“I cannot think of any successful group that assigns a single unambiguous definition to itself, because in point of fact, not everyone in the group will look at it in the same way. To be sure, the group needs enough definition to be inviting, attract members and move forward toward its goals.”
I think that there are successful groups that assign a single unambiguous definition. many groups have belief statements. mission statements. summary statements. creeds. at a surface level, i think most people in america would know what a christian was, what a democrat was, etc. having said that I was a member of the united church of christ, a liberal church. and every single “definition” I heard about our denomination and specific church a lot of people liked….some other members would hate. no one could agree on a single defintion. but we grew from 50 people to 400. so there was enough clarity for growth.
to continue example of christian:
There is a very simple definition in most of america for what a christian is: someone who believes in christianity, and has “relationship with jesus.’
having said that….the fact is that the term christian is way more complex, and the current americanized, conversionistic, individualistic model is simply one paradigm.
in may countries, you are either christian or muslim. by birth. has nothing to do with belief. it is cultural.
there is also the flipside of the christian in america if you are not jew,atheist, buddhist, muslim scientoligist..you are considered christian (this is very true in south)
what is a christian?
a) “someone who has accepted jesus”
b) “a member of the christian church’
c) someone who believes in the bible and god and stuff.
d) functional defintions: “you are a christian if you are my kind of christian” example: 4 people meet. they talk, find they are all in church choirs. then they find out one of them is gay and democrat. he leaves. other people say. ” that guy is not a christian.” I have heard “a christian will not vote for obama” etc…
e) self-identifying as the definiton “you are a christian if you call yourself one”
f) pedagogical definitions…. definitions narrower than most meant to challenge or cause people to join with/agree with this smaller group. “real christians believe in non-violence” “I am a christian. I actually follow the words of jesus…so I care about the poor”
g) any member of western society who vaguely believes the following are real :heaven/hell. angels/demons, god/jesus, bible is true.
h) litteral meaning “little christ’ or “little anointed’ someone who imitates the behavior of jesus (this begs question of how he behaved…another whole thread!)
the idea of assigning an unambiguous meaning was bit bold.
my suggestion would be to create a working defintion.
frankly, I have no idea what a religious humanist is?
it is someone who devoutly but in secular fashion treats secular humanism like a religion/church?
is it someone who is religious (christian, jew, etc) that also claims a strong tie to humanism?
is it someone who is spiritual-ish or open to spiritualty, but not a part of formal religion, who along with their spirtuality has strong humanist beliefs?
I actually don’t know.