While the word ‘humanist’ makes up half of my namesake on this blog, I realise that I have never directly discussed or addressed Humanism, what it means to me, and how I interpret and identify with it. Again, I’m not going to do the movement justice, so here is a good resource if you want more info ❤
I was first introduced to the concept of Humanism in music class as a fourteen year old, and quite frankly, in the throws of full-blown depression and anxiety (and upon further reflection, likely a sprinkling of psychosis too tbh, just for funsies) for the first time and clinging to my god for comfort, I found it offensive.
In its’ historical context, Humanism was born out of the Renaissance period. The radical thought was that people maybe didn’t need the concept of god in their lives. Until this point, as I understand it, it was societally the norm to have religious belief or faith. In much of the western world, his name was Yahweh, Jehovah. He was the father of Jesus, the Alpha and the Omega, he reigned over and all of creation.
There was a breakaway from religion, and a movement towards shifting belief from a higher power to people power. I remember our teacher explaining this and feeling disturbed and outraged that people would want to breakaway from god. But he made us? But he loves us? He cares about us, and he gives us our purpose and meaning. Why would they throw that all away?
In short, a lot has changed.
To me, Humanism is about believing in what people can achieve, both as a collective and as individuals. Now theoretically, I see no reason why religion can’t continue to fit somewhere into this picture. It doesn’t fit into my personal one, but I recognise that while for some people religion/faith is the remedy; for others of us, it is the dagger. I was yarning about this to a friend the other day – she (a fellow ex-believer) had the exact same whakaaro.
Now those two terms: religion and faith – are not one and the same, but they are inextricably linked.
In practice though, the balance/utu is extremely delicate and often feels dang near impossible to achieve. Religion is so deeply personal to people, and within many religions, the whole shtick is that they are the enlightened few, the ingroup. They have the Truth, the Light, the Salvation, and other religions – the outgroup – just haven’t quite nailed it.
Do we or do we not have some cognitive dissonance up in here rn?
In my brief militant atheist dabbling, I deeply appreciated this particular video. The first time I watched it, in 2016, the ending blew my newly godless mind:
The concept, the animation, and the evidence of depth of thought is exquisite. It’s also cleverly comedic and does not shy away from critiquing religious incongruities. I do still appreciate his channel on some level, but the anger and fury thrown at religion does get somewhat tiresome after awhile. Can we not just live and let live?
I think people should be able to practice and express their religious belief/faith so long as they aren’t hurting anyone. That is where it gets complicated. The Christian faith I lived and breathed through my childhood and adolescence was evangelistic and exclusivist. In other words: there’s one way to god, and it is this specific way. Preach it to people to save their souls from hell and share with them the joy of knowing Jesus so they can party in heaven with us.
Through studying the philosophy of religion (and meeting and learning from people of other faiths), I discovered that not all religions operate on this foundation. Hinduism, for example, is largely pluralist: many gods exist, and there are many paths to god. Many Hindus are not phased by also believing in Jesus, Yahweh or Allah, for example.
Islam, for the most part, is, as I understand it, inclusivist – one god exists, but there are many paths to god. Of course, there is an exception to every rule, and religion is practiced, interpreted and understood differently by every person.
Some religions aren’t even theistic/deistic – i.e. they don’t worship a god. For example, Buddhism.
Indigenous Spiritualities: Whakaaro Wairua
The philosophy of religion I have studied is not without its flaws/gaps though: it was very Judeo-Christian centric, and there was little mention of eastern religions or indigenous perspectives on faith and spirituality. I have been able to learn about some of that via Māori studies papers, but I think an integration of this into a philosophy course would be amazing too! Even having a guest lecturer from the Māori Department would be incredible. Honestly, I’m frothing at the thought.
God and His Culture
Also, I don’t know where to mention this, but – culture and religion are like, best buds. We can’t disregard religion and expect to keep culture in tact. Culture is one of the best things ever, imo. And however much religion can and does hurt people (exhibit A haha), it is also beautifully mystical, and a part of the history of humanity.
Got a heart that’s primalHuman – Kimbra
Yeah I need your love for my survival
Life’s got me on trial
I confess I’ve been messed up, in denial
This is what it means to be human
I don’t know much, but I know this much is true
Let’s be humanHuman – Brooke Fraser
While we still remember how
It is not a failure to be flawed
It’s beautifully symptomatic
I am not afraid of being more
than what I’ve been
Outside the cars are beeping out a song just in your honourHuman of the Year – Regina Spektor
And though they do not know it all mankind are now your brothers
And thus the cathedral had spoken wishing well to all us sinners
And with a sigh grew silent ’till next year’s big human winner