The Humanist Hour #133: Jeff Rasley on Being Godless and Living a Valuable Life beyond Beliefs

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In this episode, Bo Bennett interviews author Jeff Rasley about his book, Godless — Living a Valuable Life beyond Beliefs. The history of religious and political ideologies is bloody. Crusaders and Islamic-Jihadist terrorists divide the world into believers and heretics. Their propaganda has persuaded followers to torture and slaughter unbelievers. Godless proposes a cure for the pathology of fanatical religious beliefs and political ideologies.

godlessJeff Rasley lives on the White River in Indianapolis with Alicia and Bandit. Jeff is the author of eight books. He wrote bad poetry as a teenager and short stories in college. Newsweek, Chicago Magazine, ABA Journal, and other periodicals eventually published his feature articles. Jeff’s commitment to social activism and philanthropy began in high school when he co-founded the Goshen Walk for Hunger. In law school he fought for renters’ rights, and organized the first rent strike in Indiana as president of the Indianapolis Tenants Association. He was lead counsel on class action suits for prisoners which resulted in the construction of two new jails in central Indiana. Jeff was plaintiff in a class action requiring clean-up of the White River after it was polluted by an industrial chemical spill. Jeff is president of the Basa Village Foundation, which funds culturally sensitive development in Nepal. He is the director of five nonprofits. He is U.S. liaison for the Himalayan expedition company Adventure GeoTreks Ltd, and teaches philosophy of philanthropy at Butler University.

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  • dPappy

    – enjoyed this pcast – certainly brought up, among other issues, the whole terminology thing when it comes to describing one’s belief system (or lack of belief) – I always thought an agnostic was a person who didn’t necessarily believe in a god, per se, but reckoned there was something of a higher order responsible ‘for it all’ – perhaps HH can spend some time on this topic of terms during a future pcast – I’d be interested to know what some of the folks at the website think and how they label/see themselves ; ) – have a loverly one, eh ! —

  • Joe G.

    Welcome to the wonderful world of (some) liberal Quakers in the U.S. “Not believing in God” actually means “I don’t know if there is a God or that there isn’t a God”. I guess you caught on to a sort of vague evasiveness intended to appear as profoundness, but actually is not. It’s just vagueness and evasiveness. This is classic contemporary liberal Quakerism in the U.S., at least based on my nearly 20 years of actively being a member with them from the mid 80’s-mid 2000 aughts.

    This sort of stance can come across as a kind of double-speak: I don’t believe and I don’t believe that I don’t believe. Get it? And yes, maybe there are fairies that dance in the flower garden because, well, who am I to deny another person’s experience of a fairy dancing in the flower garden? Why? Because belief is unimportant and causes so many problems in the world. If we just got rid of all of those “problem beliefs” we’d all live happily after.

    But, what does he mean by “belief”? It never is clear, is it? I suppose for some Quakers it’s a rejection of all dogma because it was dogma that caused so many schisms and wars within Christendom. But, what is meant by “belief” now? Well, if you choose to believe in something that denies the belief of someone else, guess what? That’s a “problem-belief”, which causes all of those divisions that we humans have and continue to have even today. So watch out atheism, because you’re a “problem-belief” (unless of course we treat it as your own “spiritual path” and then, it’s OK). Of course, this line of thinking tends to get stuck on whether avoiding having a belief is itself a kind of belief. Stances like these strike me as being influenced by cultural relativism and post-modernism and has little to do with what many in the U.S. would identity as atheism, freethought, humanism, and even agnosticism.

    Another feature of this approach is listening to and reading books or pamphlets by mostly white, liberal Quakers who visit and study typically poorer, subsistence communities that live apparently happy, idyllic lives. Let’s not consider that at least some of this interpretation is just a tad romantic and idealistic. This is not to imply that perhaps the community that your guest has studied does not have a steady, stable, and even happy life for the majority that live there. It is to say that by using them as an example, we risk making them into a kind of “perfect” minority. It’s also to say that the life they live is probably much more than that they don’t have any “problem beliefs”: it’s probably due to a complex mix of many unique cultural and historical circumstances that may or may not have anything to do with their animism, for example.

    Well, anyway, I came away from the interview confused, but was reminded that this was the kind of vague evasive profoundness that plagued some liberal Quakers back in the day. Sounds like not a lot has changed.