Sunday, September 06, 2009

Humanist Symposium

humanist symposium
The Humanist Symposium is not intended to be a forum for all types of atheistic thought, but original posts that specifically support the philosophy of humanism. Humanism is a way of thought that affirms the inherent dignity and worth of human life and our ability to seek truth, gain wisdom, and tell right from wrong through the application of reason.
  • The happiness and freedom of life as an atheist, or other positive aspects to living a life without religious belief
  • Efforts to evangelize for atheism, and stories of people who have recently deconverted from religion
  • How to find meaning and purpose in a godless life
  • How non-religious people deal with weddings, child-raising, deaths, and other significant life events
  • Posts that stir up the human sense of awe and wonder
  • The ethics and moral philosophy of the non-religious
  • How nonbelievers can foster and nourish a sense of community
Of course, not all of these categories are represented in this edition, but I hope you find something affirming, helpful, or amusing here!

pansyJeffrey at Failing the Insider Test give us Why I A An Atheist, in which he explains why he didn't stop at 'undecided non-Christian': Furthermore, what is it about existence in heaven that is meaningful? The two perks are hedonistic (streets of gold, etc.) and relational (always being with the Lord/other Christians.) But this is not terribly different from seeking to create meaning in one's life through living life with other people and enjoying whatever time we have. How is being with the Lord meaningful while being with other people is not meaningful? If the problem is that a finite existence is not meaningful, then I am happy to be spared the experience of heaven, as it would then consist of an infinite sequence of meaningless existences.
pansyEbonmuse at Daylight Atheism gives us The Secular Tithe, in which he offers us ways to give secularly: Speaking out as nonbelievers is well and good. There will always be a need for forceful, effective advocacy for atheism. But I've come to realize that, if we really want to build a secular and enlightened society, speech is not enough. It's even more important that we offer material support - our money and our time - to organizations that do good by advancing the values that atheists hold dear. We don't have to copy the example of the churches that demand an astonishing 10% of their members' income, but I think every atheist who can afford it should donate at least a few percent to groups working to uphold the causes that make this world better. Call it a secular tithe.
pansyGreta Christina at her eponymous blog offers usAtheism and Patience: So how often do atheists have to keep making the same points, and keep countering the same old arguments? In which I remind atheists -- including myself -- that theistic arguments and ideas that are old and tedious to us are new to many believers, and we need to be patient when countering them.
pansyAnd Greta Christina also offers her humanist vision for the kind of sexual world she'd like to see... using music as a metaphor: Like a lot of sex-positive sex writers, I spend a lot of time ranting and venting about things in our sexual culture that I don't like.Today, I want to do something different. Instead of bitching about the sexual culture we have, I'd like to present my vision for the sexual culture I'd like to see. And the best way I can say it is to put it in a metaphor. I would like us to treat sexuality -- and differences in sexualities -- much the same way we treat music.
pansyMichael at a Nadder! offers us Pass the Cockroach, Please: I argue that in a naturalistic world, we should be suspicious of our sense of disgust (esp. at food), because it can have real-world consequences that affect human progress.
pansyDan at Camels With Hammers offers us On The Meaning Of Meaning, a response to a question from a reader: There was no externally guiding hand at work. But that feeling that you had to have this encounter is a correct feeling not because you actually had to bump into the friend but because when you did bump into him and hear what he thought you had to respond as you did given who you are and that necessity is what you are feeling, I think. And when you imagine that you might have been exposed to something else and you might not have had the same philosophical epiphanies, you are not imagining being you, you’re imagining being some one else quite like you who you might have become but did not. But the you that you are had to come into being given the reality of what you were exposed to and you sense that necessity and feel it as fate since it was a decisive moment of discovery of what within you would ultimately be most important when push came to shove.
pansyPaul at Secularism Examiner offers us A Christian finds empathy among the atheists: Though he may not have walked a full mile in someone else's shoes, Christian blogger Aaron Gardner did the next best thing: he walked through a museum with an atheist's name tag. Gardner, author of the blog A Great Work, had an eye-opening experience as he covertly joined the Secular Student Alliance's visit to the astoundingly absurd it-would-be-funny-if-it-weren't-serious Creation Museum in Kentucky. This event generated a lot of news on its own, as the well-behaved atheists looked agog at the fake history on display at the museum. But Gardner, looking to see what it might be like to experience the museum through the nontheist perspective, blended himself into the secular crowd, and came away with a new understanding.
pansyFriar Zero at Apple of Doubt offers Why Torture Matters, in which he critiques America's interrogation program on a humanist basis: Then I have to ask whether you have any moral compass whatsoever. I think the phrase “these animals” tells us everything we need to know. It’s an embrace of the worst kind of elitism, that which says it’s acceptable to kill these people, to terrorize them, to mistreat them. Why? Because they are just “these animals”. Not fellow human beings like you or me who are entitled to the same respect and presumption of innocence. If you really believe in equal rights for all humans then those rights must be applied even to these men. If you cherish your own access to due process and fair treatment but want to deny these men those same rights then you don’t believe in human rights. To even attempt to segregate out a segment of the human race as moral inferiors is to invite conundrum.
pansyClaire at This humanist offers Diversity, about which she said "This is a bit of an old post but I still feel this way and I'd like to share it.": Lately, I have found myself drawn more and more to the idea of diversity and its importance in our lives. This realisation was triggered by my experiences when I became vegan a little over a year ago. As a vegan, and before that vegetarian, I found that I didn’t necessarily want to have to eat at restaurants which catered for vegetarians exclusively, I just wanted to be able to eat at restaurants that offered enough variety in their menu that I could choose dishes that were suitable for me. I don’t want to live in a world that is tailored to suit my needs and wants, I just want there to be enough variety and freedom that there is room for me in it.
pansySteven at The Emotion Machine offers What Has God Done To Human Morality?: Despite the imperfect nature of man, religion itself is a vastly imperfect and out-dated construct of the human mind and morality. I don’t believe the flaw in religious morality has to do with the literal teachings of good conduct, which seem mostly reasonable, but the problem is in the context that they are presented. A large part of this context is centered around God. God, the almighty inconceivable, is very much the foundation of religious morality. Without His existence, the whole system seems to fall apart. Why? Because good conduct is supposed to get you to Heaven, and bad conduct is supposed to send you to Hell. The problem with this view of reality is that we are only given an incentive to do good for our own well-being, and we are told to avoid bad to save ourselves from eternal damnation. In other words, religion teaches us very little about the natural good in our hearts, and instead uses bribing and fear in order to coerce us into “good.” I have a huge problem with this.
pansyAndrew at the evolving mind offers A Groom to God: How can a person groom a god? While chimpanzees and other primates can reach out and touch conspecifics, what do you do in the case of a noncorporeal entity, an almighty, invisible alpha? The answer: gestures, vocalizations and language. So no, human beings don’t physically groom their gods; they do it with body language and with words: prayer, chanting, song. They comfort and reassure their great leader. He can relax; he is indeed number one. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
pansyMike at Brain Stimulant offers us Free Will and the Brain: Free will is the idea that we are the driver of our own actions. We feel that we are in control of what we do. Our behavior does not seem like it is happening to us in a deterministic fashion. We feel that we are not passively watching the "movie of life", but can will our own actions to almost whatever we so desire. Is the position that we actually have something analogous to free will tenable, given what science currently tells us? Do we merely have the perception of free will? Also can future neuromodulation techniques potentially enhance our perception of being in control of our own lives?
pansyVictor at Secularism Examiner offers A Common Sense Approach To Atheism: Atheism does not require science. Atheism does not require science – repetition was in order to get it into your head. There is no need for science whatsoever. Not believing in god is very easy and natural. It is part of our psyche; otherwise, we would have six billion people on this planet believing in Zeus, Thor or any other mythical god. You don’t believe in them, do you?
pansySam at Glowing Face Man offers us A Modern Version of Psalm 23: The article title merely suggests a "Modern" version of Psalm 23 (the famous "yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death..." passage); in fact it could just as well be billed a "Humanist" version: one of the main features is the removal of all mention of "The Lord".
pansyPaul at Secularism Examiner gives us Cal Thomas is afraid I'm going to kill my grandmother, and other wingnut nonsense: Now, I know that the Washington Times’ op-ed page is no bastion of open-minded rationalism, but a piece it ran by Cal Thomas may just take the cake of uninformed, anti-intellectual, paranoid wingnuttery. Wait, it doesn’t just take the cake. It seizes the cake, mashes it between its fingers, smears it on the walls, and cackles uncontrollably while singing “Happy Birthday to Me!!!” Thomas takes the health care debate, already rife with demagogues who are ginning up the credulous and xenophobic to lash out with froth and bile, and uses it as a jumping-off point to attack the “Secular Left” for being allegedly without morals and seeing no inherent value to human life. Does that sound like a lot of secularists or liberals that you know? You know, those secularists and liberals who want to help the poor, speak up for the working class, stop wars, protect the freedom of speech (and religion), end atrocities and genocide around the world, and educate children regardless of their economic status? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

That's it for this edition of The Humanist Symposium. The next edition will be in three weeks at Prior Perceptions.

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At 4:30 AM, September 13, 2009 Blogger Friar Zero had this to say...

Thank you so much for including my entry into this edition of the Humanist Symposium. It's a great honor to be included amongst the heavy hitters of the freethought blogosphere and I hope I can continue to contribute.

Despite the relative age of my post I encourage comments and discussion. I blog at a leisurely pace so I always have time for comments.

Thanks again.

At 9:18 AM, September 17, 2009 Anonymous Anonymous had this to say...

It can be fun to put myself in the imaginary position of awarding prizes without the responsibility of actually doing so. Therefore:

In the category of items I'm most glad to have read, the winner is Secularism Examiner @ pansy11.jpg.

In the category of items that most make me want to argue in a "yes, but..." kind of way, the winner is The Emotion Machine @ pansy3.jpg.

(I notice the pansies are not in order, but so long as you don't rearrange them on us, they are the closest thing to a numbering system available.)


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