Beta Culture: Replies to Comments 1

Nolan, frequent and intelligent commenter here at Patheos (I’ve just discovered you can click on the name of the person leaving a comment, and see their many contributions here and elsewhere on the network), replied to my “13 Early Questions” post:

My initial reaction, even after reading your response in point 9, is that Beta Culture is more or less the same thing as humanism. Given the rarity of people who think like humanists, and the difficulty of starting new movements from scratch, I think it would be better to lend your support and ideas to Humanism, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel.

Humanism is close enough that even if you have some disagreements, joining that movement may allow you to influence Humanism (it does change a little each time a new Humanist Manifesto is released).

I started a reply comment, but ended up with more than 500 words, so decided to turn it into a full-length post.

I’m also realizing I’ll want to bring certain discussions out of comments and display them on the first page here so they can be seen by everybody, and addressed as the separate subjects they will be. So:


I have good feelings about Humanism. But I think what I’m picturing is something a bit larger, an active, growing Culture that goes beyond personal philosophy and occupies a more assertive place on the larger social stage.

When I picture this graphically as a Venn diagram, I think of a large circle with smaller circles inside it. Beta Culture is a social entity within which Humanism can take place, but also things like Atheism-Plus, the Occupy movement, feminism, etc. It’s a vehicle to supercharge the various kinds of  activism by making them the solid cultural values of every member of Beta. In other words, rather than having the current small groups pursuing Occupy goals, Beta Culture as a whole would be an Occupy activist, or a feminist, or whatever foundational values we choose to adopt. If we have 30 million Betas, we have 30 million feminist activists, 30 million take-no-shit environmentalists, 30 million people who refuse to have their children taught creationism in school.

Add to it the fact that Humanism includes numerous people who are religious, and I think there’s a clear difference. The bottom line to me as an atheist is that religion is a mind-poison that has unavoidable negative effects on the individuals who embrace it, as well as massive, still-largely-unseen effects on every society or culture based on it.

Look at the way we handle sex education and reproductive medicine in the U.S. The idea that young people shouldn’t have access to condoms, contraceptives, comprehensive sex and health education is INSANE … yet it’s a majority view which has all too slowly given ground to something more sensible.

Hell, we’ve even LOST ground in some crucial ways. See “Why Have So Many States Banned Abortions?” Ten states in the U.S. have a de facto abortion ban, and the movement to make it nationwide is gaining steam every day.

But if you establish your own culture, you can set sexual health and reproductive choice into it as core values, right from Day One. Every Beta kid would know how his/her body worked, learning not only HOW not to have babies at the age of 15, but WHY. And would have the physical tools to ensure successful application of the knowledge.

Beta is the product of a solidly non-religious mindset. Another mental picture I’ve had in my conceptual work is that of a stepped pyramid. Feminism, environmentalism, etc., would occupy higher levels of the pyramid, but the foundation of the thing, the several massive levels at its base, would be atheism — the uncompromising  rejection of religious, mystical or superstitious mindsets.

The need Beta Culture fills, as I see it, is to provide a place, for the first time ever in history, for uncompromising rational thinkers. A place for them to start fresh and build something new, based on rational thought, rather than to inherit this societal fixer-upper we’re otherwise going to get, with the active termite-infestation of religion and the powdery dry rot of irrational thinking all through it.

You and I may feel good about being individual atheists, but everything around us, including our language, social systems, entertainment, so much, much more, is tainted by thousands of years of religion. Yes, we have to live in this world, but nothing says we can’t establish a unique social enclave of our own, choosing our own path, creating unique new solutions to social problems rather than adopting existing ones and trying to make ourselves fit them.

  • Nolan

    Thanks for the blog post reply Hank! First of all, I want to emphasize that I’m not detracting from Beta Culture, or calling any part of it ridiculous or unworkable. On the contrary, I think your ideas are largely workable and worth pursuing.

    Note: I wrote too much, but my basic point is that I still believe that your ideals are well-represented by Humanism. I don’t see much of a distinction yet. Below is some of my reasoning.

    It sounds like you think of Humanism as a passive influence on the world. As far as I know, Humanists (as represented by the American Humanist Association) are very interested in activism. There’s a definite attempt to unite people with the ideals of the Beta Culture into political action:

    You note that Beta Culture is a larger circle that can include Humanism, the occupy movement, Atheism+, Feminism, etc. Humanism seems to comprise all the things you listed. It has a feminism caucus and emphasizes women’s rights and diversity, which basically covers Atheism+ and Feminism. The ideals of the third Humanist Manifesto seems to cover the occupy movement as well (justice, opportunity for all).

    I’m not sure what you mean by saying that many Humanists are religious. When I say Humanism, I mean Secular Humanism, which appears to be about as much of a religion as Beta Culture is.”Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.” (From the Humanist Manifesto III)

    I’ve only had a glimpse at Beta Culture, but I think I support the majority of what it stands for. Based on my understanding of it (which I will change if necessary) I maintain my point that Beta Culture is basically Humanism. I think this is a good thing for Beta Culture. In a way, your movement has already begun, and is steadily growing. You’ve already got thousands of people on your side. Lending your ideas and creativity to Secular Humanism is, I believe, a way for you to contribute a lot to what you believe in, and steer Humanism in the right direction if it begins to turn astray.

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