DID YOU GROW UP with a “normal” religion an then rejected it and all traditional religions? Atheism and agnosticism not enough? Want the marvels of science revealed to you? Ever want to know what the hell the religious right are talking about when they mention Humanism, or (shudder) Secular Humanism?
First, Humanism is a philosophy based on science, not a religion. There is no God-with-a-capital-‘G’ involved; no gods-with-a-small-‘g’ involved. There is no supernatural mumbo-jumbo or super-powerful, immortal beings.
This essay recycles text that originally appeared in several somewhat related articles that first appeared here in 2014.
“Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence (rationalism and empiricism) over acceptance of dogma or superstition.
The meaning of the term humanism has fluctuated according to the successive intellectual movements which have identified with it. Generally, humanism refers to a perspective that affirms some notion of human freedom and progress.
In modern times, humanist movements are typically non-religious movements aligned with secularism, and today humanism typically refers to a non-theistic life stance centered on human agency and looking to science rather than revelation from a supernatural source to understand the world.” (Wikipedia)
“Because there is a Religious Humanism, which is an integration of humanist ethical philosophy with some components of religion, the designation of Secular Humanism embraces human reason, ethics, social justice, and philosophical naturalism while entirely rejecting religious dogma or supernaturalism as the basis for morality and decision-making.
Religious Humanists may not necessarily be theists or supernaturalists. For example, there are who are not theists or supernaturalists but believe Jesus taught and lived humanistic values and principles.
Many people who follow Humanism as a life-stance or philosophy are non-religious and atheist. The idea of Religious Humanism is concerning to some, and hence the term Secular Humanism to make it clear that it leaves little or no room for religion.
Humanism generally speaking is a moral philosophy that says we should be good humans because it’s good for humans, and we are humans. Whether or not you feel religion should have any part of that conversation is the difference between Religious Humanism and Secular Humanism.” (Jim Palmer)
While the number of people who think of themselves as humanists are only in the millions, there are probably tens of millions more who would join the fray if they knew more about the movement and gave it a bit of ratiocination.
Issac Asimov was president of the American Humanists Association 1980-1984.
Is that all there is?
For readers not willing to accept Wiki’s take on such things, the following paragraphs were lifted from the introduction to the website for the Council for Secular Humanism. There they are titled “Curious about Secular Humanism?”
“If you’ve rejected traditional religion (or were never religious to start), you may be asking, Is that all there is? It’s liberating to recognize that supernatural beings are human creations, that there are no such things as spirit or transcendence, that people are undesigned, unintended, and responsible for themselves.
For many, mere atheism (the absence of belief in gods and the supernatural) or agnosticism (the view that such questions cannot be answered) aren’t enough.
It’s liberating to recognize that supernatural beings are human creations, that there are no such things as spirit or transcendence, that people are undesigned, unintended, and responsible for themselves.
Atheism and agnosticism are silent on larger questions of values and meaning. If Meaning in life is not ordained from on high, what small-‘m’ meanings can we work out among ourselves?
If eternal life is an illusion, how can we make the most of our only lives?
As social beings sharing a godless world, how should we coexist?
For the questions that remain unanswered after we’ve cleared our minds of gods and souls and spirits, many atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and freethinkers turn to secular humanism.”
Gore Vidal was Honorary President of the American Humanist Association from April 2009 to his death on July 31, 2012.
Am I a secular humanist?
Years ago, Free Inquiry (a magazine featuring humanist articles published by the Council for Secular Humanism) regularly ran a feature on its inside front cover on how to know if you are a secular humanist. Based on memory, there were either 35 yes/no questions or 35 true/false statements. ~
I was mildly or wholeheartedly in accord with 34 of the 35 of the statements! Using simple math, that would make me 97% of a secular humanist. Any normal person might think that’s enough—hell, more than enough!
But not the secular humanists: 97% just ain’t good enough. And the reason why is simpler than the math: basically, the 34 positives have less value than the single negative.
What was the one question/statement that I could not answer with a resounding, definitive negative reply:
“Do you believe in God?” or “There is no God.”
So, the Big Bang Theory of Creation posits absolutely nothing prior to the subatomically itty-bitty initial singularity that appeared as if by magic almost 14 billion years ago and then, for no known reason, exploded into the universe in which we live and of which we are a part of.
Before that initial singularity was what? Nothing? The Void? God? So anyone who believes that a creator or a force beyond human ken was perhaps the “prime mover” that billions of human beings call “God” works for me! It seems to me that we have our hands more than full with living in, and trying to understand, the explosion of that singularity that is our home.
Maybe I’m a Mystical Skeptic
I am a skeptic. I am almost a Humanist and almost a Secular Humanist. (Hah!) As I have pointed out elsewhere, I am already the world’s one and only Mystical Liberal.
So maybe I am also the world’s sole Mystical Skeptic!
As someone once famous once said, “So it goes.”
FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page is Kurt Vonnegut. I discovered his novels in the ’60s and devoured them along with his short stories and non-fiction. Later I even enjoyed the movies they made of Mother Night and Slaughterhouse 5.
His most widely known statement about his beliefs is, “I am a humanist, which means, in part, that I have tried to behave decently without any expectation of rewards or punishment after I’m dead.” He was given the 1992 Humanist of the Year Award by the American Humanist Association.
PS: I just took the “How Humanist Are You?“ test on the Humanists UK website and scored 100%. But that’s not quite the same as Secular Humanism . . .