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Should the adjective “Secular” be removed from “Humanism”?
Posted: 05 March 2011 10:29 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I’m new here, so be gentle and direct me to any prior posts that are relevant; but I have serious reservations about dropping secular from the definition of myself as a humanist!

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Posted: 06 March 2011 04:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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ebrownlo - 05 March 2011 10:29 PM

I’m new here, so be gentle and direct me to any prior posts that are relevant; but I have serious reservations about dropping secular from the definition of myself as a humanist!

Why?

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Posted: 06 March 2011 07:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I’m not entirely sure about your stance on the word “secular” in “secular humanism”. You say you have reservations about dropping it, but who suggested doing so?

The reason the word “secular” is there is to distinguish our sort of humanism from religious humanism. Humanism’s beginnings in the Renaissance were a step away from the earlier Biblical tradition towards a more secular alternative focusing on the person and lived life rather than God, heaven and hell, but it was still religious.

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Posted: 06 March 2011 07:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Perhaps you’re alluding to the title of this folder? If so I do see the point, though nowadays most people who talk about humanism do so in the context of the secular variety.

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Posted: 06 March 2011 05:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I didn’t even notice the forum title, but now that you mention it, I think that is something we shall have to remedy. I was referring to the International Humanists and Ethical Union’s mandate that all Humanists should use Humanism as the name for Humanism; with no added adjective.  I definitely see a lot more people that are members of the American Humanist Association and it would make socializing and networking easier; but my heart is with the Council for Secular Humanism.

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Posted: 06 March 2011 09:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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If you are really interested you should look up the history of the AHA.  It was separate, to some extent, from theistic beliefs, but read Manifesto I to see the references to god.  In the mid-seventies there was a split because some wanted to add secular to the idea.  That’s when the Secular Humanist organization was formed.  I belong to both CFI and AHA because both offer quite a range of information and enjoyment. 

Politically, the two organizations will probably not rejoin for quite awhile, if at all.  However, if it really upsets you, you should stick with the AHA, and not try to prosletyze a group that purposely chose the term, secular.

Occam

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Posted: 09 March 2011 10:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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dougsmith - 06 March 2011 07:06 AM

I’m not entirely sure about your stance on the word “secular” in “secular humanism”. You say you have reservations about dropping it, but who suggested doing so?

The reason the word “secular” is there is to distinguish our sort of humanism from religious humanism. Humanism’s beginnings in the Renaissance were a step away from the earlier Biblical tradition towards a more secular alternative focusing on the person and lived life rather than God, heaven and hell, but it was still religious.

What you mean by “we,” kimo sabe? I am a secular humanist and a religious humanist. In fact, I cannot think of any religious humanists I know who are not also secularists and scientific naturalists. These words do more to divide us than to clarify anything, in my opinion.

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I cannot in good conscience support CFI under the current leadership. I am here in dissent and in support of a Humanism that honors and respects everyone.

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Posted: 09 March 2011 11:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Interesting.  I didn’t realize secular had multiple meanings.  Some of us were using and thinking of it as worldly as separate from and sort of rejecting the metaphysical.  Others seemed to use the definition of worldly, and general, but not split from the metaphysical.  So the term, “secular humanist” means quite different things depending which definition of the adjective one accepts. 

Occam

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Posted: 09 March 2011 12:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Occam. - 09 March 2011 11:30 AM

Interesting.  I didn’t realize secular had multiple meanings.  Some of us were using and thinking of it as worldly as separate from and sort of rejecting the metaphysical.  Others seemed to use the definition of worldly, and general, but not split from the metaphysical.  So the term, “secular humanist” means quite different things depending which definition of the adjective one accepts. 

Occam

The only way secular humanism and religious humanism are at odds is if “secular” is taken to mean an anti-religious attitude (as distinguished from an anti-theistic belief system), or “religious” is taken to mean theistic or otherwise anti-scientific. I don’t know what “rejecting the metaphysical” means but presume you mean not accepting any fact claim not grounded in fact and science. If so, then I am a secularist by your definition but that is not to say that I am not religious; only that I am not theistic.

My formal entry into the Humanist community is through Ethical Culture, which is thoroughly grounded in science, fact and reason and also explicitly religious. The Leader of my society, Jim White, brought home the distinction between religion and theism during the first month I was there; it seems like a simple, obvious and unassailable distinction, so I don’t understand why so many Humanists persist in blurring or ignoring it.

I also don’t understand why this division between secular and religious Humanists persists, considering the history of Ethical Culture and other similar organizations, except to note that many people within our organizations seem to be reacting instead of reasoning, which is most ironic. One the one hand, some people who call themselves religious Humanists depart from scientific and/or fact-based thinking, but to me, that’s a departure from Humanism itself. On the other hand, some people who say they are secular Humanists insist on labeling everything that looks, sounds or feels like religion as theistic, even though the label is demonstrably misapplied; that, too, is a departure from Humanism itself, not least because such a position is based on an unreasoning emotional reaction, which is the very thing most of these folks claim to oppose. This latter group tends to allow itself to be defined by and to focus on what it opposes, which is a colossal mistake that has been holding our organizations and our common causes back for as far back as I can see. And yet, no matter how many times the point is made, the mistake persists.

[ Edited: 09 March 2011 12:16 PM by PLaClair ]
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I cannot in good conscience support CFI under the current leadership. I am here in dissent and in support of a Humanism that honors and respects everyone.

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Posted: 09 March 2011 01:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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dougsmith - 06 March 2011 07:46 AM

Perhaps you’re alluding to the title of this folder? If so I do see the point, though nowadays most people who talk about humanism do so in the context of the secular variety.

True, but I’ve had a couple of Catholic priests tell me in exchanges that they too are humanists, just like me, which forces me to then clarify how and why my humanism is different. I tend to think the word secular is necessary, albeit bulky.

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Posted: 09 March 2011 05:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Quoting PlaClair:

Jim White, brought home the distinction between religion and theism during the first month I was there; it seems like a simple, obvious and unassailable distinction, so I don’t understand why so many Humanists persist in blurring or ignoring it.

I guess I’m missing something, PlaClair.  Could you clarify for me what religion would consist of if there were no theistic basis for it?

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Posted: 09 March 2011 10:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Occam. - 09 March 2011 05:17 PM

Quoting PlaClair:

Jim White, brought home the distinction between religion and theism during the first month I was there; it seems like a simple, obvious and unassailable distinction, so I don’t understand why so many Humanists persist in blurring or ignoring it.

I guess I’m missing something, PlaClair.  Could you clarify for me what religion would consist of if there were no theistic basis for it?

Occam

It would consist of everything else: every longing, every aspiration, every dream, every bit of knowledge, all of it.

I mean no disrespect but I truly believe that you are missing something essential.

Look past the surface. Why do people believe in a supreme being? What is the genesis in the human mind, which is the source of belief?

Several things are at work, including: the desire to explain life, the world and everything else; the desire to make sense of things; the desire to orient oneself and to have a framework for living.

Whatever brings all of that together into a coherent whole for the individual is that person’s religion. Put another way, religion is the framework for addressing one’s central concerns. It needn’t include a god.

Our critiques of theism, among other things, are that it isn’t coherent, doesn’t bring everything together, doesn’t answer important questions, doesn’t help people orient themselves or give them a reliable and useful framework for living. We disagree with the answer but the religious quest still consists of those elements and probably a few others.

Ethical Culture, much of Buddhism, Confucianism, at least one branch of Hinduism, and other religions are not theistic. No wonder the theists are outgunning us. They’ve got most of society convinced that they can’t “live without God,” and they’ve people within our movement convinced that there’s no such thing as a religion without a god, even though we talk about religious Humanism, Ethical Culture, etc. Please read some of the leading works on the subject of non-theistic religion. I truly do not see how our movements and organizations can take an informed and successful position on religion without clearly understanding the difference between theism and religion.

Ninian Smart, The World’s Religions
Edward L. Erikson, The Humanist Way: An Introduction to Ethical Humanist Religion
Xinghong Yao, An Introduction to Confucianism
Charles Talliaferro and Paul J. Griffiths, Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology (see especially Part V: Nontheistic Religions)
David Fontana, Psychology, Religion, and Spirituality
Paul K. Moser, The Oxford Handbook of Epistemology (see especially p. 534)
Donald S. Lopez, Buddhist Scriptures
William Arthur, Religion Without God
Ray Billington, Religion Without God
Sherwin T. Wine, Judaism Beyond God

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I cannot in good conscience support CFI under the current leadership. I am here in dissent and in support of a Humanism that honors and respects everyone.

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Posted: 17 May 2011 06:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Personally, I just use the word humanist to describe myself and don’t add any adjective, but that’s just a personal preference.  I really do not see a need to add any adjective personally

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Posted: 17 May 2011 11:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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My own preference is “Freethinker.” It’s an old term, but one which bugs the hell out of people who believe that actually thinking for yourself is some sort of vice!

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Posted: 18 May 2011 06:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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PLaClair - 09 March 2011 10:05 PM

It would consist of everything else: every longing, every aspiration, every dream, every bit of knowledge, all of it.

I mean no disrespect but I truly believe that you are missing something essential.

Look past the surface. Why do people believe in a supreme being? What is the genesis in the human mind, which is the source of belief?

Several things are at work, including: the desire to explain life, the world and everything else; the desire to make sense of things; the desire to orient oneself and to have a framework for living.

Whatever brings all of that together into a coherent whole for the individual is that person’s religion. Put another way, religion is the framework for addressing one’s central concerns. It needn’t include a god.

Our critiques of theism, among other things, are that it isn’t coherent, doesn’t bring everything together, doesn’t answer important questions, doesn’t help people orient themselves or give them a reliable and useful framework for living. We disagree with the answer but the religious quest still consists of those elements and probably a few others.

Ethical Culture, much of Buddhism, Confucianism, at least one branch of Hinduism, and other religions are not theistic. No wonder the theists are outgunning us. They’ve got most of society convinced that they can’t “live without God,” and they’ve people within our movement convinced that there’s no such thing as a religion without a god, even though we talk about religious Humanism, Ethical Culture, etc. Please read some of the leading works on the subject of non-theistic religion. I truly do not see how our movements and organizations can take an informed and successful position on religion without clearly understanding the difference between theism and religion.

Ninian Smart, The World’s Religions
Edward L. Erikson, The Humanist Way: An Introduction to Ethical Humanist Religion
Xinghong Yao, An Introduction to Confucianism
Charles Talliaferro and Paul J. Griffiths, Philosophy of Religion: An Anthology (see especially Part V: Nontheistic Religions)
David Fontana, Psychology, Religion, and Spirituality
Paul K. Moser, The Oxford Handbook of Epistemology (see especially p. 534)
Donald S. Lopez, Buddhist Scriptures
William Arthur, Religion Without God
Ray Billington, Religion Without God
Sherwin T. Wine, Judaism Beyond God

I agree with your take here, PLaClair. I understand it. But I’m left wondering if it matters in practical terms. If I had to guess, I would say that something like 90% of the population equates ‘Religious’ with ‘Believes in God.’ Are we just confusing/alienating that 90% when we take a correct, academic approach in our vocabulary? I don’t know, but I think we might be. Additionally, we may make that 90% feel that we are just a bunch of anal-retentives with whom they do not want to associate. I want people to know that I am not as concerned about being literally correct as I am about being generally understood.

To make myself clear to others, I usually refer to myself as a realist when asked about my religion/faith/beliefs. To me, that says it all.

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Posted: 18 May 2011 10:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Generally speaking, I think that secular (non-sectarian, un-devoted to any god, empirical, and factual) is just fine.  Religion is a real part of the world and important to so many. 

Personally speaking, I as a humanist want to focus on the facts of the world, and science (and occasionally even journalism smile ) provides them and that is where my focus is.  I was inspired to learn the anthropology about ancient tribes and modern tribes practices because the stories were made to be positive, humanizing, and educational.  Normally their secular day-to-day survival chores are thoroughly blended with their religious beliefs, in the end it can be a very beautiful picture, not to imply that there aren’t problems.  I am done with the more typical negative, demonizing, and competitive stories from the devout religious view-point.

Why, Paul, do you keep promoting “much of Buddhism, Confucianism, at least one branch of Hinduism, and other religions are not theistic.” repeatedly, do you have some nice secular stories to tell us?  Do the authors in your book list have some good scientific or humanist ideas for us?  I hear that the Hindus did some good pioneering mathematical works, such as our Hindu/Arabaic number system that we use today.  smile

Personally, I like Secular Humanist because it is more clear, despite the redundancy.

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