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].