Posts tagged ‘humanist’

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

Dousing the Constant Fire?

A couple of months ago I discovered Point of Inquiry, the internet radio show/podcast of the Center for Inquiry. It’s an oasis in the desert of uplifting secular audio that’s (not) out there.   Go find it–there’s a lot there for us–a true resource.

I’ve been working my way backward through the audio archives there.  One program that caught my eye was the episode named “Spirituality: Friend or Foe? – Adam Frank and Tom Flynn.” Adam Frank takes a somewhat similar position to my own–that there can be secular spirituality, something that’s fulfilling to the human spirit.  That’s great and gives us an avenue worth pursuing.

Unfortunately, I’m goaded into writing about Tom Flynn’s position. He says this dabbling with the ideas we call spiritual puts those of us who are asking these questions in a domain that can’t be called “hard atheism.”

This I have to wonder about.  I’ve taken Jennifer Michael Hecht’s test (Doubt, a History…) and I am fully and 100% hard atheist according to her test.  I didn’t have a single answer that wasn’t materialist and atheist. So is Jennifer’s test incomplete or somehow faulty?  I don’t think that’s the case, but certainly I might not be objective since I’m one of the defendants in this case.

It’s not coming through here, but I was really downed by Tom Flynn’s words.   I wish the talks could have been reversed so that the upside could have been the last thought, but it couldn’t be that way.  Without the introduction of the idea of some sort of secular spirituality the topic wouldn’t have had a starting point.

Chris Mooney, host for that episode, argues in the general direction of Adam Frank and that there might be a secular way to accomodate a sort of scientific spirituality–awe in the presence of the universe and it’s wonders, for example.

Flynn says we confuse the issues when we say we are atheist and materialists and then say we are spiritual.  (You might note that my thesis that we are “spiritual” because we evolved into religiosity [I’d call it a sort of spiritual drive or need] might be a special case that does overcome that problem and clears up the impasse that the language seems to hold).

Flynn says the average person thinks “spirit” means God and disembodied souls, and in the U.S., there is a spiritual order to the world.  Further, that we (godless) defeat our goal for rational understanding of the world and misrepresent our world view when we use that language.

Flynn goes on to say the average person thinks they’ve just caught us in an inconsistency or being hyp0critical.  And that we, too, need something trandscendent (acutally, Flynn calls it ectoplasm–a Ghost Buster reference?)  to get us through the night.

Chris Mooney says the word spirituality may be undergoing change.  Flynn says it hasn’t completed that change and that he’d like the language dropped altogether.  If not, society will assume that we, too, need an “invisible” means of support.

Flynn says he thinks Sagan, Einstein, Asimov might all be called religious humanists.  When he was trying to find his way, he examined their thoughts, but when they spoke of this awe in high blown terms he moved on looking for purer atheists.

Flynn says the “spiritual” language is unnecessary.   It is rather loose language that we need to clean up and state more clearly.  Flynn does offer that if we mean what we say by that language, then we certainly have a right to say it that way.

Mooney asks what is the appropriate way to address the explanation of meaning in our lives.

There is no big “M” Meaning because we don’t believe there is such meaning out there.  That each of us finds our own way to determine the meaning of our lives.  And that such an effort is far superior to an imposition of an external meaning upon our lives and world (I took quite a bit of license with the latter, but I think it is consistent with what Flynn said).

Flynn says there’s a lot of lore in religious circles to the effect that there are no true atheists because everyone needs something transcendent in their lives.    Flynn says there really are atheists and it is us and we need to be recognized, that we do exist, and that we need to set an example to show that we can lead good lives.

I can see both side’s points.

What do you think?

November 5, 2011 at 2:18 pm 4 comments

a row of posts RE: freethoughtblogs.com

If you like the flow of different ideas steadily washing over your mind, there’s freethoughtblogs.com.  Several blog posts of interest were That Allegedly Liberal Media on a Pew study of positive vs. negative media reports on presidential candidates.

The Newt Gingrich article was of special interest as I saw him in the last Republican debate make some rather inane observations.  “Does faith matter?  Absolutely.” Gingrich said.  “How can I trust you with power if you don’t pray?” As this article points out, and I was so stunned to hear, Gingrich said that Americans should value religion first, above morality and knowledge.

This ties into related posts I’ve made about that radical connection from deep within our evolutionary (which is now deep within or gene) of GODANDCOUNTRY.    I’ll leave those arguments for the other posts.  I’ll let Herb Silverman (Secular Coalition for America) have the last word on this topic, “We may be the last minority against whom intolerance and discrimination are not only permitted, but also sometimes promoted by politicians.”

October 22, 2011 at 11:59 am Leave a comment

A god to die for

I commented on the Freethought Blog.

The general question by their reader  was this:

“Hey Martin, I have a dilemma and was hoping for some quick advice on how to handle a situation. I am a part of a theology group here on FB and during one of these exchanges a Christian (fairly fundy) said he would die for his god and asked what I would die for.

My response was that it sounded like jihad. Was this a good approach I guess is my question? I’m pretty sure (with the fundy part) he’s just not going to get where the similarities are between jihad and fundamental christianity but I can try right? lol

Any advice is appreciated.”

MY RESPONSE:

[To set this up: I first default to understanding.  Maybe it’s not as straight forward as just dealing with the issue, but understanding can be a lot and I’ve often found myself left with nothing here in the Bible Belt and it took years to gain the only thing possible: understanding.]

I think Richard Dawkins disputes the thesis that religion was an evolutionary adaptation, but it was the missing piece of the puzzle for me. I’ve been scratching my head for many years as to how religion could have such a universal grip on humanity when it seems so counter-intuitive given religion as we know it.

Whenever I hear a question about an aspect of religion, I’m taken back about a hundred thousand years to consider the underlying source.

Dying for their religion? Sounds like a strange concept to us.
Take that back 100,000 years in human evolution, though, and it was a pact, a pledge, to the tribe. It was a brotherhood, with serious initiation rites, blood rites, and it was solemn and binding. A binding stronger than kin and marriage.

This is one reason why the “God & country” linkages seems to continually resurface. It was reflective of an underlying super-reality, a reality that hunter-gather clans could (or tried desperately to) relate to. It was the realm of the supernatural. The natural world was beyond their understanding.

The projected a power or great father behind the world and worked hard on their identity as his subjects.

Would they die for God & clan and the culture they created around this identity? Oh, yeah. And the clans that did have members who’d make that sacrifice produced more offspring–and here we are.

October 15, 2011 at 1:08 pm Leave a comment

Enlightened is as enlightened does

Blogger Staks Rosch at Philly Atheist Examiner has it pretty much right, I think, when he offers Paul Kurtz’s urging (for humanism) to present a positive worldview.  Check it out here.

Stacks, the blogger, also touches on the Human Light celebratation.  Especially important, I think, is the exercise that went on at the celebratory luncheon in Philly on the 19th.  Basically, attendees were invited to come up with their wish for the world–then, to say what they could do to make it happen.

Both the wish and the action suggested are very much in keeping with the spirit of this new blog.

Staks also offers in his post a link to a Neil DeGrasse Tyson video that is well worth anyone’s attention.   I sent it to a Christian that’s dear to me as an offering of insight into where I’m coming from.

 

Many of us, godless in the Bible Belt for short, carry a lot of baggage with/for Christianity.  After all it gave us our start or restart, re-birth, renaissance, enlightenment.  I can’t help but reflect on the words of the young Christian that I spoke of elsewhere.  He wanted those around him to be better off because there was a Christian in their midst.

We should at least strive to equal that goal and sentiment.

December 22, 2010 at 1:17 pm Leave a comment

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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.