Friday, July 19, 2013

What Is Humanism?

What the heck is humanism? The short answer is ... I have no idea.

If someone tells me they're a humanist then I can guess that they have some kind of ethical standards that have nothing to do with religion but that's about all I can guess. They might as well have told me that they are an atheist and leave it at that.

Are humanists socialists? Do they all favor socialized medicine and support unions? Do they oppose the death penalty? Are they in favor of gun control and abortion on demand? Do humanists oppose the American war in Afghanistan? Did they support the invasion of Iraq?

Are humanists willing to vote for a Republican or a Conservative? How about a Communist? Do all humanists think gay marriage should be legal? Would they legalize prostitution and pornography? Would they legalize drugs like cocaine and marijuana? How do they feel about euthanasia?

Do humanists support a public school system or are some in favor of vouchers and private schools? Do they all have the same position on immigration? on welfare?

I don't know the answer to any of these questions. I don't know what it means to be a humanist.

Hermant Mehta thinks that Humanism tells us what he believes. Watch this video to see what that means.


Still confused? Go to the American Humanist Association website and you'll be even more confused. Read the Humanist Manifesto and the essays by Fred Edwords. They don't answer any of the questions I asked.


15 comments :

  1. Humanism, is a movement of people, who want to prove that they have evolved from a monkey, and therefore they are much better than them intellectually. When a monkey gets a banana, it always runs away from other monkeys, so as it can consume the whole banana.

    However, when an evolved monkey gets lots of bananas; Bill Gates, they feel bad that other monkey don't even have a peel. So, they decide to share a very small amount of their surplus of bananas but they still keep 99% of them knowing very well that their bananas will be rotten for many generations to come. That is evolution of humanism, in short.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think Dr. Mehta oughta define what "good" or "good person" is. There are many "good" people who think that having sex with children is "good" in their subverted mind. So, what is "good" or a "good person"? Is the person that is attracted to animals good or bad? How about a person who exposes himself in public? How do you calcify such a dude?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Those are all good questions, maybe you should ask Mehta. Also, maybe the situation isn't always fully dichotomous, and one action or intention can be good in one circumstance, and bad in another. You know, the world is rarely so simple that we can put things unambigously into "good" or "bad" categories. There are degrees and nuances.

      Delete
  3. I think Mehta would be a good guest speaker at London's First Atheist Church, that open not that long ago

    http://gawker.com/5973377/londons-first-atheist-church-opens-tomorrow

    ReplyDelete
  4. OK, it's a fuzzy term. It's not like that's anything unusual. What do you know about someone who says s/he belongs to the Green Party of Canada (Parti vert du Canada)? Heck, what do you know about someone who says s/he is an "atheist" (New? Gnu? Faitheist?, Accommodationist? etc.?).

    As a first approximation, I would think it means that relationships (individual, kin, clan, social) between human beings are more important than those between individuals and alleged god(s) or people and the brute force of government. The empathy we often (unfortunately not often enough) feel for our fellow humans is, as Darwin called it, "the noblest part of our nature" and a good to be encouraged. That the first question properly to be asked about any political or social policy needs to be 'how and who does this effect' and 'do we need to inflict the pain that will result'?

    It's almost as fuzzy as urging people to 'think critically."

    ReplyDelete
  5. Years ago when visiting relatives and accompanying them to church so as not to make waves, I attended a Sunday School class which was viewing video presentations on other religions (and why they were wrong - number 1 reason: "they don't follow our Bible") and was lucky enough to see the video on secular humanism. I know I wrote notes on it afterward but can't find them, so I'm going to have to rely on fading and faulty memory. The presenter on the video (some Reverend whose name I think began with S, wish I had my notes) said things like:

    Secular humanists believe in a system of morals and ethics.

    They believe in human progress through education and science.

    They believe in a universe of natural laws.

    There were about five such things stated. My internal reaction was, "Wow! I mostly believe in all those things too!"

    The presenter ended with their problem (which I remember well): "Their feet are firmly planted - in mid-air!" That is, without a god to tell them what to do, they are like puppets without a puppeteer, unable to think or act for themselves - or something like that.

    There is a lot about humanism online, but I can't find those specific five beliefs. Anyway, they sounded good to me, as a starting point. I was almost converted on the spot, but then I thought, any religion which would accept me as a member probably isn't worth joining.

    ReplyDelete
  6. The only way to get any number of atheists, who are already a minority in most places, to be a part of a larger belief system is to vaguely define it. It must be a nonconformist tendency.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. An atheist is someone who doesn't believe in any of the gods.

      What's vague about that?

      Delete
  7. All of your questions are about politics, but humanism isn't a political position. You can't answer any of those questions about Christians either.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you tell me that you are a devout Roman Catholic I can make several reasonable assumptions about the answers to many of the questions. Same if you tell me that you are a devout Southern Baptist or a Jehovah's Witness.

      All bets are off if you just say "Christian" although I suspect you believe that your god(s) will punish you if you don't behave.

      Delete
    2. No Larry, if you say you are a "Christian" then you believe that your god will punish your neighbour if they don't behave.

      “Christian, n.: one who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor.”

      ― Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

      Delete
    3. Larry, If someone replied Anglican or TEC you would not be able to make any probable or reasonable assumptions about the answers to your questions.

      However when someone (myself sometimes) says that they are a secular humanist it means that moral and ethical values are derived from human existence. Furthermore secular from its latin root meaning worldly or temporal, has a usage in science or in legal studies, meaning long term change over time. Here this implies that there is no fixed or permanent set of moral and ethical rules but that they change over time as society changes.

      If I say (as I often do) that I am an atheist it simply means that I am not a theist and see no reason to believe in god or gods. So I normally say to scientific colleagues that I am an atheist as this is a result of a scientific epistemology, while I tell xians I am a secular humanist since this addresses their primary concern about the origins of morality.

      My parents were members of the BHA and I used to enjoy reading its magazine, but I have never felt the need to join either the BHA or CHA however.

      Delete
  8. Almost got into humanism when I was younger, but found that a lot of people who called themselves humanist had one of the same problems I didn't like about theists: the idea that humans were the be-all and end-all on this planet, and nothing else mattered. I call myself a naturalist, respect the environment, and see humans as no more or less important than any other species. We are important to ourselves, and our natural instinct for self-preservation (which every other animal has), should ensure our survival. Unfortunately if we destroy our environment we may just go the way of T. rex.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't be unfair to tyrannosaurs: they didn't destroy their environment. An asteroid impact did them in. Bad luck of the sort that could happen to anybody.

      Delete