Are you a Humanist?

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Are you a Humanist? Because according to the British Humanist Association I am. In accordance to their online quiz[3] my result was an astounding 96%, so I can only assume this must be true. While I feel that the test somehow actually trivializes the definition of what it truly means to be a Humanist, I would like to think it is a good indictator. However, how can any belief in a philosophy be summed up in a short 10 question quiz? It must surely be a good indication if it comes from an official source though. My understanding is that the B.H.A is such a source. It’s Registered Charity No: 285987.

Humanists. (etx)
“Think for themselves about what is right and wrong, based on reason and respect for others.

Find meaning, beauty and joy in the one life we have, without the need for an afterlife.
Look to science instead of religion as the best way to discover and understand the world.
Believe people can use empathy and compassion to make the world a better place for everyone.”
British Humanist Association (2014)[2]

I have considered myself a Humanist years prior to taking this test, having previously researched some of the various philosophies and their values, if only to quell a bored mind at the time that and during my initial start to my transition as a Trans-women I looked out for answers to help explain who I truly was. It wasn’t something I actively sought out to prove to others either, as quite frankly I know I’m a good person I don’t feel the need to justify it or my existence to others (if you exclude this post of course). I took the test knowing full well what the core Humanist values were already. I just happened upon this quiz idly looking for something to write about while the same time wanting to further reinforce why I had always felt this way about my life.

Furthermore, I have never required the label to be put upon myself formally, its not like its mandatory to do so, it’s not a requirement on an application form that would have prevented me from doing something I wanted. Also I’ve never really needed it to be happy and I would have just continued to live my life with the same values a Humanist would have done so without it. However thanks to the definition provided initially by Wikipedia (Yes I know, hence no reference) and more importantly from other sources, including the B.H.A. I can firmly (and proudly) tag myself with such a label. Saying I am a Humanist doesn’t nor will it ever change the way I live my life but in doing so is a nice reminder of how much I believe to have grown myself as a person, to prove to others that I have learned to accept and respect others despite their differences. To emphasize my ability to feel compassion towards others regardless of any immediate emotional connection.

Humanism and its aspirations. (etx)
“Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.”

American Humanist Association (2003)[1]

I am however not trying to imply that anyone who reads this can’t be a good person because they have never called themselves or will ever call themselves a Humanist, it is to me just an attributed title that fits to my own understanding of myself and my environment.

Although I will admit there is a level of comfort ascribed to tagging oneself “as” something – as for me Humanist does. It becomes a small, albeit sweet moment in your life’s journey when you finally figure out a piece of yourself and can say “yes that’s exactly who I am!” – or at least a part there of. It’s like the universe has reveal a secret for the very first time and the discovery of an untold wondrous secret fills you with an euphoric wave that blankets your soul. I’m left wondering if this the same feeling others have when they “find” a God or a faith/religion that speaks to them in the same way. I have no idea, nor do I suspect I ever will.

Additionally, since I have always considered myself previously; a born and raised atheist, and in later years an agnostic. I don’t have any real comparison of this feeling. Having held no belief in a deity of any kind – due in part to the lack of evidence to support either side of the argument (hence the change from atheist to agnosticism), I cannot attribute the sensation of having a faith, to that of being a Humanist. While having a faith or belief in a deity is sensation or mentality I some thing believe I never will acquire, I don’t feel I am missing out. I’ve never needed a god to be happy or be a “good person”. Why would I start now?

While I have looked at other philosophies, Humanism seems to have a major claim as to who I am, but it is by no means the end. I have looked at a similar branching philosophies such as; Personism[4][6], Religious Humanism[7], and Secular Humanism[5], – branching beliefs of Humanism that transcends species or the traditional views on life. I do believe in some of the principles such as artificial life and aliens enjoying the same rights we would want for ourselves (assuming they themselves have the same mentality and eagerness to respect life regardless of it’s origins) and ensuring that any state government and most if not all aspects of everyday life are free from any religious influence. Not that I would either condemn anyone or their right to believe in a faith or follow a peace based religion. I just don’t like the thought that religion influences my life, as much as it currently has done so already, or will do.

About Religious Humanism. (etx)
“We embrace the best aspects of religious congregations while rejecting all supernatural agencies and the traditional, hierarchical, dogmatic and creedal religions.”

UU Humanist Association (2014)[7]

The question is can we pick and chose how we apply something like Humanism? The pain full answer is yes – and with it makes the Humanist ideal a double edged sword, the immediate example of Personism is, what is the cut off point we apply this too? Who gets to decide what does and doesn’t deserve the same level of equality as us mere humans? I would love to see our planet one day filled with aliens and artificial intelligence of like minded individuals. People given the same rights as everyone else despite their origins or attributes, much like a world featured in the popular cartoon series – Futurama. Or a more utopian version such as the one in the more scientifically based fictional series – Star-trek.

Personism. (etx)
“Personism states that being human does not give one exclusive claim to moral rights.”

“Personism is an ethical philosophy of personhood as typified by the thought of the preference utilitarian philosopher Peter Singer”
A Wikipedia entry.
[5]

(I am aware that Wikipedia isn’t the best site to quote from but this post isn’t being assessed formally – hence again no reference.)

Taking Humanism Beyond Speciesism. (etx)
“Why should we ground values in the welfare of human beings rather than in the welfare of all beings capable of having a welfare at all?”

Peter Singer (2004)[6]

The reason is not because I think a world filled with aliens and A.I based androids would be cool (even though I think it would), or for any other frivolous reason, but because it would show that we as humans have transcended the segregation that exists pretty much everywhere. For example; I find the thought of a AI/artificial based slave abhorrent, just I do with a human slave. The notion that humans are the only species of intelligent-sapient life in the universe to me is also ridiculous and dangerously arrogant.

That Human based racism/speciesism/ageism/sexism/add-something-else-with-ism or discrimination against others because of [Insert backwards reason here.], like that towards those of the LBGTQAI community for example and of which I am a twice member of: Are concepts that should only found in old text books highlighting how awful we have been towards each other.

I will concede that there isn’t any concrete evidence as yet to support the idea of alien life thus far, but considering we already exist among the billions of stars and planets in our one galaxy. Odds are we aren’t alone and aliens just have the better sense to leave “us” alone until we grow beyond our current mentality.

Secular Humanism Defined. (etx)
“As a secular lifestance, secular humanism incorporates the Enlightenment principle of individualism, which celebrates emancipating the individual from traditional controls by family, church, and state, increasingly empowering each of us to set the terms of his or her own life.”

Council for Secular Humanism (2014)[4]

Also, why is it that because of this quiz on the B.H.A website do I feel a little dis-concerned? 4% may not seem like much to a lot of people, but it holds a level of doubt over me that I can’t help shake. What was the question I answered that has robbed me from being 100% Humanist? Is there a small part of me that questions the philosophy? It is not like I can just go back and work out from the many permutations that question has blocked me from doing so…well I could but it would take too long and would ultimately prove pointless. It would also cheapen the initial result and yes 96% was my initial result. I would have to go through each question assuming I know each correct answer, and selectively chose the “right answer” just to make up that remaining percentage. Anyway, its not as if there are strict guidelines to being a Humanist (hence the many branches there of) and being one or two questions out doesn’t mean I am anything less than the attributed name…I hope – I can always call myself a Humanist despite this percentile minority.

Below are the website’s quiz’s questions (In bold) and my answers. Ones I picked the first time round which resulted in the 96%. Which combination has left this 4% deficit I will have to let go unanswered. If I am to believe that the initial result is a true representation of my “level” of humanistic ideals, then it will have to do. Assuming of course you exclude the lack of rigorous scientific processes used to determine the quiz’s outcome. There is a lot of doubt in the many various aspects of my life…why should this be an exception?

Question – My answer.
(Q.1) Does God exist? There is no evidence that any god exists, so I’ll assume that there isn’t one.
(Q.2) When I die… I will live on in people’s memories or because of the work I have done or through my children.
(Q.3) How did the Universe begin? The scientific explanations are the best ones available. No gods were involved.
(Q.4) The theory that life on Earth evolved gradually over billions of years is… True. There is plenty of evidence from fossils, DNA and many other sources showing that this is how it happened.
(Q.5) When I look at a beautiful view I think that… We ought to do everything possible to protect this for future generations.
(Q.6) I can tell right from wrong by… Thinking hard about the probable consequences of actions and their effects on other people.
(Q.7) It’s best to be honest because… People respect you more if you’re trustworthy.
(Q.8) Other people matter and should be treated with respect because… They are people with feelings like mine.
(Q.9) Animals should be treated… With respect because they can suffer too.
(Q.10) The most important thing in life is… To increase the general happiness and welfare of humanity.

Consequently I guess some would say at the end of it I am just being picky…or that an innate level of O.C.D I hold, is screaming at me to go back; “Go back and do it right!” or “It’s not 100%!, It’s not 100%!!, It’s not 100%!!!”.

Besides, It really won’t change anything I do currently and I will live the rest of my life the same as I would have otherwise. It won’t blossom into a grand campaign to persuade others into coming to the same conclusion, even though a part of me wish I would. Nor is it something I can use to force people to into believing in the same principles, because in doing so would automatically snatch that Humanist label away from me, leaving an unhealable scar of intolerance. Even though I really wish everyone respected others despite any differences, imposing the ideology by force really isn’t the way to go. Maybe this is the 4% I fail to comprehend. Perhaps a representative part of me that would, if I was able to – force it upon others.

Either way, respect for others is one of the root principles, even if global acceptance and treatment of others is not going to be witness-able with in my life time, which to me is more than a little depressing. I just hope that every person, regardless of their denomination, may one day find peace among themselves and among others. At the end of it, we live our lives by other’s ideals or by our own, I’ve already made my choice.


Laura Steel © 2014


Bibliography:

[1] American Humanist Asssociation. (2014). Humanist Manifesto III. [Online]. Available at:http://americanhumanist.org/Humanism/Humanist_Manifesto_III
[Last accessed 26th Sept 2014].
[2] British Humanist Association. (2014). Are you a humanist?. [Online]. Available at:https://humanism.org.uk/humanism/are-you-a-humanist/.
[Last accessed 26th Sept 2014].
[3] British Humanist Association. (2014). Defining ‘Humanism’. [Online]. Available at:https://humanism.org.uk/humanism/
[Last accessed 26th Sept 2014].
[4] Council for Secular Humanism. (2014). Secular Humanism Defined. [Online]. Available at:https://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php/13
[Last accessed 26th Sept 2014].
[5] Encyclo.co.uk English Encyclopedia. (2014). Personism.[Online]. Available at:http://www.encyclo.co.uk/define/Personism
[Last accessed 26th Sept 2014].
[6] Peter Singer. (2004). Transcending Humanism Beyond Speciesism. [Online]. Available at: http://www.utilitarianism.net/singer/by/200410–.htm
[Last accessed 27th Spet 2014].
[7] UU Humanist Association. (2014). About Religious Humanism. [Online]. Available at:http://huumanists.org/about/religious-humanism
[Last accessed 27h Sept 2014].

The Ex-Communicated Champion – The Hard Life

Watching the cool flowing water meander around the mossy rocks and hovering fish scales glisten from the noon day glare, a secret break away at his favorite spot on the bridge. Sol was unhindered most of the day, however dark rolling clouds appeared creeping from beyond the horizon, blanketing the far lands with thunderous rain. The sweet song of birds euphorically burst through the air, a brief distraction from the strain of turning straw, they almost sounded like they were warning each other of the impending weather change. Standing there, alone, doing nothing wasn’t appropriate behaviour for a young farmer. “A farma’ ain’t allowed no breaks, doin’ nofing means no food for uv’ers!” So says Joah’s father…

It was too hot to work even as the clouds slowly strolled across the sky, the last hours of the lit day burning away fast. Even though he should be working constantly and his father would have had him scorned for not doing so, he was in no mood.
“Works not over til I say!” is what he would have said, or “Ya idiot, not like this…can’t you do anything right boy!” Anything he had done was never enough and what work he had done was always criticize or belittled. Days were hard, long and tiresome. Just as he father’s father before him and so on for atleast a few remembered generations. “Men of’tha house ‘av muck for blood…ya know.” Was he favourite saying to anyone with ears.

“Ya mother will ‘av your ‘ide if ya slack off!” He would say to Joah if he saw him as he was, gawking into the wavy waters mentally distanced from everything. His mother wouldn’t have said anything of the sort, but she couldn’t really complain…not if the occasionally blackened eyes were anything to go by.
She used to sing songs to Joah as he slept as a baby and further more until his teens, they abruptly stopped after then.
“He’s too old…ya hag, he needs ta man up now… You’ll soften ‘is ‘ead.” Heard late at some untold hour of one cold night. After which they did.

Nothing but hardship followed in the years to come. Tiling, sowing, scything when crops were bound. Chopping and hunting when coldness hardened the dead fields. This was the time table over and over for years, with the ever so rare trip to the nearest market. Time spent was over efficiently, with no moments for merriment. Watching the other boys and girls in town playing their games was as close to fun as Joah would be allowed, being cuffed on the head when any spark of enthusiasm for fun presented on his face.

What happened next was unpredictable and unconceivable to Joah and his father. The old man found himself pounced upon and left writhing on the ground, after his throat was gouged out by the razor teeth of a Diralupa. Joah ran over to find the large bulky, black matted hairy wolf-like beast, who had pinned his father flat into the tilled soil, too preoccupied to noticed anything else. It had unknowingly sprang out of now to Joah’s father’s surprise where during the dusky hours of the day. Waning light limited the detecting of the creatures presence and the out lying wooden fences provided no protection other than to mark the field’s limits.

It had rather boldly found it’s meal miles from it’s den in the hills. Rumours of it prowling the hillside had circulated the local towns but Joah’s father paid no heed as stubborn as he always was. Joah strangely felt a sense of remorse, panic and anger when he realised the predicament his father was in. Emotions he was not expecting to feel for the man who he had to suffer, for so many gruelling years.

Confronting it with the four spiked fork Joah grabbed while sprinting in aid of his father, screaming muffled with gargling as he tried in a vain attempt to prise off the beast looming over him. Joah lunged the fork into the side of the monstrous form who was still wearing the viscous crimson around it’s maw. The four honed spikes pierced the creature’s hide inch by inch into and through it’s inner organs. It staggered away on each of its four paws letting out a wincing cry as it meandered off into a slump.

Joah looked upon his father, still in the throws of death, who in turn looked up at his son with pleading painful eyes, wishing that his suffering would end. Joah stayed his hand briefly, almost enjoying the pain his father was suffering. Pity took over. And without thinking he lifted the fork vertically above his head and landed the mercy blow. He threw away the fork and walked slowly over to his favourite spot on the bridge, panting a heavy remorseful breath that mismatched the thumping in his chest. Staring at the darkened waters, the fish that once beautified the river were dimmed from sight. He looked upon his home were the light broke through the windows, unable to find the words his mother would have to hear when he returned.


 Prompt: http://jeremysdailychallenge.wordpress.com/2014/09/17/challenge-wednesday-17-september/


Edited: 26/09/2014

Laura Steel © 2014

Champion Chess King of the Office Orchastra

The King felt mighty as always. Walking through the streets of his beloved city, turning between the stalls and shops, weaving his way to his glorious castles throne room. Looking upon his subjects with an absolute authority. They paid him no respect of course, as they were distracted with their own daily duties, some hacked away at slabs of meat, others arranging displays of goods. One weirdly toying away with a strange contraption that produced parchments with a strange dialect, one after another, dozen after a dozen. It made no difference, it was what was required to run the city of this magnitude. He reached his throne room and sat down. Placing his sceptre and de-robed his velvet gown. he looked out beyond his realm…
  “Do you have those reports?” asked Paul – his “advisor”. The monarch looked up distracted.
  “Hmp?” The monarch was unduly addressed and ill prepared.
  “Do you have those reports I asked, the one with this months expenses!?” asked the manager clutching a tome of paper.
  “Oh yes…I’ll send them right now…I finished them at home.” said John in a culpable way. He plugged in his USB stick into the computer and within seconds the screen on his desk blurred his vision for a moment as his eyes adjusted to the radiant light. Windows appeared one by one as he took hold of the poor little mouse and with a few swipes and squeaks, his royal duty was performed. Digitized into pulses of energy and shot across his realm into a distant corner where their intended destination. Ordered Emissaries carrying out the royal decree.
  “…and sent, Paul. Is their anything else you needed?”
  “Yes, would you mind staying after work for a bit? We need to go over a few things ready for the CEO’s visit tomorrow.” John knew it was more of a command that a request.
  “Uh…” John paused to think of anything, his eyes darted upward and side ward looking for the relevant information behind them…his friends would have to wait at their appointed dinner date.
  “Is there a problem?” Asked Paul in a overbearing way, already expecting a “yes”.
  “No Paul, that should be fine.” John complacently relented away his free time. Paul walked off beyond the partitioned wall and could be heard faintly speaking to an unknown entity…it sounded like Mark from accounting. When John felt that Paul was out of ear shot he let out a quiet sigh, it still seemed to echo and caused an un-euphoric wave for fear of being heard.
  The Champion chess player had slumped into his chair feeling relief that the move he just made wasn’t as bad as he first though…he wouldn’t have been a Champion if it was. Putting his opponent in a position just where he wanted, it was all apart of the master plan, smirking on the side of his face for a moment as he contemplated further action. He arranged his pieces neatly with an intense focus, making sure they were all facing fully in opposite direction, facing down the other army on the other side of the board. Polished, gleaming. Ready for war.
  “Their my beauties, will win this infernal game!…The check might be yours for now Sir! But mine will superseded a “mate”!” John whispered to himself…it was a Championship match after all.
  “So once again the “champion” is held back once again!” spoken by a mysterious figure. Who in fact said “chump” not “champion”.
  “What?” asked frustratingly.
  “Paul has you working late again doesn’t he?” said the accountant – Mark was his official name. Unofficial one everyone else knew him by “that twat”.
  “Oh yes, third time this week.” John looked towards his screen continuing his work, not wanting to engage further.
Mark added a snide addition “Have fun!” as he sleuthed beyond sight, chuckling and readjusting his tie and tidying his slick gelled hair. Taking a sip of his cappuccino, or mocha. They all smelt the same to someone who hated machine brought.
  The hours were monitored winding by, the wall mounted device and it’s twelve numbers was the conductor and the black batons instructed the entire orchestra to play in tune. The audible sound of instruments made an unattractive music that everyone was forced to bare. Click after click, ring after ring. The occasional “Oh shit” when coffee was spilt on important notes. Or the creaking of the main office door that needed better hinges. John felt sure that his music would be glorious. Standing in front of the audience waving his batons with styled flourishes and flicked gestures. His conducting would sound magnificent and the piece would end with the anticipated crescendo of “finally it’s 5:30”.


 This was for my first homework for English class at College. A story in the style of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (1939) by James Thurber.


 

Laura Steel © 2014

Travelling Companions (Part 1) – By the campfire

After a brief meeting in a small town, Ayron Glorand and Laurena Reaver found themselves as travelling companions, both in need to mutually traverse the Tenelunca Cave, as it’s not a solo-able journey by any means. After a few days, the two have made camp along the widening road some miles south of the cave’s entrance. Rolling hills flanked each side, blocking the horizon. Both were sitting in a quiet contemplation, while the camp fire flickered and spat embers, which died instantly on any surface.

Ayron occasionally took a bite from his roasted Pavorsus leg, thanks to Laurena’s hunting prowess. It tasted awful, but he didn’t complain. Laurena just nursed her meal, still skewered through with stick, distracted about past events. Ayron found himself caught staring by Laurena, who is more spatially aware than he had given her credit for.

“Why are you staring Solaran?” said Laurena, as she replaced her food with sharpening her jagged Dreadblades with a whetstone. Her head unturned her towards Ayron.

“My apologies my lady. I could not help but wonder,” he explained. Unafraid to look away after being caught.

“Wonder what? What makes me unnerved, because -”

“- No that was never my intent,” Ayron interupted. “Besides your are not nervous. If you wished me harm I would have been so already!” he said in his ever passive voice.

“So what is it you want to know?” she asked.

“Why, just how a woman of your inner beauty and grace, has eyes so clouded with hate, and a heart so leaden with grief,” Ayron inquired.

Laurena said nothing. She glanced under her hood towards Ayron’s face, illuminated through the fire.

“I was hoping to alleviate you from your pain, should you would allow it,” Ayron offered .

“And what do you know…of my pain?” Laurena asked, sheathing her weapon.

“I know you dwell on only one thing, of loved ones who have been taken from you.” Ayron asked, as if her could see straight into her heart.

“I have long since gotten over that,” Laurena said dismissively .

“Have you?” Ayron insisted. “I suspect you have thought of little else, other than to see them avenged.”

“I am an Umbrian, it is our way.” Laurena deflected.

“Is it? I was under the impression that there was more to your people than seeking revenge. That you also know of honour and respect and comradery.” Ayron saw through the typical stereotype of her people, despite his inexperience of communicating with them.

“…and what do your people know of honour or respect, when your people are forced to live a life devoid of freedom,” rebuked Laurena.

“If you are referring to my peoples involuntary indoctrination…you my be right,” Ayron conceded. “But it does not deter them from peace, friendship or love,” Ayron admitted, with a mixed sense of guilt and hope.

“So why help me, I fail to see what you would gain?” asked Laurena.

“I was hoping to gain a friend, but more importantly, to not see someone capable of so much more than becoming a construct of hate,” Ayron explained, with genuine intent.

“I have been consumed by hate for far too long to be saved,” Laurena replied, as she rubbed the Noxia pendent with her finger and thumb, half caught back into her old thoughts.

“I do not believe so my Lady. You have the inner light of Lumia burning within you…I see it. Beyond your pale skin, white hair and blackened tunic, you glow with an iridescence aura of compassion,” Ayron boasted.

“No. You merely see the empty shell of a person, a person who could have been. No more, no less.”

“Then why do you strike at those who wrong others? Parry the blades of brigands and thieves, that would harm others, just as if they had harmed you. Right the wrongs that would leave many without justice – With a passion to help others, without need for praise or personal gain,” Ayron said, trying to justifying his inquisition.  “It is that I wish to save.”

“Even if you could, and even if I wanted you too. It wound’t matter until-”

“-Until what?” Ayron interrupts abruptly.

“Until I rid the world of one particular monster,” Laurena replied, sullenly, as she wrapped tightly around her pendant and her teeth clenched to almost crush them at the thought.

“Would that really help,” Ayron pleaded. “There are always other monsters out there. Some of which are far larger and far gruesome.”

“Maybe so,” Laurena hesitated. “But none that gone this long with out punishment, none that have deserved my blades piercing their heart more than that of my quarry.”

“And what would you do when said monster is slain? Rejoice perchance?Live the rest of your life in peace? Or will you find yourself with nothing but emptiness?” Ayron asked, persistingly, as he finished the last his Pavorsus and dumped the remains on the fire, while embers spat forth from the slowly dying fire.

“I will be, set free,” Laurena said.  She then laid down with her back turned to Ayron and the fire.

Looking one last time at Laurena with a genuine concern, Ayron turned on his back; to stare at the stars blanketing the clear night sky, and slowly drifted off to sleep.


Laura Steel © 2014

A monstrous critter…just because

CritterRender

After a few hours messing around in Blender (a free 3D modeling program), I tried to recreate a monstrous critter I had envisioned in my fictional fantasy world. The texture is crap but I am new to 3D modeling. I think it’s ment to be a small barnacle sized carnivorous crustacean that swarms in the thousands…hell if I know really.


Laura Steel © 2014