- the first paragraph of the Wikipedia entry, which is good enough for the purpose of this post."Secular humanism is a humanist philosophy that espouses reason, ethics, and justice, and specifically rejects supernatural and religious dogma as the basis of morality and decision-making. Like other types of humanism, secular humanism is a life stance that focuses on the way human beings can lead good, happy and functional lives."
I am primarily a secular humanist because, although I don't believe in God, it goes deeper for me than just being an atheist. I wholeheartedly believe that we, as humans, are capable of good. I believe that leading 'good, happy, and functional lives' is a worthy goal. I believe that helping one another live richer lives is worth it. I also know from personal experience that this isn't any kind of pipe dream. I'm a pretty happy person. I've grown to deeply, deeply appreciate the people I love, the diversity of those I encounter, the community I live in, and the chance I've got every day to make the most of the day, and to reach out to anyone I can.
As a secular humanist, I also reject the notion that there is anything we need to be 'saved from', although I understand that of course, humans are capable of evil actions -- but performing evil actions are choices people make, and many never choose that. All of us make mistakes as humans who are not omniscient and do not have 20/20 hindsight, but I believe that mistakes are learning opportunities, and that they offer us chances to change and grow. I reject the notion of sin (in terms of it being something offensive to a divine being) and I do not believe that my actions offend anyone other than the humans who live around me. In my view, it is my fellow human beings who I need to be considerate of, and apologize to when I wrong them.
Life is worth living, and exploring, and learning about. It's worth celebrating, because it's so precious and such a unique experience, out of all the possible outcomes we COULD have had -- I wholeheartedly side with Carl Sagan, when it comes to that.
All of the above was whirling through my mind a couple weeks back, when a coworker asked me, straight out, if I was an atheist. When I said yes, he responded with "so, you basically live, you die, you become worm food, and that's it?" and I thought "no, that's not it. What a depressing synopsis!" My coworker is a believer in some form of a higher power -- I think he actually created his own convenient god, but there are many people I have met who do believe in God, or in Christ, and they might innocently assume the same kind of thing -- that ultimately, my life has no meaning and I'm doomed to futility.
I don't miss that mentality. There are aspects of Christianity I do miss, sort of. If I'm honest with myself, it's the 'warm fuzzies' I miss - the feeling of trusting something higher than myself, the feeling that there is a 'unifying purpose' to everything, the feeling that our actions have eternal significance, the feeling that an eternal being loved us enough to die for us and save us. In other words, it's the cosmic ego stroking that took me a while to get over. I got over the guilt, the self-disgust, and the depression far more quickly.
I think I traded up, honestly. I realized, after leaving the faith, that it's not about me. Nobody is going to save me. I'm in this boat with everyone else, but we've got to row it, as the saying goes -- and to me, that is freeing. In 150 years, nobody will know I lived, most likely -- and I'm okay with that. My name isn't going to be written in any eternal book, and what I do now remains on this earth alone. So, why be good? Why care about other people? Why make the effort, if there's no reward? I think it boils down to it being worthwhile simply because we all happen to be here together now, and we're all trying to make life meaningful, and we can all use some help, some love, some encouragement while we're here. What we do matters now, and to me, that's enough. We also have future humans to think of. Our actions impact them. We have a huge responsibility to leave this world a better place than it was when we entered it. People of all belief systems alike could agree with that... but as a secular humanist, I believe that we get one shot, while on earth, at giving our lives meaning. I am honoured to have somehow gotten the chance.
What do you folks think? If you are secular humanists, or if you at least find some or most of those goals ones that you follow even without claiming the title.... what's valuable about the ethical system in it, to you? I'm curious to see your thoughts!