Relaxed About Theology? #whc2014

Religion without a church? Humanism almost qualifies – writes Andrew Brown in the Grauniad. After comparing WHC2104 to a religious event, which is not difficult, and the likely reaction to such labelling, he concludes with:

… there are some humanists who take dialogue seriously. I talked to Babu Goginieni, now the international director of the movement, who was relaxed about theology: “The enemies of humanism are not only on the religious side,” he said. “I think the government has no business taking up any side. Atheism is not important. I happen to be an atheist, but that’s not the point – what is important is freedom and human values, and a way of living with others and with nature. Once we have concluded there is no God, we move on.”

I actually believe it’s a good piece that should lead BHA and international humanism generally to think about its real constitution. I made my comments in the thread:

The Babu Goginieni quote is well chosen. As a humanist I’m atheist too, but I’m not defined by my atheism, just am non-theist.

One correction – humanism is not defined by humanity being sacred – it’s reality that’s sacred. We humanists recognise human responsibilities to the whole alongside our rights and freedoms.

On the “being a religion” angle – sure any group develops social cohesion, through shared behaviours, but I think a key aspect of humanism (besides its inevitable universalism) is that its prefers to couch its “lore” as values supporting action, rather than as specific rules. But we’re really only having this discussion as you say, because the “religion” brand has become toxic to all “rationalists”.

[Typically – and meta – the comment thread is full of ad-hominem and “aggressive” comments denying and ridiculing Brown and his piece. Humanism needs to get a grip on this kind of twisted conception of freedom of speech even appearing to be done in its name. It’s been said before but unmediated comment threads are on their way out.]

[I made my own summary of WHC2014 here.]

[Post Note : Brown’s point in quoting  Babu Goginieni is specifically “humanists who take dialogue seriously”. One comment in the thread that arrived after mine became favourited on twitter as “nailing” the argument.

But I still beg to differ – made my own comment:

Hmm, witty rhetoric about calling a spade a shovel when it comes to suggesting humanism is (like) a religion. But Babu Goginieni’s point was about theism. Brown is not suggesting humanists are theists, he’s simply suggesting humanism is (like) a religion (not necessarily one that believes in god).

Bit disingenuous to imply theism and religion are the same.

The Brown piece is an offer of dialogue at the interface between humanism and religion(s) of which BHA should take note. Benjamin O’Donnell’s comment aligns with mine (and includes interesting rant against Rod Liddle – another story).]

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