Joss Whedon on Humanism

Joss Whedon — the man behind the shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly — recently received the Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism award from Harvard’s Humanist Chaplaincy.

Here’s a fantastic excerpt from his acceptance speech:

The ending is fantastic, where Whedon talks about the true enemy of Humanism.

Reader Alycia transcribed the last bit of it:

The enemy of humanism is not faith. The enemy of humanism is hate, is fear, is ignorance, is the darker part of man that is in every humanist, every person in the world. That is what we have to fight. Faith is something we have to embrace. Faith in god means believing absolutely in something with no proof whatsoever. Faith in humanity means believing absolutely in something with a huge amount of proof to the contrary. We are the true believers.


  • «bønez_brigade»

    The last minute was excellent. Thanks for posting the video, Hemant!

  • Eric Z

    He. Is. Awesome.

    Seriously, I have always loved Joss Whedon and now I have just one more (really, really big) reason to adore him.

  • http://millennialthoughts.wordpress.com/ Christine

    Wow. I second what Eric said. I’ve always loved Whedon, but I didn’t know he was an atheist, too. And such a good speech! I thought he was going to be all annoyed at the “New Atheists” when he mentioned the books, but then, as always with Whedon, I was pleasantly surprised. Wonderful speech, funny and inspiring and inspired.

  • Aj

    True believers? This screams of religion, but I guess Harvard’s Humanists want that desperately. Some Humanists believe in belief (“faith is not the enemy”), but to say that Humanists should embrace faith themselves goes against what Secular Humanism means to me. Secular Humanism is about at least being honest, seeking truth through evidence.

    Not only that but to advocate belief in spite of evidence goes against all that I know about Humanism. Skepticism and advocation of the scientific method is what I expect when people say they’re a Humanist. I can’t believe he said that.

    Joss is pretty cool, Firefly is still my favourite series. If you haven’t checked out Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog it’s awesome. Dollhouse is also a show of his, it’s a slow burner, only really starting at episode six, then it starts to get interesting and hilarious.

  • Daniel

    Aj, the way I understood it he was using faith as a metaphor, or kind of as a way to appropriate it and use it in a humanist context. Maybe it could have been handled better though, but people can have faith in each other while still being secular humanist.

    I think he was equating faith with trust?

  • Matt

    Whoa. Joss Whedon is now composed of even more win! Great speech!

  • http://jedipunk.newsvine.com jedipunk

    “We’re sorry, this video is no longer available.”

    Anyone have a transcript or another link?

  • Alycia

    I transcribed the last bit if anyone is interested. Sorry for any typing/grammatical errors:

    The enemy of humanism is not faith. The enemy of humanism is hate, is fear, is ignorance, is the darker part of man that is in every humanist, every person in the world. That is what we have to fight. Faith is something we have to embrace. Faith in god means believing absolutely in something with no proof whatsoever. Faith in humanity means believing absolutely in something with a huge amount of proof to the contrary. We are the true believers.

  • http://reclaimercomic.com Jim

    jedipunk, you should be able to just reload the page to refresh the link to the video.

    Joss never disappoints. :)

  • stogoe

    Dollhouse really got good after they meandered away from the Engagement of the Week format. If they get a second season, I can easily see Paul Ballard (Helo) becoming a handler at the Dollhouse so he can ferret out its secrets and bring them down. Maybe even Echo’s handler…

    “The Dollhouse deals in fantasy but that is not their purpose.”

  • Devysciple

    Faith in god means believing absolutely in something with no proof whatsoever. Faith in humanity means believing absolutely in something with a huge amount of proof to the contrary. We are the true believers.

    I am so going to print that out and hang it on the wall! Humanism FTW!

    Fun aside, I was deeply moved, because Joss turned into words what I’ve felt for a very long time.

  • http://inatheistbus.org Sarah

    *sigh*

    What he said at the end sound really pretty, but it’s wrong. I mean, if faith=trust, and is being used colloquially, I guess it’s fine.

    But I thought that was a little misleading. As nice and happy and uplifting as it sounds! I wouldn’t say humanists have faith in humanity, I’d say they have hope for humanity. And I think hope is much more valuable then faith, as it is based on trust. Even with all the evidence to the contrary, it’s those little pieces of beauty in humanity that spark our hope.

  • Beijingrrl

    I don’t have a problem with him using the word faith. My mom was worried I’d be upset that the minister at our wedding spoke about faith during our ceremony. As a Catholic, faith has a very narrow definition to her. I do have faith in my husband, myself and our marriage, though. Not b/c of some contract I have with the Sky Bully (loved that), but b/c of the history we have together and our desire for our marriage to be lasting. Pure logic would not support that faith, but in this case I’m willing to put aside the statistics and believe that we will be together forever. I have no problem calling that faith.

  • Aj

    Approaching life with optimism does not require faith, and is not the same as being certain about something that is statistically improbable. Although I believe that all the “contrary evidence” is not compelling at all. If there were absolutely no room to believe in human goodness then Humanism with be incoherent and bankrupt by its own ideals. Humanists as not extreme optimists.

    If you believe something although you acknowledge the evidence pointing in the other direction then that’s irrational, like the creationists. That’s fundamentally against Humanism on two counts as it advocates against faith informing actions and for evidence based knowledge. Sure Humanism involves beliefs about humanity but not as subversion of reality, it’s not a religion, and it completely misses the point of Humanism.

    It’s a misappropriation of statistical analysis to use general statistics on individuals, and self-sabotage even if they lean positively in a favourable direction. Whether its defeatist or complacent, it’s a delusion that may go against reality.

    I considered that Joss might be using two different definitions of “faith” but given the following context of: “contrary to evidence”, “true believers”, and “believing absolutely” I don’t think he left any room to interpret faith to mean trust.

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  • Saternbaby

    So this guy is saying that atheistic humanistic minds are superior because they are more irrational in their beliefs than religious people? Sorry people, secular humanism is a as much a botched experiment as religious rule was. Our problem isn’t that their aren’t enough people who want to live some fantasy of happy nihilism; our problem is that we exist and are aware but have no proof of meaning or value beyond our subjective beliefs. The man in the sky is no more absurd a notion than the idea of freewill which gives you the illusion that you are not simply one kind of robot judging other kinds of robots for being different than you. Go ahead and be irrational, just stop pretending that you are somehow superior to anyone else as a part of an arbitrary process in an accidental universe.