Ancient and Renaissance Christian intellectuals claimed all that was beautiful and humane in pre-Christian Greek and Roman pagan literature was really Christian, inasmuch as the truly brilliant and the genuinely civilized must represent the true religion.
In the twentieth century Christian intellectuals spoke of the ‘anonymous Christian,’ the non-Christian who by dint of personal excellence was really a Christian, even if his ‘anonymity’ should extend to refusing every syllable of Christian belief and practice.
Anyone can perform this maneuver. Some might label an especially good Christian as an anonymous Hindu, anonymous Buddhist, anonymous Jain, anonymous Muslim.
Humanists—people with a nonreligious usually atheistic attitude toward life who celebrate human ingenuity and goodness—can do this too. Humanists can claim all that is good in religion is really Humanist. Humanists can identify excellent Christians or excellent Muslims or excellent Hindus or any other highly talented Religionists and label them ‘Anonymous Humanists.’
From the Humanist perspective, all religions are the products of human imagination, and that means the best within the religions may be appropriated by Humanism and claimed as its own:
If Religionists ever produced high fluttering ethical rules, Humanists may assert those rules as their own because, for Humanists, no God ever gave humanity a moral decree.
If Religionists ever gave the world youthful idealism, Humanists may claim that idealism because, for Humanists, feelings of idealism are not produced by religion but by humans.
If Religionists ever constructed a beautiful edifice, Humanists may mark the structure as a human offering.
If Religionists ever created works of literary merit, Humanists may take those works as their own because nothing other than humans created those works.
If Religionists ever made lovely music, Humanists may receive the music as their own.
The ancient Roman playwright Terence said ‘Nothing human is foreign to me.’
Humanists may repeat this statement and add ‘not even religion.’
Featured image ‘St. Peter’s Dome’ by Slices of Light’ via Flickr