Explaining Humanism to a Catholic Seminary Student
I was asked by a seminary student to answer some questions about Humanism for a report he was doing. I am sharing them here because I figure others may have similar questions and because it was interesting to me to see what sorts of questions were asked, because, honestly – I had to translate some of them to answer them because the worldviews and assumptions about how things work is so different. Anyway – here are the questions and my answers.
1) How do you see yourself in a leadership position?
I am a Humanist educator. I teach people about the philosophy. Leadership is not how I would describe myself. I used to be the executive director for a Humanist non-profit, so I supposed I was a leader then, but mostly – I was someone who spoke on behalf of other humanists at their request. Again, more spokesperson than leader.
2) Who is the leader of this religion?
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Questions for God
I was asked the question and I thought it was a good one – so I am asking it and answering it here.
Assuming that God exists and you were to meet Him face to face, what one question would you ask Him?
I am a Humanist – been an atheist since I was 17. Was agnostic before that. Raised as a freethinker (3rd generation)
In order to answer the question of what question I would ask, I first have to ask a question. And that question is “which specific god you have in mind?”
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Pilgrimage – Humanist Style
Who doesn’t like a good pilgrimage, but if you are a Humanist, where should you go?
There are a few Humanist Halls – here and there, like the Conway Hall in England or the Humanist Hall in San Francisco. But when you think of buildings and things that Humanists like or consider making a pilgrimage to, you are going to be thinking primarily about libraries. These are places where human knowledge is stored and we find them irresistible. Architecture is married to knowledge. I don’t think there are many Humanists who would not consider a pilgrimage to the Library at Alexandria to be anything less that – a form of Humanist pilgrimage. That being the library of libraries.
We are also hugely fond of museums for the same reason. So – the British Museum is high on the list of places that as a Humanist – I consider rather “holy” because it houses the Rosetta Stone. My son is only 9 and his two favorite places to go, since he was about 2 – are the local museum and the libraries. He’s kind of really obsessed with both – they are places where you learn things – and that’s really cool to him.
However, back to the subject of monuments & buildings, there are other buildings and places we think are important and that tie more directly into our values and philosophy.
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Do Humanists have a “text?”
(This question was asked of me by a couple of seminary students doing a report on Humanism and by someone over at Quora). Here are my combined responses.
There are no "key" texts or authors. Humanism arises in every culture and in every time.
A great site to get started on the international and historical nature of Humanist thought is Humanistic Texts
The reason this site is called Humanistic texts is that the term Humanism wasn’t coined to describe this philosophy that’s always been around until the early 1900s. So, we can look back at different philosophies and say – they were Humanistic, but because the term was not applied to those philosophies at the time (because the term didn’t exist), it would be intellectually dishonest to say they were Humanist in the modern sense, even if it is clear, they were pretty darned humanistic.
That gives you the historical texts; now let’s look to the modern texts.
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What are the main elements of humanism?
Since I get asked this a lot – I thought I would share what I wrote on Quora
According to the definition of Humanism by the American Humanist Association – there are 7 elements of Humanism – see: Humanist Manifesto III
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