Humanism and Theism: A False dichotomy

I am a Religious Humanist. I have to specify this, because there are secular humanists. You see, despite what many fundamentalists of various stripes will tell you, Humanism is not a religion unto itself, or even a philosophy opposed to religion in general. If you honestly believe that it is, then you might need to reexamine your vision of God and your relationship to the rest of the human race.
I think it usually stems from the need some people have to think in “us-versus-them” terms; their philosophy is opposed to humanism, and so humanism must be an opposing philosophy. It is rooted in a extreme oversimplification.
( I am aware of the “Humanist Manifesto”, but what many overlook is that the religious aspects of “Religious Humanism” are rooted in Christian groups like the Quakers and the Unitarians going back well over a hundred years now. These are spiritual traditions that simply focus more on this world than the next. they embrace an imperfect world that has been filled with signs of hope, waiting to be uncovered.)
Every definition of Humanism I’ve read from unbiased or scholarly sources can be paraphrased as: a philosophy rooted in the dignity and worth of individual humans, and their capacity for self-realization through reason, often rejecting supernaturalism or deity.
That last bit seems to be there to appease a faction; that rejection is not intrinsic to or inseparable from the rest of the definition. When I look out on the world, I see all kinds of miracles. Trees from seeds and the motion of the heavens. The ebb and flow of the tides and diversity of life. I believe that their origin is supernatural. Indeed, I posit that it must be, having happened outside of space-time as we know it. I think there was some kind of intelligence present there, too, as nothing that exists in the universe now could have come from anywhere else, unless we believe in on-going divine intervention. The rub for me, is that I don’t. All of those miracles are understandable and relatively predictable. I don’t think it makes their rhythm or revelation any less awesome. I just think that the Universe is what it is now, and that the Creator laid out everything for us long ago and it is up to us to figure out how it all works.
In short, my version of humanism accepts and embraces the possibility that the Universe was created with some kind of plan, but rejects the idea that I am, or even that my species is, the culmination of creation. We are simply one way the Universe is exploring itself, to paraphrase Sagan. We are not the peak of evolution, and we are certainly not the finished product of the experiment. What we are is a semi-conscious collection of organisms in a vast biosphere, a tissue in the body of the Earth. My humanism says that revelation happens every day, and that all that will ever be revealed to the living is there waiting for us to piece it all together.
I believe in a Creator. I believe that we are an important piece of the creation, though not uniquely so. Still, I don’t see God’s ongoing intervention in creation and I think it is up to us to be the physical manifestation of God’s intent; we are the only hands God has. It is up to us to do good  in the lives we touch. We are not hear to worship, but to take part in continuing revelation and creation. After all, what is the point of building something as marvelous and intricate as the Universe if it will never be revealed to anyone who can appreciate it? Worship of the unknown is paltry compared to the effort science has put in to the exploration of Creation. I truly think that the later shows more devotion and reverence.
Humanism is, simply, the belief that we have to look out for each other. God isn’t hands-on, and there are no angels to stop children from making mistakes or keep us from being hit by a car when we cross the street. We have to do that for ourselves, and by our system of government, for each other. This is no more in opposition to a spiritual and moral life than is public service as a police officer or legislator.
Humanism doesn’t source its morality to a book or even a tradition. It is not a religion, as it has no creed, prophet or scripture. It relies on the on-going revelation of science and human experience in all its forms. Where something is good or true, it is embraced. The only thing it stands against are lies and harmful superstitions. If we live lives that better our communities and invoke in us a desire for self improvement, then humanism is an aid. Only where we seek to belittle, misinform or oppress others are we at odds with the humanist ideal.

About these ads

Speak your piece

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 337 other followers

%d bloggers like this: