Why I Love Humanism

When I was atheist/agnostic I grew tired of people telling me “I can’t believe you don’t believe in anything. You’d have a much more fulfilling life if you did.” Atheists and agnostics believe in a lot of things. They have a tendency not to believe in supernaturalism- that hardly rules out “anything.”

They can believe society can function without religion. They can believe that death is a finality which makes life all the more wonderful. They can believe the sky is one of the most beautiful things in existence. They can believe our interactions with other people make life worth living. They can believe the color indigo is just a funny way of saying blue. They can believe wint-o-green blows the pants off peppermint.

Atheists have just as much belief invested in things as anyone else, they just don’t have a belief that has been indoctrinated into philosophy.

Am I an atheist? Technically, yes, but I’m fortunate to have found a system of core beliefs that align with what I find moral. I say “fortunate” not because absence of that is a bad thing, but because I got pretty sick of getting dirty looks when I said I was an atheist. At least when I say “humanist” people don’t know why they hate me yet.

Humanism is an unyielding faith in the human race that borders on arrogance, but, hell, we deserve it. I think our massive accomplishments have been dulled by the perceived drollness of it all. Shit, we started in caves. Just think about that. Now we have chunks of steel that carry us through the air, we have walked on the moon. Intelligence is the most amazing, incredible, extraordinary thing in the universe. We’ve done things we never would have conceived of doing at our conception. It is because we have come so far that I have ceased to believe we have limitations. I believe in the human race.

I was attracted to humanism because I found kindred philosophy, and I have been surprised to discover its very existence has modified my values.

“I hate people.” One of my common sayings, especially in my earlier days. Most of my jobs have been customer service jobs. I have dealt with some of the rudest, meanest, most awful people decent society has to offer (I say “decent society” as I have been spared serial killers, child molesters, and rapists). There have been so many times where I have been overcome with the urge to knock some bastard’s teeth out and say goodbye to this whole stinkin’ race.

Humanism keeps me from falling into despair. I know that beyond these petty differences and instances of rude behavior we have the capability to come together and build an empire. On the whole we’re all the same. Does it sound hopelessly idealistic? That honestly isn’t like me. I’m sure if I were the one reading this I would be rolling my eyes. I am no optimist, I assure you. When I think of how I feel and what keeps me from being pushed over edge these are simply the words that come out. I apologize for their flowery nature. I know too many people are too plain awful and stupid and cloud the sunny picture I paint for humankind (you know), but I try to remember that deep down they are people just like us and they want what is best for mankind as a whole- even if they have a skewed perception sometimes, as I’m sure I do from time to time.

So I love humanism because it makes me happier with the way of the world. Perhaps you find that hypocritical, as one of my complaints with religion is that people depend on it too much. The difference here is that humanism is only a philosophy, an ideal. I expect nothing from it, and it expects nothing from me. There is no fact or discovery that will disprove my belief in the capability of humankind. I have no reason to defend it or feel threatened if someone argues with it. I can continue to be humanist as long as I have a functioning mind, so I promise you, there’s plenty I believe in.

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8 thoughts on “Why I Love Humanism

  1. Humanists may consider themselves secular or religious. Many of us who grew up in a church may miss the spiritual support it provides. In college, I often went to the Unitarian Coffee House, an area for talks, games, and snacks on Friday nights.

    When it was time to marry, we called on Reverend Gold from the UU church in Richmond who counseled us and performed the service in the park.

    A church, any church, provides spiritual support for moral people seeking to be good and to do good. The camaraderie, the music, the message, all contribute to maintaining a “holy spirit”, that is to say, “feeling good about doing good and being good”.

    And it helps to have that support in a world where the wicked often profit at the expense of the rest of us.

    But a formal church is not a necessity. We also have the camaraderie of the authors we read, the discussions with like-minded people, and even discussions with people who disagree but help us clarify our faith.

    And, yes, it is a matter of faith. All churches that claim to follow God, also declare God to be Good. And it is our faith in Good that sustains us.

  2. I like much of what you say, but allow me to gently suggest you stretch the words “belief” and “faith” a bit too far, in my view. This can confuse accurate or helpful conversation between nonbelievers and believers. Nontheists do not “believe” in good as theists believe in god (unless, of course a person calls themself a religious humanist, which is very muddy water!). We choose the good, just and right because it makes sense. We choose to practice wisdom, compassion and cooperation because that’s reasonable and pragmatic, even a matter of survival. Humanism as I understand it, is not in any way a religion with a belief system. It is a rationally chosen way of life. As for the intentions of humankind, I’m not sure I share the extent of your optimism. There are many who are only interested in their own way and “rights.” Sometimes this is true of me as well, I admit, yet at least I’m aware of it and seek to do better. Anyway, I’m with you in the pursuit of a more humanistic participation in an essentially beautiful world. This just simply does not require beliefs.

    • During the events leading up to the financial crisis in 2008, many people at all levels of the banking industry participated in offering housing loans that were beyond the means of the borrower to repay. The banks were profiting by their ability to repackage the loans and sell them to investors, eliminating their own risks by passing it on to others. So management gave bonuses to employees for quantity of loans rather than quality. And their loan agents helped convince borrowers to take loans they were unlikely to be able to pay back.

      The question is, how does the loan agent resist the temptation to participate in these practices to get the bonus, and instead make only good, just, and right loans, when everyone else is profiting from the scheme?

      The only thing he knows for certain is the difference between a good loan and a bad one, And that he will immediately profit from making the bad loan. And he will personally suffer no repercussions because management supports the practice and will sign-off on any loan he makes.

      Doing the right thing is a matter of faith, that doing right will produce a better result in the long term, even if it means self-sacrifice in the short term. Wisdom looks beyond the immediate gains and losses. Pragmatism must see the long-term as well as the short term practicality of a choice. Optimism is the belief that everything will turn out well.

    • I see what you mean by my stretching of the word. What I was really trying to do was address the criticism that the non religious don’t believe in anything and are spiritually unfulfilled. Belief in values is different from belief in god, I wanted to impart that that belief gives the sense of fulfillment one mind find in religion.

      At least it has for me.

      • Yes, I get that, Taylor. I just think we need to be very careful with this highly “baggaged” terminology especially since nontheists are disrespected and brushed aside as merely “believing other gods” and such nonsense. I would say humanists or naturalistic thinkers do not practice any faith or belief. We don’t have to play the semantic game. I would say you rationally choose pragmatic values. But you have to say what you think and feel. It’s your blog, after all!

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