Humanism?

17Aug10

Working slowly through my thoughts and feeling regarding humanity, religion, philosophy and reality; I’ve come to a juncture where I can almost identify with a particular school of thought without reservation. I’ve always felt that being an atheist was too bland, too…run of the mill. There is a certain stigma attached these days and the label seems to attract all manner of disaffected people who really haven’t given much thought to the matter before joining the local atheist meet-up group. The other issue that sticks in my craw is the matter of being labelled as an atheist as if I have now joined an organised club or ‘movement’, and more than once I’ve heard that old argument, “isn’t atheism just another religion?”.

Instead I’ve been thinking through the idea of humanism. In the paraphrasing of Sir Terry Pratchett, I like humanism because it’s good to leave room for doubt. What this means is that, the rest of humanism aside, I don’t want to put myself in the rabid atheism basket and claim there is no supernatural being whatsoever and there never was. I doubt there is and I see no reason, evidence or good sense that suggests I’m wrong – however I’m open to new evidence and the possibility of something being proven in the future. If it turns out there IS an all-powerful (or whatever) supernatural being that we could label God, then he will still have a lot of explaining to do should he come over to borrow a cup of sugar.

What I will be telling people who ask indignantly what I stand for, or claim I believe in nothing and therefore I no longer count toward society, is that I believe in humanity. The advancement of humanity to achieve it’s potential, realise it’s goals, evolve to the next stage in as much peace as we can and work together without division. I believe in us, Homo Sapiens, as the greatest and most powerful force that inhabits this local area of the universe. I believe in people working together to build a great and lasting society, people helping other people rather than finding ways to fight against each other. Taking our intellect as far as it can go, discovering all the ways we can better and extend our lives and the lives of all other humans – from the house next door to a country on the other side of the world.

This, for me, doesn’t include an anti-god component or even a fervent anti-religion component when you think of the quiet and private religion of ordinary people who practice at home and don’t force their ideas on others. No, what I oppose is the establishment that runs religion. Religion with a capital R. That which controls and governs peoples lives, how they think and feel, how our society should be run, what we are allowed and not allowed to enjoy. I could go on for several sentences, but the heart of the matter is that I abhor religion in most of it’s organised forms because of what they stand for and what they do to otherwise normal peoples lives and potential. I see this as the greatest limiting factor in the equation of humanities development and therefore I oppose it, defy it, detest it, and see it as the greatest evil man has ever visited upon his fellow man.

That probably doesn’t take me to the end of my search for fulfillment, but so far I’ve thought through several philosophies, read many ideas, looked at all major religions, thought like a rabid atheist, been a semi-conservative and hardline capitalist, read a lot of hard science, learned the scientific method, come upon the meaning of life, partially sorted out what I believe in and come to a crossroads. I don’t have another avenue to explore just yet, but I am content that all the time spend so far has been fruitful.

A little more about the history of humanism – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanism

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http://aloadofbright.wordpress.com/2007/05/03/book-review-the-dawkins-delusion-by-alister-mcgrath/

I’ve read The God Delusion and had considered reading this one as a counterpoint, or at least for a good laugh. Sounds like pseudo-philosophic rubbish though. Shame.


All non-religious people should start thinking about religion really is, what is believes (especially about you) and how to undermine it. I’m not talking about taking on religion with pitchforks and burning guns, that would reduce our cause to their level of retribution and torture. No, what I mean is an active campaign of reason, information and hardcore explaining. A mission to capture the hearts and especially the minds of those who are merely in it for the comfort value.

There are three main types of the religious; the zealous(pious, fundamentalist, crazed, whatever), the indoctrinated and the ignorant. Of these three, the ignorant present themselves as the ‘low hanging fruit’ so to speak. The zealous are committed to spreading the word, subverting the young(amongst other things), planning for judgement day and working out how to kill everyone who isn’t as hardcore as they are. The indoctrinated have lived a life of immersion in the fairy tales and myths of religion, they’re little girls pasting fairies on the bedroom wall and wearing wings to parties. The difference is, when it comes time to grow up, the little girl eventually sheds her faith in the supernatural and moves on. The religious indoctrinated do not. They would be a tough nut to crack, though sometimes it happens (http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/vincent_runyon/left_ministry.html). So, it is the ignorant who you should be talking to. Those who are nominally religious and nod along to most religious rubbish, probably without really understanding why their religion thinks that way. They might already be looking for something more real, inquiring and searching. Floundering about, not sure where to start.

Don’t get me wrong here. While the convenient word is conversion the problem is that I’m not advocating a conversion TO anything. Atheism isn’t something I see as a following or an actual institution. It’s a handy word to describe those who no longer, or never have, believed in the the supernatural. In deities, Gods, angels, devils or saints. Fairies, ghosts, succubi, inccubi, gnomes, magic, psychics, fortune teller and all the other bollocks that people like to believe in. No, I’m merely talking about a conversion FROM religion. That’s it. Hopefully after reading and learning and accepting the truth of the cosmos, the former believers have encountered the many wonderful worlds of science, humanities, philosophy and free thought and will develop a similar attitude to mine. Maybe not. All of the people I personally know as atheists do not necessarily share all of my thoughts or my beliefs. We haven’t joined a great new fellowship and taken on board its teachings, instead we’ve cast aside religion and gone on with our lives as WE see fit. You see, life is made of many, many things and religion is only one of them. Take that away and you still have everything else a person believes in and knows. And here is the danger to non-believers, we’re not a power block. We’re not lead by figures of absolute authority who tell us what to do and think, who lead our actions and can unleash us upon our enemies.

Religion won’t sit on it’s haunches forever. If all else fails, and if at some time they are unbound by the laws of society (look at what they do to other religions in the name of war, far from home and judgement), they will not hesitate to break everyone of their own laws and most of civilised societies laws. In the name of God they will murder, rape, steal, sow salt on your land and burn down your buildings. That is an absolute fact. Those who believe in God yet recoil from that statement are exactly the kind of people who should be questioning their faith in religion. Given the chance, all of the major religions would return to the grand old days of yore where heretics could be torn apart by mobs, dissent was punishable by all sorts of death and indeed, anyone you didn’t like was a target for the stake.

My greatest fear is that one day the free environment we now live in will be stripped away and the freedom to learn and think quashed by the strong and the pious. In my heart I don’t really believe that a campaign of reason and books will do much in the short term. It will literally be preaching to the converted, or metaphorically like throwing books at a cliff face in the hope it will collapse. Perhaps with time. You see, most people like to gain power, not knowledge. Might and not reason. Such a large portion of the worlds population revels in ignorance and deplores the idea of learning. If they get a chance, religions will strike out on new crusades, first against the unbelievers and then against each other. It’s that rock hard mindset that needs, one day, to be tackled. To be opened, and once open, left to discover the world in it’s own way. Not as dictated from a hollow-minded figurehead standing at the pulpit, but from it’s own research and reasoning. That, I fear, is impossible for the foreseeable future.


Normal service will resume soon, I’d love to post more but for the last few months I’ve been planning and executing a move interstate. I’m now in Adelaide, SA – looking for a house and a job. Once I’ve settled there will be more articles. Till then, keep thinking!


What is value?

29Nov09

How do we define the value of something? It’s a tricky question, we can look at other identical or very similar objects and extrapolate a value for what we have by averaging, we can check an online price guide (like Redbook for cars in Australia) or we can make up a number based on what we would like the object to be worth.

In reality, while many things may have a value on paper or a website, the value of something is dictated by what another person is prepared to pay at the time of sale. For example, your real estate agent may say your house is worth $500,000 based upon recent sales and trends but the actual value of your house is an unknown. When you recieve one offer of $450,000 and five between $455,000 and $460,000 then the value of your house is probably closer to $455,000. Of course someone may come along and offer you $550,000, the value really is whatever someone is prepared to pay.  This is a common (though often overlooked) axiom in business but something quite foreign to most people until they try selling their first car, house or used laptop.

Two recent example for me are one of my cars and my house. I decided to sell the lot and go on a trip around Australia, as you do. I didn’t expect to get more than $2000 for the car, yet someone came along and offered me $2600 simply because it was exactly what they were looking for in a cheap small car and it had low mileage. In this case I did far better than expected, in fact 30% better, because to that particular buyer the car was worth more than what I perceived the market value to be.

On the other hand, I was told by various sources that my house was worth over $430,000, yet come sale time I never received an offer more than $415,000. While I eventually negotiated up to $420, 000 (twice), the market as a whole simply didn’t agree with the ‘professional’ valuations I’d received. No-one believed my house was worth $430,000+, regardless of it’s good points, and the value of the house was determined by what someone was prepared to pay.

As you sell and buy you’ll see the same rule crop up again and again, and it’s something to keep in mind while buying as much as when selling. A great place to see this working in miniature is a garage (or yard) sale. You may think that crystal mug is worth $50, but I’d almost guarantee you’ll get $5, The actual value, regardless of what you paid and how immaculate it is, hinges on what someone is prepared to pay. Use this to your advantage and only buy things at the end of the day when sellers are desperate to offload left-overs. Scale this up when buying a car and again when buying a house. Don’t let the market tell you how much to pay, only offer what you think it’s worth. When they say no, as the seller invariably will, come back a week later and see if it’s still for sale. Offer the same again, or less if you like. After all, it’s not selling so the market isn’t prepared to pay what the seller thinks it’s worth.

So in conclusion, when selling don’t get carried away when valuers give you high expectations or by what you’d like to get. Be realistic. When you buy, be realistic when deciding what you think something’s worth, using what the seller wants as a guide only. And on that note, I’m off to sell another car!


http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,26131264-5006785,00.html

A news story I can only describe, quite angrily, as disgusting. Weren’t laws enacted over 30 years ago to abolish this sort of thing?

It just goes to show that no matter what religious leaders say, no matter how much they try to water their extreme and backward beliefs down in public – they’re still and will always be a bunch of divisive, hate-filled bigots. Despicable. I feel ashamed that this happens in a country like Australia.


In this day and age and despite everything we’ve learned through the marvel of science, why is it that people still continue listening to religious figures on matters of…well anything really? What is it they have to say that’s so different and from where do they command such authority on all manner of subjects? Without a shred of evidence they present incredible stores with no basis in reality, much like fairy tales, and people still believe them. They claim to speak for God, which says little for God’s character since most of the rhetoric is either banal, violent or sly. They claim to be the great moral compass of society but regularly preach division, war and intolerance.

Remove the old bollocks of them drawing authority and morality through the ‘good’ book or divine influence and you’re left with very little. I’ve met ministers and priests who are nice people, sure, but the extent of their knowledge usually goes no further than an understanding of the current trendy western religion. It’s like having an encyclopedic knowledge of the Greek pantheon or only researching Grimm’s fairy tales and then using that to guide peoples lives. Science, politics, history, medicine etc fall way, way outside of their understanding or experience (although there are of course exceptions). Their morals come from a book that extols the virtues of killing your neighbour or beating your children to death. Of the 10 ultimate commandments, only 3 of them are of any use as the rest talk about doing as God says or “don’t take stuff that isn’t yours”. I feel a bit sad for the ministers and bishops who have wasted their entire lives studying the ancient version of Goldilocks. Some church leaders are intelligent people who could have done society a lot of good had they not been sucked into the world of wishful thinking and power mongering.

I believe one of the reasons for this is that having figures of authority helps legitimise the self-deception that believers wallow in. Believers want to think that life goes on, that no-one dies, that everything will be taken care of by the ultimate mother figure in the sky and you don’t have to handle all that work and all those burdens like a real grown up. Having someone in a large hat or impressive robe stand up and spout grand words will reinforce those childish, desperate wants and provide a great comfort – because deep down many believers are unsure. Unsure if this collection of ancient stories is true (or relevant), unsure if it’s okay to ignore some of the old laws when they no longer suit, unsure what God is actually doing for them, unsure why they have to talk to themselves all the time, unsure if that prawn they had with their surf and turf has doomed them to eternal damnation.

To question church leaders however is to commit one of societies greatest sins. Everyone gets worked into a frenzy. People ask how you can question the moral authority of this bishop or that deacon. He has a direct line to Jesus, after all. His robes and extensive knowledge of writings from a nomadic tribe several thousand years ago means he knows all. It’s insane! How the hell are we still stuck in that 16th century thinking? The enlightenment came long ago, people have been questioning and breaking down religion for hundreds of years. The stranglehold on peoples lives was broken before the industrial revolution began and many people lost their lives so we didn’t have to be ignorant slaves any longer. Yet here we sit, often reluctant to speak out against a church leader, still happy to offer them seats on important councils as a ‘moral compass’. It’s limp-wristed and needs to stop, so as a world society we can advance and grow beyond such medieval meddling. How can we stop it…well that’s a topic for another day.