The Religious Views of Michael P. Garofalo

The Librarian of Gushen Grove 

Red Bluff, California 


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On February 23, 2014, this webpage was moved to:  http://www.egreenway.com/reason/own.htm

 

 

       My parents made me attend private Roman Catholic schools in East Los Angeles from the 1st to the 12th grade from 1950-1963.  My parents made me learn and profess Roman Catholic beliefs, and participate in Catholic religious rituals and sacraments until I was 18 years of age.  I was "educated" by hard-nosed Irish Christian Brothers in high school who taught us well in mathematics, physical science, the Catholic religion, and language arts.  They taught us no biology and their social studies perspectives were adjusted to their Christian versions of history.  They emphasized obedience to school and church authorities, they glorified sexual abstinence, and they prepared us to be Christian Soldiers.  As for my own two children, I sent them to public schools, never took them to church services, and asked them to, within reason, cautiously respect the various religions, but to think and decide for themselves about religious and spiritual matters.  To call a four year old or eight year old child a "Catholic" or a "Moslem" is an injustice to the inherent goodness, spaciousness, and freedom of a child's mind.  

    By 1963, I found little consolation from or affinity for Catholic rules, rituals, politics, and the old ways.  I found dogmatic priests very annoying to me.  I have for many decades thought that the Judeo-Christian-Islamic doctrines, the Abrahamic desert faiths, are confusing, dogmatic, antiquated, male-chauvinist, anti-scientific, and irrelevant to my interests and spiritual pursuits.  I have not belonged to any church or attended any religious services as a believer since I was 17 years of age.  I believe that spiritual practices and studies are a private concern. 

    Since 1964, I have followed a solitary spiritual path with my guides being writers and leaders from many non-dogmatic spiritual traditions.  Ethically, I am a secular humanist, libertarian, and liberal.  I don't think anyone needs to believe in the different dogmas or creeds about the supernatural or belong to a religious organization to be a decent person, find happiness, and lead a productive and good life.  I love the beauty, precision, power, and grandeur of science, reason, and philosophy.  Spiritually, I lean towards naturalism, hedonism, biophilia, Buddhist-Taoist-Hindu-Eastern philosophy, NeoPagan Druidry, and mysticism.  I thoroughly enjoy poetry, literature, fiction, myths, symbolism, lore, music, and art.  My solitary spiritual and mystical practices include taijiquan, yoga, gardening, walking, meditation, chi kung, art, poetry, tarot, ritual, and music .

    When I was 15 years of age, I used books from local County and City libraries to learn about Western and Eastern philosophy, intellectual history, science, politics, art, and the various religions of the world.  I majored in philosophy at California State University at Los Angeles from 1963-1967, and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy.  I also took and passed 30 units of Master's degree classes in philosophy at California State University at Los Angeles from 1974-1978.  I minored in business administration.  These early studies greatly influenced by spiritual outlook. 

    I have worked for 46 years in libraries, and earned a Master of Science in Library Science from the University of Southern California in 1968.  This has given me ample opportunity to peacefully interact in metropolitan Los Angeles and rural Red Bluff, California, with all types of persons with many types of religious, spiritual, political, and philosophical beliefs.  Also, I have been able to read thousands of books about science, natural history, Western and Eastern philosophy, intellectual history, biographies, art, literature, psychology, and the various present and past religions around the world. 

    Since I was fifteen, I have always been attracted to Zen, and other Chan Buddhist outlooks insofar as Zen often does not stress or actually dismisses beliefs in the conventional concepts of the supernatural.  I was drawn to perplexing Zen and Taoist sayings and poems that poke fun at "spiritual" understanding, dismiss the gods, and make people think outside the box.  I have also found charming the Neopagan religions that show sincere reverence towards our Earth, Nature, living beings, and natural phenomenon.  I don't believe that spiritual practices necessitate a literal belief in specific supernatural beings or forces to help any person experience awe, humility, ecstasy, profound insights, sublimity, wonder, gratitude, vitality, enthusiasm, beauty, joy, and goodness.  I enjoy the myths and metaphors from polytheistic religions, and any spiritual path without a sincere appreciation for Goddesses is just not interesting to me.  As a gardener, I have experienced deep and altered states of consciousness, and benefited from mystical insights, while engaged in gardening activities.  I do not however, consider unique and/or profound personal experiences, unverified personal gnosis, by others or myself, to be a reliable guide to truth or wisdom. 

    I have researched Neopagan Druidry since 2003.  I favor the outlook of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD) from England.  They accept those who view supernatural beings or realms as archetypes, metaphors, and fictions.  They encourage a love and respect for the natural world, seasonal celebrations, tolerance, poetry, mysticism, open-mindedness, sensuality, and an earth centered spirituality.  I took the OBOD course for the Bardic Grade.  Since Neopagan Druidry encourages the appreciation and study of the lore and myths of Goddesses it is of interest to me.  Again, I am a solitary about religious/spiritual practices and studies and don't "attend" or "belong" to any church. 

    I have taught Ta'i Chi Ch'uan and Qigong since 2000; and Yoga since 2004.  I have a good understanding of these mind-body practices and their theoretical foundations.  I have an affinity for philosophical Taoism, as well a delight in Eastern myths and arts. 

    I favor a secular culture, freedom from religion, freedom of religion, peaceful coexistence, tolerance, and free thought.  Politically, I tend to be what is called in America an "independent."  I am fiscally conservative, want limitations on federal war powers, favor zero population growth, support environmental causes, support numerous libertarian issues, and believe that everyone (including churches, companies, the very rich, the poor, and the elderly) should pay federal, state, property, local, and sales taxes.  I voted Democratic in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections because the Republicans in power had run up huge debts, led us into a costly, unwise and unjust war in Iraq, don't support birth control and family planning, want to reduce taxes for more people, and pander to religious fundamentalists wanting America to be a "Christian Nation." 

    The facts of history clearly demonstrate that organized religions can be dangerous, can be poisonous, have caused much suffering and tragedy over many centuries, retard the advance of science, are authoritarian, and economically exploit people.  Since the dogmas of organized religion are mostly based upon faith, exclusivity and authoritarianism, they tend towards unreasonable excesses.  In my opinion, it is best to not participate in or support any organized religion.   

    Why am I not a Christian in rural Red Bluff, California?  Bible thumpers are boring.  Prayer is useless.  The death of one man cannot absolve everyone's sins.  A religion with a cross for torture as its symbol is repugnant to me.  Eating the body and drinking the blood of a man, even symbolically, seems a cannibalistic ritual to me.  People sitting quietly and tolerating foolish lectures and rants (i.e., preaching) without complaint seems cowardly and dishonest to me.  Churches smell of hypocrisy.  Church doctrines are antiquated, unneeded, and often just unfair and wrong.  The bad taste of male chauvinism lingers in my mouth after attending church services.  Christian hymns are seldom appealing to me.  Christians worship only a Father and Son; and lacking a Divine Mother and Daughter seems very sacrilegious to me.  Preachers and priests seem too pompous, overconfident, and bossy to me.  I don't have the energy or enthusiasm for hating and condemning all the people in the world that don't agree with me.  I don't dislike or find gay persons evil.  I don't think we live in a "Christian Nation"― thank goodness.  The "Holy Bible" is not a very good or inspired work of fantasy literature, and the Koran is worse.  Churches attract too many ignorant, uneducated, and slavish people.  Jesus of Nazareth is simply dull and uninspiring to me― he could not even write his own story.  Miracles are too rare to be useful to most of us.  Immortality is an illusion.  I don't "believe" in the Bible.  The absurdities, contradictions, and unscientific views of Christians don't seem to bother them.  Churches take in money but don't pay taxes.  Churches here are illegal fronts for right-wing conservative political action groups.  I don't share the enthusiasm for all the talk about the Original Sin, sinning, sinfulness, sinful souls, evil sinners, and punishing sinners.  Jewish history and myths are very uninteresting to me compared with Greek, Chinese or East Indian myths and lore.  I don't find most Christians very charitable, tolerant, or open-hearted.  Indoctrinating children in religion seems to me an unhealthy child rearing practice.  One book is never enough for me.  Any person can be good and wise, and never attend any Christian church services.  Sure, I might be wrong about some of my opinions and views regarding Christian churches; however, church people never will acknowledge that they might be wrong because they say they know the "Truth".  Many churches have declining memberships and don't fill many of their pews― a signal that most people don't find them relevant in the 21st century.   In the end, I just have far better, more interesting, and more productive activities to occupy my limited free time rather than associating with Christian or Islamic believers. 

    At one level of my life-stance or worldview is a deep respect and support for logic, pragmatism, naturalism, facts, reasoning, objectivity, verifiability, repeatability, coherent theories, open-mindedness, prediction, mathematics, and statistical methods.  All of these methods, of course, are the hallmarks of the physical and biological sciences, pure and applied sciences, pragmatism, and modern technology.  At this level I am a free-thinker who shares many of the philosophical and non-religious views so persuasively and emphatically expressed by Dan Barker, Jeremy Bentham, Luther Burbank, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, John Dewey, Albert Ellis, A.C. Grayling, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, David HumeThomas Jefferson, Robert Ingersoll, Paul Kurtz, Corliss Lamont, John Stuart Mill, Thomas Paine, Madalyn Murray O'Hair, Ayn Rand, Richard Rorty, Bertrand Russell, Carl Sagan, George Smith, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and many other intelligent, hard working, courageous, forthright, dynamic, honest, fulfilled, and wise persons.  These free-thinkers give me hope! 

    Overall, for me, science trumps religion when it comes to matters of fact.  Nevertheless, wholesome and authentic human existence involves many complex matters such as ethics, politics, families, work, economics, beauty, emotions, intuition, personality, etc; and, these some require intelligent thinking and pragmatism other than found in the sciences.  A Big Mind also requires a bit of fuzzy logic, creativity, fictions, playing outside the box, imagination, and wishful thinking. 

    So, don't keep the faith, free your mind, think, maybe become a Bright, and find happiness and the Good Life.

 

 

Cloud Hands Blog     Green Way Research     Mind-Body Arts     A Short Biography of Mike Garofalo     The Good Life        

Lifestyle Advice from Wise Persons     Philosophy

 

 

"Speaking of today, I do not consider it intellectually respectable to be a partisan in matters of religion.  I see religion as I see other basic fascinations as art and science, in which there is room for many different approaches, styles, techniques, and opinions.  Thus I am not formally a committed member of any creed or sect and hold no particular religious view or doctrine as absolute.  I deplore missionary zeal, and consider exclusive dedication to and advocacy of any particular religion, as either the best or the only true way, as almost irreligious arrogance.  Yet my work and life are fully concerned with religion, and the mystery of being is my supreme fascination, though, as a shameless mystic, I am more interested in religion as feeling and experience that as conception and theory."
-  Alan Watts, In My Own Way, p. 61, 1972

 

 

Recommended Reading

Topics:  Free Thinking, Agnosticism, Atheism, Anti-Religious Arguments, Humanistic Thought

I started reading books on this topic in 1961, when I was 15 years of age.  Books still in my home library are coded 'VSCL.' 

Here are the many books that I have read since 1961 that have influenced my thinking on organized religion:

 

Free Thought Blogs


The Good Life


Hume, David, 1711-1776.  Dialogues and Natural History of Religion  Published posthumously in 1779.  Oxford University Press, 2009.  256 pages.  ISBN: 978-0199538324.  VSCL.  I sided with Philo, a skeptic, in these debates.  I first read in 1965. 


Jacoby, Susan.  Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism.  Holt, 2004.  448 pages.  ISBN: 978-0805077766.  VSCL. 


Lamont, Corliss, 1902-1995.  The Illusion of Immortality.  New York, Continuum, Frederick Ungar Book, Half-Moon Foundation, 1935, Fifth Edition in 1990.  Notes, index, 303 pages.  ISBN: 0804463778.  VSCL.  I first read this book in 1962.  The case against an "immortal soul" or survival of a personal consciousness after death is clearly and persuasively presented.  We humans are subject to a finite life, mortality is certain, and there is a finality to death that is unavoidable.  Historical religious views to the contrary are presented and refuted. 


Lifestyle Advice from Wise Persons 


The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality  By André Comte-Sponville.  Penguin Books, 2008.  224 pages.  ISBN: 978-0143114437.  VSCL. 


Reasoning and Philosophy   A Philosopher's Notebooks.  By Mike Garofalo. 


Russell, Bertrand, 1872-1970.   Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects.  Touchstone, 1957, 1967.  266 pages.  ISBN: 978-0671203238.  VSCL.  I read this book in 1963, and it greatly influenced me in rejecting Catholicism.  I shared many of the ethical/moral/social views of Mr. Russell as expressed in many of his other books. 


Smith, George H.  Atheism - The Case Against God.  Prometheus Books, 1979.  355 pages.  ISBN: 978-0879751241.  VSCL. 


Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu  I first read in 1961.  The philosophical views of Laozi and Zhuanzi appealed to me from an early age.  The religious practices of later Taoists from 300 CE onward were fascinating, as are those of the Neopagan religions; however, I don't really "believe" in their supernatural and superstitious views and dogmas.  My childhood experiences of the magic, ritual and pomp of Roman Catholicism probably influenced me in my appreciation for Taoism and Druidry. 

 


VSCL =  Valley Spirit Center Library, Red Bluff, California

 

 

 

This webpage was first written in 2007, and last updated on February 231, 2014.