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Why Religion, Like Smoking, Lack of Exercise and a High Fat Diet, Inhibits a REAL Wellness Lifestyle

Introduction
 
At a time when Donald Trump and Mike Pence head the Executive Branch of our government with a cabinet of religious fundamentalists, when both houses of Congress are controlled by Republicans and when the Supreme Court will soon have a religious dogma-focused majority, looking on the bright side seems more challenging than ever.


What’s a freethinker who loves reason, exuberant living and liberty to do? Besides, that is, continuing to pursue a healthy and fun lifestyle, support secular causes and maintain activities that enable a positive outlook and a sensible perspective – irrespective of a hostile government?


I suggest making time each day to consider one particular element in Robert Green Ingersoll’s personal creed addressed to becoming a better person.

That would be to cultivate the mind and be familiar with the mighty thoughts that genius has expressed, the noble deeds of all the world.  


To get you started, here are a few mind-cultivating remarks taken from a random selection of freethinkers living and dead.


To Cultivate the Mind
  • Edward Abbey on the difference between the Lone Ranger and God – There really is a Lone Ranger.
  • Charles Darwin, Descent of Man (1871) – For my part I would as soon be descended from [a] baboon . . . as from a savage who delights to torture his enemies . . . treats his wives like slaves … and is haunted by the grossest superstitions.
  • Lydia Maria Child, The Progress of Religious Ideas Through Successive Ages (1855) – It is impossible to exaggerate the evil work theology has done in the world.
  • Florence Kennedy, Color Me Flo – My Hard Life and Good Times (1976) – If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.
  • Jacques Monod, Chance & Necessity (1971) – Mine is an entirely non-providential view of the biological world as the mere product of chance and necessity…the natural sciences reveal a purposeless world which entirely undercuts the tradition claims of religions…Man knows at last that he is alone in the universe’s unfeeling immensity, out of which he emerged only by chance. His destiny is nowhere spelled out, nor is his duty.
  • Alice Walker, The Only Reason You Want to Go to Heaven Is That You Have Been Driven Out of Your Mind (1995) – What a burden to think one is conceived in sin rather than in pleasure; that one is born into evil rather than into joy. . . It is chilling to think that the same people who persecuted the wise women and men of Europe, its midwives and healers, then crossed the oceans to Africa and the Americas and tortured and enslaved, raped, impoverished and eradicated the peaceful, Christ-like people they found. And that the blueprint from which they worked, and still work, was the Bible.
  • Susan B. Anthony, The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony (1908) – I think women have just as much a right to interpret and twist the Bible to their own advantage as men always have interpreted and twisted it to theirs … But while I do not consider it my duty to tear to tatters the lingering skeletons of the old superstitions and bigotries, yet I rejoice to see them crumbling on every side.”
  • Jeremy Bentham, Constitutional Code (1843) – In no instance has a system in regard to religion been ever established, but for the purpose, as well as with the effect, of its being made an instrument of intimidation, corruption, and delusion, for the support of depredation and oppression in the hands of governments.
  • Galileo Galilei, Recantation (1633) – I have been . . . suspected of heresy, that is, of having held and believed that the Sun is the center of the universe and immovable, and that the earth is not the center of the same, and that it does move . . . I abjure with a sincere heart and unfeigned faith, I curse and detest the said errors and heresies, and generally all and every error and sect contrary to the Holy Catholic church.
  • Niall Shanks, God, the Devil and Darwin (2004) – The intelligent design movement . . . has little to do with science but a lot to do with politics and power-in particular, the imposition of discriminatory, conservative Christian values on our educational, legal, social and political institutions… While we in the West readily point a finger at Islamic fundamentalism, we all too readily downplay the Christian fundamentalism in our own midst. The social and political consequences of religious fundamentalism can be enormous.
  • A.A. Milne, Cited in 2,000 Years of Disbelief by James A. Haught (1996) – The Old Testament is responsible for more atheism, agnosticism, disbelief-call it what you will-than any book ever written; it has emptied more churches than all the counter-attractions of cinema, motor bicycle and golf course.
  • Andy Rooney, Sincerely, Andy Rooney (1999) – We all ought to understand we’re on our own. Believing in Santa Claus doesn’t do kids any harm for a few years but it isn’t smart for them to continue waiting all their lives for him to come down the chimney with something wonderful. Santa Claus and God are cousins. Christians talk as though goodness was their idea but good behavior doesn’t have any religious origin. Our prisons are filled with the devout. I’d be more willing to accept religion, even if I didn’t believe it, if I thought it made people nicer to each other but I don’t think it does.
Summary
Well, I hope this helps with your quest for the bright side. Throughout history, there have been many men and women who loved reason, exuberant living and liberty, despite a total absence of books, conferences or newsletters about why or how to pursue optimal status given their varied circumstances. All managed as best they could under conditions at least as trying as our own today, and found ample ways to pursue healthy, fun lifestyles, to protect positive outlooks and to maintain sensible perspectives. In short, they found time to cultivate their minds and became familiar with the mighty thoughts that genius expressed, the noble deeds of all the world.
We will do well to follow their lead, current obstacles not withstanding.

America Could Become Much More of a Theocracy Under Trump Than It Already Is

I endorse it. I think it was correct. Contrary to what many have said, it sought to outlaw neither prayer nor belief in God. In a pluralistic society such as ours, who is to determine what prayer shall be spoken, and by whom? Legally, constitutionally or otherwise, the state certainly has no such right. I am strongly opposed to the efforts that have been made to nullify the decision. They have been motivated, I think, by little more than the wish to embarrass the Supreme Court. When I saw Brother Wallace going up to Washington to testify against the decision at the congressional hearings, it only strengthened my conviction that the decision was right.

 

Martin Luther King, Jr., Playboy interview, 1965. [About the Supreme Court’s decisions striking down prayer in public schools.]

Introduction

On January 20, in his first hours as president, Mr. Trump issued a proclamation asserting that there can be no peace where the people do not pray for it. Really?

Who convinced him to issue such a proclamation? One of the five preachers or the rabbi invited to pray at his inauguration? Don’t Americans pray enough? Was there a shortage of prayers for peace before World Wars I and II—and every war centuries before—and since 1945? What war occurred due to insufficient prayers? I remember the Vietnam era when draft eligible students were praying for peace up the yin yang. Those prayers did not have much effect, either.

This proclamation is a representative example of the crazy talk of politicians who insert their religious beliefs into the discharge of their secular responsibilities, though in Trump’s case it was likely more pandering to the evangelical base. God—hasn’t he done enough of that already with his appointments?

Well, maybe not, in his mind.

That thought brings with it concern for the liberal democracy we have enjoyed in America since the country’s founding. Trump has created a cabinet of theocrats. What’s more, he has pledged to nominate more religious zealots to the high court, as well as additional key posts.

Bad Moon on the Rise

Are we in danger of becoming a theocracy? More so than ever, IMHO.

TheocracyTrump and friends are equating patriotism with piety. How I would like to put before the president a statement from a Supreme Court justice in Wisconsin more than a century ago regarding intermingling government with religion:

There is no such source and cause of strife, quarrel, fights, malignant opposition, persecution, war, and all evil in the state as religion. Let it once enter our civil affairs, our government would soon be destroyed. Let it once enter our common schools, they would be destroyed . . . Those who made our Constitution saw this, and used the most apt and comprehensive language in it to prevent such a catastrophe.

(Source: FFRF citation of Justice H.S. Orton of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin, concurring opinion in Weiss v. the District Board, decided on March 18, 1890.)

Susan Jacoby noted that while the new president is himself indifferent to religion, he used the evangelical segment of the electorate to get to the White House. In appreciation, he seems to have delegated his Cabinet picks to zealot-in-waiting Mike Pence, the featured speaker at the upcoming anti-abortion rally in Washington, D.C. whose fanaticism makes the average fundies seem agnostic by comparison. Give Trump credit—he has not (so far) nominated Michelle Bachman, Herman Cain, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich or Sarah Palin for government jobs. That’s the good news. (I’m trying to look on the bright side here.)

LibertyThe bad news is that he’s nominated a lineup of god-besotted extremists, including Rick Perry, Jeff Sessions, Betsy DeVos, Mike Pompeo, Nikki Haley, Sonny Perdue, Jeff Sessions, Scott Pruitt, Tom Price and OMG!—Ben Carson. These nominees are Christian zealots beyond the pale and outspoken opponents of church/state separation. Each could seamlessly fill any Sunday morning as a substitute preacher for the five ministers who offered superstitious babble at the Trump Inauguration.

Along with Mr. Pence, these new leaders of the highest government offices will bring their religious perspectives—and culture war agenda, to the forefront of their secular offices.

Can a theocracy be far behind? Will they advocate for an amendment to our godless Constitution declaring that the United States of America is a Christian nation? It’s not so farfetched—a few years ago, a YouGov Omnibus poll found that 34 percent of Americans would favor establishing Christianity as the official state religion in their state. Another slightly bright side note—only 32 percent would go all the way and do the same with the U.S. itself. Small comfort. (This is an average percentage—imagine what the support level must have been in Alabama and Mississippi!)

Hallmarks of a Theocracy

At the risk of frightening a few readers, consider some of the beliefs and policy agendas of these new leaders of key national offices, including the Attorney General and directors/secretaries of H&HS, HUD, Energy, Education, CIA, EPA and Agriculture. You will find belief in and support for:

  • Varied biblical prophecies, not excluding The Rapture or end-times.
  • The suppression of critical thought, funding for religious charter schools, science-denying initiatives from climate change to evolution and more religious extremists appointed to fill critical positions at all levels of government.
  • Vehement opposition to marriage equality and a woman’s choice to be a mother—or not (i.e., legal abortion and other reproductive rights).
  • Disdain for separation of church and state—The Donald will be building one wall where it’s not needed and tearing down another where it is.
  • Changing the Constitution from a secular Republic to Christian Nation theocracy—in part because they believe this is a condition for the second coming of Christ.
  • Sponsorship and passage of more bills like H.R. 7, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act.” Every House Republican voted for this bill. If it clears the Senate (Trump will sign it), the Act will deny more than 28 million women access to abortion coverage.

Consider the man rumored to be Trump’s first choice for the vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, William Pryor. This outspoken opponent of secular principles in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights has compared the ACLU and its plaintiffs to terrorists. He has railed against gay rights, the teaching of evolution, court decisions legalizing abortion and barring school prayer—while promoting displays of the Ten Commandments on government property. He has compared homosexuality to “necrophilia” and “bestiality” and called Roe v. Wade “the worst abomination of constitutional law.” He has long supported the infamous Roy Moore, the Alabama supreme Court jurist who placed a Decalogue plaque in his courtroom and forced jurors to pray.

Advice C. S. Lewisfrom an Unlikely Source

The Christian Poet and novelist C.S. Lewis embraced the view that all power corrupts. I wonder if Messrs. Trump and Pence are familiar Robert Green Ingersollwith The World’s Last Night?

I fully embrace the maxim that all power corrupts. I would go further than all power corrupts. The loftier the pretensions of the power, the more meddlesome, inhuman and oppressive it will be. Theocracy is the worst of all possible governments. All political power is at best a necessary evil: but it is least evil when its sanctions are most modest and commonplace, when it claims no more than to be useful or convenient and sets itself strictly limited objectives. Anything transcendental or spiritual … in its pretensions is dangerous and encourages it to meddle with our private lives…Theocracy, I admit and even insist, is the worst corruption of all.

But, to no reader’s surprise, I think Robert Green Ingersoll merits the final words. This is but the beginning of one of his speeches on the horrors of theocracy.

The government of God has been tried. It was tried in Palestine several thousand years ago, and the God of the Jews was a monster of cruelty and ignorance, and the people governed by this God lost their nationality. Theocracy was tried through the Middle Ages. God was the Governor—the pope was his agent, and every priest and bishop and cardinal was armed with credentials from the Most High—and the result was that the noblest and best were in prisons, the greatest and grandest perished at the stake. The result was that vices were crowned with honor, and virtues whipped naked through the streets. The result was that hypocrisy swayed the sceptre of authority, while honesty languished in the dungeons of the Inquisition…

If God is allowed in the Constitution, man must abdicate. There is no room for both. If the people of the great Republic become superstitious enough and ignorant enough to put God in the Constitution of the United States, the experiment of self-government will have failed, and the great and splendid declaration that ‘all governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed’ will have been denied, and in its place will be found this: All power comes from God; priests are his agents, the people are their slaves …

Best wishes, stay well and consider two points of view: 1) There are no alternative facts; and 2) There is no better government for America than a secular democracy.

May this essay rouse your will to help the insouciant masses defend their liberties. As RGI stated in words that represent the light, air and love at issue—“liberty is the blossom and fruit of justice, the perfume of mercy. It is the air and light, seed and soil, dew and rain of progress, love and joy.”

Or, if he felt this way about it, which he does not, Trump might say, “liberty is YUGE!”

Prepare to Resist: Let’s Out Tweet and Otherwise Take Back the Media from the Tweeter-in-Chief

Introduction

Donald Trump, elected by deplorables, the ill-informed, the easily fooled, the undereducated and the Russian government, communicates with child-like tirades in short sentences of 140 or fewer characters on Twitter. This forum does not permit reasoned discussion, explanations or enlightenment on any issue. What it does enable, as Trump demonstrates daily, is his compulsive need to insult, malign, bully, lie, obfuscate and attack any who dare question, challenge or, the horror, disagree with his behavior.

Unfortunately, the messages on this medium are picked up by other outlets, giving Mr. Trump dawn-to-dusk, coast-to-coast exposure throughout the land. His banal and fact-free shouts are but bluster and bully talk. He spreads fear, division, anger and uncertainty. He’s already a national disaster; once in office come January 20, he could be ruinous.

A Plan of Action

What can a citizen do, to counter, to some modest degree, the all-powerful communication channels dominated by the near omni-present boom of bombast coming from the presidential pulpit?

Not much, by him or herself, but plenty in concert with citizens around the country. Everyone willing to fight for the character and perhaps the fate of society can devote himself to reshaping, reforming and revitalizing minds taken in November 8 by the Trump illusion/delusion. Resistance to and/or reforming the senses of the Trumpian masses might best be accomplished, in time, not with arms in revolution (forget heroic martyrdom at the barricades ala “Phantom of the Opera” mythology), but rather with pens (and keypads) in resolution. With a mass of counter views, we can balance the banter of the Twitter King. Let’s take back at least a part of the media—and make the media great again. Let’s together flood the opinion pages of newspapers and other communication outlets with reasoned, fact-based and evidence-rich commentaries. Let’s resist this American wanna-be emperor, not just because he’s bare naked—that’s bad enough, but mainly because his messages, if not massively challenged and effectively countered, are ugly and pernicious to our secular and democratic Republic founded on Constitutional safeguards for all.

Letters-to-the Editor

Two letters to the editor, neither focused entirely on Donald Trump, the Twitter President, illustrate the kind of citizen communications that might help many Americans think a little differently about issues. On occasions, a single letter might change a few minds. The first letter, below, was published in a Texas newspaper. It was written by the co-president of a national organization defamed a few days prior in the newspaper; the second letter-to-the-editor appeared after Christmas in response to a story about whether little children should be encouraged to believe in a seemingly harmful lie, namely, that Santa is real.

(Full disclosure: The second letter was written by yours truly.)

Letter Number One – Regarding An Outside Group Butting in on Local Matters

We at the Freedom From Religion Foundation would like to respond to a recent Amarillo Globe-News editorial. (History, facts should matter, Dec. 27, amarillo.com.)

Separation of Church and StateFirst, we aren’t an outside group in Texas. We’re a national group of 25,000 representing more than 1,000 members from all around the Lonestar State.

(The writer) dwells on the absence of the phrase “separation of church and state” in the U.S. Constitution.

President Thomas Jefferson actually coined the descriptive metaphor in a carefully crafted letter to the Danbury Baptists on Jan. 1, 1802, when they asked him to explain the meaning of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The U.S. Supreme Court and lower courts have repeatedly invoked his phrase in major decisions.

It is true that the exact words “separation of church and state” do not appear in the U.S. Constitution, but neither do “separation of powers,” “interstate commerce,” “right to privacy,” and other phrases describing well-established constitutional principles.

When it comes to our censored display in the Texas Capitol, Gov. Greg Abbott’s action not only violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by offering preference to a Christian nativity display, but also infringed the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. Once the state opens up a venue for speech by citizens, it cannot suppress it merely because the governor does not like the content.

Last week, a federal judge ruled that FFRF’s case against Abbott had legal merit and could proceed. We’re confident we will prevail on the merits.

(The above letter was written by Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-founder/co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation based in Madison, WI.)

Letter Number Two – The Delicate Claus Question

This article asks if encouraging belief in an adipose man in a red suit delivering presents in one night to billions of kids around the globe is naughty or nice. In my view, it’s not nice, but it serves an important purpose in families that teach even more preposterous beliefs to children. In such cases, children usually don’t discover that these other beliefs are equally false — but more pernicious.

However, to look on the bright side, teaching the Santa myth can serve a beneficial purpose if children later come to realize that other beliefs pressed upon them when young are just as foolish but more damaging. It is good to discover that there are no goblins, ghosts or gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. Santa is a harmless myth, but religion is a myth that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.

Summary

These letters did not change minds, policies or prevailing customs in either instance, but that was not the goal. The idea in writing letters is to contribute to the dialogue, locally and otherwise, introduce a new perspective on issues and correct erroneous statements. If tens of millions of citizens regularly write letters to newspapers, politicians and other venues as never before, perhaps the influence of the Twitter-in-Chief can be diminished and the damage of his reign may be tempered.

After all, as Ingersoll so beautifully put it, “hope is the consolation of the world.”

Two Republicans, Two Concerns About and Two Strategies for Dealing w/ the Election

Introduction

Robert Green Ingersoll was a prominent and influential Republican during the second half of the 19th Century. His eloquence and brilliance helped elect presidents; his ideas were beacons that guided many to appreciate, protect and expand human rights. A colonel in the Union Army during the Civil War, a distinguished attorney and a famous orator seen and heard by more Americans than any other until the advent of radio, Ingersoll helped citizens rally behind the First Amendment. He was the enemy of clergy, politicians and others who supported superstition—slavery of body or mind, the very idea of blasphemy, Sunday Blue Laws based on religious piety and church/state separation transgressions. He championed the rights of children, blacks, women, immigrants and anyone that laws and customs made servile or less than equal to the right and powerful in terms of guaranteed rights. In summary, Ingersoll was a powerful spokesperson for democracy, equality, science, reason and human freedom.

And, believe it or not, he was a Republican. Most Republicans of his era, including Lincoln, surely would abhor what the Party has become. Ingersoll’s Republicanism would have been more suitable for Bernie Sanders than Donald Trump. Now the Republican Party has taken an even darker turn, one that does not bode well for wellness lifestyles founded on reason, exuberance and liberty.

Thus, some might wonder: What do we do now? How best to deal with the coming kakistocracy, or a government by the worst persons—a pile of excrement, if you will. We are witnessing a justified outbreak of coulrophobia, that is, fear of clowns (not fear of Ann Coulter), due to the election outcome. We are reminded, as was Roger Cohen in a New York Times piece Sunday (mmmmmm) of H.L. Mencken’s warning: As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. Of course, Trump is no moron. Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s assessment is far more accurate, it seems to me: I’m a New Yorker and I know a con when I see one. Mr. Cohen suggested Bloomburg might have used the phrase, gifted charlatan, instead. (Source: Roger Cohen, New York Times, The Opinion Pages, The Man Who Would Not Be President, November 18, 2016.)

For starters, let me suggest two simple strategies: 1) Recognize the dangers of most concern; and 2) develop personal strategies to deal with each. (Be sure to choose concerns over which you can exert at least an iota of influence.)

Dark Moon on the Rise—Strategies Applicable to Two of My Concerns, Among Many

Next to thermonuclear Armageddon, more theocracy and less freedom are my biggest worries about the steady rise of the shadow of gloom on the horizon. Our secular constitutional Republic, at present, affords a generous measure of free speech, rights to assemble, equal opportunity and separation of church and state. However, theocrats are advancing on the White House, the House and the Senate—and nothing stands in their way. They will soon have a majority on the Supreme Court, since the ninth, tie-breaking justice will be chosen from a pool of Christian jurists on record favoring a lower wall of separation, and restrictions on reproductive rights such as expressed determination to reverse Roe vs. Wade. That’s just the start—there are over 100 federal court vacancies.

So, what to do if, like me, you can’t take solace in the supernatural, in miracles via a series of Hail Mary hopes of desperation? Does anyone believe that somehow, as the cast of Hamilton pleaded, Pence and company might uphold our American values and work on behalf of all of us. That’s a form of prayer—and what is prayer but talking to yourself? (If I thought a superpower needed my advice and was listening and disposed to grant favors, I’d pray for Trump’s health—because right behind him is play-goer Pence, an evolution-denying creationist whose professed loyalty is to Christianity, conservatism and the Republican Party, “in that order.”) You might remember his support, as Governor of Indiana, for a religion-inspired law that allowed businesses to discriminate against gays and others, such as atheists, if providing service to such people offended one’s Christianity. He signed another bill making abortions next to impossible to obtain. Like Pence, the Republican Party about to take over is on record in favor of a national voucher bill granting tax funds for religious schools. While prayer strikes me as the greatest time waster ever conceived by man, I just might try a little anyway—for Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s health.

The second thing that most concerns? The appointments the President-Elect has announced. Like Steve Bannon, for example, soon to be Senior White House Counsel and Chief Strategist with unfettered access to the West Wing. Bannon has railed against the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) for trying to stop a Texas county from displaying In God We Trust stickers on patrol cars, a nativity exhibit at the state Capitol, Christian crosses on police patrol cars and the Clemson football team (a public University) for a wide variety of public displays of religiosity. Leaders in the new government believe global climate change is a hoax, creationism should be taught in public schools and (tax-exempt) churches should be free to promote political candidates. Oh, the horror.

It’s true, I’m afraid: Science was on the ballot November 8—and it lost.

Personal Strategies

Forget fleeing—New Zealand, Australia, Norway, Liechtenstein—they’re too far, their language is hard to understand and they don’t want Americans, anyway. Would you, if you were in their place? After all, we’re citizens of the country that just elected Donald Trump, Mike Pence, a Republican Congress and state houses and legislatures that will be overwhelmingly Republican. It does little good to protest, to fall back on the lament that Hillary won the popular vote. Doesn’t matter—we’re guilty, and the decent thing is to live with the shame. Let’s do what we can to salvage, protect and defend the Republic. Besides, it’s only four years. That’s the first strategy—don’t run. Stay, adapt and fight—peacefully.

The second strategy is to make it difficult for the buggers. Support organizations that promote science, separation of church and state and human rights—make generous donations to organizations that have the leverage and capacity to slow the rate of national descent, such as FFRF, the Center for Inquiry, Americans for Separation of Church and State, the American Civil Liberty Union, The Secular Alliance. Give to worthy causes that protect choice—make a gift to Planned Parenthood in honor of Mike Pence.

And, just for good measure, here’s a third personal strategy for staying well mentally and physically—be kind, have fun, look for new ways to be happy and in all manner of ways devote more attention to your REAL wellness lifestyle. Eat better, exercise more (unless you’re already overdoing it) and try not to write snarky essays critical of the Republican Party. And, of course, look on the bright side of life.

All Olympians Are Great Athletes; A Few, However, Are Not Yet Good Role Models for Rational Decision-Making

Introduction

The Olympics have been amazing. We are smitten with wonder, admiration and respect for the beyond-belief levels of sustained brutal training, laser focus and genius-level skills exhibited by those who rose to Olympian heights, let alone scaled the summits—called podiums. And then there are people like Katie Ledecky, Simone Biles, Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps and other Superpersons, who no way could have been born on this planet. Something is going on here, and I hope Donald Trump will soon be asking pointed questions, raising suspicions about these Promethean heroes and heroines who infiltrated themselves amongst talented but still mere mortals.

Speaking of Michael Phelps, let me raise a question: What’s with those circular bruises? A little investigating reveals that Michael The Great might invest too much credulity in New Age, alternative/integrative/traditional Chinese medicine BS.

Cupping is a fad involving the flow of one’s vital life force via the suction of heated glass bowls applied to the skin. Holy hocus pocus. How come American or other Olympic officials indulged athletes flaunting their cups on prime time world TV? Such appearances were inadvertent ads for pseudoscience. The exposure of cupping marks on winners bestowed an air of legitimacy on baseless and potentially harmful treatments—all of it beamed into the consciousness of impressionable children and gullible adults. C’est dommage.

As for cupping, this silliness has no medical or scientific basis—and it can be quite dangerous, often leading to burns and infections.

Olympian Gullibility

Did you observe the indicators of woo woo at the Games? No, I’m not referring to the many signs of the cross before or after races (is that a good luck charm or a request for outside assistance from a deity?). I’m referring to interviewees who claimed, I am so blessed (as opposed to their rivals who did not get blessed?), the fingers in the air pointing to a deity in the sky (influencing events, doing favors?), other indications that competitors give credence to homeopathy, acupuncture, kinesiology tape and yes, cupping.

What ever happened to the rabbit’s foot?

Cupping?

Basically, cupping entails having someone stick heated suction cups or glass bulbs on the  skin. Olympians said they cupped to ease soreness in order to swim or run faster, jump higher, stay cooler, align their chakras and qi, and/or do whatever they wanted cupping to do for them. But, of course, they had to believe, that is, have faith, just like in religion.

In addition to the ancient Chinese, it seems some North American Indians engaged in cupping, as did Egyptians more than a thousand years before we got to AD 1. It was part of bloodletting at one time, which might now be seen as another form of alternative medicine that might make a comeback, if a movie star or Dr. Oz or Deepak recommend it.

You can find gruesome photos of what cupping might do for you if you allow a quack to suck poisons or toxins from your body by cupping you. Medical doctors consider some of the marks on a 60 year-old Chinese man in a well-publicized case to be third-degree burns. Such wounds usually become infected and possibly septic.

Consider what physician skeptic/debunker David Gorski wrote on “The Science Blog” on July 1, 2016:

Cupping is nothing more than an ancient medical practice based on a prescientific understanding of the body and disease, much like bloodletting and treatments based on the ‘Four Humors.’ it’s all risk for no benefit. It has no place in modern medicine, or at least shouldn’t. After all, we don’t still believe in the four humors that Hippocrates and ancient ‘Western’ medicine invoked for many hundreds of years. TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) is based on much the same concepts, just with different names, substituting, for example, the ‘Five Elements’ for the ‘Four Humors’ and attributing disease to imbalances in them, just as ancient Western physicians attributed disease to imbalances in the ‘Four Humors.’ Yet ‘integrative medicine’ rejects one and embraces the other when it should be rejecting them both.

All Hail the Olympians, Anyway

Cupping and other superstitions aside, there is nothing but wonder and appreciation in my view for the magnificent performances shown by nearly all competitors (Hope Solo? Maybe not so much). Olympians are indeed amazing, even more so if not extraterrestrials, after all. Maybe those who inadvertently promoted medical silliness will use their platforms in the future to promote evidence-based medicine, scientific acumen and skeptical inquiry, and maybe even REAL wellness.

May you be well, choose wisely, enjoy the quest and die healthy, but not until you’re good and ready.

BEN CARSON, HILLARY CLINTON AND THE DEVIL: THE REPUBLICANS REACH BACK TO THE THE MIDDLE AGES IN EFFORTS TO ELECT TRUMP

 

In science the devils have never lived. There you will find no
goblins, ghosts or witches. For that, you need a Republican
National Convention.

Introduction

Well, Dr. Ben Carson almost managed a hat trick in his address endorsing Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland. That is, he nearly made Donald Trump sound sort of sensible, at least compared with one of the other failed contenders, namely, himself. Christian Fundamentalist Dr. Ben, who makes us wonder if maybe there’s not that much to brain surgery as we have come to believe, or was told about a book jacket notation some years ago wherein Saul Alinsky mentioned the Devil – in jest. Then he noted that Hillary Clinton once said something favorable about Alinsky and from that made a preposterous leap – suggesting that this meant Hillary must b or is a friend of Lucifer. It’s a wonder he did not go even further and intimate that Hillary was having an affair with Lucifer. The RNC crowd went wild with joyous anger at this “damning” revelation about proven Devil-worshiper Hillary.

That ought to do it, the Tea Party crowd seemed to conclude: Hillary and the Devil are one and the same. Cue the standing applause. The house trembled with joy and a delicious chill at the perfidy of it all.

What Accounts for Republican Party Madness, Rage and Hate?

How do people get so crazy to applaud someone like Ben Carson – and seriously entertain the candidacy of a mountebank like Donald Trump?

Let’s stick with the make-believe Devil.Robert Ingersoll’s words help explain how religion-besotted Republicans could believe in such a comic book character.

Fear is an artist — a sculptor — a painter. All tribes and nations, having suffered, having been the sport and prey of natural phenomena, having been struck by lightning, poisoned by weeds, overwhelmed by volcanoes,
destroyed by earthquakes, believed in the existence of a Devil, who was the king — the ruler — of innumerable smaller devils, and all these devils have been from time immemorial regarded as the enemies of men.
(“The Devil,” 1899.)

All devil belief is founded on god belief – it’s what we call today the good cop, bad cop routine. Religions invented both to control populations. Religions employed fear and exploited prejudices of the time and place in which they ruled. Europeans found themselves bedeviled by black devils; the Africans had to deal with white devils. Devils came in all shapes and formats, especially wizards and witches (women have always been easier to victimize). In one two-year period (1598 – 1600), more than 600 Frenchmen and women were convicted and executed for mischief while in wolf forms – a favorite trick of the Devil at the time, it seems. Thousands of such cases, with variations on the form of devil possession, occurred.

Conclusion

At least Ben Carson had the decency not to suggest that Hillary was guilty of lurking in the woods as a wolf, preying on innocents (and Republicans) to tear asunder. But, don’t be complacent – I wouldn’t put it past him. Like Ben Carson today, a belief in devils has been universal. The consequences, as Ingersoll described, have been terrible beyond the imagination. Millions and millions of men, women and children, of fathers and mothers, have been sacrificed upon the altar of this ignorant and idiotic belief.

If Carson’s words about Lucifer and Hillary should influence Republicans and those they bamboozle into voting in sufficient numbers to carry Donald Trump to the White House, devil belief will have played a role even worse in the 21st century than in the Dark Ages past.

I say that no sensible man in all the world believes in devils. Beyond this, idiocy cannot go. (Robert Ingersoll)

Reason Versus Faith, Freethinking Versus Dogmas

Reason and faith, freethought and dogma lead the seeker of positive well being to different pathways, including support for or resistance to church/state separation.

Introduction: Reason Is In Season – Year Round

No one should throw away his reason, the fruit of all experience.
It is the intellectual capital of the soul, the only light, the only guide,
and without it, the brain becomes the palace of an idiot king,
attended by a retinue of thieves and hypocrites. 
Robert Green Ingersoll

A sweet sentiment from the seemingly inexhaustible warehouse of Ingersollian brilliance. In a similar vein are these thoughts of Ingersoll, once featured on a plaque at the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York CIty, where Ingersoll and his family once had a private home:

I shall follow the light of reason, be true to myself, express my honest thoughts, help destroy superstition and work for the happiness of my fellow beings.

Note the qualities Ingersoll extolls: Devotion to critical thought, respect for human judgement, observation and experience, the celebration of intelligence, personal integrity, reason and the embrace of happiness.  Contrast the credo of reason with the credo of Christian faith:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord who was conceived by the Holy Spirit; born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried. He descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead, he ascended into heaven and sitteth (sic) on the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Amen.

On what basis would a sentient adult believe such improbable claims? Would it happen if the individual were devoted to critical thought, respect for human judgement, reliance on observation and experience, the celebration of intelligence, personal integrity, reason and a fondness for the pursuit of happiness?

I find the likelihood of that difficult to believe.

If Ingersoll Lived in Our Time

Wouldn’t it be lovely if The Great Agnostic were with us today, if we had his commentaries on topical matters like the state of the Republican Party that in his era was the Party of Lincoln? Imagine his observations on the not-so-Plumed Knight who seems certain to be the Party’s choice for president in 2016.  Or his take on any of the multiple incursions of religion into government and the rights of women, gays and non-Christians? A partial list of such incursions, as shown below, comes from an essay by Iris Vander Pluym; details on the listed violations of church/state separation can be read here at the Palace:

*  Religious exemptions for withholding medical treatment from children.

*  Religious education that enjoys little to no regulation with a host of predicable tragic results.

*  Catholic hospitals that can and do refuse treatment when quality medical care conflicts with dogmas affecting rights to contraceptives, abortion, end of life, etc.

*  Pharmacy conscience laws that enable zealots to refuse to fill prescriptions, whenever their interpretations of religious beliefs conflict with recommended medical care.

*  A White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives that provides taxpayer support for dogma-guided programs.

*  Abortion restrictions, biased counseling, mandatory delays, forced ultrasounds and other theocratic  legislative acts that reduce access and close secular clinics.

A conservative estimate is that government supports for religion amount to at least $83.5 billion annually.

The Unfortunate Immersion of Children in Religious Dogma

My take on the sentiments expressed by Ingersoll is that few today consciously discard their intellects though sadly, the neglected soils of youth provide little but a barren harvest of experience. The capital of the soul, in such cases, is capable of little more than the faintest light. This, alas, provides little guidance for the discovery and embrace of freethought as a part of a larger, REAL wellness philosophy.

There is, for most, not much of reason’s light to follow, so the paths of loyalty to the unknown self are unmarked, and convenient impressions are easily mistaken for honest thoughts, at least by oneself. Instead of destroying superstitions, the discarded, un-nurtured intellect defends superstition, a lamentable state in evidence today. Too little reason as a foundation of positive well being does little to advance happiness or improve men and women.

Needed: A Product to Treat Early life Brainwashing

Perhaps there is something to be said for targeted, pinpoint brainwashing. If the local supermarket had over-the-counter brain-cleansing products along with polish removal, mouthwash, rinses and the like, I would purchase and apply it, carefully of course, so as not to suffer collateral memory loss, to the portion of my brain that holds to this day the remnants of jejune Catholic elementary school prayers, such as the voodoo-like Christian example quoted above.

Ingersoll’s words on that plaque deserve our attention:

No one should throw away his reason, the fruit of all experience. It is the intellectual capital of the soul, the only light, the only guide, and without it, the brain becomes the palace of an idiot king, attended by a retinue of thieves and hypocrites.

Well, I suppose re-education is the best method of brainwashing we can hope for, informed by the embrace of reason for a better, secular future for each person and the nation. Reason does not get a lot of support but is it our best hope – and that’s why the positive, life – enriching form of wellness with reason as the foundation dimension of skill-building (along with exuberance, athleticism and liberty) is so invaluable for quality of life promoters to advance at every turn.

Support for reason (versus superstition) is tenuous, at best, as Ingersoll suggested:

I admit that reason is a small and feeble flame, a flickering torch by stumblers carried in the star-less night, — blown and flared by passion’s storm – and yet, it is the only light. Extinguish that, and nought remains.

All good wishes.

++++

Donald B. Ardell can be reached at awr.realwellness@gmail.com; his latest books are 1) Wellness Orgasms: The Fun Way to Live Well and Die Healthy and 2) REAL Wellness – it can be examined and ordered here.

Prayer: The Greatest Time-Waster Ever

Introduction

How did Ted Cruz decide on Carly Fiorina for a running mate, in the unlikely event his campaign had a future which, fortunately, it did not? He said, I’ve prayed about this decision for a long time. Not long enough, it seems. Or, maybe there’s another explanation.

Perhaps there’s a god out there with a sense of humor – who knows? Or something beyond knowing – tooth fairies, vampires, devils, goblins – or even currently unknown gods, benevolent or malevolent apparitions of eternal, everlasting omniscience, power and wonderment, beings that become the focus of future adorations and prayers? Maybe such a god or gods simply haven’t yet revealed themselves, just yet. Moses, Joseph Smith, et. al. – where are you? Who knows?

All such wonderments are impossible to settle, to verify. Gods are not subjects for science, after all – they inhabit the realm of superstitions, at least until verifiable evidence for one or more of them turns up. Not likely, but then, who knows? That’s why religion is about faith – simply believing, hoping, wishing. Knowing humans cannot establish such things, I’m agnostic. But, convinced there’s no rational basis to believe there’s anything out there in the nebulous beyond, no anyone/anything to pay attention to Ted Cruz, or anyone else, now or ever, I’m an atheist, as well. Of course, there’s no actual difference in the two – if you don’t believe in the supernatural, what are you if not agnostic and atheist? Neither says there could not be a god, or a devil or a Flying Spaghetti Monster or anything else. Yet, the one who says I don’t know and the one who says I don’t believe have the same position – they cannot reconcile the existence of the unknowable.

Which gets us back to Ted Cruz’ prayer that led him to pick Carly. Wow.

Prayer

How many bazillions of words, thoughts, animal and human sacrifices and other pleas to an imaginary friend have been sent into the ether, to no avail save, perhaps, in a calming, meditative sense (an effect available without belief in a skygod)? We’ll never know but, whatever the tonnage, heavy duty skepticism seems in order that any single prayer was ever heard, let alone answered, favorably or at all.

Why, then, do so many persist in doing so, despite the absence of results? Explanations by the faithful are varied and diverse; one of my favorites comes from an evangelist named Ken Collins: If He did, you’d stop praying! So He delays His answers to give you something better: fellowship with him through persistent prayer.

Another comes from Superintendent Chalmers, a character in The Simpsons: Prayer has no place in the public schools, just like facts have no place in organized religion.

Let me offer a rhetorical question: Has there ever been a greater time-waster than prayer in all of human history? In my view, nothing else comes close. Not spectator sports, not stamp collecting, not bingo and not even chasing after or primping to attract prospective mates. The latter, after all, contributed to the fact that we’re still here.

Reason and REAL Wellness

If you view reason as a key dimension of well being and thus place importance upon rational thinking, you too might have reservations about prayer. This is most likely to be the case if you are not disposed toward superstition and magical thinking. I don’t think doubt that you can be well if you don’t pray, but I’m not convinced you can be truly well mentally if you earnestly believe prayer would influence a god, IF there were one. It’s just so bizarre, when you think about it, unbounded by continuous conditioning from the norms and rituals of religious traditions.

Prayer, in my view, is more injurious to well being than chain smoking, alcohol abuse and binging on sugary soda – put together. A person has to suspend his/her sense of reality to think or even hope that prayer might affect a change beyond his/her own feeling state. (I am not questioning the possible value of prayer – or simply whispering, chanting or thinking of words in a mumbo-jumbo fashion as a meditative chant or form of relaxation – only as an attempt to change something in the world beyond the self.) I’m with Ethan Winer: If prayer actually worked, everyone would be a millionaire, nobody would ever get sick and die and both football teams would always win.

Christopher Hitchens pointed out the arrogance of praying when he wrote, A man who prays is one who thinks God has arranged matters all wrong but who also thinks he can instruct God on how to put them right. In Improved Man, Robert Green Ingersoll noted that the improved man will not endeavor, by prayers or supplication, by fastings or
genuflections, to change the mind of the Almighty, or to alter the course of nature; neither will he employ others to do such things in his place.

Many people believe, as several are credited with saying, that nothing fails like prayer. Dan Barker wrote a song with that title – and it’s delightful.

Any drug company that sold pills with less efficacy would be prosecuted; anyone who ingested them would be considered a fool. Yet a Pew survey a few years ago found that half the American population prays daily. Politicians have created a national prayer day; even lawsuits have not kept public officials from mixing city/county/state and other government business meetings with opening prayers. Our president can’t conclude a speech without intoning the ritual mantra, which sounds a lot like a prayer, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. After every hurricane, tornado, tsunami, mass killing and tragedy of every kind, people seem compelled to offer comfort or sympathy with these meaningless words: Our prayers go out to the victims and their families.

Well, it does no harm, I suppose, to let prayers go out, but it would be nice if something positive were to come back as a result. And that has never happened. Never. Not once.

Summary

Step back and imagine for a moment you’re a visitor from space. Knowing because of your vastly advanced large head containing multiple wondrous super computer-like brains that no prayer anywhere, anytime in any form has ever been answered by an deity or god-creature in the whole wide cosmos, what would you think of the inhabitants of this planet being attached to such a bizarre convention?

I don’t know for sure, but I doubt that spaceman/woman you would be favorably impressed.

Other than eating, sleeping and having sex, humans have done more praying than anything else since climbing out of trees to walk about and jog on terra firma. No verifiable results, ever, from a single prayer and yet, we keep at it. Not everyone, of course, but most people, to say the least. More likely nearly all people.

I do not have a closed mind about prayer. Here’s a simple way, suggested by Sam Harris, to make prayers of infidels like me:

You could prove to the satisfaction of every scientist that intercessory prayer works if you set up a simple experiment. Get a billion Christians to pray for a single amputee. Get them to pray that God regrow that missing limb. This happens to salamanders every day, presumably without prayer; this is within the capacity of God. I find it interesting that people of faith only tend to pray for conditions that are self-limiting.

As a small child under the spell of Roman Catholic brainwashing, I had to do a lot of praying. I stopped doing so when I was 12; I often wonder how many of my schoolmates from the graduating class at St. Barnabas in 1952 are still at it.

Be well while looking on the bright side of life and pray for me.

Just kidding.

One Way to Manage the Migrant Crisis in Europe While Preserving Quality of Life in the Host Countries

Introduction: An Insufferable Situation

Millions of desperate people fleeing civil wars and anarchy in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and other Middle Eastern as well as African countries have risked their lives for a chance at a better life in Europe, particularly Germany and other prosperous European nations.

MigrantsNo consensus or other solutions meeting the hopes and needs of refugees of host nations have been discovered. The influx of refugees remains a human catastrophe that worsens with time. Stopgap measures have satisfied some factions in affected nations for a while (particularly Germany, Sweden, Turkey, Greece and Macedonia), only to prove impossibly burdensome. This reality was seen in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s initial welcoming policy, and more recently when financial incentives led Turkey to accept some migrants trapped in Greece. Though Greece is unable to meet its own obligations to its citizens and to lenders, it was and remains overwhelmed by tens of thousands of refugees it cannot house, feed or otherwise manage properly. Official estimates put the number of migrants on Greece’s border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia at 10,000; overall Greece has more than 44,000 trapped migrants as new arrivals land daily on the country’s eastern islands.

An effective response by EU countries will have to safeguard and promote basic criteria vital to the interest of host nations. This will be difficult, given that such solutions must protect economies, prevent the radicalizing of internal politics and avoid further strains in post-war institutions. The latter have sustained the peace for over half a century, but are under severe strains by the arrival of massive numbers of undocumented, unmanageable arrivals. A continuation of the unregulated chaos brought on by the influx of desperate, ill-prepared and often culturally incompatible migrants has put the grand EU experiment in a border-less Europe in jeopardy.

A Realistic Perspective On the Prospect of Easing Somewhat the Migration Crisis

Only the resolution of current nation-state conflicts will ultimately resolve the worldwide problem of desperate people seeking better lives elsewhere. Everything else, included the proposal outline below that is focused on education and basic assistance, will be futile stopgap measures for migrants trapped at the borders of countries that cannot allow immediate entry and still protect their quality of life. There is no single solution to the immigration crisis that confronts European countries. Significant resources from EU member states are required to enable states to police their borders, fingerprint and process claimants and swiftly return those without a legitimate claim.

It would be wonderful if it were possible to grant immediate admission and sufficient food, clothing, shelter, health services, education and job opportunities—and more, for one and all, but that is impossible. No nation could endure in recognizable or acceptable form if it attempted to do so.

What can the European states do with the situation brought on by masses of desperate asylum seekers? What, that is, can they do that will enable a sustainable level of immigration that protects quality of life, a sound economy and social cohesion?

I believe they can and should set up and enforce five basic criteria that, if met, will quality applicants for temporary asylum, leading in time to citizenship for those who qualify for entry. This seems essential given the reality that the overwhelming majority of uninvited migrants now demanding entry are young and from poor, autocratic and theistic neighboring states who are not likely to assimilate into the host countries they seek to enter and live. These refugees are fundamentally different, at present, from the populations in old, democratic and prosperous Europeans.

The suggested criteria are as follows:

  1. Create empowered councils of all European states that will study and put forward European-wide recommendations for a master plan for dealing with the immigration crisis throughout the EU.
  2. Conduct the studies needed to establish the approximate number of immigrants that can be integrated, after all other criteria for admission have been satisfied.
  3. Establish minimal language requirements for all adult immigrant applicants, and learning centers for immigrant applicants in protected, secure areas. I call the learning center “New Towns”; the nature of these enclaves is sketched below.
  4. Develop a statement of national core values for distribution to all immigrants seeking entry into specific nations, and advise applicants that only those who wish to embrace the defined values of that desired nation will be given consideration for provisional admission. Each country would establish its own set of value codes, but illustrative elements can be identified. These suggested values would promote harmony and integration and discourage applicants who want to live in enclaves and practice traditions at odds with the native culture. Examples of the latter would be cultural traditions that discriminate against women or others, that oppose liberty for all to practice the religion of their choice or to choose no religion, if that is their choice, beliefs that restrict personal freedoms of expression and/or seek to impose customs on the native populations or customs that are unwelcome (e.g., amplified calls to prayer throughout the day that affect the tranquility and peace of mind of all in areas impacted by these unwanted sounds of religious fervor.)
  5. Create equitable, enforceable procedures for the return of refugees who, for economic and other reasons, do not warrant admission to EU countries, a disruptive segment of migrant that has exacerbated the crisis.

Europe is not capable of serving as a destination for everyone seeking a better life. A significant amount of resources and assets from EU member states must be appropriated and targeted in order to police the EU’s external borders, process claimants for entry and promptly return those without legitimate claims or who otherwise are judged unprepared or unsuited for life in EU countries.

In addition to these criteria, a suggestion is made for wellness-based “New Town” educational centers.

New Towns for Democratic and Other Educational Advances

New Towns“New Town” developments in E.U. countries would provide opportunities for language study and a wide range of programs. Migrants could learn about the cultures, values and customs of nations wherein they might like to live, in time, on provisional terms, as asylum seekers. The “New Towns” would be constructed within secured areas. Migrants who choose to live and study in “New Towns” would be guaranteed the right of return to their home states, at any time if they so desired.

A wellness perspective on this matter or any matter can be sketched by drawing upon a foundation of humanistic, democratic values. These include, for starters, respect for the right of all countries to control their borders, to define and safeguard public interest and to promote the well being, health and safety of its people.

Within these parameters, ample room remains for the expression of compassion, charity, kindness and assistance to those in need. “New Towns” would be educational centers that help prepare new arrivals for life in unfamiliar lands with traditions and expectations different from the norms in their mother countries. Germany and other states faced with migrants seeking asylum will benefit from the considerable jobs that will be available for the construction, staffing and maintenance of the “New Towns.”

Eliminating human trafficking and other policies must be enacted that will discourage and prevent further migration. Care must be taken that “New Town” centers do not come to represent a further attraction that lures asylum seekers from nations in turmoil. Neither Europe nor any other area of the world can prosper as a destination of choice for everyone seeking a better life.

Summary

In an editorial last year in Free Inquiry Magazine, Tom Flynn addressed the “Trouble with Immigration,” touching on a few points that seem to inform the issues that face the EU in its struggles to manage an uninvited continuous wave of desperate, destitute and disadvantaged migrants. Flynn suggested that the underlying problem has less to do with ethnicity or culture and more with the reality that states simply cannot sustain vastly higher numbers of immigrants. I think he was partly right—I believe that his one point is accurate but that the overwhelming problems associated with higher numbers is made ruinous by differences of ethnicity and culture.

Emma LazarusEuropeans have never erected a statue with the words of Emma Lazarus inviting one and all nations to “Give me your tired, your poor.” Nice sentiments, but Ms. Lazarus was a poet, not a high government official charged with protecting the viability of nation states. Germany and the rest of Europe cannot take in the teeming masses, most of whom are not yearning to go free, but to survive and continue life as they knew it in Syria and other unfree states. In Flynn’s words, untrammeled migration harms both the “sending” and the “receiving” countries.

Europeans should consider a wellness perspective that advances the long-term interests of host nations and those of qualified, limited numbers of new citizen applicants. The five recommendations listed above, along with the suggested “New Town” educational centers, might be a fresh start for dealing effectively with the most serious challenge to the well being of Europeans since the end of WW II.

All good wishes. Be well.

America Needs Improved Voters – Mentally “Weller” Citizens

Introduction: Ingersoll on the Well Person

Robert Green IngersollIn an 1896 speech entitled “Improved Man,” Robert Green Ingersoll identified qualities of a well person. By well, Colonel Ingersoll didn’t mean healthy in the physical sense of super fit with a diet of vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains. Ingersoll had no quarrel with healthy habits for shaping a sound body, but his focus on Improved Man, or a well person, was mental qualities—values, attributes of character and ideals.

Among the qualities that Ingersoll described in “Improved Man” were:

  • Universal liberty—to oppose privilege while extending to others all rights desired for oneself.
  • Universal education—to develop the mind along paths that lead to human happiness.
  • Devotion only to the religion of this world—to reject all claims miraculous and supernatural.
  • Reason as the only torch—confident that behind every fact, every thought and dream is an efficient cause, and that every human action is a necessary product.
  • Moderation in the pursuit of material gain—to recognize that great wealth is a great burden, that accumulation beyond the needs of a reasonable person is more burdensome than satisfying.
  • Joy from the happiness of others—to believe that the greatest reward comes from being loved by those whose lives one has enriched.
  • Self-poised, independent, candid and free—always a student, a learner and a listener wherein facts are the foundation of faith

In remarks offered in a eulogy for Courtlandt Palmer earlier in 1888, Ingersoll lauded qualities of a well person embodied in the life of his departed friend:

To think for himself, to give his thoughts to others, is not only a privilege, not only a right, but a duty and a joy … He investigated for himself the questions, the problems and the mysteries of life. Majorities were nothing to him. No error could be old enough, popular, plausible or profitable enough, to bribe his judgment or to keep his conscience still. He was a believer in intellectual hospitality, in the fair exchange of thought, in good mental manners, in the amenities of the soul, in the chivalry of discussion. He believed in the morality of the useful, that the virtues are the friends of humanity, the seeds of joy. He lived and labored for his fellow men (Source: Funeral oration by Robert Green Ingersoll on behalf of Courtlandt Palmer, cited in “Four Hundred Years of Freethought” by S.P. Putnam, 1894.)

These qualities should be considered in the collection of values, attributes of character and ideals of well persons.

At a time when tens of millions of Republicans want Donald Trump or Ted Cruz to be our next president, it may seem we are quite distant from a time when America is home to improved men and women who embody characteristics of well persons, as envisioned by Robert Green Ingersoll. Trump enthusiasts might think they and the country are an election away from being great again or, in the case of Cruz, that supporters are on the right side of Jesus and heaven-bound, but well persons in the Ingersoll sense? I don’t think so.

However, there has just appeared an encouraging report from America’s most distinguished news source that gives new hope to those here and around the world worried about this country’s mental health in general and values, attributes of character and ideals in particular.

Breaking News from The Onion

The Onion reports that scientists have learned how to reintroduce normal, well-adjusted human beings back into society. I’m not making this up—you can check it out. (Source: “Scientists Slowly Reintroducing Small Group Of Normal, Well-Adjusted Humans Into Society,” The Onion, March 25, 2016, Volume 52, Issue 11.)

Think of it—just when you thought this nation had gone under the tipping point of decency, social engineering might come to our rescue. The hope is that a diverse mix of individuals, certified as well persons with expansive concerns for universal liberty and education, for reason rather than superstition, for moderation in pursuit of wealth, for exuberance in life, for tolerance and independent thinking and all the rest, can be planted into selected populations where they can infect others with their wondrous qualities of REAL “wellnessness.” It’s a wonderment—a secular blessing, you might say.

It seems that conservation researchers at Cornell University, functioning on the down low for 18 years in an enclosed sanctuary, have successfully expanded the population of improved men and women who are actually “levelheaded” and who have made it “a habit to think before they speak.” To which I say, Glory Hallelujah, in a secular way, of course. This initially small group of well persons is being “cautiously reintegrated into select locations nationwide.” Probably not in the South, Iowa or other Red states, however. The well person-plants are expected to “reestablish permanent communities” where they may someday thrive and begat others like themselves in all the good ways associated with well persons. (However, according to the researchers, “there is almost no chance” a well person population will ever thrive again anywhere in the state of Florida.)

The head of the Cornell research project explained that the work on well persons was begun because of multiple concerns, among them being:

  • A dwindling population of sane, generally reasonable people.
  • A recognition that most humans seem incapable of dealing with negative emotions in nondestructive ways.
  • An uncertainty as to whether the next generation will be able to survive unless something is done to create whole populations of improved men and women.
  • A clear sense that Americans lack the “traits for making sound long-term decisions” with a capacity to “tolerate people different from themselves.”
  • Undeniable evidence of a dearth of “even-tempered people with sound judgment and the ability to put the needs of others before themselves.”

To be more specific, The Onion reported that out of a population of 318.9 million (as of 2014), the number of Americans with such traits had dwindled to 150. Furthermore, none were found in U.S. business or civic institutions.

Conclusions

The need is clear—we Americans and most other nations, Canada, Australia, Denmark, Australia and a dozen or so other Western nations excepted, need a massive focus on REAL wellness and the development of generations of improved men and women, that is, well persons, as described above. The Cornell scientists suggest that “without isolation, protection, and captive-breeding programs, the remaining thoughtful, foresighted individuals” will be totally wiped out.

Now you know we cannot afford that.

Do your part—work on emotional maturity, eliminate a few of your baser desires, look beyond immediate gratification and embrace “good sense, open-mindedness and basic human empathy.”

And be well while looking on the bright side of life.