Future of Humanism
Beyond Sectarianism: The Future of Humanity
There are countless examples of people working together with a sense of compassionate justice to help other people, as well as wildlife, forests, rivers, oceans. Is this an option anymore? It seems clear that the human future, interlaced as that is with the future of all life, is completely dependent on whether we choose the secular or the sectarian. Do we continue to squabble and war over which land or river, heaven or holy book is best or holiest? Will we always be divided in mind or body by borders, barriers, fences, and walls? Freethinkers see the power of choice (one definition of heresy) and fearlessly choose -- or so we intend. This isn't simply cold Science, it's passionate common sense.
It may be true that Humanists are fundamentalists about this one thing: there is (some would say "may be") no God, but there is Good. As the Harvard Humanist Chaplain Greg Epstein writes, "[It] is truly a sin to go on fixating on our petty little differences over territory, sexual morality, and other theological minutia while failing to acknowledge that there can be no greater ethical failure than allowing any of our differences -- religious or secular -- to make this scene [the future destruction of the human race] one day truly come to pass (Good Without God, p. 150).
What does Nature, fully inclusive of human nature, teach? Faced with no certainties for our survival and revival, mature humans will come to class, do their assignments, and act responsibly, collaboratively.
The American Humanist Association states its philosophy in this way: "Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanism." Theist or non-theist, who wouldn't buy into the essence of this stimulus package? Yes, the challenge of Humanism is a call to move beyond faith, beyond belief, beyond god, but never beyond the Good we can freely choose to reveal through satisfying secular (this present world) collaboration.
This may be the greatest contribution of the Humanist Way to the future of inter-relationships, to offer a new "revelation" -- a revealing, pragmatic truth -- that arises not from Out There somewhere in a super-natural -- outside of Nature -- abode beyond life on earth, but a revelation of the goodness within us, and within our ever-circling, ever-surrounding environment. Once again, in the language of one poetic Humanist voice,
"The saints and sages in history -- but you yourself? Sermons, creeds, theology -- but the fathomless human brain, And what is reason? and what is love? and what is life?" ~ Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself" 42
Humanism, like humanity itself, has a future. It better have. The Humanist is not the only living thing with feet firmly planted in the humus, sauntering forward on the quest for the right questions. Believer and non-believer can only survive together as they address pragmatic questions with courage, reasonable cooperation, goodhearted humility, hunger for wisdom, and heroic humor!
Chris Highland is a teacher, writer, and social worker in the SF Bay Area. He was a Presbyterian Minister for fourteen years and an Interfaith Chaplain for twenty-five years. His books include Life After Faith, My Address is a River, a six-book series beginning with Meditations of John Muir, and most recently Jesus and John Muir: A Wilderness Novel. Chris currently teaches online courses through Cherry Hill Seminary. His wife, Carol Hovis, is the Executive Director of the Marin Interfaith Council. His website is www.naturetemple.net.