Let’s Talk About…Sea Shanties?

I am generally oblivious to popular culture. This is not a characteristic that has developed with age–unfortunately, I have never been “with it.” (My students came to recognize the blank look that was my response to musical references more recent than Dean Martin.)

This personal history is by way of explaining my confusion over recent references to the popularity of Sea Shanties. 

I consulted Dr. Google, and found that Sea Shanties are “unifying, survivalist songs,” designed to transform a large group of people into one collective body, all working together to keep the ship afloat. Their sudden resurgence of popularity has been attributed to the anomie of our time, and the fact that so many people are desperate for connection–evidently, the original goal of the Sea Shanty was to foster community, as sailors worked long hours aboard a ship.

That desire for connection has also manifested itself in current calls for national unity. In the case of the Trumpian “fellow travelers” in the Senate– Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and their ilk–those calls are deeply dishonest and self-serving, but others, including the incoming administration, seem genuinely committed to healing the deep rifts that separate ordinary Americans.

One question, of course, is whether healing and unity can ever be achieved in the absence of accountability. Another is the nature of unity in a radically diverse society. There is ample evidence that people are longing for connection, for community, for belonging–but connection to what? What defines the community we aspire to join? 

My entire research focus has been devoted to that question. How do very different people live productively together? What sort of governing arrangements can both function for everyone and still honor/respect individual and group differences?

My conclusion lies in what has been called America’s “civic religion”– allegiance to the overarching  values embodied in America’s constituent documents–values that are central to what I call the American Idea. During his inauguration speech, President Biden quoted St. Augustine for much the same sentiment–that a “people is a multitude defined by the common objects of their love.”

In 2004, I wrote a column in which I listed what I saw as the values that define us as Americans–the values that should be the “common objects of our love.” These are the overarching principles that infuse the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and that, at least in my view, are absolutely central to what it means to be an American–hyphenated or not.

Here is that list.

Americans believe in justice and civil liberties—in equal treatment and fair play for all citizens, whether or not we agree with them or like them or approve of their life choices.

We believe that no one is above the law—and that includes those who run our government.

We believe that dissent can be the highest form of patriotism. Those who care about America enough to speak out against policies they believe to be wrong or corrupt are not only exercising their rights as citizens, they are discharging sacred civic responsibilities.

We believe that playing to the worst of our fears and prejudices, using “wedge issues” to marginalize gays or Blacks or Muslims or “east coast liberals” (a time-honored code word for Jews) in the pursuit of political advantage is un-American and immoral.

We believe, as Garry Wills once wrote, in “critical intelligence, tolerance, respect for evidence, a regard for the secular sciences.”

We believe, to use the language of the nation’s Founders, in “a decent respect for the opinions of mankind” (even non-American mankind).

We believe in the true heartland of this country, which is anywhere where people struggle to provide for their families, dig deep into their pockets to help the less fortunate, and understand their religions to require goodwill and loving kindness rather than legal or cultural dominance.

We believe that self-righteousness is the enemy of righteousness.

We really do believe that the way you play the game is more important, in the end, than whether you win or lose. We really do believe that the ends don’t justify the means.

It’s true that America’s aspirational values have never been wholly realized, but pursuing them is what unifies us. They are our Sea Shanties.

Healing and unity will require that Americans committed to those values reclaim the vocabulary of patriotism from those who have hijacked the language in service of something very different. 


  1. How often have we heard: “not man is an island”? From birth, we learn to thrive to live, play and work with others. Improving our potential for mutual advancement depends on the rediscovery of a consistent understanding of freedom. That exercised freedom comes with responsibility and accountability. It is hard work everyday. The reward comes when you enrich the inevitable cycle as my successful West Texas farmer grandad would say often: “what goes round, comes round.”

  2. Sorry Sheila, but our Oligarchic Founders were racists and sexists, among other things.

    Those who claim to be Christian and Republicans at the same time, love to point out that we are/were a Christian nation, at the same time ignoring our slaughtering of Native Americans and enslaving humans for profits.

    In short, don’t look backward. We are a global civilization occupying earth. The collective goes beyond imaginary borders and restrictions. The answers will come; are coming from the young people.

    For all the negative rap social media gets from this blog, it has allowed us to connect to people living all over this planet.

    And guess what, they already know how the propaganda works to divide.

    It’s the Boomers who created our problems so it’s laughable when Boomers pretend to have the solutions.

    As Einstein said, “The solution will not come from the same level of consciousness that created the problem.”

  3. Let me assure you, the moment Republicans re-take the House or Senate this whole spirit of compromise that has suddenly bloomed from a few on the right will instantly wither.

    It’s always Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown. Charlie never, ever, learns that Lucy isn’t an honest actor.

  4. “It’s true that America’s aspirational values have never been wholly realized, but pursuing them is what unifies us. They are our Sea Shanties.”

    When far left and far right and both parties internally understand that unifying does NOT mean everybody agrees with everybody on everything; it means they will work together to reach a workable agreement.

  5. Once again, Todd captures the essence of the human condition on Earth over it sordid history. Nicely summed, Todd.

    Now, let’s get back to trying to govern ourselves so the pollution, hate, bigotry, murder, mayhem and whatnot doesn’t destroy the planet for all the OTHER living things. We can’t be that self-centered, can we?

  6. That’s a nice aspirational list. It is so far from reality, though, that it is nearly laughable. Every time I think the next generation will save the planet, we get another Kyle Rittenhouse. Right now I’m more or less basking in the sunlight of Amanda Gorman while praying that no youthful storm clouds ruin my reverie.

  7. Todd, WADR as a “boomer” I take your “OK” blast with a bit of retort…our generation marched for civil rights and women’s rights and against the Vietnam War. Our leaders passed the Civil Rights and Voting Rights laws and established the EPA. We sang protest folk songs as our anthems.

    Last time I looked things turned from “we” to “me” in the 70’s and later…

  8. Well Todd, I have to agree with you this morning!

    Sea Shanti, LOL!

    It sounds good, but those fishing communities, butchered the dolphins, depending on their locations, butchered penguins and seals, because, those animals had the nerve to eat the fish!

    I find this particular Scripture interesting, in Proverbs 12:10 which reads; “the righteous one takes care of his domestic animals but even the mercy of the wicked is cruel!”


    This song by the Chi Lites kind of explains how people felt in the late 60s early 70s! The same timeframe that Marvin Gaye came out with his “ecology” album, and War, their song ” the world is a ghetto” expressed their feelings on unequal treatment and disregard of man’s stewardship of the planet.

    Our Constitution was not crafted by men who thought everyone was equal! Equality was measured by your fellow white male Protestant slaveowner.

    As was brought out in earlier threads, John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, Viscount Bolingbrook, Thomas Paine, and Joseph Priestley, all recognized that belief in a supreme deity, could keep individuals grounded because there was something greater than themselves. But that those beliefs should be held in their homes and their churches and not melded in government.

    Even Aristotle was of the same opinion, he recognized the importance of something greater than self.

    The Sea Shanti movement that we see on YouTube or tick-tock, is great for some to have a flashback, but in the days of the Beach boys and other groups, this vision was definitely not colorblind, it was white! So, large portions of society was and is left out even though that portion is getting larger, and the white is getting smaller.

    Looking backwards is even more self delusional than pretending there really were good old days for everyone! If you’re not looking forward, you’re going to run right into that brick wall or sail over the edge of the precipice! You can’t change the past but you can mitigate its effects by looking forward! Really then try not to repeat the same course that was proven wrong. Of course that takes some gravitas and a lot of spine, which has not been availed with this current crop of GOP.

  9. The Modern Era tried to end “tribal” conflict by elevating individuality and erasing group identity. We are at the end of that process, with hyper-individualism dissolving community in unsustainable and often destructive ways. This has been called “Postmodernism, but it’s really hyper-Modernism. Human beings can’t develop their full potential apart from participation in healthy communities. The challenge before us is the battle for what kind of communities. Will we fall back into largely closed groups, seeing outsiders as threats and ” aliens”, and the world in terms of scarcity so when others get, me and mine lose? Or will we figure out how to keep the gains of the Modern Era while rebuilding healthier community life? I believe we need to look to ecosystems for ideas: Healthy ecosystems are combinations of multiple species living in dynamic interrelationships that add up to a distinctive whole. Forests are not savannas are not marshes. Yet permeable edges are essential and are where the greatest gene exchange and creativity is found. In human terms, we need to rebuild distinctive communities, but keep them open and creative rather than closed and stagnant.

  10. This is fascinating because while I can easily sign on to these beliefs, I no longer believe that a significant number of alleged “Americans” would.

  11. Sea shanties were written (or, maybe more accurately, evolved and naturally selected) to be inclusive and easy to sing. They usually have a strong rythym, so that sailors could use them to coordinate manual work like raising anchors, hoisting sails, etc., and have fairly simple harmonies so that everyone, no matter what the range of their voice, can join in. They’re entertaining and tell stories or make jokes or appeal to emotions to keep people interested. Those who have ears for social metaphors, let them hear.

    Social media like Tiktok have simply made it easy for lots of people to join in the fun. Serendipitously, as Ms. Kennedy noted, that capability has arrived at a time when a lot of people feel the need for collaborative, social fun.

    No doubt the fad will pass eventually, but they’re still good songs and eminently hummable if you’re into that sort of thing. There are quite a few musicians who have specialized in singing and recording shanties from the Great Lakes shipping trade. It’s a fun way to learn a little bit of history while enjoying the music. A couple I know of:

    Lee Murdock (www.leemurdock.com)
    Tom Kastle (www.tomkastle.com/)

  12. Yeah. 250 year old oligarchs… They did it. They replaced one form of oppressive, unfair government with another. The Civil War replaced one form of oppressive government with another… after an assassination of somebody who tried to fix it.

    That’s what I meant when I said those things about the human condition. The Medieval European wars? World Wars when the gasoline engine allowed humans to kill each other around the world…

    As an evolutionary biologist, the “big” picture of the human condition is both disturbing and paradoxical: We reproduce faster than most mammals so we can destroy our environment faster, kill more of each other faster and accelerate the doomsday machine faster and faster.

    So, in that vein, what does everyone think about the Republicans – including the shamelessly virulent idiot, Nikki Haley – say that THEIR criminal shouldn’t be held accountable for nearly getting THEMSELVES killed by the mob he incited? Well, since Republicans have fallen into the inferno of self-centered power grabbing as their basis for existence, I suppose they represent the next form of oppressive government.

    How long can Democrats (Not the ones Todd loves.) hold these traitorous fools off to preserve the noble document… with Amendments?

  13. Ah yes music. We grieve with it, celebrate with it, protest with it, march to war with it, dance with it, fall in and out of love with it, worship with it, and even work with it. It is a source of unifying power. I’m a song writer. I wish I could write a song that inspired each of us to work together and to agree to disagree.

    I am a boomer. There were 2 sides to our generation, I suppose. Those who marched for civil rights and the end to a war. And those who “dropped out” with free love and drugs. It was a time of tremendous civil unrest. The question for me is what happened to our generation in the 80’s after the war ended, and we moved forward on civil rights. What happened after Reagan became president to our economy ?

    It is good to have a “civic religion”, a set of values that serves as a corrective voice to the way we treat one another. Our national ideals speak to the importance of bringing everyone to the table, and giving everyone a right to voice their ideas, beliefs etc.

    If we are going to move toward a “more perfect union” then we will have to rid ourselves of those systems that obstruct our ability to make those ideals a reality i.e. gerrymandering, obstacles to campaign finance reform, racial inequity. We will have to address the divide between rural and urban, black and white, men and women, gay and straight, poor and rich, right and left.

    We need to ensure that our leaders move in accord with those ideals and believe in servant leadership. We need leaders who not only bring everyone to the table but also work to ensure that each voice is heard and respected. I know that will take more than a pitch-in and a sing-a-long.

    Time for me to sing “America the beautiful” and then maybe I need to take a closer look at the lyrics.

  14. Let’s be hopeful…if a Black man can write this….

    It’s been a long
    A long time coming
    But I know a change gonna come
    Oh, yes it will

    It’s been too hard living
    But I’m afraid to die
    ‘Cause I don’t know what’s up there
    Beyond the sky

    I go to the movie
    And I go downtown
    Somebody keep telling me
    Don’t hang around

    Then I go to my brother
    And I say, brother, help me please
    But he winds up, knockin’ me
    Back down on my knees

    Oh, there been times that I thought
    I couldn’t last for long
    But now I think I’m able, to carry on

    It’s been a long
    A long time coming
    But I know a change gonna come
    Oh, yes it will

  15. We are nothing if not interdependent, period. Not just among ourselves, but with the planet, and all those who ride with it. Even the dung beetle has a role, not as president, but that’s another story. Those who think that everything is about “ME,” would bring about a massive dystopia of rabid individualism (an American myth), and then complain that they feel so all alone, “what’s the matter with everyone ELSE?”

  16. Life is difficult. Living is learning and learning is motivated by making mistakes. Nobody has it easy but each of us is burdened differently. As we’ve populated the earth to the point where its seams are bursting we have made living harder as well as more comfortable. We have lots of tools from bulldozers to artificial intelligence but they all require skills to master to the point where in one life most people master only a few so to keep the ship sailing we need the entire crew pulling together and complementing each other. All of our institutions, corporations, churches, the military, and countries, states and locales know all of that so institute their individual government to make that happen. Have we made life so complex that it’s become out of our control?

    Absolutely for many people. Less so for others. That’s another reason for all of these governments. Hence the current meme, stop the world, I want to catch up.

    Here’s the rub: time and tide wait for no man.

  17. (Bravo to Mitch D….”even the dung beetle has a role.”) And, along those lines, one of the most difficult challenges is overcoming our ”male-dominant” primate nature. Only bonobos have female leadership. The rest of us just crash through the environment, taking what we want and leaving havoc behind.

  18. John,

    Instead of reciting a list of worthies (including some skeptics) that you feel prove your point that believing in illusions is better than believing in reality, try listing some things that are more acceptable than a “supreme deity” that actually are recognized, by most reasonable people, as greater than themselves. Let me help in getting you started:
    1. One’s children in particular and one’s family in general.
    2. Democracy.
    3. Kindness.
    4. Character and integrity.
    5. Empathy.
    6. Racial justice.
    7. Opportunity for all.
    8. Forgiveness.
    9. Stewardship of our planet.

    While that’s but a tiny sample of things that people live for and, in some cases have died for, it does illustrate the principle that transcending self-centeredness need not encompass any fairy tales or beings dancing on the head of a pin or creators of universes, all of whose qualities are projected onto them by people wishing that they existed but having nothing but credulity to support that idle hope.

    The list also demonstrates that there are sublime qualities that people may embrace that imbue them with super powers in dealing with others. It’s not hard to imagine a bunch of crotchety old men 5,000 years ago concluding that while these are great qualities, a small touch of fiction could endow those kinds of people with supernatural powers that others must bow down to. And, the crotcheties might have thought to themselves, “if I alone can communicate with such beings that will bestow a power on me that others lack. So let’s give it a try.” This is the history of how supernatural beings came to be talked of and written about. Given what we know and can show about how the world works, this is a highly probably scenario. Gossip and itinerant raconteurs were the only social media needed at the time to disseminate the ideas.

    Religion, and what men have made of it, has spawned so much evil that we surely would have been (and would now be) better off without it. Think of the slaying and slewing we could have avoided!

  19. I’ve loved sea shanties for decades for all the reasons Felix enumerates. They are fun! My local pub hosts a sea shanty sing-along once a month.

    But that list? In my mind I put that list between myself and my Republican brother and I can tell you, not one single thing on that list is common ground except that we could both agree, our nation’s laws don’t apply to rich people. I’m glad my brother still talks to me because at least I have some insights into a way of thinking I would not be able to imagine on my own. And if we talk long enough we usually find things we can agree on. I hope I don’t lose him … but so many families have split apart.

    Politics is never going to be the place we unite because it’s not the place we create a common story. The loss of “mass media,” the loss of media ethics or any expectation that the news should be accurate, the blurring of “news” and whatever Fox & Friends thinks they are, the loss of the fairness doctrine – those losses destroyed our common story.

    We need a National News Council.

  20. We are interdependent on each other. I would stop at this “Reach Across the Aisle” to the GOP. If the past is any indication The GOP will cut your hand off. The GOP has become so toxic they employ every tactic to remain in power or scuttle the ship.

    Already some GOP dominated states are looking toward further Voter suppression tactics, i.e., they do not want to make it easier and convenient for citizens to vote.

    McConnell, is trying to hold on via the filibuster to some semblance of power, even if it only the power to Say No.

    From Common Dreams Web Site:
    McConnell cautioned that “destroying the filibuster would drain comity and consent from this body to a degree that would be unparalleled in living memory.”

    Ari Berman of Mother Jones said it is “truly maddening to hear Mitch McConnell warn of ‘nightmare’ if Dems abolish filibuster when he already killed it to put three Trump justices on the Supreme Court and confirmed Amy Coney Barrett eight days before an election.”

  21. How’s this for compromise?

    I note that the conditional verb ‘should’ is used early in Sheila’s thoughtful blog, and seems to me to be appropriate to a large degree, but in the list of values, the more accurate ‘should’ disappears in favor of a conclusive certainty — ‘believe’.

    Look at Sheila’s list again. I don’t see anything there that Americans (a defining majority or a multitude defined by the common objects of our love) actually believe in, or ever did for that matter. Oh, we can recite most of them, because they come from the Great American Myth we were required to parrot on tests in school. Note: almost every sentiment on the list is a prerequisite for the greater myth — American Exceptionalism, a concept to which almost everyone on this blog at one time or another has expressed vigorous exception.

    Perhaps the more accurate descriptive –comedy aside — of where most Americans stand on that list is: ‘We believe we should believe…”

    As in…

    WE BELIEVE WE SHOULD BELIEVE that no one is above the law—and that includes those who run our government.

    How’s that for compromise?

  22. Terry, I compliment you on your perspective.
    Another way those crotchety old men might have seen it, is in their being baffled by the randomness of their world, and looking for some way to make sense of it all. Humans have a predilection to find order even where there is none; as in apophenia.
    Pam, thanks- from dung beetles to condors, nature is fully interwoven, as I know you well know. Those who ignore this fabric do so at the risk of all of us.

  23. I often write elsewhere that history is linear and that we should be guided but not bound by it. I see references to being bound by it in some of the commentaries today. Using my guideposts, let’s take a thumbnail look at the “peculiar institution” of slavery in such connection.

    Yes, some of our founders were slave holders and racist, but some were also Yankee shipbuilders (some of whom were doubtless racists as well), and yes, the Constitution itself was hammered out in compromise terms and quilled by Madison while Jefferson (both slave holders) looked over his shoulder, a document in dire need of amendment from the moment it was ratified. Those are realities, and we can learn from them but (I would fervently hope) not be bound by them.

    Applied internationally (and as our dirty and over-populated world becomes smaller and more intimate via electronics), it is not hard to imagine that black ex-slave holders in modern Congo might have police forces which would arrest me for driving while white, pay me slave wages and otherwise treat me as an inferior person, much as we do with blacks here and now. Racism is contagious.

    Slavery has been around for a lot longer than it has been frowned upon, and all races (including American Indians) have practiced it in history, enslaving those of their own races as well as others. It was especially localized in the days of Aristotle and the Greek city-states era where Greeks enslaved Greeks. It is also notable that the bible contains no putdowns of the slave system from anyone, including Jesus, though the phrase “Babylonian captivity” is to be found in Jewish history. It was just a given, like going to temple.

    Winning wars was important from an economic perspective in history with free slave labor for the victors in a system not a far call from today, where via class and political pull present day “capitalists” with their free market mythology enjoy similar opportunities for enrichment via our system of wage and wealth inequality, a system in urgent need of legislative repair. So have we abolished slavery, or merely moved the plantation owners north to Wall Street under and only slightly altered power structure since 1865? Perhaps we need a new emancipation proclamation applicable by law to all races who labor in re a fair and equitable sharing of the income and wealth produced by our economy, back to New Deal days when median wages rose in tandem with the Dow circa the early 80s before Reagan ended what was left of the New Deal, speaking of recent history.

  24. Terry,

    I would’ve thought you would have done a little more research before you decided to expose a certain lack of knowledge concerning Scripture!

    But, maybe that’s why this world is like it is right now! Those who desire power, will either co-opt or attempt to destroy anything that interferes with their self perceived and self-proclaimed destiny.

    Getting to your list, and why you think of belief in it deity is counterintuitive to it!

    1. One’s children in particular and one’s family in general.
    2. Democracy.
    3. Kindness.
    4. Character and integrity.
    5. Empathy.
    6. Racial justice.
    7. Opportunity for all.
    8. Forgiveness.
    9. Stewardship of our planet.

    Below is a Scripture that was concerning King Solomon,

    Psalm 72:1-8
    72 O God, give your judgments to the king,
    And endow the son of the king with your righteousness.
    2 May he plead the cause of your people with righteousness,
    And of your lowly ones with justice.
    3 May the mountains bring peace to the people,
    And may the hills bring righteousness.
    4 Let him defend the lowly among the people,
    Let him save the sons of the poor,
    And let him crush the defrauder.
    5 They will fear you as long as there is a sun
    And as long as the moon remains,
    For generation after generation.
    6 He will be like the rain that falls on the mown grass,
    Like showers of rain that water the earth.
    7 In his days the righteous will flourish,
    And peace will abound until the moon is no more.
    8 He will have subjects from sea to sea
    And from the River to the ends of the earth.

    James 1:27
    The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself without spot from the world.

    Isaiah 58:7
    7 It is to share your bread with the hungry,
    To bring the poor and homeless into your house,
    To clothe someone naked when you see him,
    And not to turn your back on your own flesh.

    Ezekiel 18:7, 8
    7 he does not mistreat anyone, but he returns what a debtor has given him in pledge; he does not rob anyone, but he gives his own food to the hungry one and covers the naked one with a garment; 8 he does not charge interest or engage in usury, but he refrains from acting with injustice; he executes true justice between one man and another;

    James 2:15, 16
    15 If any brothers or sisters are lacking clothing and enough food for the day, 16 yet one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but you do not give them what they need for their body, of what benefit is it?

    The apostle Paul mentioned this to the wealthy Corinthians, he was making a point! Saying not to throw your burdens upon your children to take care of you. In other words, don’t have a ton of children that you cannot take care of hoping that enmass they can take care of you and your old age.

    2nd Corinthians 12:14
    Look! This is the third time I am ready to come to you, and I will not become a burden. For I am seeking, not your possessions, but you; for the children are not expected to save up for their parents, but the parents for their children.

    Matthew 5:43-45
    Jesus said the Jews had heard, “You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy,”! ” However, I say to you: Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those who persecute you”

    But, Christ also said, he knew they didn’t hear that from the Mosaic law i.e. the law of Moses. The Sanhedrin added to the Mosaic law, they put their own dogma into the law to make individuals follow them instead of the law.

    The law was clear, you are to love your neighbor, and you were to love your enemy

    Exodus 23:4, 5
    4 “If you come upon your enemy’s bull or his donkey straying, you must return it to him. 5 If you see that the donkey of someone who hates you has fallen under its load, you must not ignore it and leave. You must help him release the animal.

    Lastly, the apostle Paul’s message to the congregation in Galatia, which is written in Galatians 5:22-23, which reads; “On the other hand, the fruitage of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 mildness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.

    So, you can’t blame the message, and, once the messengers were gone, those who you decided to use the message and obfuscate the message to their own self interests was discussed by those messengers before they died.

    Do you criticize the Constitution? Or do you criticize those who misuse and abuse it? What about any law or regulation? A conscience that has not been corrupted will steer a person in an appropriate direction.

    Romans 2:14, 15
    14 For when people of the nations, who do not have law, do by nature the things of the law, these people, although not having law, are a law to themselves. 15 They are the very ones who demonstrate the matter of the law to be written in their hearts, while their conscience is bearing witness with them, and by their own thoughts they are being accused or even excused.

    There you go Terry, any thoughts?
    You asked!

  25. Excellent Gerald!

    Absolutely slave labor was used throughout history! That was the whole point of American Manifest Destiny! Along with American Romanticism! The southern slave owning lifestyle that was endorsed by religious groups because of them mistaken scriptural claim that people of color were the descendents of cursed Canaan! But, though, going by Scripture, those who were cursed were actually the ones of the lighter race. But, the Caucasians at the time needed to have a clear conscience and also needed to try and fight against blowback that was starting against the slave trade.

    But yes, every race on this planet either has been enslaved or has enslaved others! And, this was not done by religious fanatics, it was done by those seeking to ensconce this savage practice in a pallet of righteousness! Thereby easing their conscience!?!?

    Some of the Scriptures above address Terry’s comments, but also can be used in correlating some of your information Gerald. I found your comment extremely reflective on the subject that humanity would love to blame on anything else but themselves.

    The individuals I’ve mentioned in my 1st comment, John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, Viscount Bolingbrook, Joseph Priestley, and John Paine, along with Aristotle who was absolutely not part of the philosophical house of the skeptics, but we can get in that history later, all recognized the value of religious structure and what constraints it had on human conduct.

    And like I said above, once those men who were responsible for the Greek Scriptures were gone, the power grabbers came in Ernest! Emperor Constantine and his continuous councils whittled away Christian teachings and replaced it with his own dogma and those of his lapdogs so they could consolidate power in the flailing Roman empire. Again, I suppose we can get into that history another time. But, excellent comments again Gerald!!!

  26. John Sorg, I think Terry’s main point was that belief in a supreme being is unnecessary. (Not “counter”, although it’s certainly arguable.) I can assure you it isn’t, as there are numerous wonderful people in the world who do not believe as you do. I know a bunch.

    I don’t want to speak for Terry, so I’ll offer a few thoughts of my own.

    It may be that belief in some religious doctrine helps people be better than they would if they didn’t believe. That’s better than the alternative, I suppose, but I also find it pretty distressing and depressing. Personally, I like to treat people well because we are all sharing a very small world for a very short time together, and when everyone does better and feels less trauma, pain and strife, it makes me feel better, too. I empathise strongly with others, is I suppose what I’m saying. I do not need pronouncements from on-high or dogma or threats of punishment hanging over me in order to treat people and my planet (my home!) well. I accept this is my one life, and I intend to live it well, and that includes helping my fellow travellers.

    On the belief front, I do not believe in Zeus (as I bet you don’t). I never think of Zeus as I follow the path of my life forward. I have zero concern that the lack of attention to Zeus is going to cause me any difficulty. I don’t worry what Zeus thinks at any point. I’m confident there is no Valhalla, and that nothing related to Valhalla impacts me in any way. We likely agree on this. It affects our lives not at all. This is how I feel about all the gods that we’ve created, and that you feel about all but one of them. We’re so nearly the same, actually. 😉

    In any case, I don’t begrudge you your right to believe what you will. That’s your decision. I think it’s wrong for you to suggest that your decision must apply to everyone else, though, and I think that’s a little of what Terry found difficult to accept without rebuttal.

  27. John H,

    Absolutely! And, you are correct in pointing out some of the other gods of history!

    But in my comment above, Romans 2:14 -15, brings out exactly what you’ve alluded to. Humanity has a collective conscience, and no matter what their particular lifestyle is or belief system, morals are almost universal among humankind .

    We are all free moral agents to believe what we wish, or not to believe what we wish .

    For the most part, You Don’t see vast armies of automatons with no self-knowledge of right and wrong. Now there are many who might suppress it, but everyone has that innate knowledge within them.

    Now, being the person that I am, and knowing scripture as I do, and really enjoying the study of mankind’s anthropological trek through history, it really is startling to notice that ones who don’t believe in a deity, a supreme deity, have the same sense of right and wrong as those that don’t believe in one at all.

    So, what I’ve noticed, is that there must be a purpose for mankind to be that way. Others will say it’s a form of evolutional development or something of that sort. I choose not to think that we are an accident! And, I’ve also mentioned to others, show me where any life form could have developed these sorts of traits from nothing. Or, how these traits could have developed in every race worldwide by accident.

    Scripture will tell you that mankind is free to make their own decisions, but then, ask yourself, to what end?

    Is this existence all there is? In other words, this drudgery and toil, wars, crime, disrespect, lack of human dignity, lack of respect, lack of compassion, lack of empathy, is this supposed to be our existence? By the rime one gains a really intense modicum of knowledge and experience, thereby giving them wisdom, a lifetime of experiences, persons are already way past the prime of life! Why is that?

    You know the old saying, there’s no atheist in a foxhole? I kind of find that hypocritical that people will try to hedge their bets when they’re staring death in the face. It kind of doesn’t work that way though.

    But, absolutely, my comments are not here to convince anybody of a supreme deity or a God or whatever you want to call it, my comments are to support the idea of it, and, question the reason to be so full of venom and vitriol resistance concerning it? The comments that are made concerning it and what individuals claim about scripture itself, are not founded in reality but picked up on from others that have decided to tear down rather than build up.

    What makes that type of behavior any different than how those that support Donald Trump, and co-opted the Constitution to lead an insurrection against government? See what I mean? There is no difference!

  28. Great aspirational list, Sheila. We should have lofty goals to aspire to, or else we will cycle into “society is flawed, ‘gornisht helfen’ [nothing helps], why bother, depression”.

    Many good comments, as usual – but

    Sorry, I usually learn from your perspective, JoAnn, but you touched a sore point for me.

    “When far left and far right and both parties…”

    “There were good people on both sides” – “There are bad people on both sides”
    Balderdash –
    The Democratic Party, while highly imperfect never embraced SDS or the Weathermen
    No Democratic office holder called for the murder of their opponents
    The most radical proposals were not to put children into cages after ripping them from their parents or to ban Muslims, it was voting rights, social security, and Medicare. (Yes, the New Deal was “far left” in its day)

    False equivalency is how we watched the Republican Party sink into the mire, because “the Democratic Left” is equally bad

    Note – you are in good company – I have also picked on Sheila’s language in that vein 8)>
    Sorry, JoAnn – you are right on so many things, but not this one.

  29. Once, I attended Secular Student Association meetings in Berkeley. A typical meeting would be maybe 25 students and 5 older non-students. Among them were Burl Gray and a retired/defrocked priest, call him Jim.
    Burl was a historian, and a cultural anthropologist, and an avid follower of evolutionary biology/psychology. We rarely disagreed, and he enlightened me on a point that at that time puzzled me some three decades ago:

    Where do gods spring from?

    He beckoned me to crawl into the mind of a perplexed tribal leader, when the tribes were small and technology brutal. This leader, Og, was smarter than the average, as happens, and he knew some tricks to keep his tribe thriving. Unfortunately, as we’ve all seen so much lately, his tribal members didn’t want to understand these tricks because they involved stuff like “giving until you get” and “follow your leader” and such moral axioms as we have been taught.

    Og’s solution, which naturally occurs to leaders, was to enlist the aid of a very scary and smart dude who was SO smart and SO scary that, not only would scarcely anyone want to cross him, if anyone DID cross him, Og and friends of Og would expel them from the tribe.

    The friend, of course, was invented, but very realistically, over time. Og’s tribe flourished because Og’s ideas were backed by God.

    Of course, sometimes an Og had bad ideas for the health of his little tribe, and natural selection led to better Ogs and better gods.

    Big Jesus and the Bible are just another Og god. It works most of the time, but I’m convinced the days of non-evolutionary thinking should be dropped in the dustbin.

    One of the things I noticed about Sorghum’s list of bad things is that he didn’t list good ones. That attitude is caused by the Fallen State of Man, which only improves by following the Og/Sorg god choice, as he says.

    It’s a limiting and desperate theology. and the kids are dumping it in droves, because now there’s an Internet, and fools like me don’t need to start an alternative newspaper to enlighten them.


    Jim, the ex-priest? He was an atheist and pastored a small flock of Humanist/Christians in Berkeley.

    I asked him why he pretended to be a believer, and he said “It’s where I can do the most good.”

    Since then I’ve been less condemning of pastors who do good by their actions.

  30. My personal favorite for Sea shanties is “Pint n’ Dale”,
    a wonderfully talented couple who live in a fancy Sprinter RV van with their African Grey parrot and travel around singing sea shanties and soulful ocean songs. Find them on YouTube, and check out their website.

    My favorite is “Companioned by the Sea” but the the recorded version is best…they have many excellently produced albums. They generally sing at Tall Ship festivals and house concerts, but are waiting for Covid, and could use any coin you throw their way.


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