Sunday, 10 May 2015

Introduction to Humanism

The April meeting at Stockport was Introduction to Humanism by David Seddon. This is our annual introductory lecture at which we introduce new members to ideas of Humanism.

If Christians were wiped out Christianity could be re-instated using the literature. The same goes for Muslims and other religions with a written body of work. Humanism would not be so easily reinstated because we do not have a creed and the ideas would have to be worked out from scratch.

Religions are named after those who are worshipped and adored. Humanism is named for Human Beings with all of their faults. We don’t know a single Christian or Muslim who has met God or Allah, but we know plenty of Humans and their many unremembered acts of kindness. We know that sometimes they will let us down but we cannot be sure of anything about God. People are doing wonderful things now resulting in a civilised world with art, music, science, the NHS and many other wonderful institutions.

4 ½ Basics

1) God: We have no way of knowing if God exists and people who believe have no way of knowing either. Humanists live their lives as if there were no God. What are people doing when they pray? It seems a strange and meaningless activity although some may use it to order their own thoughts.

2) Death: Primitive peoples invented religion to explain the difference between living and death. Humanists believe nothing supernatural happens after death and adopt a mature philosophical attitude that death is the end of us. We reject the idea of going somewhere else. Some kind of immortality is achieved by remembering famous people or our ancestors.

3) Science and Knowledge: Humanists believe that evidence is needed if something is true therefore we cannot know anything about God.

4) Religion and Evangelism: The basic legal position is that we are a Christian country with an established Church. But do the establishment follow the Sermon on the Mount? Are the Meek important? Are the Peacemakers blessed? (Do we have World Peace?) Do they say’ love your enemy’? Do they turn the other cheek? Humanity is about looking out for one another and making a difference in someone’s life.

5) (4 ½) I think rather than I believe: One needs an awful lot of faith to believe in the resurrection, and how can one believe that flying a plane into the twin towers will let someone in to paradise. Humanists believe that this is the only life we have. Most religious people acknowledge that only a fraction of them will go to heaven. Christians believe in Original Sin - God made us all and people were bad so to compensate God sent his only son so we could be forgiven and go to heaven! They also believe in the perfectibility of man.( If man keeps trying he will make progress.) Humanists believe in the right and ability to be happy, whilst religious people are big on guilt. Happiness should not have guilt attached to it. Religion keeps women in their place, whilst humanists believe in gender equality. Christians believe in suffering, tolerating slavery in the past. If we were all born equal why have the idea that there is someone to worship?

David went on to discuss some important thinkers in the History of Humanism: Epicurus(representing ancient Greece), Shakespeare(representing the Renaissance), David Hume(the Enlightenment), Jeremy Bentham( Utilitarianism), Thomas Paine and Mary Wollstonecraft ( Rights of Men and Women respectively), Charles Darwin (Science), Sigmund Freud (Psychology), and Jean Paul Sartre(Philosophy).

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