128 My Mission and Vision

My mission and vision is to motivate and train people to be more rational, ethical, and mindful, for a better life and world. What does this mean and how does it relate to your own mission in life? In this podcast and YouTube video, I explain my mission and get into what it means to be more rational, ethical, and mindful. Discover is I am really the right spiritual teacher for you on your path to a more meaningful and happy life.

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Darwin Day – February 12th

Blog_DarwinDayDarwin Day is a yearly celebration that, not only seeks to highlight Darwin’s contribution to science, but also to promote science in general. The day commemorates the anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, who was born on February 12, 1809. He died on April 19, 1882. He was 73 years old.

Charles Darwin created a revolution in the field of biology with his theory of evolution by natural selection. Today the theory has stood the test of time, being confirmed by modern genetics. It is not “just a theory,” it is a scientific fact.

We are still learning just how revolutionary Darwin’s theory is. Evolutionary psychology is beginning to unlock the secrets of how our brains developed, and why we think the way we do.

Given my great admiration for Charles Darwin, I was happy to hear that the American Humanist Association had worked with Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT) to introduce the Darwin Day resolution, H. Res. 548, in the House of Representatives for the fifth time since 2011. I wrote to my senators, Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, encouraging them to pass the resolution.

So how do you celebrate Darwin Day? The Center for Inquiry suggests throwing Darwin a birthday party with hats, cake, and even “pin the tail on the finch.” They also suggest a Darwin birthday card. Other ideas include going to a zoo or museum and studying evolutionary adaptations in animals. You could also read a book or watch a movie on evolution. I bought my son the book Evolution by Daniel Loxton. I highly recommend it. Other’s dress up like Darwin, with the white beard.

So this Friday, February 12, 2016, will be a day to remember a genius of biological science, and promote a better understanding of science and its importance in the future of our species. If we are to survive, we must learn to adapt to the reality of global warming, overpopulation, and the growing wealth disparity. We can’t do this without scientific and rational thinking, based on evidence.

Center for Inquiry. 2016. “Darwin Day.” Accessed February 04.
International Darwin Day Foundation. 2016. “Events.” Accessed February 04. http://darwinday.org/events/.
• Loxton, Daniel. 2010. Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be. Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press.
• Speckhardt, Roy. 2016. “Support the Senate Darwin Day Resolution.” American Humanist Association. Accessed February 04.

Yoga in the East and West

Blog_YogaintheEastandWestYoga literally means yoke, but it generally means spiritual discipline. Here in the United States, Yoga is associated with physical exercise. It is more accurately called Hatha Yoga. And as a form of physical activity, I highly recommend Yoga.

But there is a difference between the exercises of Yoga and the teachings of Yoga. Yoga is one of the six major philosophical schools of Hinduism. The others are Nyaya and Vaisesika (which have merged), Sankhya, Mimamsa, and Vedanta. Deepak Chopra is from the Vedanta school.

The oldest text of Yoga was written by Patanjali and is called the Yoga Sutra. Unlike other philosophical systems, Yoga includes the idea of a personal God. This God is known as Isvara.

Yoga also has an eightfold path, being abstention from the five evils, various means of self-discipline, posture exercises, breathing exercises, withdrawing the mind from sense objects, concentration, deep meditation, and absorption into the ultimate (Morgan 2001, 43-44).

Hatha Yoga is the beginning stage of Raja Yoga, or Raja Marga. This is the path of mental and physical discipline. Hatha Yoga is the physical part of this path. You can do the exercises without believing the religious teachings.

“The central technique of hatha yoga,” explains Diane Morgan (2001, 42), “involves regulated breathing (prana) and sustained postures (asana).” And the health benefits of Yoga are undisputed. In one article, Dr. Timothy McGraw (2007) lists 38 health benefits of Yoga.

My recommendation is to ditch the metaphysical baggage, and just practice the physical exercises of Yoga. This is in accordance with my recommendation that we live an evidence-based life.

McCall, Timothy. “38 Health Benefits of Yoga.” Yoga Journal. August 28. Accessed February 3, 2016. http://www.yogajournal.com/article/health/count-yoga-38-ways-yoga-keeps-fit/.
Morgan, Diane. 2001. The Best Guide to Eastern Philosophy and Religion. New York: Renaissance Books.
Thompson, Mel. 2003. Teach Yourself Eastern Philosophy. Chicago; McGraw-Hill.

The Search for Meaning

Blog_TheSearchforMeaningViktor E. Frankl was a psychiatrist, who founded a school of psychotherapy based on humanity’s search for meaning. This search for meaning, he claims, “is the primary motivation in his life and not a ‘secondary rationalization’ of instinctual drives” (Frankl 2006, 99).

The problem is that few of us know what motivates us, and even fewer know how to find meaning in life. This requires wisdom, a wisdom that is no longer taught or passed down from parent to child. The fact is, most of us were raised by parents that had no more a clue of life’s meaning than we did.

But without this meaning, life becomes almost unbearable. We need to have a meaning for our existence, especially if we are to endure the eventual hardships life brings. As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how” (Frankl 2006, 104).

So where do we turn to discover this meaning in life? Many turn to religion for answers. And just about every religion will have a ready-made answer. Christianity’s answer is best given by the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Question, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

The problem with these pat answers is that they satisfy someone only if they don’t question things too much. If the meaning of my life is to glorify God, then, which God. There are thousands of religions, how am I supposed to know which one is correct. And further, how do I know that there is even a God? What if there is no God? What then? Does my life then have no meaning?

Wisdom will help us realize that religious cliches are shallow, and ultimately, distracting. We have to do the hard task of discovering our own meaning to our own life. No one can tell you the meaning of your life. The best they can do is help you develop the skills to help you on your spiritual journey. In fact, I would argue, that finding the meaning of your life is one of the main aspects of spirituality.

There is a world of difference between an aimless life and one that has purpose. A purpose driven life is one that is filled with direction, energy, and positive influence for the betterment of people and society. Whether or not you believe in some kind of God or not, you still need to find purpose in this world and in this life. You need to find a mission that is uniquely yours, matched to your strengths and values.

• Frankl, Victor E. 2006. Man’s Search for Meaning. Boston: Beacon Press.
• Westminster Shorter Catechism. 1647. The Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics. Accessed January 28, 2016. http://www.reformed.org/documents/WSC.html.

127 Spiritual But Not Religious

The fastest growing religious designation is the nones, which are those who are not associated with a religion. Many of these would consider themselves spiritual, but not religious. What does it mean to be spiritual but not religious. Religion deals with the outward, while spirituality deals with the inward. Spirituality is about connecting with nature, expanding our consciousness, and finding meaning in life.

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with your family and friends. The podcast is free and relies on the promotion of its listeners. Please share, rate, and review the podcast on YouTube, iTunes, and Stitcher.

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Secular Spiritual Teacher

Blog_SecularSpiritualTeacherWhat do you call a teacher who is committed to both spirituality and science? Who believes both in secular Humanism and mindfulness meditation? Who takes naturalism is be the basic metaphysical foundation for what is really real, but also believes that there are non-rational aspects that are both subjective, and important?

You could call me spiritual but not religious. I am convinced that all religions got it wrong, to varying degrees. The existence of God is one of the areas they got wrong. If there is a God, and we have no evidence that there is one, he would be so beyond the petty and human-like creations of Christianity, Islam, or Judaism. Religion may have been our first attempts at understanding the world, but we can do better.

But I am also not against realizing that religion had an important role. It sought to answer humanity’s deepest needs, needs that many atheists seem to ignore. Luckily we can separate the ridiculous dogmas of religion, from the legitimate pursuit of meaning, and connect with the sacred. That is the difference between religion and spirituality.

So this is the path I have traveled. I began as a Christian, became a Buddhist, and now I am a secular Humanist with a passion for helping people find a personal relationship with reality. This means helping them think clearly, act wisely, and live mindfully so that they may live a happier, more meaningful life.

So what do you call a teacher who is both secular or non-supernatural and committed to spirituality and meditation? This seems to be new ground. If you Google, “Secular Spiritual Teacher” you will find 5 results. I guess it is unusual for a teacher to be committed to secular rationality and spiritual development.

An Evidence Based Life

Blog_AnEvidenceBasedLifeSo what’s most important to you in life? When you think about it, what’s the most important thing. For me, it’s the truth. Is the truth important to you?

In my opinion, there’s no religion higher than truth. Truth, what is truth? That is a famous quote from Pontius Pilate, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). Philosophy’s been struggling this for years. And the best definition I’ve ever heard is, that truth is the correspondence between thought and reality. When what you think matches what is, you have truth.

The problem is, everybody claims to have the truth. Christianity claims to have the truth, Islam claims to have the truth, the Republicans claim to have the truth, and the Democrats claim to have the truth. Everybody’s claiming the truth. How do you know whose right?

There are far too many claims for all of them to be right, and they are contradictory. I mean, atheism says that God does not exist and Theism says that God does exist. Both statements can’t be true. How do you decide which statement is true? This is where evidence comes.

I want the advocate an evidence based life. Evidence is a set of facts that support a claim, also known as a truth claim. A claim is simply a statement that is either true or false. Throughout your life, you’ll hear many different claims, some of them will be true, but many of them will be false. How do you determine whether a claim is true or false?

You can just trust a particular person and say, “Well, whatever so and so says, must be true.” That’s an appeal to authority. And if the authority is reliable and correctly reporting the evidence, then you can trust that authority. There’s nothing wrong with that. But the problem is, on many issues, there is no real authority.

For example, who is an authority on the existence of god, or the lack of existence of god. There is no authority on that. Because the question is too big. It’s asking ultimate questions and in ultimate questions, the philosopher is the most qualified person to answer those. And the philosophers disagree.

However, if you go back and you say, “I’m living an evidence based life, now what is the evidence?” The evidence, once you research it, and think it through impartially, without confirmation bias, you will come to the same conclusion I did. The God of the Bible does not exist. The God of the Koran does not exist.

Also, remember that the importance of the question that you’re asking determines the amount of evidence. So if the question is very important, you need a good amount of evidence. If the question is more trivial, like should I go to a particular restaurant, you don’t need much evidence. You can very quickly weigh the pros and cons in your head. It’s not a big deal. But the existence of God is a big deal, and so it requires a good amount of evidence.

And the subject of the question determines the source of the evidence. If it’s a scientific question, then we could turn to science. We don’t turn to scripture. Scripture has to be verified before we can turn to scripture. You have to find out if the Bible, or the Koran, or the Rigveda, or whatever it is that you’re appealing to as a holy book, is true. Because there are hundreds of holy books. Who’s to say that yours is right? So you first have to turn to the evidence to support it, or to disconfirm it. As I have done with the Bible.

So truth is found through following the evidence. If you value truth, you must value of the evidence. And, if you value truth, you’ll deal with the evidence objectively. Without trying to confirm your Christianity, or for that matter, your atheism. Just look at the evidence impartially, and live an evidence based Life.

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