Peanuts and Secular Humanism

Charles SchulzOn this day in 1895, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill “W” Wilson was born. I understand the reason for starting the group. These were serious drunks who needed help. But there is no doubt that Bill W was a pernicious force in the 20th century. To begin with, the whole program is based upon religious teachings and the search for spiritual redemption. He could have followed in the non-religious tradition of the Washingtonian movement. And here’s the thing: Alcoholics Anonymous doesn’t work. People are forced into this quasi-Christian cult and the only thing it clearly does for them is make their relapses longer. Basically, Bill W was a charlatan and the snake oil he sold was Alcoholics Anonymous. Thankfully, there is finally starting to be institutional push back against the whole 12-step “program.” I have no doubt that in 50 years, people will look back and ask, “Why did anyone think a religious program was a cure for drug addiction?” One might as well perform an exorcism on an addict.

Other birthdays: physician and activist Mary Edwards Walker (1832); inventor Willis Carrier (1876); botanist Ruth Patrick (1907); actor Robert Goulet (1933); the British Russ Meyer, Stanley Long (1933); comedian Rich Little (75); puppeteer Wayland Flowers (1939); singer Tina Turner (74); novelist Marilynne Robinson (70); and cartoonist Roz Chast (59).

The day, however, belongs to the cartoonist Charles M Schulz who was born on this day in 1922. He is my hometown hero. One of the few things that haven’t changed here is the Redwood Empire Ice Arena, which is designed to look like a Swiss chateau. When I was a kid, it seemed so big. Now when I drive past it, it seems tiny. Anyway, it is still used all the time, even as each rollerskating rink has vanished. It’s all kind of campy, as are all the Peanuts statues throughout the town. It could be worse.

When I was a kid, I loved Charlie Brown and the rest of the gang. In its time, it was the best comic strip going. Bill Watterson said that it defines the modern strip and that everyone who came after Schulz was just following his lead. I think that’s about right. The one thing that eventually turned me off the strip was its marketing. I can’t bear to watch the TV shows anymore. The insurance and junk food commercials are terrible. I am forever grateful that Watterson doesn’t market Calvin and Hobbes. Making those characters concrete would just ruin it.

I was happy to learn today that Schulz grew out of his Christianity. For the last decade plus of his life, he referred to himself as a secular humanist. I had always assumed that he was a hardcore Christian, because of all the explicit Biblical references in the strip. And indeed, he was once a Christian. But I suspect he valued the Bible the way a lot of us atheists do. It’s got a lot of good material in it—for good and bad. Schulz was a profound guy:

Peanuts - Democracy of Rain

Happy birthday Charles M Schulz!

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

2 thoughts on “Peanuts and Secular Humanism

  1. What’s the Orwell poem? (Quoting from memory)

    The rain it falleth like upon
    Both the just and unjust feller
    But more upon the just because
    The unjust has the just’s umbrella.

    Also, if you add up all the famous creative types who fled Minnesota, you end up with quite a list!

  2. @JMF – Yeah, I thought about mentioning that. The whole ice rink thing is trying to recreate his childhood. But there are reasons he never went back. It [i]is[/i] very nice here.

    My sources (like the Magic 8 Ball) say it is Charles Bowen:

    [quote]The rain it raineth on the just
    And also on the unjust fella;
    But chiefly on the just, because
    The unjust hath the just’s umbrella.[/quote]

    But I think you syntax is better. And I think overall, we could do something with that last line that trips all over itself. But it’s great. I think I’ll tweet that out.

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