So Paul Kurtz – not my favorite guy – has issued a Neo-Humanist statement. It’s typical Paul – rather verbose with lots of words that are difficult to pronounce. He is after all the guy that coined the term eupraxophy and expected everyone to embrace it and start using it in daily speech. But my overall gut reaction to his statement is that he must be pissed off about the success of the New Humanist movement as envisioned by Greg Epstein at Harvard.
You see it was only a couple of years ago that Paul wrote a scathing essay about how the New Humanists aren’t really new. It was something sent to members of CFI in their e-news. He was clearly ticked that a Humanist other then him had gotten some national attention. He didn’t argue with the tenets of the new movement, he just seemed to chaff that he was considered part of the old Humanist movement. So, two years later, he comes out with Neo-Humanism! Whoa – big difference there Paul. Way to distinguish yourself from the New Humanists.
Regardless, what is interesting about his statement is that judging by his 16 recommendations, it is clear he still doesn’t get it. Number 1 involves playing nicely with both religious and non-religious humanists (a big step forward from the secular humanists who refused to acknowledge people could be religious and Humanist at the same time). And he wants both types of Humanists to play nicely with religious believers who share common values and social goals with Humanists. All well and good and in concert with what New Humanists have been saying for the past couple of years. And then comes number 2. Neo Humanism is critical of theism. (sigh). So, what we have is a slightly more open version of his version of Secular Humanism just with the word secular replaced with a shiny new Neo in front of it.
About the only two things of value in this document is that it a) recognizes the existence of religious Humanists and b) it holds totalitarian atheism in the same light as it does totalitarian religion, though you have to read down to the last sentence of the paragraph on being skeptical of traditional theism to get to that point. A quick reading of the headings and bullet points won’t make that clear.
Everything else is standard Humanist philosophy re-iterated in that boring way Paul has of using way too many words to describe something that is really quite simple. Paul’s objective is very similar to that of the New Progressive Alliance. Go ahead, compare them and you will see what I mean.
So, here is my take away. Paul has finally found religion regarding the problem the new atheist movement poses for the promotion of Humanism. And that is that if Humanists ally with that zealous form of atheism, we can no longer effectively promote Humanist values that are in direct conflict with to stated goals of New Atheism. He apparently is no longer interested in promoting Secular Humanism because the focus of Secular Humanism has almost always been on the Secular and not on the Humanism. And that again allies it too closely with the New Atheist movement, which many of his supporters support. So, he wants to refocus on plain old Humanism. But he can’t do that because he spent a career convincing people that plain old Humanism was too cozy with religion and so wasn’t pure enough for him and his followers. And he can’t use the term New Humanist because he has already trashed that. So… he has decided to go with Neo-Humanism. Good luck with that Paul.