The Humanist Assembly of Washington State

find the joy in life

The Congregational Humanist Church of Washington brings you and your family the benefits of belonging to a congregation of shared belief and values without the supernatural beliefs of most other churches. We hold regular and special occasion services that feel like any other church. But instead of praying to a supreme being we call on each other for support and look within ourselves for strength. Led by Pastor Dave Ptasnik, each service includes prayers, recitations, and a positive, uplifting message to help you improve your life and your outlook on life.

Okay, I probably shouldn't do this. But here on the West Coast there are still a few minutes of Easter left. If we are about Humans and Humanity, how should we categorize non-humans or former humans?

You want your Humanity? I'll give you your Humanity! Turns out we've been doing a pretty darn good job of late.

If We Are Not Just Animals, What Are We?

This is a subject that I have addressed in the past, but a recent NY Times story (below) brought this up again. Is there a difference between animals and humans?

Most religions, certainly the Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam), believe that man is unique. That a supreme being gifted humans with a soul. A special magical essence that elevates mankind above the animals, and leaves the animals entirely in service to mankind. Because only humans have souls, that humans can use or abuse animals in any way they like. I suspect that is why you don't see historical religious prohibitions against bull fighting, dog fighting, cock fighting etc. Some religions do have proper ways of slaughtering animals to maintain religious purity. Most of them seem to be fairly humane, but may be more related to making it safer to consume the meat rather than out of any consideration for the feelings of animals. Animals can't have feelings because they haven't been gifted a soul.

In more modern times a movement has sprung up to suggest that humans are just animals, no different from any other animal, so we shouldn't eat them, abuse them, use them for sport, etc. Many who espouse these beliefs either don't believe in a soul, think souls don't matter, or that animals have souls. All Dogs go to Heaven?

So what do we believe as Humanists? I can only speak for myself, but I can tell you this. There is no evidence of a soul, life after death, or any other supernatural belief. Science has studied this at length. Aside from anecdotal accounts (I felt my dead husband standing above me!), there is simply no proof of "the other side". Certainly people who speak with the dead are charlatans (although some of them are probably well intentioned, but delusional).

Time after time stage magicians have demonstrated the "cold read" techniques for proving that almost anyone can be convinced that a performer can convince most people that they are "speaking" with a dead loved one. "I am speaking with someone with an E in their name, do you know anyone with an E in their name?". But for some reason the dead are always delightfully non-specific in their communications. "Bob, can you tell me the password to your Swiss bank account?" Alas, the account will stay sealed forever.

So if there is no soul, what does that tell us about animals? Are they ethically equal to humans? I am a dog person. Grew up with them, have two now (Molly Mayhem and Lazy Daisy), and am always reading articles about their behavior. Dogs clearly have emotional bonds to thier people and each other. They laugh, they cry, they mourn, they celebrate. They feel guilt, sadness, and joy. A recent article demonstrated that they will engage in deception to get what they want. I see that every day.

Molly Mayhem will be sitting next to my wife Cindy in Lazy Daisy's preferred spot. Daisy will waddle over to the front door and bark as though someone is coming. The excitable Mayhem will join in the barking and run out the doggie door. Daisy will then trot over to Cindy, sit in her preferred spot, and look angelically innocent when Molly comes back inside to find her spot has been usurped, and there was no one to bark at outside. Yes, dogs can think ahead and plan. And snicker at each other.

So are dogs equal to humans? Do they deserve the same "inalienable rights" as people? No, I don't think so. It is not a digital function. It is not on or off. You deserve all rights or you don't.

As is generally the case, the answer is a continuum. Some animals are more intelligent, more sensitive, more able to perceive their situation, more deserving of more "rights" more consideration than others. Humans are smarter, more self aware, more able to perceive themselves and their environment than other animals. That entitles them to more rights, more care, and more consideration.

Cows? Chickens? Cod? There's not much there there. They are food animals. Don't torture them or be deliberately cruel to them. But you can raise them and harvest them. Dogs? Monkeys? Dolphins? They are a bit more present. Be nice to them, or at least leave them alone. Need to choose between a human and an animal. The human wins ever time. Need to choose between humans? You are a volunteer in a hospital. The hospital is on fire. You can roll the 80 year old cancer patient out of a room, or a 12 year old with a broken leg. Which bed do you pick first? Yep! Not all humans are equal. Just as not all animals, humans or otherwise, are equal. As they said in Animal Farm, some are more equal than others.

And that! Is the bottom line. Humans are just animals. But we are smarter, more self aware, more able to plan, more aware of the universe. And that gives us more rights than other animals. We get to eat Bessie the cow, and use Elmer the bull for glue. Remember Elmer's glue? Yep, that's right! It was called that for a reason!

Just my opinion, and worth what you paid for it. What do you think?

Pastor Dave Understanding what bonds us together in the human condition is the job of philosophy, not science.

Scientists run calculations to PROVE the existence of God

Heh. I love articles with headlines like this. OK! A couple of computer dudes have found god! Let's take a look. Turns out they were able to run an old thought experiment on a computer. The conclusion turned out to be in agreement with the main argument of the thought experiment. No actual proof or evidence involved.

I am always willing to examine a serious argument or, even better, actual evidence of a supreme being. Nothing worthwhile so far.

It always comes back to the concept of faith. Always evidence free. That is particularly true when looking for evidence of a specific god. "Oh yeah, the universe is so beautiful it just HAD to be created by a benign intelligence." Really? OK, now tell me why that means you have to wear a hat or can't eat shrimp. Never a good answer to that one.

If one chooses to have faith in the christian god, then that belief is seriously evidence free of any reproducible divine actions. So you have to have FAITH. Which implies you should set aside your reason and ability to examine evidence. Because there is no evidence of miracles or other divine stigmata. Yet according to the christian mythos that same god gave us the ability to examine, measure, think and reason. Give us those gifts then deny us the ability to use them when considering you? Sorry, god. That is just a little too capricious for a supreme being.

For what it is worth, here is your digital "proof"! SCIENTISTS have ‘confirmed’ the existence of God after proving a mathematician’s theory which suggests that there is a higher power.

To bring a divided country together, start with a little spit

Humanism is, of course, all about Humanity. Genetically humans share over 99% of the same genetic structure. We often make too big of a deal about the tiny differences between us. Many of us aren't even what we think we are. The article below talks about an honors class that encourages all of the students to take a genetic ancestry test. These tests show the regions of the world that your ancestors came from. Many people are surprised to find that they are truly citizens of the world.

As I have stated here and elsewhere, I was/am adopted. My birth parents are not known to me. While I look like a big Caucasian guy, and my adoptive parents were told that my birth ancestry was primarily German, I just don't really know what race(s) make up the real me. Or, as Popeye said, “I am what I am, and that's all that I am.”

This year had a Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale. Their genetic testing service was discounted by $30 and could be mine for the low, low price of only $70 (plus shipping). So that was my Christmas present to myself. (Yes, I am a Humanist who celebrates Christmas. I like family together holidays and PRESENTS!)

Today I filled my test tube with spit and mailed it off. I should get the results back in a couple of months. I will update you when they come in.

But here is my point. Although you probably know what is coming. Particularly during this holiday season (and yes, I also celebrated the Summer Solstice by joining two couples in marriage), I think we could all spend a little more time and effort focusing on our similarities, learning to understand and appreciate our differences, and all work together to support each other and move Humanity Forward.

Happy Holidays!

Seriously. Read the article. Some of the reactions to the test results are really interesting and enlightening. A class at West Chester University takes on issues of race and identity, using DNA testing of saliva as a surprising starting point.

[11/23/16]   Thanksgiving is coming. It is a great idea to appreciate the good things in our lives at least once a year. You can be joyful and thankful for your life, your family, and your friends, and you can continue a common family traditions by verbally celebrating the best parts your existence. And you can do it as a Humanist without giving credit to an uninvolved and/or unlikely supreme being.

Thanksgiving Prayer
We are thankful for the pleasure of gathering together today.
We are thankful for life and the freedom to enjoy all it has to offer.
We are thankful for this food, that it may provide for us nourishment and strength.
We are grateful to all who raised, harvested and prepared this bounty.
And we are thankful for the memories of those we have loved who cannot be here to share in the joy of our company as we celebrate this and everyday.
So say we all.

Give it a try this Thanksgiving. You will be glad you did.

As a reminder, don't be afraid of the word prayer. It doesn't imply a belief in a deity. A prayer can be an invocation of inner strength and a uniting of a support group. No deity involved. Humanists can pray for themselves or others in the hope that they find it within themselves to stay strong in front of their adversity. That they put forth extra effort to support those in need physically and emotionally to cope with the challenges they face.

It is a conversation with yourself. A search for greater will, calm and focus. It is also a conversation with others in the room, to come together to support a common goal or meet a common challenge.

A Change to a Popular Bible Text Could Affect How Readers View Women

From time to time I hear the argument that nothing causes people to lose their religion quite as much as actually reading the bible. It was certainly true in my case. One of the concepts I found particularly difficult was god imposing the curse of eve for female led bad behavior. Once I was old enough to really understand what the bible was saying I thought it was a combination justification for oppression and dominance and an historical reality that women probably did need more protection from men in primitive societies. But I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about it as I rejected the whole mythology of the Garden of Eden. Yeah. A talking snake. See those all the time. Harry Potter not withstanding.

So reading the article below was a little nostalgic, and left me particularly glad that I personally rejected Christianity as all being just too far fetched and often wrong headed. The article discusses two different translations of the beat down that god laid on Eve for tempting Adam into following her into disobedience. While I find the whole concept despicable I am having trouble deciding which translation is more offensive.

What do you all think? Some readers have questioned the alteration because it seems to reflect the translators’ well-known stance on gender roles.

[10/16/16]   Warning! Snark Out ahead!

I just watched the season premier of the TV show Gold Rush, Alaska. It follows several mining crews attempting to strike it rich by digging up that most desired metal. One of the groups is the Hoffman family. They wear their Christianity on their sleeves and pray in the oddest way. The crew regularly gets together and prays for God to give them piles and piles of gold. Really? That's what you pray for? Not to be a better person. Not for the betterment of mankind. Oh no. For piles of money. More than they could ever need to lead a simple Christian life. Heck, why not go whole hog and wish for a pony?

Scientists recently asserted that they think there are countless millions more GALAXIES in the universe. Not people, not planets, not solar systems, but galaxies. Each consisting of millions of stars and billions of planets. And out of all "creation" their god is willing to take time out of his apparently not-busy-enough schedule to put more gold in their wash plant. Why should he do this? Why, because they worship him. Some kind of quid pro quo I guess. We grovel before you, and you shower us with riches. Great work, if you can get it.

Hmmmm. Does this great deal apply to all of the religions of all of the creatures on all of the planets scattered around the universe? Or are we just unbelievably (and I mean REALLY unbelievably) special?

In most cases I can respect the religion of other people, even if I don't share it. But these guys? And their 3:16 mining company? (John 3:16 - For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son. Yeah, that makes sense, too.) They have twisted their belief system around into totally self-serving nonsense.

I am so glad to be on this side of the religious fence. I bet you are too.

The Spread of the Gospel

This comes from a "point of view" source (gospelmap), but it is absolutely fascinating. I don't see anything obviously historically inaccurate. So I suspect it is a pretty accurate representation of the spread of Christianity and Islam over the centuries. It also includes the rise and fall of Mongols and Communism. Probably not because they are religions so much as because of the impact they had on the spread of Islam and Christianity. I would love to see one with inclusions of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. This animated map is a powerful visual depiction of the most important movement in history: the spread of Christianity. Every frame is one year in the last 2000…

[09/01/16]   Religionists often make the argument that belief in a god is necessary for humans to behave morally and ethically. The origins of this nonsense can be seen in the Garden of Eden fable that has man (well, woman) guilty of "original sin". You see it throughout religious literature. Man is corrupt, selfish, and only through supernatural intervention can mankind rise above it's natural, base instincts. Some even suggest this proves the existence of a god.

While I am not going to take the time at this moment to show why this is absolute nonsense, I do note that this video does seem to take their side of the argument . . . .




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