My Secular Humanist Speech
Posted: 27 January 2009 03:29 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Note: This was the speech prepared by Joshua Lipana for an event in La Union January of 2009.

My Secular Humanist Speech
By: Joshua Lipana


Good evening it is an honor to be here. Good evening mayor (More pleasantries to other people). Thank you Ian for your wonderful introduction.


Tonight I wanna discuss skepticism and some history as well. As some of you may know I’m a Secular humanist. That means I believe people can do good things naturally without having any religious motivation. In fact I’ll take it a step further although I believe religion can motivate people do good things sometimes I also believe religion can make people do extremely harmful things to other people. I’d like to point to a recent act of terror which I’m sure all you know. 9/11… Where around 5,000 men, women and children were incinerated. Burned! To death. Some even jumped from the top of the building to their death just to escape the heat of the fire. I believe this horrible atrocious act of terror was caused by none other then religion. Nothing in this world can make you say oh you know what “I think it’s a good idea to hijack a plane and blow myself up with it”…. In that case it was Islam that caused that horrible horrible moment. By filling the heads of those hijackers with superstitious promises of paradise non-sense they got convinced that killing innocent people and taking their own life at the same time is good. It was their faith that allowed them do such a thing. I mean those hijackers were of middle class and educated backgrounds they weren’t suffering from poverty or oppression! They simply believed too much in their religion.

This of course is not to say only Islam can cause such acts of barbarism. The Catholic Church… Well I’m sure some of you here hold faith with the holy church. Well are you also aware of their not to long ago past? Do you guys know about the Inquisition? The Inquisition was a world wide Catholic movement that caused hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of death. It lasted for 500 years this was the time when the holy church ruled. During this time mass killings and tortures were of the norm. In fact I’ll give you an example if you were a girl who knew how to do math it was conceivable for you to actually get burned for being too smart. Oh and yes those wonderful priests had such a good time torturing little children with epilepsy as well. See they thought that if you acted a bit insane you were not insane. In fact they thought you were being possessed by the devil! And the only way to cure that is to tie some rope to your arms and legs and pull as hard as they can until the pain either causes you to die or admit you were possessed even if you weren’t just so you could end the pain. But in fact even if you did that the church saw only one way to purify your body! Which is to burn you slowly in a stake. Oh yes burn you in a stake. It did not matter whether you were a child, a woman or a man you got burned and tortured if you disagreed with any policy of the church. And my friends this unspeakable horrible ways lasted for 500 hundred years.

This was the holy church. Which is often thought of as the greatest thing here in our country. We must always always put to scrutiny every idea or movement. Show no respect!

Religion must not be respected nor any other idea for that matter. Everything must be criticized and be put to scrutiny otherwise the truth will never come out. It is of the doctrine of infallibility that tyranny arises. It is through examination of anything that we discover whether something is good or bad. When at first glance it looks good take a closer look you may find a trail of death in its path.

And as for me I’d like to share with you guys how I got here. How I became a Secular Humanist. When I was young I was a Christian. I wasn’t the greatest Christian but I prayed and I went to church once in a while. But although I’m sure it makes other people feel good, religion never quite satisfied my hunger for more knowledge. Whenever I asked a question about this and that all I got from the church were very vague responses that didn’t really address any of my questions. But still I persisted as a Christian then at about 12 years old I started to learn more about history it seemed that whenever you had religion at any time and point violence and tragedy always occurred. I believe I just mentioned a few instances the Inquisition and 9/11 as prime examples. So much blood has been spilled in the name of religion finally at 14 I realized I no longer believed in religion or god. After all I’d read. What I think was the final shove is when I read the bible and saw so many contradictions and war. For example moses and his men would go to cities and just completely obliterate the people there. Even ordering his men sometimes to rape women. My gosh how can this book be a source of morality I asked myself. So much death. And then I read more science and philosophy. It blew my mind. The pleasure that I got from actually knowing why things were the way they were. And whenever people of reason don’t know something they have the honesty and the guts to just say “I don’t know” But “I’m trying to find out” As opposed to men of faith who say we should be content with simply not knowing… Content with being Ignorant. As an atheist I eventually stumbled upon humanism. Secular Humanism.  And I believe I found what I was looking for at 15. No death can ever be found because of Secular Humanism only innovation and progress follows it. Progress in science, medicine, education and ethics all this came from this godless humanistic philosophy. I found love and skepticism. Intimacy was no longer demonized. And asking questions became a virtue rather then a sin. Human nature’s best was affirmed.

You are all free to join us. There is no dogma there is no question you can’t ask. In fact we encourage you to ask questions! Question everything! Examine everything! Discover new things with a new point of view! That is what we offer as humanists. As freethinking human beings. Thank you! Thank you! It’s been a pleasure to speak to such an intelligent and open minded crowd. Thank you!

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Posted: 27 January 2009 07:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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joshualipana - 27 January 2009 03:29 AM

I’d like to point to a recent act of terror which I’m sure all you know. 9/11… Where around 5,000 men, women and children were incinerated. Burned! To death. Some even jumped from the top of the building to their death just to escape the heat of the fire. I believe this horrible atrocious act of terror was caused by none other then religion. Nothing in this world can make you say oh you know what “I think it’s a good idea to hijack a plane and blow myself up with it”

What about the Kamikaze pilots? In their case it was patriotism, based on some primitive ideas of the Samurais’ “loyalty and honor unto death.” To blame religion for 9/11 is like blaming the dagger for the death of Caesar.

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Posted: 27 January 2009 09:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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It’s good to see that you are free of religion, Josh, especially when in the Philippines with its catholic traditions.

However, having got off that train does not mean you are as yet a Humanism, you need more credentials than skepticism or atheism, which increasingly have little to do with Humanism itself.

It is time to start talking proactively about our species, our prospects and problems, with no mention of religion now or then. That will be the hallmark of the coming age of Humanism- getting past the cachet of atheism=Humanism.

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Posted: 27 January 2009 10:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Three small points:

1. This is really silly, but you got the figure for the number of people killed on 9/11 wrong. It wasn’t 5,000, it was 3,000. Now, this by itself is a trivial error, unworthy of mention except for the fact that it has a nasty effect: it undermines your credibility. Your listeners will think, “If he can’t even get his basic facts straight, why should I believe anything else he says?” I know it’s not fair, but that’s how people work. So in the future make sure you do all your fact-checking.

2. Along with Martinus, I advise you that secular humanism is not merely atheism. In all honesty, I don’t really know what secular humanism is, nor do I think it necessary to define it or to figure out exactly what class of thinker you are—because you must be YOUR OWN thinker, not merely a member of some group. You started off with a description of your uncertainties about religion. That’s a very strong start, because everybody has their doubts. At that point, it would have been best to simply present your journey from there.

3. I think you were a little too harsh in your discussion of religion. Not because anything you said was incorrect, but because many of your audience are religious, and there’s no point in antagonizing them. You’ll be more convincing if you point the finger at yourself rather than at others. Talk about YOUR thinking, YOUR feelings, YOUR doubts. People can deny your statements about them, but they can never deny your statements about yourself. That forces them to give those statements due consideration.

These are all matters of technique, not substance. I don’t see anything substantially wrong in your presentation. Good luck.

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Posted: 27 January 2009 11:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Just to add to Chris’ advice - when considering what Humanism is - a credo? philosophy? a “life stance”? I add my own - Humanism is a SENSIBILITY. It speaks to the fact that you have a mature awareness of your life, species, planet, and the opportunities and responsibilities that come with them.

It may sound trivial, but we are a minority, and far too many think that life is nothing but a vale of tears, when we are actually all living in heaven.

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Posted: 28 January 2009 06:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Well after the speech around 30 people joined our group actually. Including our new legal adviser for our center a former mayor of one of the provinces. It was received pretty well actually Filipinos really are not fond of half-hearted attacks. I needed to give them a reason why religion is a harmful idea in the Philippine society. I mean I was invited specifically to give a reason why the alternatives to religion are better. After all I am also a Militant Atheist not just a Secular Humanist.

[ Edited: 28 January 2009 06:43 AM by joshualipana ]
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Posted: 28 January 2009 07:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I wonder, Joshua, if you are trying to knock out a wedge with just another wedge…

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Posted: 28 January 2009 08:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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joshualipana - 28 January 2009 06:26 AM

Well after the speech around 30 people joined our group actually. Including our new legal adviser for our center a former mayor of one of the provinces. It was received pretty well actually Filipinos really are not fond of half-hearted attacks. I needed to give them a reason why religion is a harmful idea in the Philippine society. I mean I was invited specifically to give a reason why the alternatives to religion are better. After all I am also a Militant Atheist not just a Secular Humanist.

In heavily catholic countries being an atheist can certainly seem to be the most obvious revolution to join. That seems true even with western societies like Italy, and in a sense theists can be viewed as the infantry of Humanism.

But it begs the question: might people take a shortcut to Humanism and bypass all the petty mudslinging with religionists that bog down the efforts of “Humanist” groups such as the British Humanist Association? My fear is that these battles attract individuals who prefer to argue against religion rather than pro-anything, they are not interested in constructive ideas. So, whereas the catholic church provides a wide worldview and support of family and tradition, these atheists offer only snide remarks about the supernatural and denigrations of the priesthood.

Humanism needs to offer participatory visions of its own, or it will be nothing but a vulture feeding on the carrion of others, as atheism does.

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Posted: 28 January 2009 08:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Martinus - 28 January 2009 08:18 AM

Humanism needs to offer participatory visions of its own, or it will be nothing but a vulture feeding on the carrion of others, as atheism does.

For an inspiration when writing a utopia (“visions of its own”) I recommend Francis Dalton’s Kantsaywhere, B.F. Skinner’s Walden Two, Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf or Karl Marx’s and Friedrich Engels’s The Communist Manifesto.

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Posted: 28 January 2009 09:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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George - 28 January 2009 08:38 AM
Martinus - 28 January 2009 08:18 AM

Humanism needs to offer participatory visions of its own, or it will be nothing but a vulture feeding on the carrion of others, as atheism does.

For an inspiration when writing a utopia (“visions of its own”) I recommend Francis Dalton’s Kantsaywhere, B.F. Skinner’s Walden Two, Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf or Karl Marx’s and Friedrich Engels’s The Communist Manifesto.

Each work did have its following, that’s for sure. There is certainly an appetite for Human collectives, I would gather, but around exactly which idea - therein falls the shadow.. wink

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Posted: 29 January 2009 05:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Joshua,

I think you have a bright future in our movements.

The main point I wish to make to you is to distinguish between religion on the one hand, and theism and other supernaturally-based belief systems on the other, and along with that (as someone else has already suggested) to emphasize also the affirmative elements of secular humanism. My definition of the term “religion” differs from yours. The historical basis for the popular definition, which you are using, is the hijacking of religion that has occurred via the dominance of religion by theism and other supernaturally-based belief systems.

Of course, even primitive peoples held supernaturalist beliefs, which formed the foundations of their religions, but if you look deeper, you will see that underlying all religions is the quest to know and for meaning. Thus, the original Latin term is religare, which means to look upon all things (re) and bind everything together into a coherent whole (ligare, as in ligament).

That’s what we secularists are trying to do! We’re trying to make sense out of as many things as possible and bring our understanding into a coherent and systematic way of looking at things so that we can live productively and well. Science is about looking upon things and finding the underlying principles or at least the internal workings of things; seen that way, there is no conflict between science and religion. But that statement only makes sense if religion isn’t about supernatural beings and just-so stories of ancient mythologies.

The reason I think this is important is that people’s life experiences within their religions are too meaningful to them and too powerful for us to overcome, so we must make distinctions and express ourselves precisely. The moderate American Christian who goes to church, does charity work and stops to let an elderly person cross the street will immediately shut you out if you lump her or him with Islamic terrorists and medieval Inquisitors. We can still make the critique of “moderate” Christianity (for example), but if we attack religion wholesale, we will lose every battle. We need more effective strategies, including ways of expressing ourselves, to make ourselves heard.

So what I urge upon you is to consider whether, if you give that excellent speech again, you may wish to replace the word religion with a narrower term, or perhaps a more nuanced explanation (which is substantially present in your speech already) that focuses more narrowly on what you’re really criticizing. I agree with your content, but as a fellow secularist I would like to see you succeed outside our circles.

Good luck, and congratulations on your work and accomplishments so far.

[ Edited: 29 January 2009 05:50 AM by PLaClair ]
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Posted: 29 January 2009 05:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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PLaClair - 29 January 2009 05:47 AM

Thus, the original Latin term is religare, which means to look upon all things (re) and bind everything together into a coherent whole (ligare, as in ligament).

I suppose this is a quibble, but I’m not sure that’s quite right. E.g., see HERE. The etymology either comes from re- + legere (acc. Cicero, “to re-read”) or from re- + ligare which means “to bind fast” (“re-” is an intensifier, not the word “res”). And the notion is not that things are bound fast into a coherent whole, but that the believer is bound fast to the relevant disciplines, or more appropriately, to God or the gods.

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Posted: 29 January 2009 07:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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dougsmith - 29 January 2009 05:55 AM
PLaClair - 29 January 2009 05:47 AM

Thus, the original Latin term is religare, which means to look upon all things (re) and bind everything together into a coherent whole (ligare, as in ligament).

I suppose this is a quibble, but I’m not sure that’s quite right. E.g., see HERE. The etymology either comes from re- + legere (acc. Cicero, “to re-read”) or from re- + ligare which means “to bind fast” (“re-” is an intensifier, not the word “res”). And the notion is not that things are bound fast into a coherent whole, but that the believer is bound fast to the relevant disciplines, or more appropriately, to God or the gods.

Perhaps. Etymology aside, if we look at the life of religion, we see the quest to know, to make sense of things and to figure out how to live at the root of it all. I think that’s the important point for us to keep in mind.

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Posted: 29 January 2009 08:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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I do understand that point after all I think it was Christopher Hitchen’s who once said that Religion was man’s first attempt at philosophy. But then he goes to say religion should be treated with contempt etc. I get your point though. its just that in the Philippine setting Islamic Extremism is a very very potent force and the Church has done a lot of bad things here. And I’m not talking about just some administrative corruption I’m talking like some really evil shit. Like to quote Bill Maher like “Child F*cking and burning people alive evil. You’ll be surprised what heartbreaking barbarity still goes on in some regions here. Plus the people really appreciate the honesty of not mincing words about it.

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