I do hate labels, but they are necessary. Labels serve to classify things, and convey a lot of information in a word or two. As misleading as labels can be, they are necessary for good communication in a limited amount of time and space (for example, a tagline for a blog).
Other than announcing I am now embracing the “secular humanist” label, my previous post said remarkably little. That is my way of dealing with things that feel very large to me, my approach of taking little steps, one bit at a time. The post did not announce a change in my perspectives, my perspectives have been stable for quite some time. Also, I did not go looking at secular humanism and think “Ooh, this sounds great! I’m going to become this!” Instead, I followed the path in front of me, I was on my search for truth. Amongst other things, I spent too much time reading up on theology (while I should have been finishing my Master’s in Engineering). This search for truth, this search for “God” if you will, led me to where I am now. With the previous post, I’m just acknowledging to the world and to myself, that the “secular humanist” label is possibly the one that most accurately describes my views. My other alternative is to drop the “secular” and capitalise “Humanist”.
So, what is Humanism? Francis Mortyn left the following comment on my previous post, and I like the way it describes Humanism:
The word “Humanist” implies definition by reference to humanity. The word makes no reference at all to any Gods, whether to affirm or deny them. In this, it differs clearly from terms like “atheist” which are about Gods or God.
Humanism is not about metaphysics, the existence of things, whether to assert or deny them. Humanism is about ethics, asserting that right and wrong do exist and do matter, and they are a human rather than a divine concern.
As Humanist Albert Einstein put it, “I believe that we have to content ourselves with our imperfect knowledge and understanding, and treat values and moral obligations as a purely human problem – the most important of all human problems.”
Where is the measure of what is right and what is wrong? Humanists say it rests firmly in human experience. As Humanist Karl Popper points out, if an act results in a reduction of needless suffering, it is a good act.
Human experience is known by observable evidence interpreted by reason. This is solid ground on which to build. It provides a dependable ethical foundation better than the speculative claims of alleged supernatural revelation.