“Why should I be a humanist?” you ask?
You shouldn’t. Not necessarily.
Humanism is a simple belief in the value of humanity. Humanists consider human life precious and care for others without judgment. It is not a way of life as much as it is a way of thinking which becomes a habit. That habit, of looking at people as people and nothing else, takes time to develop. But, it’s worth it.
Let’s get one thing straight. There’s no one right way to be a humanist.
You can be an atheist and not a humanist.
You can be a Christian and a humanist.
You can be humanist and not really know what else you believe.
However, at the core of what humanism stands for is the notion that we must help other humans in need. And, to be honest, I don’t know many people who would refute that belief. Or, if they do, they’re not quick to share it in public.
So, I won’t tell you why you should be a humanist. I will simply tell you some of the things that I think this philosophy has to offer. You feel free to take it or leave it. I’m not here as a missionary for atheism, humanism… or anything.
There are people who want humanists to organize and some atheists have even started their own centers where people can come enjoy fellowship with other atheists and humanists. That’s cool. Don’t get me wrong. But, that is not what humanism is about, per se. It’s not about organized and dictated activities or philosophies and it certainly isn’t about defining yourself as “separate” from the rest of mankind.
I am more interested in peace within the human experience than anything else. And, to do that, we have got to start thinking for ourselves.
Here are 5 Reasons that I, personally, identify as an atheist and a secular humanist:
- I think many world religions, specifically Christianity and Islam, are creating a great deal of unnecessary pain and suffering for mankind. To be fair, it’s not THE RELIGION, but the people who follow it. A religion, in and of itself, cannot do much of anything. It’s an institution that people can make the choice to take or leave. I want to help people and enjoy my time with humans, but I don’t want to be tied down by religious doctrine and the “powers that be” within the church.
- Humans are marvelous and I believe in our abilities. I do not, necessarily, believe that humans are the BEST species, or that other animals are inferior. I don’t believe that at all. I just believe that, at this moment in time, we have the most power on our planet. I want to see us use it wisely and with respect for other humans (as well as wildlife and other animals.) I think humanism breeds acceptance, rather than hate, which can only make people better. The better we are, the more responsibly we can care for our planet and one another.
- I do not believe that there is a God. The entire concept seems farfetched and unlikely. It is not impossible that I am wrong and I have no way to prove that there is no God. I don’t know how human life and existence came to be, but I don’t think it was because God created us. There are many other scientific theories and hypotheses that make far more sense to me.
- Sometimes, people say, “Aren’t you better safe than sorry?” when it comes to God. The answer to this is NO. a. Because I do not want to serve a god who would banish me to eternal suffering merely for not believing that he existed. and b. I am a good person and I believe that any decent god, or gods, would see that. Humanism is all about acceptance and love, which (last time I checked) was what pretty much every world religion is supposed to be about.
- I have been to church, plenty. I was raised Catholic (sort of), went to Catholic school and learned a great deal about Christianity as a child. All of the good parts, I clung to. I held on to the tenants that made sense to me. Like: Love thy neighbor, the Golden Rule and the total love and acceptance of others (even prostitutes and lepers.) And, I can still live that way without church, or God, or a special book. It’s just not something that I feel that I need in order to live my best life.
Humanism does have its opponents, even among progressives and atheists. I do know people who have trouble with some of the rationales surrounding what they consider to “speciesism” and I can’t totally disagree with their statements.
So, yes, there are doubters and critics out there.
But, that’s a good thing. That is how we learn and grow. That is how humanists, and everyone else in the world, get better. If we can’t face criticism, then we’re in big trouble. Listening to opposing viewpoints is the only way to truly learn anything new, in my opinion.
Decide for yourself. Don’t let me, or anyone else, tell you how to live. But, I do encourage you to think about your beliefs with a critical eye.