This site is dedicated to rational thought and reasonable ideas. It is relatively new and still under construction, but if you look to your left you'll see a library section which outlines some concepts which may be worth your time and consideration. It is very much a new site, so the shape and form will continue to morph as time passes. I am not sure I can do it better than others, but this is my attempt to collect the documents I think help calm the searching mind and offer a safe forum for discussion about life and rational, practical approaches to it.
What I offer here is a series of documents, articles, links to other resources and essays written by myself or others (including possibly blog postings), presented in one place for the convenience of those interested in topics having to do with living a reasonable, rational, logical and compassionate life. While some may think this can be done spiritually or in the context of religion, I strongly disagree. This site is devoted to the secular, compassionate and the rational, but more about that later.
As a preliminary note, I will be referring to many "-ism's" any of which, from the perspective of philosophy, is a distinctive system of thought that should manifest as an ever-evolving understanding of the human experience. With this in mind, expect revisions, edits and additions to thoughts posted, essays written, etc. To stand firm on an idea, unyielding in the face of facts or experience is not rational. This is why I have placed a forum on this site to facilitate discussion and focus. Therefore, the content on this site will remain fluid and subject to revision as my human experience continues to evolve in its understanding. I encourage forum participation as well as formal submissions for posting to the site library.
What follows are some selected essays and digital media that highlight the notions of Humanism, Freethought and will sometimes skirt the left-leaning liberal perspective on entrenched institutions, the latter being a personal preference rather than any requirement for being a Rational Being.
Some of the Humanist or Freethought-oriented documents/media posted here may have mixed with it what might seem to be incessant attacks on organized religion or god. My goal is not to present too many of these because I think it's safe to assume that anyone interested in Rational Thought, would comprehend that the notion of a supreme being is absurd and incessant attacks on those who embrace that way of life are futile and needlessly abrasive (more about this later).
There are plenty of websites offering media and materials convincing of the Secularist point of view and while some may appear here, it is not my intention to convince anyone of their merits. This site and its content serves and an introduction to those interested in the ideas of Freethought and Humanism and related topics and therefore you come here to read by your own hand and at your risk. I do not invite arguments with proponents of any other points of view, instead I present a forum to post content and discuss ideas I believe have merit with those who agree, or nearly agree in an attempt to refine those ideas. Those who completely disagree are also welcome here, but common decency and respect will be required and if offered, perhaps the exchange will benefit the community as a whole. However, that determination will be mine alone: that is the prerogative I afford myself as the proprietor of this website.
Essentially, I believe that to be a Rational Being one must minimally be a Humanist or a Freethinker.
To put it succinctly: Humanism is the conviction that human beings are singularly responsible for their circumstances and the their destiny. Humanists are concerned with the secular, rather than the religious way of life and rejects supernatural beliefs of any kind. Humanism as a concept exists only in the natural world as does its subscribers. In fact the word supernatural in and of itself proposes its opposition to Humanism, as being apart from the natural. That human beings can place faith in, or find reasons for their circumstances in a god is irrational; furthermore only by using our capacity for reason (as it is expressed in all forms: scientific, philosophical, mathematical, logical, etc) can the human species understand and control the conditions in which they live.
By design, Humanism does not have a very rigid set of rules, it is more a rough guideline to a general way of thinking with some established goals for society. In fact, Humanists come from many walks of life. Their own disciplines will tend to modulate their Humanistic perspectives. This purposeful lack of established dogma allows anyone from any background to choose to subscribe to the Humanist philosophy allowing for their own variations to flourish. Though it is important to note that morality is secularly decided, not religiously dictated which allows for many variations reflecting the ethos and background of any subscribing to it. However, to remain Humanist in its expression, the variation cannot conflict with the basic tenets of Humanism, that of respect for life, peaceful coexistence and an adherence to the notions associated with reason, liberty and the scientific method and other ideas expressed more fully here. There are concepts such as religious humanism, but without going into much detail here, they are a contradiction in terms. In fact, Humanism (with a capital 'H') leans heavily towards the secular, natural and is primarily human-being-focused, while religious humanism (lowercase 'h') focuses more on the doctrine rather than the person and so for both reasons are not Humanism.
While even within the statements above, much can be argued (e.g. abortion with respect to tenets of respect for life which could conflict with the morality of others), however free will and liberty remains one Humanism's core tenets and as such it would be left to individuals to decide for themselves how best to proceed in any situation. If this is too vague to satisfy the reader, then I suggest you post your thoughts in the forums! :)
There are also political flavors of Humanism and all are valid, though I think Naturalistic Humanism (a term coined by Corliss Lamont) epitomizes the true expression of Humanism. As an aside, you may run into a variety of terms to describe this type of Humanism, "Naturalistic Humanism", "Scientific Humanism" or "Secular Humanism" -- they are all the same. The prefixes are actually all equal in meaning and therefore redundant and unnecessary because by definition most variations of Humanism are naturalistic, scientific, and secular .
In fact, the American Humanist Association has said as much in their Humanism Unmodified essay, explaining that they prefer to open a big umbrella and include all Humanists by removing all prefixes to the term, which is appropriate for an expansive organization such as the AHA.
Personally, I do prefer to prepend my particular brand of Humanism (Secular Humanism) simply because I think it helps to define it from the the transcendental wing of Humanism which definitely has subscribers. Also, hearing the term "Secular Humanism" immediately brings forth its immediate contradistinction to religious belief. I would hasten to add that Secular Humanism is a decidedly Secularist, natural (as opposed to supernatural) perspective of life in general, which stresses the importance of happiness and the fullest expression of human potential possible by scientific exploration, personal introspection and peaceful coexistence.
Similar to the idea of one person, one vote, Humanism stresses one person, one life and then complete extinguishment at death. There is nothing holy or supernatural about the word or notion of Humanism, nor anyone subscribing to its ideas.
Essentially rejecting the supernatural in favor of nature as the only reality in which humanity can exist, only science (defined as a continuing effort to discover and increase human knowledge and understanding through disciplined research), scientific introspection (philosophical, psychological, etc), education, community and tolerance can provide the necessary facts required for a thriving existence. It is further maintained that a human being is the result of evolutionary development as part of its natural world. Humans have the potential to affect positive change in their lives by existentially creating ethics and morals by which a society will choose to live providing for the common good and happiness of all.
I feel it is important to go out of my way to try to define Humanism here because I see too many websites full of articles obsessed with criticizing religion or god-centered belief systems. I think this habit (I daresay pastime) of many Humanists is dangerous because an obsessive devotion to the opposition of attitudes and cultures contrary to Humanism puts at risk its own existence, for Humanists should not attempt to define themselves in the negative. Self-described 'atheists' suffer from this as well, as the term identifies a notion in the negative. The term may be timely, as a majority of the world still believe in a deity of some sort, though the notion itself suffers from self-inflicted deconstruction.
It is important for prospective (or affirmed) Humanists to fully understand that Humanism is not just a rejection of religion, theistic principles and societies that stifle free speech and freethought, but a vociferous affirmation of many principles that set it apart from that which it outwardly criticizes.
Overreaching, obsessive attacks on organized religion or transcendental principles (albeit logically valid) will force their subscribers to reflexively recoil into a darker, defensive posture. Doing so runs contrary to one of the core tenets of Humanism: peaceful coexistence. Rather, let the proactive expression of Humanistic ideas define itself. Let the logic and soundness of its principles weather the assaults of dogma; it need not be defended, just defined.
I have talked with people who felt that Humanism left a gaping hole in their hearts, that they felt a need to embrace spirituality or to search for a supernatural, omnipotent, omnibenevolent being that could offer them something to strive for beyond the mortal coil in which they find themselves inextricably wound. Furthermore, they assert that this need has been exhibited throughout history and cannot be excised from the human condition, the human heart.
To this point, I think it's clear that humanity has been conditioned to depend, in fact codepend on a hazily-defined supernatural being to which any benevolent trait in need can be ascribed, or to subscribe to a nation's cause which must be above reproach in the midst of jingoism, to secure obedience in the here and now. This has been repeated over many centuries by entrenched institutions staffed by wealthy, confident, ruthless, and often corrupt people speaking with gravitas through an mindfully omnipresent & oft repeated message carried by priests, rabbis, imams and the media. I do not propose a blanket rebuke of all authority, each instance and message expressed must be analyzed individually. It is the unrequited promise offered and the dogmatic manipulation into misplaced faith (in god, country or cult of personality) that I find objectionable.
In fact, I believe the human condition has been deeply disenfranchised from its potential throughout the generations by misplaced, unrequited faith. It is in ourselves where faith should be placed, in the industry of our own education and invention where the seeds of reciprocation lie best sowed; where our own collective will to better understand our world and each other will transform codependency into community.
It is the person fully ensconced in Humanistic ideals that is afforded the best opportunity to be optimistic, self-reliant and happy.
In my discussion with people I have found that there is one broad stroke criticism of Humanism: It is too idealistic and naive, that the chances of an entire society to consistently exhibit the tenets expressed in it are slim to none.
Let's examine this a bit more closely. What exactly is idealistic about what humans already do, daily? Many of us naturally exhibit the traits of Humanism every day in our lives. Many people understand the need for a free society, understand the practical need for education and many express reason and compassion in their daily routine in a near infinite number of situations.
What challenges most people in fully embracing these goals as expressed in Humanist Manifesto II, is that societal pressures as they're currently expressed and/or the selfish and powerful among us do not provide the proper conditions to foster the full expression of Humanistic ideals.
This may be a powerful argument, and I could end the essay here. However, I choose to go on.
Many don't fully appreciate the practical benefits of sincerely engaging in a personally informed choice-moment. I made one just then, by choosing to press on with the writing of this essay. By choosing, for example, to educate one's self in a topic of their choice and then to apply that newfound knowledge in another life-moment, even if the topic studied is not yet mastered, offers immediate life-fulfillment. One may not be able to describe themselves as fulfilled, of course the choice may not yet be fully realized, but the knowledge that one is on the path towards achievement of that choice offers a deep sense of personal satisfaction and offers many rewards as the choice is constantly affirmed in the small steps required to fulfill it.
While some may see their lives or jobs as a stagnant or finished product, the Humanist believes a person is in a constant state of flux. Their lives exists in a moment-by-moment evolution of the mind and that every moment of it proposes a choice. The value judgment of whether that choice (for example, to educate ones self in their spare time) is pragmatic, idealistic or too difficult is a personal one, but even that judgment is subject to the next revised judgment, the next opportunity, moment to moment in the eyes of a Humanist.
In any society, no one is entirely free. The decision to exercise free will in any moment is simultaneously a choice to embrace its inherent limitations, whether or not they're even fully realized. To embrace a choice-assessment in every moment exemplifies the Humanistic ideal. To accept an artificial choice-limiting dogma or code, whether delivered by peers, society in general, or by an organized religion is to deny the human potential that exists in that very moment. Life's moments of interaction between genetic makeup, upbringing, and environment, even within this essay as it's being read right now, blends to form a unique individual that informs choice and will express itself as a unique response.
To exert our personal influence over a moment in time is and always has been a matter of choice. The tenets of Humanism would simply remind us of our power to choose and our responsibility to engage in it positively for ourselves and our fellow humans. (See the Humanist Manifesto II for an expression of these reminders.)
I will likely revise this introduction as time goes by, but for now, please enjoy this site, and if you've actually read this entire introduction, then thank you! Please check in regularly if you will, as I will be updating it regularly.
Emmanuel L. Goldstein (yes, that Emmanuel Goldstein!)