A reluctant humanist

A tragedy of life is that the longer the list of things you want to get done grows in inverse proportion to the amount of time left to get it done. Just as my pile of books to read gets bigger the fewer years I have left to sit down with them, so the number of potential projects I’d like to tackle just keeps getting larger day by day.

So when I was invited to blog here at The Secular Outpost, even though I was flattered by the invitation, I was reluctant to say yes. One more thing to do, a little less time to do everything else. But then I thought, perhaps I can come on board to share with the secular community some of the things I’ve been doing which I don’t get to talk or post about elsewhere.

So my posts are really going to be a window into my atheist life. Expect what I post to be short and infrequent, usually pointing to something elsewhere. If you find it interesting and useful, let me know and I’ll try to do as much as I can. If not, tell me and I’ll go away, stop bothering you and do some of that other stuff that’s nagging at my conscience.

To start off, I wanted to post a link to the video of a talk I gave at the annual Humanist Society of Scotland conference. It gives you some idea of why it is I find myself a reluctant joiner of atheist and secular organizations, and why I tend to be a critical friend rather than a team-playing insider. My focus is on the idea of what a “true humanist” should believe. My short answer, by the way, is that a true humanist is defined by a very small number of beliefs and that there is much more diversity of opinion in what can count as a humanist as you might think, given what humanist groups often say.

The video is here. (If that link doesn’t work, go here and click through to eventcasts.) Let me know what you think.

Critical Thinking is Bigotry
Interview with Prof. Axgrind
Swinburne’s Argument from Religious Experience – Part 2
ISIS Violence IS Religious
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17801369779625472334 Pete Hoge

    I am interested in your short synopsis of what it means to be
    a humanist. The video is behind
    a log in wall which demands some
    information…is there a youtube

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09925591703967774000 Dianelos Georgoudis


    Welcome! I have read your book on atheism and feel delighted to have you here. Incidentally, isn’t humanism a dispositional attitude rather than a belief? I understand that humanism is often associated with atheism but I think it does not entail it. I mean can’t one be both a theist and a humanist? I haven’t yet had the time to watch the video, but I wonder if there is such a thing as what “a true humanist should believe”.

    the number of potential projects I'd like to tackle just keeps getting larger day by day.

    Tell me about it. I think one should choose *one* project and make it one’s life work, and consider all other projects more or less like a hobby. The question though remains how to choose. Should one choose the project where one thinks one may produce the greatest good, or the project one loves most and thinks one is at one’s best?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05962018593312392087 Leo

    I feel the same way you feel with a lot of things in life too; too many books to read, too many things to do, to many things to think and so little time, it's a shame.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06707369086538646606 Julian Baggini

    The video is behind
    a log in wall which demands some
    information…is there a youtube

    I think if you follow the alternative link on the last line and click trough you can avoid this. Thanks

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14695195998738844187 robin p.

    Thank you for sharing. I am intrigued by your practice. I took a religion course (against my will) in college and my professor told us, "you leave this course believing opposite of whatever it is that you first believed…" – While this might not be true, I am certainly doubtful of my previously steadfast atheistic views. I always knew that i couldn't marry someone, much less let him put a diamond wedding ring on my finger, if he didn't meet my same views. However, now I am much more open-minded. I look forward to hearing more from you.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06430484429517190406 Justin B.

    Neither link worked for me.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Julian – Welcome to the Secular Outpost!

    I have to take the opportunity to thank you for your contribution to my philosophical education:

    You co-authored one of my favorite books: The Philosopher's Toolkit.

    Well done!

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