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7 years ago  ::  Jan 24, 2008 - 4:42PM #1
InternetJunkie
Posts: 1
I'm an author doing research on different types of cultures and worldviews.  Are there some basic tenets that most humanists hold to that would be a good starting point for me?  I'd like to review some foundation principles of this wordview and be able to ask questions if you all would not mind answering them.  I guess my first question would be - do you believe there is no god, we can't be sure if there is a god or not, or that it doesn't matter either way?

Another question: has humanistic philosophy been found in any primitive culture that you know of, or does it come about when a civilization is more enlightened and higher thinking?
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7 years ago  ::  Jan 24, 2008 - 11:38PM #2
Jcarlinbn
Posts: 7,037

InternetJunkie wrote:

I guess my first question would be - do you believe there is no god, we can't be sure if there is a god or not, or that it doesn't matter either way?

While I claim no affiliation as a humanist, I will answer your question.  Whether or not God exists is a question only an individual can answer.  God may exist for one person and not for another in the same pew.  The existence of God is completely irrelevant in my life.  If I had absolute personal proof of the existence of God it would change my life not a whit. 

I have learned a lot about living from God beliefs and believers, but for me it all comes down to If this belief is true what do I do differently now.  The answer is seldom to change my human centered life. 

Jcarlinbn, community moderator
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7 years ago  ::  Jan 25, 2008 - 1:27AM #3
Mriana
Posts: 26
You can go to the American Humanist Assoc. site to get information and even view the Humanists Manifestos I, II, and III.
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7 years ago  ::  Jan 25, 2008 - 7:15AM #4
foxfell
Posts: 62
[QUOTE=InternetJunkie;238153]I'm an author doing research on different types of cultures and worldviews.  Are there some basic tenets that most humanists hold to that would be a good starting point for me?  I'd like to review some foundation principles of this wordview and be able to ask questions if you all would not mind answering them.  I guess my first question would be - do you believe there is no god, we can't be sure if there is a god or not, or that it doesn't matter either way?  Another question: has humanistic philosophy been found in any primitive culture that you know of, or does it come about when a civilization is more enlightened and higher thinking?[/QUOTE]

Here is a url that might be helpful to you:

http://www.secularhumanism.org/

To quickly respond to your questions, I am an atheist.  I do not think anyone can have certain knowledge of either the existence of gods or the non-existence, I simply am not persuaded by the reasons and evidence for gods that theists tend to give. 

You asked, "or that it doesn't matter either way?" and I think in some cases it DOES matter.  Obviously bad things have been, and continue to be, justified by religious beliefs.

Lastly, I believe components of humanism under gird all religion, in fact I would go as far as to say that those beneficial aspects of any religion are the result of humanistic impulses rather than supernatural causes.  That is to say, we see the impulse in most people to act humanely, whereas we don't see any evidence of the supernatural...at least none that can be empirically verified.

fox
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7 years ago  ::  Jan 25, 2008 - 8:07AM #5
Mriana
Posts: 26
I was thinking of this one, but the Secular Humanism one is good too.

http://www.americanhumanist.org/index.html

I found them very helpful when I was doing a research paper on the manifestos.
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7 years ago  ::  Jan 27, 2008 - 12:26PM #6
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,206
[QUOTE=InternetJunkie;238153]I'm an author doing research on different types of cultures and worldviews.  Are there some basic tenets that most humanists hold to that would be a good starting point for me?  I'd like to review some foundation principles of this wordview and be able to ask questions if you all would not mind answering them.  I guess my first question would be - do you believe there is no god, we can't be sure if there is a god or not, or that it doesn't matter either way?

Another question: has humanistic philosophy been found in any primitive culture that you know of, or does it come about when a civilization is more enlightened and higher thinking?[/QUOTE]

I'm an atheist and a humanist but I am not a Humanist.  Contrary to public opinion, atheism (the lack of a belief in gods) is not synonymous with nihilism (the lack of belief in anything).  There are atheists who are immoral or amoral.  There are also atheists who believe in some kind of morality.  The difference is that they don't get their morality or ethics from God.  "Thou shalt not kill" comes from purely natural, functional, societal issues.  It's like lying.  Everybody does at least some of it, but most people try to avoid this vice because the temporary advantage it confers can yield a much bigger loss down the road.  The minute you get caught, you lose trust, and trust is so valuable, it's better to establish it through honesty - even if it means taking a hit for delivering bad news.

But getting back to the differences between "humanism" and "Humanism," little-h "humanism" is the idea that one's loyalty is to the human family, rather than to God.  The kind of humanism is an appreciation for humanity - its history, its arts, its people and its needs.  A little-h humanist is someone who sees through the artificial boundaries and provincial identities of religious and non-religious affiliation.  A little-h humanist says that we are all in this together, that there are no good guys or bad guys, just people - all of whom share this planet, all of whom are mortal, all of whom struggle to live, thrive and survive.

Big-h "Humanism" is a secular religion of non-religion.  It's atheism + church.  It's a political and social movement and organization which seeks to make itself the voice of all non-believers by bringing them underneath the umbrella of "Humanists."  It draws boundary lines and positions itself against religion as the ethos of a new ruling elite.  It demands membership dues and solicits donations.  It organizes.  It holds meetings and rallies.  It has literature.  It sells books.  It has campaigns for leadership over the big tent.

I want nothing to do with Humanism.  I have little interest in its endless feuds with religion.  I have better things to do than go to its meetings, read its boring literature or sell its brand.  I have better uses for my money than to give it to a bunch of bozos so they can play house at my expense.

One can be a little-h humanist from a variety of perspectives.  There are Christian humanists, Jewish humanists, atheist and agnostic humanists, Unitarian humanists, et cetera.  Little-h humanism is that the best approach is to deal with one another from the perspective of our shared humanity.  Religious humanists don't necessarily give up their religious perspective when reaching out to atheist and agnostic humanists.  They simply share a commitment - from all quarters - to respect one another's humanity and to work together toward solutions that benefit all.

Recognizing that one can arrive at "humanism" from a variety of ideologies and traditions, I would argue that humanism's principles begin with a great second premise.  To illustrate, one's primary premise may reflect any number of perspectives or ideologies.  It's the most diverse, most private, most uncompromisingly unique part of the equation.  What makes a person a "humanist" is the "but" that follows.  To wit:

I'm a Christian but . . .
I'm a Jew but . . .
I'm a Muslim but . . .
I'm an Atheist but . . .
I'm an Agnostic but . . .
I'm an Apatheist but . . .

. . . I believe I have much in common with all people, including those of other faiths - due to our common humanity - so much so that I prefer to identify myself as much by this common humanity as I would my own private tradition or ideology. 

Inherent in "humanism" is a respect for others.  Humanistic tolerance comes from the idea that other people have value - as human beings - regardless of what they believe or reject.  Humanism tempers one's private convictions by saying that whatever else one might accept or reject - ideologically - one has an equal, if not preeminent, obligation to respect the other's humanity.

My humanism allows me to ignore, maybe even melt, the artificial boundaries that separate and divide.  When I see a "Catholic," I first see a person who has chosen to adopt or retain the Catholic tradition.  Because I respect the person, I transfer a certain amount of respect to that person's tradition, even if I strongly disagree with various aspects of it.  This kind of humanism allows me to treat my Caholic friends with dignity.  It also allows me to appreciate those aspects of Catholicism that support and exalt humanity.

To provide an example, when I - as an atheist - look at Christmas, I am confronted with a mixed bag.  I don't believe that Jesus was the Son of God.  In fact, I don't believe in God at all.  So, when I'm confronted with people decorating their lawns with nativity scenes - a reverentual depiction of childbirth - part of me has to laugh at the sheer folly of it all.  Christianity has seized the winter solstice, transferred Jesus's birthday to it, and obsessed over what must be the least significant part of Jesus's entire life: the moment of his birth.  Holy afterbirth!  Yes, the Son of the Living God was wrapped in swaddling clothes, but he also soiled his diapers and woke up Joseph and Mary for his three a.m. feeding.

From the perspective of an atheist, Christmas is as barbaric as snake handling.  Otherwise sane individuals string their homes with lights, chop down trees and put them in their home - to be decorated ad nauseam - and cut each other off in traffic, racing to the mall to run up their credit cards on buying each other gifts.  They drink something called "nog," blow their diets, wear garish colors, sing horrible carols and watch unwatchable TV programs - all to celebrate the birth of one man whom they worship as a god.  Even people who aren't Christians - such as the Jews who lived next door to me - celebrate the holiday because to not do so is to feel isolated from the rest of the community.

But from a humanistic perspective, Christmas is like a lot of other religious holidays, where people take something - with whatever historical or ideological roots - and use it as a vehicle to rise above their usual pettiness.  Christmas is not always an example of Christian kindness - as we discover when people get competitive or vindictive - but for the most part, Christmas exhibits many qualities a humanist could support and value.  When done well, it's a time of sharing, of forgiveness, of family, of fun.  Humanists can even find something good in the Nativity Scene, for while some of us may question whether there should be all this fuss for one man - or this one in particular - there's something universal in that Nativity Scene.  The reverential attendance upon the birth of the Messiah is a cartoon-like projection of any childbirth.  Even the thankless birth of the orphan is reflected in the modest conditions in which Jesus is born.  His birth in a lowly stable (while hardly unusual for the time) reminds us of all those who come into the world from the most modest of circumstances.

The Jesus myth, like that of Superman, reminds us of our values.

So I can enjoy my Christian friends and celebrate with them, even if I question whether Jesus ever existed.  I can respect what is good about their holiday while denouncing its use for dividing and separating those of other faiths.  I can enjoy the cookies and cakes, even if I don't take the wafer and wine.  I can respect confession as the expression of one's regrets, even if I question whether it has to be done inside a wooden box, to a man in a white collar or whether the solution - say so many hail Marys - is a better fix than finding the person aggrieved and working toward some sort of reconciliation.

People roar with laughter at the absurdity of Scientology and its sci-fi theology, but I give these folks the same tolerance and respect which I'd give to Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus.  My question for Scientology is not whether it teaches "the truth" - as I see it - but what it does, or fails to do, for those who accept it as their tradition.  As a humanist, my enemy is not faith but intolerance, including self-intolerance.  I have no respect for self-mutilation - as found in practices such as female circumcision.  I have no respect for beliefs or traditions that rob people of their human dignity.  Anything that does harm should be avoided and opposed, to the extent necessary to protect humanity.
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7 years ago  ::  Jan 30, 2008 - 5:42PM #7
beatific
Posts: 3
Humanism is a catch-all term. Are you referring to the humanism seen in the Sistine Chapel? Or to athiesm? Or people who find themselves in both worlds?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanism


[QUOTE=InternetJunkie;238153]I'm an author doing research on different types of cultures and worldviews.  Are there some basic tenets that most humanists hold to that would be a good starting point for me?  I'd like to review some foundation principles of this wordview and be able to ask questions if you all would not mind answering them.  I guess my first question would be - do you believe there is no god, we can't be sure if there is a god or not, or that it doesn't matter either way?

Another question: has humanistic philosophy been found in any primitive culture that you know of, or does it come about when a civilization is more enlightened and higher thinking?[/QUOTE]
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7 years ago  ::  Feb 06, 2008 - 11:41PM #8
ThinkNLove
Posts: 29
[QUOTE=BillThinks4Himself;244495]I'm an atheist and a humanist but I am not a Humanist.   
As a humanist, my enemy is not faith but intolerance, including self-intolerance.  I have no respect for self-mutilation - as found in practices such as female circumcision.  I have no respect for beliefs or traditions that rob people of their human dignity.  Anything that does harm should be avoided and opposed, to the extent necessary to protect humanity.[/QUOTE]

Wow Bill, nice post.  I think I like humanists.  I think I may be a humanist.

I'm just starting to learn of Pantheism, Humanism and the like.  Before coming across any of these terms I have wondered if you eliminate all knowledge or ideas of God - make it a word without meaning - and then define God as the power (if there is or isn't one doesn't matter) that created mankind with intelligence and emotion, as well as a force for good; ...could this term of "God" be denied?  Maybe it's synonamous with evolution, I don't care.  I guess I've found value in entertaining the value of myth.  I enjoy Joseph Campbell.

I would like to hear more about your background, I think we may share some similarities.
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7 years ago  ::  Feb 10, 2008 - 1:12PM #9
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,206
I spent my youngest years in a home where God never came up.  Good and bad were approached on their own terms.

When I was five, my parents divorced.  At age six, I went to live with my father.  He remarried, to a Catholic woman, which gave me my first taste of the Church of Rome.  It amounted to a lot of religious shrines, creepy places of worship and the instruction that it's a sin to speak in church.

When I was eight, that marriage failed and my father began seeking God.  His search took him to the Baptists.  Easter Sunday that year, my father, my brother and I got baptized.  As a Baptist, I enjoyed the sermons, which could be quite dramatic.  I also enjoyed Sunday school, which gave me an opportunity to discuss the Bible.  I was one of the few kids who actually did the reading assignment.  I discussed the stories and what they meant with great interest.  People at church were convinced that God had called me to his service and that I would grow up to be a minister.  They were shocked, during one Sunday-night service when all the children were asked to stand and say what they hoped to be when they grew up.  My answer, "a lawyer," wasn't what they were expecting.

During my teen years, I lost faith in Protestantism.  It bothered me that so much of what I'd been told couldn't grow up with me as I began to apply basic reason to the world around me.  Salvation by faith made little sense.  Baptists were going about telling people that God was so perfect and so intolerant of sin that he could not look uupon it with the least degree of allowance.  That meant that all people - including the best among us - would burn in Hell for eternity, because our good works were filthy rags before this perfect and exacting deity.  But if any of us should accept Jesus as the Son of God, we should be saved from all our sins, no matter how many we committed, before or after our conversion.  To me, that sounded like sales talk.

I couldn't help but remember my grandmother, the kindest and most circumspect person I had ever known.  She did not go to church.  She believed in right and wrong - nothing more, nothing less.  By Baptist standards, she would burn in Hell.  In the meantime, the religious frauds of my childhood - Jim Bakker, Jerry Falwell, Ernest Angeley, Oral Roberts and Jimmy Swaggart - would go to Heaven for their faith in Christ, regardless of how much money they stole, how many women they deflowered and how many tax dollars they stuffed under the mattress.  To me, that was utter lunacy, something you tell people to convince them to do what you want.

As I went from Protestant denomination to Protestant denomination, looking for something better than the Baptists, I found little worth exploring.  The Greek Orthodox were just running a rival Pepsi to Catholicism's Coke.  The Lutherans and Episcopalians were just Catholic Lite.  The Presbyterians started their thing to declare independence from the Bishop of Canterbury, but what had they given us?  Predestination?  Calvinism is as twisted a theology as Catholicism.  The Pentecostals and Evangelicals were just nutty, pulling addicts and bipolars off skid row to give them a happy dancing church of lunacy.  Christian Scientists had made a fetish out of faith healing.  Seventh-Day Adventists had made a fetish out of the Sabbath.

In my desperation, I crossed paths with the Mormons, who believe that Protestantism is a lost cause, the attempt to create a live branch from a dead tree.  Mormons believe that this situation is the fulfillment of prophecy, the prophecy of a Great Apostasy.  Their explanation - that we are living in post-Biblical times because men have rejected God's messengers, the prophets and apostles - appealed to me.  Mormons believe that men, left without continuing revelation from God, would find themselves in a kind of Dark Age, searching the old texts, being carried about by every wind of doctrine, endlessly divided.

It sounded pretty good.  I identified with the story of Joseph Smith, the 14-year-old, confused by the warring sects, finding that passage in James that said to ask of God, and then getting his answer: Join none of them.  I found it appealing to believe that God would restore everything in the last days, prior to the Second Coming of Christ.  God would bring back the Gospel (which had been corrupted), bring new scriptures (like the Book of Mormon), restore the structure the old church (with prophets and apostles) and usher in a new age of temples, priesthood and revelation.

Right.

As a Mormon, I met a lot of nice people who were at least not being told that their profession of faith would save them.  Mormonism is a very practical religion.  It may have its quirks (no coffee or tea) but the emphasis is on action.  A person can pray all day long but if that person doesn't get busy, it's just a form of entertainment.  I served a mission, went to BYU, married in the temple, started a family and gave of my time and means to the upbuilding of "Zion."

But, like the song says, "there were incidents and accidents, hints and allegations."  Joseph Smith may not have been the total devil of the anti-Mormon tracts, but there was more to this guy than you'd hear about at church.  Joseph Smith was hated for this claims (that God and Jesus had spoken to him) but he was also prosecuted for doing many of the things the faith healers do.  He had convinced a lot of people to invest in the Kirtland Antibanking Society.  When mismanagement - and a recession he hadn't foreseen - toppled this S&L, he was nowhere to be found.  He fled to Missouri, where slave-owners feared what would happen if they were over-run by abolitionists from New England.  So, Joseph Smith started having revelations that blacks were the seed of Cain, servants of servants, a cursed progeny.  It didn't work.  Mormons were run out of Missouri, settling in Illinois.  But while Joseph Smith was excommunicating others for adultery, he was secretly marrying other women, sometimes 14-year-olds, sometimes women who were already married, sometimes women who were married to other Mormons - some of them men Joseph had just sent on missions.

While the cat's away . . .

The more LDS Church history I studied, the more I discovered how "normal" Mormons are - neither worse than their neighbors nor better.  Their history, culture and experiences are worth a nonjudgmental exploration as they are part of the human family.  But their trips, follies and doctrinal blind alleys undermine the exclusivist claims.  If Mormons imagine themselves as cleaner than their neighbors, part of that impression is the systematic erasure and suppression of unwanted facts.  If a Mormon girl gets pregnant - despite all of the hot air invested in preaching abstinence - Mormons don't abort, but often the girl will be convinced to pull a Juno, but quietly.  The girl will go to visit a distant relative and come back months later (with stretch marks).

But let's not be petty.  Mormons didn't invent suburban hypocrisy.  They're just people, doing what people do, thinking somehow that their particular set of irrational beliefs somehow make them different.

It was while I was losing my faith in Mormonism that I realized how screwed things are, not just within this circle or that, but from a much broader perspective.  Joseph Smith's now-famous question was, "Which Church should I join?"  He had apparently never considered the much larger question, "Should I join any Church?" or "Was Jesus who he said he was?" or "Is there a God?"

Every criticism that I, as a Mormon, had made of other groups, was equally applicable to the Mormons.  And every rock thrown at the Mormons is equally applicable to all religious groups, to the very notion of God himself.  People rationalize the weirdness of their particular beliefs and scriptures, mostly because to throw out the whole thing because of the margins would be to throw the baby out with the bath water.  It doesn't occur to them that they didn't need the fairy tales in the first place - not to learn life lessons that deserve to be passed on to the next generation.

I read the Bible as literature.  To me, that's the most charitable way to read it.  If you don't, you have to either be a fanatic or a book burner because the book is choc full of insanity.  It's a dream and like all dreams, it has many interesting images connected to truths that are part of human experience.  The Book of Mormon is the same way.  So is the Qur'an, the Upanishads and all that Greco-Roman mythology.  It's all just poetry.  If you take it literally, you are the biggest fool.  Every time people put ideology ahead of common sense, very bad things happen.

I can't, for the life of me, see an argument for the existence of God that isn't wishful thinking wrapped in a bow.  Then again, I can't see what God has to do with anybody's daily existence.  The struggle to live, thrive and survive has nothing to do with God's will and everything to do with responding to needs and circumstances.
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7 years ago  ::  Feb 10, 2008 - 3:07PM #10
MoulinRouge
Posts: 20
I appreciate your distinction between humanists and Humanists, BillThinks4Himself.  You truly seem to respect others' beliefs and lack of them without judging them and you emphasize what's important about the humanity of others.  I identify myself as a Unitarian Christian, but I hear what you're saying about not being divisive, that you have no use for creating divisiveness by forcing all non-believers under one tent and stressing their separateness from believers instead of just respecting the humanity of all.  I attend a Unitarian Universalist fellowship since there really aren't any churches for Unitarian Christians around here.   You sound like the best of people whom I respect in my new fellowship.  You hit the nail on the head.  There are humanists and Humanists in my new community.  The humanists there--agnostics, atheists, Buddhists, Jews, Christians, and Pagans--are people I appreciate and I think I will grow close to over the course of time.  The Humanists--the stridently atheistic, Sam Harris/Richard Dawkins worshipping members who eye me suspiciously as if I've come to proselytize and convert simply because I identify myself as Unitarian Christian when asked the question--those peope I fear I shall have no use for.

Humanists with a big "H" or a little "h."   I like that assessment.
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