Humanist Manifesto

From the Humanist Manifesto

There is great danger of a final, and we believe fatal, identification of the word religion with doctrines and methods which have lost their significance and which are powerless to solve the problem of human living in the Twentieth Century. Religions have always been means for realizing the highest values of life. Their end has been accomplished through the interpretation of the total environing situation (theology or world view), the sense of values resulting therefrom (goal or ideal), and the technique (cult), established for realizing the satisfactory life. A change in any of these factors results in alteration of the outward forms of religion. This fact explains the changefulness of religions through the centuries. But through all changes religion itself remains constant in its quest for abiding values, an inseparable feature of human life.

Many Christians would say that Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship with Jesus Christ. An honest person would recognize many of the similarities between Christianity and other religions. Christianity is a set of beliefs and practices. I think what these Christians are trying so say is that other religions are false and theirs is the one true religion.

10 Replies to “Humanist Manifesto”

  1. You really can’t be a Christian if you reject the notion that “all other religions are false”. Belief in the Bible (New Testament) means you believe Christianity is the only true religion.

    “I am the way the truth and the life; NO MAN cometh unto the Father BUT BY ME.”
    — Jesus Christ, John 14:6

    And this is exactly the problem with Christianity (and Islam, Judaism, etc). They are all divisive. They can convince good people to commit horrible acts.

  2. There’s an assumption in your argument that the end result of all religions should be to “cometh unto the Father”… your argument against Christianity’s “one right way” has been subverted by the notion that there’s only “one right way.” Might as well become (or remain) a Christian if you can’t think past that.

    Each religion has it’s own set of rules and practices and standards to which they adhere. Let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater (that would be doing the same thing that the zealots who condemn and damn religions other than their own do).

  3. A basic assumption of Christianity (at least the Roman Catholic Christianity that I grew up with) is that life on Earth is merely preparing you for a life in heaven. The only way into heaven is by believing and following Christ. This leaves no room for accepting other religions. We are taught to try and convert non-believers into believers. That means they have to reject their own religion and convert to Christianity. I really see no other option if you accept the teachings of the New Testament and Christianity.

    Religion isn’t about thinking. It’s about faith and belief.

    What is wrong with throwing out the religious “baby with the bathwater”? People are innately moral and don’t really need a religion to make them that way. What are the unique benefits that a religion provides?

  4. I do agree that Catholicism did (and still does to some extent) its darnedest to exclude other religions, but historically this had a whole lot more to do with politics and power structures and economics (they were trying to “corner the market” so to speak)… than with anything inherently religious or spiritual– even the still-current practice of forbidding priests to marry began as a way to keep wealthy bishops and cardinals from having heirs, so that the church might retain their wealth- had nothing to do with spiritual purity of the flesh. Dogma followed financial/political goals rather than any religious or Biblical criteria.

    And pre-Cartesian/enlightenment thinking wasn’t nearly as divorced from faith and belief as it is now. Now that we live in a world defined by repeatable, scientific rationalism, there’s really not much room for mythological thinking. That’s the big problem. For the past 5 or 6 hundred years, religion (fundamentalism specifically) has had to pretend to make some sort of factual scientific sense, creating a parody or caracature of both mythological religious thinking and of science and reason. But there was a time when “thinking” wasn’t such a narrow practice. This gets into the last part of your comment about why not chuck religion in the first place… I’ll let the brilliant Karen Armstrong speak to this…

    “modern culture imposes huge demands. it has certainly empowered us, opened new worlds… and enabled many of us to live happier, healthier lives. Yet it has dented our self-esteem. At the same time as our rational worldview has proclaimed that humans are the measure of all things, and liberated us from an unseemly dependence upon a supernatural god, it has also revealed our frailty, vulnerability, and lack of dignity. Copernicus unseated us from the center of the universe, Kant declared that we could never be certain that our ideas corresponded to any reality outside our own heads. Darwin suggested that we were simply animals, and Freud showed that far from being wholly rational creatures, human beings were at the mercy of powerful, irrational forces of the unconscious, which could be accessed only with great difficulty. …Without the constraints of a “higher” mythical truth, reason can on accasion become demonic and commit crimes as great as, if not greater than, any of the atrocities perpetuated by fundamentalists.”

    I’m not saying we should all run out and become religious zealots, and I’m not a practicing follower any any single religion myself, but I think it can definitely be argued that we do need some sort of mythological or symbolic way of understanding our world. I’m not sure we’re innately moral, but we do need other humans and behaviors tend to evolve that ensure we have a pack or tribe or pod to support us. We should just let our thoughts, religious and otherwise, evolve similar support systems, mental mythological, spiritual (or insert your own word here) support systems that aren’t so constrained or so gd literal. It’s weird and cruel to expect subjective critters to all hold to the same objective standards.

  5. While I don’t disagree (except maybe the use of the term ‘demonic’) with this…

    “reason can on occasion become demonic and commit crimes as great as, if not greater than, any of the atrocities perpetuated by fundamentalists.”

    There’s no proof that this is true…

    “Without the constraints of a “higher” mythical truth…”

    Instead there is more evidence that even with the constraints of a higher mythical truth people will commit atrocities.

    What would your explanation be for the fact that there are more religious people in prison than atheists? (

    Or that more religious people get divorced than atheists? (

    It just doesn’t seem that the constraint of a higher truth is having much effect (except maybe a negative one). Especially when the evidence shows that people without that constraint are behaving better.

  6. Well, you could argue that even with the constraints of REASON, people will commit atrocities.

    Really sorry, but your argument isn’t even remotely supported by the research you provided.
    There are FAR more “religious people” in the world than there are atheists. It’s probably safe to say the numbers are relatively proportional. (the link you gave above even says that 85% of Americans have a religious preference and that 80+% of prisoners do… that’s just following the overall statistical trend. There are more religious people in prison, because there are more religious people period. duh.)

    …and your link goes on to say…

    “A disproportionately high number of prisoners were not in any way practicing religionists prior to incarceration. That is, they exhibited none of the standard sociological measures of religiosity, such as regular prayer, scripture study, and attendance at worship services.”
    … meaning lots of them were not “religious people” when they commited their crimes. Many of them are using religion as solace during their time in jail or are using it as a way to turn themselvs around after their secular lives lead them to crime and/or prison. Jeez. Read your own research, dude.

    And, regarding divorce, hardcore atheists (people who would categorize themselves as atheare less likely to marry, much less divorce, in the first place than religious folks, because civil ceremonies aside, it’s an essentially religious tradition that folks with alternative non-trad ways of thinking about the world may not subscribe to. You also have to consider that conservatives tend to get married younger and have fewer relationships to draw upon when looking for solutions to marital problems. Doesn’t mean they’re behaving badly, just might not have a frame of reference that others might have. You have to also consider variations in income (money issues are the biggest breaker-uppers there are). I’m the first to admit that religious traditions can cause complications, especially in complex relationships. And if you’re looking to prove a point about morality… some very moral people get divorced for all kinds of reasons. Some relationships just end (and probably should) and that can’t be prevented by “behaving better”.

  7. As the prison question goes, the point was that people who follow a mystical way of thinking (religious) still commit immoral acts and go to jail in about the rates reflective of the general population. So, that shows that living this way provides no added benefit in this area.

    For the divorce question you provide no proof that atheists get married less frequently than theists. Just making stuff up now? And why would you put civil services aside? Marriage is a contract. The religious ceremonies are just shows but they are not more meaningful than any other marriage.

    You write a long post and still provide no proof of your contention that “Without the constraints of a “higher” mythical truth, reason can on occasion become demonic and commit crimes as great as, if not greater than, any of the atrocities perpetuated by fundamentalists.”

    Where is the proof that higher mythical truth stops people from committing crimes & atrocities?

    There’s plenty of proof that living with a higher mythical truth causes people to commit these crimes & atrocities.

    Suicide Bombers
    Jim Jones
    Spanish Inquisition
    etc. etc. etc.

    I contend we’re better off without these mythical higher truths. Better would be to follow a rational, scientific thinking. People base their decisions on proof not faith. And if something they’ve thought was true is proven to be false, then they change what they believe. They don’t ardently adhere to outdated, unreliable thinking.

  8. Well, if it provides no benefit, it certainly doesn’t HURT either. Same as being a completely rational, reasonable atheist. The numbers are a wash. Which is essentially my point. I’m not trying to say that religious folks are more moral, just that atheism is no more the cure for social wrongs than religion is. People are people and we all do stupid, brutal, thoughtless, wonderful, strange, inspiring, mindless, beautiful, evil, loving, hateful things… we all do virtually EVERYTHING.

    I just want you to see that casting off “outdated, unreliable” thinking doesn’t necessarily make you any better off than clinging to a faith-based code.

    I get your point, I really do. And I’m in no way a cheerleader for violent religious intolerance. But, same as reason, religion has it’s positive contribution as well. Think of Mother Theresa, Liberation Theology, lots of “Green” religious movements, and charities out the wazoo.

    And I don’t like it when religious folks pretend they’re better than me, but I don’t like it either when atheists pretend their bette than religious folks. Folks is just folks.

    My point isn’t so much that we need religious guidance to be moral but that, to pull from my Karen Armstrong quite agin, “reason can on accasion become demonic and commit crimes as great as, if not greater than, any of the atrocities perpetuated by fundamentalists”

    And you seem to need proof… which is a little paradoxical… in a different post you claimed to distrust all those in “authority” but those are the folks who compile and interpret the evidence you crave… or do you just distrust authority figures who disagree with you? :) (i’m prone to this too)

    … so…. think about all the atrocities commited by officially atheist states, like the Soviet Union and East Germany during the cold war …I’m sure the political prisoners dying in the Gulag were glad Jesus wasn’t responsible for their fates… then we have the Manhattan Project and the subsequent bombing of Japan- twice!- the very rational US forces had to show those Emperor-worshiping zealots how merciful pure reason could be. Did I mention twice! Then we have a CIA sponsored coupe of Guatemala to protect the economic interests of the US fruit industry. Mothers drowning their babies, husbands decapitating their wives, all with religious fundamentalism nowhere to be found!

    …the list of horrible things goes on and on and on and on. Some of it can be chalked up to religious thought, some economics, some politics, some crimes of passion, some straight-up mental illness, some just mean.

    Neither mythical thinking nor reason can necessarily save us from ourselves.

    And regarding the marriage question, I was speaking somewhat anecdotally. My wife and I almost chose not to marry based on all of the baggage associated with it. God, religion, gender-roles, patriarchy, hierarchies, etc etc… it all gets rolled up into a distasteful package for some of us. In the end, we simply picked and chose some aspects we could agree on and married anyway. And I know we’re not the only ones who have issue with the whole institution of marriage- which folks within a more traditional religious practice would not. Also, there are as many as 11 million or more unmarried partner households in America (depending on which Census you go by), not including same sex partners. Again, more traditional religious folks would be less likely to be shacking up before marriage, and would therefore be more likely to change marriages versus just changing roomies like non-trads might. And, like I said before, conservatives are more likely to marry younger, with less experience and more urgency.
    All of these things skew the numbers… but have nothing to do with necessarily implicating anyone in any anti-social behavior or immorality.

    In the end, my notion of mythological thinking is very different from yours. It has more to do with thinking symbolically and imaginatively, not with sitting around thinking Jesus is whispering doom into your ear- and probably telling you to do something violent or discriminatory. I’m not arguing for us all to become Christians (or anything, necessarily), but just to be able to think about the world symbolically, metaphorically, creatively, imaginatively, sensitively and subjectively. Just to balance out the cold hard “objective” reason that, you have to admit, has played its own role in the destruction of life over the years.

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