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Good Without God 6: Good Without God in Community: The Heart of Humanism

10/21/2010

. . . we’ve successfully responded to the head of religion, but not to the heart of religion. And not coincidentally, we’ve produced a very heady atheism. But I believe in the heart of Humanism (175)

Once again, this seems to be the main point of humanism in the first place (Does it deserve caps?). This is true, and Dawkins inability to make a good response to the suicidal student is a good demonstration of the fact. I wonder though, is Humanism going to have a decent appeal to the non-religious? Sure, we need a heart, but I know one pundit said that he had heard Epstein sing, and decided humanism was not for him. Religions have traditions. There are those ancient songs, passed down that provide a window into history, into the religionists intellectual forebears. Any sort of similar practice by a Humanist would only seem contrived. Is it possible to have a Humanist psalm? Atheists may also shy away from the links to faith traditions. If I went to a Humanist mass, only to see it was just Catholicism with God cut out, I would be a little disappointed. The question is, what kind of heart can Humanism provide?

I am tempted to answer that it’s not the songs or the poems or all that craziness, and I’m not sure yet exactly what Epstein’s stances are on such practices. What I suspect is that the social support, the knowledge that there are like-minded individuals who care about you, and who will listen and support you, people who are struggling with a lot of similar things- that is what Humanism can provide, and perhaps any overt mimicking of religious traditions may just be over doing it.

Page 190: Epstein covers some potential Humanistic ‘rituals’ that cover the human life cycle. I can see the appeal in these to some extent. For some reason though, something just seems unpalatable about these things. Maybe they seem too similar to religious practices, maybe the rituals seem a little contrived, ‘corny.’ I guess that’s the danger whenever anyone takes something seriously. I remember listening to some atheist podcast where the host was going on and on about ‘the solstice’ this and ‘the solstice’ that. Really? I was just turned off. It sounded really lame. I’d rather just do Christmas than some manufactured celebration. A lot of these Humanistic rituals rub me the same way.

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