Saturday, December 08, 2007

Secular Humanism Is Not A Religion

The following essay discusses religion and faith in a way that many believers may find objectionable on first read. I would like to state that this is not intended as a personal attack on individuals, but on closed-mindedness. Like most theists, I am desperately searching for truth in a world where little is true. However, to show why Secular Humanism isn't a faith I have to compare it to faith, and along the way I must show why faith, in the traditional sense, is not a part of my worldview. There have been times when I have wished that I could believe in the Christian God, but I have yet to find a single compelling argument on his behalf. And I've been offered many over the years, perhaps hundreds. I'm just not a leap of faith kind of guy. At any rate, please know that I do respect faith and understand the need for it in humanity, and this essay should in no way be taken as a criticism of any specific person or faith other than in a very general sense.

Mitt Romney has once again tried to gain the religious right's stamp of approval, this time by trying to have his cake and eat it too. I'm sure it's lost on the general populace that you can't claim that your religion (Mormonism, or LDS) is compatible with Christianity (a view I've learned doesn't sit well with many Christians), then turn around and claim that we're all in one big war against Secular Humanism.

I'm pretty certain that Secular Humanism is not a faith, at least if it's me they're talking about (and I'm pretty sure it is). If anything, I'm a militant agnostic - I don't know and you don't either. While I lean pretty heavily toward atheism, which *is* a leap of faith and therefore arguably a religion, I simply don't have the evidence to prove that there is no higher power, at least in the traditional sense of a God who created the universe and takes an active role in the lives of people. At this point in history, religion has had a .000 batting average when it comes to conflicts between the two. Of course, science has as many advocates who ignore the tenets of science (proof must be repeatable, observable, and verifiable) to advance their own agenda, but without any way for religion to verify it's claims it simply cannot compete.

I am not saying that faith doesn't provide comfort, nor am I saying that there is no God. I am simply saying that faith has consistently given way to science over the past 1000 years and not the other way around.

This does not make me a religionist. It means I have a world view that doesn't include a personal God that I can appeal to or need to worry about making happy with conflicting and arbitrary rules to get into heaven. It means I don't have to agonize that an obviously evil man like Dick Cheney (and I've defined what I mean by evil before - ends justify the means in all cases) can affect the lives of millions of people to their detriment and wonder why the hell God is letting this happen. I don't have to wonder how we could be *made* and still be so deeply flawed if our creator is omniscient and omnipotent. And yes, I know the argument that Satan had his hand in our development cycle, but someone had to create Satan in that account and that means God.

If this sounds like I'm bashing religion, I'm really not trying to cause offense. I'm simply saying that I reject theological faith as a basis for understanding the universe. While I don't believe that we understand the universe at all well, we can use science to predict an outcome based on current conditions and past experience, and that's considerably more than faith can do. As such, to call Secular Humanism a religion is equivalent to calling science a religion when it is in some senses the antithesis of a religion. In science, faith gets you nowhere other than to point you in a direction of inquiry. In religion, faith gets you into heaven, unless you're wrong. Given that there are over 10,000 different faiths on the planet, I'm guessing that most people are getting it wrong.

And that almost certainly includes me, btw. After all, I don't know. And you don't either.

I do know, however, that Secular Humanism is not a religion. Unitairanism is a religion, and there are "secular humanists" in that church in droves, but it's not religion. Secular humanism is a *rejection* of traditional religion as a means of understanding life and our role in the cosmos. Freedom of religion also means freedom from everyone else's religion. Believe what you want to believe, so long as it does not pick my pocket or break my leg, and so long as you don't stick it in my face or try to control my life in it's name, and I will do the same for you. Put up Christmas trees and ignore the Old Religion roots of that tradition. Don't let your kids play games involving pretend magic, or keep them from dressing up on Halloween. Pull your kids out of public school and teach them at home. Pray for the oppressed, for the wronged, for the sick, for the deserving.

Just don't tell me my non-belief is in fact belief. Not until you've got a little proof on your side, a little scientific method. Something more than "I believe, and so should you." Because I'm not telling you that at all.

1 comment:

Greg W said...

I read a blog by Chris Bateman called "Only a Game". I originally found it reading his entries on video games. Since then II've been fascinated by his writings on religion and ethics.

These are topics that he writes about in a way that I can appreciate - where I did not before. Here's an article about biblical literalism from August:

It doesn't pertain to what you've written here but may serve as a jumping off point to exploring his blog if you're interested.