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What is Humanism?
Posted: 25 July 2010 08:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Frankly, I really don’t like the attempt to link atheism with some nebulous happy talk about “humanism.” And I especially don’t like Humanist Manifestos with their air of catechism, their nebulous but somehow weirdly grandiloquent rhetoric, what comes across as a slightly smug self-righteousness.

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FAITH, n. Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel. -Ambrose Bierce

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Posted: 25 July 2010 09:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Are you referring to Paul Kurtz’ vision of Humanism?

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Church; where sheep congregate to worship a zombie on a stick that turns into a cracker on Sundays…

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Posted: 25 July 2010 09:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Yeah, Kurtz contributed to the second and wrote the third one pretty much by himself, and while he’s extremely bright, he’s prolux, loquacious, long-winded, and garrulous.  Anything that can be said in ten words, he does in ten chapters.  So, your evaluation, B.Holly, is accurate.

Occam

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Posted: 28 July 2010 04:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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I think secular humanism is important because it points out that we do not need to believe in a god to good. We can be good and moral without god. This is the basic idea of secular humanism.

I personally believe humanism can come in different forms, others in this group may disagree. A Christian might consider themselves to be a humanist if they believe Christianity is best expressed by doing good to others. This might be in contrasted with other Christians who feel that simply saying a quick prayer is just as good and maybe more powerful than giving money or being friendly with someone. So you can be religious and be a humanist if you put a lot of focus on people, but a Christian humanist still puts their god first. A secular humanist does not believe there even is a god nor that we need a god. I actually believe religion and belief in a god now is hindrance on human advancement.

A secular humanist is more than just the village atheist. An atheist does not have to also be a humanist. Atheism is a belief that there is no god, but does not point to what a person does believe. Secular humanism says a person is an atheist or at least an agnostic but also that the person also has a positive believe in humans, that humans and our society can improve and progress. Atheism says nothing about what a person does believe in, but humanism points to a belief that a person believes in people.

People need philosophical concepts because it helps us to get a grip on ideas, although I grant it is still hard. I think the phrase “good without god” is the best way to sum up secular humanism. And its greatest importance is that it tells us that we do not need god, any god.

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Posted: 28 July 2010 04:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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The problem with religion is not so much that people believe in god, but they they believe. In that sense, humanism doesn’t differ that much from religion.

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Posted: 28 July 2010 05:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Hi Jim!
  I understand what you are saying, but I’m still kind of puzzled, so maybe I don’t get it fully. I surely believe in “good without god.” But it takes about five minutes to thoroughly dismantle the position that morality depends on the divine in any way.  So what do you do after that? Nebulous talk about progress and society? Maybe I’m just hopeless with this, but whenever I try to delve into humanism, I’m reminded of Gertrude Stein’s characterization of Oakland, “There’s no there there.”

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FAITH, n. Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel. -Ambrose Bierce

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Posted: 28 July 2010 06:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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B. Holly - 28 July 2010 05:57 PM

Hi Jim!
  I understand what you are saying, but I’m still kind of puzzled, so maybe I don’t get it fully. I surely believe in “good without god.” But it takes about five minutes to thoroughly dismantle the position that morality depends on the divine in any way.  So what do you do after that? Nebulous talk about progress and society? Maybe I’m just hopeless with this, but whenever I try to delve into humanism, I’m reminded of Gertrude Stein’s characterization of Oakland, “There’s no there there.”

Hi B. Holly,

I think I understand what you are saying.“Good without god,” is a nice saying but what’s next, what is the next step. I personally think that humanism, and I’m referring to secular humanism, can come in different forms. There can be conservative, moderate, and liberal humanists, depending on what a person thinks is best for people. So each person can have their own take on what secular humanism is. A conservative secular humanist might think that people do best if they are forced to do for themselves, a liberal will say that we all need help, and moderate (such as myself) will say that we all need help but we also need incentives.

I’ll be honest I’ve never read any of the manifestos, so I’m not certain what they say. But I think there are two main steps to being a secular humanist. First don’t believe in god, and second believe that humans can still be moral, ethical and good without god.

I think perhaps the next question is how to get to the ethics. Exactly what are the ethics and how do you get to them. There’s not much in the two main steps above to help. Except to say ethics has to be based on materialistic ideas (because there is no god) and on people (because humanism is focused on humans). I suppose there are different ways to develop ethics in humanism and I don’t think ethics can be handled like a math theory with axioms and theorems. People and society are too complicated. But I think you have to start with what people want and that is happiness and peace. Even in war, even the people who start the war, will wish for happiness and peace. So I feel that’s almost a universal human desire. People will also want revenge and other evil stuff, but most people don’t go around wishing for the bad stuff (at least I don’t believe they do). Most people go around wishing for happiness and peace. Then from there you can accept the golden rule (a perfectly good secular humanist ethical principle) and the idea that it is better to have peace than war and to help people when possible.

Despite what some people say, secular humanism is not a religion. Other than the two things I mentioned above (which are almost required by definition) it has no requirements. I personally think, and I think this because we live in such a religious world, that the main force of secular humanism is that we do not need god. We can still be good without god. The world will continue even if everyone stopped believing in supernatural stuff.

I hope I got to your question with some of the above. I think secular humanism is actually, at its fundamental, pretty simple.

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Posted: 28 July 2010 10:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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Thanks - That’s helpful.

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FAITH, n. Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel. -Ambrose Bierce

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Posted: 29 July 2010 06:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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jimclay - 28 July 2010 06:36 PM

Despite what some people say, secular humanism is not a religion.

No it is not a religion. But just like religion, or communism, or fascism, or any other type of ideology, it is based on faith. Most claims made by humanists are based on wishful thinking and have probably very little to do with reality.

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Posted: 29 July 2010 07:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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Hi George!
  What beliefs in particular do you find Humanists accepting on faith? - Brian

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FAITH, n. Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel. -Ambrose Bierce

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Posted: 29 July 2010 08:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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B. Holly - 29 July 2010 07:52 AM

Hi George!
  What beliefs in particular do you find Humanists accepting on faith? - Brian

According to the theory of evolution, everything that makes us who and what we are has been designed in a bottom-up process. Humanists believe they can reverse that order by being “guided by reason and inspired by compassion.” Humanism is only possible because (some) people are already intelligent and compassionate.

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Posted: 29 July 2010 09:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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George - 29 July 2010 08:14 AM

According to the theory of evolution, everything that makes us who and what we are has been designed in a bottom-up process. Humanists believe they can reverse that order by being “guided by reason and inspired by compassion.” Humanism is only possible because (some) people are already intelligent and compassionate.

Evolution was discovered by science, guided by reason. Without reason we would never have discovered the idea of evolution. And when compassion came from evolution ‘into us’, why shouldn’t we try to live according to it? When it was successful in the ‘survival of the fittest’, why shouldn’t we continue it?

Your reductionism leads to funny ideas, George. Or should we believe in an ‘Übermensch’? The better human, ‘designed’ to take the resources of all others?

GdB

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Posted: 29 July 2010 10:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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Hmm, we might as well take this conversation to our Free Will thread. We don’t “try” to live according to some higher ideals, we live simply live the way our lives have been programmed. It is silly, then, to speculate what we should or should not do. Especially the reference to ‘survival of the fittest’ makes no sense. Not sure what humanism has to do with fitness: if you want to stay “fit,” make love. And I mean that literally, not the humanistic way.  wink

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Posted: 29 July 2010 03:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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George - 29 July 2010 06:22 AM
jimclay - 28 July 2010 06:36 PM

Despite what some people say, secular humanism is not a religion.

No it is not a religion. But just like religion, or communism, or fascism, or any other type of ideology, it is based on faith. Most claims made by humanists are based on wishful thinking and have probably very little to do with reality.

Hey George, I do agree that secular humanism is a belief system. Is it based on faith, depends on what you mean by faith. In religion faith, as I understand it, is the certainty that something is true. A Christian cannot allow themselves any uncertainty in their belief that Jesus is a god. That is faith. I do not have that certainty with secular humanism. I do believe SH is the best belief system we have right now, but I suppose someone could come up with a better system. I believe that secular humanism is a great idea and a great way to understand our relationship to the universe, but I’m not certain someone in the future can’t come up with something better. So I would not call that faith (at least not in the religious sense).

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Posted: 30 July 2010 01:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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George - 29 July 2010 10:46 AM

We don’t “try” to live according to some higher ideals, we live simply live the way our lives have been programmed. It is silly, then, to speculate what we should or should not do.

We are programmed to speculate what would be the right thing to do.

George - 29 July 2010 10:46 AM

Especially the reference to ‘survival of the fittest’ makes no sense. Not sure what humanism has to do with fitness: if you want to stay “fit,” make love. And I mean that literally, not the humanistic way.  wink

Humans are so successful because they can hold together in groups, and can make plans, can reason? Just as a thought?

Tell me George, how did your life change since you are aware of evolution, and think of yourself, your wife, you children, as being programmed. How would you imagine that your life would be different if you would base it on reason, love and compassion, and on reasoned moral values? Tell me how you factually do this, and not give just a theoretical answer.

And you did not answer my other question: how did we find out about evolution, when it was not guided by reason?

Oh, and when I just make love, as you suggest, I would get more children than I can afford, we would get poor, have a shit life, and born in such circumstances, my children would get no chance to reproduce. You see, even if they would, I don’t just want to give my genes further, but also my ideals, like compassion and reason. In a small 2 child family chances are much better… One could say I would even prefer to give my ideals further, than my genes.

GdB

[ Edited: 30 July 2010 01:25 AM by GdB ]
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