Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Learn the five moral foundations

There is a very enlightened theory circulating that morality has several central themes that cross all cultures and explain the differences worldwide in how liberal and conservative thinking individuals interpret morals in society. But what is extremely interesting is that understanding conservative interpretations of morality will help you identify the reason why a person believes the way they do which is a very powerful thing to know.

Does that then make their belief acceptable? Not at all, but it will make more sense in the context of the moral foundation why someone takes a particular stance.

Five Moral Foundations

Moral Foundations Theory was created to understand why morality varies so much across cultures yet still shows so many similarities and recurrent themes. In brief, the theory proposes that five innate and universally available psychological systems are the foundations of “intuitive ethics.” Each culture then constructs virtues, narratives, and institutions on top of these foundations, thereby creating the unique moralities we see around the world, and conflicting within nations, too. The foundations are:

1)Harm/care, related to our long evolution as mammals with attachment systems and an ability to feel (and dislike) the pain of others. This foundation underlies virtues of kindness, gentleness, and nurturance.

2) Fairness/reciprocity, related to the evolutionary process of reciprocal altruism. This foundation generates ideas of justice, rights, and autonomy.

3) Ingroup/loyalty, related to our long history as tribal creatures able to form shifting coalitions. This foundation underlies virtues of patriotism and self-sacrifice for the group. It is active anytime people feel that it's "one for all, and all for one."

4) Authority/respect, shaped by our long primate history of hierarchical social interactions. This foundation underlies virtues of leadership and followership, including deference to legitimate authority and respect for traditions.

5) Purity/sanctity, shaped by the psychology of disgust and contamination. This foundation underlies religious notions of striving to live in an elevated, less carnal, more noble way. It underlies the widespread idea that the body is a temple which can be desecrated by immoral activities and contaminants (an idea not unique to religious traditions).

Liberal and conservatives usually support number 1 and 2 alike, and that is where liberals tend to focus their attentions in modern society. Conservatives go on to incorporate numbers 3-5 in their regular belief systems and. it could be argued, that they do so to the detriment of logic, science and basic reason.

Liberal thinkers can utilize 3-5 also, but chances are they consider proof to the contrary before blindly following along...which is what trips up conservative thinkers. Perhaps having a religious mindset means that you can't go against the ingrained priniciples of "group think" that is necessary to these tenets.

And then there's sex! Number 5 seems to be a huge issue for many religions and uptight pious people. In fact, some of them seem to abandon 1 and 2 altogether as long as they are controlling the sexual behaviors of society. But that's another blog for another day.

But think about it and see if this theory helps you to better understand why a conservative thinker you know has a certain opinion. It just might make you better able to argue to their concern and point out contradictions in terms they can grasp. At least it's worth a shot.

Happy Human Light, Winter Solstice and Holidays!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Health you feel lucky?

Okay, here's something that I think we need to talk about in our country:

We're all going to die someday.

What? Should I say it again? Did you think you heard me wrong?

We're all going to die someday.

I wish I had better news, but it's a fact of life. Some Americans pretend it only happens to other people AND the unluckier ones at that. But if luck does have anything to do with it, you and everyone you know and love will die in their sleep peacefully at a very old age after a very rewarding and interesting life. Not of a terrble illness or in terrible pain.

But I have news for most of the people who seem to rally against basic health care in this country. That scenario doesn't usually happen. Along the way some of us will have accidents, illnesses and especially not after we've retired. Because that's how life is.

Car crashes, freak illnesses, falling off ladders, you name it....that's part of the human condition. Statistically speaking, it's a crap shoot that any of us avoid these things (knock on wood, right?) And yet the people who rail against a "public option" seem to to think that basic health care by itself is something that we can't improve upon or even treat as an element of a decent life. No one should go bankrupt because they couldn't avoid the accident or illness. It could be anyone of us, including these tea party idiots and their families.

But there's one thing no one wants to talk about and it's that IF we muddle through and come up with something better for our nation's health care system, someone, namely millionaire physicians and insurance executives, will have to make a little less money.

Will they have to sell their homes and country club memberships? No. (Okay, maybe the third home in the Caribbean.)

Will their kids have to do without private educations or go hungry? Probably not.

But they will have to settle for a little less. And that less still looks pretty damn wonderful compared to the average American's income and expectations. But it will take some sacrifice and alter the obscene excesses some Americans have been fortunate enough to think that what is the norm for them is the same for the rest of us. Uncovering that falsehood scares the hell out of them. (And their real estate agents and decorators, too, of course.)

So when your neighbor or cubicle mate says we just can't help the average people simply because they were unlucky enough to be in a car accident or to get sick, remind them that what is good enough for the unlucky among us is good enough for them.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Therapy group forming for secular humanists...

Taking the idea from New York City Atheists, addressing the question as to counseling help for nonbelievers, NOSHA is proposing the formation of a therapy group for its members with psychological, emotional or other personal problems.

New York calls its group “Living Without Religion,” led by a psychotherapist. Their group “will meet once a month, with the goal of helping each other resolve our personal problems through reason, scientific knowledge, empathy, logic and understanding. There will be no charge for this cutting-edge support group, but you must be a member to participate.”

NOSHA member Lisa Suarez, a Humanist and a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, has agreed to help to put together a group of our members "who would like to grow their values and strengthen personal positions in life." Like the NYC group, there will be no charge for participation.

Anyone interested in becoming a part of this program should contact Harry Greenberger at (504) 282-5459 or

Monday, November 16, 2009

Is Science Compatible with Religion?

Even if you think you know the answer, it never hurts to hear from some "experts."


SELU Forum: Is Science Compatible with Religion? This will be a panel discussion consisting of representatives from the two sides:

•Dr. Barbara Forrest
•Adam Hicks
•Dr. David Norwood
•Dr. Matt Rossano
•Doug Stewart
•Dr. James Walter
•Dr. Frank Tipler

The dialog will conclude with an audience question & answer session.

Tuesday, November 17
7:00 PM

Southeastern Louisiana University
Student Union Theatre
303 Texas Ave.
Hammond, LA 70402

You can park in the lot on the corner of Tennessee Drive and SGA Drive and then
ask directions to the Student Union Theatre or even the Starbucks and then ask
directions again from there. (Starbucks is about 100 ft from the building.)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Are women second class citizens?

I'm light of the Stupak Amendment passing, does anyone else think that perhaps we really do live in a society that honestly thinks of women as second class citizens who don't warrant respect for our bodies or reproductive health needs?

(Or at least when certain religious viewpoints such as the "Bishops' Caucus" are given credence over medical decisions in our political system.)

And before you reject this comment out of hand, consider that when religious opinions are brought into the mix, even some women in positions of power who we think of as "on our side" will sacrifice women's issues and label us as expendable.

This potential setback of women's health care is extremely significant (if the current Health Care Plan is passed in the Senate) and seems to set a tone that women are not fully recognized in this society as worthy of respect or consideration of our health least not in the same way as males.

I hope I'm wrong.

To read more, check out this article by Jane Hamsher.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Best Halloween Costume of 2009?!!

My good friend Pope Ratzi sent me this photo from his visit to the French Quarter on Halloween night. It's his submission to the Best Costume on Bourbon Street contest of 2009. What do you think?

I know. Tasteless! Assaulting! But you can't deny that it is absolutely funny as hell if you ignore the terrible truth behind it. But I don't know if we can or should ignore this.

It's what keeps atheists up at night. Think about it....a group of people who should be protecting children could cover up something that has probably plagued their members for centuries. It's an abomination of humanity and yet people still glorify what they represent (and we assume) ignore the horrible deeds that have since been revealed.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Veneration and the leg bone....

I know many of you can't conceive of anything as bizarre as viewing a relic and expecting to take away something emotionally or spiritually important from it.

Well, that's what happened here here in New Orleans over Halloween weekend. Mary Magdalene's leg bone was on display at a Catholic church on Canal Street. How do they know it was her leg bone? I don't know, but perhaps it was authenticated in some way.

I don't see this as any different than viewing a bone in a museum. I will be the first to admit I always go to museums whenever I travel. I even paid extra to see the Dead Sea Scrolls in Chicago a few years ago, so I'm not without my appreciation of historical and religious artifacts.

And sometimes these items can "move" me, too. But I'm betting that it is quite different from someone who actually goes to pray over a bone they think has magical powers, because it may have been in the body of someone who might have known Jesus.

I just wish people could be so inspired when they look at the bones of a carnivorous creature that lived 65 million years ago. Now that is awe inspiring! But those same Magdalene people are probably just as baffled with me.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

How do atheists reconcile the Home Depot button controversy?

Don't know much about the Home Depot button controversy? Well, you should.

Trevor Keezer, the Home Depot employee at the heart of the situation is an interesting study in contradictions.

On the one hand, he says he doesn't make a habit of touting his religious beliefs, but on the other hand, he says that he couldn't take off the button because the issue as he saw it was "bigger" than he is.

"It never crossed my mind to take off the button because I'm standing for something that's bigger than I am. They kept telling me the severity of what you're doing and I just let God be in control and went with His plan," Keezer said.

Then Keezer says he was a model employee at Home Depot and he liked his job.

Okay. But does a "model" employee violate company policies simply because he doesn't agree with them?

And since when does a place of business become a platform for someone's private religious beliefs? It's usually a place to perform a function to the best of your ability and to get paid, NOT a church. That's what churches are for.

"I want to be a voice for the rest of the Christians and for the citizens of this country to stand up for the country. You know, quit being told to sit down. Say what you want to say and don't be afraid of the consequences," he said.

Well, then he wasn't afraid of the consequences. He was warned and he was finally fired for his behavior. It was his choice.

No. Wait a minute. It was God's plan.

And I guess God's plan was for Trevor Keezer to be unemployed.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Evangelical Philosophical Society to host Apologetics Conference

The Evangelical Philosophical Society will be hosting the 7th Annual Apologetics Conference in New Orleans on the evenings of Thursday, November 19, Friday, November 20 and the morning of Saturday, November 21. This year's theme is "Come, Let Us Reason: Rooting Your Faith in Knowledge."

Some of the topics will include:

"New Atheists, Old Atheists and Old Apologists" Dr. Timothy McGrew

The arguments of contemporary atheists against Christianity are for the most part borrowed from atheists and freethinkers of centuries gone by. Those arguments were answered, sometimes brilliantly, by apologists and scholars whose work is now largely forgotten. The history of apologetics is more than a field for antiquarian study; it provides a rich array of arguments and insights of contemporary relevance.

"Can Atheists Be Good Without God? Yes and No" Dr. Paul Copan

Because humans have been made in God's image, our basic moral intuitions as well as our moral obligations and dignity/rights are best accounted for by the existence of a good God. Naturalistic attempts to ground objective morality fail to show how value could emerge from valuelessness, and naturalistic efforts to explain away objective morality (through evolution or cultural influences) prove to be inadequate and counter-intuitive.

"Apologetically Blonde: The Struggle of Women to Defend the Faith and What They Should Do About It" Ms. Toni Allen

She will be speaking on the struggle of women to defend the faith and the vital need women have to love God with their minds. She will provide practical examples of what women can do daily to increase their cerebral space and learn Christian apologetics.

This year's conference will be held at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary located at 3939 Gentilly Blvd.

To find out more or to purchase tickets: go to EPSApologetics

Monday, October 26, 2009

Does the Saints' game prove there is a god?

And I'm not talking about a Catholic saints pick-up basketball game either?

No, I'm referring to the come-from-behind win against the Miami Dolphins that kept our mutual delirium going for at least another eight more days. For any of you who don't know what I'm talking about (or don't care much for Sunday football), please indulge the philosphy of this question.

I can't imagine that there isn't at least one real Saints fan somewhere out there (who also happens to be a devout atheist) who didn't, for a moment, say a silent prayer to will the Saints to make a game of it, much less win it. They may not have been praying to anything that even closely resembles the god of religious folks, but the "wish" was just the same.

And when this kind of thing happens, what are we supposed to do? Do we feel tremendously lucky? Do we wonder if all of our collective prayers to the universe or some god-like entity were actually answered?

Does god have the Saints best interests at heart this season or should we be thankful to the team coaches that they finally know what they are doing?

You tell me.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Rally for Equality at New Orleans City Hall

For Immediate Release
October 23, 2009

New Orleans – The steps of New Orleans City Hall will be the site of a Rally for Equality, to be held on November 7, 2009 from noon to 1 p.m. This rally will signal support for equality and justice for all, and highlight the problems that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals face in Louisiana and across the nation.

Organized by the ACLU of Louisiana, Big Easy Metropolitan Community Church, Forum For Equality, the Human Rights Campaign, NO/AIDS Task Force, the National Organization for Women, PFLAG, TCC and other allies of the LGBT community, the event will feature the speakers, entertainment and provide information on services available to the LGBT community in the New Orleans area.

“This rally will provide information about issues affecting the LGBT community, such as the right to keep a job, family and adoption rights, and the need for passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the end of Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy that affects those in military service,” said Marjorie R. Esman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana. In addition, there will be information about AIDS awareness, help for those interested in “coming out,” and other supportive advice.

Mary Griggs, Managing Director of Forum For Equality, said: “It's been a year since our last LGBT rally in New Orleans, held in the aftermath of California's Proposition 8 election. It will be one month since the successful National Equality March held in Washington, D.C. It's important for the local community to show support and to gain a sense of pride and dignity while working to establish a society free from discrimination.”

For more information about the event, go to LA ACLU or Forum for Equality or contact Marjorie Esman at 504-522-0628 x 23 OR Mary Griggs at 504-569-9156

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

All Evidence to the Contrary (from Atlantic Monthly)

by Lane Wallace

One hundred years ago this month, two intrepid explorers returned from the Arctic reaches and declared that they had reached the North Pole. Not together, but on competing expeditions to become the first person and team to the Pole. Robert E. Peary led one expedition, and Frederick A. Cook led the other. And each declared the other's claim to the Pole untrue.

Today, of course, that kind of controversy could be settled far more easily. At the very least, we would expect a GPS track record showing that the Pole had been reached, and airborne photographs or other corroborating evidence might be required, as well. Without that technology, however, the claims were a little harder to confirm. It's not like there was an exact marker at the spot, because nobody had been there before. And unlike the peak of Mt. Everest, the landscape at the precise location of the North Pole doesn't look distinctly different from the rest of the terrain--for hundreds of miles in any given direction.

So the controversy has raged for a full century. But here's the interesting part. As more data about the expeditions, and about the North Pole, have emerged, it seems more and more likely that neither man actually reached the Pole. As John Tierney wrote recently in the Science Times, Peary supposedly took no celestial navigation readings on his final push to the Pole, until one day he took a single reading, looked very disappointed, and then declared that the observation--which he showed to no one--confirmed that he'd arrived at the North Pole, exactly. Cook had neither a trained celestial navigator nor the skill to make the observations himself. Without that skill, how on earth (so to speak) could he have reached the Pole, or known precisely when he was there? The modern-day consensus, according to Tierney, is that Peary got closer than Cook, but that neither man got closer than perhaps 100 miles away.

Yet a full century and much more advanced data analysis and evidence later, Peary and Cook still have ardent supporters who adamantly believe that their hero told the truth. They suggest that it might have been possible for either explorer to have found the Pole without clear celestial sightings, by studying wind patterns in the snow, or observing shadows, or even by compass, even though a compass needle gets extremely erratic near the Earth's poles. Apparently, some of the Peary/Cook advocates are more comfortable with contorted logic than simply acknowledging that, given more data, it appears their initial impression of things was ... ummm ... wrong.

If you'd like to read more, go here.

NOSHA lost a great friend in Serena Bodellini

A Very Special Lady

The freethinking community recently lost a very special lady in Serena Bodellini who passed away Thursday, October 15.

She was one of our most ardent and progressive supporters and we remember her lovely personality and feisty attitude with much fondness. She was a member of the NOSHA board of directors and an officer with the Greater New Orleans chapter of NOW and was very active online until the last few days of her life.

We send our heartfelt condolences to her son, Marco Bodellini, and her family in Italy. Friends are welcome to attend a non-denominational visitation ceremony that will be held on Saturday, October 24, 2009 at the Tharp-Sontheimer-Tharp Funeral Home, 1600 N. Causeway, Metairie, LA between the hours of 10:00AM and 2:00PM.

A Bitter Rift Divides Atheists (from NPR)

by Barbara Bradley Hagerty
(October 19, 2009)

Last month, atheists marked Blasphemy Day at gatherings around the world, and celebrated the freedom to denigrate and insult religion.

Some offered to trade pornography for Bibles. Others de-baptized people with hair dryers. And in Washington, D.C., an art exhibit opened that shows, among other paintings, one entitled Divine Wine, where Jesus, on the cross, has blood flowing from his wound into a wine bottle.

Another, Jesus Paints His Nails, shows an effeminate Jesus after the crucifixion, applying polish to the nails that attach his hands to the cross.

"I wouldn't want this on my wall," says Stuart Jordan, an atheist who advises the evidence-based group Center for Inquiry on policy issues. The Center for Inquiry hosted the art show.

Jordan says the exhibit created a firestorm from offended believers, and he can understand why. But, he says, the controversy over this exhibit goes way beyond Blasphemy Day. It's about the future of the atheist movement — and whether to adopt the "new atheist" approach — a more aggressive, often belittling posture toward religious believers.

Some call it a schism.

If you'd like to read more, go here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Welcome to the new NOSHA Blog!

It's been a goal of ours to enter the blogosphere for some time. So here we are!

Soon we'll post more ideas, opinions and events to increase everyone's awareness of secular humanism and non-belief in New Orleans and the gulf coast area. We offer both community and activism for our members and we welcome your contribution to this endeavor.

To learn more about our organization, please check out our website.