The Humanist Symposium #3
Welcome, friends. I’d like to have constructed a clever premise for this 3rd edition, but alas it was all I could do to read your fantastic submissions and get them organized and summarized. So I’ll begin by thanking Ebonmuse of Daylight Atheism for getting this series started. Though I spend a fair amount of time in attack mode, I welcome his emphasis on the positive, and as one of the following posts pointed out (can’t remember which), we don’t have to wait until the old buildings of religion are completely destroyed to start building the new structures of humanism. I think it’s a subtle difference, because–make no mistake–in order for humanism to take over responsibility for ethics, meaning, and culture, religious authority must end in these areas. But we can support this transition while understanding and finding as much common cause as possible with those who, for whatever reason, still need to keep their crutches of belief.
There are also plenty of destructive beliefs which have absolutely nothing to do with religion. (Since I was raised in a religious cult, I’m greatly familiar with that paradigm.) But there are plenty of other motivators for sinister cultish behavior. These include financial, political and personality cults. As humanists, we should consider the formation of cults as one of the ultimate enemies of individual responsibility, and one of the biggest threats to a stable humanistic society. Until and unless something changes, cult leaders will always arise and cult-members will always look to be led. It’s an area which warrants intensive study to see why this tendency is so strongly present in our species. My contribution to this symposium is an exploration of the symbiosis between cult members and their leadership.
So, on to reader contributions: It looks like the big topic winner (not even close), for sheer number of submissions, is “The Movement.” Which bodes really well–who said we couldn’t organize?
Opening this edition of the Humanist Symposium is Doug Muder, wondering if the ‘new’ humanism and ‘new’ atheism really represent anything different. New atheism’s negative stereotypes include militancy and lack of ‘nuance’, while new humanism is stuck trying to “banish the ghost of Spock.”
Friendly Atheist Hemant Mehta on the fruitless but seemingly unavoidable squabble in the atheist movement between the accommodationists and the confrontationalists.
Humanist Symposium founder Ebonmuse holds forth on atheist charity.
Taner Edis of Secular Outpost on untangling the moral and strategic thicket we atheists and humanists face trying to participate in a conservative and theistic society. Especially while trying to tone down the harsher rhetoric and to gain a seat at the discussion table, without compromising our principles.
vjack at Atheist Revolution on the significance of the recent coalescing of formerly divergent non-believers into an atheist movement.
C.L. Hanson at Letters from a Broad… on getting to the root causes of conflict and violence (be they religion or otherwise). Finding common cause between atheists and peaceful believers in a loving god.
Naomi from God is for Suckers with a nice clarification of secular demographic trends. It’s like I’ve always thought: atheism is severely underreported, especially among the young. Keep up the good work, Naomi!
Brent Rasmussen of Unscrewing the Inscrutable (and founder of the venerable Carnival of the Godless) pens an open letter to young pistol-hot starlet and atheist Amber Heard who openly discussed her lack of belief with USA Today.
Nature and the Universe
John P at The Spanish Inquisitor with a meditation on losing guilt, appreciating science, and how atheism has increased the meaning and value of each and every moment.
James Coufal with a guest post at Black Sun Journal on both the intrinsic value of nature, humans as part of nature, and the importance of our stewardship of biodiversity.
David W. of Atheist Self on his experiences in nature. On finding a special spot and imagining who or what has been there before. On finding significance in our insignificance.
Abacquer of Unbecoming Levity with the incredibly moving story (every deconversion is!) of his journey from Catholicism to atheism (includes a not-to-be missed cartoon).
Cragar from A Varitable Plethora on how actually reading the New Testament was the nail in the coffin of his beliefs, and the social consequences he’s experienced as an atheist, even in his marriage.
Ethics and Philosophy
T Ellis at Evanescent defends atheists against accusations of arrogance, and shows how those who deny inquiry, “reject evidence, embrace supersition, use faith to “discover” knowledge regardless of the evidence…” are the ones who are truly arrogant.
Austin Cline of atheism.about.com with a philosophical primer on humanism and secular humanism, and the evolution of those concepts as guiding principles for morality.
Brandon Peele of Generative Transformation on the prioritizing of life’s energy, toward the exploration of Absolute truth, inquiry, and the defeat of relativism.
Atheist Ethicist Alonzo Fyfe on what he would do if he were to be appointed U.S. climate czar.
Jonathan Blake from Green Oasis pens a zen-like reflection on the ephemeral nature of human existence, the questions of what defines selfhood, and the strangeness of contemplating death from the inside perspective of a consciousness which has always been alive.
The always eloquent tobe38 from A Load of Bright, with a belated but stunningly beautiful eulogy for his Catholic mother, who suffered an untimely death.
The Exterminator of No More Hornets with a confessional list that…well…just turns things upside down. Like #8, he actually thinks that “what happens in Vegas somehow gets around.” No, really, it IS about the very serious subject of humanism, but it’s still funnier than a priest locked up all day in a confessional with no guilty sinners. And if that’s not enough for you, go to Friendly Atheist’s thread of responses and additional confessions.
That’s a Wrap
Until the next edition at nullifidian on July 1, 2007, we’re keepin’ it real here at Black Sun Journal, keepin’ it whole. Working to end humanity’s long and disatrous flirtation with mind-body and spirit-matter duality. We are all one, and the universe is an inseparable, indivisible natural continuum.