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Feb 18 2007
Sunday's Monthly Meeting...

Today's sunday forum at Gage Hall was interesting to say the least. I was somewhat amazed and disturbed to hear that in the midst of humanists we heard people advocate what amounts to genocide via the irradication (bombing) of the PEOPLE living in the Sunni Triangle in Iraq, that illegal immigrants should be automatically suspect as being criminals (other than their illegal status) and to hear that some still blindly follow the preaching of the current administration, that is to support thier decision making even though the facts seem to indicate that they have at best been incompetant and at worst deceitful. I was looking forward to discussion about moral bedrock as we seek solutions for today's most pressing issues. What I came away with today was a deep concern that at least for some humanists, these issues should be addressed with old ideologies.. not pragmatic rational concern for the preservation human life, the struggle for human dignity and the promotion of a rational ethic on which to base decision making. What do you think? [/b]

Feb 19 2007

I'm afraid I wasn't able to attend this month's meeting, so I did not see the discussion you mention. However, especially since the whole point was to pick controversial topics so that people would disagree, I cannot say I am surprised.

First, just as a disclaimer, let me say that as for the issues you mention I think I have the same opinions as you. I did not support W's invasion of Iraq since I considered it both to be morally unjustified and also to create more problems than it solved. Unfortunately, I think the facts have proved me right...and now we've got to make a decision between many different bad options since there are no good choices left to make.

But, that's beside the point; you ask what I think about the disagreement on this subject at the meeting.

* I think this clearly demonstrates that not all humanists think alike on political questions. I understand why you might think that we would. We share a non-religious worldview along with a desire to help people in need, and a belief that the decisions should be based on rationality and verifiable evidence. However, it turns out that even with all of this in common we can reach different conclusions. That's not something unique to humanists...nor is the feeling that this is a surprise. I mean, I think there are a lot of people who were strongly opposed to the invasion of Iraq and felt that the source of this feeling was their belief in God and the Bible. These religious people were just as surprised as you to realize that there were people of their faith using the same religion as an argument FOR the invasion!

* Disagreements like this should give us pause to consider whether the other viewpoint has some good arguments that we're unfairly discounted. A common mistake that all people make in situations where all of the choices are bad (as I've said above I think we currently have in Iraq) is to point out the negatives in an opponents argument without acknowledging the negatives in their own. Your description of someone else's argument lists what is wrong with it (genocide, presumption of guilt, etc.) but I would guess that the other person would similarly say what is wrong with your viewpoint. You don't necessarily have to change your mind, but an open discussion such as the one the SHL held is a good opportunity to make sure that you've actually thought through the negative side of your own viewpoint instead of just focusing on what is wrong with the others.

* Remember, I was not there and so did not actually hear what anyone said. It could be that I would agree with you that in the end the viewpoint expressed by the person supporting the administration's policies was completely illogical and immoral. If so, then there is still something interesting to consider: what is it that makes them believe it? Quite often, in diverse situations and not just the one that we find ourselves in now, I see people making illogical decisions when one particular emotion is so strong as to drown out reason. Fear and jealousy are two emotions that often do this, and perhaps an overdeveloped fear of terrorism is a factor in the continued support for Bush's failed military exploits. But, I would actually put more of the blame on "anger" and "pride". People are still so angry about the events of 9/11/2001 that they can applaud the death they see in Iraq as "our revenge" without even noticing that Iraqis had nothing to do with 9/11...and patriotism seems to be able to keep people from recognizing that there are wars we cannot win or that torture is wrong even when "the good guys" do it.

BTW Was there anything else discussed at the meeting of interest?



Feb 19 2007

There were several new people at Sunday's meeting. Had that been my first experience with the SHL, I might not have wanted to come back. It was not representative of what our meetings are usually like. However, it dispelled any misconceptions I might have had about all Secular Humanists being tolerant, civil, and genteel. I appreciated Joe Shisko's request to take the discussion to a highter level, but it was unheeded. If we can't discuss controversial matters in an "I'm OK, you're OK" manner, what does this bode for the rest of the world?

Frances Hay

Feb 19 2007

I support and try to nourish open frank discussion.., in most cases disagreement leads to understanding and sometimes growth...what I witnessed was what felt like irrational thinking relative to political / ideological positions... Perhaps it is unfair to expect more from this group but for some reason I did...(no pun intended). I did come away from the meeting examining my own positions , beliefs... Perhaps what I witnessed was the extreme polarization of our society, where those who were once were "rational" are now radicalized......Thanks for the cogent response...mj

Feb 19 2007

In the February issue of "Church and State", Oliver "Buzz" Thomas writes, "...............the way we debate our differences is almost as important as the differences themselves."


Feb 20 2007
Bombing the Sunni triangle

The Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry is an umbrella name for an organization that includes atheists and agnostics in the Charleston area. Over the years few people belonging to our group have appeared to be (at least publicly) politically conservative, although political identity is not a membership issue in any way.

I think it is important to understand that not all atheists and agnostics are also humanists. People self-identify as atheists, agnostics and humanists, and there is no litmus test for membership in the SHL.

My definition of a humanist (and yours may legitimately differ) is a person with compassion for and appreciation of the value of other human beings. Having said that, I think the comment by one person at Sunday's meeting advocating intense, indiscriminate bombing of the population of the Sunni triangle in order to resolve the Iraqi civil war does not sound humanistic to me.

I hope those who attended Sunday's meeting for the first time will return in the future and get to know a number of SHL members before making a judgement about the entire group.

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