On the whole, I'm pleased to call myself a humanist. As noted in this post about a humanist book, someone called me this during my sophomore year in college -- before I even knew what humanism was.
This is one of the points made in an interesting You Tube video a regular Church of the Churchless visitor told me about today: "Christian man says humanists are debauched. Andrew Copson explains what Humanism is really all about."
If you're like me, you'll find the preachy Christian guy who speaks at the start of the video to be irritating. But here's the thing: his basic worldview isn't at all unusual. In fact, it's the norm for religious believers.
This man says, with complete confidence, that God instituted marriage, bringing Adam and Eve together.
Which is, of course, ridiculous. There's absolutely zero demonstrable evidence that God exists, and thus less than a zero chance (if such is possible) that God decreed marriage should be between one man and one woman.
Yet he can sit there in an audience of intelligent people, spouting his dogmatic absurdist crap, and his listeners absorb what he is saying (albeit often with bemused expressions on their faces).
Religions have such a hold on most of humanity that statements which would be viewed as indefensible craziness in a different context are tolerated, because cultures have come to accept collective craziness in the name of religion as being socially acceptable.
When individuals claim that they're getting instructions about what to do from invisible beings no one else can see, there's a good chance they are having a psychotic episode, not a religious revelation.
The man who responds to the dogmatic religious guy does a good job explaining humanism. He observes that while many people subscribe to a humanist philosophy, only a few percent self-identify as "humanists."
(Just like me, when I was in college.)
Well, I wonder why there is a need for the term "humanism." Why not just call this way of looking at the world, natural? Or maybe, normal.
This seems to be along the line of John Nagel's criticism of humanism that I quoted in another post on this subject. Nagel wrote a book review where he said:
John Gray’s “Silence of Animals” is an attack on humanism. He condemns this widely accepted secular faith as a form of delusional self-flattery.
“In the most general terms,” he tells us, “humanism is the idea that the human animal is the site of some kind of unique value in the world.” “A related aspect of humanism is the idea that the human mind reflects the order of the cosmos.” “A third aspect of humanism is the idea that history is a story of human advance, with rationality increasing over time.”
Gray rejects all three of these beliefs, along with the pretension of humanism to offer a scientifically respectable replacement for religion: “In a strictly naturalistic view — one in which the world is taken on its own terms, without reference to a creator or any spiritual realm — there is no hierarchy of value with humans somewhere near the top. There are simply multifarious animals, each with its own needs. Human uniqueness is a myth inherited from religion, which humanists have recycled into science.”
There might be some truth to this. I don't know enough about humanism to be sure. Probably humanists come in all varieties, just as people of every sort do.
I can say with confidence, though, that dogs playing in a dog park don't subscribe to either religion or humanism, and they do just fine -- usually getting along with each other, and having a good time. In fact, often the biggest problems at a dog park are between other people, not between the canines.
Still, being humans, we have no choice but to look upon the world in a human way. So in this sense we are all humanists, just as all dogs are canineists.
Given this fact, absolutism of any sort in regards to the "true" nature of the cosmos is unwarranted, a point made in my post, "Beyond humanism and absolutism... mystery."
Science deals in what can be talked about. Not everything. And even the something that can be talked about necessarily is described in human terms. To believe otherwise is to fall into an unwarranted scientific absolutism.
However, religion, mysticism, and other forms of spirituality also suffer from their own variety of absolutism: the claim that it is not only possible for us humans to know ultimate reality, but that this reality can be described by holy people.
And that, to use an apt non-philosophical term, is bullshit.
...Cooper reminds us that true humility is saying "I don't know" when faced with the question of what lies at the heart of the awesome mystery of the cosmos.
I agree with him that there is some heart independent of human consciousness. But what it is... no one knows.