Eight Proposals to Encourage Human Agency

Eight Proposals to Encourage Human Agency

In a recent blog essay entitled God and War, two proposals were advanced to get God out of the war business. These proposals join six others in the book Abdication: God Steps Down for Good to form a program directed at this same goal. In the interest of complete information and full understanding, the eight are presented together here in the form they appear in the book.

Proposal 1. Disassociate God from violence and war. Make it clear that God does not participate or take sides in war and plays no part in rewarding or punishing winners and losers. Explain to the public that God is exclusively associated with love and peace.

Proposal 2. Depersonalize God. Remove God’s anthropoid form. Explain to the public that God has no contour, shape, stature, gender, age, race, ethnicity, or national identity and is without brain, mind, personality, intent, need, desire, instinct, drive, emotion, attitude, care, concern, consciousness, conscience, speech, locomotion, and action. Dismiss God—with thanks for whatever prior service He may have previously performed for us—from warrior, pacifist, counselor, healer, redeemer and any and all other human statuses and roles that might have been associated with Him in the past.

Proposal 3. Recant or reject the maledictions and negative caricatures of human beings recorded in the Bible and other sacred writings. Such rescission or rejection should allow humanity to retain basic goodness, positive potential, equality with other life forms, and the propensity to evolve to higher forms of consciousness and intelligence. Pay particular attention to the nullification of the story of man’s fall, basic sinfulness, and the need for redemption and salvation.

Proposal 4. Remove heaven and hell now and forever, and erase all other supernatural territories, locations, and destinations from the maps of human orientation and occupation. File such maps under ancient, imaginary travel destinations. Restrict use thereafter to journalistic and other literary pursuits in the worldly realm. These might include the use of heavenly images to describe gated communities, golf courses and tourist resorts, and hellish images to describe scenes of horror, poverty, and misery in rural and urban hovels.

Proposal 5. Rebrand death as a necessary and dependable natural event. Insist that death is an event within the cycle of life. Inform all concerned that death need not cause paralyzing terror and fear. Insist that death does not invite or include a second life after death and beyond nature. Explain that death is not a condition to overcome, comparable to a disease or illness. Nor is death a divine punishment for bad behavior. Death does not equate to evil nor does it require redemption.

Proposal 6. Affirm that nature and the physical world is the domain in which humans live and find meaning. Without impugning or lessening the imaginative arts and the humanities, which are of inestimable value to human life, avow science the form of knowing by which dependable knowledge is gathered, synthesized, applied, and utilized. If there is doubt, assert the value of science in building confidence and faith.

Proposal 7. Banish nuclear weaponry from the face of the earth and from the orbits and cargos of space traveling machines.

Proposal 8. Reinvent humanity on a more promising basis than the monotheistic religions have been able to put forth. Establish a foundation that respects our abilities and potentials as a species to address and solve the problems we’ve caused on earth and which is optimistic about the future of life on earth. (pp. 22-24)

This program is presented in the book with commentaries on each proposal, accompanied with light humor. It was written in a hopeful, if perhaps unrealistic spirit, in response to a design problem that reads:

to craft a jolting stop-and-think-about-it billboard sign to a world converging toward nuclear war due to a suicide bomber mentality based on a belief in the one true God and encouraged by the presumed existence of a paradisiacal afterlife. (p 22.)

Suicide bombers armed with nuclear weaponry—a terrifying example of the failure of the Abrahamic monotheisms in our time—is the specter on my mind. While I am unable to muster a great deal of hope for my program in the near future, there is at least a theory behind the scheme. As stated in the book, it reads:


• Humanity is denied God in every conceivable way save mother nature, and

• Religions withdraw their crushing indictments of human nature, and

• Supernatural realms pass into oblivion, and

• Nuclear weaponry is controlled, and

• Science is treasured as much for awe, joy, wonder and mystery, as for its technology and practical uses,

Then, humans will:

• Take responsibility for their thoughts, decisions and actions, and the moral consequences of same,

• Desist from easy war making,

• Sublimate their aggression into work, sports, situation comedies and other valued and productive activities, and

• Discover powerful forms of spirituality within nature to guide their lives.

This is not a “they will live happily evermore” kind of theory and scenario. It is rather a desperate, last gasp effort to free humanity from stupidly destroying life on earth under the illusion that God’s plan is being carried out. (p. 24)

This final paragraph hopefully ties the discussion back to the previous blog essays in the series re-capitulating ideas from Abdication: God Steps Down for Good (See essays listed under “Abdication” category in the menu.) I’ll move on next to the idea of “reinventing” humanity.

Will Callender, Jr.

© July 28, 2015

Author of Abdication: God Steps Down for Good

Dumping on Trump

Dumping on Trump


Author’s note: This essay, first published in September of 2012, is particularly relevant now that Donald Trump is running full bore for the Presidency of the United States. While I’ve retained its original title for filing purposes—it is after all easier to reblog than rewrite—it is renamed Double Dump on Trump here to highlight his no apologies/no retractions habit of doubling down on every vicious aspersion he hisses under the banner of honest talk. I think you’ll agree that my attempt at the art is primitive and amateurish by comparison. WC 7-21-2015

Double Dump on Trump

Anthony Baxter’s recently released documentary, You’ve Been Trumped, appraises Donald Trump’s efforts to transform a jewel of coastal grandeur into “the world’s greatest golf course.” One reviewer opines: “If you didn’t hate Donald Trump before, you definitely will after this riveting and infuriating expose.” True enough, this film will test your emotional maturity, and I’m speaking mostly of your self-control in the…

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Grateful Dead: “Songs of Their Own” Series

Grateful Dead: “Songs of Their Own” Series

JamBase, a San Francisco based live music company, took the occasion of the fifty-year celebration of The Grateful Dead, and their Fare Thee Well concert tour, to invite a variety of younger musicians to cut a cover of their favorite Greatful Dead song. This resulted in a evocative series of fifty covers produced with Telefunken in fifty days in what JamBase calls the “Songs of their Own” series. All are available on YouTube, as are also a variety of Greatful Dead versions from plentiful concerts video-taped by fans. I’d suggest playing a Grateful Dead YouTube version and following it up with the Songs of Their Own cover. Then too, JamBase is selling the music from the Fare Thee Well Concerts for $49.95, and most of the covered songs are in the concert series. The Songs of Their Own series is also available through JamBase.

Here are three examples of Songs of Their Own covers, coupled with a GD version for comparison. The first is my personal favorite, John Scofield and John Medeski’s moving version of Stella Blue. Scofield, attentive to note, deeply nurturant of sound, master of silence and pace, paints the song as might Pablo Picasso a sketch, supported brilliantly by Medeski. Here is a version of Stella Blue from a 1977 Grateful Dead concert in Chicago.

The second cover is of the infrequently performed Attics of my Life, sung beautifully by Midnight North, with Grahame Lesh, Phil’s son, on acoustic guitar, Connor O’Sullivan on stand-up bass, and with Elliot Peck and Alex Jordan joining Grahame on vocals. The Dead selected this song to complete the third Fare Thee Well concert in Chicago on July 5. Here’s a fan-recorded video featuring a retrospective of band members shown on the giant screen while the band plays, Phil Lesh singing between Trey Anastasio and Bob Weir, with Weir playing the sole guitar. The song is sung as a thank you to former band members and to everyone who made the band “great,” a sentiment made explicit by Mickey Hart a few minutes later at the conclusion of the concert.

The third song, Ripple, performed by Playing for Change and Song around the World, has already gone viral. Here’s an earlier version with Jerry doing the singing at Radio City Music Hall in 1977. You’ll also want to see the story of Ripple told by Phil Lesh, Jerry Garcia, and others for the documentary on the American Beauty Album of 1970. Both Attics of My Life and Ripple are in the American Beauty album. Stella Blue is in the Steal Your Face album of 1976. All three of the songs are collaborations by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter. They are the songwriters.


Will Callender, Jr. ©

June 20, 2015

Author of Abdication: God Steps Down for Good

Graceland: Barack Obama’s Third Inaugural

Graceland: Barack Obama’s Third Inaugural

President Obama’s eulogy for Clementa Pinckney—massacred Pastor of Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina—was one of the finest I’ve heard, and deserves standing among the most important speeches in our history.

Think about his problem for a moment. What could he say to the wife, daughters, extended family, colleagues, and co-religionists of a Pastor and State Senator who had been murdered in his own church, along with eight other peaceful souls, during a prayer meeting to which the intruder-killer had been warmly welcomed? What would you say to a nation born in unapologetic slavery and tormented still by fanatic racism after a bloody civil war that ended 150 years ago and after almost 239 years of national independence? Lincoln’s problem in drafting his second inaugural came to mind, an interminable civil war, massive casualties, malaise, spiritual despair. Mourning and despair were also palpable in Charleston.

The President told his audience that he had been thinking for a week about the meaning of the word “Grace.” God’s Grace was what he was going to talk about. Grace was not something, he explained, you earn, win, or deserve. You’re given Grace by God whether you want it or not. “God works in mysterious ways.” The question is whether and how you receive it, what you do with it. The killer thought he was kicking off a race war. But beautiful souls among the families of victims at Mother Emanuel found within their broken hearts the grace to forgive him. They took the opportunity in their suffering to receive God’s Grace and do something good with it.

This theme emanated from a man whose country’s alchemical rules of racial identify denied him, and countless others, prime identity with the person most like him biologically in all the world, his white mother. Brought up mainly by his mother and his white grandparents in Hawaii, he had been required to work hard to learn how to be African-American, and to learn what the fuss was all about, but he had been a good student, and he had learned his lessons well. He would wholeheartedly embody his assigned race today and speak for black people. He would recount racial history on their behalf: he would explain the black church; he would tell the nation about the African Methodist Episcopal church, and about Mother Emanuel; and he would talk about slavery, lynchings, burnings, and intimidation, and about faith, community, renewal, and redemption. He would tell truth. Standing proudly in front of a gathering of renowned ministers and church officials, he would minister to the nation today. He would speak as a Pastor would and teach the deep significance of Christianity and faith to African American people, and to Americans all across the nation.

In the President’s telling, the murderous acts of the shooter—preceded we now know by considerable study and a farewell tour of confederate cemeteries, bookstores, and sites, and a self-portrait before the confederate flag—had opened our eyes, taken our blinders off to hate and racism, and its costs to African Americans across the nation.

I once was lost but now am found, Was blind, but now I see.

We were invited to receive this removal of blinders, with its gift of sight, clear vision, and generous insights, as “God’s Grace.” This concept allowed the President to weave a grace-received agenda of reforms to inaugurate a new era in the search for a more perfect union. He told simple, indisputable truths to the country about racism and the way the shell game works, that the prison system swallows up young black men’s lives well beyond reasonable probability and any relationship to crimes committed.  That once again, gun violence had destroyed innocent lives, and that can’t be allowed. That Jamaal doesn’t get the call back for the second interview because of the color of his skin. He would also say, perhaps for the first time, that taking down the confederate flag:

would simply be an acknowledgement that the cause for which they fought, the cause of slavery, was wrong.

All of this was done to acclaim and with the concordance of his audience. This was a speech the nation needed. It energized us. Rev. Pinckney, and the other dead, will not be allowed to have died in vain. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who thought: here is a set of proposals the President should ask Congress to consider next year, inaugurating his final two years in office. Likewise, presidential candidates of both parties would do well to consider the President’s ideas in crafting their programs.

Then the President sang Amazing Grace a cappella, and a bit off-key, but beautifully nonetheless. The assemblage of church dignitaries arose behind him and joined along in the singing, aided by a deeply moved, on-their-feet audience. Everyone realized, I think, that the President meant every word he had sung, and every word he had spoken. America will one day be redeemed of slavery and its racist past. That day will be glorious, Grace recieved, Grace fulfilled.

Will Callender, Jr. ©

July 2, 2015

Author of Abdication: God Steps Down for Good