After School Satan Club!

Streams of Choices for Children?

How would you feel if the Good News Club (Child Evangelism Fellowship) was bringing its Jesus message into your child’s school?  Well, this group is in thousands of schools–maybe more than 5%.  This is legal. . .right now. . .but it’s opened the door for other religious groups to reach our kids.  Seems fair, right?  Enter:  The Satanic Temple.

Satan Club (WA POST)

Ahhh, good old fashioned alternative choices for the kids!

As my regular readers know, I love these guys!  They are one of the only organizations that directly (and boldly) challenges Religious Exceptionalism and Privilege which is often cloaked in fake “Religious Liberty” nonsense (“We’re being Persecuted!”).

One ST leader makes the group’s plan nice and clear,

“We would like to thank the Liberty Counsel specifically for opening the doors to the After School Satan Clubs through their dedication to religious liberty,” Greaves explained to the gathering of chapter heads in Salem. “So, ‘the Satanic Temple leverages religious freedom laws that put after-school clubs in elementary schools nationwide.’ That’s going to be the message.”

“While the Good News Clubs focus on indoctrination, instilling children with a fear of hell and God’s wrath, After School Satan Clubs will focus on free inquiry and rationalism,” Greaves said. “We prefer to give children an appreciation of the natural wonders surrounding them, not a fear of an everlasting other-worldly horror.”

Note to Remember:  this has nothing to do with “worshipping satan and evil” or any of that supernatural nonsense.  These are rational, ethical people who are making a very good point.  In fact, I would say we Need Them, especially right now in our god-soaked culture.

Why is the Satanic Temple doing this now?

Does the Satanic Temple really want religion — even its own — in public schools?

Greaves is blunt: “We are only doing this because Good News Clubs have created a need for this. If Good News Clubs would operate in churches rather than public schools, that need would disappear. But our point is that if you let one religion into the public schools you have to let others, otherwise it’s an establishment of religion.”

I wish them well. . .

And wish for the day when “the need would disappear,” when religious instruction is reserved for churches, mosques, synagogues and satanic temples, rather than public schools!

American Founder James Madison warned us a long time ago of,

“The danger of a direct mixture of religion and civil government.”

Let’s keep the Wall of Separation between Religion and State strong, tall and defended.



Another (almost) Secular Sermon

Rev Barber

The Rev. William Barber, President of the NAACP in my (new) state of North Carolina, gave an amazing speech at the Democratic Convention.  As Hemant says, even an atheist could say Amen!

Reviving the Heart of Our Democracy

“When we love the Jewish child and the Palestinian child, the Muslim and the Christian and the Hindu and the Buddhist and those who have no faith, but they love this nation, we are reviving the heart of our democracy.
When we fight for peace and when we resist the proliferation of military-style weapons on our streets, and when we stand against the anti-democratic stronghold of the NRA, we are reviving the heart of our democracy.”



If There is a Path, Where Will it Lead?

March 2008 forestlightpath

Now that I’ve left my home state of California (I’m really a Washingfornian, since I was born in Seattle) to re-locate in the spit-polished buckle of the bible belt, I’m considering my next steps in life.

What’s a secular chaplain to do?  How to continue “the work” with non-profits or something else in a position that pays the bills and pays it forward?  How to help?

Family needs attention right now, and so I have journeyed 5000 miles to see what I can do.  This seems to be “the work” necessary at the moment.

Yet, now, I wonder, what is “out there” and “in here” to offer this new community?

I’m thinking aloud with you, here.  Maybe you have an insight?  Maybe you’ve made a major move and transition, discovering some wisdom along the way?

One idea is to offer my experience with managing non-profits to assist a direct-service organization in a leadership capacity.  I’m checking around.

Another thought is to explore more opportunities for teaching since I’m already scheduled to teach a course this fall.  I know I’ll meet many “connected” folks.

Another idea is to keep networking to find a gap in services, to find a niche and try to fill it.  Maybe create my own position connected with something, or go it alone–with a few supportive voices.  I’m discussing this with some locals.

I could simply sit at the screen and write more books, or edit the ones I’ve published.  Oh, but there are bills to pay. . .  Damn pragmatism!

I’ve written to editors of local papers with an innovative idea for a column.  No response, yet.

Along these lines I’m wondering if my evolving sense of “chaplaincy” might turn into an actual job, perhaps being available to consult with people who are “transitioning out of faith”–clergy or others.  Maybe a university or business could utilize my experience?

I’m uncertain the path ahead, but I’m confident either a trail will open, or I can saunter a unique path forward.

I’m excited. . .and anxious. . .to see what this new season of life will present.

—btw, in the last few days, while I’ve been writing, black bears have been lumbering right by my window.  I wonder if the wildness of this new environment is just the inspiration I need.  No. . .not to be a park ranger!


Secular Sermon?

Obama DNC

Well, the adults are in the room so listen up.  Obama gave an amazing, uplifting, maybe even inspiring message last night at the DNC.  I’ve always been proud that he is the President and honestly I’m a bit sad he’ll be out of the Formerly-Just-for-Whites House.  Yet, if rational adults are present in the room, we should soon have a woman in the Always-Just-For-White-Men House.

Listening to Obama last night I was impressed that he was delivering a kind of secular sermon.  Without having to use religious texts or too many faith words–or too many “God” words–he seemed to be preaching a unity message to the nation across all divisions, real or imagined.

Am I sick and tired of everyone ending speeches with “God bless America.”  Oh yes.  It’s just expected now, of every politician, like expecting we all will say the pledge and hear “God bless you” when we sneeze.  But I really wish the President had made at least one comment that recognized the millions of secular Americans who support him and his grown-up message of reasoned, strong and compassionate leadership.

I guess we can’t expect to be included in every speech.  But we’re a growing segment of the nation and all good leaders should be remembering our presence, and that we vote.

I hope Hillary is listening.

Sermon or not, last night was just what the country, and the world, needs to hear.

A hearty (secular) AMEN! to that.

A Secular in the Sanctuary

More rain, more green, more room for growing

So, I went to church today. . .

Yes, you read that correctly.

I attended the family church, to show respect (my father-in-law’s ashes rest in the garden there) and to see how the church has changed.  Well, I have to say, I saw very little change from years past.  Still mostly elderly folks–all good people I think–and some old time hymns mixed with the old prayers.  All presented in a “progressive” manner, but mixed with so much traditional baggage I had some difficulty seeing the “progress.”

(Keep in mind I was raised in the church and served as a Minister for many years).

Overall I can say I felt welcomed (because family attends) and some of the music was good.  I even sang an old hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” that we used to sing in chapel at the Christian college.  Personalistic theology, but uplifting melody.

I say I felt welcomed, but I need to clarify that.  The words used in song, prayer, scripture and sermon were not quite as welcoming.  There was a lot about “Brothers and Sisters in Christ” (what if visitors like me were not Christian?) and sin (“we’re all sinners” was supposed to make us all feel better, I guess) and a biblical passage from Genesis about a whole city full of “wickedly” sinful people God (graciously) promises not to nuke because there were a few “righteous” residents.  I sat in the pew thinking:  “Gee, I guess I’m a wicked sinner here.”  Almost made me proud. . .almost.

Another bible passage was read from Luke where The First Christian (Jesus, it’s assumed) taught his famous prayer but also said “ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened.”  That was a pop song in my high school youth group.  Now, I find it strange and almost cruel.  It implies that you’ll get what you ask for from your “divine Parent” (Santa?).  How many have read that for centuries, asked God for something and NOT received it, sought and NOT found, knocked on God’s door and no one was home?  I remember being taught:  When you don’t get what you ask for it means you are either too sinful or “God has something better for you.”  Nice dance there.  In other words, Jesus didn’t really mean what he said.

The sermon was pretty good.  The woman pastor told some good stories and one actually brought a tear to my eye.  The main message seemed to be prayer and mercy, especially God’s mercy to us.  Here again, all I could think of was:  What does that really mean?  I think it means we are “lost” without that mercy because a Judge can be merciful to a criminal, or something.  It left me wondering:  If you replace GOD with PARENT, maybe a parent shows more “mercy” to their child than most of what we hear from God–doesn’t it seem that way?  At least a parent doesn’t demand that their child constantly ask them for things, praise and adore them, then threaten to punish them with everlasting timeout in a very hot room if they don’t obey and believe every word they say!

Once again, I think this church is full of good people, and a generally nice message of love and goodness and acceptance is presented.  This is true in many congregations I’ve served and visited.  These folks are very welcoming of people of color, LGBTQ folks and others.  I think people are simply unaware that their “Good News” isn’t really very good to hear, at least for many of us who don’t accept the basic assumptions (WE are God’s People, there IS a God listening to “God’s People,” the Bible has authority for today, Church is a meaningful, relevant thing to do in a contemporary, pluralistic city, etc.).

I’ll probably go back again.  There is almost always something–something–to take from the experience of a congregation of believers.  Yet. . .I often wonder. . .what might happen if other voices, other minds, were allowed and welcomed to speak up and speak out?  What if other faiths, and seculars, were invited to speak, give sermons or be interviewed in church?  Why not?   Why fear that radical inclusiveness?  (This happens in some places –interfaith gatherings, UU fellowships, etc–but not enough, in my way of thinking).

I couldn’t help staring out the (minimal) windows during the service to enjoy the green, growing trees and a few notes from lively birds.  Beauty so close by, but unnoticed.  Have you ever wondered that “sanctuary” often seems to be just outside so many places we humans call “sanctuary”?





Bridges not Walls

clinton and kaine

Trump and Pence

I watched a few hours of the Repub Convention last week.  The Preacher Politicians loved their National and nationistic Pulpits.  Really awful to watch, especially for a secular American.  The message was very clear:  Jesus is calling the Republicans to make the nation Heaven again. . .and Hell for everyone else in the (devil-loving) world.

Personally, I don’t want to see the end of the GOP.  I think America needs two, three, four parties with opposing views on issues.  That should make for good, rational, constructive debate.  That would be a healthy system.  But now. . .well, we have a wall-building red and red-eyed party of Raging Anger, Fear and Fearful Faith, Irrational and Ignorant Shouting, America First! and Dictator Don.  Trumpery* is afoot in a bad way.

As terrible and terrifying as it was to watch, it was mostly a huge unsurprising disappointment.  It left me even more disappointed that millions of people believe a person who stands up and shouts about himself, selling fear, divisiveness, hatred and dark doom and gloom.  “Believe me, Believe me”!  Say something enough times and people believe.

Now, I’m not a jump-up-and-down Hillary fan, but I’m ready, and I think this country is generally ready, for a woman with experience and vision to lead the nation forward.  Is she perfect?  Of course not.  Is she all the blustering negative misogynistic things the Party of No says of her?  Not as I see her.  The convention shouted “Lock Her Up!” though she has not even been charged with any crimes.  How is that American?  How does that have anything to do with Justice?  Some at the convention were even calling for her execution!  Sad, sick and silly, really.  They think this is one big Reality Show.  So Un-Real.  Don’t you hate it when people “Open Carry” so much ignorance?  Pretty dangerous, I’d say.

People are afraid and disappointed.  I get it.  I’m disappointed too, that the Party of No stands in the way of reform and progressive policies.  But I listened to Senator Tim Kaine’s speech today and I suddenly felt some hope for the future of secular America.

Kaine has an “A” rating from Planned Parenthood and an “F” from the NRA.  My kind of guy!  Now, when he spoke about his Catholic faith, I cringed a little, but it was nothing like we hear from the Preacher Politicians in their Public Pulpits.  He spoke (in English and Spanish) as one who really knows people, and respects diversity, not all focused on Me, Me, Me.  I particularly liked his comments on people of different beliefs, including those with “moral” perspectives, working together.  The message is about Bridge-building, not Wall-building.  How refreshing is that!  He spoke, as Hillary does, in a manner that makes me proud to be in this nation, which is great, but not the only great nation, and not God’s and not Christian. . .and not Republican and not one big Tower of Trumpery with fake hair.

Ok, it’s starting to rain and everything’s looking fresh and green.  Enough politics for today.  Time for a walk.

*Trumpery:  attractive articles of little value or use.
• practices or beliefs that are superficially or visually appealing but have little real value or worth.  [note the synonyms for trumpery]

Joy of Being Human. . .and Humanist

Wider views (Colorado)

I’ve never liked labels.  I used to enjoy the label “Christian” and then “Minister,” sometimes “Pastor,” then “Progressive” and even “Liberal.”  I particularly liked being called “Chaplain,” my profession and identity for many years.  This blog is evidence that I still feel fairly comfortable referring to myself as “Chaplain” with the important qualifier, “Secular.”

Those who read this blog regularly know that I rarely label myself “Atheist”–though I am one of those, and I’m usually fine with it, though I prefer “Secular” or especially “Freethinker.”

My favorite label is “Chris,” by the way!

Now, due to my interest in “next steps” along my lifepath and due to a persistent desire to “stay connected” to a common circle of some kind, I have chosen to become a Humanist Celebrant through the American Humanist Association.  Reading over their “beliefs” again, I find myself agreeing with most everything I read in Humanist statements (see the Humanist Manifesto).  I also appreciate their social justice, educational and legal work.  I support their voice in the public sphere, particularly when it comes to inclusiveness, diversity and standing up to the nonsense of religious privilege and exceptionalism.

And I appreciate the positive note of Humanist philosophy and practice:

Humanism is a progressive lifestance that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead meaningful, ethical lives capable of adding to the greater good of humanity. • American Humanist Association

Humanism is: A joyous alternative to religions that believe in a supernatural god and life in a hereafter. Humanists believe that this is the only life of which we have certain knowledge and that we owe it to ourselves and others to make it the best life possible for ourselves and all with whom we share this fragile planet. A belief that when people are free to think for themselves, using reason and knowledge as their tools, they are best able to solve this world’s problems.  -The Humanist Society of Western New York

It gives me great encouragement to see that Humanist Chaplains are being accepted in forward-thinking institutions including hospitals and universities.  I think more and more people are responding to the basic message that we can be Good without God.

I’m not sure where my next steps on the path will take me.  But I’m just fine adding “Humanist” to my freethinking, secular identity.  It is, I think, a true “joyous alternative.”

By the way, I resisted the Humanist label for a long time especially with my concern for Nature and the way humans so arrogantly make the world (and universe) all about Humanity.  Now, I think a positive, balanced understanding of being human as one part of the nonhuman universe, can be productive and fulfilling.  All labels still need to be questioned and challenged, yet I’m ok being a natural member of the human family–though sometimes the way humans act I could wish to be an eagle. . .or a tree!

First Secular Advisor in Britain

Reflecting More Deeply

The University of Westminster in London (founded in 1838) has just hired Isabel Millar as the first “Secular Advisor” in Britain:  Independent.

“”Universities have been known to employ chaplains and multifaith advisors to provide like-minded emotional and spiritual support to students and employees with a religious background.

Millar explains her role in clear terms:

“I will be advising from a secular humanist perspective in the context of a multi-faith and culturally diverse institution, and providing a non-religious ethical reference point with regard to moral, social, and cultural issues arising in the university.

“Non-religious students and staff will have the option of choosing to speak to someone who shares their common outlook on life in a safe, supportive, and inclusive environment.”

As the article states, two-thirds of university students say they have no religion (perhaps proportionally similar to the high percentage of “nones” in the U.S.*), so this seems a natural step forward to addressing their personal concerns.

Congratulations to Isabel Millar.  She serves to inspire many of us within the secular community to present innovative models of “chaplaincy beyond (traditional) chaplaincy.”

In January, Jane Flint became the first Humanist hospital chaplain in England.

Let’s not merely hope for it, but work toward more institutions (including businesses) catching the “secular spark” to offer viable, rational alternatives to religious chaplaincies across the world.

*”A growing share of Americans are religiously unaffiliated, including some who self-identify as atheists or agnostics as well as many who describe their religion as “nothing in particular.” Altogether, the religiously unaffiliated (also called the “nones”) now account for 23% of the adult population, up from 16% in 2007.”

-Pew Research Study, 2015

Love Your Neighbor?

Satanist Suhor Prayer

Please keep in mind that many “Satanists” do not believe in a literal Satan or Devil.  From what I can tell, “Satanism” is a (reasonable?) response to religious pietistic privilege.  That’s one reason I keep enjoying what I see the Satanic Temple doing across our Christian-saturated and Faith-dominated nation.  This video is a great example, as one calm and peaceful Satanist singer goes up against a room-full of angry, fearfully-ignorant Christians:

Invocation in Florida

Pay attention to the TEXT of the song this man sings.  Actually quite beautiful.

Let us stand now,
unbowed and unfettered
by arcane doctrines
borne of fearful minds in darkened times. . .

I would think even Jesus might smile at that.  

As the article says, the intent of this man is to show two things:  ANY group should have an equal chance to give an “invocation” in a public meeting.  And, WHY should ANYONE be giving invocations at a public meeting in the first place?

Legitimate questions.

Over and over again I see these “forces of evil” serving as models of reason and even loving compassion in the face of Fearful Faith and God’s VERY ANGRY Defenders.