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Blog: Humanist Voices

Supreme Court Heterodoxy

Supreme Court Building

 

The Supreme Court confirmation process for Neil Gorsuch is currently underway. As an engaged citizen, I have listened with great interest to much of the Senate hearings.  As a former civics teacher, I shudder to think what little understanding of judicial philosophy, the role of the Supreme Court and our history as a nation is brought to bear on these hearings.  While we learn of Gorsuch’s many stellar attributes as a jurist and his likeable personality as a public figure, given his heterodox judicial philosophy, he may well be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

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Commonsense gun laws

gun violence STOPStand your ground!  That is the rallying cry of the gun lobby.  But this is no defensive strategy; they have gone on the offensive.  The gun lobby would like to take us back to the Wild West. With a good friend in the White House and Republican majorities in both Houses of Congress, second amendment zealots across the country are emboldened to further dismantle every sort of regulation on gun use and ownership. Their distorted views of the constitution and the second amendment fuel their movement and this should be of concern to us all. 

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People power and perseverance

yoda do or do not 1There was an election, and an inauguration.  Then a transition of governmental power.  Followed immediately thereafter with some mammoth marches.  Wow! Many kinds of power have been on display the past few weeks.   Power is a fact of life; it is neither good nor bad in and of itself.  It all depends on how it is used. Certainly it gives one pause that now one of the most powerful people on the planet is a person of such disreputable character. But as recent events demonstrate, we all have power and now is not the time to relinquish it.  As Yoda says:  “Do . . . or do not.  There is no try.”

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Reflections on Women's March--St. Paul

womens march St. Paul Jan. 2017The day was bleak. The skies were cloudy. It was drizzly & cold (though warm by Minnesota standards). I spent close to three hours on buses (some of which were extremely crowded), and close to 6 hours mostly standing still or shuffling step by step and doing only a relatively small amount of actual marching. The ground was mostly ice, slush & mud. My back hurt like crazy from having to stand still for so many hours. My feet got frozen from standing on ice. I wouldn’t have minded a bathroom break, but let’s not even talk about porta potties. So I was not a happy camper, physically speaking.

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Humanism and the New Administration

inauguration day imageOne of the reasons I joined Humanists of Minnesota was that the organization's core values (e.g. the promotion of science and reason, separation of church and state, racial and gender inclusion, etc.) converged with my own personal values. I suspect that other members feel the same way or they wouldn't have joined. However, since joining the organization I have been unsure and ambivalent as to whether or not to express my political views, which may be different from those of other members. But after the recent presidential election, I am compelled to speak out.

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Finding Light in the Darkness

winter sceneWe have had an uncanny mild fall, but the next two months are guaranteed to be dark and dreary.   In just three brief weeks, the shortest day and the longest night will be upon us.  We are entering the darkest days of the year.  And given the outcome of the recent election, for many of us they are going to seem especially dark.  If only hibernation was a real option—like for four years, right?  Wrong!  Even as a metaphor for one’s mindset and demeanor, that’s the worst thing any of us could do now.

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Does the truth still matter?

lies SeinfieldSome observers have suggested that we now live in a "post-factual" society. That is to say truth, facts, and scientific evidence are not essential, or not to be trusted, in public dialogue. For example, the ascendancy of the Republican candidate for president was fueled by his promotion of the "birther" movement.  This phenomenon is based on the belief that Barack Obama was unconstitutionally elected as President of the United States as he was not a natural born citizen of this country. Evidence had always been available that this was not the case and in 2011 Obama's "long-form" birth certificate was produced. Still millions of people refused to believe the truth. Why is that?

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Humanism comes to Minneapolis in 1916

dietrich portrait 150x150Many in the secular movement are well aware of the “New Atheism” that emerged a decade ago when Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens each wrote scathing books about religion. Their brash critiques brought national and international attention to atheists as well as more scrutiny to the latent but growing demographic of “nones”—those who have little to no interest in traditional religion.  The story often missed in the narrative of the new atheism, however, is that quietly and steadily people have been moving away from religious dogmatism and traditional theism in very significant ways since the beginning of the twentieth century. And one of the key early leaders in that movement was John Dietrich. 

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Seeing Perspective

seeing perspectiveI never liked the “new math.” That is, math that was taught differently from the way I had learned it so many years ago. I had been a good math student and learned the “old-fashioned” way -- so that must be the right way. Right? Then, as a parent, every few years I discovered that there was yet a new way, supposedly a better way, of learning math. But why learn a new way—that parents have to figure out and learn all over again if they want to help their kids—when the old way was good enough!  I trust you can pick up on my parental exasperation.

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Bridging the Racial Divide

anti racismAfter the killing of two black men by policemen in July—in Louisiana and Minnesota—National Public Radio aired a rant by an Ohio police woman as part of their coverage of these terrible events. Her plea to fellow white officers was to get out of law enforcement if they were afraid of black and brown men. I can’t find the reference now to recap what I heard, but she voiced something that is tragically true in America—white and black and brown people are too often afraid of one other.

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Beyond "tribalism"

american unity amidst diversityI am a citizen of the world. First and foremost. That’s just the way I identify. And it’s no doubt one of the reasons I am drawn to the philosophy of humanism. But if one listens to the current political discourse, messages to put America and Americans first proliferate. Effective leadership is characterized as the ability to advance the standing of our own deserving “tribes” of “real” Americans above everyone else. Our nation is increasingly becoming a place where it is acceptable to disregard and/or demonize the “other” in our midst—often described through coded and loaded language—and to isolate ourselves from the rest of the world. Like many of my peers, I am disturbed by this proffered trajectory for America’s future.

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