What worries, I might even say frightens me about your statement (Manifesto?) is the prophetic zeal and certainty. If you didn’t specifically deride religion in your first post, there is nothing about these ideals or this language that would be incompatible with fundamentalist religion. It’s not that there is anything wrong with perfect selfless compassion and non-violence, it’s just that you seem to have a vision of the TRUTH which excludes any competing visions, and that’s a form of arrogance, albeit couched in humble terms. What if you’re wrong? What if the others who call themselves humanists aren’t just intellectual or moral cowards or selling out to get a mainstream following but sincere, intelligent folks working for the good of humanity just as you are? Can you simply condemn all they do as futile because it doesn’t fit your vision?
Sure, zeal motivates action, and I can’t quarrel with your commitment or the fact that you try to put your ideals vigorously into practice, but I think without a touch of humility and self-doubt would do you a world of good in preventing you from becoming fixated on the whole vision and unable to use reason and criticism to help you weed out the mistakes.
I can’t speak for Mark, of course, but what if we all are wrong? We all may be. The universe may really be such that our understanding of it is equal to the knowledge of the beings living in Flatland!
But this sort of thinking only leaves us with nothing to say at all about our lives, our futures.
Maybe Mark is “sure” of what he says, but so are we all when we say we know or think we know something. I do not think all of us walk around as total agnostics about everything! We all have opinions, and probably - those of us who profess to having a scientific world view - have some fairly good reasons for thinking we are correct re some of those opinions.
After all, all of our reading and research into religion, naturalism, politics, etc., must eventually lead to some fairly strong opinions - at least as strong as those of whom we read - and therefore, I think it is fair to say that we may be correct perhaps even a good deal about what we think (re our opinions).
There is a difference between being confident in one’s ideas/opinions and being dogmatists or absolutists. I do not think either Mark or I are such.
Perhaps Mark is sure he is not wrong (though I doubt it), but certainly I understand that I may be wrong in one or more aspects of my ideology… But I think it is pretty clear that others can be wrong as well. Indeed, capitalism is certainly a non-humanistic economic system, but when someone defends it, they are thought to be rational, clear thinkers. Certainly not dogmatic. But when someone criticizes it, whether he/she is a socialist, anarchist, or otherwise, he/she suddenly “believes too confidently” in their ideas or are being dogmatic or a utopian. Why?
Re humanism, we need to believe in SOMETHING otherwise why call ourselves ANY thing? Humanism is such which if it is to be realized (and go beyond secularism and atheism, which it should based on humanist writings and history), it MUST be PRE-ceded, not superceded, by a social ‘set of premises’ which can lead to a humanistic future.. and this means we need to address SOCIETY.
Politics, economics, etc., are the ‘blood’ of modern society, and we don’t get specific as to which kind of political or economic system is most likely to lead to a humanistic future at our own peril… Making humanism, therefore, useless.
I suppose that even all this might sound arrogant or narrow, but ALL worldviews can sound arrogant and narrow to those who disagree with the worldview. We can always hear the cry, ‘who is he to think he has the right answer’ or ‘who is she to criticise traditional ideas?’
But in the end, just as naturalists will prove to be correct about supernaturalism (I think most of us on this forum thinks that), I think anti-capitalists (for instance) will prove to be correct about capitalism. Both naturalists and anti-capitalists have the best evidence.
And as for zeal… What’s wrong with zeal? What’s wrong with vigor? If someone has an arguement which offers proof of any sort (even if it is not very scientific), that my attempts to find one best way (not THE best way, I invite other ‘best ways’ to come forward), to move toward a humanistic future are wrong… Well then, as ‘W’ said… “Bring it On!” :twisted:
That is what these forums are for… debate and dicussion!
The burdon of proof is on me because my ideas are in the minority, and I have been providing my proof all along. I may not always get it correct, but I change my opinions as I gain more knowledge.
Of course, there may come a time when my opinions and another’s may be so fundementally different that further debate is useless… and then each of us will have to continue along on our own paths.
If any difference from your perspective is delusion, or incomplete realization, or cowardice, or deliberate refusal to see the truth, then you’ve set yourself up as a prophet, and prophets are dangerous, and frankly usually mostly wrong.
Hmmm. Isn’t that what Dawkins/Harris say about religion? Are they atheistic prophets?
Anyway, I at least have not called anyone delusional or cowardly. :wink:
Deciding who gets to be a humanist and who doesn’t based on strict adherence to your dogma is a very “religious” behavior, despite the nominal secularism of the dogma.
If humanism means ‘A’ (however narrow or broad ‘A’ is), and person ‘1’ promotes and carries through ideas which fit under ‘A,’ then person ‘1’ is a humanist.
If person ‘2’ does not, what shall we call this person?
Fact is, if we have so broad a definition of humanism that almost any secular person can be under ‘A,’ then we don’t need the ‘ism’ in the first place!
Example: If Anarchism is about state-less order (which it is), and person ‘1’ likes most of what anarchism is all about, but believes a small state is a good idea, then person ‘1’ is not an anarchist. Simple as that.
And finally, I’m sure you’ll call me a cynic and dismiss me accordingly, but you both seem very proud of the radical/outsider character to your certainties and very confident that absolute visions and unifying ideals can and should be realized. Calling all humanitarian work (i.e. “charity”) a meaningless band-aid in the absence of fundamental elimination of the underlying causes of suffering, which you say should be our only aim, is the worst sort of utopianism. Sure it’s noble, but why should I believe you and your ideas are the path to achieving this when no one else’s in history has achieved it?
First of all, I - at least - am not “proud” of being an outsider or a radical. It may come off that way when such radicals like Mark? and I speak to this, but in truth, I’d rather be just a happy, relaxed part of the mainstream!
Of course, THAT mainstream would be very much to the “left” of what we have today, which is why I find myself on the radical side of the spectrum!
I wish mainstream society was more anarcho-democratic just like most atheists wish society was less religious. For now, in America, we are both on the outside looking in. Perhaps one day, the mainstream will move toward atheism and anarcho-democracy… perhaps not.
As for charity.. I did not mean all humanitarian work. I meant traditional charity like churches are often involved in. Humanitarian work can cover helping folks out who were ravaged by Katrina and the Bush Administration (both which led to the disaster in New Orleans), but this is not what I mean by charity .. particularly when natural disasters cause the tragedy. Of course Bush’s ignoring the pleas to fix the levies, and his slow response and that of fema to Katrina, are things we need to change too!
And while we seriously work to fix the problems charity is supposed to fix, we can be charitable… but THAT must be a temporary thing BECAUSE we are already working to fix the problems in the first place.
It is simple for me to think that the same people who can do charitable work can also do work to fix the problems before they become so big as to require charity, no?
As for history, just because ‘utopia’ is not a place we will ever reach, seriously stiving in the direction of utopia is very humanistic indeed. Just because some things have not happened or worked out yet, does not mean they never will. Were the US Founding Fathers wack jobs to think of trying out representative democracy when it was never tried or ever worked before? Of course not. I say the same re ‘inclusive, participatory democracy.’
What do you suppose will happen re our futures if no one tries?
While we are all using quotes, here is one great one:
“A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realisation of Utopias.” - Oscar Wilde
If you don’t see any way to share the visions that admits of compromise and difference of opinion, you will waste your talents preaching to a small choir and a large, indifferent multitude, and nothing will come of them (barring one of history’s rare revolutions or waves of religious conversion). That would be a shame.
I do not intend on just talking about this stuff on the CFI forums.
I do so because, well, what better group of people - members of the largest “humanist” organization in America - to share such ideas with and hope some of them ‘trickle up’ to the powers that be in Amherst?
And compromise is a way foward, at times, and is why I am willing to work with liberal religionists in my endeavors (which many at CFI and folks like Sam Harris don’t want to do)....
So, I used to think the same way as you regarding the fact that we should be very wary about asserting “truths”, and we should be. But I also believe as Henry George says, that “its just as harmful for a man to think that he knows nothing, as it is for a man to think he knows everything”. And once we clearly realize the truth of something, and have thought deeply about it, and can verbalize it, and explain rationally exactly why and how it is the truth, just as 2+2=4, then we should not be timid, indeed it is our duty as human beings not to be. And if there are holes in my reasoning, I want to know. We can’t legitimately talk about the truth as a matter of intellectual pride or arrogance, as anyone who wants to get at the truth will gladly sacrifice pride to see their mistake.
Very well said, Mark!