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Monday, March 14, 2011

Is Atheism the same as Secular Humanism?

Not really. There are certainly some similar beliefs, however, I do not believe they are identical. Let us look at the terms. An atheist simply does not believe in the existence of god(s). A Humanist believes that humanity as a whole is more important than any of its subgroups. Basic to humanism is an attitude that starts with a sense of togetherness, a sympathy and a sharing, accompanied by a sense that you as an individual share responsibility for our collective future with all the rest of humanity. If you believe that there is a God up there someplace that you can invoke to alter specific things that are going to happen, you are not a true humanist. . You could be an atheist and care nothing for any other person. Conversely, you could believe in a higher power, but still believe that humans are solely responsible for our own actions and that a god will not intervene. This means you can be a humanist in practice even if you choose to believe in some higher power. Some atheists might dispute this, but I believe they are being unnecessarily exclusive, and underrate the need for all of us to work together to combat the pernicious forces of the conservative religious types. Issues like the separation of church and state are very important, and non-believers need to work together with sensible believers to make sure we suffer no return to theocratic tyranny.

To put it in technical terms, there is a great gap between theists and deists, where deists believe there is a power up there but basically we are on our own. That gap is far more important, in practical terms, than the gap in belief between deists and atheists. As long as you recognize that human destiny is made here on earth, by us humans, and that we are solely responsible for what happens, whether you believe in God (the deist approach) or don’t (atheism) is a matter of choice, and an individual seriously concerned with the future of humanity can go either way. A deist with strong humanist leanings is likely to be a person that makes a positive contribution to humanity as a whole.

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