Faith is a cop-out. If the only way you can accept an assertion is by faith, then you are conceding that it can’t be taken on its own merits.
I thought it might be fun to follow that post up by taking a closer look at the top five and bottom five, and seeing exactly where my point of view matches, or doesn't with their credos.
Number one on the list was secular humanism, which doesn't surprise me, since I have ceased to be part of organized religion (thus, "secular") and feel a definite kinship with all humans.
On the other hand, I do have some exposure. I was raised a fundamentalist, and the "secular humanists" were right up there with the communists on the list of bogeymen who were undermining American values.
I went to the site of The Council for Secular Humanism, and took a look around.
According to the site,
Secular Humanism is a term which has come into use in the last thirty years to describe a world view with the following elements and principles:
- A conviction that dogmas, ideologies and traditions, whether religious, political or social, must be weighed and tested by each individual and not simply accepted on faith.
- Commitment to the use of critical reason, factual evidence, and scientific methods of inquiry, rather than faith and mysticism, in seeking solutions to human problems and answers to important human questions.
- A primary concern with fulfillment, growth, and creativity for both the individual and humankind in general.
- A constant search for objective truth, with the understanding that new knowledge and experience constantly alter our imperfect perception of it.
- A concern for this life and a commitment to making it meaningful through better understanding of ourselves, our history, our intellectual and artistic achievements, and the outlooks of those who differ from us.
- A search for viable individual, social and political principles of ethical conduct, judging them on their ability to enhance human well-being and individual responsibility.
- A conviction that with reason, an open marketplace of ideas, good will, and tolerance, progress can be made in building a better world for ourselves and our children.
I can't see how anyone could object to the last five. The first two are the most interesting.
I like the "whether religious, political, or social", clause. There are many "faiths" in this world, and they are not all religious.
I have always found "faith" to be a troubling concept, even when I was a young fundamentalist. When the term is used as a kind of replacement for evidence or reason, as a basis for accepting an idea, I really don't get it.
It seems to me to amount, on the one hand, to a kind of coercion by the community: "Believe this because we say so. Never mind whether it makes any sense."
On the other hand, it seems to be a sort of intellectual irresponsibility on the side of the individual. "I'm going to believe this because I want to, and I don't have to check whether it squares with reason or experience because it's a 'matter of faith'."
Neither works for me.
I would, however, question exactly what they mean by the terms "scientific methods of inquiry" and "mysticism".
We have very clear evidence of an aspect of the world which I have called "inside" elsewhere. But many people are ready to deny the evidence of their own experience of that aspect—sometimes calling consciousness an "illusion".
This seems to me to be based on faith—faith that nothing exists which cannot be explained through physics.
I can't see why this kind of dogma is any better than any other. The study of the world seen from inside—as each of us see it through our own conscious experience—should be considered a scientific enterprise, and traditionally those who have attempted this study have often been called "mystics".
It's entirely possible, of course, that mysticism bears the same relationship to the truth of the matter as alchemy bore to chemistry.
But we would not have chemistry without alchemy.
So I guess my question, when it comes to Secular Humanism, is just how open one can be to experience and still be a secular humanist. My guess is that there are secular humanists on both sides of this issue, and that is why the language is ambiguous.
On the whole, I can see why it got put at the top of my list.
So what should I look at next? Number 2: Unitarian Universalism, or the one at the end: Jehovah's Witnesses?
I think I'll decide that later.