Talking about being a Humanist

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4 Responses

  1. Nathan Nelson says:

    The irony of the current religious revival is that it’s surely almost enough to put people off wanting to be part of any club at all. When religion is as prescriptive as it is on so many things, people can’t be blamed for wanting nothing of any kind of doctrine. Most people I know have little time for any religion or talk of it, opting to sum up their philosophy as ‘Live and Let Live’. I have however realised that it is necessary to have some kind of positive position, not least to counter ill-informed assumptions by the religious that atheism automatically means an absolute absence of belief in anything at all, including morals. Atheism by definition may simply be about the absence of belief in a God or gods, but at least Humanism goes a little further by suggesting what there IS in the absence of religious faith.

  2. MarkAaron says:

    Apologies that I didn’t attend this event, the machinations of my job conspired to keep me from attending. I’d have love to have part of the debate.

    The problem presented by Humanism is ‘what do Humanists believe in the absence of God?’
    Without belief in a devine moral guidance does Humanism sanction any form of behaviour, however reprehensible?
    The answer is obviously NO. However, because societies require Law and Religion to control their citizens, what do Humanist’s propose should fill this possible void in people’s lives?
    For me it is a sense of moral self-worth, feelings of numinous inspired by art, music, adventure and achievement…

    That’s probably a bit too ‘woolly’ for most people.

    • Nathan Nelson says:

      I’ll just briefly take issue with the ‘societies require Law and Religion to control their citizens’… organised religion has traditionally been about imposing control over society, but religion is not a prerequisite for an orderly society. At least I hope not. The problem is that religion was traditionally one of the most effective methods of control of a population who were poorly educated or needed explanations for their existence, but moving forward, religion is demonstrating what an anachronism it is, when scientific understanding and secular Humanistic values are doing the job for more and more people.

      What do we have to fill a void in people’s lives? Well, there’s only an issue of a ‘void’ for apostates, and even then I’m not so sure. That atheists are automatically lacking in any kind of moral fibre, that there is a ‘void’ in the first place, is one of the most common charges of religion, but religion does not have a monopoly on morals, and never has done.

      As you suggested, Humanists have values that simply do not have religious belief attached to them, that provide a moral framework and understanding of life. Humanists have philosophy and art that are as inspirational as any prayer or liturgy, and that in many cases predate any religious doctrine.

      Maybe that’s just as wooly!

  3. Margaret Nelson says:

    Define ‘woolly’ Mark – what you describe isn’t woolly, it’s what Humanists do (or should do). They/we struggle to work things out for ourselves, guided by natural altruism, intelligence, the pursuit of knowledge and a search for evidence to support or challenge our approach to life. One of the things that makes me cross about some of our critics is their claim that if you don’t believe in God you have no morality. Belief in God doesn’t require thought. Humanism does. To a religious person who says they’re the only ones who are moral, I’d say, if your definition of ‘morality’ is the one prescribed by your religion (mostly to do with sexual behaviour and ignoring the bigger picture), I suggest you’re not moral at all. If you haven’t worked out what values to live by yourself, you’re no better than a small child who is still dependent on a parent, rewarded or punished according to whether you do what’s expected, without understanding the reasons. Religion keeps people in permanent infancy, just as making making a dog a pet makes it a permanent puppy. I like pet dogs, but not pet people.

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