My 6 Year Journey

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Hard to believe it’s the blog’s 6th anniversary today. When I started this blog I was so angry at religion. I felt such a strong need to speak my mind about it. The situation was made worse by feeling all alone in my beliefs. So the blog’s initial mission was anti-religion. I was pretty big on debunking the pseudosciences too. For five years and many breaks I was all about exposing religion’s poison. Not to say I didn’t have some posts I was proud of in the early days. Some of my favorites from early on include:

The Salvation Army post went viral and got the most views I have ever had to this blog.  Over the next few years I was on and off again mainly because I had started a family.I also wrote some really philosophical entries I am pretty proud of as well like:

I also have some atheism links that I need to add to the atheism page that I enjoyed writing. I also added the Humanism resource page, a work in progress. Overtime I grew to realize that what is wrong with religion was growing more widely known but alternatives to what religion provides just wasn’t out there. So a few months ago I changed the blog to trying to make information on alternatives to religion available. I also made the blog an effort to show that hope, joy and meaning are possible outside of a religious context.

The positive direction the blog is headed in makes me feel a lot better and it will honestly reach a lot more people in the long run than an aggressive anti-religion blog would. Going forward its my hope to add a ‘hope’ page and resources on finding that hope, joy and meaning if you don’t have a religious belief. It’s been a great six years and hopefully many more helping people let go of religion and find happiness on their own terms.

 

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Inner Struggles

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When dealing with any kind of angry or obnoxious person this is psychology is a nutshell and sound advice.  Once you understand a person’s behavior towards you is most often a reflection of their inner battles (unresolved issues, trauma, mental illness…etc.) and has nothing to do with your value as a person then confrontation and/or awkward social interactions becomes less stressful. Even if it doesn’t involve you it is easier to observe and react with a calm mind knowing it’s them, not you, that has a problem. This only applies to person’s emotional state or inappropriate responses and doesn’t alleviate us of responsibility if we acted (or failed to act) in such a way as to make them angry, annoyed or whatever. It also doesn’t mean we should tolerate abusive or overly-aggressive behavior either. However it’s still the right advice when another person is on the attack against us or being inappropriate in some way, we can remain calm knowing they are probably be dealing with a lot more than we know.

Human Potential

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I’ve often been asked ‘So what do you believe in then?’ It’s a reasonable question of someone who rejects religion, pseudosciences and the paranormal. My answer is always human potential. Not be mistaken for humanity itself. You only need to turn on the news to lose faith in humanity. Human potential however has proven itself to be real and powerful again and again:

This graphic is barely even a comprehensive list. Some experts believe it was a miracle civilization established itself to begin with.  Since the invention of farming early settlements were fighting not only each other but weather, starvation, disease and lack of resources.  We tapped our potential and soon along came better farming and hunting, better homes, better security, sanitation systems and all the vital tools and systems that allowed early civilization to thrive.

All you have to do is know where to look see the miracle of human potential:

A small sample of the amazing things people are accomplishing in the world everyday. These few links also help show that human potential works from a cultural right down to a personal level. Governments pass laws that help and protect their citizens, communities undertake vast projects to promote growth and development, and people fight great stresses and challenges with strength and perseverance that they never knew they had. Our friend over at beautybeyondbones tapped her potential to overcome a debilitating illness and is doing better than ever.

There are plenty of things that stand between us and what we are capable of but human potential is real and once it’s released the sky is the limit. Seeing this in ourselves, other people, cities, countries and humanity as a whole is where we can find our hope. Whatever your vision of the future is we can fight what is wrong with the human condition knowing that a powerful potential is there. We can help ourselves and each other unlock our potential and that vision can become a reality.

Image result for human potential quote edison astound ourselves

 

 

 

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.