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Nov 18 2008
What is Humanism? (moved from another forum)

My journey to atheism was long and difficult. However, having reached this conclusion I was delighted to find an enlightened group which did not believe that I was sent by the devil to corrupt.

When I joined the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry I only glanced at the Principles and Values of the group. This quick glance disclosed nothing which caused me concern.

However, the lecture by Mr. Werner last Sunday caused me to closely examine the Principles and the Manifesto III which he shared with us. This seemed especially important to me as Mr. Werner asserted a need for humanists to move beyond negating supernaturalism. As an aside, this additionally caused me to remember that Frank Hay has tangentially also raised this question on a couple of occasions.

In reviewing our Principles and the Manifesto I have the following observations:

First, if we remove the supernatural aspects from them we are left with principles that almost anyone would readily approve. Basically they boil down to “we believe in good” or “we believe in the Golden Rule”. Even my “Born Again” brother, who really pesters God on my behalf, would accept them.

It seems to me that without the “ratio decidendi” of anti-supernaturalism there is not much to distinguish Humanism from, e.g., Goodwill Industries except that Goodwill does things.

Which brings up my second point and one which was raised by someone else during the Q&A period. Where is the action? What are we aggressively pursuing? I am aware that we contribute time and money to needy groups and that we clean the highway. How is that different from what other groups do? What actions do we take that distinguishes us?

From the above discussion, it appears to me that, the only thing that distinguishes us from other groups is our lack of a belief in supernaturalism. Therefore, we need to take actions which will express this difference. About the only thing that I can identify along this line is an opposition to so called Intelligent Design. Some believe that this is a dead issue after the Dover decision. However, even a casual perusal of ID on Google will disclose that it is alive and well and growing. Hopefully, others can envision more appropriate actions which will accurately and fully present all of our principles, values and beliefs, which we can all get behind and support.

Finally, Mr. Werner has asserted that getting us to agree is like herding cats. I guess that this missive only supports this assertion.

Frank B

PS I would really appreciate the thoughts of others.

Nov 19 2008
Re: What is Humanism? (moved from another forum)


To me, there are two important parts of our principles that are not "lack of belief in supernatural" and "belief in doing good". They are "support of separation of church and state" and "use of reason, logic and evidence (rather than dogma, revelation, intuition, etc) as the best way to figure out what is true and how we can achieve our goals".

I think you are right that there are many people who do not call themselves "Secular Humanists" who agree with all of this. I was one for many years and most of my friends here in Charleston are like that now. And then there are lots of people who agree with nearly all of this but also believe in supernatural stuff, so they are very nearly the same.

Speaking personally, I really prefer not to make these distinctions. I fondly recall when I was not in a group like the SHL, when my friends were just my friends and I did not classify people by which supernatural beliefs they had (if any), when I did good deeds on my own and as often as I could because I wanted to and not because they were selected by some organization to which I belonged, etc.

Perhaps there are people who want to be in the SHL for precisely those reasons, but I have found that the way society in Charleston is structured essentially requires a group like SHL to exist to give atheists visibility and political clout. Unlike other places that I've lived, the social structure here assumes that individuals are part of a "church" (used generically to mean any place of worship), and those without such an organized community are at a disadvantage. And, yes, working to keep religious indoctrination out of the public schools is one important example of the sort of thing we ought to be doing in this regard.

In summary: There are lots of things we do as the SHL that I would do anyway even if there was no such group, but what the SHL does that I think is invaluable is to ensure that people like us are not marginalized, abused or slandered by virtue of the fact that we choose not to belong to a church and are therefore cut off from an essential part of the political structure here in Charleston. If it wasn't for that, I'd happily quit the SHL and just go back to being an individual "cat", still agreeing with all of the principles of the SHL, but doing so on my own and free of any "herding".

But, I bet there are other people who feel differently about it than me. Anyone?


Nov 19 2008
Re: What is Humanism? (moved from another forum)

Basically I diferentiate Humanism from Atheism as a broad philosophy label from a Materialist worldview label. Humanism seeks to include all humans someday.

Atheism is a positive freedom from irrationality.

Just as good health is defined as not being sick, Atheism is not being a believer. Materialism was well defined by our speaker Sunday, yet he'd like to promote the Humanist label to the detriment of the Atheist label.

Perhaps he never questioned the false definition of Atheism by Webster?

Yes it is a "negative" to "deny god."

But that is Webster self servingly posturing there is a god to deny.

Atheists demand proof. The burden of proof belongs upon believers.

Atheists have no theism. "A" means the absence of in Greek & "theism" means alleging deities exist. No Atheist would both deny an alleged deity and also allow believers free reign to make irrational claims without evidence or reason.

God is a meaningless term. God is a generic meaningless word. The German "Gott" appeared on every German soldiers belt buckle. Since 1955 In god We Trust has appeared on every paper money sheet printed. Our 1776 Declaration refers only to "Nature & Natures God." Pre-Darwin, Science was creationist then, but now no single supernatural claim is allowed in science. Alleged deities explain nothing in science, as no longer is a "luminiferous ether" allowed to be the substance of a creator.

I agree with all in SHL who are active in challenging religious attacks upon science, gynecology, sex education & our peers/students by theocrats.

We ought to be active in ending the prayers to the US flag. Muttering the words "under god" can only be a prayer, not science or implying equality for Atheists, Polytheists or sincere Christians who do not swear to icons or pray in public as prohibited by Matthew.

We can do that by attending & speaking out at school board meetings, debates over the proposed "I Believer" Christian Cross license plates and demanding from elected officials we be treated equally. We can demand an end to tax exemptions & outright funding of church businesses thereby reducing our existing tax burdens on our homes & secular businesses.

It matters not to call that Humanism, Atheism, Secularism, Objectivism, Realism, Rationalism, Agnosticism, Brightism, Pantheism, Unitarian Universalism, Freethought or even evade attacks to be outed by theocrats. Sometimes avoiding a battle keeps some free to support those of us who are fighting theocracy.

Asking What is Humanism or any other ism is not half as important as what we can do for a future free from religious violence & religious corruptions.

We're here, we're free of theism & we have our work cut out for us.

Nov 23 2008
Re: What is Humanism? (moved from another forum)

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal and reprinted in todays P&C about getting the nonbelievers message out.

Frank B

Nov 24 2008
Re: What is Humanism? (moved from another forum)

I understand Frank B.'s wanting SHL members to take action of some kind in order to distinguish Humanism from, for example, Goodwill Industries. My concern is that, in order to accomplish the most good, we need to avoid coming across as "anti" anything (supernaturalism) and attempt to present ourselves as peacemakers. You know the old saw about honey versus vinegar.

I think it would be helpful if, in any discussion concerning what action to take, we keep in our consciousness the principles stated in our Principles and Values statement. The items listed in the section "In Our Social World" make some positive statements about what our goals are. Keeping these in mind, the question becomes: how can we best achieve these?

Also, how do we wish to be perceived by the community at large ten years from now, and how best can we accomplish this? If we really do want to "eliminate discrimination", "encourage negotiation", "secure justice and fairness", etc., I am concerned that too much "anti" actions will work against us.

I would like to hear what ideas others may have about what actions we can take that will move us in the direction we wish to go. The support of separation of church and state, as mentioned by Alex, is a good example of action which can be taken with a positive approach rather than negative. Maybe we can talk about the value we place on reason and evidence without attacking supernaturalism directly. I doubt that many believers in the supernatural have ever changed their minds because someone attacked the idea. Instead, they usually dig their heels in deeper.

Let's keep discussing this until we can all feel good about any plan of action. I think we can do this.

Frank H.

Nov 24 2008
Re: What is Humanism? (moved from another forum)

If I may offer a few words as a long-time Charlestonian atheist, about the value of secular humanist organizations in general and the SHL in particular. Back in the ante-bellum days, social rank in Charleston was inextricably linked to which church one attended. Membership in the right church lent automatic respectability. How the "best " churches got the prize I'm not certain, but I would guess it was by claiming the most respected members of the community as members.

For me, the motivation for the SHL is two-fold. First, it provides times and places several times a month for atheists and freethinkers to be completely open about their beliefs, since things haven't changed all that much in Charleston in the last 143 years. The second is to create a positive image of atheists and humanists so that the long-time unwarranted, negative public perceptions will change.

Achieving the first goal is relatively easy and the SHL has done it successfully for more than a decade. Achieving the second goal, I agree, will take some positive action by humanists, if possible on an international scale. But what? The ideal humanitarian project would be one that is not already strongly identified with another group, and that is limited enough in scope that a relatively small group of people can make noticeable progress. In other words, world hunger is probably out. I will write in again if I come up with anything.

Respectfully yours,

Rhett Butler

Nov 24 2008
Re: What is Humanism? (moved from another forum)

The American Humanist Association seems to have started a project, limited in scope, and in our hemisphere. Is this something we could get behind as a group?

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