Posts Tagged ‘ humanism ’
It’s not often that I agree with another atheist. Mostly because how I think of life is not fluffy and white. It’s bleak and harsh. Julian Baggini has hit the nail on the head with this post
So I think it’s time we atheists ‘fessed up and admitted that life without God can sometimes be pretty grim. Appropriating the label “heathen” is part of this. Heathens are unredeemed outcasts from heaven who roam the planet without hope of surviving the deaths of their bodies. They may have values but they are not secured by any divine source. Yet we embrace this because we think it represents the truth. And so we don’t just get on and enjoy life, we embark on our own intellectual pilgrimages, trying to make some progress in a universe on which no meaning has been writ. The journey can be wonderful but it can also be arduous and it may end horribly. But there is no other way, and anyone who urges you to follow a path that they promise leads to a bright future is either gravely mistaken or a charlatan.
Truth is necessarily harsh. It cannot be soft-balled. I’m quite happy to see another person printing the truth. Life is, it sucks, so just be. Nobody chose to be here, we have only the choice of when to leave. Every day is a struggle. If it was easy we’d be bored. No, we’re not done. We need to get on with the program of dominating the galaxy then the universe. While we sit idle on this water world, we waste our time. The more time we waste on creator gods the less time we have to be who we truly can be.
It seems to me that in the past few days there is both a mourning of the loss of Christopher and some major attempts to regroup the ‘atheist movement’.
To this I call bullshit. Atheists have no movement. There is no atheist only organizations. Humanism? Well, I’ll grant you that there is a movement… they believe in something. Sure, you can be a humanist and an atheist, but only humanists believe in something. There is no atheist movement or community. Atheism is what happens when you drop out of the religion movement. It is the de facto starting point for all humans – non-belief.
There is no atheist movement to lose a great leader. Instead, the world has lost a great orator and essayist, and a damned fine human being. (raising a glass of Johnny Walker Black) The Atheists of the world lost no more than the theists of the world. We all lost, for who among the apologists can now claim to have won an argument with the Hitch?
There is no atheist movement. Get that in your head. What looks like an atheist movement is nothing more than the results of the death throws of the religion movement. When you drop out of the religion movement atheism is what happens to you. It is what you are if you never joined the religion movement. Atheism has nothing to lose if you want to silently believe in deities. Religion has everything to lose if you don’t. There is NO atheist movement. There is NO atheist agenda. There is only people dropping out of the religion movement and aborting the religious agenda.
If Christopher Hitchens has taught us anything, we should have learned at least this much.
Prosit, be …
Here’s a thought for you, What IS happiness?
1 obsolete : good fortune : prosperity
2 a : a state of well-being and contentment : joyb : a pleasurable or satisfying experience
1 a : the payment through penance of the temporal punishment incurred by a sinb : reparation for sin that meets the demands of divine justice2 a : fulfillment of a need or wantc : a source or means of enjoyment : gratificationb : the discharge of a legal obligation or claimc : vindication4 : convinced assurance or certainty <proved to the satisfaction of the court>
Okay, but what if you have no needs or wants? What if you fulfill them as soon as they occur? How can one be satisfied thus contented, thus happy if you have no needs or wants? It would appear that the struggles of life are necessary for happiness. How then do you find that in heaven?
I think it’s time to redefine some words. Not for the dictionaries per se, but lets try doing so for ourselves. Let us consider what we feel when we are happy. The word elation or joy seems a good way to describe it. There are some neuroscience thoughts on elation and spirituality and contentedness and joy: the story of Jill Bolte-Taylor’s brain hemorrhage is a good read.
It would appear that these basal emotions are based in the brain and not the spirit – whatever that might be if we have one. So it is fair to hypothesize that some situations or conditions set the stage for the chemical state(s) in our brains which allow us to experience these emotions. They can be different for everyone to some degree or another. You can have more than you need and be unhappy, and not have anything you want but still be happy.
So really, it’s time we defined such words in terms of self. While you might think they already were, those definitions were rigged against common sense or understanding of such. I firmly hold that was is true for the best of us must also be true for the least of us. So is a pet’s happiness less worthy of attainment than our own? Is the happiness or joy of an autistic person of less value than our own? Is the hunger of a starving child less important than me missing a meal?
Happiness is a state of mind, regardless of physical conditions or situations. A moment of happiness is like a beautiful sunset – precious to the observer, fleeting, likely never to be repeated in quite the same way in a single lifetime. Happiness is subjective, not some objective state that can be given to you be a deity. Contentment is a subjective state of mind, not an objective state which can be given to you. The key here is state of mind. It happens in your mind, because of your mind. Without your mind such things cannot happen. The promise of eternal happiness and contentment is a lie. Your ability to experience these things dies when your brain stops working… at death.
UPDATE: I almost forgot the original thought: It’s okay to say that you find it difficult to be happy/content when this or that happens or when some person is not happy but you’ve got it all wrong if you say you can’t be happy unless this or that situation happens or some other person is happy. When you pin your happiness on something other than yourself – well, sister, you’re doing it all wrong. I don’t need a god to be happy. Think about that for a minute. Yes, what I’ve said gels with depression as a chemical problem and how some people just never seem to be happy, and why some people always seem to be happy. There is no god needed for happiness.
There you have it. Happiness is what you want it to be, or rather what makes your brain feel it. It has no objective meaning. Neither do joy or elation or contentment or ….. well, you get the picture. So what makes you happy? What do you do to make others happy? Anything?
Why not leave a comment to let us know.
UPDATE: (number 2) Sophie at dailyhealthboost.com reminded me to say that what I’m saying here completely gels with stress. She mentions so in her ‘about me’ blurb. Awesome.
Muammar Gaddafi is dead. Yes, that is the spelling of his name from Wikipedia. Certainly the MSM don’t know how it’s supposed to be spelled. To be honest it really doesn’t matter much any more. The bastard is dead.
The basics of life are eat, drink, sleep, wake, repeat. When you find someone messing with your ability to do these things it is more often than not the case that sooner or later you’ll mess with their ability to do those things. The law of reciprocity is a powerful thing. He was tried over the last 40+ years, and found guilty. The only thing that really took any time was executing the sentence.
Now it’s time for the Libyan people to get on with the business of finding a good way for all of them to eat, drink, sleep, wake, and repeat … in a way that doesn’t harm anyone else. I’m hopeful that the rest of the people in the world that are not Libyans will not interfere and just let them take care of themselves in the very way that the rest of us would feel if it were us in their place. When they need some help we should trust that they will ask and just leave them alone until they ask. I wish them all the luck in the world. I hope that anger does not turn to hate and bigotry; that the people will recognize that the former ‘government’ did have some competent workers who should be looked to for some guidance now in this time of transition; that those people in charge during the transition have the courage and foresight to gracefully execute their duties and step down when their turn is done.
Even more than all that I truly hope that the rest of the world has the grace and respect to allow the Libyan people the space and time to work out the details of their fledgling country – whether it turns out to be a democratic republic or not. Mrs. Clinton, please be both transparent and industrious with both aid and assistance to the Libyan people and informative reports to the US Government and it’s citizens. There is no reason to assume that the Libyan people will fail, nor is there need to rush to give them assistance they don’t want. I hope we all get this one right.
I salute the people of Libya
I’m not trying to make a series of ‘What is…’ posts but these things are popping up in my daily treasure hunt in the jungle of RSS feeds I subscribe to. The gem I found recently was a post about humanism. You might wonder what that is. I know I did for a long time before looking for an explanation, so here is a summary:
1 a : devotion to the humanities : literary culture
b : the revival of classical letters, individualistic and critical spirit, and emphasis on secular concerns characteristic of the Renaissance
2 : humanitarianism
3 : a doctrine, attitude, or way of life centered on human interests or values; especially : a philosophy that usually rejects supernaturalism and stresses an individual’s dignity and worth and capacity for self-realization through reason
Right! That sounds simple enough. You could even be an atheist and get into this, right? Well, usually this is true but not always. That is just about as clear as mud, so what do Humanists say about humanism. The answer to that little question is what inspires this post. Their answer is as inspiring as the definition from Merriam-Websters is clear. Lets have a peak at another post at The Friendly Atheist by Michael Werner who is past president of the AHA and remains active in many humanist organizations, so we can be fairly certain that he understands what humanists think humanism is. Turns out it’s not a new idea, stretching back to the early 1930s.
From his article is a sort of summary:
We now see human nature as having potential for both good and evil behavior. We now see human progress as elusive and doubtful in many areas. Still, we forge ahead, for what other reasonable choice do we have? No loving God protects us or metes out everlasting justice. Any progress is that which we create, finite and imperfect as we are. Any justice is justice we make. Any love we give is only given now. Any suffering is ameliorated by us, here and now. Only we have the power to create a world in which we flourish.
No shit? Was Captain Obvious a humanist? Perhaps in times past or through the blurry vision that many human preoccupations give us these things are not as self evident as the need for daily doses of food, water, sleep, and respiration but they should be, especially to an atheist. Describing yourself as a humanist atheist is like saying you are a human ape in my view. Perhaps that is harsh, but if you’re going to change with the times admitting that the premise of your ideals is self evident should prompt you to be a bit more industrious with your ‘community’ goals. He continues:
We long for a vital center to our lives that both grounds us and inspires us, a vision of grander authenticity to our lives and not just smaller truths. We long for an evocative whole story and higher vision that lifts our hearts and ennobles our lives. Some may find this integrated story for the future in the balanced humanist life of the here and now. To embrace humanism is to accept the exhilarating challenge of moving toward a responsible search — as the ancient Greeks did — for the good, the true, and the beautiful.
Here we go. Something that makes humanists different from your garden variety flat-rate atheist: a longing for a vital center in life that grounds and inspires us. I don’t know about you, but I don’t long for anything even close to that. Those are some lofty goals. Personally I’d be happy to find more than a handful of honest politicians, never mind goodness, truth, and beauty. I’d settle for knowing I’ll be able to feed myself and get medical attention for the rest of my life.
Don’t get me wrong. I am inspired by the many great things that humankind has accomplished and will accomplish. I’m just a bit more into the graspable and technical side of this. Truth and beauty sound a bit too much like philosophy. Is truth going to feed my kids? Will beauty cure my diabetes? I think that makes me one of those people that fall near the ‘complete cynicism’ end of the scale. It’s not that I’m so cynical its just that trying to focus on truth, beauty, and hope for the future takes away time that I could spend working and planning for that future.
Right enough, I spend time thinking about philosophical matters and beauty and truth, but finding enough food and shelter to keep me and mine alive for a few more days is far more important. In these complex and fast paced times it is more difficult than you might first believe to find that food and shelter. At one time a slow rabbit and a cave would work. Today you have to worry about the economy, politicians, evolving job markets, the price of fuel oil for farmers and a billion other things that most definitely are not ‘truth, beauty, and hope’ in my view.
That brings this full circle, back to myatheistlife. So, you’re an atheist. Now what?
I don’t think that becoming a humanist as well is the next step. Not when they spend time stating the obvious like I’d somehow forget it, and as much effort to talk about truth and beauty as if these are needed; as if they are in and of themselves answers to life’s big questions. They are not. They don’t even acknowledge the big questions. To my mind this humanist stuff is just a bit too fuzzy and touchy feely, so lets add some definition:
TRUTH: Acknowledgment and acceptance of the fact that life is find food and water, sleep, wake up, repeat.
BEAUTY: Understanding that there is no greater meaning or purpose to life yet taking time to create meaning for yourself and those around you. A life that is entirely unappreciated except by a stray cat that once needed a meal and was given one is a life lived well enough. The act of helping another is beauty and gives meaning to all the rest of it from the participants point of view, even if accomplished only once in a lifetime.
VITAL CENTER: Oh, come on. Philosophers and nihilists and others will compellingly tell you that there is no such thing and cannot be. There is life and non-life. Everything else is subjective.
In myatheistlife view there is no searching. Truth is in your head already. Beauty is all around you and you are capable of creating it every day, everywhere you go. There is no need for a vital center, never mind longing for it.
… food … water … sleep … wake … repeat
Anything and everything else you do is icing on the cake of life. The only meaning that can be found now, or has ever been found is what you yourself ascribe to the small bubble that you live in. The meaning of life can be found everywhere. I found some today. With my first cup of coffee of the day while out on the patio having a smoke I watched a gecko trundling off to sleep the day away after a successful night hunting bugs on the screen of my back window. Eat, drink, sleep, wake, repeat…. The gecko even seemed to look contented. I vowed to not spray insecticide where he lives. Beauty waxes and wanes and the wheel keeps on turning. Who needs a vital center? I don’t, and you shouldn’t.