Posts tagged ‘humanism’

Is Humanism a Religion?

Recently a judge ruled in a federal court case (http://www.scribd.com/doc/245271872/American-Humansits-v-US {sic}) in favor of a prisoner that Humanism is a religion for Establishment Clause purposes. The inmate had been denied approval to form a humanist study group. The prisoner, Holden, was at FCI Sheridan since 2010. (Note that atheism was already recognized for the purpose of designating prisoners’ religious preferences as were many religions and sects.)

The Center for Inquiry, in its newsletter, said “While we were glad that humanism was declared to be on equal footing with religious beliefs in this case, we are also concerned that this decision will now have unforeseen negative consequences for secular humanism more generally.”
Humanists especially the self-espoused secular variety have wanted the First Amendment protection that is afforded to religion(s), but as a body, secular humanists might aspire to being separate from and even rising above religion, often critical of religion’s many faults. Some might say humanists can’t have it both ways.

I think Humanism is a religion-alternative and necessarily must have the same protections or it will be at the unfair mercy of some religions and some religious people. That’s not to say it is a religion. And that’s not to say it functions like one (though it might for some).

There is a rebuttal by the humanists most opposed to the general implications of accepting Humanism as a religion. read it right now at Tom Flynn’s blog at Free Thinking.

The overlooked obvious in every instance of these debates is the question of terms—the definition and meaning of the words we use. Meanings vary. Consider all the definitions the dictionary gives for the terms we use: religion, spirituality, etc. We all act as if there is only one meaning for a word when there are a number.

The definition of religion itself is elusive. Some have many gods, others have none. Spirituality is essential to the practitioners of some religions but reduced to ritual-by-rote for others. The line between some religions and the so-called graceful life philosophies is blurred.
If we don’t mean the same thing with our words, we are not communicating, we are miscommunicating. Talk under those circumstances is talk at cross purposes.

In the various meanings of religion, Humanism might meet the spiritual needs of some of its followers. Does that make it a religion? And if a believer religion fails to be spiritually fulfilling, does it stop being a religion? No that’s just modern religion.

November 16, 2014 at 10:10 pm Leave a comment

One nation under God with liberty and justice for all

“Today [This is a quote from the Secular Coalition earlier this week.], the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued another disappointing decision in the case of Doe v. Acton-Boxborough Regional School District.” 

http://secular.org/news/secular-americans-disappointed-ma-supreme-court-decision-pledge-allegiance

“The case challenged a state law that requires daily school-sponsored and teacher-led classroom recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. The Court sided with the defendant, and ruled that the school district can compel students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance including the wording “under God”.”

 

The earlier decision referred to was the case The Town of Greece v. Galloway before the U.S. Supreme Court about the village starting each meeting with prayer. To me, though, the Massachusetts decision is much more troubling. The Secular Coalition states it quite well:

            “The case challenged a state law that requires daily school-sponsored and teacher-led classroom recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. The Court sided with the defendant, and ruled that the school district can compel students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance including the wording “under God”. – See more at: http://secular.org/news/secular-americans-disappointed-ma-supreme-court-decision-pledge-allegiance#sthash.vY0EsrCE.dpuf

            “Niose [then president of Secular Coalition] argued that the wording “under God” in the Pledge discriminates against atheists and other nonbelievers, by instilling and defining patriotism according to a god belief.

               ‘ “Atheist-humanist children love their country no less than do children who believe in God, and it’s just wrong to have a daily patriotic exercise that invalidates them by associating patriotism with God-belief,” Niose said after arguing the case. “If schools conduct a daily exercise to instill national loyalty, it should be inclusive and nondiscriminatory.” ‘

                “- See more at: http://secular.org/news/secular-americans-disappointed-ma-supreme-court-decision-pledge-allegiance#sthash.vY0EsrCE.dpuf  ”

 

The two points that make this the more heinous decision of the week are these:

 state law [ ] requires daily school-sponsored and teacher-led classroom recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance

                                                                                                &

the school district can compel students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance including the wording “under God”.

 I’d like to be a student there and be outted for not saying “under God.”  I currently substitute “religious freedom” in the Pledge now.

If I wouldn’t be turned in for that, I’d turn myself in for lying when I say, One nation under God with liberty and justice for all though  that now lies at the feet of the Massachusetts Supreme Court.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 10, 2014 at 10:32 am 1 comment

Writing yourself to the spiritual place you want to be in.

I recently picked up a book, the Accidental Masterpiece in which the author speaks of the impact of art on our lives.  And says, also, that we can choose to pull that impact into our lives, to create our own art or just a life informed by art, or perhaps, we can even choose a life transformed by art.  And art may be ours for the defining.

arguably, are love, death, and sex in no particular ranking.  There are aspects or items in life, such as beauty, architecture, or nature which seem to boost us toward those vehicles of transcendence.

Eric Maisel tells us we can create a special place, real or imaginary, which will be a safe, but inspiring place to write. I think what we are doing in setting up that place is creating a spiritual dwelling place for ourselves.  (I’m hesitant to use the example, but a church is such a place set up by its members for the spiritual sense it gives them—or failing that—a place for the default rituals—the next best thing.)

For us, receivers of the revealed wisdom that we are “spiritual beings in a secular universe,” we can choose what is spiritual and what is art and what nourishes the human spirit.  Those things, those places, those ideas that we can bring together, that we can curate, accumulate, create.  We may engage in our own practice of art so it will inspire us further.

This is no small item.  Inspiring ourselves.  Even when inspired by something or someone else we participate in our own inspiration.  Certainly, we must.  Art and other creative acts are never truly isolated.  We bring them forth as products of ourselves, our world, and our culture.

So it is with our writing, or it can be.  This is true, also, of those who don’t think of themselves as writers.  Writing is an art or craft like many other endeavors.  What you get out of it is in relation to what you put into it.

The short lesson on writing is this: write, revise, and keep going.  Perfection is an illusion.  Don’t get hung up on it.  It doesn’t matter what you write, but write what you want.  As an endeavor of the human spirit, write randomly.  Leave the topic open.  Just keep writing.

After a few pages, some things will draw your attention.  Different categories of things.  Some things will seem to be negatives—make a note to eliminate or overcome them and move on to write in other directions.   Some goal, wish, or desire may pop out of the writing.  Acknowledge it and keep writing.

When you’re at this for a while two spiritual things (our secular human spirit) will materialize: What it takes to nurture your spirit and What it is that you do that nurtures your spirit.  For me, just this kind of writing does it.

Other things may suggest themselves through your writing that you can do—nature walks, camping trips, art or other museums, or whatever you may find.  If you try it all and run out of things come back and write at it some more.

You may just find that words, thoughts, and concepts may do it for you.  That is, they may elevate your spirit, your mood, your outlook.  You may be moved to write about that experience for others.  Even in that process you may find nurturance for your very human spirit, that soul-like thing.  If each of us gets the spiritual nurturance we need, we are less likely to point angrily at each other and say, You spoiled my happiness.

February 2, 2014 at 4:29 pm Leave a comment

“Why can’t we all just get along?”?

 

Perhaps, this is just the season of our discontent.  Is the atheism movement big enough for all of us?  If Christianity is big enough for all of them, I would think so.  But more to the point, do we, can we, leave the “old atheists” behind?  And the New Atheists, too?  And seek a better destination, in the land of neo-atheists or Atheists+plus where we will reveal only the better angels of our nature?

Feminism feels unwelcome if not rebuffed.  LGBT, under-served. Other issues and constituencies might feel that way, too.  Humanism could take the position that New Atheism is too hard on Christianity.

In the branch of atheism that I’ve suggested as neo-atheists, I suggest that we will make the most progress by interacting with believers, showing them we are people of goodwill, having common-ground discussions with them, perhaps doing joint humanitarian projects.   Nothing new here, but it takes each of us a while to “process” our thoughts and feelings to be ready for such a step.

Many of us were largely cast as the lot we found ourselves to be in by Christians.  Our “godless” natures and other self-applied apellations/epithets can be traced back to our outcast origins. For us, we bought into Christian culture’s role ascribed for us as “bad boys” and the like.

There was, or is, in the zeitgeist the sense that atheists are the demonseed, blasphemers, heretics.  Bastards of our type, the holy books said, should be stoned to death.  It was easier to stay in the closet than face all that.  As we come out, the liberation is heady.  It can make us giddy, even a little immature.

Those that came from a different background–say a nonbelieving family–free from such baggage, are more functional than those of us who were liberated later in life.  Are these the Eloy who would move on?

Humanity is a story of assent, perhaps, even a spiritual story.  To the extent that each of us can incorporate that assent, emulate it, in our lives, we strive for an upward climb.  Can we grow as people?  Yes.  Do we grow?

November 13, 2013 at 10:47 pm Leave a comment

Let’s swap links

Here are a few links that might be of interest to you.  If you have others to share, send them to us in your comments.  Tell us something about them.

http://www.centerforinquiry.net/forums/ 

 Without a doubt the best discussion forum(s) I’ve seen.  Can be large numbers of participants and commenters.

http://www.pointofinquiry.org/     

 AUDIO PODCASTS ***** (five stars)  Has been a great listen; many intelligent and in-depth interviews archived many author-scientists (makes this a great  source for new books and an insight into their content.  The website says they are on a short hiatus, but will return to the “air.”   Prior format included a new post every Monday.  

http://rationalist.org.uk/  

 Home of The New Humanist magazine with content online.  Also streaming news under the title Today.   http://rationalist.org.uk/today  from the UK.

http://lists.uua.org/mailman/listinfo/humanists  

 “Humanists—a forum for religious humanism”   You receive their posts as an email message, but it is open for you to post as an equal.

http://podcast.thehumanist.org/       

 Audio Podcasts.    Another audio podcast; haven’t listened lately.

 

 http://freethoughtblogs.com/          

 A number of bloggers who choose to come together under the rubric of freethought.  Wide ranging social commentary.

Do you have any online sources that you would recommend?

September 2, 2013 at 10:04 pm Leave a comment

What’s in a name? Namely, a book title?

The question occurs, why the title to my current book, Religion is God’s Way of Showing Us it’s earlier in Human Evolution than We Thought?  Does it take a cheap shot a religion?  Is it unnecessarily cryptic?

Even though it’s not literally true that any god gave us religion, most believers must certainly think that religion has a divine sanction as well as proceeding from their deity, or in the absence of one, their sacred supernatural source.

Who, then, is shown the marker of religion revealing that we haven’t evolved beyond religion?  I would say those who get an accurate picture of our evolution and religion’s place in it.   To the consternation of the fundamentalist, I would say religion was an evolutionary adaptation that was necessary for the survival of every existing human population of today.  But, too, it can be to the chagrin of the nonbeliever.

 

Religion is a product of evolution

Why to the fundamentalist’s consternation?  Rather than the study of human evolution being the sin of fallen angels, it appears that religion is a product of human evolution such that we ascendant “apes” were equipped with it by natural selection.

The truth will set us free!

The truth is, it will take a little longer.  The mass exodus to humanism didn’t happen as predicted.  And this because religion was underestimated by nonbelievers who had examined philosophically and logically its truth value and, yet, overlooked its strength and contribution as an adaptation.  No modern society of any significance survived until today without it.

Yes, religion has waned in some areas such as Europe, but that’s the lifecycle of a religion, not all religion.  Certainly, we nonbelievers would all like to see the final enlightenment.  Each individual religion can wane and cultures and civilizations can evolve and advance, but religion’s grip on humanity is strong enough that it hasn’t let go so far.  If humanity had been ready, we would have seen religion’s end in the Classical Period.  Yet even after the gods of Greece and Rome became a farce, piety was extolled and blasphemy punished.  Rather, we saw the rise of Christianity because even the more enlightened Greco-Roman culture was not done with religion.  The balance of humanity lagged further behind than that.

Certainly, the New Atheists (Dawkins, Dennett, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens) are not interested in saying religion is or was good for humanity.  I can sympathize with that.   At the same time, there are a number of scientists, writers, and thinkers who do say matter of factly that they believe some predisposition to religion is in our genes.

I can’t give you a specific episode, but I’ve heard Chris Mooney on Center for Inquiry’s internet/radio podcast, Point of Inquiry, get an affirmative answer to the various iterations of the question (i.e., a heritable component to human religiosity). 

I credit Pinky with a similar sentiment in her comment recently on this blog, and in a way, it’s an interpretation or restatement of the book title in question:  “I am vastly disappointed in my species. Homo Sapiens Sapiens have had plenty of time to grow up, or at least to have made more of an effort to mature, but the religious keep busy squashing forward movement.”

August 23, 2013 at 12:08 pm Leave a comment

The Military Religious Freedom Protection Act has passed

(This is similar to the previous post, but the House Armed Services Committee did pass this de-Enlightenment legislation. There’s a URL at the bottom of the previous post if you think you want to hear Buck McKeon. I think he’ll prove you wrong.)

Chairman McKeon said if there were atheist chaplains, they would tell dying soldiers they would be “worm food.” Alternatively, when Rep. Fleming was asked what a Christian chaplain would tell a dying atheist soldier whom he believed would go to hell. Fleming said the Christian chaplain should offer the dying atheist soldier salvation through the Bible.

The last statement underlines the intent of the Military Religious Freedom (a malapropish misnomer in the long tradition of military and governmental oxymorons) Protection Act which became an amendment to a defense authorization bill which states that it is all right for believers of “a religion” to proselytize that faith to others.

The typical nonbeliever wouldn’t consider telling any dying soldier they might be “worm food” let alone a humanist chaplain. It’s a ludicrous proposition that he or she would do anything less than hold high esteem for an individual of any or no belief. This is because the average humanist believes that we all have an intrinsic human worth and that the human spirit is noble and a Humanist celebrant or chaplain is going to embody those qualities at a minimum. These congressmen are demonstrating that they do not value our service men and women in the same way.

Shouldn’t a chaplain to our men and women in uniform respect the faith tradition or beliefs of that person? That’s what a Humanist chaplain would do. But you have the congressmen’s words on it, that’s not what a Christian chaplain should do: They should offer the dying atheist soldier salvation through the Bible. This amendment supports that, but it is a one way street. Nonbelievers will have no “religious freedom” of their own protecting them from such inconsiderate behavior.
Gentlemen, you have our service members at too much of a disadvantage. They deserve better from you than this punishment for not being Christians. You can impose your will by a majority vote, but you can’t make it right or just. Are you treating the nonbelieving service members the way you want to be treated?
I take it these congressmen don’t feel the same nor do they feel that the men and women in uniform deserve equal treatment either. If they did, they’d ask each service member what kind of (faith) service they’d like, and it would be given.

It is possible for a bigoted person to go through a process of conversion. Our fellow Americans, bigoted though they may be, are our bigots and our brothers. As the humanism they denigrate would tell them, if they’d listen, all men are brothers. We must these help make these men better Christians. We must do this because as humanists we are our brothers’ keepers ..and we have no god that we would put before them.

Since only Christianity proselytizes, perhaps all Christians in the nation should weigh in. Tell these congressmen if you’re with them or against them. If we are not to judge you by your silence, speak up this one time. These men and women in uniform can’t speak up. They are at the mercy of the chain of command and it is to, and about, that chain of command they would have to complain—a career-ending move at best.

August 11, 2013 at 3:01 pm Leave a comment

Older Posts


Hello

I write for agnostics, freethinkers, atheists and humanists. In my nonfiction, the purpose is the celebration of our noble human spirit. The general pursuit may be Evolutionary Theology, though believers seem to populate that field (so maybe it's evolutionary Humanism). By looking at who we are and where we came from, we can derive much meaning, and perhaps more importantly, understanding, as well as some sense of where we could go.

Religion is God’s Way of Showing Us it’s Earlier in Human Evolution than We Thought

This title is an upcoming book at the publisher's now. I'd like feedback on this title. It's meant to make people think and feel something. And to hint at things for both believers and non- on multiple levels. The book is of a wider scope, though, one which is ultimately a way to grasp more meaning for ourselves. Believers are always telling us our lives don't have meaning without a god. We often counter that it's more meaningful to be looking for our own meaning than to be arbitrarily ascribed it by an imaginary supernatural being. Ultimately, and this is what I think is unique about this book, you'll see how we can be just as spiritual in our own way. Since we've inhertited a capacity for religion (some more than others) as an evolutionary adaptation, believers and non- are both potentially spritual in the same way--but it is an earthly, secular spirituality in which we all can share.