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Collective Humanism - Bringing in the Herd
Posted: 21 July 2008 08:30 AM   [ Ignore ]
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It’s been said that organizing Humanists is like herding cats, and from my experience, Humanists are indeed an individual and eclectic lot. Each has her/his particluar worldview, complete with some fraction of atheism or benign theism/spiritualism, and as “free thinkers” are loathe to have anyone tell them just what they should be thinking. It’s their persona to be free of all fetters, and humanitarian always. The rest is optional. grin

Of course, you could describe most Americans with the same thumbnail, being free spirits wary of any restraints on their freedom. Don’t tread on me- Americans have subscribed wholeheartedly to nationalism, even jingoism, and are not shy about that decision. Many pack some heat to defend and proclaim that perspective. So individual freedom is not equated to anarchy or the lack of allegiance to a flag, the one envelopes the other and always has. What other avenue is there?

The truth is that cats can be herded; just feed them all at the same time. And so I wonder, can collective Humanism be a different animal than the infinitely varied individual Humanist? To clarify, can Humanists speak as one body with some unanimity, be heard along the lines of some principles, such as are cited within our various Manifestos?

The prime obstacles I see forestalling our influence, which I anticipate as imminent, are the perception that we are interchangeable with atheists, and nothing more,  then there is the fact that we are individual to a fault, approaching narcissism. Many of us are so proud to be skeptics and nihilists that we social climb into the ranks of Humanism as one more self-congratulatory step, while making no appreciable contribution to Humanism at all.

I am building a website and forum at http://www.man.org that attempts to identify Humanists as guardians and critics of the Human species, in an effort to rectify what I see as very poor internal governance of ourselves. This takes the approach that militarism, as a prime example, is anti-human activity and should be criminalized along with weapons manufacturing.

You can see that this agenda is somewhat different than that associated with Humanists today, yet I am hoping that you concur and will help me set up a charity to promote Humanism as the conscience and parent of our species.

If a child joins a Humanist “Coolective” on a school project to provide drinking water to a Darfur village- we will have a Humanist for life.

Here’s another example of Humanism that I shall leave you with, it’s slow to load but is the quintessence of where I think Humanism is going, and how we can attract youth. http://www.vimeo.com/1211060

Your participation with us would be very valuable.

[ Edited: 13 November 2008 09:02 AM by Martinus ]
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Posted: 20 August 2008 07:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Dwight Jones - 21 July 2008 08:30 AM

The prime obstacles I see forestalling our influence, which I anticipate as imminent, are the perception that we are interchangeable with atheists, and nothing more,  then there is the fact that we are individual to a fault, approaching narcissism. Many of us are so proud to be skeptics and nihilists that we social climb into the ranks of Humanism as one more self-congratulatory step, while making no appreciable contribution to Humanism at all.

I am tending more and more to agree with this point Dwight.  I self identify as a humanist as well as being skeptically minded and admitting atheism.  I am most certainly not a nihlist… at least not in the classic literal sense.  I find that I have little in common with atheists, skeptics, freethinkers (or whatever they want to call themselves) who do not embrace some sort of humanism, whether they call it that or not.  And I think that it is vital to make the distinction between being a humanist (defined as possessing certain qualities) and being an atheist, freethinker, religious skeptic, bright, etc. (defined by not possessing certain qualities).

I do regard religious thinking as ahumanistic and feel that it is imminently in need of constructive criticism.  But perhaps it is fair to say that many non-religious philosophies are also ahumanistic and therefore are just as imminently in need of constructive criticism.  If we care about others or about ourselves within the context of society, it is our responsibility to advocate to the best of our abilities.

Dwight Jones - 21 July 2008 08:30 AM

If a child joins a Humanist “Coolective” on a school project to provide drinking water to a Darfur village- we will have a Humanist for life.

So true.  Religious cults often obtain credibility for their superstitions via good PR associated with humanitarian efforts.  In fairness, they should be commended when they do such acts of good.  But their core beliefs are not only flawed, but often lead to moral misbehavior.

Thoughts and ideas lead to beliefs and beliefs lead to actions.  It is both reasonable and useful to recognize that humanistic thinking leads to a more mature moral behavior.  And that to be a humanist is to be more evolved.  It may be difficult due to our humble temperments, but we really would achieve a broader reach if we were to illustrate our good ideas for the general public by showcasing our deeds.

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Posted: 25 August 2008 01:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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erasmusinfinity - 20 August 2008 07:50 AM
Dwight Jones - 21 July 2008 08:30 AM

The prime obstacles I see forestalling our influence, which I anticipate as imminent, are the perception that we are interchangeable with atheists, and nothing more,  then there is the fact that we are individual to a fault, approaching narcissism. Many of us are so proud to be skeptics and nihilists that we social climb into the ranks of Humanism as one more self-congratulatory step, while making no appreciable contribution to Humanism at all.

I am tending more and more to agree with this point Dwight.  I self identify as a humanist as well as being skeptically minded and admitting atheism.  I am most certainly not a nihlist… at least not in the classic literal sense.  I find that I have little in common with atheists, skeptics, freethinkers (or whatever they want to call themselves) who do not embrace some sort of humanism, whether they call it that or not.  And I think that it is vital to make the distinction between being a humanist (defined as possessing certain qualities) and being an atheist, freethinker, religious skeptic, bright, etc. (defined by not possessing certain qualities).

———————————————————-
(Dwight replies) Erasmus, despite the limitations we cite here,I find myself becoming more willing to include atheists as Humanists for one growing reason. They can be seen as rank and file troops toward a Collective Humanism, which is the layer that holds a more enduring promise for me owing to its more comprehensive agenda re: Human affairs.

If we look toward the future of Humanism, then we have to consider its imminent emergence, aided by the InderNet,  in places like India, Pakistan, Indonesia and similar countries with strong fundamentalist religions dominant there.

In that context the classical Humanist struggle for free thought and independence from orthodox religion by individuals has hardly begun, never mind its coming to a resolution as it might be in western societies.

So we need those troops on the ground to do the hand-to-hand fighting against fundamentalists within schools etc. right up through governing Islamic parties. The same can be said for overly secularized countries like China who put party interests ahead of Humanity and democracy as a whole. So huge infantry battles to be waged there, let’s not send the lads home yet…

Meanwhile I foresee collective Humanism making deep inroads into the psyche of our species as a whole, so that eventually we all readily recognize the need for astute internal governance, to outlaw war preparations and weapons manufacturing as being criminal activity, as examples. 

That cH layer will create an intellectual climate that will suffocate fundamentalist religions, much as science has displaced christianity from its pre-eminence in the western world.

In summary, I’m happy now to watch atheists/Humanists beavering away at the churches, I don’t see them as one dimensional Humanists anymore. They’re doing the heavy lifting, and their tasks in Asia and the Middle East, in particular, will take decades more. But I do want to return my attention to true H in the mean.

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Dwight Jones - 21 July 2008 08:30 AM

If a child joins a Humanist “Coolective” on a school project to provide drinking water to a Darfur village- we will have a Humanist for life.

So true.  Religious cults often obtain credibility for their superstitions via good PR associated with humanitarian efforts.  In fairness, they should be commended when they do such acts of good.  But their core beliefs are not only flawed, but often lead to moral misbehavior.

Thoughts and ideas lead to beliefs and beliefs lead to actions.  It is both reasonable and useful to recognize that humanistic thinking leads to a more mature moral behavior.  And that to be a humanist is to be more evolved.  It may be difficult due to our humble temperments, but we really would achieve a broader reach if we were to illustrate our good ideas for the general public by showcasing our deeds.

It is in this area where Collective Humanism expands the mandate from dueling with fundamentalism toward a wider humanitarian vision and a critical eye on such cancers as militarism. I concur that this is where intellectual Humanists must focus their ideas and programs.

[ Edited: 13 November 2008 09:07 AM by Martinus ]
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Posted: 25 August 2008 06:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Dwight Jones - 25 August 2008 01:56 AM

Erasmus, despite the limitations we cite here,I find myself becoming more willing to include atheists as Humanists for one growing reason.

I do also include “atheists” as humanists, if and when they are humanists.  I am only pointing out that atheism is not necessarily humanistic.  Atheists can behave in many ways that are destructive to human fraternity, just as religious persons can.  (Although, as I have said before, an atheist would not do so because of their lack of theism in the way that a religious person might because of the theism.)

Dwight Jones - 25 August 2008 01:56 AM

They can be seen as rank and file troops toward a Collective Humanism, which is the layer that holds a more enduring promise for me owing to its more comprehensive agenda re: Human affairs.

Secular interests are of concern to atheists.  They are also of concern to many religious persons.  I’m not so sure that atheism, by itself, leads to humanism.  Perhaps atheism is a part of the picture.  But not atheism by itself.

Dwight Jones - 25 August 2008 01:56 AM

They can be seen as rank and file troops… If we look toward the future of Humanism, then we have to consider its imminent emergence…I foresee Collective Humanism making deep inroads into the psyche of our species as a whole, so that eventually we all readily recognize the need for astute internal governance, to outlaw war preparations and weapons manufacturing as basic tenets of human life, as examples…That CH layer will create an intellectual climate that will suffocate fundamentalist religions, much as science has displaced christianity from its pre-eminence in the western world.

Sorry for the large selective quote.  There is much good stuff that I left out.  But there is an implicit optimism in the words that I selected that I have some trouble with.  Mainly, I wish that I were so optimistic but I don’t always see humanity evolving in a positive direction.  And I dont necessarily think that it will.  I don’t believe that progress is implicit over time.  Things can get better or worse.  It all depends on what the human species ends up doing.

I am hopeful.

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Posted: 25 August 2008 12:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Mainly, I wish that I were so optimistic but I don’t always see humanity evolving in a positive direction.  And I dont necessarily think that it will.  I don’t believe that progress is implicit over time.  Things can get better or worse.  It all depends on what the human species ends up doing.

Absolutely! I suffer from the same optimism envy. grin

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Posted: 25 August 2008 02:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Certainly the curve of civilization and humane treatment isn’t smooth, and, the level of atrocities that we perpetrate on each other at present is pretty disgusting.  However, if we look back over recorded history, I seem to see a growing (far too slowly) awareness of and concern for the feelings and state of others.  I can understand how one can be frustrated at the snail-like pace of improvement in humans, but I’m a bit more optimistic. 

That’s why I believe early exposure to humanist principles is extremely important.

Occam

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Posted: 12 November 2008 11:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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erasmusinfinity - 25 August 2008 06:41 AM

Secular interests are of concern to atheists.  They are also of concern to many religious persons.  I’m not so sure that atheism, by itself, leads to humanism.  Perhaps atheism is a part of the picture.  But not atheism by itself.

I got myself into a spot of controversy recently for pointing out that the BHA (British Humanist Association) called their advertising campaign on London busses “Atheist Bus Campaign” and not “Humanist Bus Campaign”. I also reiterated some comments from the BHA discussion forum that there’s a large number of NSS people in the BHA’s administration.

I did this because I think being equated to atheism is very damaging to Humanism - why bother with the latter if you break out the atheist colours as soon as the first shot is fired, and you are ashamed of your own standard?

Was I off base in making that observation then, now, or ever? Any suggestions?

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Posted: 12 November 2008 10:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Martinus - 12 November 2008 11:58 AM
erasmusinfinity - 25 August 2008 06:41 AM

Secular interests are of concern to atheists.  They are also of concern to many religious persons.  I’m not so sure that atheism, by itself, leads to humanism.  Perhaps atheism is a part of the picture.  But not atheism by itself.

I got myself into a spot of controversy recently for pointing out that the BHA (British Humanist Association) called their advertising campaign on London busses “Atheist Bus Campaign” and not “Humanist Bus Campaign”. I also reiterated some comments from the BHA discussion forum that there’s a large number of NSS people in the BHA’s administration.

I did this because I think being equated to atheism is very damaging to Humanism - why bother with the latter if you break out the atheist colours as soon as the first shot is fired, and you are ashamed of your own standard?

Was I off base in making that observation then, now, or ever? Any suggestions?

I know that for myself, atheism did not lead to my desire to be humanistic. I have a great love for people, for charity work, for helping out those who have been less fortunate than I. I find that not all atheists have this (not to speak ill of atheists, as I am one). Many are more focused on spreading the reasons on why the supernatural beliefs of others do not mesh with the accepted norms of modern-day society, and this is great work. Some of us are not cut out for that kind of work. I am currently working on a book that speaks about ‘mission-minded atheism’, and this will reiterate my point. To put it plainly and truthfully, many simply do not wake up in the morning and have the desire to run a 5k for breast cancer research.

But I do not believe that humanism being equated to atheism is completely damaging. I find that many people who are outside of freethought circles believe they are one and the same, and to be honest, the vast majority of humanists I have come across are indeed atheists. I think it is more confusing than anything, and that there indeed does need to be some sort of seperation. They are different, and different in many ways. I think damaging is a bit harsh, because it could come off as someone saying that humanism is much more fulfilling and rewarding option than atheism (and I realize that this is not what you are saying). Just my two cents.

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” I am a mission-minded atheist because when I look around at the tragedy so rampant in our world, it saddens me to see that the majority of groups aiding those in need are religiously driven. These are people who believe that God tells them to help these people, to further his kingdom. I know that my heart tells me to help these people, simply to further humanity. This goes further than educating about atheism. It deals with educating about loving others.”

Terrence Jackson

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Posted: 13 November 2008 08:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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TerrenceJackson - 12 November 2008 10:36 PM

But I do not believe that humanism being equated to atheism is completely damaging. I find that many people who are outside of freethought circles believe they are one and the same, and to be honest, the vast majority of humanists I have come across are indeed atheists. I think it is more confusing than anything, and that there indeed does need to be some sort of seperation. They are different, and different in many ways. I think damaging is a bit harsh, because it could come off as someone saying that humanism is much more fulfilling and rewarding option than atheism (and I realize that this is not what you are saying). Just my two cents.

Well said, TJ - better to use the words confusing, diverting etc. rather than “damaging”. I was referring not so much to the passive atheism of old, rather the strident “New Atheists” who are aggressively locking horns with Abrahamic and Islamic religionists. I shall take pains to continually remind people of that “New Atheist” movement, however, as I believe that is where hard atheists will feel most at home. e.g. http://www.newatheists.org . A little housecleaning is always a good thing. wink

Diversions aside, the positive aspects of Humanism remain largely hidden, like the innards of a plump coconut. There’s little point in working up a lot of umbrage about the overlaying husk, when there is so much work to be done by and for the species - ourselves. Eventually the respective schools of thought will diverge, and all the quicker if we can come to some consensus around a collective Humanism that addresses governance, responsibility and vision toward our very Human future.

Looking down the road then, how would you build out Humanism so that in due time its tenets might displace its lowest common denominator - atheism - from centre stage?

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Posted: 13 November 2008 09:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Humanist does not necessarily mean atheist, or does it? 

As someone already noted, you can be a religious humanist, but you have to check your theism at the door when it comes to making decisions.

I would see humanism as atheistic in the strictest, literal, interpretation.  Meaning that you are making your decisions atheistically - “without god”. 

So you can believe, or not believe, in any deity(s) you want.  But, you base your decisions on reason and rational discussion.

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Posted: 15 November 2008 10:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Hawkfan - 13 November 2008 09:20 PM

Humanist does not necessarily mean atheist, or does it? 

As someone already noted, you can be a religious humanist, but you have to check your theism at the door when it comes to making decisions.

I would see humanism as atheistic in the strictest, literal, interpretation.  Meaning that you are making your decisions atheistically - “without god”. 

So you can believe, or not believe, in any deity(s) you want.  But, you base your decisions on reason and rational discussion.

Yes, those should be any Humanist’s hole cards. All the promise lies within the cards yet to come, and how we play them.

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Posted: 15 November 2008 01:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I agree with the idea that humanism shouldn’t be linked with atheism because it immediately turns off many who would otherwise be willing to embrace the humanist philosophy.  However, in spite of the “religious humanists”, I think that once one becomes a humanist it’s easy to slough off religious ideas. 

And, I certainly agree that not all atheists are humanists.  I have a very conservative friend (another retired chemist) who is a strong atheist, but who is definitely not a humanist. 

Occam

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Posted: 15 November 2008 01:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Occam - 15 November 2008 01:15 PM

I agree with the idea that humanism shouldn’t be linked with atheism because it immediately turns off many who would otherwise be willing to embrace the humanist philosophy.  However, in spite of the “religious humanists”, I think that once one becomes a humanist it’s easy to slough off religious ideas.

True, the role of religion in Humanism could properly be nil. 

And, I certainly agree that not all atheists are humanists.  I have a very conservative friend (another retired chemist) who is a strong atheist, but who is definitely not a humanist. 

Occam

As do I, he has an animal hatred of the priesthood and all it trappings, but is a bonafide misanthrope and sometime mysogynist at all times. Except for those shortcomings, he’s a most reasonable fellow and possibly a polymath, would probably grant himself Humanist status if I queried him on it (which I don’t). . wink

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Posted: 26 November 2008 01:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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How can you get off on these tangents so easily?
Humanism is simply the desire and belief that man can live in harmony with his fellow man.
What has this to do with religion or other beliefs, color or other origins, levels of education, etc.
Can’t you people keep this simple and stay in and on a positive discussion?

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Posted: 26 November 2008 07:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Socrate’s pupil - 26 November 2008 01:28 AM

Humanism is simply the desire and belief that man can live in harmony with his fellow man.

The desire part is fine. The belief in a good-natured man troubles me.

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Posted: 26 November 2008 07:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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George - 26 November 2008 07:32 AM
Socrate’s pupil - 26 November 2008 01:28 AM

Humanism is simply the desire and belief that man can live in harmony with his fellow man.

The desire part is fine. The belief in a good-natured man troubles me.

Humanism is an obscure credo right now, orphaned from its Renaissance origins, and is too often confused with atheism. As an institution it is dwarfed by organized religion and nationalism and until we build up a body of thought, with consensus for its tenets the young will not take notice of it as a worldview option.

Our institutions (the law, science, Internet etc.) are what civilize us, and our species per se has no defender/critic against militarism and corruption as things stand. So we impoverish ourselves with weapons manufacturing, armies and police forces.

The prospect that we might in good time change this by supporting Humanism is a positive attitude, at least?

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