Happy Humanlight!

Humanlight is a Humanist holiday celebrated today, December 23rd, as a secular counterpart to Christmas, Hanukkah and other religious winter holidays. According to the official website, it celebrates the Humanist vision of the future. It is my opinion that, given the name and the proximity to the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere, we should celebrate the growing light of human reason against the darkness of ignorance.

The celebration of Christmas is sufficiently secular that I feel completely comfortable celebrating it, but I like the idea of adding a Humanist holiday to the calendar. Happy Humanlight!



Happy Winter Solstice!

Although I do nothing special to celebrate this day, I would like to wish everyone who reads this a happy winter solstice, and to our friends in the southern hemisphere, a happy summer solstice!

Hooray for the return of light!



Reflections on Humanism

What is Humanism? Humanism is a philosophy of life which affirms that the only solutions to human problems are to be found in humans themselves. In particular, Humanists value:

  • naturalism
  • rationality
  • science
  • democracy
  • human rights
  • secular ethics based on human compassion
  • meaning found in human relationships
Naturalism here denotes metaphysical naturalism, which is the disbelief in everything supernatural such as gods, angels, devils, ghosts, spirits, souls, blessings, curses, prayer, magic, sin and grace. Although humanism (small h) does not strictly require naturalism, Humanism (capital h) does.

Humanism shares several important features with religion, but it is not a religion because it has no belief in the supernatural. Additionally, there are no holy books, no temples, no priests, no rituals and no dogma. I tend to think of it as a philosophy of life, but others prefer to call it a life stance, an umbrella term intended to include both religions and philosophies.

It is my opinion that Humanism serves primarily as a label, though a very useful label with an important purpose. One doesn't accept Humanist principles after encountering Humanism; rather one realizes that one already holds these principles and decides to identify as a Humanist. Identifying as a Humanist doesn't affect one's daily life; the principles themselves could affect it, but even then there are no special Humanist practices resembling religious practices to give life meaning. Nevertheless, Humanism provides many atheists and agnostics with a positive label which describes what they do believe instead of what they don't believe, distinguishes atheists who hold these principles from those who do not, and allows them to organize based on these shared principles.

I am proud to say that I am a Humanist.



Born to Die

Today I saw a flier advertising the performance of a Christmas cantata entitled Born to Die by a community college gospel chorale. Although the existence of a gospel chorale at a public college strikes me as inappropriate, I am no legal expert and I cannot discuss any possible church-state separation issues. Instead I wish to comment on the name of the cantata and on the absurd Christian doctrines to which it refers: original sin, immaculate conception, incarnation and redemption.

Original Sin
Adam and Eve were unable to discern good and evil and thus could not sin. God then forever punished all of their descendants who were completely innocent of even this supposed violation and endowed them with an irresistible inclination to sin, thus causing all sins throughout history.

Immaculate Conception
God does not punish Mary with original sin, so that Jesus could be born of a pure woman. This is pointless, creates spiritual inequality, and demonstrates that original sin was not logically necessary. (This doctrine is only professed by Catholics.)

God is born of a virgin. This is pointless, invalidates the genealogical claims through Joseph, and too closely resembles divine incarnations in many other religions.

God executes himself, in order to appease himself, for the sins of the beings which he himself created, against the rules he himself wrote.

Additionally, the name of the cantata also strikes me as very morbid. We are reminded that the primary reason that God assumed the form of a human baby was not so he could relieve human suffering, not so he could preach love and wisdom, not so he could found a church to act in his name, but so that he could be tortured and die in agony. What a macabre birthday!