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Religion should have no place in government.

President Carrie Henson’s Comments at the June 20th, 2017 Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly Meeting.

Religion should have no place in government. Before I begin to defend that proposition, let me be clear about what I am advocating: I certainly am not advocating that persons who are religious should be excluded from government positions, much less that they should be denied the right to vote. Nor am I saying that it is improper for government officials or voters to be inspired in some way by their religious beliefs. The source of one’s motivations is a matter of indifference to others, at least to the extent that this motivating source merely provides one with a general commitment to act responsibly and with respect for others in the moral community.

No, what principally concerns me and many other Secular Humanist’s is religion’s role in informing and shaping public policy and, in particular, in the use of religious tenets as a justification for public policy. Discourse about public policy should be framed entirely in secular terms, and decisions about public policy should be based entirely on secular considerations.

Why do I take that view? To begin, I am assuming that we are speaking about a democratic form of government, or at least a government of a country in which the citizens are encouraged to discuss and debate public policy and the government is expected to justify its public policy to its citizens. There is one clear prerequisite for democratic discourse to be successful: the participants in that discussion must be able to understand, evaluate, and debate reasons that others offer for their views. That is not possible if religious doctrine is offered as a justification for public-policy positions.

If you claim that you oppose same-sex marriage because the Old Testament states that homosexual conduct is an abomination, that’s the end of the discussion, isn’t it? There’s really nothing more to say. At this stage, there’s effectively no way for someone who differs from you to persuade you otherwise. There is value in discussion. When we can discuss the pros and cons of a particular policy, we may just arrive at a better decision. As indicated, discussion is foreclosed when one appeals to religious tenets or dogma.

You might ask why is it the case that reliance on religion cuts short discussion. Can’t we discuss religion just like we discuss other beliefs? In principle, perhaps. In reality, no. Just take a look at the assembly members as I speak today. Some show no interest in what I am saying and have already tuned me out. Perhaps they are praying for me instead or have just completely removed their consciousness from my voice entirely.

Even if these assembly members were willing to allow their beliefs to be examined critically, think about how involved the process of determining public policy would become. Every time someone offered a religious belief as a justification for public policy, we would become immersed in an incredibly complex discussion about whether the underlying religious belief is justified.

Let’s say someone favors abstinence-only education because fornication is a sin in Christian doctrine. To start off, we would have to examine the basis for the claim that fornication is indeed a sin. This requires interpretation of biblical texts that are not terribly straightforward or transparent in their meaning. Moreover, who is to say the Bible represents the commandments of God? We now know, for example, that the four Gospels set forth in the New Testament represent a fraction of the various gospels regarding Jesus that floated around in the first few centuries of the Common Era. How do we determine which statements attributed to Jesus actually represent the views of Jesus? Do we even know whether Jesus existed? Scholars have spent decades on such questions. And, of course, for those who do not accept Jesus as divine or even a divinely inspired prophet, there is the problem of proving to them that they should accept the pronouncements of Jesus as authoritative. How in God’s name do we accomplish that within the period of the time available for coming to a decision on a public policy such as the support of abstinence-only education? We cannot turn every public policy debate into a debate on religion unless we are willing to spend all eternity engaged in such debates.

Contrast this religion-laden approach to public policy with the secular approach. The primary goals of abstinence-only education are to reduce STDs and unwanted pregnancy. If abstinence-only education is effective in achieving these goals, especially if it is more effective than standard sex education, perhaps it should be supported. If it is not, then support may not be advisable. This is a question that can be resolved through empirical studies. Granted these empirical studies cannot be done overnight, but they require a finite amount of time and yield clear results, as contrasted with the lifetime of study that would be required to address obscure theological questions that do not promise to yield a definitive answer ever. In fact, studies have been carried out on abstinence-only education, and these studies show it is not effective. That should resolve this question, and it would resolve this question if we kept religion out of government.

As I said in the beginning, I am not arguing that religious persons should be kept out of government and, of course, I recognize that a person’s religious beliefs will influence his outlook. But if that person wants to engage fellow citizens in a discussion about the correct course of action to take, he must restructure his arguments in secular terms. There is nothing onerous about that requirement. In fact, it operates as a much-needed check on the soundness of one’s reasoning. If one cannot reformulate a religiously based moral belief in terms that a nonbeliever might find persuasive, one should pause to consider whether one’s views are correct. Perhaps you have misinterpreted God’s commandments. After all, why would God ask you to follow a rule that does not make any sense when you try to explain it to someone else?

I submit we need to go beyond sacred texts and religious dogma when considering the basis for public policy. Using some allegedly sacred writing from millennia ago—that provides us with the profound wisdom of a nomadic and barbaric tribe—as both the starting and end point of any public policy debate does not seem an especially promising way to deliver solutions to twenty-first-century problems.

Stronger Together

I don’t know about you but the state of our nation’s continues to drain my emotional well; the well where my strength and conviction resides. So far the only way I have found to replenish that well is to get involved.

The first time this happened is when I was asked to lead our local Sister March on January 21st 2017 and was overwhelmed by the turn-out. We had 322 people come out to support Human Rights issues in our little town of Soldotna. Immediately after that was an amazing community building event at the Soldotna Library. There was music and special speakers but what really filled me with hope was the vision board. Each participant was asked to put one positive vision they had for our community’s future on the vision board. These community goals were then complied into Five action groups:

  1. Women’s Issues/Healthcare
  2. Clean Air/Water/Climate
  3. Alaska Budget/Education
  4. Community Dialogue
  5. Elections

Now these smaller groups will get together and come up with actionable steps to achieve their specific community goal. I am so looking forward to participating with these groups and see how this momentum continues to evolve in our community.

My well was overflowing after this inspiring event! Then President Trump started signing executive orders that put the health of women all around the world in jeopardy and blatantly discriminated against Muslim refugees and immigrants. So far the only “draining” that I could see Trump doing was my emotional well once again.

Thankfully the Women’s March of Washington group had more for us to do, 10 action items in 100 days, the first to be sending postcards to our elected officials. Last Frontier Freethinkers hosted a postcard writing event at Odie’s Deli and again I was overwhelmed by the attendance and all the thoughtful concerns that everyone passionately put pen to paper. At one point everyone in the restaurant was writing on a postcard, even those who originally came just to have lunch. My well was full again.

As we all struggled to frantically call and email our elected officials in the following week, to stop the confirmation of Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary, I felt my well begin to drain again when my very own representative, who had been overwhelmed by all the comments of opposition  she was getting from her constituents, was the swing vote to allow DeVos to move out of committee and head to a vote on the senate floor for which she will almost certainly be confirmed. This will be a devastating blow to our public school system.

Yesterday I went to watch a comedian economist tell political jokes and talk about Climate Change. Not just talk about it but actually provide actionable solutions that we all could take part in thanks to the work of Citizen’s Climate Lobby. I had not laughed that hard in a long time and for the first time had a glimmer of hope that we could actually do something tangible to mitigate the effects of climate change and move towards a more sustainable and livable future. I also noticed that as I go to all these events I am seeing a lot of the same faces and realizing that these are my people. These are the people who will change the world. My well was overflowing once again.

So that is it! This is how I am staying sane during this very chaotic time in American History. I am engaging in the resistance movement. I am actively participating and contributing to that movement. I am letting those that are standing next to me fill my emotional well with hope and inspiration for a brighter future as I see our numbers grow and our passion build. They are keeping me strong and committed to the cause. I hope I am doing the same for them. It is funny that Hillary Clinton’s Campaign promise was Stronger Together because that has never been truer for me than it is today.

If you are really struggling with the unthinkable things that are going on in this country, if you are in despair, and your emotional well is bone dry. Join Us! I promise you it will help. There is sure to be continued horrors as we move through these next for years, there will be  set backs, and we won’t win every battle. But we will win the war…

If we refuse to let them break our spirit,

If we refuse to back down,

If we refuse to be quiet,

We are Many Voices and we are Stronger Together!

RISE UP!

Today is Inauguration Day and despite the situation we find ourselves in, I am actually hopeful.

Don’t get me wrong. I was just as devastated as the majority of the country on Election Day; for weeks I was depressed. I struggled with making the decision to go hide in a hole for the next four years or face head on what is sure to be constant astonishment and outrage. I shied away from social media and the news. Tried to focus more locally and I began to notice a change in myself. I began to work harder to be the change I want to see in the world. I refocused on my recycling efforts at home. I started getting more involved in local issues and ticked up on my volunteering commitments.  I put my money where my mouth is and donated to organizations that are going to really need our help such as the ACLU and the American Humanist Association.

After doing that I realized that many people around me were doing the same. It finally dawned on me that progressives like me had become mobilized; energized by the need to DO something. I, like many progressives, had become complacent under the Obama administration because we had a government that was working for us, creating change for the better but now that task is left up to us. All the issues that are important to progressives such as global climate change, women’s reproductive rights, universal health care, income equality, helping refugees, assuring Human Rights for all, logic, reason, and the use of Science to make informed decisions for the betterment of humanity will likely be ignored by this new administration.

Looking for the positive in each situation and finding ways to bounce back from adversity are Humanist Values and these months leading up to this day that we say goodbye to the Obama administration I have seen progressives RISE UP and so have many of the organizations that will need our help over the next four years. Planned Parenthood has seen an uptick of contributions and volunteers, which used to be about 8 new volunteers a week but jumped upwards of 65 a week after the election. The ACLU is fired up and ready to hold the Trump administration accountable for any civil rights violations. The interest generated by the Woman’s March on Washington tomorrow is astronomical as local marches are slated to occur at the same time all around the country empowering millions of people to stand up for the rights of others. It makes me wonder , if we would have been this energized during the Obama administration imagine how much more he may have accomplished and we might have been able to prevent the predicament we are in now.

We must RISE UP to the challenges we will undoubtedly face moving forward and despite the despicable bigotry and ignorance we will be confronted with I know I will be at peace because we are on the side of justice and as long as we do not go back to being complacent but diligently remain steadfast with our voices and our actions we will prevail.

Volunteer. Donate. Speak Up. Make a Difference!

Democracy

Democracy

Did you know that 40% of non-voters massively skew liberal. In fact, as a percentage, they comprise twice as many liberals as the people who do vote, yet here we are even in the primary season and a massive segment of Democrats are bickering over two virtually identical candidates, neither of which can fix the real problem of political corruption in this country. It is not a problem that can be fixed by one person at the top. It must start at the bottom, at the local level, and work its way up to the national level and the only person who can fix the problem is not one person at all but the people of the United States of America. People like you and me.

Everyone is scratching their head as to why Sanders and Trump are getting all the attention. It has nothing to do with where they stand on the issues what it has everything to do with is that they appear to be anti-establishment. What the people really want is a change in how the political process is currently working and both Sanders and Trump represent that change in different ways.  The problem is that currently the average voter’s vote has virtually no impact on what happens nationally in regards to the following issues…

1) Campaign financing and lobbying: how are campaigns financed, how is lobbying regulated, and how is political spending reported (or not).

2) Election administration: who is on the voter rolls and who is not, how congressional districts are drawn, popular vote vs. Electoral College. etc.

3) Congressional rules: how does the filibuster work, what are the rules for legislative committees and conferences, are “earmarks” allowed into legislation, etc.

The solution lies in the systematic dismantling of the many ways that big money determines outcomes in politics. This kind of reasoned but comprehensive change is appealing to the political left and right. And it’s constitutional, even under the current Supreme Court; a proposal that goes well beyond the myopic range of debate in our corrupt capitol, but is viewed as common sense by a vast majority of Americans.

This is the strategic foundation of Represent.Us, the campaign in support of the American Anti-Corruption Act. The campaign was launched November, 2012. Along with a contribuiton voucher proposal, the Act would:

1) Prevent members of congress from soliciting and receiving contributions from any industry or entity they regulate;

2) Prohibit all fundraising during Congressional working hours;

3) Apply the existing $5,000 PAC contribution limit to superPACs based on the fact that they are coordinating with candidates in contradiction of the Court’s rationale (this is a potent solution to Citizens United-created spending);

4) Close the revolving door between Capitol Hill and the lobbying industry by extending the waiting period to 5 years for members and their senior staff;

5) Expand the definition of and register all lobbyists to prevent them from skirting the rules;

6) Limit the amount that lobbyists can contribute to $500, instead of the current $2,500;

7) Disclose all contribution “bundling”;

8) Strengthen the Federal Election Commission’s independence, as well as the congressional ethics enforcement process;

9) Clamp down on 501c organizations’ political spending; and

10) make all political spending fully transparent as proposed in the current DISCLOSE Act.

Why must the Act take on so many issues? This strategy recognizes that the influence of money in politics is endemic to our current system of government. We cannot fix this by patching the holes in democracy through which money seeps in. We are already flooded. We have to recognize that the influence of money has changed the way our lawmakers think about what is possible. It shapes institutions, limits expectations, and constrains the options for decision-makers. Real change must come with a comprehensive approach that reconfigures the incentives, the pressures, and the circumstances for public governance to reflect more directly the democratic interests of the people.

We desperately need a new generation of politicians that operate without the assumption that big money is the most important player at the table of governance. That means abandoning cynicism, repetition, and stagnation, creating a new set of strategic assumptions, and going big.

There is already a plan in place by  Represent.Us

Step 1: The American Anti-Corruption Act sets a standard for local, state and federal laws to:

Stop the bribery

The Act prevents lobbyists from donating to politicians and/or offering them any deals that could influence policymaking.

End secret money

The Act mandates full transparency: disclosure of all political money and “bundlers” who gather contributions for politicians.

Empower voters

The Act imposes strict limits on PACs, and gives voters an annual $100 tax rebate to be spent supporting the candidate or party of their choice.

Step 2: Create Political Power

It’s not about right vs. left. It’s about right vs. wrong.

Real political power comes from real people. Millions of us — conservatives, progressives and everyone in between, united, organized, and taking action locally.

Step 3: Act Locally. End Corruption Nationally

Pass laws in towns, cities and states that meet the standards of the American Anti-Corruption Act, building momentum from the bottom up. Represent.Us Chapters are forming all across the country in a nationally coordinated effort to end corruption at the local level.

Step 4: Build a National Majority

Statewide Acts apply to federal candidates from that state, which means each state with an Anti-Corruption Act can elect members of Congress under the anti-corrupt system.Every state and local victory brings us a step closer to a national majority with the power to pass national reform.

Step 5: Win Nationally

Leverage a robust movement to pass anti-corruption laws in all 50 states and federally.With cross-partisan, populist support, it will be a law of, by and for the people.We won’t stop until we win.

So instead of bickering over which Dem is best Bernie or Hillary or scratching our heads over why Bernie and the Don are so popular let us get to work on effectively fixing the systemic issues of the political process. Once we have done that the right politicians will materialize because they will no longer be drawn to the position by money and power but rather to service the needs of the American People which is what a true democracy is all about.

 

 

Change

In reflection on Darwin Day and his remarkable discovery of Evolution and the gradual change of all life on Earth it has me thinking about how humanity responds to change. As an atheist change is an integral part to the purpose of my life. I must continue to change and evolve throughout my life span and if during that time I have left a legacy for the next generation then I will be at peace in my death. I also think this holds true for humanity as well. If we are not all here to serve a supreme being then what else do we have but to serve each other and improve upon ourselves, our communities, and the world in which we live.

I have friends that abhor change, they wish for things to be like the “good ol’ days” and immediately equate the word change with negativity. I equate the word change with progress, improvement, growth. Yes there can be change that is unhealthy and does not add to the flourishing of humanity but that is a choice we make not inevitability. Change is going to happen whether we like it or not, it is a fact of all matter; some to evolve and perhaps into something better.

Now that is not how Darwin’s evolution works, change is not for the better or worse, change only occurs because it furthers the reproductive ability of the species but for conscious creatures such as ourselves we now can steer change in a positive or negative direction depending upon our choices. We can use what we know about the world around us and about human experience to make changes that promote human thriving or we can continue to allow the suffering we see today. We can ask ourselves questions like… Is creating scarcity through a monetary system the best way to run an economy? Is consumerism in the best interest of our planet? Does our current political system reflect the intrinsic needs of life on this planet? Is capitalism the best economy strategy to promote human flourishing? Does dividing up our planet with finite resources in specific areas by nations help or hinder the stewardship of those resources? Is it a good idea to allow mythical ideologies to run amuck in socio-economic decision making? Has anyone ever thought of a better way?

My answer is yes and his name is Jacque Fresco. This man will be 100 years old next month and he has devoted his life to answering these questions in such a way to promote the integration of the best of science and technology into a comprehensive plan for a new society based on human and environmental concern. It is a global vision of hope for the future of humankind in our technological age. Fresco is proposing a complete paradigm shift in how humans think about value. What value does human life have? Is it based on what God an individual believes in or how much money they can earn or do all conscious creatures have some other intrinsic value? What value do environmental resources have? Should they be based on how much money they can earn an individual or perhaps on their own carrying capacity to serve all life on this planet? Who or what should be making decisions on behalf of all life on Earth?

There is no other area in human existence that is changing faster than human technology. The exponential growth of technology has been changing the way people live for centuries and is changing the way humans interact with their environment. Here in lies our greatest evolutionary choice to use that technology to integrate human lifestyle in harmony with the environment in a Resource Based Economy or we can continue to use technology to rape and pillage the environment which can ultimately only end in our demise.

From one revolutionary man, Charles Darwin, to another, Jacque Fresco; I urge you to learn more about his visionary plan for our future and open your mind wide to the possibilities.

Last Frontier Freethinkers Baby Boxes Campaign

 

PHASE 1 – COMPLETE

The Baby Boxes Have Arrived! All 140 of them. It was a year long fundraising effort in 2016 to raise $4200. We were actually able to get the boxes complete with mattress, cover, sheet, and baby university cards for $3475! The remaining funds will go towards completing Phase 2. We would like to thank the following people and organizations for helping us reach this important first step:

William R Baker Michele Vasquez Maggie Ardiente Jennifer D Shears
Karyn B Griffin Lee Salisbury Andrew Timothy Gray Bruce Wall
Carrie Henson Jan Wallace Bob Lamb Mike Crawford
Kenai Peninsula Foundation Alaska Advanced Care Chiropractic American Humanist Association Alaska Berries
and those that wish to remain anonymous

PHASE 2 – FILL THE BABY BOXES

We are currently taking donations to fill the boxes with as many needful things as possible. You may bring in donated items to our Build a Box Parties (see below) or go to our Amazon Baby Registry, pick items that fit within your budget and have them shipped to:

Last Frontier Freethinkers, 47125 Frances Helen Ave, Soldotna, AK 99669

Click on the Baby Registry image below to make a donation:

We are prioritizing the items as follows:

Top Priority Items – We would like to have these gender neutral items in all 140 boxes.

2 Onesies 72 Sleepsack 5 Thermometer 36 Pair of Socks 36 Terry Cloth Bib 3 Washcloths 54
Burp Cloths 54 Mittens 19 Newborn Cap 46 Snowsuit 4

Priority 2 Items – We would like to get as many of these gender neutral items as we can.

Lovey(Comfort Object) 4 Romper 25 Teether 0 Parenting Book 0 Health Care Kit 1
Non-aspirin liquid pain reliever 120 Condoms 0 Bra Pads 282 Sanitary Napkins 0

Priority 3 Items – These gender neutral items would also be nice to add to some boxes.

Full size shampoo & body wash 0 Diapers (Sizes 1-3, please NO Newborn) 558 Lotion 0 Desitin Cream 1 Vitamin D Drops 0
Board Book 0 Baby Nail Clippers 0 Soft Bristled Baby Brush 0

BUILD-A-BOX PARTIES

The boxes arrived in a flatten state for shipping. This means that all 140 boxes need to be assembled. We will be hosting build-a-box parties in the spring/summer of 2017 to construct the boxes and receive donated items. Check our calendar page for upcoming build-a-box dates!

PHASE 3 – DISTRIBUTION

We are hoping to provide Baby University classes starting in the fall 2017. Expectant mothers will be required to attend a Baby University Class, show proof of pre-natal care, and proof that they are on public assistance and they will be awarded a box. Rides will be provided for those who do not have their own transportation.

HISTORY OF OUR BABY BOX PROGRAM

We first got the idea after reading an article about Finland’s National Baby Box program and thought what a great idea. There was several things we loved about it…Introducing Last Frontier Freethinkers first charitable endeavor, the Baby Boxes Campaign.

  1. It drastically decreased the infant mortality rate in Finland.
  2. It promoted the kind of social responsibility that Humanist’s advocate for in this country.
  3. It would be a great way to get the whole community involved and learn that there are Humanists on the Kenai Peninsula and more importantly that Humanists care.
  4. What is more fun than filling a box with baby things? Probably getting a free box filled with baby things!

In Finland every new baby gets a free baby box or a stipend. 90% of the parents choose the box. Why? Oh my gosh, what a great rite of passage and what stood out the most was that the families said it really made them feel like their country cared for their family. What a brilliant concept. We would be hard pressed to find a family in America that felt that way about the federal government. We want our community to feel that way about Last Frontier Freethinkers.

We did some research and this is what we found…

  • Getting the same boxes from Finland would not be cost effective but there was another company called The Baby Box Co that took the 75 year old concept from Finland and made it affordable for expectant parents around the world  and at a wholesale price for non-profits wanting to spread the mission of “every mother counts and every baby should have a great start to life.”
  • Approximately 700 babies are born on the Kenai Peninsula each year.
  • The Kenai Peninsula’s infant death rate is 3.9 per 1,000 births which is lower than the national average of 5.87 but higher than Finland’s rate of 2.52.
  • 16% of the infant deaths on the Kenai Peninsula are caused by Sudden Infant Death Syndrome; second only to birth defects.
  • 36% of new mothers on the Kenai Peninsula are without support.
  • 21% of new mothers on the Kenai Peninsula are on Public Assistance (approx. 140)
  • 44.5 births out of 1,000 on the Kenai Peninsula are from women ages 15-19
  • These at risk women are often transient with no crib therefore the baby ends up sleeping unsafely with mom, on the couch, or in a drawer.

Based on this information we decided to start with 140 boxes to cover all our at risk mom’s on the Kenai Peninsula.

 

 

 

The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead - Season 2, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC - DSC_9915crgn_R_Ph Gene Page

I am a big fan of The Walking Dead. Not because of the imaginative and entertaining ways they come up with to kill zombies but because of the very real moral issues they have to deal with on a daily basis to survive. The main group meets lots of new people as they forage for food and shelter; lots of “strangers”. In a world like that, strangers are the great unknown and we all know how humanity fears the unknown. Is the stranger friendly or will he try to take what little we have, and will he try to kill us to get it? Every new person is a potential threat. So here in lies the dilemma… when the world is falling apart and all resources are scarce is it ok to consider someone a threat before they have proven that they actually are and act accordingly; which could include killing them before they have a chance to kill you? From strictly a survival stand point the answer is yes but you see humans have evolved beyond just “being”. Life is not just about being alive but how we go about living. Since man has been able to reason and ponder his existence, it has no longer been enough to just be alive; our lives actually have to stand for something. They have to have meaning. This leads us to the questions… is life really worth living in a constant state of fear, suspicion, and suffering? What value does a human life have if it is just mindlessly surviving long enough to reproduce? Is there a grander ideal that even in the direst of circumstances we should be trying to attain?

The characters in The Walking Dead all have asked themselves these questions. Some have come to the conclusion that they will do whatever it takes to protect themselves and the others they know and care about. They are unwilling to risk accepting any newcomers; other’s feel that every new person deserves a chance to prove themselves and is willing to take the risk for the greater good. Because once you get to know someone they are no longer a stranger and most often we come to care about the people we know.

This parallels very well with the current Syrian Refugee debate that is going on in this country. There is a large group of people that think we should close our borders to these people (strangers) in need in the off chance that a dangerous terrorist might slip through among them. Humanists and other empathetic Americans disagree with letting fear overrule compassion. Some of us do not want to just survive but instead want the entire human race to thrive together. Empathy has evolved in humans specifically for this purpose. It has been genetically selected because humans not only survive when they cooperate and care for each other but we reach our full potential to flourish as a species with less suffering.

I am so glad that there are people out there like Brandon Stanton; he is using his Humans of New York blog to tell the stories of Syrian Refugee families. It is much harder to be callous when you “know” who they really are. A stranger is just an unfamiliar entity but once we learn their story they become familiar and some become so close that they become family. When will we learn that we are all part of the human family?

Religion has tried to impart values but religion is divisive and separates the human family into groups. Dogma has made it very clear that thou shall not kill those within your ideological group but all other groups are fair game. Moral issues are decided very differently under the guise of dogmatic preference. The same goes for nationalism. We must help those from our same country but children, families, people outside our country can perish. But these are all labels we have given each other; once those labels are removed we are all the same. It is only our individual way of thinking that sets us apart, not where we live or what god we worship. Some choose fear and in honor of Star Wars day a quote from Yoda… “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

Instead what does compassion look like in The Walking Dead world? Do people still die? Of course they do; that is always inevitable. Instead it is how they live that really matters. Do they help everyone in need? Even if helping them might put them in a dangerous situation? Even if some are making poor decisions that put the rest of them in danger? Do they exile those people knowing that if they survive and hook up with other people, they may come back to try and take what they have? I’m still working out my own answers to those questions but there is a very interesting character named Morgan that has vowed not to kill any living person because “all life is precious”. Even if they are attacking him, his goal is to subdue and try to reason with them instead of kill them. He believes his life only has value if he values the lives of others. Otherwise he is no different than the “Walking Dead”.

Creating Change Through Humanism

Despite the winter storm we had a nice turn out for our first lecture of the season…

FullSizeRender IMG_2725 IMG_2728 LFFLogo

The Plight of the Libertarian

I recently had a conversation with someone whom I thought was a progressive but as the discussion continued I learned he was actually a libertarian.

You see it becomes difficult to peg a libertarian as conservative or progressive, hence my initial mistake, because they are both conservative and progressive. Although they will tell you that traditional family values are very important to them they are also pro-choice. Many believe that humans have had an impact on global warming but yet they do not think that corporations should be regulated. Most will tell you that they don’t agree with same-sex relations but would never infringe upon their right to marry. Their primary principle is non-aggression but they vehemently protect their right to bear arms.

The conversation with my friend the Libertarian began with him lamenting the fact that so many new comers have come to our great state to rape and pillage it and many things he was allowed to do growing up here in Alaska have been taken from him. He now is required to get a permit to hunt and fish and must pay to use our national parks and recreational campgrounds. He feels that since his family homesteaded here and he was born and raised her, he should have preferential rights; that new comers should not be able to come to our state and start changing things, like running for office and enacting new laws. I brought to his attention that he and his family were not the very first inhabitants of this great land, that indeed indigenous people were here before them.  He disregarded my statement as if to imply that only white people can lay claim to land, that somehow the indigenous people are a non-issue. On top of that, the hypocrisy of in one breath saying everyone should be left alone to do whatever they want and then in another refuse the freedom to relocate to a new community and build a life there, was confounding to me.

Libertarian-ism is a simple idealistic worldview with two basic principles.

  1. The non-aggression principle – The non-aggression principle (also called the non-aggression axiom) is a moral principle that prohibits the initiation of force by one person against another.
  2. Respect for property rights principle – whoever produces, claims, or creates “property” first lays claim to said property and retains it for perpetuity.

Libertarians believe in extremely limited government; only providing security (military, police force, and a justice system) for its members and nothing else; they consider taxation an “initiation of force” which violates the non-aggression principle. I personally do not feel that I am forced to pay taxes. I am not always happy with where my tax payer money is being spent but I feel I have an obligation to contribute to the society of which I am a part and most certainly benefit from.

Life, liberty and property rights are inherent and best accomplished through the “rule of law”, “spontaneous order” and the “free market”.

Rule of Law – a society of liberty under law, in which individuals are free to pursue their own lives so long as they respect the equal rights of others. The rule of law means that individuals are governed by generally applicable and spontaneously developed legal rules, not by arbitrary commands; and that those rules should protect the freedom of individuals to pursue happiness in their own ways, not aim at any particular result or outcome.

Spontaneous Order – order in society arises spontaneously, out of the actions of thousands or millions of individuals who coordinate their actions with those of others in order to achieve their purposes.

Free Market – To survive and to flourish, individuals need to engage in economic activity. The right to property entails the right to exchange property by mutual agreement. Free markets are the economic system of free individuals, and they are necessary to create wealth.

This philosophy is all well and good if everyone adheres to it and if the world was much smaller than it is today; before the industrial revolution and before human population swelled to upwards of 7 billion people. The reality of today’s world is that almost anything one individual does will in some way impact another individual. One person’s freedom and liberty ends at the tip of another person’s nose and since most of us live in interconnected communities, we are virtually right on top of one another.

Today the idea of a free market without any type of regulations is ridiculous. People do not have time to vet everything that they consume; to make sure that it is not harmful or does not violate their values. We now have huge corporations and social systems in place that have global impact on our economy and our environment. Many corporations are masters of deception and corruption so even if we were all diligent enough to vet all of our products and services how do we know the information that is provided to us is genuine? Look at what happened in West, Texas; West Virginia; the Gulf of Mexico, and here in Alaska.  And that’s with regulations.  They really believe big businesses would act ethically with how they dispose, or handle, harmful chemicals or toxins? These companies would pollute our environment in whichever way was cheapest for them and by the time the community would figure it out and create “spontaneous order” it would undoubtedly be too late. I can only envision “spontaneous order” as some sort of wild west scenario that typically ends badly for all parties involved.

Libertarian-ism is a novel idea in that it encourages individual freedom, peace, and prosperity, but is vastly outdated in today’s times. Libertarian-ism might work in small, tribal communities. There’s absolutely no way in a complex modern society you can sit back, have an almost non-existent government then truly believe that “consumer power” will be the saving grace for regulating the behavior of the rich and powerful.

When you ask Libertarians a simple question, “Name a successful society that’s existed in human history, or even presently, that was built on Libertarian ideology” – they can’t answer.  And no, the United States wasn’t built on “freedom.”  We started this nation with slavery and expanded it with genocide.  If anything more regulations were needed to ensure basic freedoms were being given to certain demographics because without those regulations, “the free market” often discriminated against them.

In fact, looking around the world, the countries which most closely resemble their system of beliefs (small government, little or no taxes, and few regulations) are impoverished countries like Somalia.  You don’t find successful societies built on their system of beliefs, you see disorganized chaos and poverty. So while I think the gentlemen I had this interesting conversation with is a wonderful person, and granted some of his ideas are decent, his overall system of beliefs are just so massively flawed I can’t take most of what he says seriously. It just makes absolutely no sense in a global society of the size we have today and with the exponentially increasing human population.

A better alternative is a humanistic worldview founded on empathy, compassion and an egalitarian- based sense of fairness. In which we work together to solve the world’s problems instead of leaving everyone to fend for themselves. Instead of relying on outdated ideology that has no relevance in today’s reality, let us continue to use science-based decision making and experience to improve humanity. We can accomplish so much more together.

Humanism

Humanism3

“Humanism” ~ an outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters. Humanist beliefs stress the potential value and goodness of human beings, emphasize common human needs, and seek solely rational ways of solving human problems.

Currently reading Creating Change Through Humanism in anticipation of our first upcoming lecture on November 20th. I find myself resisting the urge to quote almost every aspect of the book. Roy Speckhardt provides a much more detailed explanation of what Humanism represents than what the lexical definition above denotes. Humanism emphasizes critical thinking and compassion and using those values to do the most good for the many.

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