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Why our movements are failing and how we can make them succeed
Posted: 02 April 2009 05:46 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Secularism is a world view. It encompasses Humanism, atheism, agnosticism, scientific naturalism and many other variants; and many of those can be seen to encompass secularism. I’m not interested in a turf war among allies.

As a world view, it also encompasses everything. Every human concern is our province.

I am interested in why our movements are not succeeding as they should, and what we can do about it. See http://www.centerforinquiry.net/forums/viewthread/5351/P45/#64550, especially the last few paragraphs.

We must get past our aversions. The theists have gotten into our heads and gotten us to react against them instead of carving out our own space. Tens of millions of people in the United States alone share our world view. There is no reason in the world why we can’t grow our movements and organizations. Our failure to do so is our fault. We need to stop trying to put the blame elsewhere.

I have a vision of what a successful secularism/Humanism would look like. We would have rigorous training programs for leaders: colleges and universities that would function somewhat like seminaries but mainly like colleges and universities. From that, Humanist/secularist ministers (call them what you like) would be awarded degrees and then form congregations (call them what you like).

Why? Well, because, right now if someone is facing tough times (as many people are) or is insecure about something (that’s most of us) or has some life issue (that’s all of us) or a need for community (that’s almost all of us), we’re not filling that space. So when that person goes to a Humanist event and his concerns aren’t addressed, and then goes to an evangelical church the next week where the preacher is giving him a framework for dealing with personal crisis, where do you think he’s going the week after?

This doesn’t mean that you have to start going to church. I’m not saying this is the only thing we should be doing. But we must recognize that until we start filling this need, the community will not listen to us or accept us. This is a successful model, and until have empirical evidence that an alternative can work as well, we would do well to follow it. What’s missing, I think, are openness and commitment. In the words of that great philosopher, the widow Paroo of “The Music Man”:

“But darlin’, if a woman has a husband and you have none,
Why should she take advice from you,
Even if you can quote Balzac and Shakespeare and all them other hi-falutin’ Greeks?”

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I cannot in good conscience support CFI under the current leadership. I am here in dissent and in support of a Humanism that honors and respects everyone.

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Posted: 02 April 2009 01:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I think that if Humanism presents a sound ethical standard then it would not continue to carry quite as much of the type of noetic baggage that people tend to distrust.  Some Humanists (and you know who you are even if you have me on “Ignore,”) claim a “universal” morality based on human values in spite of the contradiction that (I daresay) most people would immediately detect regarding what they see nearly every day in terms of human behavior.

That’s probably a big reason why many atheists and agnostics don’t bother with doctrinal Humanism in the first place.  It looks, smells, feels and tastes like a weak position to take simply in terms of reason.

If Humanists detect a strong foundation for ethics minus the type of discrepancy I pointed out above, I do believe that Humanism would have increased appeal in the marketplace of ideas.  Find that system of ethics and publicize it.  And if you have to stick with one that appeals to “universal” human values that aren’t really universal, then figure out a better way to sell it.  smile

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Posted: 02 April 2009 03:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Maybe we can start with the label—-‘secular humanist’....I think ‘Rationalist’ is a far better term, as it’s harder to make it a derogatory epithet.

‘Progressive’ is much better than liberal, in my opinion, as liberal has a unsavory tinge sometimes.

‘Conservative’ is better than ‘Reactionary’ even if one is actually a reactionary.

So I like ‘Rationalist’ if we need a label. And we probably need some label, even as I am suspicious of them.

Now I am a ‘Rationalist’...

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Posted: 02 April 2009 03:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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PLaClair - 02 April 2009 05:46 AM

... where the preacher is giving him a framework for dealing with personal crisis, where do you think he’s going the week after?

I’m not sure what you want PLaClair… Was that your proposal?  If so
could you give some more specific examples of “a framewark for dealing
with personal crisis”.

I guess that Humanists could have some sort of support group of
peers. Or instead maybe someone with training in personal management
(for finances, medical issues, careers, marriages, children, education,
or other areas) would be willing to help, but short of having some sort
of training/studying I doubt that the Humanists would take much advice
from anyone, in the way that some religious people respect the advice
of their priests.

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Posted: 02 April 2009 04:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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jump_in_the_pit - 02 April 2009 03:36 PM
PLaClair - 02 April 2009 05:46 AM

... where the preacher is giving him a framework for dealing with personal crisis, where do you think he’s going the week after?

I’m not sure what you want PLaClair… Was that your proposal?  If so
could you give some more specific examples of “a framewark for dealing
with personal crisis”.

I guess that Humanists could have some sort of support group of
peers. Or instead maybe someone with training in personal management
(for finances, medical issues, careers, marriages, children, education,
or other areas) would be willing to help, but short of having some sort
of training/studying I doubt that the Humanists would take much advice
from anyone, in the way that some religious people respect the advice
of their priests.

It’s more a vision than a proposal. I was referring to the fact that in our groups we hardly ever talk about issues like marriage, family or even interpersonal relationships. I hope that someday we will have an army of trained Humanist/secularist ministers with the knowledge and qualifications to address these matters in congregation and the personal qualities to be effective. You’re right that Humanists are less inclined to take advice than most people but I think most people will respond positively in the right environment.

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I cannot in good conscience support CFI under the current leadership. I am here in dissent and in support of a Humanism that honors and respects everyone.

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Posted: 02 April 2009 07:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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PLaClair - 02 April 2009 04:41 PM

I was referring to the fact that in our groups we hardly ever talk about issues like marriage, family or even interpersonal relationships. I hope that someday we will have an army of trained Humanist/secularist ministers with the knowledge and qualifications to address these matters in congregation and the personal qualities to be effective.

I can’t picture it well, do try to elaborate.  I picture people sharing
their personal experiences and opinions with each other, trying to
be helpful.

I do see the Humanists in my locale doing that, when they feel like it.
Though, I do see some reluctance (and sometimes that increases to
the level of being defensive, which is bad) in sharing their own
experiences… once someone takes the science/skeptic ideas seriously,
one suddenly realizes that ALL of their personal experiences are anecdotal
and cover a very small sample of people and that is not very statistically
significant to base any generalizations on.  (I really hate that about
Humanism, I still want my personal experiences to be important and valid!)
So humanists, in my locales, want to try and have a more solid basis for
their ideas they say in conversation (a good thing) and are reluctant
to speak without any research behind their ideas.

They, in my locales, seem to be supportive at times, argumentative
at times, silly at times, healthful conversations I think.  The local
group here has had a skeptic support group, it turned out to attract the
people who were raised in right-wing extremist Christianity and felt
very wounded, resentful, and sometimes combative about their past and
the people who created it.  Here we also have several family events each
month, both child and adult oriented events.  The single adults don’t
usually show, and the couples’ response is to invite and welcome the
singles so that the couples have some adults to talk to.  Check out
the local calendar if you want.

What are the others here experiencing when Humanists get together?

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Posted: 02 April 2009 07:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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jump_in_the_pit - 02 April 2009 07:20 PM
PLaClair - 02 April 2009 04:41 PM

I was referring to the fact that in our groups we hardly ever talk about issues like marriage, family or even interpersonal relationships. I hope that someday we will have an army of trained Humanist/secularist ministers with the knowledge and qualifications to address these matters in congregation and the personal qualities to be effective.

I can’t picture it well, do try to elaborate.  I picture people sharing
their personal experiences and opinions with each other, trying to
be helpful.

I do see the Humanists in my locale doing that, when they feel like it.
Though, I do see some reluctance (and sometimes that increases to
the level of being defensive, which is bad) in sharing their own
experiences… once someone takes the science/skeptic ideas seriously,
one suddenly realizes that ALL of their personal experiences are anecdotal
and cover a very small sample of people and that is not very statistically
significant to base any generalizations on.  (I really hate that about
Humanism, I still want my personal experiences to be important and valid!)
So humanists, in my locales, want to try and have a more solid basis for
their ideas they say in conversation (a good thing) and are reluctant
to speak without any research behind their ideas.

They, in my locales, seem to be supportive at times, argumentative
at times, silly at times, healthful conversations I think.  The local
group here has had a skeptic support group, it turned out to attract the
people who were raised in right-wing extremist Christianity and felt
very wounded, resentful, and sometimes combative about their past and
the people who created it.  Here we also have several family events each
month, both child and adult oriented events.  The single adults don’t
usually show, and the couples’ response is to invite and welcome the
singles so that the couples have some adults to talk to.  Check out
the local calendar if you want.

What are the others here experiencing when Humanists get together?

It could look a lot like a good church, of which I’ve seen a few, but I wouldn’t want to limit what it might look like. The idea is to build a community that helps bring together a life in community around common values and beliefs. The community is strong and supportive. Time together is mutually satisfying, not just intellectually but emotionally. Members pull together to accomplish things, perhaps in the style that Felix Adler’s Ethical Culture Society did in New York in its heyday. My experience has been that Humanist groups occasionally try to do this but don’t succeed very well. I think we need to broaden our field of endeavor so that we can build our organizations and our movements more effectively, and satisfy individual needs as well.

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Posted: 04 April 2009 08:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I heartily endorse Omnibus’ suggestion that we label ourselves “Rationalists”. Indeed, I would respond to comments about “secular humanists” with the statement, “I’ve never met a secular humanist. I myself am a Rationalist”.

I would further suggest that we take a ruthlessly pragmatic approach to our public interaction with theists. Frame the discussion as “rational pragmatism versus dogmatism or ideology”. Emphasize the need to solve problems. We can argue the metaphysics after we’ve eliminated hunger and war.

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Posted: 04 April 2009 09:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Finding a label you don’t mind wearing is no doubt a fine first step.  I appreciate Paul’s willingness to make a set of concrete suggestions, even to the point of advocating a church-like social network, which I imagine might seem automatically distasteful to some Rationalists.  Note what he said about such efforts tending not to work well over time.  Using the Christian church paradigm as an example (and I’m pretty sure I could do so with other religions or even with political/ideological groups), such groupings tend to fail largely because of disagreements within the ranks.  What do we stand for?  In what direction do we wish to go?  What should we do next week?

Don’t the answers to those types of questions tend to ultimately spring from morals and ethics?

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Posted: 04 April 2009 10:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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[quote ]I do see the Humanists in my locale doing that, when they feel like it. Though, I do see some reluctance (and sometimes that increases to the level of being defensive, which is bad) in sharing their own experiences… once someone takes the science/skeptic ideas seriously, one suddenly realizes that ALL of their personal experiences are anecdotal and cover a very small sample of people and that is not very statistically significant to base any generalizations on.  (I really hate that about Humanism, I still want my personal experiences to be important and valid!) So humanists, in my locales, want to try and have a more solid basis for their ideas they say in conversation (a good thing) and are reluctant to speak without any research behind their ideas.

I’d rather have speakers “sharing their own experiences” than speakers citing religious/spiritual myths/parables/anecdotes.  What else is there except human experience?

PLaClair’s vision of an “army of trained humanist/secularist ministers” wouldn’t’ be very comforting, would it, with or without the value of peer-reviewed caring.

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Posted: 05 April 2009 02:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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josh_karpf - 04 April 2009 10:20 PM

I’d rather have speakers “sharing their own experiences” than speakers citing religious/spiritual myths/parables/anecdotes.  What else is there except human experience?

There are the interpretations of those experiences. These are essential and unavoidable.

The question is not whether we will interpret our experiences. The question is how we will interpret them.

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Posted: 05 April 2009 04:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Bryan - 02 April 2009 01:01 PM

I think that if Humanism presents a sound ethical standard then it would not continue to carry quite as much of the type of noetic baggage that people tend to distrust.  Some Humanists (and you know who you are even if you have me on “Ignore,”) claim a “universal” morality based on human values in spite of the contradiction that (I daresay) most people would immediately detect regarding what they see nearly every day in terms of human behavior.

That’s probably a big reason why many atheists and agnostics don’t bother with doctrinal Humanism in the first place.  It looks, smells, feels and tastes like a weak position to take simply in terms of reason.

If Humanists detect a strong foundation for ethics minus the type of discrepancy I pointed out above, I do believe that Humanism would have increased appeal in the marketplace of ideas.  Find that system of ethics and publicize it.  And if you have to stick with one that appeals to “universal” human values that aren’t really universal, then figure out a better way to sell it.  smile

I’m a Humanist and I was not aware there was any doctrine the Humanists follow.  I speak of the human condition, not “universal morality”.  Human values are part of the human condition, but the human condition is far more than that.  It’s all subjective, but even those who call themselves atheists, instead of humanists, have some form of subjectivism (if that is a word).  The subjective is also part of the human condition and cannot necessarily be separated.

Paul, we do have humanist celebrants who do Funeral celebrations, Naming Ceremonies, and weddings.  In some humanists organizations, they have “youth groups” too.  Do a little research and you might find what you are wanting is already starting to be formed.

[ Edited: 05 April 2009 04:22 PM by Mriana ]
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Posted: 05 April 2009 05:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Mriana - 05 April 2009 04:17 PM

Paul, we do have humanist celebrants who do Funeral celebrations, Naming Ceremonies, and weddings.  In some humanists organizations, they have “youth groups” too.  Do a little research and you might find what you are wanting is already starting to be formed.

Mriana, with all due respect, I am well aware of those facts. My son Matthew, who is president of CFI on campus, attended Sunday school at Ethical Culture in Maplewood, NJ, beginning at age four. My friends Ted Seagull, Jim White, Boe Meyerson, Ross Henry, Gene Queval and many others all perform these ceremonies, and I’ve attended several of them. Ross and Gene even refer to themselves as “Rev.” On what basis do you assume that I don’t know these things?

Now, you just made an assumption that is demonstrably false, and you posted it publicly. And you can hardly be unaware that “Do a little research” is rather insulting language. Does this tell you anything?

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Posted: 05 April 2009 05:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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I concede that Humanist Celebrants call themselves Revs.  I’m well aware of that.  The question is, does anyone have a better title?  I don’t and there in lies the problem.  What I’m wondering is if you think I left Christianity 6 or 7 years ago, leaving behind a lay minister’s license, that I’m trading one for the other?  I know I’m capable of doing the job, but I hardly view myself as trying to trade one (supernaturalism) for another (non-supernaturalism).  I guess on one hand I am, because I realize we don’t need superstition, but we do need social ceremonies and rites of passages, even the need for hospital visits, if requested.  Even so, I do not view it as being part of the clergy.  More of a social service.

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Mriana
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Posted: 05 April 2009 05:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Mriana - 05 April 2009 05:39 PM

I concede that Humanist Celebrants call themselves Revs.  I’m well aware of that.  The question is, does anyone have a better title?  I don’t and there in lies the problem.  What I’m wondering is if you think I left Christianity 6 or 7 years ago, leaving behind a lay minister’s license, that I’m trading one for the other?  I know I’m capable of doing the job, but I hardly view myself as trying to trade one (supernaturalism) for another (non-supernaturalism).  I guess on one hand I am, because I realize we don’t need superstition, but we do need social ceremonies and rites of passages, even the need for hospital visits, if requested.  Even so, I do not view it as being part of the clergy.  More of a social service.

What problem? Is “Rev.” taboo too?

To answer your question, I never gave a second’s thought to your background. I don’t even know who you are except that you are a moderator and a participant on this forum.

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Posted: 05 April 2009 06:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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I am not saying Rev is taboo.

I realize you don’t know who I am.  I just told you a little about me.  And again, I ask you, IF the Humanist movement is not working, then what explains Humanists like me and other like me?  “No religion” or “None” has doubled or nearly doubled since the last census.  Do you really believe all those people did not move on to some other social network?  I would surmise some became Humanists just as I did and thus I say we must becareful not to put on too many garments of religion.

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Mriana
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