NOVEMBER 3rd 2019 First Monthly Service on "Gratitude For Freethinkers"

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NOVEMBER 3rd 2019 First Monthly Service on "Gratitude For Freethinkers"

Post by tim »

Our November 3rd service looked ahead to the first of the major holidays later in the month, Thanksgiving, with a program featuring the subject “Gratitude For Freethinkers.”

We began by noting that November 3rd is an important date in the timeline of the English Reformation. This was the date of the “Act of Supremacy” of the English Parliament in 1534 when King Henry VIII was recognized as the “Supreme Head of the Church of England,” formalizing the break with Rome and its Pope. This kicked off centuries of anti-Catholic persecution and religious strife in Britain and elsewhere in its empire. Surprisingly, only about a dozen years earlier, in 1521, Pope Leo X had rewarded Henry VIII with the title “Defender of the Faith” for writings condemning Martin Luther. Of course, Henry VIII wrote it the way JFK wrote Profiles in Courage or Donald Trump wrote The Art of the Deal. As I well-known, of course, the English Reformation (and much of the Reformation generally) was driven by political considerations as Europe's feudalism began to give way to nation-states. And, of course, Henry VIII wanted a divorce from Catherine of Aragon or, as divorce is known among Catholics, an annulment.

We considered the Reformation as enabling religious innovation – what the orthodox call “heresy” – which then included not just various strains of Protestantism but, eventually, Unitarianism, Universalism, Quakerism, Mormonism, and even, in the form of the NTCOF, rational/fact-based consideration of “religious questions” as a legitimate religious alternative to the longstanding supernaturalistic religions. Imagine what would have happened in the Middle Ages if Europe is Buddhist missionaries had arrived to spread enlightenment! As it is, and despite the fact that the supernaturalism-based religions always claim credit for societal progress, religious innovators were typically tortured and executed instead of canonized!

We enjoyed a Moment of Science focusing on a recent report that a harmless African toad mimics a deadly African snake both in appearance and in making a “warning hiss.” It is the latest example of “Batesian mimicry” which helps the organism escape predation. Perhaps the best-known example of this is the Viceroy butterfly that mimics the poisonous Monarch butterfly. We then turned to what is known of mimicry among our own species and found that it is a key element of our human social nature and, as well, easily abused by corrupt politicians (which seems to often be an oxymoron) presenting themselves as “just ordinary folk.”

Our “Gratitude for Freethinkers” segment dwelt on the many elements of and the meaning of thankfulness. Being thankful, importantly, does NOT require belief in the supernatural. We related gratitude to the familiar “glass half-empty or half-full” trope and the fact that feeling gratitude depends importantly on perspective and disposition, perhaps even personality. Some oif these are easier to change than others but anyone can adopt habits of mind that can tilt them in the direction of feeling more gratitude and benefit from the peace of mind this can bring.

Does feeling grateful have medical benefits beyond mental health? There is some evidence that it may and this continues to be an active area of scientific study. We reviewed some of what is known about this.

We then had an interesting Q&A session on these subjects. Various of our members expressed being grateful for:
    • Advances in medical science without which many of would not be alive. “Why don't people, when they get sick,” asked one member, “ask to be taken to their church instead of the hospital?” In this connection, it was also pointed out that sickness used to be seen as “God's punishment” or “God” testing or challenging people. Mother Teresa famously insisted that pain and suffering is “the kiss of Jesus!” And death, of course, is supposedly the doorway to being with “God” and enjoying eternal bliss. So why would any believer who truly believes what they say they believe want to delay that wondrous future?

      Loved ones in their lives who have meant so much to them

      Experiences that went into shaping their lives and outlook

      The example of an older sister making unasked-for (and mostly un-thanked) efforts to tidy up and keep living spaces more livable
      Our church in which all of us have met friends and established important relationships with others who share our core values
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