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Should the adjective “Secular” be removed from “Humanism”?
Posted: 18 May 2011 11:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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traveler - 18 May 2011 06:38 AM

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.

There are all kinds of ways to send a message. There are people who would make “The Beer Barrel Polka” sound like a funeral dirge. And there are people who would seem anal-retentive trying to make my point, especially if they didn’t get it and were only doing it to be academically correct.

That’s not the approach I am suggesting. To induce people to want to join us in our view on religion, we must demonstrate that we have a religious view that makes sense and is satisfying. We cannot offer them an eternal reward of everlasting life. So our challenge is greater than the one faced by theistic religions but if we do it well, the accomplishment and therefore the reward will be tremendous because we will know that we have given people hope and inspiration without resorting to the too-easy answers of theism.

When people ask me what I believe in, I have to admit, I sound like an evangelical preacher giving my response. An enthusiasm comes over me immediately as I tell people something like this: “I believe in Love, Truth, kindness, generosity, wisdom, compassion . . . in our ability to figure things out by being honest and dedicated to finding the truth - and I have Faith in our capacity as human beings to improve our lives by working together for our own good and the common good. And I believe in you.” Immediately, my theistic listener who thought I would fumble for an answer to that question is put back on his heels. Mostly, they don’t say anything because they are so caught off guard by that answer and the enthusiasm pouring out of me when I give it. Maybe a few of them remember the answer and it makes a difference.

If we all did that, the public perception about us would change. As strongly as I disagree with literalist Christian theology, they are onto something important with their optimism and their enthusiasm. There are millions of people open to our message, if we present it in a way that lifts them up and inspires them and helps them live more productively. If and when that approach is the most visible face of Humanism, Humanism will become the cultural force explicitly that it has already become implicitly. And if that happens, we can effectively counter the know-nothings who oppose evolutionary theory and other important scientific advances, and no presidential candidate will ever again dare to say that an atheist is not a good American.

Don’t you want to see that vision come true? If so, what are you prepared to do to make it happen?

[ Edited: 18 May 2011 11:27 AM by PLaClair ]
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Posted: 18 May 2011 11:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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jump_in_the_pit - 18 May 2011 10:19 AM

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? 

I don’t understand the first part of your question. I’m pointing out a fact. As to the second part, of course. I tell them all the time. In fact, see the previous post.

jump_in_the_pit - 18 May 2011 10:19 AM

Do the authors in your book list have some good scientific or humanist ideas for us?

Of course. I used to think that Bach’s music wasn’t humanistic because in his mind everything was dedicated to God. If you understand music, please think about what I just confessed. I was denying myself the full experience of Bach’s music because of his intent.

My point is that it’s all our story. Just because someone interpreted part of the story in a supernaturalist way doesn’t mean that human beings didn’t take actions, have thoughts and feelings, etc. All the good ideas are “good scientific or humanist ideas,” which isn’t to say that they aren’t Christian, Muslim or Buddhist, too. Drawing the lines we need to draw demands incisive thinking, not mere reactions in response to how one thing or another makes us feel.

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Posted: 18 May 2011 11:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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My reply to people who ask what I believe in is very similar. I’m going to have to add that last “And I believe in you” part. I do want to see that vision come true. I try to live my life, vote, participate in worthy events, and help others in order to make it happen.

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Posted: 19 May 2011 11:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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PLaClair - 18 May 2011 11:33 AM
jump_in_the_pit - 18 May 2011 10:19 AM

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? 

I don’t understand the first part of your question. I’m pointing out a fact. As to the second part, of course. I tell them all the time. In fact, see the previous post.

Oh, don’t misunderstand me Paul.  I was just trying to encourage you,  to tell us some secular stories/ideas that the Buddists, Confusious, Hindus have for us.  Encourage you to tell us some of the secular ideas from your book list, just to inspire us to learn more about them.  I tried to get the ball rolling by telling secular and scientific one.  smile

PLaClair - 18 May 2011 11:33 AM
jump_in_the_pit - 18 May 2011 10:19 AM

Do the authors in your book list have some good scientific or humanist ideas for us?

Of course. I used to think that Bach’s music wasn’t humanistic because in his mind everything was dedicated to God. If you understand music, please think about what I just confessed. I was denying myself the full experience of Bach’s music because of his intent.

Sure Paul, just because a religious person has an idea, that doesn’t mean that its a religious or bad one.  Secular ideas come from religious people often.  Its just that when you use a religious source, a secularist has to do the extra work of sorting out the religious from the secular ideas.  Its just easier to use secular sources.

PLaClair - 18 May 2011 11:25 AM

“I believe in Love, Truth, kindness, generosity, wisdom, compassion . . . in our ability to figure things out by being honest and dedicated to finding the truth - and I have Faith in our capacity as human beings to improve our lives by working together for our own good and the common good. And I believe in you.”

Is that the point, smother them with kindness?  I suppose that the movement could use more positivism, Humanism is a positive philosophy.  I guess that I missed that point the first time that I replied.

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Posted: 20 May 2011 06:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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I’ll try to remember to share stories from time to time. But they’re all over the place. Many of the biblical parables are magnificent, for example.

jump_in_the_pit - 19 May 2011 11:47 AM

Its just that when you use a religious source, a secularist has to do the extra work of sorting out the religious from the secular ideas.  Its just easier to use secular sources.

But it’s not as rich. We don’t have Bach, and there was only one. Without him, our music would not be as rich. In every field of endeavor, geniuses have contributed to the richness of our history and our lives. Most of them, by dint of sheer numbers within the population, were theists.

You’re right, though: I find myself transposing theistic word-images often. But there’s an advantage to that: we can gain an appreciation for why theists are saying what they say, and that will help us communicate with them and bring some of them into our ranks.

PLaClair - 18 May 2011 11:25 AM

“I believe in Love, Truth, kindness, generosity, wisdom, compassion . . . in our ability to figure things out by being honest and dedicated to finding the truth - and I have Faith in our capacity as human beings to improve our lives by working together for our own good and the common good. And I believe in you.”

jump_in_the_pit - 19 May 2011 11:47 AM

Is that the point, smother them with kindness?  I suppose that the movement could use more positivism, Humanism is a positive philosophy.  I guess that I missed that point the first time that I replied.

Smothering isn’t the point at all. I think of it as an invitation to share in the exuberance and joy of living honestly and enthusiastically.

[ Edited: 20 May 2011 06:38 PM by PLaClair ]
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Posted: 21 May 2011 11:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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I now see that Edward L. Ericson does seem secular, despite the word religion in his title.

“As a youth reared in a small Southern town of a typically conservative Protestant family, during adolescence I came to question the religious doctrines of my childhood training. What I had been taught to accept as infallibly revealed truth became untenable in the light of my growing awareness of modern scientific and philosophical thought. When I sought an explanation for these discrepancies, none was forthcoming. I was only admonished to “have faith.””

I see that the NY Society for Ethical Culture has a good variety of programs to gather people and teach children.  I seen that much variety at a CFI that I was involved with too. 

Despite the theologians involved with the NY Society for Ethical Culture, it seems secular; that seems like a paradox to me so I suppose they are threading some very fine line between theological study/religious practice and Humanism, I could only guess where they thread that line.

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Posted: 21 May 2011 01:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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jump_in_the_pit - 21 May 2011 11:31 AM

I now see that Edward L. Ericson does seem secular, despite the word religion in his title.

“As a youth reared in a small Southern town of a typically conservative Protestant family, during adolescence I came to question the religious doctrines of my childhood training. What I had been taught to accept as infallibly revealed truth became untenable in the light of my growing awareness of modern scientific and philosophical thought. When I sought an explanation for these discrepancies, none was forthcoming. I was only admonished to “have faith.””

I see that the NY Society for Ethical Culture has a good variety of programs to gather people and teach children.  I seen that much variety at a CFI that I was involved with too. 

Despite the theologians involved with the NY Society for Ethical Culture, it seems secular; that seems like a paradox to me so I suppose they are threading some very fine line between theological study/religious practice and Humanism, I could only guess where they thread that line.

Most of the people within Ethical Culture you are denominating as theologians have undergone an evolution in their thinking throughout their lives. I don’t know of any EC leaders who remain theistic or are otherwise supernaturalistic in their outlook but I do know some who value the contributions of their upbringing. I don’t see it as treading any thinner a line than any of the rest of us walks. Once a person is (a) grounded in reality, as opposed to faith-as-belief and (b) comfortable with her past, the “treacherous line” isn’t an issue any more.

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Posted: 25 May 2011 08:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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traveler - 18 May 2011 06:38 AM

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.

oh, good!  a “realist”.  Something everyone agrees on the meaning of… rolleyes

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Posted: 25 May 2011 08:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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jump_in_the_pit - 18 May 2011 10:19 AM

Generally speaking, I think that secular (non-sectarian, un-devoted to any god, empirical, and factual) is just fine.

did you see the episode of south park where cartman goes to the future and finds one group at war with another because they each think they’ve got the eternal, right, science-based answers?

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Posted: 25 May 2011 08:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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PLaClair - 21 May 2011 01:51 PM
jump_in_the_pit - 21 May 2011 11:31 AM

I now see that Edward L. Ericson does seem secular, despite the word religion in his title.

“As a youth reared in a small Southern town of a typically conservative Protestant family, during adolescence I came to question the religious doctrines of my childhood training. What I had been taught to accept as infallibly revealed truth became untenable in the light of my growing awareness of modern scientific and philosophical thought. When I sought an explanation for these discrepancies, none was forthcoming. I was only admonished to “have faith.””

I see that the NY Society for Ethical Culture has a good variety of programs to gather people and teach children.  I seen that much variety at a CFI that I was involved with too. 

Despite the theologians involved with the NY Society for Ethical Culture, it seems secular; that seems like a paradox to me so I suppose they are threading some very fine line between theological study/religious practice and Humanism, I could only guess where they thread that line.

Most of the people within Ethical Culture you are denominating as theologians have undergone an evolution in their thinking throughout their lives. I don’t know of any EC leaders who remain theistic or are otherwise supernaturalistic in their outlook but I do know some who value the contributions of their upbringing. I don’t see it as treading any thinner a line than any of the rest of us walks. Once a person is (a) grounded in reality, as opposed to faith-as-belief and (b) comfortable with her past, the “treacherous line” isn’t an issue any more.

ah, good.  That all made me relax a bit, after the tense talk, earlier.

I went to a class by the “minister” of Oregon buddhist temple, who said that one of the foundational insights of the first buddha was that the ascetics were wrong in their belief that the more one denied oneself, the better, even to the point of death.

I hope that qualifies as a “good, secular story” from buddhism.  I’d like to hear more such things, myself; perhaps from hinduism?

oh, and this from, i think, the Talmud:  young man goes to a rabbi, asks “is there a god?”  rabbi says “ask me something important!”

I think that what might be called “metaphorical theism” has been big in judaism for a long, long time.

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Posted: 26 May 2011 06:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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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 definitions of philosophy and religion must differ, because you said religion where you should have said philosophy. I see religion as something you adopt and philosophy as something you create.

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Posted: 26 May 2011 06:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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Evan - 26 May 2011 06:19 AM

Our definitions of philosophy and religion must differ, because you said religion where you should have said philosophy. I see religion as something you adopt and philosophy as something you create.

That’s an interesting point, Evan. I can see where I might also mix the two unintentionally. The reason is that it seems to me that people who are too weak to develop a philosophical stance often simply adopt religion and place it in their ‘philosophy’ void. Of course this is not true of every theist.

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Posted: 26 May 2011 12:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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Evan - 26 May 2011 06:19 AM

Our definitions of philosophy and religion must differ, because you said religion where you should have said philosophy. I see religion as something you adopt and philosophy as something you create.

The different accepted usages of all of these words are pretty convoluted.

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Posted: 26 May 2011 04:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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I’m not sure of that differentiation because it would seem to imply that we all have the intellect of a Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Wittgenstein, etc.  I believe most of us also adopt our philsophies from hearing about them from parents, friends, school, and reading rather than creating our own.  We may choose one over another, but many also do that by deciding whether to adopt Christianity, Judiasm, Islam, and any of the sub-religions within each of them.

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Posted: 26 May 2011 04:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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and, of course, religions are something that we create, too.  Unitarians are particularly conscious of that, with emphasis on their “non-credal faith” and workshops on “building your own theology”.

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