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mere humanism

From: Drew
Sent on: Wednesday, April 29, 2009 10:40 AM
Hello all,
As a self-described humanist and agnostic, i was sorry to be unable to attend the recent HofM meeting on the subject "What Is Humanism?". I was able to have at least a portion of a related viewpoint of my own briefly represented by a Board member at the meeting, but while i have the opportunity i'd wanted to present to the general HofM membership (here at Meetup) a clearer, if more concise, mini-version of my recent essay entitled "mere humanism"---presenting a different perspective on a definition of the philosophy.
[The original essay was one of a series of mine on related subjects, which also included the titles "the humanist dilemma, a diagnosis and one answer", "agnosticism and humanism; a merging methodology" and "some critical thinking about critical thinking".....and has been followed by an essay-in-progress, "the humanist lyceum; a humanist venue for a new millennium".]
Feel free to contact me directly with commentary, critiques or questions about the positions i've stated in what follows:

“mere humanism” [a minimized set of propositions for a neo-humanist philosophy of life]
                ---Drew Marsden, September 2008 /revised April 2009

Being an attempt to further clarify an alternative definition and focus for a “New Humanism”---that is, the articulation of a more broadly-defined, humanely inclusive and ideologically diplomatic approach to a humanist philosophy of life and to a humanist community--- the following is offered as a viewpoint which sees humanism as primarily a lifestance, and an ethically responsible attitude toward human living, rather than an ideological dogma. The list of basic humanist principles offered here is meant to reinforce the limited value and innately peripheral nature of divisive pronouncements regarding deities or alternate realities, declarations which have undeniably come to routinely characterize the defining documents, mission statements and “manifestos” of most organized “Humanist” groups in America today.  My efforts here (admittedly not the only such document presented by many who are attempting to promote a “New Humanism” locally and nationally) are meant to simply reaffirm that it is possible to present a defining statement for a (“mere”) humanist philosophy of life which highlights humanism’s most important philosophical and ethical ideals without using ideologically divisive and alienating language. (To be precise: It is possible to define "humanism" thoroughly, responsibly and effectively without a prominently-stated atheistic focus.)

This initial, concisely-stated list of (mere) humanist principles is numbered not as an intended reflection of priorities, but for ease of memorization and organized commentary.  Nor is this list meant to represent a comprehensive statement limiting the breadth and depth of humanist ideals.

How a “mere humanism” philosophy of life might effectively define who a “humanist” is:
        1) a humanist is “anyone having a primary concern for and commitment to human         welfare, values and dignity”
        2) a humanist believes in taking a honest, humble and thorough critical thinking             approach to the acquisition and communication of knowledge
        3) a humanist recognizes that human beings are, by their very nature, social             creatures---with innate desires/needs for personal relationships and familial             communities
        4) a humanist asserts that human existence, in its inherently interdependent and             social nature, is intrinsically infused with moral sentiments and ethical concerns,             based innately on human needs and values
        5) a humanist is a passionate promoter of every person’s basic civil rights, in             diverse aspects of human life, health, liberty, dignity and the pursuit of happiness
        6) a humanist would defend freedom of religious and non-religious philosophical             thought and expression, and, besides welcoming people of diverse beliefs into             participation in the humanist lifestance and community, would insist that                 government should be non-theocratic and, thereby, neutral and non-discriminatory         of culturally-minority religions and philosophies
        7) a humanist would assert that reasonable dialogue, peaceful negotiation and             non-violent protest should be considered to be among the best first alternatives to             resolving human conflict
        8) a humanist recognizes scientific inquiry to be among the most dependable             sources of human knowledge, promoting and advancing the physical research into         technologies, medicines and psychosocial data which can be useful in enhancing             the welfare and happiness of humankind
        9) a humanist, as a part of nature, should be an informed and passionate advocate             for the humane treatment of animals, and for responsible ecological policy

There are untold millions of people in our country who would likely agree with every basic tenet of a humanist philosophy of life as listed here---many of whom, in fact, do self-identify as “humanist”---while also holding some form of religious or “spiritual” beliefs.  This in itself brings into question the wisdom (and honesty) of the widely-accepted practice of defining ‘Humanism” in undeniably narrowed, exclusively atheistic terms.  In my opinion, which is again admitted to be an alternative viewpoint to the one offered in much of organized “Humanism,” it is the kinds of more broadly-defined, ethical humanist principles which are outlined here which uniquely represent a potential for humanist philosophy being a unifying force in humanity, rather than just another exclusivist and ideologically combative movement on the atheistic fringe.

Respectfully submitted,

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