Sunday, August 12, 2007

Affirmations of Humanism

Jeannette is gone all week at Camp Quest, a secular summer camp just outside of the Twin Cities. It caters to the children of Humanists. But, what is Humanism? The definition is difficult to nail down, and most places like to talk in terms of affirmations, or concepts Humanists value. Not all Humanists agree with all affirmations, but it serves as a guide. Camp Quest has their own list of affirmations:

A Statement of Principles

* We are committed to the application of reason and science to the understanding of the universe and to the solving of human problems.
* We deplore efforts to denigrate human intelligence, to seek to explain the world in supernatural terms, and to look outside nature for salvation.
* We believe that scientific discovery and technology can contribute to the betterment of human life.
* We believe in an open and pluralistic society and that democracy is the best guarantee of protecting human rights from authoritarian elites and repressive majorities.
* We are committed to the principle of the separation of church and state.
* We cultivate the arts of negotiation and compromise as a means of resolving differences and achieving mutual understanding.
* We are concerned with securing justice and fairness in society and with eliminating discrimination and intolerance.
* We believe in supporting the disadvantaged and the handicapped so that they will be able to help themselves.
* We attempt to transcend divisive parochial loyalties based on race, religion, gender, nationality, creed, class, sexual orientation, or ethnicity, and strive to work together for the common good of humanity.
* We want to protect and enhance the earth, to preserve it for future generations, and to avoid inflicting needless suffering on other species.
* We believe in enjoying life here and now and in developing our creative talents to their fullest.
* We believe in the cultivation of moral excellence.
* We respect the right to privacy. Mature adults should be allowed to fulfill their aspirations, to express their sexual preferences, to exercise reproductive freedom, to have access to comprehensive and informed health-care, and to die with dignity.
* We believe in the common moral decencies: altruism, integrity, honesty, truthfulness, responsibility. Humanist ethics is amenable to critical, rational guidance. There are normative standards that we discover together. Moral principles are tested by their consequences.
* We are deeply concerned with the moral education of our children. We want to nourish reason and compassion.
* We are engaged by the arts no less than by the sciences.
* We are citizens of the universe and are excited by discoveries still to be made in the cosmos.
* We are skeptical of untested claims to knowledge, and we are open to novel ideas and seek new departures in our thinking.
* We affirm humanism as a realistic alternative to theologies of despair and ideologies of violence and as a source of rich personal significance and genuine satisfaction in the service to others.
* We believe in optimism rather than pessimism, hope rather than despair, learning in the place of dogma, truth instead of ignorance, joy rather than guilt or sin, tolerance in the place of fear, love instead of hatred, compassion over selfishness, beauty instead of ugliness, and reason rather than blind faith or irrationality.
* We believe in the fullest realization of the best and noblest that we are capable of as human beings.

The nature of Humanism denies the inclusion of religious adherents, however, there is common ground to be found.

Jeannette should be back in a week to give her report of the camp.


JKC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JKC said...

That last post was so fraught with typos as to be beyond recovery. Here's a second attempt.

I'll say there's a lot of common ground there. As a committed member of the LDS church, I can get behind all but the second affirmation.

I will say, though, that I find it curious to deplore the supernatural and at the same time be "engaged by the arts no less than by the sciences" when so much of the world's great art has been inspired by a belief in the supernatural. Maybe you can explain this.

If the second affirmation were a bit softer in it's language I could probably agree. For example, "We are skeptical of efforts to explain the world in supernatural terms." I am a bit of a natural skeptic, so I naturally am disposed not to believe many supernatural experiences. But with some things my personal experience says "yes," even though my abstract reasoning says "yeah right." I can't deny my own experiences just because I can't understand them.

I'm curious to know why humanism inherently excludes religious belief. Perhaps I'm working with a different version of humanism, but I had never heard that.

Bjorn said...

I think they should have called it secular humanism. But, even with Minnesota Humanists, they have a disbelief in the supernatural as one of their key points. I think humanism could be a great way to pull groups with common interests together for common good, as a reaction to hateful fundamentalists, or other fringe groups.

Bjorn said...

When Bill was here last, we talked a little about humanism. It ended with a disagreement about evolution. One of his kids asked him about evolution, and Bill told his kid not to believe everything your teachers tell you. Good advice, but I guess better advice would be to research some stuff for yourself, look at the evidence, make up your own mind.