Telling the Story of Humanist Transformation
March 27, 2013I have a weird habit. Actually, I don't find it weird, but on the surface it probably seems kind of strange. As a self-described professional atheist, sharing this information almost seems like a confession.
Here's the thing: I listen to Christian radio. As a Buffalo resident, the station I most often frequent is WDCX 99.5 FM. Sometimes, when I travel, I search around for the wackiest sermons I can find and alternatively cringe and get angry and giggle, depending on whether they're talking about gay marriage or evolution or the founding fathers.
Now, I feel like I should explain. My day job involves working with a lot of non-religious folks. My evening activities mostly involve hanging out with people who aren't religious. I don't talk about religion in my day-to-day life. I'm entrenched in the world of atheism, and that world might seem like the Atheist Promised Land, but it's certainly not representative of the diversity that exists in the United States. Most of our country is Christian, (a point I'll come back to later) and many of them strongly so. Sometimes it's helpful to get a dose of what our "cultural opponents" are saying. (I put that in quotes because I don't like to think of Christians or religious people as opponents. However, some more conservative Christians have values that are very much at odds with the secular values I hold dear.)
So I like listening to Christian radio to expose myself to different ideas, often in opposition to the ones I am fighting for in my work. But another reason I enjoy it is that a lot of Christians are really good at what they do. I have a lot to learn about how to be a leader, a storyteller, and an inspirer. Christianity is a powerful force in the world for a reason. Why not learn from the best?
In any case, back to radio. Tonight, on the way home from volleyball, I picked most of a sermon by David Jeremiah on The Priority of a Disciplined Mind. He appears to pick a short Bible verse each night. The reference tonight was Romans 12:2:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Jeremiah explored this passage in some depth, getting into the background and context of the quote, and the different translations of the original scripture. He talked about how one can't change their life without transforming their mind, which didn't strike me as a uniquely religious message. He appealed to our natural sense of rebellion—"do not conform," says the Bible.
I found the whole thing ironic. The early story of Christianity may very well been one of rebellion. But today, in the United States, Christians easily make up the majority. If anyone has a narrative of rebellion, it's non-believers! Heathens have been fighting for their freedom of expression and a secular society for centuries. And we still haven't gotten there. (Internationally, the situation is even worse—CFI's Campaign for Free Expression focuses on raising awareness about some of these stories.)
Can't you just feel the rays of warm inspiration shining through you?
If anyone is embracing non-conformity, we are! Humanists are the ones fighting for reason in a world full of dogma and woo. We're rebels at heart. And thinking about this message, and how we as humanists can capture it, reminded me of a blog post by my colleague Cody Hashman called "Humanism as Salvation." Cody writes:
I believe humanism can save us. Everyone can find salvation in humanism as there is nothing magical about it. There are no doctrines to follow, the only sovereign is reason, and the message is simple: We are here, all alone, and the only thing that can save us is ourselves. When we accept that there is no magical pill, no eternal reward waiting to be discovered, we can be liberated from passivity, free to become conscious of our own will to power and our responsibility to each other. (Emphasis mine.)
Humanists don't generally give sermons. We talk about academics, and science, and reason, and we love to argue. Sometimes we share inspiring words, but we don't do it on a daily basis and we tend not to tug on each other's emotional heartstrings. I think there's value in doing that, and I think Cody has an excellent point. Humanism has just as much power to inspire and uplift us as Christianity. It has just as much power to transform our lives.
Have science, reason, secular values, and humanism transformed your life? If you have a story you'd like to share, please submit it to the blog by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author: Sarah Kaiser
Sarah Kaiser is a field organizer for CFI On Campus. Prior to her work at CFI, she got her start in the freethought movement as the co-founder and president of the Secular Alliance at Indiana University, where she helped organize a nationally recognized atheist bus ad campaign and large campus speaking events. As an atheist, a feminist, and a small part of the universe's way of understanding itself, she is thrilled at the chance to help advance CFI's mission. On Twitter: @sarahebkaiser.
#1 SethKurtenbach on Wednesday March 27, 2013 at 1:04pm
I like to listen to the soundtrack to Jesus Christ Superstar in my mini-van.
And sing along.
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