This speech did not move me in any significant way. It is apologetics for humanism, which is, after all, a form of faith no diferent from my own belief system in that it is just one more option of a mental framework for organizing one's life. It argues that religious faith leads to bad outcomes inherently, which is I think different than that religious faith done poorly leads to bad outcomes. As I see it, the larger the religious belief base, the larger the number of bad outcomes, based on statistical probability. Although many people tend to compartmentalize their thinking, using logic six days a week and dropping it outside the church door on Sundays, others do not, so they will never decide to become biologists, geologists, etc., because these disciplines clash with their religious beliefs. Humanism is not a faith system in that it is always willing to change its opinion in light of new information. Religion generally takes centuries, if ever, to do the same. You could also say that Humanism does not have faith in faith. Rather, it has "faith" in the value of experience, observation, experimentation and logic.
There is an assumption in this speech that any culture or nation which founded its guiding principles on a basis other than faith would produce better, more humane outcomes. But history is full of examples of exactly the opposite (see Fascist regimes of fthe 20th century -- clearly not based on the principles of religious faith - in Nazi Germany, arguably a testament to science without moral guidelines running terrifyingly amok). Hitler was a Catholic, albeit a lapsed one. His doctrine concerning the Jews was based on the New Testament "fact" that the Jews killed Jesus. At least it was a "good" excuse for his actions, but he could never have carried them out if society had not been preconditioned by religiously inspired anti Semitism. Additionally, ideologies such as Fascism and Communism are not based on logic or reason. They are characterized by a putative religious fervor in worship of a god-like figure.
I am a plurality guy - you do your thing, and I'll do mine, and no reason we can't work for common good and goals together. And the variety and creative tension of these belief systems learning to live with one another is what really gives humanity its flavor. I also believe in working together for the common good. There will always, I hope, be variety and creative tension in our society. That involves the market place of ideas and so long as no ideas or the people who espouse them are persecuted we can hope that the results will be beneficial for everyone.
I disagreed with (or at least questioned) his premise out of the box: he states that "at most, only one of these belief systems cam be true." Why is that? Why can't multiple faith paths be true? [I don't know the full answer to this questions and am not posing one, nor do I have a doctorate in philosophy, but why the automatic limitation? The world seems to me a fascinatingly diverse place.] My perception is that it's not the author who places the automatic limitations. It's the religions in question which claim a lock on the truth, each for its own particular faith. The limit they individually place is the claim that they are right and all the other religions are either partially or totally wrong. If there is a God there may well be multiple paths to Him/Her/It. If you ask an Atheist if he or she believes in God he or she will say no. Ask an Agnostic the same question and you will learn that he or she also does not "believe" there is a God but there could be. Both disciplines say "Show me proof and I will believe." There are many definitions for Humanism, which can include both Atheists and Agnostics, but the basic concept is that humans must help humans if they expect any help at all, although there are some Humanists who also have some sort of religious belief or hope.
I am of the opinion that the faster humanity gets away from organized religious doctrines, which have the unfortunate effect of creating fervent, sometimes disturbed believers, the better off we will be. I don't actually believe that will happen any time soon but I do hope it will. Tribal cooperation and morality, at least for members of the group, is a survival mechanism which has brought us to this day. We don't need organized religion to tell us "God Said" be moral; it's an attribute, along with evil/selfish tendencies, of our species. We have survived by being moral among ourselves but hostile and murderous towards "others" we perceive as a threat. In the atomic age we need to learn that there are no "others." It's all "us." --Dan
Thanks for rthe stimulus,
On Sat, May 18, 2013 at 9:51 PM, Dan wrote:
Subject: Fwd: On Faith
Subject: On Faith
A thoughtful, penetrating article. --Dan