Friday, May 22, 2009

Me, Me and More Me

On its surface, the philosophy of humanism seems to be a pretty good idea.

Since rational thinking and compassion are often in short supply in the world, a philosophy that emphasizes the need for both of those things would typically appeal to me. Honestly, if more people thought about why they do the things they do, and then thought about how their actions would affect everyone else, well the world would be an awesome place.

But, that's not all humanism deals with. At its core, the philosophy preaches that mankind understands right and wrong, innately, and that we don't need religious texts or supernatural beings to keep us on the right path. We, as humans, are the apex of the animal world, the most perfect being on this planet, and as such we have no need of the false wisdom of some far-away God.

And that's where I leave the humanism train.

For those of you who forgot, we're still discussing the six corrupting agents of religion and the black community. It's part of a series I began recently and humanism is the corrupting agent we're discussing today.

You know, I've had a lot of discussions with folks who see the whole "Christian" thing as a bunch of malarkey. They might be folks who dislike organized religion, or who think it's idiotic to think you know which God is the real God, sometimes I talk to cats who believe in another religion or folks that think my concept of Christianity is all skewed. But, the folks I've disliked talking to the most, the ones who I now try to avoid, are the ones who think that anybody who believes that a God exists should be branded with a big "VI" for village idiot and kicked off the Earth.

Yeah, those folks.

It seems like humanism caters to those people. The people who think that they are ultimate example of life, and that if we could just eliminate the corrupting influence of religion, mankind could finally get on with the business of solving all of life's mysteries. You know why I'm not a fan of those cats? Because they think life is all about them.

When you accept and promote the idea that mankind is the best life has to offer, the best result you can hope for is hubris. The worst, is a nihilistic outlook on life where no standards or values are respected. When each individual human being becomes their own god, when they accept the idea that they only truly need to look within themselves for answers, well that seems to be a recipe for disaster.

Welcome to Anyhood, USA.

Folks like to point to crack cocaine, or the decline of nuclear families as the reason for many of the problems in the black community. Sometimes they talk about discrimination, racism and other ills. But, me, well I'm convinced that black folks have begun to believe the hype. Far too many of have decided that it's all about "us."

These young cats on the street, and some of these older cats in the boardroom, have decided that nobody and nothing is more important than them. That they don't owe allegiance or fidelity or respect or anything to anyone. There is no God that can cast judgement on them, no standard of living besides "whatever it takes."

I know that atheists and agnostics hate to hear it, but to me, this seems to be the logical end of humanism. People believe that human beings can set their own "standards" establish their own guidelines and rules, but I remain unconvinced. I'm skeptical of a world without religion and the rules and guidelines religion establishes. From what I've seen in the black community and other communities, a reliance on the shifting internal morality of human beings, a disregard for the authority and power of God, only leads to chaos and violence.

Honestly, I think humans need that big, bad bogeyman in the sky, or at least his blueprint for right and wrong, to truly understand how to live their lives. I think that history shows that while religion is often used for evil, when practiced correctly, it is an incredible force for good. I think that when we puff ourselves up, when we see no one and nothing as having ultimate authority over us, we don't seem to treat our fellow human beings as valuable equals. This can happen even with religion, but I fear it is more common without it.

Some folks will disagree with me. They will say they have their own internal moral compass that is not swayed by the words of some fairy tale God. I say hogwash. I say that with the way religion has infiltrated every aspect of modern life, it is impossible to claim that you live life without any of God's morality. Sure, you may not worship him, but the concepts of right and wrong that govern acceptable behavior in this country come directly from what "thus says the Lord." People may not cling to all of the rules, but they are aware of the gist.

After all, how does the idea of "do unto others as they do unto you" serve the self interest of most humans? Yet, you hear it repeated by atheists and agnostics alike as a guiding belief in their life. They may call it karma, or some other name, but the concept is the same. We are too far down the road to ever truly eradicate religion, and pretending like it does not have power, that it does not serve a purpose is the height of idiotic arrogance.

We as humans, black and whatever else, must embrace the idea that we are not the most important beings on the planet. The mere fact of our humanity does not bestow on us a form of deity. There is something greater than us, and we need to respect this concept. Not only does it serve as a stabilizing force, it serves as a model of behavior for us to aspire to.

We ain't all that.


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12 comments:

Lisa J said...

Wow, I never thought of it this way and as a non-religious agnostic with slightly Christian tendencies this makes me feel very bad and slightly shamed. You have given me much to think about Big Man, not sure I agree but I appreciate your insightful intelligent take on this. Thank you.

Big Man said...

Thank you for reading with an open mind Lisa.

older_not_wiser said...

Wow. Lots to digest here. I'm guessing you didn't have a problem with writer's block with this topic. :) I have to get some work done today so I'm just going to hit a few points here then get back to it. But watch out; I can talk forever about this topic.

You seem to have set up a straw-man "humanism", imbued it with the worst features of egotistic human behavior, and proposed that it is the sole alternative to religious belief. But humanism isn't just "we do what we want". Humans are social creatures with a long development phase (childhood) and physical limitations that require communication and cooperation. Humanism simply postulates that we possess the skill and the will to create a life that accommodates these realities, and the ability to find fulfillment in doing so. (In fact, to atheists, this is ipso facto true, as the rules held to have been handed down by gods actually are the product of the human mind.)

I have come to think that human beings evolved to believe in supernatural forces. As our ancient ancestors bumped against the level of self-awareness sufficient to understand that each of them would inevitably die and be forgotten, only those who were able to see themselves as part of a continuum in which part of them would transcend death overcame the paralyzing horror of the essential meaninglessness of life and thrived. This became more complex as the human mind did, but the core of religiousness is an inescapable part of what makes us human.

That fact also informs the humanist's worldview. It is human to see ourselves as part of a whole, whether a tribe, a nation or the planet. It is human to feel part of the "web of life" that connects us to even non-human life. These facts can be be the basis of either a supernatural or natural moral code. And a moral code, a shared set of beliefs, is necessary for a functioning society. The key difference between a religious and humanist moral code is that the former is usually taken largely without examination. The good the bad and the foolish are part of the package of received Truth that is not our place to question. The latter allows acknowledgment of its imperfect origins and is, ideally, more tolerant of change and refinement.

"do unto others as they do unto you"I'm sure you meant "do unto others as you would have others do unto you, " which certainly is word-for-word the most powerful advice ever uttered. Evolutionary biologists use the term "reciprocal altruism" to describe how giving up short-term advantage can promote the good of the overall group, and so the individual. It's not so hard to see this as one thread in the tangled skein of human motivation.

We as humans, black and whatever else, must embrace the idea that we are not the most important beings on the planet. The mere fact of our humanity does not bestow on us a form of deity. There is something greater than us, and we need to respect this concept. Not only does it serve as a stabilizing force, it serves as a model of behavior for us to aspire to.This could easily be the basis of a moral code that doesn't require a god. Really, the gulf between thoughtful people on either side is not that wide. It gives me hope.

Deacon Blue said...

I'm not sure that the logical end of humanism is chaos, anarchy and narcissism, but I do get your jist and largely agree with your post. I think that humans who gather in communities can always find a moral compass of some sort. I'd say that people who cling to humanism in and of itself are setting themselves and society up for failure.

But I also think that people who hold to institutionalized religion too strongly (and not the Word of God instead) also set themselves up for all kinds of hubris.

Good post. Well articulated. Nice points, and I really like your notion that we need to sometimes have a superior and more evolved entity hanging over our heads sometimes, just like kids need those parents around who seem to always know when they're up to no good.
;-)

Big Man said...

Older

Thanks for the correction and the thoughtful post. I'm glad you gave me some more info on humanism, because my view was clearly not a positive one.

What you described, while not something I totally agree with, is not as ridiculous as what I've seen from others. Thanks again for the different perspective.

Big Man said...

Deac

I think the parent analogy works, but most people find that to be a sign of the immaturity of believers.

To each his own.

Deacon Blue said...

Hmmm, one wonaders: Would they think us more mature if we called Him a tyrannical overlord? LOL.

Thordaddy said...

older_not_wiser,

The problem with humanism is that once we get past the abstract academic fluff we run head on into the concrete beliefs of its most vocal adherents.

Meaning, almost all self-identified "humanists" are pro-abortion/anti-death penalty "liberals."

With this understanding, any intellectually honest "humanist" could see that there might appear to be a great schism between ideal humanism and its practical reality.

The practical reality is that if one can define "humanism" as roughly equivalent to the notion that one should "do unto others as you would have others do unto you" then in what light should we view modern humanists and their general pro-abortion/anti-death penalty beliefs?

The fundamental reality is that modern humanists are those that believe their mothers had the "right" to kill them in utero and also believe that if they were to commit a capital murder then their lives should be spared by society.

But is this what "do unto others as you would have others do unto you" really means? Does it means one can be pro-abortion/anti-death penalty and call himself a "humanist?"

Put more bluntly, modern humanists facilitate the culling of both America citizens and future American progeny through abortion and advocating for the "rights" of murderers.

This is what a humanist is and why his "philosophy" has been rejected throughout time.

Mr. Noface said...

@ Big Man
"When you accept and promote the idea that mankind is the best life has to offer, the best result you can hope for is hubris. The worst, is a nihilistic outlook on life where no standards or values are respected. When each individual human being becomes their own god, when they accept the idea that they only truly need to look within themselves for answers, well that seems to be a recipe for disaster."


I believe that humanism is nihilistic in this sense: If YOU are the god that you worship and get all your answers from, then your god is going to die (taking you along with him). Since there is no afterlife (only the here and now), once you are gone that's it you are gone. Isn't that the ultimate example of nihilism?

"Some folks will disagree with me. They will say they have their own internal moral compass that is not swayed by the words of some fairy tale God. I say hogwash. I say that with the way religion has infiltrated every aspect of modern life, it is impossible to claim that you live life without any of God's morality. Sure, you may not worship him, but the concepts of right and wrong that govern acceptable behavior in this country come directly from what "thus says the Lord." People may not cling to all of the rules, but they are aware of the gist."

Another huge co-sign there, man. The truth is that man can and does make a religion (gods) out of anything (anyone), so even if we weren't influenced by religious precepts in seting our moral compass, we would still have religion in some form (with its precepts possibly inlfuencing future generations foolishly claiming that they've abandoned all aspects of said religion).


@Deacon Blue
"But I also think that people who hold to institutionalized religion too strongly (and not the Word of God instead) also set themselves up for all kinds of hubris."

co-sign with this statement John Hancock style.

Big Man said...

No face

You co-signing all over the place. Better watch your credit man.

lol

Mr. Noface said...

LMAO!!

Shady_Grady said...

I don't think that believing in a supernatural being has anything to do with morality one way or another.

Concepts of right and wrong don't come from supernatural beings, they come from people.

It's human beings who judge right and wrong and create internal or external standards by which to live.

I have no issue with religious people as such but I think that organized religion has on balance done more harm than good in the world. There are evil atheists and beatific believers of course but again that has nothing to do with believing or not believing in the Flying Spaghetti Monster..

Raving Black Lunatic