One of the constant gnats of contention in the Humanist movement is the a struggle between people who want to have a complete, clean break from religion and those who complain about humanists mocking or ridiculing religion. In a recent blog post, PZ Myers makes some excellent points why secular humanism is not just a replacement for religion.
Myers makes the comments in a post about a recent interview with author Philip Kitcher by Chris Stedman. Myers concern was about the typical complaints by people like Kitcher (and Stedman, too) over the “New Atheists” and the buzz of religious apologetics.
What parts of religion do we need to replace? Dogma? I’d like to see that gone. Ritual? Some people find that comforting, but even entirely secular people are capable of finding satisfaction in their own patterns, without some guy trying to tell them what they should be doing. Values? It seems to me that the churches have always been far behind the enlightened members of society, changing only in response to fairly intense pressure to accommodate — see anything to do with race or sex for examples of religion failing and humanist ideals having to first flatten the religious bullshit to get through to people.
I agree that secular humanism is a positive contribution. I don’t see it replacing religion, though, because it’s providing something religion never had in the first place.
Religion is all about other people’s values — providing an institution from which one can snipe at other people’s values and reassure your co-religionists that you’re all perfectly correct. If religion were really about human wellbeing, than the churches would be at the forefront of the struggle for LGBTQ rights, for instance; they’d all be citing the scriptures that say that all human beings are equally deserving of happiness, and that you shouldn’t oppress or harm people for not behaving in private the way you want them to.
The problem is that there are no scriptures like that.
I agree with Myers.
Many Humanists I know think like Kitcher. They think that secular humanism and theistic religion are only different in the wrapping paper used when in fact the foundations are completely different.
Those who only think the difference is small are those who are only exposed to the liberal religion common in the liberal college towns and cities these Humanists live in. They think all religion is like Unitarians when much of organized religion is further to the right than that.
What is the purpose of Humanism if we stay in what is a bubble of masturbatory adulation.
This is one reason organized Humanism has a diversity problem. When your numbers are overwhelmingly white, you struggle to make a connection with Humanists of color.
The real work and challenge is to move Humanism forward outside the oppressive shadow of the historical religious traditions and outside our own little bubble.
That’s why I am a secular humanist.