Humanism, quo vadis?

Humanism is a complicated category, an umbrella term covering a rather variegated spread of ideas, and drawing a pretty interesting picture, both in terms of its opposition to oppressive religious practices and its not insignificant contributions to the evolution of philosophy and modern schools of thought.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m a weird character with weird ideas, not to mention my belligerence and almost compulsive rebellious streak. None of these characteristics are necessary, sufficient or indeed characteristic of Humanists. You may have encountered angry and belligerent Humanists, argumentative and bellicose to the point of apparent religious extremism, but the only reason you consider all of us like this is because the ones like me STAND OUT!

We are loud. We are angry. We are full of logic and reason and exasperation in the face of criticism. One of me takes up all the attention before the hundreds and indeed thousands of Humanists who would simply just get on with their lives and not fight about everything all the time.

It is me. It is me, and the ones like me, that you think of when you are angry about Humanists being so unreasonable and fundamentalist. For this, I wish I could offer my apologies, not to you, but to the Humanists who never asked me to fight their corner in this match. They, like most religious and spiritual people, don’t need the aggravation.

Humanism, if you bothered to click on the link, is a mish-mash of philosophies that in some cases have been codified into various manifestos. These manifestos are simple, elegant and reasonable statements about human rights and the human condition that safeguard the individual and their surroundings from dogma and tyranny.

Of course, many of us are angry because we see oppression, and it’s easy and preferable to join a just and righteous cause for the feeling of righteous indignation, but that’s not why I joined.

I never became a Humanist to wage war on Christians, Jews, Muslims or Zoroastrians. I know. Hard to believe, right? I joined the Humanist association to make common cause with the Humanist one, which is to promote religious freedom, human rights, critical thinking and democratic ideals wherever and whenever I could.

When people criticize Humanists for being belligerent, they have just met too many people like me. One will do, because we stand out. But they seize upon the opportunity we represent, since we are such big targets. It’s OK, though. Let me just say it says a lot about their prejudice when they say we “all just hate God, and are angry with the world.” Basically this means they can’t tell us apart. We all look the same to them.

I once attended a brunch with friends. Someone mentioned my Humanist affiliation, and some other guests levelled a furious barrage against me about how horrible we all were. I hadn’t put together two words about my convictions before they had me pegged as someone who wanted to see society grind to a halt, humanity suffer and everything forced into neat little labelled boxes. Nothing was worse than us. We were like religious people ourselves.

Pot, meet kettle.

I don’t mind. I like a good argument. I just wish the honourable opposition would come up with some better arguments than how angry and Christianity-hating we are. Because although I find most religions a little funny, I find I love Mankind more and more, regardless of what they believe. I have read some pretty decent criticisms of Humanism, and the best ones address the view of morality as founded on unchallenged truisms. These are, in most cases, fairly elaborate and well-wrought, and to my fellow Humanists’ credit, these criticisms are welcomed, debated and thoroughly mined for value.

Although I differ from Humanist ideology in some cases, I find it worthwhile to call myself one and defend this particular conviction when it receives flak in the media. I just wish the decent critics would chip in sometimes, because the loudest critics of Humanism make the loudest Humanists – like yours truly – seem peaceful and conciliatory by comparison.

Rant over. Have a cup of tea and a scone or summat, and we’ll meet for some g&t’s later.

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