Updated: May 15, 2019
I'm involved in the Humanist Association of Middle Tennessee, and last night I attended the Nashville Humanist Meetup group, of which I am a co-organizer. There is a definition and many explanations and descriptions about what "humanism" is but what won me over was the root word - "human." In my view, we could use a lot more humanity in our world. More specifically, a caring, courageous, compassionate, authentic, impassioned, responsible, resolute humanity that seeks to build a world of peace, justice, harmony and workability for all.
It is my conviction that despite all our differences as human beings, there is a set of values that deep down we all share in common and form the basis for building a world that works for everyone. Lately I've been personally involved in the "interfaith" movement, making this case. In a nutshell, it's my view that:
Every person can fully embrace and follow their religious tradition, spiritual interests, or philosophical views without creating division, destruction, hostility, or hatred.
Every person can find a rationale and motivation within their religious tradition, spiritual interests, or philosophical views to be an instrument of goodness, peace, love, and compassion in the world, and affirm the inherent, equal, and unconditional worth of every human being.
Every person has the right to follow their own inner guidance in choosing their own religious, spiritual, or philosophical views and practices.
Every person can participate in a process of personal growth, self-actualization, and fulfillment of one’s highest beliefs and aspirations, and encourage the same for others.
Every person benefits when each of us follows our own unique inspiration for building a world that works for everyone.
Along the way I've discovered that "interfaith" isn't the greatest term because if we truly want to build a complete and inclusive human solidarity toward a common good then we need to expand the conversation to include people of no religious faith at all such as my atheist and humanist brethren. I explore this possibility in more detail in my post: Can "Interfaith" Include Atheists?
I don't think there's a good reason for any of us to be divided against each other. Thinking about the humanist meeting last night, there's a significant tradition of Christian humanism, which emphasizes the humanity of Jesus and his social teachings. Jesus had a vision for society, and if you dig into it you find things like economic fairness and justice, and duty to the disadvantaged, unfortunate, vulnerable and oppressed. I recently wrote a post about the social teachings of Jesus that have universal significance, whatever your religious, spiritual or philosophical tradition or beliefs.
Speaking of "humanism," here are a few of the central principles:
Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.
Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence (rationalism, empiricism) over acceptance of dogma or superstition.
Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance that affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives.
The lifestance of Humanism—guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience—encourages us to live life well and fully.
I'm good with that.
A couple books I've recently read that explores humanistic values from some different perspectives are:
I believe in the human race. I believe there can be unity in diversity. I believe what Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools." I believe we can do this.
Over the past several weeks I've made friends with people who are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Baha'i, Atheist, Humanist, and many others. I flung my heart open to all of them. I found many shared beliefs and values for collaborating together to build a world of love, compassion, peace, harmony, well-being and workability for the entire human family. I'm choosing not to allow the extremists in each of these traditions and belief-systems to prevent what the majority of us know is true deep inside our hearts. We are one human family. What makes us one is never threatened, unshakable and able to assimilate whatever other ways we are different. I'm going to beat this drum until my last breath on this earth.
Last night in the Nashville Humanist Meetup group we had a discussion about what people would like to see happen in our regular group meetings. One guy in the meeting, who I had never heard say much before, spoke from his heart and shared his hopes that our meetings would be a safe space where people could just be real... you know... like human - openly, honestly, authentically, vulnerably human.
We all want that, don't we? To share our story, to tell our truth, to be heard, to be ourselves - the whole beautiful mess of it all... to put it all out there without edits or filters or photoshop... and discover in the presence and understanding and acceptance and validation of others that it's okay for each of us to be our kind of human.
I was once a pastor at the largest Christian church in North America. I was considered a theological scholar based on my academic degrees. And yet, I had a nagging and persistent restlessness in my soul. I was missing something, and I didn’t know what it was. This inner angst caused me to leave my professional ministerial life, on a personal quest to find that missing piece.
It was an unlikely path that proved instrumental in discovering the answer I had been searching for. I found it amongst a group of humanists. I referred to this as an “unlikely path” because humanists typically don’t hold a belief in God, which didn’t quite line up with my Theist and Christian background and training.
But these humanists – they had me with their root word – “human.” All my life I had been searching for truth in the heavens above and in the sacred writings of religion, but suddenly I found a profound truth that was simply present in my heart… in my humanity… it was the truth of being human, and all that that meant.
I am not a "humanist." I am not a "Christian."
I am a human.
I think that's a broad enough label to cover us all.