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A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

This is a bit of a cheap shot, as I'll explain later. But I thought it might be an interesting way of opening a discussion on the philosophical merits of the third edition of the Humanist Manifesto--which returns to the optimistic outlook of the first version, without the numerous specific 'doctrinal points' of the first (1933) and second (1973) versions. Most notably, the third version eliminates language intending to thus start a new secular "religion" (which probably wouldn't fly well with the common secular critique of the bloody abuses of 20th century atheistic regimes on the ground that they had become secular "religions"); and the promotion of this new "religion" through classroom indoctrination of children.

(A quick resource for links to SecHum documents and their history, can be found here on Wikipedia.)


The new edition, released in 2003 by the American Humanist Association, is admirably brief; and will be printed below--with an unstated parenthetical qualification explicitly added on occasion, for clarity.

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Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life (subject to change) that, without supernaturalism (not subject to change), affirms our ability and responsibility (subject to change) to lead ethical lives (subject to change) of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity (subject to change).

The lifestance of Humanism--guided by reason (subject to change), inspired by compassion (subject to change), and informed by experience (subject to change)--encourages us to live life well and fully. It evolved through the ages and continues to develop (subject to change) through the efforts of thoughtful people (subject to change) who recognize that values and ideals, however carefully wrought, are subject to change as our knowledge and understandings advance (subject to change).

This document is part of an ongoing effort to manifest in clear and positive terms (subject to change) the conceptual boundaries of Humanism (subject to change), not what we must believe (subject to change) but a consensus of what we do believe. It is in this sense (subject to change) that we affirm the following:

Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis (subject to change). Humanists find that science is the best method (subject to change) for determining this knowledge as well as for solving problems and developing beneficial technologies (subject to change). We also recognize (subject to change) the value of new departures in thought, the arts, and inner experience--each subject to analysis by critical intelligence (subject to change).

Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change. Humanists recognize nature as self-existing. We accept our life as all and enough (subject to change), distinguishing things as they are from things as we might wish or imagine them to be (subject to change). We welcome the challenges of the future (subject to change), and are drawn to and undaunted by the yet to be known (subject to change).

Ethical values are derived from human need (subject to change) and interest as tested by experience. Humanists ground values in human welfare (subject to change) shaped by human circumstances, interests, and concerns and extended to the global ecosystem and beyond (subject to change). We are committed to treating each person as having inherent worth and dignity (subject to change), and to making informed choices (subject to change) in a context of freedom (subject to change) consonant with responsibility (subject to change).

Life's fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals (subject to change). We aim for our fullest possible development (subject to change) and animate our lives with a deep sense of purpose (subject to change), finding wonder and awe in the joys and beauties of human existence (subject to change), its challenges and tragedies (subject to change), and even in the inevitability and finality of death (subject to change). Humanists rely on the rich heritage of human culture (subject to change) and the lifestance of Humanism to provide comfort in times of want (subject to change) and encouragement in times of plenty (subject to change).

Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships (subject to change). Humanists long for and strive toward a world of mutual care and concern (subject to change), free of cruelty and its consequences (subject to change), where differences are resolved cooperatively (subject to change) without resorting to violence (subject to change). The joining of individuality with interdependence enriches our lives (subject to change), encourages us to enrich the lives of others (subject to change), and inspires hope of attaining peace (subject to change), justice (subject to change), and opportunity for all (subject to change).

Working to benefit society (subject to change) maximizes individual happiness. Progressive cultures have (subject to change) worked to free humanity from the brutalities of mere survival and to reduce suffering, improve society, and develop global community. We seek to minimize the inequities of circumstance and ability (subject to change), and we support a just distribution of nature's resources (subject to change) and the fruits of human effort (subject to change) so that as many as possible can enjoy a good life (subject to change).

Humanists are concerned for the well being of all (subject to change), are committed to diversity (subject to change), and respect those of differing yet humane views (subject to change). We work to uphold the equal enjoyment of human rights (subject to change) and civil liberties (subject to change) in an open (subject to change), secular society (probably not subject to change) and [we] maintain it is a civic duty (subject to change) to participate in the democratic process (subject to change) and a planetary duty (subject to change) to protect nature's integrity, diversity, and beauty (subject to change) in a secure, sustainable manner (subject to change).

Thus engaged in the flow of life, we aspire to this vision (subject to change) with the informed conviction (subject to change) that humanity has the ability to progress toward its highest ideals (subject to change). The responsibility for our lives (subject to change) and the kind of world in which we live is ours and ours alone (probably not subject to change, but maybe so, depending on other changes).


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Obviously, most of these notions aren't really supposed to be considered 'subject to change' in any sense other than to advance progressively in the directions indicated--although this is not directly derivable from the qualification "as our knowledge and understandings advance", since someone might (for example) consider it an "advance in understanding" when they realize that most of the values and ideals promoted in the Manifesto run directly opposite in quality (as well as often in practice), to the non-rational, non-moral biological evolutionary behaviors (and the non-rational, non-moral chemical and physical behaviors underlying biological evolution) which the Manifesto proposes as the only and ultimate basis of human behavior (including human 'rationality' and 'ethics').

But that leads to the question of why the "values and ideals" promoted by the Manifesto should not be subject to a change in actual direction (only subject to improvement of efficiency in accomplishment). The standard clearly isn't impersonal (and depersonalizing) natural behavior; and while the Manifesto may state that humanists accept their lives "as all and enough", obviously humans are dependent on "self-existing" Nature instead of on themselves (optimistic illusions to the contrary notwithstanding).

A standard of behavior that runs counter to the proposed foundational ground of all existence and behavior, while asserting (as a corollary) that there is nothing more foundational upon which the standard can be based?

At best, that isn't very amenable to rational analysis.

(But then, maybe the ideal of knowledge as being best derived from rational analysis of critical intelligence, is one of those ideals that, however carefully wrought, are subject to change.)


More later, perhaps, time and energy permitting...

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