Posted by: Paul Chiariello | August 31, 2011

A Humanist in Church: A Short Riddle

This I guess is a kind of riddle that I think sums up the Humanist viewpoint in a number of ways:

A Humanist walks into a packed church singing on Sunday morning… and only his god is there.

Who is it?



No one, but instead Humanists find humanity and community to be the object of our focus.  It is this that is and should be one of the most salient things for the Humanist walking into such a place.  Our ‘spiritual’ experience is simply sharing community.

To explain this a little more I want to go over a couple bullet points.

—Of course it is misleading to call it a ‘god’ because most humanists don’t believe in a spiritual world at all.  Our focus is here on earth while we live, love and suffer.

—Humanists don’t worship themselves or other humans.  As in the next two points below, we make lots of mistakes.  But it is in our coming together that we express our highest good.  An ideal we should aspire to.

—Humanists don’t see humanity as perfect or omni-benevolent.  I myself study ethno-religious conflict (did my MSc fieldwork in Bosnia).  You could think of this conflict as our devil if you want.

—One of the our most common and most destructive characteristics is the practice of demonizing out-groups.  Humanists don’t, or I believe shouldn’t, hate the religious in general, even if it is because their worldview is being exclusive .  Humanity can be found in a protest, a sports club, a science convention and a church.  We rely on reasoned experience, and admit that we and everyone else make lots of mistakes.  And that is all I have to say about that.

—We of course believe that Yahweh or Jesus does not exist, but their addition doesn’t nullify the value of what we share in a community.  Likely, that fervor could have been ‘better’ or more truthfully spent.  Still, the human bonding and community of doing good that exists in many churches is a beautiful and powerful thing.

—Humanists see this positive coming together of humanity and community in itself as playing the same ‘divine’ role in sustaining our spirits, keeping us safe, providing for our needs and giving us meaning.  It is this doing good and doing good together that is important and what they focus on in their own community.  Where it is present in other groups, the Humanist’s ‘god’ is also found.



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