Religion can also be humanistic.
Sixty million Americans--one-quarter of the population--presently identify themselves as Christian fundamentalists. Add to this the number of traditionally religious Americans who do not consider themselves fundamentalists, and you have the majority of citizens in this country. Despite the obvious expansion of secular philosophies in popular culture, this immense number of religious traditionalists is unlikely to decrease in the near future. Though a trend away from orthodoxy will probably continue, the allegiance to a religious conception of humankind and the world will presumably pre·sum·a·ble
That can be presumed or taken for granted; reasonable as a supposition: presumable causes of the disaster. remain.
Humanists facing this situation may have to significantly rethink their humanist advocacy if they are to communicate relevantly to a broad democratic body. With a core religious population in America, humanists must be willing to engage in the social atmosphere as it exists--not sit back idly, convinced that religion is an empty subject.
In 1981, conservative Christians objected to a history textbook that described Erasmus as a Christian humanist. They argued that humanists cannot be Christians because they do not believe in God. Unfortunately, this opinion is perhaps equally prevalent among humanists today. Conservative evangelicals seem convinced that humanism is a human-centered religion in competition with their own faith, while humanists often see religion as unnecessary at best, oppressive at worst.
The meanings of the term humanism have changed significantly over the years; the use of the term in its modern sense can be found in the atheistic a·the·is·tic also a·the·is·ti·cal
1. Relating to or characteristic of atheism or atheists.
2. Inclined to atheism.
a concept of writers such as Karl Marx and Pierre Joseph Proudhon. To see that Jean-Paul Sartre Noun 1. Jean-Paul Sartre - French writer and existentialist philosopher (1905-1980)
Sartre entitled a 1947 essay "Existentialism existentialism (ĕgzĭstĕn`shəlĭzəm, ĕksĭ–), any of several philosophic systems, all centered on the individual and his relationship to the universe or to God. Is a Humanism" makes it clear that humanism is not a monolithic entity but, rather, a diverse collection of beliefs with a shared concern for human welfare. Thus, it may well be time to ask if religion can also be humanistic.
As long as humanism is not taken to be a human-centered religion but, rather, a sincere commitment to social progress through the expansion of democracy, devotion to peaceful resolution of conflicts, and compassion for the oppressed op·press
tr.v. op·pressed, op·press·ing, op·press·es
1. To keep down by severe and unjust use of force or authority: a people who were oppressed by tyranny.
2. and exploited, then certainly religious faith does not disqualify To deprive of eligibility or render unfit; to disable or incapacitate.
To be disqualified is to be stripped of legal capacity. A wife would be disqualified as a juror in her husband's trial for murder due to the nature of their relationship. one from being a humanist. This is precisely the point that humanists should consider making an integral part of their social philosophy in the future. The defining issue is not the philosophical validity of theism theism (thē`ĭzəm), in theology and philosophy, the belief in a personal God. It is opposed to atheism and agnosticism and is to be distinguished from pantheism and deism (see deists). . Humanists contrast their beliefs with those of religious conservatives by pointing out the tentativeness of their idea of truth, yet the supposed falseness of theism seems to be all but an absolute fact to many.
There is an unfortunate belief that religion is a refuge for the irrational, leading to a condescending assertion that religious faith can (and should) be "educated away." This runs the risk of encouraging humanists to establish an aggressively anti-theistic educational base that tries to hasten a move toward a purely secular society.
Those who think that religion is only for the simple-minded have probably made the mistake of taking fundamentalists at their word when they claim their narrow formulations represent the truest sense of religion. But religious belief can be far more complex and rich than that. Remember, whatever excellent arguments have been put forward in this century by such distinguished atheists as Bertrand Russell (person) Bertrand Russell - (1872-1970) A British mathematician, the discoverer of Russell's paradox. and Jean-Paul Sartre, they have not crippled the religious faith of intellectually powerful figures from William James Noun 1. William James - United States pragmatic philosopher and psychologist (1842-1910)
James to Harold Bloom '''
Harold Bloom (born July 11, 1930) is an American professor and prominent literary and cultural critic. Bloom defended 19th-century Romantic poets at a time when their reputations stood at a low ebb, has constructed controversial theories of poetic influence, and .
Nor has a faith in religion always led to authoritarian, oppressive social philosophies. The examples of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Archbishop Oscar Romero, and the philosophically challenging writings of Paul Tillich Noun 1. Paul Tillich - United States theologian (born in Germany) (1886-1965)
Paul Johannes Tillich, Tillich and John Cobb, are ample testimony to the possibility of faith, intelligence, and social progressivity pro·gres·siv·i·ty
n. pl. pro·gres·siv·i·ties
The quality or degree of being progressive: "Proponents of progressivity often argue that higher-income people should pay higher taxes because they benefit more as partners in one conscience.
If we accept that, in the near future, there will be a continuing majority of religious people in America, are we to think of this group as a perpetual enemy? Such a conclusion has sad consequences to those who believe in a pluralist democracy. The general response to fundamentalist activism has been to vigorously oppose any breaches in the separation of church and state
Unfortunately, in response to this threat, many humanists malign religion in general. They see little need for an alliance with religionists, whom they caricature as narrow-minded absolutists. The adversarial tone that follows from this in much humanist writing no doubt disappoints some readers who might otherwise be sympathetic to the social goals of humanism. Thus, a large group of nonfundamentalist religionists are lost to passivity, even to right-wing causes, because humanism appears so unfriendly to those with any religious faith.
Fundamentalists have managed to forge a coalition with nonreligious conservatives who agree with them on such key issues as abortion, defense spending, the war on drugs, and so on. Humanism and liberal religion cannot afford to stay separate if they are to achieve pragmatic goals in our society.
An expansion of the public discourse by religious humanists can take many forms. It is safe to say that the most useful approaches to a religiously based humanism will not be orthodox but will nonetheless be rooted in traditional theistic the·ism
Belief in the existence of a god or gods, especially belief in a personal God as creator and ruler of the world.
the or deistic de·ism
The belief, based solely on reason, in a God who created the universe and then abandoned it, assuming no control over life, exerting no influence on natural phenomena, and giving no supernatural revelation. concepts. Three of these approaches are:
* Process theology. As expressed in the works of John B. Cobb
this theology is intelligently formulated to avoid the tendencies
religion can have toward oppressively static and
authoritarian images that suffer from "culture lag" as social
* Christian socialism. This movement was based upon extrapolations
from the Christian duty to aid the weak and oppressed.
It had its most active expression in continental
Europe, especially in the writings of Paul Tillich. Today it
is perhaps best expressed in the writings of Princeton theologian
* The ecumenical movement. Hans Kung and John Hick are the
most prominent theologians in this attempt to overcome the
exclusionary aspects of many revealed religions. The goal
in this case is not to establish an enforced "world religion"
but, rather, to create an atmosphere of mutual acceptance
and intersubjectivity Intersubjectivity is something which is shared by two or more subjectivites.
The term is used in three ways.
Of course, secular humanists themselves need not adopt a theistic point of view; this, too, would go against the pluralistic precepts of a modern democracy. But they would do well to expand their attention to religious issues from merely criticizing faith healers, debunking de·bunk
tr.v. de·bunked, de·bunk·ing, de·bunks
To expose or ridicule the falseness, sham, or exaggerated claims of: debunk a supposed miracle drug. the supernatural, and calling for rigid separation of church and state.
It is not a matter of secular humanists sugarcoating their philosophy with cynically employed religious language. Religious humanism must be sincere and intellectually rigorous if it is to be of real use. As in Harvey Cox's Secular City, the secular and the religious can exist side by side with tolerance and respect for one another. Moreover, secular humanists who await the certain demise of religion are waiting for a dream not likely to become a reality anytime soon. As we enter a new millennium, America remains a profoundly religious country. A much more plausible idea (though difficult to achieve) is a society with a majority of socially progressive citizens from a mixture of religious and secular backgrounds. Secular humanists should endeavor to bring such a society about, with the aid of religious humanists.
David Burgin, 23, is currently pursuing an English major and political-science minor at Arizona State University Arizona State University, at Tempe; coeducational; opened 1886 as a normal school, became 1925 Tempe State Teachers College, renamed 1945 Arizona State College at Tempe. Its present name was adopted in 1958. . He wants to study English literature on the graduate level and then make a career in publishing or education.