The Religious Views of Michael P. Garofalo
The Librarian of Gushen Grove
Red Bluff, California
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My Catholic School Education Short Notes Bibliography Links Don't Ask, Don't Tell
In my normal daily life, I avoid discussing religion with other people. I don't ask them about their religious beliefs and practices, nor do I tell them about mine. I emphasize discussion of good and admirable topics upon which we all can generally agree, and I try to display good manners. I try to show tolerance and respect regarding religion, and expect the same behavior from others. I interact peacefully, productively and in a friendly manner with other people by following the advice of "don't ask, don't tell" regarding religious beliefs and practices. Also, if you want to be successful in America, it is best to avoid discussing your non-religious ideas.
I am a philosopher, secular humanist, Epicurean, progressive, and atheist. If this annoys you, then stop reading here. If you are an adult, curious, open-minded, of a rational and skeptical disposition, inclined towards humanism, and are concerned about the negative effects of all religions then please read on. Many people are now ready to resist the religious bullies in our world.
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 16 years of age. I was "educated" by hard-nosed and authoritarian 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, faith, conformity, sexual abstinence, piety, fidelity, and our duties to others.
In 1961, I read three books that greatly influenced my thinking: The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant, Why I am Not a Christian by Bertrand Russell, and Zen Flesh and Zen Bones by Paul Reps.
By 1963, I found little consolation from or affinity for Roman Catholic Christian theology, rules, rituals, politics, and the old ways. I found authoritarian priests very annoying to me. I have for five decades thought that the Judeo-Christian-Islamic doctrines, the Abrahamic desert faiths, are confusing, dogmatic, antiquated, male-chauvinist, anti-scientific, unjust, often ludicrous, and largely irrelevant to my interests and intellectual pursuits. I have not belonged to any church or attended any religious services as a believer since I was 16 years of age. I believe that spiritual practices and studies are a private concern.
Since 1963, 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, satisfying, constructive and good life. I love the beauty, precision, power, and grandeur of science, reason, and philosophy. Spiritually, I lean towards naturalism, hedonism, biophilia, Zen-Taoist-Buddhist 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 14 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. I have been a student of comparative religions since 1961. 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.
Karen and I were married in 1967. As for our own two children, we 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. Naturally, as all good parents do, we tried to model and instruct them in the virtues needed for a productive, social, and happy life.
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, peak experiences, 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 and spiritual 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, separation of church and state, 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, repress women, retard the advance of science, are authoritarian, are anti-progressive, and economically exploit people. Since the dogmas of organized religion are mostly based upon faith, exclusivity and authoritarianism, they tend towards unreasonable excesses. Religions are often successful businesses, advertise constantly to get more customers from the cradle to the grave, misrepresent and lie to keep their customers, lobby and threaten politicians to get preferential treatment, and, like all businesses, want to drive all their competitors out of business and don't want to pay any taxes. In my opinion, it is best to not participate in or support any organized religion.
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, André Comte-Sponville, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, John Dewey, Albert Ellis, Epicurus, A.C. Grayling, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Baron d'Holbach, David Hume, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Ingersoll, Paul Kurtz, Corliss Lamont, John Stuart Mill, Friedrich Nietzsche, 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, playfulness, 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.
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"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
- Alan Watts, "In My Own Way," p. 61, 1972
the unspoken teaching, attaining unhindered eloquence, thus they forever studied
all over from all things, embracing the all-inclusive universe, detaching from
both abstract and concrete definitions of buddhahood, and transcendentally
realizing universal, all pervasive Zen in the midst of all activities. Why
necessarily consider holy places, teachers' abodes, or religious organizations
and forms prerequisite to personal familiarity and attainment of realization?"
- Yuan-Wu, The House of Lin-Chi, "The Five Houses of Zen," translated by Thomas Cleary, Shambhala Press, 1997, p. 58.
"I persist in preferring philosophers to
rabbis, priests, imams, ayatollahs, and mullahs [popes, preachers, roshis,
yogis, reverends]. Rather that trust their theological hocus-pocus, I
prefer to draw on alternatives to the dominant philosophical [religious]
historiography: the laughers, materialists, radicals, cynics, hedonists,
atheists, sensualists, voluptuaries [free thinkers, brights]. They know
that there is only one world, and that promotion of an afterlife deprives us of
the enjoyment and benefit of the only one there is. A genuinely deadly
- Michel Onfray, Atheist Manifesto, 2011, p. 219
Bibliography, Links, Resources
Topics: Free Thought, Agnosticism, Atheism, Anti-Religious Arguments, Humanistic Thought, Secular Humanism, Skepticism
I started reading books on this topic in 1960, when I was 14 years of age. Books still in my home library are coded 'VSCL.'
Here is a very partial list of the many books that I have read since 1960 that have influenced my thinking on organized religion:
Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. Mariner Books, Houghton Mifflin, 2006, 2008. Index, notes, bibliography, appendices, 463 pages. ISBN: 978-0618918249. VSCL. A bold, incisive, convincing, and clear minded critique of religious beliefs and religions and their negative and pernicious impact on our communities, societies, nations, and the world. I've read this book more than twice, and find it uplifting, brave, and to the point. His analysis of the negative social and moral effects of religion are accurate.
Dennett, Daniel. Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon. By Daniel Dennett. New York, Penguin Books, 2006. Index, bibliography, notes, appendices, 448 pages. ISBN: 978-0143038337. VSCL. Read in 2014. Focused on how and why religion emerged, and on Christianity in America.
Epstein, Greg. Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe. By Greg Epstein. William Morrow, 2010. 272 pages. ISBN: 978-0061670121.
The Four Horsemen of the New Atheism (Free Thought): Richard Dawkins, 1941-; Daniel Dennett, 1942-; Sam Harris, 1967-; Christopher Hitchens, 1949-2011; and, now, possibly, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, 1949-.
Free Thought Blogs
Fundamentalists of Christian, Islamic, and Hindu Persuasion. Count on them to want to demonize and punish those who disagree with their religious beliefs. They support making their own moral, social and religious views the law of the land. These fellows are often enemies of Free Thought: Steven Andrew, David Barton, Jerry Falwell, Billy Graham, Ayatolla Ruhollah Khomeini, David Lane, Sayyid Qutb, most Popes, Pat Robertson, Oral Roberts, Rick Warren, Birgham Young.
Gardening and Spirituality. Compiled by Mike Garofalo.
The Good Life Compiled by Mike Garofalo.
Grayling, A. C.. The God Argument: The Case against Religion and for Humanism. By A. C. Grayling. Bloomsbury, 2014. 288 pages. ISBN: 978-1620401927.
Hankinson, R. J. The Sceptics. London, Routledge, 1995. Arguments of the Philosopher's Series. General index, index of works cited, bibliography, notes, 376 pages. ISBN: 0415184460. Excellent introduction! Exposition and arguments of the ancient sceptics: Pyrrhonism and Melagarism. Detailed and authoritative survey of Greek and Hellenistic skeptics. VSCL.
Harris, Sam. The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason By Sam Harris. W. W. Norton, 2005. 348 pages. ISBN: 978-0393327656. VSCL.
Hitchens, Christopher, 1949-2011. God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. By Christopher Hitchens, 1949-2011. Twelve, 2009. 336 pages. ISBN: 978-0446697965. VSCL. A strong critique of the negative impact of religions. Uses many historical facts from the last 100 years. Wide ranging and penetrating arguments. Includes an intense criticism of Islam, Catholicism, Evangelical Christianity, and Zionist Judaism. Mr. Hitchens was a dynamic debater, witty, and aggressive polemicist.
How to Live a Good Life: Advice from Wise Persons Compiled by Mike Garofalo.
The Humanist Alternative: Some Definitions of Humanism. Edited by Paul Kurtz. Buffalo, New York, Prometheus Books, 1973. 190 pages. ISBN: 0879750189. VSCL. A wonderful collection of short essays by a variety of wise persons about the subject of humanism, secular humanism, ethical humanism, religious humanism, and naturalistic humanism. The history and ethical adventure of humanism since the Enlightenment is thoroughly documented. This book avoids the strident polemics found in the Four Horsemen of the New Atheism. I first read this uplifting book in 1975, and again in 2012.
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.
Kurtz, Paul. The Humanist Alternative: Some Definitions of Humanism. Edited by Paul Kurtz. Buffalo, New York, Prometheus Books, 1973. 190 pages. ISBN: 0879750189. 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 Compiled by Mike Garofalo.
The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality By André Comte-Sponville. Penguin Books, 2008. 224 pages. ISBN: 978-0143114437. VSCL.
Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm (1844-1900)
Onfray, Michel. Atheist Manifesto: The Case Against Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Translated from the French by Jeremy Leggatt. New York Arcade Publishing, 2005, 2011. ISBN: 10161145008X. Annotated bibliography, 246 pages. A lucid, strong, well reasoned, insightful, and stylish presentation. Excellent explication of the French and European writing on atheism, anti-clericalism, irreligion, deconstruction of religions, and anti-fascism. VSCL.
Philosopher Without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life. Edited by Louise M. Anthony. Oxford University Press, 2007. Index, references, notes, brief biographies of contributors, 315 pages. ISBN: 9780199743414. VSCL.
Raymo, Chet. When God Is Gone, Everything Is Holy: The Making of a Religious Naturalist By Chet Raymo. Nortre Dame, Indiana, Sorin Books, c 2008. 13 chapters, notes, 148 pages. ISBN: 9781933495132. Clean used copy from Oregon. 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 intellectual/ethical/moral/social views of Mr. Russell as expressed in many of his other books. I read many books by Bertrand Russell from 1963-1969. His writing is clear, well reasoned, witty, and urbane. The greatest popularizer of Anglo-American philosophy in the 20th century.
Sanford, James C. Great Freethinkers: Selected Quotations by Famous Skeptics and Nonconformists. Edited by James C. Sanford. Providence, Rhode Island, 2004. Biographical index, 250 pages. ISBN: 0974704229. VSCL.
Smith, George H. Atheism - The Case Against God. By George H. Smith. 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 the esoteric and magical aspects of Taoism and Druidry.
Virtues and the Good Life Compiled by Mike Garofalo.
Watson, Peter. The Age of Atheists: How We Have Sought to Live Since the Death of God. By Peter Watson. Simon and Schuster, 2014. 640 pages. ISBN: 978-1476754314. VSCL.
VSCL = Valley Spirit Center Library, Red Bluff, California
The "Four Horsemen" of Contemporary Free Thought
Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris
The "Four Horsemen" of Free Thought in 2009
Comments, Short Notes, Observations
When I am in a more sarcastic, critical, negative, a belligerent anti-religious mind, I might sound like this:
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 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. Mohammad was illiterate. 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 they 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. Eternal
damnation for petty sins seems cruel beyond belief. Jewish history and
myths are very uninteresting and barbaric 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, or exaggerated, or overstated my views regarding Christian churches; however, church people never will acknowledge that they might be wrong because they say they know the "Truth". 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.
Last week, I saw a truck in rural Red Bluff with 8 right wing political and Christian religious stickers advertising the owner's viewpoints. One sticker said "Eternal life is God's Gift." Of course, we all know that "eternal life" means eternal punishment in hell for all those who don't subscribe to his peculiar beliefs. Hardly, a consolation or reward or gift. What religion, among all the competing religions condemning all other other religions, should I choose to guarantee a pleasant eternal life. Thank you "God," but I will pass on such a dubious gift. Another NRA sticker on his truck said "In Guns we Trust." Even I think such a statement is spiritually corrupt and blasphemous. I own some pistols and rifles, locked up in a closet, but I don't worship guns, I do believe that gun controls are sensible, and I never think that our peace and prosperity are due to local yokels wanting to brandish their precious weapons pretending they are real soldiers preparing for battle. This dullard yahoo must be watching too many Bonanza and Roy Rodgers wild west rerun episodes on his TV. Another sticker said, "Some finally turn to Christ in the eleventh hour. I hope they die at 10:30." Another mean spirited Christian spitting on others - a member of the American Christian Taliban. Why would I want to break bread or share a pew with a jackass like that?
The Cosmos Series Returns (3/16/2014) Posted to the Cloud Hands BlogThe National Geographic Television Channel (FOX) is now presenting a new 2014 version of the famous "Cosmos" series each Sunday. It is now narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Unraveling and Warding Off DelusionsI recently read completely, for the second time, the bold, incisive, and clear minded 2006 book by Richard Dawkins called "The God Delusion." I agree with and support most of his accurate and decisive criticisms of religious beliefs and their negative effects on our world. This book is essential reading for the 20% of Americans who say they have no religious affiliations and beliefs. We need to be informed and speak out clearly.
April 3, 2014 Posted to the Cloud Hands Blog
My Experiences with Roman Catholic School
Education, K-8, 1950-1963, in East Los Angeles
At St. Alphonsus Grammer School and Cantwell High School
From the first grade until the fourth grades, I was a pious Catholic boy who was thoroughly indoctrinated in Roman Catholicism.
When I was nine years old, I worried myself into sleepless nights while thinking about how I was going to be tortured in hell for all eternity because I ate some meat on a Friday. A few years later, the Catholic Church changed its mind and said it was not a mortal sin to eat meat on Friday. What a pathetic and sick joke on a child!! Shame on those cruel flip-flopping priests, bishops and nuns!!
When I was ten years old, my teacher nun, a devout anti-Semite, frequently made unfavorable and negative references to Jewish people in her lectures ... Jews killed Jesus, Jews are anti-Catholic, Jews are rich and don't share with the poor, Jews use evil magic rituals, Jews are blah blah blah ... you know about all that Jew-hating diatribe. A friend of mine, Barry, was Jewish. A few years later, I attended his Bar-Mitzvah. He and his family were good people in my estimation. Even then, I knew in my heart that my nun teacher was a prejudiced liar and just mean; somebody unworthy of respect. Catholic nuns were full of much nonsense, and given free reign to pervert the truth to their liking.
When I was eleven years old, my nun teacher frequently read to us very graphic stories about the torture and murder of Catholic Saints by Romans and infidels. The Catholic martyrs were supposed to be our heroes. Around the same time I read in history books and encyclopedias at our local County library about how Catholic clerics had supported and blessed the practice of slavery of Africans in the New World. Millions of human beings had been imprisoned, enslaved, exploited, worked, starved, tortured, and killed with the active support and blessings of Catholic and Islamic clerics. In later years, I learned about the many historical atrocities sponsored and supported by the Catholic Church by reading library books; however, all of these Catholic Church caused evils were never mentioned or discussed in any of my Catholic school K-12 classes. For example, it took until 1998 for the Pope to "apologize" for the Catholic Church's cooperation and complicity with the Nazis in Germany. Indeed, the Roman Catholics since 500 CE were far more evil and horrific than the hand-full of Romans that created a few hundred saintly Catholic martyrs. Shameful intellectual dishonesty!!
When I was eleven years old, I told my nun teacher that I had attended church with my Grandmother Blaize in a Lutheran Church. The nun told me forcefully that my grandmother was going to burn in hell, and so would I if I ever went to Lutheran Church services again. I liked my kind grandmother, and decided then myself that my teacher was unfair and wrong. Shame on those rigid, dogmatic, and heartless weird hooded nuns!!
When I was twelve years old, I would confess to a priest time after time about my mortal sin of private masturbation. I was chided by the local Catholic priest confessor for my inability to not indulge in impure actions while alone, and reminded that I would be burning in hell for my sinful lusts. By the time I was thirteen years of age, I just decided that most priests were power hungry jerks, sexually deluded, and unworthy of being my spiritual or moral guides. Decades later, we learned that Catholic bishops in California were hiding pedophile priests and brothers as directed by lazy Cardinals, and not taking civil action against these true perverts doing really nonconsensual "impure actions" with minors What a mentally sick, hypocritical, illegal, and lying bunch of clerics!
When I was thirteen years old, I got into serious trouble with the nuns. Another boy had written a clever bawdy spoof of some popular rock lyrics of the day. We boys passed the written parody around and got a good laugh. Our teacher snatched the paper from one boy's hand. Then, all hell broke loose. The Principal and parish priest called eight of us boys in for a stern and severe lecture. We were disciplined and threatened with expulsion from school. Each of our parents were notified and the incident was greatly exaggerated. My father screamed at me, severely whipped me with a belt, punished me, and threatened to send me to reform school. Naturally, I was very frightened and hurt. Inside my mind, I thought myself unjustly and cruelly treated for a minor and insignificant matter, i.e., reading a mildly bawdy poem. (Of course Jehovah had condemned all humanity for evermore to toil, suffering, and death because two people ate an apple from his tree.) The incident confirmed my belief that my parents, priests, and nuns were somewhat insane about sexuality, prone to being cruel to children, and all addicted to wanting to control others. From then on, when these kinds of unpleasant incidents would occur again, and they did often, I would just say "Yes, Sir" out loud and obediently to avoid confrontation; but, in my mind I would say "You are stupid jerks and fucking dictators, and someday I will be free to ignore you, and I will." I became very skilled at hiding.
I could give my reader many more examples of the indecency and intellectual and spiritual bankruptcy of Catholic schools from 1950-1963 in East Los Angeles, but I don't want to bore or annoy myself even more.
In my Catholic high school, I kept my opinions about the worthlessness and evils of the Catholic religion to myself. I dutifully and respectfully participated in all the worthless, in my view, Catholic services, rituals and prayers. I got straight A's for four years in all my religion classes. I knew how to play their games, hide, keep my mouth shut, stay under the clerical radar, and avoid getting into any trouble with the short-tempered, mean and strict Irish Christian Brothers at Cantwell High School in Montebello, California. I witnessed these mean teachers physically abuse students. I saw the light at the end of the tunnel - graduation from that intellectual and spiritual prison in 1963. Some prisoners can improve their minds and rehabilitate themselves, and I did; unfortunately, most of my fellow students in that Catholic mental hospital and prison were religious recidivists. Yes, those nuns and brothers taught me by rote how to do math and read satisfactorily and how to act properly and give the appearance of obedience and conformity; however, they were spiritually and morally deficient in many ways. I do have my share of faults, both back then and now; however, these nuns, brothers, and priests were supposedly "teachers" and "models", but greatly failed in that task. I have socially tolerated, but have never respected them again for five decades.
I will say, unequivocally, that my K-12 Catholic School education and upbringing can, for me, be fairly characterized as sectarian indoctrination, full of superstitious nonsense, tainted by unwholesome meanness, sexually repressive, authoritarian, intellectually dishonest, and guided by uncreative rote learning practices.
Later in my life, based on my personal experiences, comments from others, and reading, I found that Protestant Christian preachers and Moslem Imams and most religious teachers are mostly cut from the same cloth as their Catholic counterparts: dogmatic, rigid, wanting to indoctrinate children, hypocrites, prone to cruelty, superstitious, hateful of people of other faiths, right wing supporters, liars, authoritarian, male chauvinists, and petty businessmen seeking financial benefits from their zombie worshippers. Of course, there are always exceptions to my strong opinions, but given enough time and the right circumstance, these skunks will very likely come out of the dark bushes. [I should apologize to all skunks; they are far better than these dangerous religious dolts.]
Back then and now, of course, there are many decent and kind persons who are also deeply religious or spiritual. Many persons belong to liberal churches and are not narrow minded and anti-progressive. Many wisely ignore their clerics. We share many of the same moral and humanistic goals in our society. We try to be peaceful, productive, egalitarian, tolerant, virtuous and progressive individuals. Therefore, in my daily life, I rarely share my religious views with others, and do not proselytize for secular humanism or atheism in my daily life; because, I want to survive, be successful, get along with others, and keep the peace.
Some people tell me that the Roman Catholic Church in America has changed and reformed and improved since the 1950's. I seriously doubt this contention. I have no need whatsoever to return to that quagmire of superstitious humbug, moral equivocation, flip-flopping petty rules, or kneel and kiss the ring of His Holiness. And most Protestant Christian and Moslem churches and clerics are just as bad or worse in my opinion.
From 1963-1967, I attended California State University at Los Angeles were I found liberation, Enlightenment, freedom from oppressive religious ideas, coeducational involvement, progressive ideas, actual history, philosophy, adult and wise teachers, and true intellectual delight. I found a path to a much happier life, free of unneeded religious baggage.
Watched an interesting documentary called the "Unbelievers" on Netflix last week. Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss go on a lecture and media tour to Australia and other locations to discuss science, humanism, free thinking, religion and atheism.
I've seen a number of local cars with a bumper sticker quoting a bible verse: "Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."
In Pulling Onions I state:
850. The fear of the Lord is a corner stone of indoctrination and the beginning of the end of wisdom.
851. Fear may keep some stupid people in line, but virtue for virtue's sake attracts the allegiance and support of most intelligent people.
In 2016, I have been quite consistently and intensely reading and studying the life, works, and philosophy of Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900). My hypertext notebook about Nietzsche includes some of my research and many quotations from Nietzsche. I first read Nietzsche in 1964, and since then many times in the past decades. Surprisingly, I don't remember my philosophy teachers (1962-1966) talking much about Nietzsche.
"Christianity as antiquity.-- When we hear
the ancient bells growling on a Sunday morning we ask ourselves: Is it really
possible! This, for a Jew, crucified two thousand years ago, who said he was
God's son? The proof of such a claim is lacking. Certainly the Christian
religion is an antiquity projected into our times from remote prehistory; and
the fact that the claim is believed - whereas one is otherwise so strict in
examining pretensions - is perhaps the most ancient piece of this heritage. A
god who begets children with a mortal woman; a sage who bids men work no more,
have no more courts, but look for the signs of the impending end of the world; a
justice that accepts the innocent as a vicarious sacrifice; someone who orders
his disciples to drink his blood; prayers for miraculous interventions; sins
perpetrated against a god, atoned for by a god; fear of a beyond to which death
is the portal; the form of the cross as a symbol in a time that no longer knows
the function and ignominy of the cross -- how ghoulishly all this touches us, as
if from the tomb of a primeval past! Can one believe that such things are
- Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human, S. 405, Translated by R. J. Hollingdale. Nietzsche on Christianity.
February 12, 2016
If you talked about or wrote about these atheistic viewpoints in countries where fundamentalist religion dominates, or the state is a theocracy, then you would be subject to harassment by neighbors and officials, fines, physical violence, or murder. Day in and day out you read about secular bloggers or publishers or free thinkers beaten up or hacked to death by mobs spurred on by preachers, and secular writers imprisoned and tortured by theocratic government officials.
True believers are dangerous, so use caution and watch what you say with locals. Free Thinking carries many risks.
In America, there is some freedom of expression. This is another reason why Islamists hate America. Yet, we have our own politicians and fervent Judeo-Christians who want to turn America into a Christian Nation, with a Christian version of Muslim Sharia, and their religion and doctrines taught to everyone in schools. So, even here in America, beware of the true believers. Although you tolerate them, and try to get along peacefully with them, their allegiance to submission, obedience, fables, superstition, and twaddle prevents them from tolerating you, and they will use, if permitted, their Christian soldiers to squash you or eliminate you. History is quite clear on this point─religious people are often quite mean and violent towards non-believers.
March 17, 2016
I am always keenly interested in our understanding, appreciation, and uses of our human bodies. Somatics and mind-body arts practices are one focus of my research and writing. My own opinions about a philosophy of living one's life, and enjoying the use of our bodies are, generally, non-religious, Epicurean, skeptical, and philosophical. Religious views of the body-mind are a serious impediment to progress.
"Two thousand years of Christian discourse—anatomy, medicine, physiology, or course, but also philosophy, theology, and aesthetics—have fashioned the body we inhabit. And along with that discourse we have inherited Platonic-Christian models that mediate our perception of the body, the symbolic value of the body's organs, and their hierarchically ordered functions. We accept the nobility of heart and mind, the triviality of viscera and sex (the neurosurgeon versus the proctologist). We accept the spiritualization and dematerialization of the soul, the interaction of sin-prone matter and of luminous mind, the ontological connotation of these two artificially opposed entities, the disturbing forces of a morally reprehensible libidinal humanity ... All have contributed to Christianity's sculpting of the flesh.
Our image of ourselves, the scrutiny of the doctor or the radiologist, the whole philosophy of sickness and health—none of this could exist in the absence of the above mentioned discourse. Nor could our conception of suffering, the role we allot to pain and therefore our relationship with pharmacology, substances, and drugs. Nor could our conception of suffering, the role we allot to pain and therefore our relationship with pharmacology, substances, and drugs. Nor could the special language of practitioner to patient, the relationship of self to self, reconciliation of one's image of oneself with a ideal of the physiological, anatomical, and psychological self. So that surgery and pharmacology, homeopathic medicine and palliative treatments, gynecology and thanatology, emergency medicine and oncology, psychiatry and clinical work all obey Judeo-Christian law without any particularly clear understanding of the symptoms of this ontological contamination.
The current hypersensivity on the subject of bioethics proceeds from this invisible influence. Secular political decisions on this major issue more or less correspond to the positions formulated by the church. This should be no surprise, for the ethos of bioethics remains fundamentally Judeo-Christian. Apart from legislation on abortion and artificial contraception, apart fro these two forward steps toward a post-Christian body—what I have elsewhere called a Faustian body—Western medicine sticks very closely to the church's injunctions.
The Health Professionals' Charter elaborated by the
Vatican condemns sex-change operations, experiments on the embryo, in vitro
fertilization and transfer, surrogate motherhood, medical assistance with
reproduction, but also therapeutic cloning, analgesic cocktails that suspend
consciousness as life comes to an end, therapeutic use of cannabis, and
euthanasia. On the other hand, the charter praises palliative care and
insists on the salutary role of pain. These are all positions
often echoed by ethical committees calling themselves secular and
believing themselves independent of religious authority."
- Michel Onfray. Atheist Manifesto: The Case Against Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Translated from the French by Jeremy Leggatt. New York Arcade Publishing, 2005, 2011. ISBN: 10161145008X. Annotated bibliography, 246 pages. VSCL. A lucid, strong, well reasoned, insightful, and stylish presentation. Excellent explication of the French and European writing on atheism, anti-clericalism, irreligion, deconstruction of religions, and anti-fascism. I agree with Professor Onfray's assessment about the negative influences of the three monotheistic religions surveyed; as I do with the dynamic and robust critiques of religion by Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris. The above quote is from p. 47.
When my mother, June, was dying of colorectal cancer, she spend her final days in a hospice. When she died my superstitious Catholic father said many times that the hospice killed her, that the hospice practiced euthanasia, that the hospice was sinful and evil. No matter how much I explained hospice care, he would not listen. It is no wonder my mother did not want to see my father at the end. I concluded that that he would rather have seen her suffer more, believing that suffering was good for the soul. He was often a mean and rigid macho man, lacking loving-kindness and compassion.
When I was 12 years of age, I was told by my priest confessor that masturbation was a mortal sin, evil, unnatural, and inspired by the devil; and, that I would go directly to hell for eternal horrific punishment if I continued to masturbate. I knew that that masturbation was pleasant, harmless, disease free, legal, and entirely private. I could not understand how if I should murder somebody I would go to hell, and if I masturbated I would go to hell. These church rules and penalties regarding masturbation seemed to me arbitrary and absurd.
The longstanding mistreatment of women by religious authorities and religious rules is also completely unsatisfactory to me. Dr. Ben Carson, for example, a secular political candidate, believes that any woman who is impregnated by a rapist or through incest should not be allowed to have an abortion even if she chooses to do so. Reflect also on how women are mistreated under the domination by Islamic men.
I was not surprised to read that the Catholic Church, Islam, and Mormons still all object to vasectomies. Muslims kill people providing polio shots. Religions significantly slowed the progress in anatomy for centuries by refusing to allow post mortem autopsies. Examples of the pernicious effect of religion on medicine and psychology can be multiplied with ease.
I have never gone to any church since I was 16, after I left Catholic high school. What a wise move on my part to abandon the silly rules, anti-scientific opinions, fables, myths, superstitions, and authoritarianism of organized religions. A good life is much easier to live and enjoy, without the burdens of religious twaddle.
"The source of man's unhappiness is his ignorance of Nature. The pertinacity with which he clings to blind opinions imbibed in his infancy, which interweave themselves with his existence, the consequent prejudice that warps his mind, that prevents its expansion, that renders him the slave of fiction, appears to doom him to continual error."
- Baron d'Holbach, The System of Nature
"The whole thing is so patently infantile, so foreign to
reality, that to anyone with a friendly attitude to humanity it is painful to
think that the great majority of mortals will never be able to rise above this
view of life. It is still more humiliating to discover how a large number of
people living today, who cannot but see that this religion is not tenable,
nevertheless try to defend it piece by piece in a series of pitiful rearguard
- Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, 1930
May 18, 2016
Michael P. Garofalo, A Brief Biography
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