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"right of center"?
Posted: 07 March 2007 12:28 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I was a bit shocked to hear DJ mention on the latest podcast that his political views tend to be "right of center".  While assigning social and economic views on a single axis is ridiculous (I prefer the Political Compass), I am curious as to what he meant.  What passes for "left of center" in the U.S. is still pretty conservative/right.  Anyway, it’s killing me. Is DJ a social conservative? Libertarian?

I’m assuming he must be a Libertarian (the U.S. version, which is basically support top-down, undemocratic, unaccountable institutions - mini tyrannies - because that’s how people will be most "free"). It seems that lately, a lot of people who have shed their old religion fill the gap with good-ol-Libertarianism. I think I’d rather them stick with Christianity. I’m serious.

Anyway, apologies to DJ for assuming anything about his comments.

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Posted: 07 March 2007 01:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I was shocked to hear it too, frankly.

DJ Grothe has revealed only limited biographical information on himself through interviews, but my interpretation of certain comments of his lead me to believe he is gay (if he isn’t, I’m sure someone will correct me). If that’s the case AND given that POI is a secular-humanist themed show AND given that most secular humanists seem to be socially liberable, I would assume he is in fact socially left of centre.

Then again, I’ve recently spoken to gay men who are self-described social conservatives, which is about as incoherent as I can imagine.

I think with his comment, DJ Grothe must have been referring to his fiscal conservatism (and right wing ideas about welfare, small government, etc). Now, I think secular/atheist people can be right wing libertarians (one only needs to look at the Wall Street/CEO crowd/Penn & Teller) I just think it shows a disregard for the ‘humanism’ part of secular humanism.

Of course I’ll try to escape slander charges by saying there is room for intelligent people to differ on the left/right economics scale.

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Posted: 07 March 2007 04:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I believe, from conversations I’ve heard between DJ and Tom Flynn, that he leans towards libertarian politics. If you look back through previous threads, especially in Political and Social Issues, you’ll find libertarians (both traditional right wing, i.e. free market, and left wing, though only Barry seems to know exactly what he means by that) are a significant minority among people on the boards, and I believe also within CFI (though I have no personal connection to the group beyond membership, so I can really say for sure). As for whether this is “compatibile” with humanism, that’s been debating endlessly without any significant agreement between the “left” and “right” wings.

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Posted: 07 March 2007 06:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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[quote author=“mckenzievmd”]both traditional right wing, i.e. free market, and left wing, though only Barry seems to know exactly what he means by that.

It’s unfortunate that only Barry knows what this means. While I don’t necessarily subscribe to the idea, the history is pretty clear. If you’ve heard of Karl Marx, you should also know of Mikhail Bakunin, and why their ideas split, etc. If you’re interested in learning about the history of socialism, anarchism/libertarianism, start with Bakunin, Libertarian Socialism, Anarcho-Syndicalism, Noam Chomsky, etc.

When you say “traditional right wing”, you are speaking specifically about the U.S.  Libertarianism/anarchism has been associated historically (outside the U.S.) with the left.

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Posted: 07 March 2007 07:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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[quote author=“Metaphor”]

I think with his comment, DJ Grothe must have been referring to his fiscal conservatism (and right wing ideas about welfare, small government, etc). Now, I think secular/atheist people can be right wing libertarians (one only needs to look at the Wall Street/CEO crowd/Penn & Teller) I just think it shows a disregard for the ‘humanism’ part of secular humanism.

D.J. has said a couple times on a few shows about him being “right of center,” or “slightly right of center.” Now since I have had endless conversations with him about exactly this subject, I can tell you he means that in terms of economics. He is socially liberal, and fiscally conservative. It is a certain kind of libertarianism—“keep the governement out of our morality, our bedrooms and our wallets.” I have heard him say he is a libertarian both morally, fiscally and also a civil libertarian. I happen to disagree with him on the economics part, but he has a position which seems defensible, even if its not one I hold.

Maybe I can get D.J. himself to get in here and comment on the point. But I know that he and most other activists in this movement do not think you need to be a liberal when it comes to economics to be a “secular humanist.” There are, however, those who would “excommunicate” you for such “heresies”.

Moreover, I know he argues pretty strongly that secular humanism is not continuous with socialism, Marxism, etc. And even that to try and make it so is an Achilles Heel of the movement.

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Posted: 07 March 2007 07:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Perhaps I expressed myself badly, with the intent of teasing Barry a bit. The left libertarian materials I’ve read, and I’ll grant these are mostly those Barry has referred me to, have always struck me as long on rhetoric and short on practical specifics. The rhetoric always sounds good but peters out when pragmatic questions of how to accomplish specific functions of organization that currently involve the state. As a traditional welfare state liberal/democratic socialist, I’m not convinced the anarchist/left libertarian program is a realistic approach to acheiving the greatest individual liberty and social justice. Anyway, not the real point of this thread, so I probably should have left out the remark.

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Posted: 07 March 2007 07:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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[quote author=“Metaphor”]

DJ Grothe has revealed only limited biographical information on himself through interviews, but my interpretation of certain comments of his lead me to believe he is gay (if he isn’t, I’m sure someone will correct me). If that’s the case AND given that POI is a secular-humanist themed show AND given that most secular humanists seem to be socially liberable, I would assume he is in fact socially left of centre.

Oh, I also guess I should confirm that he is gay. Not that it matters one way or the other, except insofar as a awareness-raising thing.  smile

He wouldn’t mind me saying so either. He is pretty open about it.

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Posted: 07 March 2007 06:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Thomas:

Maybe I can get D.J. himself to get in here and comment on the point. But I know that he and most other activists in this movement do not think you need to be a liberal when it comes to economics to be a “secular humanist.” There are, however, those who would “excommunicate” you for such “heresies”.

Moreover, I know he argues pretty strongly that secular humanism is not continuous with socialism, Marxism, etc. And even that to try and make it so is an Achilles Heel of the movement.


I also know DJ, and he is indeed right of center.  Now, because the USA is so radically conservative these days, right of center is not what it used to be.  Center is really liberal as in big-government social welfare state with moderate ideas about social issues.  I think DJ is probably somewhere between liberal and progressive (the latter being to the left of liberal) on most social issues… however he defended the Iraq invasion on what he told me were “humanitarian” reasons.  I took this then to mean that either he thought “Shock and Awe” and the murder of thousands of innocent people by the same country who helped Saddam rise to power and sold him the weopens to gas the Kurds was somehow righteous because Saddam would be taken out… Either that, or he was completely niave about what was actually going on in his name. 

I do not know DJ’s economic ideas, but he has called himself a libertarian (USA variety, Center/Right-Libertarianism) which is not only about civil liberties (which all libertarains and most progressives care about), but about free market capitalism.  I do not think is as radically right as to be a Randian.  Since it is clear to anyone paying attention that free market capitalism (not to be confused exactly with New Deal or social democracy), is not humanistic in the slightest, I do indeed find DJ’s self-indentifing himself as a humanist dubious. 

Again, humanism is not just about atheism or civil liberties, and being “liberal” on certain lifestyle issues does not a humanist make. 

Indeed I have no trouble seeing why CFI is moving away from humanism and onto atheism, science advocacy and secularism… because so many of the staff aren’t humanists!  Neither Grothe nor Dacey are humanists, and neither are Karr or Nickell.  Kurtz is a humanist (he is a New Deal, social democrat and overall liberal) of the old school variety, and I think Norm Allen and David Koepsell are humanists (the latter is an anarchist), but I feel that they both can do much more to make the necessary connections of humanism to social, political and economic ideas which best allow us to reach the humanist future the manifestos call for.

PS:  Humanism is not an organized religion, Thomas, so your use of the term “excommunicate” is faulty.  Humanism IS what humanism IS.  There are boundries to humanism.  If there were no boundries, why call yourself a humanist (or anything, for that matter).  To call yourself something is to define your beliefs by the framwork of the something you label yourself.  Humanism is not so open-ended as to mean whatever we want it to mean; it is then that it comes to mean nothing at all. 

If someone is not a humanist, he or she can not be excommunicated from “humanism” because he or she was NEVER a humanist to begin with (no matter what they felt like calling themselves).

PSS: I do not think socialism or Marxism is continuious with humanism either… although there are are Marxist Humanists.  The reason is that both called for a Vanguard Party to guide the move from capitalism to communism.. and such is what lead (and will always lead) to a strong power elite ... dangerous! 

However, capitalism is not continuious with humanism either… In fact, it is contrary to humanism. 

What IS continuious with humanism?  Real democracy and an economic system which is along the lines of what libertarian-socialists (and some anarchists) call for.  Follow Tom G’s lead and learn about these political philosophies. Capitalism and Socialism/Communism are far from the only important political isms of the last 150 years, and not the ones which will lead us to a humanistic future.  Some of you call such ideas vague or unworkable but know not of the history or what folks are saying today. 

If there is an ‘Achilles Heel’ of the humanist movement, it lies with those so-called humanists who do NOT define humanism as it is ... Folks like DJ Grothe!  Humanism will ‘fall’ due to the knawing at the heel from make-believe humanists in positions of power, because such knawing is rendering modern humanism irrelevant to real life.  Worse yet, humanism can simply dissappear or morph into just another word for secularism or atheism, and then again, be rendered irrelvant. 

If you want to fight for non-belief or the seperation of church and state or for scientific skepticism ... Great!  But the sum of those things are not humanism!

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Posted: 08 March 2007 04:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Well, I would say that calling D.J. the achilles heel of the humanist movement is probably a statement motivated by your personal antipathies toward him rather than being motiovated solely by any disagreements over politics or economics. And I’d strongly disagree with you—he is every bit a humanist as I am, even though I am on the left, and he isnt. And I put the term “excommunicate” in quotes, precisely because while secular humanism is not a religion, some people treat it as such and want to have certain doctrines that everyone must adhere to such as liberal and progressive commitments when it comes to social welfare or economics.

According to the Council for Secular Humanism’s website, “Secular Humanism is a way of thinking and living that aims to bring out the best in people so that all people can have the best in life. Secular humanists reject supernatural and authoritarian beliefs. They affirm that we must take responsibility for our own lives and the communities and world in which we live. Secular humanism emphasizes reason and scientific inquiry, individual freedom and responsibility, human values and compassion, and the need for tolerance and cooperation.”

Secular humanism, simply put, puts humanity at the center of its ethical, nonreligious perspective.

Secular humanism is different than atheism because it is different than just lacking belief in God, but it has to do with having many other beliefs, such as the value of personal responsibility (even if you don’t believe in free will), human values of compassion, mutual respect, etc. and many of the things written about in the Humanist Manifestoes, especially the later ones. By this definition, D.J. certainly is a secular humanist, and I think its a little “true-believer” and distasteful for an activist such as yourself who is no longer in the employ of the organization to be harping on about how certain individuals you dont like are not proper secular humanists. 

You obviously have an axe to grind. I have heard that for years you have fought with so many people in the movement over politics, and that many others of our activists and supporters found you intolerable because of this. Whether or not that is true, looking over your posts on this forum and all your personal attacks against people for not believing exactly like you do, I think most people would agree that you’re just built to be kind of a divisive character.

Back to the subject at hand: You do not have to agree politically or on economics in order to be a secular humanist.

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Posted: 08 March 2007 06:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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[quote author=“Thomas”]You do not have to agree politically or on economics in order to be a secular humanist.

I suppose I agree. And, while I believe that classical libertarian socialists (and Chomsky, for example) are absolutely brilliant in their *criticisms* of foreign policy, the media, etc, I’m not in agreement with Barry that something like Parecon is feasible. I also am finding that Barry is over the top with his attacks on individuals associated with this forum. 

That said, I do find the growing free-market ideology within atheism - and apparently, secular humanism - bizarre. If one is building an ethics that is human centered, I find it strange that someone would support institutions that diminish the power of humans. It’s good to criticize the actions of our government. There’s plenty of wrongs to be corrected. The point is that to some degree (to what degree is disputed) our government is accountable to the people, through elections, etc. Private power on the other hand is tyrannical in structure, and accountable to no-one.  Sure, shareholders, etc. I’m not advocating the abolition of private property and corporations - rather, I support strong governmental (nationally and internationally) regulations.

Anyway, I have met some Libertarians, and they tend to be extremely idealistic. All government is bad, we should have private police, roads, etc. I can hardly talk to these people.
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Posted: 08 March 2007 06:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Thomas:

Well, I would say that calling D.J. the achilles heel of the humanist movement is probably a statement motivated by your personal antipathies toward him rather than being motiovated solely by any disagreements over politics or economics. And I’d strongly disagree with you—he is every bit a humanist as I am, even though I am on the left, and he isnt.

Well, if you were able to get into my head and successfully separate what I feel about DJ as a person and what I feel about DJ as a humanist, I suppose you can make such a claim.  But since you cannot do this, I submit that you are engaging in the worse kind of assumption.  Remember what we learned from “The Odd Couple” about what happens when you assume… “you make an ‘ass’ about of ‘u’ and ‘me.’”

But perhaps I ought to reword what I said so there is no real confusion.  I did not say that ‘DJ the man’ is the (or one) achilles heel of the humanist movement.  That would be an attack on DJ’s person.  I meant, and I thought it was clear, that DJ’s expression and defense of what he calls humanism - coupled with the fact that he holds a position of great power within the largest Freethought/humanist organization in the USA - is what is the achilles heel of the movement.  To me, DJ is not a humanist, and he is trying to define humanism for all of us via his public promotion and defense of the philosophy via CFI.  THAT is what is the danger we face today.

Thomas:

And I put the term “excommunicate” in quotes, precisely because while secular humanism is not a religion, some people treat it as such and want to have certain doctrines that everyone must adhere to such as liberal and progressive commitments when it comes to social welfare or economics.


Thomas, though humanism is not a religion (and I do not think people “treating it” as I do, for instance, are treating it as a religion in the dogmatic, ritual or like sense), it is a coherent philosophy.  All coherent philosophies have a framework from which one can deem the key principles and attitudes of the philosophy.  For instance, Consequentialism is a philosophy which has certain key principles (I know it is not a philosophy as broad as humanism, but for this argument lets use it a bit).  If one were to decide one day that by what they meant by Consequentialism meant that at times they were gonna judge the means before thinking of the ends (or waiting it out to see the ends).. that actions were not always to be considered “good” based on the supposed or real results, then that person has moved out of the boundaries of the philosophy they laid claim to. 

Humanism is far broader than this, but its principles can be deemed by a close reading of the manifestos and the history of the philosophy itself.  Humanism posits many things humans ought to strive for, so we need to know how to get there.. And we need to be consistent with the means when trying to reach those ends.  The Enlightenment (where modern humanism got much of its substance from, but certainly not all), was not just a movement “human-centered”, based on science or reason, and purely intellectual.  It was wholly political and economic. To have a philosophy such as humanism which has its liberal set of principles (again, read humanist manifesto’s I and II), and seeks a scientific baseline, and seeks to create a world of peace, cooperation, tolerance, etc.. AND NOT be clear on what exactly the sociopolitical and economic paths are and ought to be in the end, is to have an empty philosophy indeed.

Thomas:

According to the Council for Secular Humanism’s website, “Secular Humanism is a way of thinking and living that aims to bring out the best in people so that all people can have the best in life. Secular humanists reject supernatural and authoritarian beliefs. They affirm that we must take responsibility for our own lives and the communities and world in which we live. Secular humanism emphasizes reason and scientific inquiry, individual freedom and responsibility, human values and compassion, and the need for tolerance and cooperation.”


CSH is the authority then?  OK, let’s go with it ... HOW the hell is one gonna create a society which “emphasizes human values and compassion, and the need for tolerance and cooperation?”  What IS the “way of thinking and living” which aims to bring out the best in people so they can have the best in life?  Certainly we cannot do any of this without creating a sociopolitical and economic life which will ALLOW these things to be.  The state is authoritarian, and capitalism creates a society which will never get humans as a whole (not just a very select few) these things.  Also, capitalism does not provide individual freedom for most, and discourages cooperation.  Also, cooperation cannot be sacrificed at the alter of individual freedom, so we need to have a politics which matches libertarianism (non capitalistic or market based) with socialism (democratic and non-market) which is why it seems a libertarian-socialism is in order for a humanistic society. 

And since we cannot separate overall philosophy from real life, humanism requires all this! 

And “free will” IS a supernaturalism so we really need to evolve our ideas of “personal responsibility” out of the 19th century and into the 21st.

CSH does not have the best definition - and most up to date - there is.  It is interprating the manifestos and other sources of humanism in ways which fit it’s mission, and not humanism’s!  A better, but far from perfect definition might be: “Humanism is a sociopolitical world view, informed by scientific naturalism, which holds that human societies are healthiest if founded on non-hierarchal democratic principles.  Accordingly, a humanistic society - in recognizing universal interconnectedness - promotes cooperation in all areas of life, the peaceful and fair allocation of natural and human-made resources, and a commitment that individuals be encouraged and aided in achieving their fullest potential while in turn nurturing the larger society.”

Thomas:

Secular humanism, simply put, puts humanity at the center of its ethical, nonreligious perspective.


Narrow, useless, speciest, boring and false.  And WHAT ethical perspective if not the one laid out above?


Thomas:

By this definition, D.J. certainly is a secular humanist, and I think its a little “true-believer” and distasteful for an activist such as yourself who is no longer in the employ of the organization to be harping on about how certain individuals you dont like are not proper secular humanists.

Again, you are trying to read my mind.  To be frank, I do not know that ANYONE at CFI is humanist!  Kurtz is, but of old school ... so we can “grandfather him in.”  8)  Certainly many of his ideas are scientifically outdated and rely on free will dogma and a head-in-the-sand notion of social democracy. 

Koepsell seems to be a humanist even though he fails to see the obvious connections between his sociopolitical and economic ideals and humanism itself.  Norm Allen seems to be a humanist, but he and I have never talked deeply about these things. 

That’s about it as far as I know.  But since it has been Kurtz and three folks I know aren’t humanists (Karr, Grothe, Dacey-who said he is not a humanist) who have controlled the direction or CFI and decide whom CFI employs… why would it be a surprise “CFI” thinks differently then me? 

Do not try to turn this into a personal vendetta Thomas, I have made my arguments for humanism in many places, and anyone who follows my writings will see that based on my definition of humanism, Grothe does not fit.  Whether I like ‘DJ the man’ or not is irrelevant. I care only about his representations of humanism.  Whatever else DJ is, is of no real concern to me (though it may be of concern to CFI). 

As for anyone else’s promotion or definition of humanism I have addressed on these forums (supporters of CFI or CFI fellows or staff), I have ALWAYS addressed the ideas and not attacked the persons themselves. 

THIS IS WHAT FREE THINKING IS, Thomas! 

I am sorry if it ruffles feathers or if some folks take it personally (ideas can feel personal but MUST be debated by freethinkers), but this is what a vital humanism is all about!  Only those who think otherwise find me divisive. 

Now, clearly my arguments may be seen as dividing self-identifying humanists from who really IS a humanist (rather than who just calls themselves one) ... But that is what OUGHT to be done when promoting the perimeters of any lifestance philosophy.  In this case, divisiveness is a required element. 

And you are upset that my emphases on politics an economics is the key sore spot, which is of course because CFI does not want to define humanism correctly ... It would destroy its big tent plan to become prestigious and gain lots of donors.  Sorry, humanism is not about all that. 

If I have an ax to grind, Thomas, get that ax right!  It’s about how CFI/CSH is minimizing and distorting humanism, not about people I do or do not like.  I do not even know you, so I cannot say I like or dislike you, and you had nothing to do with my being fired ... but I will debate humanism with you as mightily as I do with DJ Grothe.

Thomas:

Back to the subject at hand: You do not have to agree politically or on economics in order to be a secular humanist.


Of course you do.  Humanism is useless without it.

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Posted: 08 March 2007 12:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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[quote author=“Barry”]. . . To be frank, I do not know that ANYONE at CFI is humanist!  Kurtz is, but of old school ... so we can “grandfather him in.”  8)  Certainly many of his ideas are scientifically outdated and rely on free will dogma and a head-in-the-sand notion of social democracy. 

Koepsell seems to be a humanist even though he fails to see the obvious connections between his sociopolitical and economic ideals and humanism itself.  Norm Allen seems to be a humanist, but he and I have never talked deeply about these things. 

That’s about it as far as I know.  But since it has been Kurtz and three folks I know aren’t humanists (Karr, Grothe, Dacey-who said he is not a humanist) who have controlled the direction or CFI and decide whom CFI employs… why would it be a surprise “CFI” thinks differently then me? 

. . .

And you are upset that my emphases on politics an economics is the key sore spot, which is of course because CFI does not want to define humanism correctly ... It would destroy its big tent plan to become prestigious and gain lots of donors.  Sorry, humanism is not about all that. 

If I have an ax to grind, Thomas, get that ax right!  It’s about how CFI/CSH is minimizing and distorting humanism, not about people I do or do not like.  I do not even know you, so I cannot say I like or dislike you, and you had nothing to do with my being fired ... but I will debate humanism with you as mightily as I do with DJ Grothe.

Thomas:

Back to the subject at hand: You do not have to agree politically or on economics in order to be a secular humanist.


Of course you do.  Humanism is useless without it.


You’re right that getting donors is not the best indication of the importance of an organization, but its impact in the real world is. Of course, donations and other kind of support sure help to increase an organization’s impact. It is silly to make the financial success of an organization be a bad thing. You seem like such a resentful person to me.

It seems to me that if I were to invent a character on the humanist scene who would be as counterproductive to the humanist movement as possible, and as counterproductive to the Council for Secular Humanism as possible, he would largely match your description. You’ve made like a full time job out of griping about CSH and some of its employees. Let me psychologize a little and make this guess: you are a disgruntled former employee who believes he is one of the few exemplars of “true humanism,” and that nearly all those remaining in the organization that formerly employed you have been “defiled” or “deceived away” from “true humanism”—what a great explanation for how you came to be let go! It must be hard for you to see any other explanation.

As Paul Kurtz has said many times, CSH gets more flak from “well-meaning humanists” who can’t seem to get along with anyone than it ever has from our cultural competitors on the Religious Right, with whom we disagree morally, and epistemologically. But that isn’t just typical of the humanist movement. This all-too-human in-fighting is also rampant in the gay rights movement (where HRC gets the same kind of flak) and in feminism (where many grassroots feminists look skeptically at NOW). The conservative anti-secular humanist movement shows much more self-discipline in this regard and is able to build institutions to advance its agenda much more effectively as a result.

But just so you know, you had never upset me. I just thought you say kind of ridiculous things, and wanted to chime in about D.J. who didn’t seem to be getting a fair shake from you. I probably should have just ignored your overblown comments, like others do.

And so I’ll now respectfully bow out of this conversation, since it benefits no one for us to have an incessant back and forth on the many things you say which I think are patently false and over the top.

If D.J. wants to defend himself from your attacks, then he will. I can’t speak for D.J. or for Austin Dacey (who is very far left if D.J. is right of center) or for anyone else you regular complain about and attack as not being sufficiently humanist for you, or for “ruining CFI” etc.

Again, I don’t believe that you need to agree on politics to be a secular humanist, or to be a progressive or liberal on economic issues (even though I am, personally). You have to agree on, minimally, a skepticism about the supernatural and a certain commitment to ethics that has humanity as central. As relatively new to humanism, I find all this in-fighting amazingly counter productive. That must be why most people at CFI just don’t respond to you.

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Posted: 09 March 2007 05:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Thomas.  Your post is so missing the point that it almost seems wasteful for me to put too much work into discussing it.  Other humanists I know - humanists who “get” humanism far more than many at CFI seem to - have wondered why I bother discussing or debating these issues on these forums at all.  Their point is that CFI/CSH is hardly about the sort of humanism which means anything beyond what DJ et al describe it as, and that folks at CFI will of course defend their position against mine because of their agenda (and maybe their ‘true’ beliefs.) 

I tell these friends that I do not write on these forums because I seriously hope to change the minds of most (if any) CFI staff, because they would not be open to my arguments any more than religious people would be. 

I also tell them that some of the folks who visit the site and participate MAY be open to a more sincere and meaningful promotion and defense of humanism than CFI will offer, and this might be good for the movement overall.  (Of course my friends argue that anyone attracted to CFI won’t be interested in real humanism anyway - because they were probably attracted in the first place to CFI’s message instead - and I am wasting my time ... To this, I then respond, ‘at least it helps me to better articulate my arguments for my future activism.’

Anyway, if any of this trickles up to CFI staff, that would be exciting, but I am not expecting much.  CFI is a hierarchal organization with its actions focused on making money and building “prestige,” building more buildings and renting expensive Manhattan offices, which means it’s primary concerns cannot be about real humanism but about that which they can interest a large, broad-scoped audience with. More people, more money, more buildings and ‘power.” 

We all know that money brings political power in a capitalist, hierarchial society, right?  We also all know that when you take radical or leftist ideas (which Humanism is), and submit it to the rigors of capitalism and hierarchy, you water down the Cause you are supposed to be promoting and defending to appease the market and “brand” the message(s).  This is why there is infighting among so many leftist organizations (besides ordinary idea-competition)... What is needed is for real democracy and a non-capitalitist approach to social change which won’t muddle or dilute the movement’s message.

Thomas:

You’re right that getting donors is not the best indication of the importance of an organization, but its impact in the real world is. Of course, donations and other kind of support sure help to increase an organization’s impact. It is silly to make the financial success of an organization be a bad thing. You seem like such a resentful person to me

.

What am I resenting, Thomas?  In the real world, many such organizations need money in order to achieve widespread success, but that is just because of the state of our economic system.  Many groups don’t make much money because they are true to their radical positions and find it hard to get capitalists to support them.  Face it, most leftists don’t have very much money (George Soro, aside).  Those favored by capitalism - and willing to submit to it - will have more success financially and these folks tend to be conservatives or at least mainstream “liberals,” who already don’t have the moral/ethical codes humanism embodies, so won’t invest their money into any group which does not match their sociopolitical or economic mindset. 

Atheism, secularism and scientific skepticism is broad and neutral enough (politically or economically speaking) so as to attract mainstream liberals and conservatives to their causes… And so money is easier to come by if these are your messages ...

Indeed, CSICOP and other groups within CFI are about just these things!  But humanism - if properly defined - will not attract conservatives, Right-wingers, or many mainstream liberals so easily - not because of the atheistic, secularistic or scientific elements of humanism, but because of the sociopolitical and economic “base” of humanism.  This limits funding for humanists to having to come from socialists, progressives, anarchists, libertarian-socialists and some liberals… Not a very rich bunch of people. 

So what a “humanist” organization has to do to build an empire of buildings and hire and attract folks with lots of letters behind their names, and have lots of staff, is to play down humanism and play up atheism, secularism, and science… Just what CFI has done! 

I am not “resentful” of this, I am disappointed and fearful for the future of humanism… And that is something very different!
Thomas:

It seems to me that if I were to invent a character on the humanist scene who would be as counterproductive to the humanist movement as possible, and as counterproductive to the Council for Secular Humanism as possible, he would largely match your description. You’ve made like a full time job out of griping about CSH and some of its employees. Let me psychologize a little and make this guess: you are a disgruntled former employee who believes he is one of the few exemplars of “true humanism,” and that nearly all those remaining in the organization that formerly employed you have been “defiled” or “deceived away” from “true humanism”—what a great explanation for how you came to be let go! It must be hard for you to see any other explanation.

Thomas, I think I already addressed your assumption concerning my motivation above in my last post.  Either you have chosen to ignore me, or you think you can get me to say something damning if you just continue to repeat your wrong assumption ... like the Bushites practice? ... ‘Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth?’ 

I think the folks on these forums are smarter than that. 

It is true that some folks on these forums (and certainly some folks working for CFI) don’t like my arguments or persistence in my defense of humanism… Some even think I am out to attack them or CFI staffers personally, and others just think I am too forceful in my assertions.  This is so, no matter how many times I point out that I am addressing ideas (forcefully, I agree) and not attacking persons.  This might also be so because perhaps some folks have opinions they either are not sure about and find my convictions too strong, while others have strong convictions and feel my observations and opinions undermine theirs.  Some folks just put on airs of open-mindedness and fairness as if they HAVE no strong convictions, and others honestly wish to be “fair” over decisive… even when they come across arguments which blatantly defy the movement they are supposedly defending.

Do I see my arguments as “too rough” or “over the top?” Not really.  I could state everything I believe or think as a question or add all kinds of softeners like “I think that” or it “is my opinion that” or “perhaps we should think about” - and I DO use such words at times - but we all KNOW these forums are about our opinions, so why not just discuss our opinions and debate our ideas straight forward-like? 

And as for comments about CFI staffers, let me remind you again Thomas, that I am not attacking them!  When I say DJ is not a humanist in my opinion, that is not like saying DJ is a “real jerk.”  If I said DJ was not an anarchist, would he be offended? Clearly he is NOT an anarchist.  So when I say he is not a humanist, he might get upset because he “thinks” he’s a humanist (but even here, I am only refuting the name DJ gives to his philosophy and not his person)... So… if DJ said he was an anarchist, but also said he was a capitalist, then unless he is that rare breed of anarcho-capitalist, he simply is misusing the word anarchist.  Ditto with humanism!

So anyway, you could quit your pseudo psychoanalysis (I already refuted your “conclusions” in my last posting), and understand this ... I was good at what I did for CFI in NJ, though I never bragged about it (though folks said I should :shock: ) 

NJ members had lots of fun, learned much, and enjoyed themselves.  I NEVER got any complaints from anyone in NJ or from most CFI staffers about my work from 1999-2003 (later years were marred with the wrong-headed closing of the Montclair office by Dacey and other problems caused by CFI staff). 

What I did hear from Amherst that was negative about me were two things:

1) I was not pulling in enough DUES-paying members or BIG DONORS, and…

2) I was daring to promote and defend real humanism rather than ‘CFI humanism’...

In other words, I was fired for reasons of profit and ideology. 

Sorry if you think that makes be a “true believer,” but I would not toss those words about trying to belittle my conviction in humanism as if I am a dogmatic, blind faith prophet (I know some atheists like to tarnish the character of folks they don’t agree with in this way), because my beliefs are open-ended, well thought out and researched, and cover very many areas which anyone can check out for themselves if they only wanted to.
Thomas:

And so I’ll now respectfully bow out of this conversation, since it benefits no one for us to have an incessant back and forth on the many things you say which I think are patently false and over the top.

Of course you would think this.  You are attracted to CFI’s brand of humanism, no?  Now who’s maybe being dogmatic?

Thomas:

Again, I don’t believe that you need to agree on politics to be a secular humanist, or to be a progressive or liberal on economic issues (even though I am, personally). You have to agree on, minimally, a skepticism about the supernatural and a certain commitment to ethics that has humanity as central.

1) You’re right, your definition of humanism is minimalistic.  Skepticism about the supernatural is what is atheism or half of naturalism, but only one part of humanism… And not anymore or less important than other parts.

2) You seem to be repeating the “commitment to ethics” line without responding to what I wrote about that in the preceding post.  For instance, again, HOW is one gonna create a society which “emphasizes human values and compassion, and the need for tolerance and cooperation?” What IS the “way of thinking and living” which aims to bring out the best in people so they can have the best in life?  Certainly we cannot do any of this without creating a sociopolitical and economic life which will ALLOW these things to be.  What ethical perspective are you talking about and how do you think it should be promoted and made workable in the world? 
 
Thomas:

As relatively new to humanism, I find all this in-fighting amazingly counter productive. That must be why most people at CFI just don’t respond to you.

I hardly think debating the definition etc., of the main “ism” CFI is supposed to be promoting and defending (humanism), is counterproductive.  And if the debaters themselves come off as fighting, that may be perceived as such, but I think it is really better understood as passionate debate.  This includes my challenges to DJ via his role in promoting humanism.. A challenge to his idea of what it is he is fighting for.. For the good of humanism and CSH. 

If I am wrong, and DJ is right (I do not know how one can objectively measure this since we are talking about philosophy here and not science), so be it… But let’s see if DJ’s arguments really do lead to a humanistic society.  THAT will be the final test of all of this.  But since neither DJ nor I have all the answers - or can see into the future - it’s best for us (and others) to continually debate, wrangle with, discuss, and challenge each other and ourselves to get closer to what kind of humanism we want.

Those CFI persons who won’t respond to me are not afraid of debate or discussion so as long as they can conduct such on their terms from the drivers seat (at CFI), where they can make ‘policy’ (or attach definitions to humanism) for all humanists in our name.  Any real challenges to these won’t be responded to, not seriously, and not without attacking (or firing) those who challenge them while affording to look professional about it because of their status and the backing of CFI itself. 

Also, they don’t mind “softball” challenges from folks who will, in the end, yield to them to keep the peace, or because there are not many other CFI’s out there (though AHA seems to understand humanism better), but that is not Freethought, that is bowing down to hierarchy!  As Hall and Oates sang in the 80’s, “I can’t go for that; oh no, no can do.”

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Posted: 13 March 2007 03:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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[quote author=“Metaphor”]

Now, I think secular/atheist people can be right wing libertarians (one only needs to look at the Wall Street/CEO crowd/Penn & Teller) I just think it shows a disregard for the ‘humanism’ part of secular humanism.

Yeah, it just seems antithetical to me.

At amazon.com I came across Ted Turner’s biography and was a little conflicted by this review.

“A blazing ball of contradictions and a genuine original, Ted Turner has been labeled a philanthropist and humanist, a fascist and a racist, a madman and one of the canniest entrepreneurs of all times.”

Okay, a “ball of contradictions” but still, how do the words humanist and racist appear in the same sentence—ever?

btw, is there any such thing as an orthodox humanist?

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Posted: 14 March 2007 01:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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[quote author=“T. Ruth”][quote author=“Metaphor”]

Now, I think secular/atheist people can be right wing libertarians (one only needs to look at the Wall Street/CEO crowd/Penn & Teller) I just think it shows a disregard for the ‘humanism’ part of secular humanism.

Yeah, it just seems antithetical to me.

At amazon.com I came across Ted Turner’s biography and was a little conflicted by this review.

“A blazing ball of contradictions and a genuine original, Ted Turner has been labeled a philanthropist and humanist, a fascist and a racist, a madman and one of the canniest entrepreneurs of all times.”

Okay, a “ball of contradictions” but still, how do the words humanist and racist appear in the same sentence—ever?

btw, is there any such thing as an orthodox humanist?

I think the left has been very vigilant in trying to dispel any notion that there is such a thing as race, and, even if there is, they are desperate to deny that there could be any differences of significance. I disagree with this, because what I think needs to be confronted is that EVEN IF there are genetic differences between people of different ethnic origins, it’s what we do with this information that counts.

Some of these genetic differences might be uncontroversial (Asian people are on average shorter than white people). Other claims are very impolitic (Asians have a higher IQ on average than white people; white people have a higher IQ on average than black people).

The point is, we should let the data tell us what it is telling us. A 1 point, 5-point, even 15-point difference in IQ between races (I’m not saying this is likely) doesn’t mean we should judge people on their race, and not on their individual merits.

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Posted: 14 March 2007 03:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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[quote author=“Metaphor”]
The point is, we should let the data tell us what it is telling us. A 1 point, 5-point, even 15-point difference in IQ between races (I’m not saying this is likely) doesn’t mean we should judge people on their race, and not on their individual merits.

Yeah, “content of their character” works for me.

But regarding “data” I’m reminded of something a professor teaching James Joyce once told me: “Don’t believe everything you read.” Basically, whether he thought of it at such then or not, he was encouraging Socratic thinking; to question things, to ask “why?”

I guess that’s why I’m more concerned about how such data is obtained, what factors are involved. I mean, if one student has all the resources conducive to academic success, e.g. stable home environment, good educational environment, determination, and opportunity then why wouldn’t he/she fare better academically and thus, subsequently, have a higher IQ than one who lacks these resources?

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