"What embitters the world is not excess of criticism, but an absence of self-criticism." - G.K. Chesterton

Monday, February 04, 2008

More on humanism

In the comments to this post below, I stated that humanism shouldn't be seen as a purely atheistic standpoint. This is from an article by Richard Norman (interviewed in the second podcast) in a recent edition of 'New Humanist' magazine:

Humanism is more than atheism, it is about putting humanist beliefs and values into practice and trying to make the world a better place. And that is impossible unless we’re prepared to cooperate with others who share those values, including those for whom the values are inseparable from a religious commitment.

It goes deeper than that. For many humanists, religious believers are also friends, lovers, colleagues, neighbours, spouses and partners. The attitude that religion poisons everything is unlikely to be an auspicious basis for such relationships. We really do need something a bit more nuanced.

And this brings me to my practical conclusion. If we are serious about our humanist values, we should look for all those who share them, and work with them. If, according to Hitchens, that means that such people are really humanists after all, then call them that if you wish, but accept that they may also be committed Christians or Muslims or Hindus or Buddhists or whatever. The labels don’t matter. If Christians are happy to defend science against the idiocies of creationism, let’s work with them. When the news broke that state schools in this country were teaching creationism as science, Dawkins and Richard Harries, then Bishop of Oxford, issued a joint statement of criticism. Dawkins has been accused of inconsistency in doing so but it doesn’t matter, it was the right thing to do and it was highly effective. After the most recent attempted suicide bombings in Britain, national newspapers carried a full-page advertisement by Muslim organisations condemning the bombings and dissociating themselves from them. What are we supposed to say? “You’re just as bad”? That would be madness. They need our encouragement, and we need their help.

This pretty much sums up my own views, and hopefully shows why I see blogs such as this one as worthwhile and important.

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