Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Atheism or Secular Humanism

Over at the Eye of Polyphemus, the blogger differentiates between straight up Atheism and Secular Humanism:

There is a simple way to decide whether one is an atheist or secular humanist. If you think the world would be a better place without religion, you are a secular humanist. You may call yourself just an atheist, but you are not. You have gone beyond a non belief in deities to a set of arguably cultish beliefs.

Leaving aside his claim of Secular Humanism being a cult, that differentiation is quite interesting.

I am a secular humanist, and I wish everyone else was too. Intellectually I understand the position that someone who believes in the supernatural cannot be trusted to make sound moral decisions in complex situations. The fact that there is even a stem-cell debate is evidence of this.

We are all aware of the ill-effects of religious belief, but there are also benefits. Is society on the whole better off without such superstition? Are we overestimating the rational capacity of humans?

I have personally witnessed someone very close to me seeking solace in religion when her child was seriously ill. Without her belief she would not have had the continual strength and hope to battle on through the great many hardships that were presented to her. Having seen such evidence of the benefits of faith, it is rather difficult for me to indulge myself in the righteous zeal of the Anti-Theists.


Danny Boy, FCD said...

He has a strange way of defining secular humanist. I've always thought that a secular humanist is someone who would assent to the Humanist Manifesto (any one of the three or so versions), or at the very least the IHEU's minimum statement on humanism.

Rene Benthien said...

Hi Danny thanks for comment. I can't quite explain his definition. However I do agree with the distinction. Secular humanism entails the following:
A conviction that dogmas, ideologies and traditions, whether religious, political or social, must be weighed and tested by each individual and not simply accepted on faith. Faith is seen as less virtuous than reason. This is a moral prescription. Not all Atheist make that prescription. There are some that even wish they had faith, and fear the end of religion in society. Not secular humanists.

Rene Benthien said...

ps what's FCD?

Danny Boy, FCD said...

FCD = Friend of Charles Darwin. See here.