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How would you reply to atheist critiques of humanism?
Posted: 29 October 2014 07:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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Irmin - 14 October 2014 10:22 AM

Why was my post replying to LoisL removed!? Is this some sort of joke?

I posted that if humanism is non-theistic, then it is atheistic, because that’s what the word means.

No, it doesn’t. It means theism is not an issue.

Also, the descriptions given by many humanist organizations seem to imply that atheism is part of the humanist package. Consider the description given by the Norwegian Humanist Association, which is probably the biggest humanist organization in the world by capita (and may very well be in absolute numbers too):

The Norwegian Humanist Association is an organization for people who base their ethics on human, not religious values. Our members are agnostics or atheists. We support the following statement of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU)

I’m open to be shown wrong of course, but to me this is what a plain reading suggests.

Any Humanist organization is free to use whatever terms they wish to use.. It doesn’t change the definition or essence of humanism that is accepted by most humanists. 

Here’s as good an explanation of the differences between atheists and humanists that I’‘ve seen.


What’s the difference between a Humanist and an atheist?

Humanism is basically a philosophical worldview centered around human derived knowledge.  Humanists believe that we fallible humans have the sole responsibility to figure out the world we live in and take any actions needed to improve it.  We acknowledge that science is the best tool we have for understanding the natural world.  We believe that human rights forms the basis of morality.

So how is that different from atheism?  While it’s true that many people who describe themselves as atheist or agnostic also describe themselves as Humanist, atheism or agnosticism is a theological view that holds that there either isn’t a god or gods or there is no way of knowing.  The basic creed of Humanism certainly holds that we don’t rely on anyone’s claim to things supernatural, especially if they are in conflict with science or human rights.  If we did, we’d obviously be followers of whatever religious group we found convincing.

But the views of what god or the gods are vary quite a bit between those who fall under the “big tent” definition of Humanism.  For those of us who perceive that there is a basis to what the world’s religions have tried to understand in terms of god or a transcendent something, but don’t think any religion actually got it right, we can’t honestly use terms like atheist or agnostic to describe ourselves.  It just doesn’t fit, anymore than saying we are followers of one of the world religions fits.

It’s all a fascinating topic, talking about something that must have always existed, but it is in many ways a side issue to what Humanism really means and stands for.

That said, many modern people who describe themselves as being a Humanist often find themselves on the same sides of many issues (not to mention being members of the same organizations) of people that describe themselves as atheist or agnostic.  This obviously is the natural result of agreeing in the unreliability of supposedly supernaturally derived knowledge.  We also understand that any unfair prejudice or persecution made against those groups will probably be or is being aimed at us as well.

Lois

I was unable to include the link because CFI Forums identifies many links as spam. You can look it up by searching for andrewaasmith.

[ Edited: 31 October 2014 11:10 AM by LoisL ]
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Posted: 31 October 2014 07:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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Irmin - 29 October 2014 02:11 PM

All Jews and Muslims do not believe Jesus was the son of a god. But all who do not believe Jesus was the son of a god are not Jews or Muslims.

Just to confuse things even more, there ARE Jews who accept the divinity of Jesus.  -> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jews_for_Jesus

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Posted: 31 October 2014 11:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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Advocatus - 31 October 2014 07:07 AM
Irmin - 29 October 2014 02:11 PM

All Jews and Muslims do not believe Jesus was the son of a god. But all who do not believe Jesus was the son of a god are not Jews or Muslims.

Just to confuse things even more, there ARE Jews who accept the divinity of Jesus.  -> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jews_for_Jesus

Yes, there are irrational Jews as well as irrational Christians.

Lois

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Posted: 31 October 2014 02:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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LoisL - 31 October 2014 11:11 AM
Advocatus - 31 October 2014 07:07 AM
Irmin - 29 October 2014 02:11 PM

All Jews and Muslims do not believe Jesus was the son of a god. But all who do not believe Jesus was the son of a god are not Jews or Muslims.

Just to confuse things even more, there ARE Jews who accept the divinity of Jesus.  -> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jews_for_Jesus

Yes, there are irrational Jews as well as irrational Christians.

Lois

I was told by a Jewish person, that it is possible for a Jew to be an atheist.

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As a fabrication of our own consciousness, our assignations of meaning are no less “real”, but since humans and the fabrications of our consciousness are routinely fraught with error, it makes sense, to me, to, sometimes, question such fabrications.

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Posted: 03 November 2014 02:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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The Jews you refer to are Jews in the ehtnic/cultural sense, not as in religious adherents of Judaism.

Recently secular humanism was declared a religion by a federal court in the US. The AHA (which I think is the biggest humanist organization in the US) defined humanism as “an ethical and life-affirming philosophy free of belief in any gods and other supernatural forces”. If your definition of humanism permits for supernatural beliefs, it is at odds with how the big guys interpret the philosophy. Not necessarily wrong though.

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Posted: 03 November 2014 05:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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TimB - 31 October 2014 02:53 PM
LoisL - 31 October 2014 11:11 AM
Advocatus - 31 October 2014 07:07 AM
Irmin - 29 October 2014 02:11 PM

All Jews and Muslims do not believe Jesus was the son of a god. But all who do not believe Jesus was the son of a god are not Jews or Muslims.

Just to confuse things even more, there ARE Jews who accept the divinity of Jesus.  -> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jews_for_Jesus

Yes, there are irrational Jews as well as irrational Christians.

Lois

I was told by a Jewish person, that it is possible for a Jew to be an atheist.


It depends on one’s definition of a Jew. Many would say that it requires a belief in the Jewish religion. Although there are people who identify themselves as secular Jews or cultural Jews, it’s a controversial subject. An Orthodox Jew would not consider a Cutural or Secular Jew to be a real Jew. In fact they seem to draw the line at Orthodoxy and reject Conservative Jews and Reform Jews, too. People are free to define themselves any way they want, and to worship any way they want,  but Orthodox Judaism is part of the Israeli government and, as such, Orthodox Jews are in charge of the religion and they define Jewish law.

Anyone can define himself as an atheist. There is no law against it except in Islamic countries.

Lois

[ Edited: 03 November 2014 08:47 PM by LoisL ]
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Posted: 03 November 2014 06:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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I think that the main point that the fellow I spoke with was getting at, is that in Judaism, Belief in God, is almost irrelevant.  What is critical is that a follower do the “right” thing.  This apparently extends to someone doing the “right” things, for the wrong reasons.  Thus a follower of Judaism who comes to believe that there is no God, will still be in good graces, even though they have become an atheist, as long as they do things that turn out to be “right”.

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As a fabrication of our own consciousness, our assignations of meaning are no less “real”, but since humans and the fabrications of our consciousness are routinely fraught with error, it makes sense, to me, to, sometimes, question such fabrications.

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Posted: 12 November 2014 08:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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Irmin - 03 November 2014 02:35 PM

Recently secular humanism was declared a religion by a federal court in the US. The AHA (which I think is the biggest humanist organization in the US) defined humanism as “an ethical and life-affirming philosophy free of belief in any gods and other supernatural forces”. If your definition of humanism permits for supernatural beliefs, it is at odds with how the big guys interpret the philosophy. Not necessarily wrong though.

This came as a surprise to me.  Admittedly I let my subscription to “The Humanist” lapse about 20 years ago, but at that time we were insisting that Secular Humanism was NOT a religion.  I can only suppose that the definition of “religion” has changed in the intervening years.  Interesting.

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Posted: 12 November 2014 11:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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The important words here are

“The court finds that Secular Humanism is a religion for Establishment Clause purposes,” the ruling read.

That is, the clause did not define religion well enough to meet modern needs. The court doesn’t get to say what a religion is or isn’t, but it must define what the clause pertains to. This is basically a patch, to make other laws apply fairly and equally.

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Posted: 12 November 2014 04:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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There are persons who now identify themselves as “Secular Muslims”.  AFAIK, there is no broad organization of “secular Muslims”, so what they actually really believe is probably very individualistic.  But, presumably, some of these persons could simply want to experience the cultural connection with other Muslims, and perhaps appreciate engagement in associated rituals, while having no significant interest or investment in believing in the underlying Islamic doctrines that can be interpreted in anti-humanistic ways.  I believe that such persons could also, conceivably, legitimately, self identify as secular humanists.

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As a fabrication of our own consciousness, our assignations of meaning are no less “real”, but since humans and the fabrications of our consciousness are routinely fraught with error, it makes sense, to me, to, sometimes, question such fabrications.

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Posted: 13 November 2014 09:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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Advocatus - 12 November 2014 08:24 AM
Irmin - 03 November 2014 02:35 PM

Recently secular humanism was declared a religion by a federal court in the US. The AHA (which I think is the biggest humanist organization in the US) defined humanism as “an ethical and life-affirming philosophy free of belief in any gods and other supernatural forces”. If your definition of humanism permits for supernatural beliefs, it is at odds with how the big guys interpret the philosophy. Not necessarily wrong though.

This came as a surprise to me.  Admittedly I let my subscription to “The Humanist” lapse about 20 years ago, but at that time we were insisting that Secular Humanism was NOT a religion.  I can only suppose that the definition of “religion” has changed in the intervening years.  Interesting.

It has to do with politics.  Some theists have claimed that Humanism is a religion, so anything they stand for should be kept out of the public school curriculum—even evolution. There has long been a controversy as to whether Humanism should be considered a religion or not. As I understand it, at one time, the AHA, in order o get a non-profit tax status,  had to call itself a religious organization.  It has since been changed to an educational organization.

I, for one,  am against calling humanism a religion. It’s no more a religion than any philosophical stance. Is existentialism a religion?

“John Dewey described Humanism as our “common faith.” Julian Huxley called it “Religion without Revelation.” The first Humanist Manifesto spoke openly of Humanism as a religion. Many other Humanists could be cited who have acknowledged that Humanism is a religion. In fact, claiming that Humanism was “the new religion” was trendy for at least 100 years, perhaps beginning in 1875 with the publication of The Religion of Humanity by Octavius Brooks Frothingham (1822-1895), son of the distinguished Unitarian clergyman, Nathaniel Langdon Frothingham (1793-1870), pastor of the First Unitarian Church of Boston, 1815-1850. In the 1950’s, Humanists sought and obtained tax-exempt status as religious organizations. Even the Supreme Court of the United States spoke in 1961 of Secular Humanism as a religion. It was a struggle to get atheism accepted as a religion, but it happened. From 1962-1980 this was not a controversial issue.

“But then Christians began to challenge the “establishment of religion” which Secular Humanism in public schools represented. They used the same tactic Atheists had used to challenge prayer and Bible reading under the “Establishment Clause” of the First Amendment. Now the ACLU is involved. Now the question is controversial. Now Secular Humanists have completely reversed their strategy, and claim that Humanism is not at all religious, but is ‘scientific’.”


VFTonline.  I can’t include the link.

Lois

[ Edited: 13 November 2014 09:49 PM by LoisL ]
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Posted: 13 November 2014 10:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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Irmin - 06 October 2014 01:57 PM

An implicit assumption of say, the American Humanist Association, seems to be that (Wesern) atheists are humanists, or at least that there is not much of a difference. They present themselves as being part of the “secular movement” or “non-theist movement” (the idea of basing a movement on the rejection of a belief is retarded in my view).

But there are plenty of atheists out there who distance themselves from humanism. Some of the critiques (who I feel cover what tend to be criticized) are linked to below. How would you reply to them?

Why I Am Not A Humanist
‘Problems with the humanist brand’ and why I’m not one
Why I Am Not a Humanist

(Again, there are plenty of atheists who are not humanists.) But as to your request to respond to the 3 links that you cited:

The 1st guy, is simply saying that the label is too nebulous for him.  But that can be said of many such labels.  e.g., There is an extraordinarily broad variance of beliefs among people who self identify within each of such labeled groups as Christians, Muslims, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Tea-Partiers, Liberals, Conservatives, etc., etc.

The 2nd guy, if you can wade thru his long diatribe, simply doesn’t hold much common beliefs with many humanists.  If I were to coin a label for him, it might be “Self-ist”, or maybe he’s just a typical Republican (not that a Republican couldn’t, theoretically, also be a humanist).

The 3rd guy simply objects to the focus of Humanists on humans.  He apparently is in accord with humanistic principals, but believes the principals should be extended to other species, as well. 

So, all-in-all, people are going to label themselves, or not, however they wish, unless they are compelled to do otherwise.  (Thankfully, there is not too much compulsion for people to label themselves in ways that are contrary to their personal beliefs and principals.) AFAIK, no one is compelled to label themselves as a humanist or not. 

OTOH, ironically, there is a particular religion whose God said “Let there be no compulsion in religion.” , yet there exists extreme compulsion, in some parts of the world, to continue with the label of that religion, once one has taken the label on themselves.

Also, re: labeled groups, in general, there are many subgroups within many large self identified groups, who take issue with other subgroups referring to themselves by their overall label.

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As a fabrication of our own consciousness, our assignations of meaning are no less “real”, but since humans and the fabrications of our consciousness are routinely fraught with error, it makes sense, to me, to, sometimes, question such fabrications.

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Posted: 16 November 2014 09:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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In the views of people at this forum, would (organized) humanism have any role if religion did not exist (or was so marginalized as to be a non-issue)? I often see humanists say that humanism is far more than just atheism (or agnosticism), but if you look at their activities it’s all about secularism and opposition to religion. WHat are the goals of organized humanism? The website of the BHA seems to equate “humanist” with “non-religious”. One of the blogposts I linked to in the OP even refers to Andrew Copson (the chairman of the BHA) as saying that humanism is just a word-thing, and a useful label. The chairman’s view of humanism seems rather devoid of meaning…

Steven Novella (of the SGU podcast) summarized the relationship between atheists and humanists and skeptics as follows:

Scientific skepticism – the application of skeptical philosophy, critical thinking skills, and knowledge of science and its methods to empirical claims, while remaining agnostic or neutral to non-empirical claims (except those that directly impact the practice of science)

Secularism – Atheism, agnosticism, and humanism – promoting a secular society and taking a critical view of faith and religion.

Rationalism – Essentially a combination of the above two – promoting reason and critical thinking in all spheres without focus or specialization.

Notice that he lumps humanism and activist atheism under the same banner, as being more or less synonymous in their goals. Is this fair or not? How come he has gotten that impression?

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Posted: 16 November 2014 02:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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Atheists are simply people who are convinced that there is no God. Whether an individual atheist is interested in promoting any sort of society is not a certainty.  It is easy, however to assume that if they did promote a society, it would likely be one consistent with their belief that there is no God. Similarly, it is easy to assume that an atheist would take a critical view of faith and religion.  But all, we really know for sure is that they believe that there is no God.

Agnostics are simply people who acknowledge that there may or may not be some sort of “God”.  We can’t say for sure whether any individual agnostic is interested in promoting any sort of society.  We only know, for sure, that they acknowledge that there may or may not be a God.  Hence, we can easily assume (though it is just an assumption) that they are implementing some level of critical thinking, when they consider faith and religion.

Humanists are clearly interested in promoting a society that supports the best interests of all humankind.  IMO, they are not required to be atheists or agnostics. But I think that most people who consider themselves to be humanists have come to believe that the best interests of all humankind are better served by seeing our universe as it actually operates, according to evidence, rather than by seeing our universe as operating by any of a myriad of non-evidence based mystical paradigms.

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Posted: 16 November 2014 02:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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Irmin - 16 November 2014 09:30 AM

In the views of people at this forum, would (organized) humanism have any role if religion did not exist (or was so marginalized as to be a non-issue)? ...

“Imagine no religion.  It’s easy if you try… no hell below us.. above us only sky.  Imagine all the people, living life in peace…”

Yes, there would be a role for humanism.

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As a fabrication of our own consciousness, our assignations of meaning are no less “real”, but since humans and the fabrications of our consciousness are routinely fraught with error, it makes sense, to me, to, sometimes, question such fabrications.

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