we have to ask ourselves ‘Now that religion is being heavily criticized and that shows no signs of changing,  what now?’ Until human nature changes and we evolve past needing what religion offers for people then we must provide alternatives. Fortunately these alternatives exist and this blog will be primarily focusing on these alternatives going forward: Science, The Arts and Social Conscience.

Science:

The physical sciences help us fight disease and aging, protect our environment, and make our lives easier in immeasurable ways: from safer cars to the stain resistant clothing you may be wearing right now. The social sciences provide us with the means to improve our mental health, culture, economics and politics. The sciences are truly the key to our survival and our happiness.

The Arts:

Music, literature, film, painting, sculpture and other forms of artistic expression and entertainment move us in profound ways and are already providing hope and meaning to millions worldwide.

Social Conscience:

There is a great deal of happiness and satisfaction in the service of others. This can be something as simple as helping someone carry something to vast undertakings of selfless giving such philanthropy and social activism. There is a great deal of research to show that this in a natural part of our evolution.

We are still secular humanists and so will still be including the atheism and humanism pages and content will include these subjects. However, as part of our efforts to rid the world of dangerous, archaic beliefs we will be focusing on alternatives to religion. These alternatives are secular, deeply powerful and focus on what’s best for family, community and humanity as whole instead of how to please a God or Gods or those that proclaim to speak for them. We can live without religion and this blog hopes to show how that is possible.

The Shame of Body Shaming

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As a humanist I can not imagine making someone feel badly,  especially for something like weight or height or some other result of their genes, their health and their circumstances but this is an all to common occurrence. In fact ‘fat’ has become a dehumanizing insult, ‘Fat’ is the new ‘ugly’. People in western cultures have a new and terrible way to drag other humans down: ridiculing and bullying based on their body. This is particularly nasty when one considers how many reasons a person may be overweight.

Body Type:

  1. Ectomorph:  Ectomorphs are skinny with a small frame, light build, small joints and lean muscle. Usually they have long thin limbs with stringy muscles, narrow shoulders with a fast metabolism making this body type the most resistant to weight gain.
  2. Mesomorph:Mesomorphs have a medium sized bone structure, athletic body, and they typically have a considerable amount of lean mass.
  3. Endomorph: Endomorphs have a larger bone structure with higher amounts of total body mass and fat mass, and this extra fat seems to resist most efforts to get rid of it. The endomorph body type is solid and generally soft, and gains fat very easily. Source and More Info

There are numerous other causes for a person to be overweight:

  • Energy imbalances can cause overweight and obesity. An energy imbalance means that your energy IN does not equal your energy OUT. (.I.E. lack of exercise).
  • Medical conditions: Some genetic syndromes and endocrine disorders can cause overweight or obesity.
  • Several genetic syndromes are associated with overweight and obesity, including the following.
    • Prader-Willi syndrome
    • Bardet-Biedl syndrome
    • Alström syndrome
    • Cohen syndrome
  • Endocrine disorders: Because the endocrine system produces hormones that help maintain energy balances in the body, the following endocrine disorders or tumors affecting the endocrine system can cause overweight and obesity:
    • Hypothyroidism. People with this condition have low levels of thyroid hormones. These low levels are associated with decreased metabolism and weight gain, even when food intake is reduced. People with hypothyroidism also produce less body heat, have a lower body temperature, and do not efficiently use stored fat for energy.
    • Cushing’s syndrome: People with this condition have high levels of glucocorticoids, such as cortisol, in the blood. High cortisol levels make the body feel like it is under chronic stress. As a result, people have an increase in appetite and the body will store more fat. Cushing’s syndrome may develop after taking certain medicines or because the body naturally makes too much cortisol.
  • Tumors. Some tumors, such as craneopharingioma, can cause severe obesity because the tumors develop near parts of the brain that control hunger.
  • Medicines: such as antipsychotics, antidepressants, antiepileptics, and antihyperglycemics can cause weight gain and lead to overweight and obesity. (source)

All of these are out of a person’s control and don’t take into account lifestyle, cultural upbringing and other life situations a person may be in that has lead them to be overweight. For example some people use food to cope with the bullying they are receiving to begin with.

“The next time you see a fat person, you don’t know whether that person has a medical condition that caused them to gain weight,” Thore added. “You don’t know their mother just died. You don’t know if they’re depressed or suicidal or if they just lost 100 pounds. You don’t know.” (source)

This short list should show why shaming someone for being overweight is so ignorant. The same rules apply to being underweight, tall, short or the multitude of other physical reasons people bully and torment other people for. The lack of empathy and understanding in body shaming is staggering. It can have disastrous consequences such as depression, social anxiety, low self worth,  Anthropophobia (fear of people) and other social phobias, eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia and suicide.

The problem is compounded by electronic communication and cyber-bullying which provides a bully with a virtual anonymity.

Also cultural glorification of unrealistic standards of beauty such as being skinny or big breasted for women or being muscular and have a a full head of hair for men. Beauty standards  very from culture to culture  as well.

In short regardless of what shape or condition a person’s body is in shaming a person for their body is uninformed and cruel. If anyone ever calls you fat in a disrespectful way you are well within your right to retort with an F-Word of your own.