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Christian and Secular Humanism

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Humanism, an educational and philosophical outlook that emphasizes the personal worth of the individual and the central importance of human values as opposed to religious belief, developed in Europe during the Renaissance, influenced by the study of ancient Greek and Latin literature and philosophy.

Humanism thus began as an educational program called the humanities, which was based on those ancient secular values which were consistent with Christian teachings. The Renaissance humanists were often devout Christians, but they promoted secular values and a love of pagan antiquity.

There are two major flavor of humanism: Christian humanism and secular humanism

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The Pomp of Courts, the Pride of Kings...

One of my readers noted, more elegantly than I can remember, that le café has a remarkably eclectic menu, with wrestler Ric Flair and monetary discussion juxtaposed with John Henry Newman and Mad Magazine style satirical cartoons.

After thinking about it I said, I had not thought about it like that, but you are right.

Old familiar things seem to pop into my head from past things read, and thanks to the internet, it is relatively easy for my poor overburdened memory to refresh itself about them. So it was with the subtitle of this little discourse's subtitle today, 'The pomp of courts, the pride of Kings.'

I remembered it, but had to look up its context and detail, and I include that bit of historical diversion below the charts today. It is an interesting little poetical puzzle and reminds us of a time when freedom of thought and press was much more constrained that it is now.

I find the world to be full of endlessly fascinating people and things, and books, travel, lectures, essays, and personal conversations are the pathways to them. And the internet is a marvel of convenience for this.

This fascination with the world and the people in it is very much in the nature of Renaissance Christian Humanism, which sees the things of the world in all their variety, but views little of His creation as inherently profane or evil, including human beings who can be a wonder and a source of grace. It is we who make it so.

Evil is not a created thing, but the absence of good, a choice of free will. The world is not inherently evil. It inherently is, having no free will of its own Plants and animals are not inherently evil, although the little girl has often put forward an exception to this for spinach and spiders.

Creation is like a richly provisioned canvas on which we draw our lives, and it naturally shimmers in His light. It is the darkness of our hardened hearts that casts images and shadows in the light.

So the Christian humanist, in the Renaissance tradition, would agree with Socrates in saying, 'I am a citizen of the world,' but adding and most importantly, 'and nothing is alien to me except sin.' Because it is in sin that we cut the connection between the Incarnate world and its Creator, for it is was in the almost shocking implications of the Incarnation that the world was refreshed and made new, as all things will be made new some day again.

Moving on to less complex but probably darker topics, Stocks were on a tear today, shaking off the rather depressing economic reports of the morning. One could speculate that this was a 'technical trade' ahead of a long weekend, with the wiseguys wishing to hand off more positions as we creep again back to new all time highs, buoyed with the central banks' hot money. The futures are just about there.

But we could also attribute this to the announcement that Russia and the Ukraine have agreed to a cease fire (again). That is one of the many geopolitical issues that have been weighing on the markets. The other being Greece and the likely further deterioration of the Eurozone.

As we saw, another central bank instituted QE and negative interest rates. The world is slipping into a global depression. The pig of the US economy has been lipsticked up and the Dollar is being presented as a safe haven.

Let's see how we go into the three day weekend, as on Monday the US will remember some of their Presidents. I suppose a more popular day might be held in honor of all the ones which we might wish to forget, and they are many especially of late.

Have a pleasant evening.

"The pomp of courts, and pride of kings,

I prize above all earthly things;

I love my country, but my king,

Above all men his praise I'll sing.

The royal banners are displayed,

And may success the standard aid:

I fain would banish far from hence

The Rights of Man and Common Sense.

Destruction to that odious name,

The plague of princes, Thomas Paine,

Defeat and ruin seize the cause

Of France, her liberty, and laws."

Arthur O'Connor, The Society of United Irishmen, 1798

This poem above contains a hidden message, which was a hanging offense, for its day. Take the first line and follow with the first line of the second stanza, second line followed by the second line of second stanza and so forth.

Thus it becomes:

"The pomp of courts, and pride of kings,

I fain would banish far from hence

I prize above all earthly things;

The Rights of Man and Common Sense.

I love my country, but my king,

Destruction to that odious name,

Above all men his praise I'll sing.

The plague of princes, Thomas Paine,

The royal banners are displayed,

Defeat and ruin seize the cause

And may success the standard aid:

Of France, her liberty, and laws."

Atheists Reach Out -- Just Don't Call It Proselytizing - By STEPHANIE SIMON

Nonbelievers Think the Time Is Right to Better Organize Their Nonreligion and Swell the Membership; 'Reason's Greetings'

more in US "
Late next month, atheists, humanists, freethinkers, secularists -- in short, nonbelievers of every description -- will gather in dozens of cities to mark the holiday they call HumanLight.

Whether by singing from a Humanist Hymnal, decorating a winter wreath or lighting candles dedicated to personal heroes, they'll celebrate what has been an exhilarating ride for the faithless -- a surge in recognition that has many convinced they're on the brink of making a mark on mainstream America.

Jeff Dean

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which represents atheists and agnostics, kicked off an ad campaign with this billboard in Madison, Wis.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which represents atheists and agnostics, kicked off an ad campaign with this billboard in Madison, Wis.

During the past three years, membership has grown in local and national associations of nonbelievers. Books attacking faith as a delusion shot up best-seller lists. For the first time, the faithless even raised enough funds to hire a congressional lobbyist.

Building on that momentum, nonbelievers have begun a very public campaign to win broad acceptance. On billboards and bus ads, radio commercials and the Internet, atheists are coming forward to declare, quite simply: We're here. And we're just like you.

"We've had an undercurrent of emotional and academic support, but we've been waiting to make a movement happen," said Joe Zamecki, an Austin landscaper who recently organized Texas' first statewide convention of nonbelievers. "It's a very new age."

Not so fast, religious leaders respond. They point out that the vast majority of Americans believe in God. A poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life earlier this year found 71% of American adults are absolutely certain God -- or some sort of universal spirit -- exists, and a further 17% said they were fairly certain. Only 5% said flatly that they don't believe.

Atheists "are talking to a very small slice of the population," said Mathew Staver, a leading Christian conservative and law-school dean. "In some ways, they're really just talking to themselves."

Nonbelievers point to a different set of statistics and societal trends. Americans are shifting away from formal allegiances with specific faiths. In 1990, about 90% of the U.S. adult population identified with a religious group, according to the widely cited American Religious Identification Survey. When the most recent survey was conducted in 2001, that dropped to 81%. Relatively few go so far as to call themselves atheists, but young Americans, especially, are drifting from organized religion, other surveys have found.

Unlike in Europe, where secularism has a strong hold, many atheists in the U.S. have felt like a shunned minority. Politicians often reflexively end speeches with "God bless America." Schoolchildren pledge their allegiance every day to "one nation, under God." City parks display the Ten Commandments. When atheists talk openly in public, "we often see people shaking their heads and moving away, like there's a plague zone around us," said Iggy Dybal, a real-estate broker in Kansas City, Kan.

Secularist groups say their membership began to surge in 2005, when Congress sought to prevent Terri Schiavo's husband from removing her feeding tube. Many new members said they hoped nonbelievers could serve as a counterweight to religious influence in political affairs.

Rather than renew old battles, such as the symbolic fight to remove "In God We Trust" from currency, members are mobilizing to repair what they view as breaches of the wall between church and state -- such as federal funding for faith-based charities and teaching of intelligent design in science class. They believe many others sympathize with their views -- but are too timid to commit.

The new ad campaigns and other public-relations efforts are designed to raise comfort levels about atheism by making the point that nonbelievers are "just as ethical and moral as anyone else," said Lori Lipman Brown, who lobbies Congress on behalf of the Secular Coalition for America.

As Doug Krueger, a philosophy professor in northwest Arkansas, put it: "Step one is for people to know we're not crazy, we're just regular people [who have] perfectly satisfactory lives without believing in God."

So the American Humanist Association is spending $42,000 to plaster buses in Washington, D.C., with ads asking: "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness' sake." FreeThoughtAction and its local affiliates have put up billboards all over the country asking: "Don't believe in God? You are not alone." Eight billboards are going up this month in Denver.

At the same time, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., has hit at least nine states in the past year with billboards that look like they're made of stained glass but say "Beware of Dogma," "Imagine No Religion," or -- coming soon -- "Reason's Greetings." The group also advertises on the liberal radio network Air America. One spot features Ron Reagan, son of the former president, who signs off: "Ron Reagan, lifelong atheist. Not afraid of burning in hell."

Local groups of atheists are also making a point of getting out in public to show that they're part of every community.

The Pennsylvania Nonbelievers rehabbed a women's shelter this fall. Kansas City FreeThinkers hold monthly walks in a dog park and weekly coffee-house meet-ups, advertised online. Secularists in Sacramento, Calif., stage a family-friendly Freethought Day each fall, complete with roving magicians.

Organizers of such efforts generally say they aren't trying to evangelize. Instead, they say their goal is to make the public more comfortable with the concept of atheism and give fellow nonbelievers a sense of community.

In seeking the spotlight, the movement risks a backlash. Some Christians find the billboards deeply offensive, especially at this time of year. In recent weeks, press releases from the religious right have accused atheists of "mocking" and "insulting" Christmas. In rural Chambersburg, Pa., one Christian group responded to an "Imagine No Religion" billboard with a giant sign of their own, asking: "Why Do Atheists Hate America?"

Even some who share common goals with nonbelievers are uneasy with the provocative nature of the ad campaign.

"Atheists can act very much like Christian fundamentalists from time to time," said James Webb, president of the Community of Reason in Kansas City, which includes both believers and skeptics. "It's important not to be in-your-face with people."

Some nonbelievers respond that this is a critical time to reach out, as a new administration prepares to take office in the White House.

For instance, some atheists are dismayed by some of President-elect Barack Obama's proposals, such as his pledge to funnel more tax dollars to faith-based groups running soup kitchens, tutoring programs and the like.

Others are more hopeful.

They note that in a big speech on faith last summer, Mr. Obama called for "Christian and Jew, Hindu and Muslim, believer and nonbeliever alike" to work together. It isn't often that politicians specifically mention nonbelievers, they say.

Secularists also are encouraged by Mr. Obama's eclectic upbringing. He has written that his mother disdained organized religion but exposed him to a variety of faith traditions and holy books as an anthropological study. Though he now talks often of his Christian faith and envisions a role for faith in the public square, Mr. Obama has sought to use inclusive language and signal respect for different traditions.

Obama transition spokeswoman Amy Brundage, in a statement, said, "People of all backgrounds and beliefs will have a voice in the Obama-Biden Administration."

Still, leading activists say nonbelievers tend to be just as wary of organized atheism as they are of organized religion -- making it tough to pull together a cohesive movement.

"A pastor can say to his flock, 'All rise,' and everyone rises. But try that in an atheist meeting," said Marvin Straus, co-founder of an atheist group in Boulder, Colo. "A third of the people will rise. A third will tell you to go to hell. And a third will start arguing....That's why it's hard to say where we're going as a movement."

The Rise and Fall of Latin Humanism in Early-Modern Russia

Humanism in Post-Soviet Russia. Some Aspects of Theory, History and Actuality Mikhail B. Konashev

The fact that the Russian Humanistic Society (RHS) was established only in 1995 ' in the latest, post-Soviet history of Russia - has a special meaning and presents a subject for particular consideration. In this article I will try to demonstrate that this fact has one very important cause deeply connected with the fate of humanism as an idea, a theory, and an attempt to realize it in practice in Russia. (leader)

The establishment of the RHS was at the same time a significant and an unnoticed event. Neither at the moment of its formation, nor at present after more than five years of activity, has the RHS been, or is, an influential or noticeable public organisation. The RHS has practically never been mentioned in the mass media, and its actions and opinions were not taken into account by government officials or by the leaders of such major political parties as Edinstvo [Unity], Liberal'no-demokratichaskaya partiya [Liberal-Democratic Party], Kommunisticheskaya partiya Rossiskoi Federatsii [Communist Party of Russian Federation], Soiuz pravykh sil [The union of right forces], Yabloko [Apple] or by the leaders of the so-called tvorcheskikh soiuzov [creative unions] such as soiuz kinematografistov [the union of cinematographers] and soiuz zhurnalistov [the union of journalists].(1) The total number of RHS members may be no more than several hundred; its St. Petersburg branch has just about fifty members - not that many for the 'second', 'northern' or 'cultural' capital of the country, as this city is often referred to in the mass media. On the one hand, the RHS is simply one of hundreds, if not thousands, of newly emerged public associations in Russia. On the other hand, the RHS has its own journal Zdravyi Smysl [Common sense], which has subscribers probably throughout Russia. This situation appears rather strange for the country in which not too long ago the slogan 'all men are brothers' was a commonplace, but it has its history, its logic and its explanations.(2) It can be said that this situation is typical enough for the origin of a civic association in a still non-civic society,(3) and that the future of the RHS, its success or failure, will depend (although not exclusively) on its ability to solve various problems, which are of the utmost importance for the fate of humanism in Russia. I do not pretend to define exactly and exhaustively all these problems, and to consider the meaning of each of them. However, I shall briefly describe two problems which have been discussed by RHS members more often than any other, and which are still 'hot' topics.

The most hotly debated issues are the unbelievably rapid expansion of the Russian Orthodox Church into almost all spheres of social life, and the continuing growth and flourishing of pseudo-science, astrology, mysticism and many other 'non-traditional' forms of rationality and irrationality. These two types of spiritual invasion are indeed a real cause for anxiety and they have to be taken seriously. The most dangerous tendency is a fusion (which is not very obvious yet) of the state and the church, the quiet' clericalisation of various facets of life and of social and state structures. Here are some recent examples.

First, Radio Rossiia [Radio Russia] reported in its news broadcast of 27 January 2002 that Aleksii II, the patriarch of All-Russia, had announced that an introduction of 'zakon bozhii' [God's law, that is, lessons of religion] in the school does not contradict Russian legislature. This statement can be considered a first step in an attempt to actually introduce religious teaching into Russian schools. Second, only several days earlier, the Russian president Vladimir Putin had received an award from Aleksii II in the Kremlin for his outstanding activity in consolidating the unity of the peoples of the Orthodox Christian faith'.(4)

Under these conditions, many members of the RHS have concentrated their efforts mainly on protecting a secular, non-theistic mode of thinking and living, and recreating the values of scientific, rational and sceptical thought. With this aim they write and publish articles and popular pamphlets, and take part in public debates and programmes on radio and TV.(5) Last autumn, from 3 to 7 October, the RHS held a special conference at Moscow university on the problems of pseudo-science and related matters.(6) One of the latest issues of Zdravyi Smysl was devoted entirely to modern atheism in Russia. Thus there is a certain one-sidedness or narrowness in the RHS activities, and at present, judging from its actions, the RHS is an atheistic rather than a humanistic organisation, although humanistic and ethical subjects are included in its agenda. For instance, a permanent monthly seminar on ethics and humanism has already been in operation for three years at the philosophical faculty of St. Petersburg University under RHS guidance.

However, despite the pressing nature of these issues, which indeed occupy a central place in the discussions among humanists in Russia, as well as in the practical activities of the RHS and of some other organisations such as Atom (Moscow association of young atheists), there is one more issue that still has not been considered at all. This most important issue can be defined as the problem of a 'humanistic ideal'. What is this? Why is this problem more significant and more fundamental than others, and perhaps even crucial for the fate of humanism in Russia? And what is the basis for such a conclusion?

Let me propose a hypothesis based on the historic events in Russia, events which, for the second time in the 20th century, shocked the world. The end of Soviet society in 1991 not only meant the fall of a 'totalitarian' regime, the collapse of 'socialism' in the Soviet Union and other Eastern European countries, the dissolution of the USSR, and the elimination of the Soviet Communist party, but also the end of... a humanistic ideal.

This latter event was neither recorded nor noticed. The humanistic ideal was neither cursed nor derided, as was the 'communist utopia'. No propagandist or other actions were undertaken against it. Instead, it just simply ceased to be. The RHS itself began its activities without mentioning it, as if the RHS started to create humanism in Russia 'from scratch'. There is no reference to the existence of the idea of humanism in Soviet or even in tsarist Russia in the printed or electronic publications of the RHS, and the RHS documents are written in a cosmopolitan style.(7) Perhaps it was shameful to remember the previous humanistic ideal, maybe because of its link with 'communism' and its use for ideological purposes. It had been intensively exploited by the Communist Party propagandists, lectors and professors of 'scientific communism' and 'scientific atheism', by announcers on radio and TV programmes. Ten years ago all this 'scientific bosh' was thrown out, but the 'baby' was thrown out together with the 'dirty bathwater'. What was the 'baby'? What was this humanistic ideal?

'Man is born for happiness as a bird for flight'. Nobody says these words. Nobody remembers anymore that 'man sounds proudly'. Nobody calls to 'the yawning heights'. Not to the communist ones, but to the heights of man's development and perfection. 'We are not slaves, slaves we are not'. Of course, these and similar phrases cannot express the humanistic ideal completely, but they were signs of a new era and of a new world,(8) where no human being can be used as a thing. It is difficult to describe this humanist ideal in detail, in all its exactly formulated aspects, because it was not fixed in any single classical text as were religious texts such as the Bible or the Talmud, or such Marxian ones as the Manifesto of the Communist Party. This ideal was dissolved, as it were, in society's atmosphere, it was presented in relationships among common people and in the notions of the intelligentsia, in poems and films, in songs and novels.

Here are just two examples to illustrate the diversity of its manifestations. In one of the most famous and beloved poems by Andrei Voznesensky it was proclaimed poetically that no progress can be named progressive if it caused harm to man. Another and very 'communist' example is the episode in the film for children produced on the basis of Aleksei Tolstoi's book Zolotoi kliuchik ili prikliucheniya Buratino [The Golden Key or Buratino's Adventures] in which the following words are spoken: 'Neither the rich, nor the poor will be, but everybody will be happy'.(9) After all, as a legacy of 'all the best that was created by human thought', the humanistic ideal, in its most general and essential and not specifically Russian features, was, perhaps, the same as a humanist ideal in any other European (western or eastern) country. When ten years ago 'Communism' was kicked out, this humanist ideal was, at least temporarily, lost too.

It is not difficult to foresee the very first objection: this was a 'Communist' ideal! The attempt to realise this ideal inevitably brought Stalinism and later the so-called 'real socialism'.(10)

For this reason, although not only for this, the idea of humanism, as a 'communist' idea that resulted in inhuman practices, was forgotten for almost five years, from 1991 to 1995. Let us also remember that Gorbachev's perestroika had been conducted under the slogan of a more humane, renovated socialism, and resulted in a new crash. I will not mention the whole set of the many other reasons and obstacles which influenced the image - consciously and unconsciously - of humanism in the mind of various groups of men and women, from the so-called intellectuals to the common folk. What I want to emphasize is the relative conjunction, indissolubility and partial overlap of humanist and communist ideals (and systems of views). Thus those five years were needed to clear humanism of its previous Soviet communist cover.

Nevertheless, this ideal was - historically and theoretically - a humanistic ideal in the first place, and only then a communist one. The ideal originated, changed and developed during a long period as a humanistic one, and only then was it used by men who were members of one party that proclaimed that this ideal would be implemented in life. This party had different names (and abbreviations): Rossiaskaya sotsial-demokraticheskaya rabochaya partiya (RSDRP) [Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party], Rossiaskaya sotsial-demokraticheskaya rabochaya partiya bol'shevikov (RSDRP(b)) [Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party (of Bolsheviks)], Vsesouznaya kommunisticheskaya partiya bol'shevikov (VKP(b)) [All-Union Communist Party (of Bolsheviks)], Kommunisticheskya partiya Sovetskogo Souza (KPSS) [Communist Party of the Soviet Union]. However, there were other men and women who believed in the same humanistic ideal and were devoted to it, but they were members of other parties in Russia, such as the constitutional democrats, the party of socialist-revolutionaries, and the Russian social-democratic labour party [of Mensheviks].(11) All these parties, and some others, fought for the 'freedom of the people' and the 'free development of the individual'; at least they announced these tasks as their goals. (Although there are a lot of recent works on political parties in Russia at the beginning of the 20th century and during the Russian revolutions,(12) no research has been devoted specifically to the connection between an idea of humanism and political movements in Russia during this period.) Furthermore, there were many individual humanists with very different political and cultural views who were not members of any party, and who did not even participate in political struggles: one of the best humanist slogans ever was coined not by a politician, but by the physician and writer Anton P. Chekhov: 'In man all has to be wonderful'.

In other words, it is true that the humanistic ideal was communist (that means, communists incorporated it in their programmes and ideology, and in this way the humanist ideal became associated with them in people's minds), at least in Russia during a certain period. But it was non-communist, and even totally non-communist. Let me reiterate: in this 'communist' humanistic ideal, and not in the reality of 'real socialism', 'all the best that was created by humankind' found its embodiment. That is why, when 'communism' or the 'communist' humanistic ideal was thrown out, 'all the best that was created by humankind' was thrown out too.

To ascertain that this is true, it is enough to compare the following three definitions of humanism: Soviet, post-Soviet and non-Soviet.

The definition of the latest Soviet times (just before perestroika) contains a clear 'class' approach: 'Humanism... [is] the recognition of the value of man as a personality, his right of free development and manifestation of his abilities, assertion of man's ''well-being'' as a criterion of evaluation of all social relations. In a narrower sense h[umanism] is a secular freethinking of the Renaissance epoch, which withstood the scholasticism and spiritual supremacy of the church, and which was connected with the study of newly discovered works of classical antiquity. To reject an abstract and class-independent approach of humanism, Marxism connected it with the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat for the building of the communist society, that created preconditions for the all-round development of man. In this sense Karl Marx referred to communism as a ''real h[umanism]''. H[umanism] gets its practical realization through the achievements of socialism, proclaimed as its principle: ''All in the name of man, all for the good of man''.'(13)

The post-Soviet definition of humanism does not include the class approach: the latter part of the above definition, starting with the words 'To reject an abstract and class-independent approach of humanism...', was simply deleted.(14) 'Western' definitions of humanism, including modern ones, are almost identical to the Soviet one, except for the same 'communist' addition (the latter part of the Soviet definition).(15) On the other hand, the earlier Soviet definition of humanism as a historic movement of Renaissance almost coincides (in its content) with a pre-Soviet one. For example: 'Humanism... 1. Ideological movement of the Renaissance, directed at the liberation of human personality and thought from fetters of feudalism and Catholicism (historic). 2. Enlightened philanthropy (obsolete)'.(16) One year prior to the dramatic year of 1917, it was as follows: 'Humanism or Renaissance. - In historical literature, the term h[umanism] is used to describe a literary-scientific movement, which started in Italy in the 14th century, and slowly, until the beginning of 16th century, embraced the main countries of Europe. The essence of this movement is usually defined as a tendency to the completeness of personal development, which is free of those constraints that were imposed by the mediaeval Church through its theocratic and ascetic demands'.(17)

It is a mistake to say that there was only 'communistic' humanism in the USSR. The official Soviet humanism (that is the humanism of official philosophers and party ideologists) constantly criticized an 'abstract humanism', that was also Soviet, but non-official. This 'abstract humanism' was denigrated in a standard manner: 'Socialist h[umanism] stands against abstract h[umanism], which preaches ''humanity in general'', without a connection to the struggle for the complete release of man from all kinds of exploitation'.(18) In 1991 this 'abstract humanism' disappeared, not absolutely, of course, but as a noticeable public (cultural) phenomenon.

So far there has been no satisfactory explanation of the existence and blooming of abstract humanism during the ten years of Khrushev's 'thaw'. How could it happen that in this still totalitarian society abstract humanism indeed flourished in literature, cinema, the arts and humanitarian sciences such as literary criticism, the history of literature and even in some sections of ideologised Soviet philosophy? Why was it impossible to extirpate this abstract humanism, in spite of all the criticism? And why does it vegetate in modern post-Soviet Russia?

Neither was the 'communist' humanism something invariable, as it was not the primary and absolute evil. It changed historically even within the Soviet period of Russian history. The humanism of A.V. Lunacharskii is not the same as that of R. Kosolapov, I.T. Frolov or E.V. Il'enkov. It was not a homogeneous monolith in each historical moment: the humanism of the KPSS programme (the corresponding phrases in it) was not the same as the humanism of V.G. Kelle or G.S. Batishev. Moreover, there was also the pre-Soviet 'communist' humanism of G.V. Plekhanov or of Karl Marx himself. Finally, in the Soviet period there was a 'communist' humanism of A. Gramsci or of R. Garaudy.

Anything better than the 'communist' humanism of the so-called 'early Marx' was not proposed in Russia; it was not superseded by a new, more profound and more humane humanism. The task of the 'liberation' of man is still unfulfilled. It is a commonplace in present-day Russia that the 'communist' humanism is the same utopia as communism itself. Then a question is natural: is a non-communist humanism an impossible, far-away utopia too? If so, humanism (not as the stoic ethic of one individual but as the ethical norm of many and as a way of living for the whole society) makes no sense. If humanism, at least as a humanistic ideal, is not only an abstract, theoretical possibility, but also a necessity to be realized, it has to be recovered and returned to the place it occupied in the development of Russia, in its evolution to a better country, a better society, a better life, a better people and to better persons who formed this people, this society and this country.

Perhaps one can say that humanism as the ethical norm of many and as a way of living for the whole society is not a personal ideal for individuals, but an ideal for a society. However, this is just the same, at least from the vantage point of the Russian historical situation. 'Free development of everybody is a precondition of free development of all', and vice versa. Has everybody the opportunity to develop his abilities freely in a society with unjustifiable inequalities of income and property? Or without a solid system of social services protecting unfortunate people from poverty and misery? Or in a society lacking respect for human rights and human personality, lacking a real democracy for both majority and minority, the responsibility of man, society and state to each other? The development of all personal abilities means the development not only of artistic or mathematical talents or sporting achievements, but also of the ability to become a citizen, to be a ruler and be ruled. In this case, a humanistic ideal for society coincides (in principle, although not totally) with a humanistic ideal for an individual, and this joint or united humanistic ideal would naturally mean improving the Russian society as a civil society, in which, through some institutional mechanisms, citizens are both the rulers and the ruled, and are socially, culturally and politically active agents and public figures.

Of course, a lot of questions then arise. For instance: how to initiate humanitarian, social and political activities of Russians and groups such as the RHS, that will help to realise this ideal or a part of it? And, of course, this ideal has not to become an idol. The problem is: can a humanistic attitude become a norm of life; and if it can, does it have to become, and under what conditions, a norm of life or, at least, 'the guidance to action'; and if it has to, the guidance to what actions? In other words, can a humanism, as an idea or a system of related ideas, or, perhaps, even as a theory, become a practical humanism? This problem, the problem of humanism in practice, is the most important and the most pressing for Russia, especially from the point of view of a certain balance between ideal and action, or between goals and means. It also includes such 'particular' questions as: should the RHS be a club of intellectuals, or purely an organisation of enlightenment (as the former Znanie [Knowledge] organization), or a civic mass movement 'above the parties', or an independent humanistic party? The type of action depends on a choice that may be reduced to the following three options: a propagation (or propaganda), a reform, a revolution.(19) The actuality and the cost of this choice for Russia is too evident.

At present, the RHS has proclaimed a mixture of more propagandistic and less reformative activity. This activity is based on its understanding of the real situation in Russian society. First of all, this situation is determined by the deep moral crisis of society which leads to the disintegration of basic social and individual values. This crisis has been ignored by the state and the mass media, and in this crisis Russia can find the final defeat.(20) Therefore, the RHS has to assist in forming the mechanisms to resolve this crisis, which are as follows:

  1. a broad moral and intellectual enlightenment of the individual and society;

  2. the adoption by state, public and political leaders of their moral responsibility, and by the electorate of the application of a strong moral criterion in elections;

  3. a social policy of the state and businessmen supporting those organisations which fight for the moral reconstruction of society;

  4. extension of the financial support for education, science, and true culture;

  5. support for the natural willingness of each individual to be in good physical, spiritual and mental shape, to be happy;

  6. formation of more active and powerful elements and bodies of civil society such as the RHS.(21) As a whole, this set of measures is defined by its author himself as a general call 'to return to the all-human values in order to change the attitudes of both the state and the mass media in Russia towards the problem of human rights and dignity'.(22) It should be noted that this strategy of activity is connected essentially with contemporary RHS interpretation of humanism as 'a guiding star of humankind, an improving, open, historically dynamic system of values, actually a meta-value because it covers in itself all the fundamental values of individual and society, and in eco-humanism of the whole world.' (23) Humanism is 'to be the worldview of the individual, his ideal and at the same time a mark of his ''zrelosti i samostoyatelnosti'', the means of self-perfection and self-realisation.' (24) Humanism is neither a political nor a religious ideology. Then it is argued that, as a value-system and a social movement, humanism plays an important general and trans-political role. As a meta- and inter-political phenomenon, humanism brings to the political scene such fundamental political values as freedom, democracy, social justice, supremacy of law, participation of citizens in political processes, etc. All-human values of humanism provide the best moral ground for the struggle of political ideologies, protecting this process of a competition of ideas from transforming into a clash between people and social classes. Humanism is a worldview and a moral power. Therefore the social role of humanism is to be an organized and socially active worldview, and the general political mission of humanism in Russia is to humanize both the people's political consciousness and the political institutions of society.

Such an approach means that the political role of humanism in Russia can be defined as follows. Humanism is:

1) not outside of politics, as it proclaims democracy, freedom, etc.;

2) above all parties and it speaks directly to everybody;

3) for all parties, as it brings all-human values;

4) a link between parties, for the same reason.

But at the same time, humanism cannot become a party or a political ideology as the goal of any party is power, and where there is power there is violence.(25) That is why any attempt to transform humanism as a worldview and a public movement into a party will lead to its fall. However, a humanist movement has to try and become an influential moral-political force, and its 'all-political role is the humanisation of political consciousness of civic man, of practices of political parties and of the state.' (26) Thus the actual choice of the RHS is for humanistic enlightenment.

Whether this proclaimed activity of the RHS is sufficient or not, and whether this choice of strategy is right or wrong, partly or totally, only the future will show.(27) It is natural that in a normal, civilised society all parties stay on the platform of human values. Humanity is the main criterion of any political regime and social order. The problem is that humanism (as any idea) also 'can be used for good or for evil'.(28) It can be added that in present-day Russia humanism 'can be used for good or for evil', as were many other ideas used throughout Russian history.

Horner-Morgentaler Debate (Secular vs. Christian Humanism)

Secular Humanism & Christian Humanism Seeking After Common Ground

Hi folks,

I am very curious about the response of atheists to the following questions. They will likely generate discussion as well, but for myself, I am primarily interested in simply seeing how you would reply, for the sake of my own knowledge, and to understand your point of view better.

I'll make my answers short, and won't always be able to meet your criteria, I'm afraid. I suspect my responses will go a long way towards showing the poverty of my background knowledge, but that's valuable to know, of course, and bound to show anyway. I'll try to make myself clear and not think too hard, because if I do I won't ever finish this in time for lunch.

1. What do you make of Jesus? How do you classify him as a person and ethicist? What do you make of his claims to being God in the flesh (assuming that you agree that he made such claims)? Particularly I am interested in your replies to what is referred to as the Trilemma (brought up initially, I believe, by C.S. Lewis, in his Mere Christianity): "Jesus claimed to be God; therefore, the only reasonable and logical response to this is to regard him as either in fact the Lord, or a liar, or a lunatic."

I am not sure what the historical Jesus may or may not have actually said. That there was an historical Jesus is somewhat debateable, though I think it is very likely. The accuracy of the gospels is also uncertain, since there appears to have been a great deal of religious interpretation which went into them both during and after they were written. Thus, I am far from sure that Jesus actually claimed to be God. I strongly suspect he was a wisdom teacher of approximately the first century who believed he was a messenger of the divine, not God Himself.

My personal opinion then is that while Jesus was not God, neither was he a liar nor a lunatic. He was sincere and no crazier than most people who believe they have a close and insightful relationship with God, meaning not "crazy" at all. I believe many of his teachings were valuable and humanistic in nature; some of his teachings were given under the assumption that the world was about to end and thus inapplicable to living in a world that is not about to end; and some of his teachings, such as the ones on hell and damnation, are not immoral themselves, but do not lead to a loving and responsible attitude or approach to living with others.

2. Please name five or ten Christians whom you consider the most intelligent and intellectually brilliant (and/or culturally influential) of all time, and tell us (briefly) why?

I'm not sure whether you are asking for the names of intelligent, brilliant and influential Christian scholars, or scholars who are these things and also happen to be Christian. Assuming either/or, I would probably include Aquinas, Erasmus, Bacon, Newton, and Locke. This is a short list, of course: any longer and I would be leaving even more people out. ;) All of the above showed insight, clarity, and scope. Each of them were able to look outside of their religious paradigm to incorporate new knowledge, scholarship, or experience either into the religion or into knowledge about the world. Many, though not all, were also Humanists.

I might also include C.S. Lewis, since he has had an enormous amount of modern influence and writes with masterful clarity and ability for the general reader. I enjoy reading him for the narrative and insight into popular Christian beliefs, though it is -- from my point of view -- like sitting on the lap of a Mr. Rogers who most certainly does NOT like me the way I am. Creepy, and frustrating. But what he does ... he does very well (as Noel Coward said about Liberace.)

3. Please name five or ten Christians from history whom you admire the most [I'm thinking more about character here, rather than merely intellect], and tell us (briefly) why?

St. Francis of Assisi -- because I admire his humility and kindness. Erasmus again, because his humanistic approach to the Christian world helped to bring the Middle Ages into the Renaissance, and revealed not only a skilled mind, but a good heart. George Fox, who founded the Quakers and introduced a simplicity and concern for character which contributed to the humanization of society and the end of slavery. Johann Sebastian Bach, whose love of God was the inspiration for some of the most beautiful music ever written, and whose meticulous commitment to his art still enhances the world today.

And Bishop John Shelby Spong, whose humanistic version of Christianity is the one which makes the most sense to me on an emotional as well as intellectual level -- and who had the incredible self-restraint and integrity to examine and then renounce his strong belief in the power of prayer when his wife's cancer went into remission after she was prayed for.

4. Please name five or ten Christians from history that you despise and detest the most and consider the most harmful to society and culture, and tell us (briefly) why?

This is actually more difficult. :) Tertullian, St. Augustine, Torquemada, John Calvin, the Televangelists (pick one.) All show an anathema towards the principles of humanism and its ethics, and a chilling willingness to live by it -- and impose it on others.

5. Who is the greatest living Christian philosopher, and the greatest of all time, and (briefly) why?

Difficult. Probably Aquinas for all time, because his attempted synthesis of Eastern mysticism and Greek philosophy lead to some of the most influential theology and apologetics in history. Possibly Swinburne for today.

6. Who is the greatest living atheist philosopher, and the greatest of all time, and (briefly) why?

Again, philosopher who is an atheist, or a philosopher of atheism? Most of the great philosophers of atheism were theists. As for today, I am partial to Flew, who is still alive, though I have far more books by Paul Kurtz. I know they may not be on the level of Greatness, but I have trouble picking someone I don't like to read and spend money for ;)

7. What is the one single argument or proof which would have the greatest potential for proving to you that Christianity were true?

Scientific evidence for the paranormal/supernatural which is then accepted by the mainstream scientific community. Unless the supernatural exists, then God's existence is problematic. Unless God exists, Christianity is moot. This would not of course be the only argument or proof that would persuade me, but it is the one that would have the greatest potential, which is what you asked.

8. How many of you used to be Christians, and what denomination? At what age did you cease becoming a Christian, and (briefly), why?

I was not raised Christian, but Freethinker. I was New Age during my teens, liberal Christian briefly in my 20's (Quaker), and agnostic and then atheist as my definitions became sharper. In explanation -- very briefly indeed -- it became implausible to me that the fundamental nature of the universe either was or could be a special secret shared only by the enlightened through intuition or revelation. I lost my faith in the power and ability of the human mind to make direct connections with transcendent knowledge, and became more certain that our knowledge ought to be provisional and the evidence open to all.

9. What is the most intellectually and morally respectable religion (if an atheist were to choose one; the "lesser of the evils," so to speak)? If you select Christianity, please also narrow that down to a denomination, if you can, and also tell us which Christian denomination you regard as the least intellectually and morally respectable (or which non-Christian religion, as the case may be), and briefly explain your rationale for all these answers.

The religions with fewer assumptions and less anthropomorphism (God like a Person) seem less unlikely to me. Zen Buddism and Taoism seem to lead not only to a better self-awareness, but a kinder and more accepting attitude towards others. I enjoy reading "pop" zen, and find it entirely consistent with Humanism in its ethics, if not epistemically. I've a brother who is Zen, and he lends me his books sometimes. The Eastern views of 'God' are much grander in many ways than Western views, and more consistent with what I would expect God to be like.

Christianity, with its claim that a Personal God intervenes in earth history and came to earth as a man -- and this was done in order to have an atoning sacrifice for payment of 'sin' -- doesn't even seem remotely plausible to me, though I try hard to suspend my disbelief in order to give it a fair hearing on its own ground. I would view Quaker and Unitarian (heh) as most honorable, Calvinism and Pentecostal as not only least likely, but least morally respectable given what can be legitimately derived from their premises.

As for nonchristian religion, the Thuggees usually win the #atheism contests of "religion that sucks the most." <g>

10. If you had one thing to say to a Christian, in terms of the falsity of their religion, and to persuade them of that (say you had two minutes before a nuclear bomb was to hit), what would it be (briefly)? And what would be your corresponding single greatest quick defense of the atheist position?

I'm going to ignore the part about the nuclear bomb about to drop, since it puts a rather strange and bizarre twist to apologetics (under those circumstances I cannot imagine making metaphysical arguments.) I think you simply want something quick and simple and off the cuff. If I had only a couple of minutes, I would probably point out that Theism puts an enormous amount of faith in the human propensity to put things into human terms, and that we have good evidence that our doing so is false in many cases. I would appeal to consistency. I would take the next two minutes to continue the same argument.

11. What troubles you the most about the atheist worldview (for me, with regard to my Christian belief, it is the problem of evil)?

I'm not sure here if you're asking what troubles me the most given my belief that atheism is true, or what most troubles my belief that atheism is true. If it's the former, it would be my eventual death and permanent subsequent nonexistence. As Woody Allen once said, "I don't want to become immortal by living on in my works: I want to become immortal by not dying." I have a lot of sympathy with that ;) Truths are not always easy to accept. If it's the latter, then I would say that I consider arguments on the nature of consciousness and qualia to be the most difficult, coupled with the problems of immaterial existants and their nature.

12. What is your greatest single criticism of Catholicism?

I have always admired the Catholic attitude towards the salvific character of Works, since it is by this back door that propositional belief in the resurrection of Jesus can become less critical than belief in the values that Jesus stood for, and Christianity becomes more ethically respectable. My greatest criticism might be what I consider to be the almost schizophrenic tendency Catholicism often has in embracing humanism, science, scholarship, and tolerance with one hand and then pandering to superstition, miracles, belief in demons, and intolerance with the other. I always have to find out what kind of Catholic I am speaking to -- sometimes at the moment.

... ... ...

The Religion of Christian Humanism

Today, pure Apostolic Christianity has been mixed with ancient humanism and ancient humanism has been "Christianized" to form a syncretized religion of "Christian Humanism" or "Humanistic Christianity". Modern Christianity is no longer monotheistic in worship and doctrine, because it now bows at the altar of its new god of humanism, the worship of man.

Christian Humanism - Resources for a Humanistic Christianity

This site is a growing exploration of the increasing overlap between the values of modern humanism and the current trend in liberal Christian theology and practice toward naturalist, utilitarian Christianity. It is not affiliated with any church or organization; rather it is part of a research project into the evolution of modern Christianity by one hopeful Christian.

Christian Humanism, as discussed on this website, generally denotes an ethical, relational spirituality drawing heavily from the richly vast Christian traditions and commonly emphasizing broader definitions of and experiences of "God", while incorporating many progressive values of the modern forms of humanism. Christian humanism integrates the humanistic principles of science and reason, advancement of the common good, morality grounded in human experience, equality for all classes of people, and focus on this natural world, with the Christian gospel of liberty, personal and communal transformation, care of the poor and those in need, celebration of the "sacred" within the "secular", support in community of others along the journey, and above all, boundless love. It is Christianity as an ongoing work by and for humankind; it is humanism enriched with the best of Christian heritage.

It seeks to retain all that is good from the past, and integrate all that proves true in each future age. (1 Thess 5:21) It believes religion is for humanity and not humanity for religion. (Mark 2:27)

Finally, this site is dedicated to the proposition that the essentials of a Christian faith and life in its truest form are not foremost historic creeds and dogmas, but love of God (however conceived or experienced) encompassing heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love of neighbor as self - as exemplified by Jesus of Nazareth. Such Christians live fully in this world and work for the betterment of this world's inhabitants, while consciously and joyfully choosing for themselves a Christian story and path to best describe and provide a framework for their journey through life

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