I noticed recently that an acquaintance of mine, who left the Church a few months ago, had joined a group on Facebook for Humanists. I had wanted to do a post on Humanism before, so I thought that it would be interesting to present a summary of Humanism.
Humanism was not something I was very familiar with in Canada, but it's quite popular in Norway, especially since those who do not identify with the state Lutheran church needed to find alternatives for the Norwegian cultural traditions of christenings and confirmations. The Humanist Association organizes "name days" and "humanist confirmations" instead of christenings and confirmations, for those who wish to maintain the cultural traditions minus the religion. They appear to be increasing in popularity, particularly among teenagers who reach confirmation age (15 years) but have no relationship to the church and therefore no desire to be affiliated with it.
I admit that my initial impression of Humanism was not favourable, as some articles and interviews with Humanists that I came across left me with an impression of militant anti-theism and utter lack of respect, such as an instance where Humanists encouraged high school students to go to a Christmas mass with earplugs in protest of the school organizing trips to the church, which no one was forced to attend anyways. (A school organizing trips to church may sound odd, but as secular as Norwegian society is, the church and state are not officially separate.)
But despite the unfortunate characteristics of some Humanists, Humanist philosophy in itself is something that I've grown to appreciate more and more, the more I've gotten to know about it. There is much that religious folk can learn from Humanism, in my opinion, and I dare say that Mormons probably have more in common with Humanists than we would like to admit. (Well, at least a left-leaning Mormon like myself. :)
My comments are in red.
"Secular humanism is a philosophy and world view which centers upon human concerns and employs rational and scientific methods to address the wide range of issues important to us all. While secular humanism is at odds with faith-based religious systems on many issues, it is dedicated to the fulfillment of the individual and humankind in general. To accomplish this end, secular humanism encourages a commitment to a set of principles which promote the development of tolerance and compassion and an understanding of the methods of science, critical analysis, and philosophical reflection."
"...it is dedicated to the fulfillment of the individual and humankind in general." Does Mormonism have a similar purpose? "Men are that they may have joy," for example?
"To accomplish this end, secular humanism encourages a commitment to a set of principles which promote the development of tolerance and compassion and an understanding of the methods of science, critical analysis, and philosophical reflection."
Doesn't that sound like the type of world you'd like to live in, albeit, with the option of a separate spiritual/religious element? Does a society which "promote(s) the development of tolerance and compassion and an understanding of the methods of science, critical analysis, and philosophical reflection" sound reasonable to a Mormon? Why or why not?
"Secular humanists are generally nontheists. They typically describe themselves as nonreligious. They hail from widely divergent philosophical and religious backgrounds. Secular humanism is not a dogma or a creed. There are wide differences of opinion among secular humanists on many issues. Nevertheless, there is a loose consensus with respect to several propositions. We are apprehensive that modern civilization is threatened by forces antithetical to reason, democracy, and freedom. Many religious believers will no doubt share with us a belief in many secular humanist and democratic values, and we welcome their joining with us in the defense of these ideals."
Do you feel that you could join with Humanists in defending Humanist ideals? I think that Prop 8 brought out the "Humanist" in a lot of Mormons, who may not have necessarily 100% supported gay marriage, but voted or campaigned for what they viewed as the democratic/constitutional right of homosexuals to marry in the civil realm.
"Skeptical of theories of redemption, damnation, and reincarnation, secular humanists attempt to approach the human situation in realistic terms: human beings are responsible for their own destinies. We believe that it is possible to bring about a more humane world, one based upon the methods of reason and the principles of tolerance, compromise, and the negotiations of difference."
Imagine this philosophy being applied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, just as an example. As someone who is deeply disturbed by cruelty towards animals and humans, I love the idea of a "more humane world." I often wish that many in the religious world spent as much time and resources towards combatting cruelty and intolerance as they do on things like fighting homosexuality, sex education, or producing propaganda criticizing other religions.
"Secular Humanism is a term which has come into use in the last thirty years to describe a world view with the following elements and principles:
*A conviction that dogmas, ideologies and traditions, whether religious, political or social, must be weighed and tested by each individual and not simply accepted on faith.
* Commitment to the use of critical reason, factual evidence, and scientific methods of inquiry, rather than faith and mysticism, in seeking solutions to human problems and answers to important human questions."
This sounds good in theory and in a pluralistic society, it seems reasonable to put things like reason, evidence, and science above religion -- particularly since there are so many different religions with so many varying viewpoints. However, in my opinion, Humanists are sometimes asking the impossible. To me, it's like expecting to be able to scrape melted butter entirely off a piece of toast. You can't. One of my favourite parts of The Audacity of Hope was when Obama said:
"Surely, secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering the public square, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, William Jennings Bryan, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. --indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history -- not only were motivated by faith but repeatedly used religious language to argue their causes. To say that men and women should not inject their "personal morality" into public-policy debates is a practical absurdity; our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it is grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition. What our deliberative, pluralistic democracy does demand is that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values."
Continuing on about Humanism:
"* A primary concern with fulfillment, growth, and creativity for both the individual and humankind in general.
* A constant search for objective truth, with the understanding that new knowledge and experience constantly alter our imperfect perception of it.
* A concern for this life and a commitment to making it meaningful through better understanding of ourselves, our history, our intellectual and artistic achievements, and the outlooks of those who differ from us."
Is there anything in those three points that conflicts with Mormonism?
"* A search for viable individual, social and political principles of ethical conduct, judging them on their ability to enhance human well-being and individual responsibility. * A conviction that with reason, an open marketplace of ideas, good will, and tolerance, progress can be made in building a better world for ourselves and our children."
No objections on my part.
"Secular humanists reject supernatural and authoritarian beliefs. They affirm that we must take responsibility for our own lives and the communities and world in which we live. Secular humanism emphasizes reason and scientific inquiry, individual freedom and responsibility, human values and compassion, and the need for tolerance and cooperation."
Sounds similar to Mormon values of self-reliance, freedom, service, charity, and tolerance for others.
"Secular humanists are committed to moral principles, which are derived from critical intelligence and human experience, and we must pursue positive ideals. We should therefore observe the common moral decencies: integrity, humanitarianism, truthfulness, trustworthiness, fairness, and responsibility. This means caring for one another, being tolerant of differences, and striving to overcome divisive parochial loyalties based on race, religion, gender, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, creed, or class."
Where do I sign up? :)
"Our best guide to truth is free and rational inquiry; we should therefore not be bound by the dictates of arbitrary authority, comfortable superstition, stifling tradition, or suffocating orthodoxy. We should defer to no dogma - neither religious nor secular - and never be afraid to ask "How do you know?"
I've never been afraid to ask that. I just haven't always gotten an answer. :)
I thought that I would end this post with the following:
"We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may."
-11th Article of Faith
And may I add, "let them not worship at all, if they so choose."
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