Herb’s View of Ritual Humanism

What is your religious preference?  

When asked the above question, I usually answered Episcopalian (non-practicing), since I was baptized and confirmed in the Church. In reality, I had grown out of believing in a Supreme Being years earlier. Somewhat like a child growing out of believing in Santa Claus.    

I should have answered Atheist, but in our "Christian" United States, I felt that I would be considered being just a notch above child molester or terrorist. I felt that replying Agnostic was not much better.  Which is a shame because I could argue the possibility of a deity if it were something like Star Wars’ “The Force.” Science has no answer to what existed before the big bang. If one makes the reasonable assumption that time is infinite, then we have no idea what forces or entities could have been created by intelligent lifeforms in previous universes.

My grandfather was a missionary doctor in Fort Yukon, Alaska. His wife, my paternal grandmother, Clara (Heintz) Burke, chronicled his life in the book Doctor Hap. It is out of print, but our families have saved a few copies. We were a moderately religious family, regularly attending an Episcopalian Church in West Seattle. If my memory serves me right, I had just received a pin for six years of perfect Sunday school attendance when our Junior Church Leader said that we were old enough that we did not need to use such juvenile motivational gimmicks. He was wrong, as I missed next Sunday and I probably attend less than a dozen services afterward. Over the next 60 years, I probably attended various churches another dozen or two times, mostly for weddings and funerals.

As I worked with Tarolyn in presenting her philosophy on the internet, I realized that Ritual Humanism provides me with a positive answer when asked about my religious beliefs. Now when presented with a form asking for my religious preference, I can comfortably answer that I am a "Ritual Humanist." A curious reader of my reply may ask me about what it is, or Google for the answer. My hope is that in a few years everyone will recognize Ritual Humanism.

How Ritual Humanism® Differs

Ritual Humanism differs from other a-religious belief and self-improvement systems in that Tarolyn realized that these systems lacked the component of ritual and she included Rituals as a key aspect of her philosophy.

As detailed in Tarolyn’s pageOur Brains are Wired for Ritual,” rituals are a part of our life. She realized that we can harness rituals’ ability to influence our emotions for our betterment. Religious rituals have influenced our emotions for centuries. However, it is only recently that research by psychologists has documented that rituals have a causal impact on people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

Tarolyn’s thoughts on rituals tend to lean toward meditation and calming. However, rituals do not have to be quiet to have a positive effect on the brain. The raising of the 12th Man Flag at a Seahawks game or a crowd performing the “Wave” can have a positive effect on your brain.

I have my share of rituals. Usually, I start my day with a cup of coffee, the comics, and a Sudoku puzzle all interspersed with a generous amount of Pomeranian petting. I feel that Ritual Humanism should promote group activities and rituals. It will be some time before we have our own dedicated meeting places so we need some other way to get together.

Here are some my ideas. I am sure that you can suggest even better ones via the Comments Form below.

  1. Arrange with a shopping mall, or even a superstore like Wal-Mart, to hold our meeting in their food court just after closing. Just before closing Ritual Humanists and their guests could form a singing and dancing flash mob and invite the remaining shoppers to join them after closing.
  1. Hold a tailgate party. Not at a sporting event but in the backyard of some senior who can’t afford to paint their home. And, of course, paint their house. (Part of the reason we are forming as a 501(c3) non-profit is that we want to raise enough money to be able to pay for the paint. The American Atheists reported on their 2013 form 990, income and expenses of over one million dollars but not one cent went to help the needy. If someone gives us a million dollars, we will be buying a lot of paint!)
  1. Create Charity Rituals. There is the perception that only governments and religious groups help the down and out. Actions by non-religious groups like the America Atheists have done little to change that. Ritual Humanism wants to change that. We plan to do more than just publish thoughtful papers on self-improvement, we will be spending the majority of our donors’ money directly helping people.

I am forever kidding Tarolyn to develop a ritual incorporating dancing nude under a full moon. I should probably rethink this idea as neither one of us looks that great nude. Maybe we could do it on a cloudy night or under a new moon. However, I am serious about looking forward to Our First Annual Conference.

Maryhill Stonehenge - Site of Ritual Humanism's First Annual Conference

Tarolyn at Maryhill Stonehenge

Tarolyn at Maryhill Stonehenge
Columbia River in Background

I keep telling Tarolyn that I am looking forward to the First Annual Conference of Ritual Humanists at the Maryhill Stonehenge. The Stonehenge and The Maryhill Museum of Art are key features of the estate of Railroad Magnet Samuel Hill. Hill was so impressed with England’s Stonehenge that he built a full-sized replica as a war memorial. Here we will celebrate the Summer Solstice by dancing in the nude (clothes optional). (I have both G and R rated pictures of Tarolyn as she flashed me from behind the stones.)

Stonehenge at Maryhill, Washington

Stonehenge at Maryhill, Washington

The Maryhill Stonehenge is a concrete replica of the English Stonehenge located in Maryhill, Washington. It was commissioned in the early 20th century by businessman Samuel Hill and dedicated on July 4, 1918, as a memorial to those who had died in World War I. The memorial was completed in 1929. The Maryhill Stonehenge was the first monument in the United States to honor the dead of World War I (specifically, soldiers from Klickitat County, Washington who had died in the still ongoing war). Hill, a Quaker, informed that the original Stonehenge had been used as a sacrificial site, constructed the replica as a reminder that humanity is still being sacrificed to the god of war. Unlike the original Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument located in Wiltshire, England, Hill had his Stonehenge constructed to appear as the original did when it was new over 4000 years ago.

The altar stone is placed to align with sunrise on the Summer Solstice.  So it will provide a perfect time and place for our Ritual for Peace.

(Here is a perfect example of an opportunity for our Members to "Help Us Grow." We do not have a "Ritual for Peace."  You could write an original Peace Ritual and send it to us via the Comment Form below or by email to rituals@ritualhumanism.org.)

We will need more members and money before we could even seriously propose holding a conference at the Maryhill Stonehenge. Holding such a conference is on my Bucket List and since I am 76, we are going to need a lot of help from you if it is to happen while I am still around. If you are not already a Ritual Humanist go to our Membership page and sign up. If you are, how about using the button below to donate to our Stonehenge Fund (not). At this time we are not large enough to separate our donations for selected purposes but in the future, we will. For now, all donations will go to our general account to support our ongoing operations. If you become a Patron and want to dedicate a sizable donation for a specific purpose, email us at gifts@ritualhumanism.org with details of your proposed gift.