No God. Now What?. An Introduction to Secular Humanism Session I . The arguments for God ’ s existence all fail. So, how are we to make sense of our world? Secular Humanists believe that a fulfilling life can be found outside religion. You Will Learn….
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An Introduction to Secular Humanism
The arguments for God’s existence all fail. So, how are we to make sense of our world? Secular Humanists believe that a fulfilling life canbe found outside religion.
There was a time when religion ruled the world. It was called the Dark Ages. Because of rationalism, we have vastly improved:
Health care & disease control; Life Expectancy: Neanderthal > Greek-Romans-30 yrs; Medieval Europe-40 yrs. World Average Today-66 yrs. Death from childbirth: 1935-1:150. 1955: 1:2000. 2006: 1:10,000)
Conquest of diseases, such as polio, cholera, and bubonic plague.
Medical & dental treatment / pharmacology;Open heart surgery; laser vision correction; dental implants; colesterol-reducing drugs, hip replacement, etc.
Today, we can communicate with just about anyone on the planet in seconds.
The invention of such revolutionary and beneficial concepts as:
All of this beneficial physical, material, ethical, and political progress has been the result of critical thinking (18th century Enlightenment) overcoming religious thinking (Dark Ages).
Introduction to Secular Humanism. Religious andsecular worldviews. Definition of key terms. Top 10 reasons not to believe. Top 10 myths about SH.
The Problem of Scripture and the Problem of Evil. Scriptural inconsistencies, contradictions, inaccuracies, and absurdities; plus why good people suffer and die.
The Dangers of Faith. How faith leads to preventable suffering and death by the billions.
Why So Many Still Believe. The top 10 reasons people believe despite the lack of evidence or logic. The psychology & sociology of belief explained.
Atheist Ethics. Can non-believers be moral? A simple godless ethic explained.
The dangers of faith. The benefits of Secular Humanism. What would a society without religion be like? Free discussion. Course evaluations.
Given the controversial nature of this topic, an understanding of other points of view requires civility on the part of all participants.
After each session, a copy of the presentation will be made available at:
While we, the presenters, are members of CFI, not every member of CFI endorses every aspect of this presentation.
Education has been defined as: “The process of replacing ignorance with knowledge.
But what kind of knowledge?
Secular Humanists believe that everyone will be best served by replacing superstition, willful ignorance, and wishful, magical thinking with empirical evidence, scientific proof, independent historical accounts and sound logic.
In other words: education should be the process of replacing faith with reason.
Secular: worldly. Relating to the worldly or temporal as opposed to the sacred and eternal. Non-religious, but not necessarily anti-religion.
Humanism: a broad category of ethical philosophies that affirm the dignity and worth of all people, based on the ability to determine right and wrong through universal human qualities — particularly reason & compassion. A worldview that disregards personal ethics & political philosophies that are based on irrational beliefs or unprovable claims.
Secular Humanist: one who views people as creatures of the natural world (without eternal souls or other supernatural attributes) capable of achieving technological progress, social justice, and general happiness through reason, scientific methodology, moral courage, and compassion.
(Note: there are people who call themselves “religious humanists.” We aren’t of that persuasion.)
Stated somewhat differently…
Secular Humanist: one who, after careful consideration, finds no compelling evidence for the supernatural (angels, demons, gods, karma, ancestor spirits, etc.) but rather adheres to an ethic based on our common humanity (Premise: we are all moral equals.), and our capacity for reason, courage, and empathy. One who seeks the best for all concerned without recourse to divinity (God’s Laws or Commandments).
God: an eternal, transcendent, all-powerful, all-knowing, and benevolent being who created the universe and occasionally intervenes in some peoples’ lives.
Ethics: a system of beliefs and related principles that guide behavior, especially toward others. As used in this course, “ethics” and “morality” are interchangeable terms.
Ethics can also refer to certain agreed upon values that hold society together, such as proper roles for men & women; thrift; self-reliance, priority of community over individual or vice versa; etc.
Fundamentalist: a person of faith who adheres to the literal interpretation of scripture. Fundamentalists want laws and public policies to be based on their strict interpretation of their scriptures. All Protestant fundamentalists are evangelicals.
Evangelical: a person of faith who believes that redemption (the ticket to eternal paradise) depends on a personal relationship with God and requires no priestly intermediary. IOW, if God likes you, you will go to heaven.* All evangelicals are proselytizers, but not all are fundamentalists.
*Note: this god really appreciates slavish devotion.
Presidents Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush are both evangelical Christians. But…
Religious Moderate: one who typically considers portions of scripture to be allegory (symbolic of a deeper truth) or myth (a fanciful story with a moral lesson) as opposed to literal truth in every respect.
Main difference from fundamentalists: religious moderates generally try to accommodate their beliefs to secular education (e.g., evolution) and secular government (e.g., separation of church & state; abortion, stem cell research).
Worldview: one’s perception of the world.
Worldview # 1. There really is a God.
to protect the innocent and vulnerable.
so we know how He wants us to think and act.
Worldview # 2. There really is no God.
Or at least there is no Deity that responds to
prayers and protects the innocent and vulnerable.
Scripture is mere speculation about the supernatural
by primitive, ignorant, and usually bigoted* old men.
Therefore, we have only ourselves to rely on for
our well-being. The well-being of our children &
grandchildren depends on our willingness to reason,
extend our compassion, and be fair.
(* Biased against (1) people of other tribes & faiths; (2) women; (3) secular government;
(4) homosexuals; and reason. “Reason. The Devil’s harlot.” Martin Luther)
Misunderstanding how the world really works usually leads to disappointment and sometimes tragedy.
Tuesday, May 01, 2001 By Tom Gibb, Post-Gazette Staff Writer HOLLIDAYSBURG, Pa.
The U.S. Supreme Court said yesterday that it won't hear the appeal of a Blair County couple who spurned medicine, put their trust in faith healing and lost two of their 13 children to treatable illnesses.Barring a last-resort appeal, Dennis and Lorie Nixon will go off sometime in the next 30 days to spend 21/2 to five years in state prisons, leaving behind their Hollidaysburg-area house and 10 children still living at home.
The case the Supreme Court rejected yesterday involved the death of daughter Shannon Nixon, 16, in 1996 of diabetes acidosis, a treatable condition that sent her blood sugar levels soaring more than 12 times above normal levels. Her family fasted, prayed over her and anointed her. The teen-ager told her parents: "I feel I had my victory." But she lapsed into a coma and died, never seen by a doctor.
Worldviews determine our understanding of:
4. Is an embryo really a person and is aborting it really murder? (as claimed by religious fundamentalists who identify themselves as Pro-Life)
5. Is there really a god who will destroy the world if we do not offer human sacrifices, especially virgins? (as claimed by the Aztec, Mayan, and Inca priests)
6. Was 9/11 really the manifestation of God’s wrath for America’s tolerance of “pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and lesbians”? (as claimed by Rev. Falwell & Rev. Robertson)
7. Was the “holocaust” only Zionist propaganda? (as claimed by Iran’s President Ahmadinejad)
8. Is it true that morality requires religion? (as claimed by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney)
9. Is it true that God made our world in 6 days about 6,000 years ago (as claimed by creationists); or is it true that life evolved over billions of years? (as claimed by Darwinian evolutionists)
2. Is it good for the government to eliminate undesirables, such as religious and ethnic minorities and the mentally handicapped, in order to purify society as a whole? (as claimed by the Nazis)
3. Is government good if it protects its citizens by curtailing civil liberties, such as the right to privacy and due process? (as claimed by the Bush administration)
4. Is it good to destroy the infidels or should we let them live and subjugate them? (the only acceptable options claimed by the Taliban)
3. Is it morally acceptable to steal, so long as it is not from someone in our own tribe? (as claimed by some verses of the Hebrew scriptures; then contradicts itself in other verses)
4. Should gays be stoned to death (as claimed by the Bible and Qur’an) or should they be treated like everyone else? (as claimed by Secular Humanists)
5. Is it right to lie to a really bad person in order to protect the innocent? (Bible says thou shalt not bear false witness (lie or commit perjury); then contradicts itself elsewhere.)
Who do you want making law & public policy?
Which worldview is probably realistic (true) and which is probably fantasy (false)?
First, we have to decide which is the best method for determining if a worldview (or claim of truth) is real or fantasy.
Our choice of one over the other will have the biggest single influence over our worldview, ethics, and political stance.
And yes, these 2 approaches to discovering what is true and what is false are incompatible.
Those who rely on faith to determine reality want those of us who rely on reason to believe there is a spirit world in addition to the natural world.
The faithful claim that the supernatural world of gods, angels, and evil spirits is as real as the physical world; despite the lack of empirical evidence, scientific proof, independent historical accounts, and sound logic.
Skeptics in general and Secular Humanists in particular make no claim denying the existence of a supernatural world. (We don’t know & neither does anyone else.) We simply ask for credible proof that can stand rigorous & objective scrutiny by independent peer review.
Logically, claimants have the burden of proof. In the past 10,000 years, the faithful have never offered objective, credible proof for their subjective, incredible claims about the supernatural; including virgin births, bodily resurrections, and miraculous interventions (faith healings, etc.).
Secular Humanism, like all other religions and philosophies, is ideological (a system of ideas). However, SH is not dogmatic (intransigent).
We welcome challenges to our beliefs and will change our minds if contrary evidence holds up to objective standards. People who are dogmatic refuse to do this.
Unlike the demagogues of religious fundamentalism, Secular Humanists do not appeal to primitive emotion, such as fear of the unknown, or prejudice, such as bigotry toward those of different ethnicity and faith.
Faith (from the perspective of faith): Faith is belief in the supernatural (gods, demons, ancestor spirits, etc.) based on:
Faith (from the perspective of reason):
(People believe because it makes them feel good; faith offers comfort; inspiration; meaning.)
Priests, soothsayers, astrologers, rabbis, ministers of the gospels, etc., would have no following, except for this:
10. All arguments for the existence of God are fatally flawed.
9. Faith is illogical and therefore irrational.
8. The Problem of Evil: if god is good, why do the innocent suffer and die? No verifiable answer.
(All of the above will be discussed in Session II.)
6. Faith is dangerous: yes, even the most liberal ones. (Session III)
5. Faith is anti-democracy & anti science: advocates theocracy and rejects scientific methodology. (Session II)
4. The ethical values of faith are generally bizarre and often cruel. (Session II)
3. Faith is childish emotionalism. (Session IV)
2. There is a much better alternative: we would all be better off in a rational world. (Session VI)
And most importantly…
Example: faith pressures billions of women to have children they don’t want and cannot properly care for; resulting in grinding poverty, horrific suffering, and untimely death.
* Details to come in Session III: The Dangers of Faith.
Mostly from Age of American Unreason.
Most skeptics in general, and Secular Humanists in particular, worry about America’s collective mental health and for very good reasons as we shall see in upcoming sessions.
Myth 10. “There are no atheists in foxholes.” Oh please!
Reality: There is compelling testimony from thousands of soldiers who have faced combat bravely and never wavered from their non-theistic worldview. Just visit http://www.atheistfoxholes.org; a website for our atheists in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Fear of death does not compel everyone to believe in nonsense. Atheists in general and SH in particular are well aware that they will die. To us, death means nothingness rather than eternal torment.*
* To many atheists, heaven & hell are the same. Hell is where God pours gasoline over you and lights you on fire so you writhe in anguish forever - no time off for good behavior; no potty breaks. Heaven is where you have to put up with an capricious, jealous, petty, and unimaginably cruel deity forever. So what’s the difference?
Myth 9. “Secular Humanists are godless communists.” Say what?
Reality: “Godless,” yes! Communists, no!
Communism is a failed political and economic system that violated all of the basic premises of Secular Humanism, including respect for universal human rights.
SH recognize (and history proves) that capitalism is the best system for creating wealth. Without wealth, we would all be destitute and miserable, as was the case in Russia and China before they embraced capitalism.
But we also know that capitalism is not very good a distributing wealth equitably. So some compromises in economic policy are necessary if we are to achieve social justice, meaning equal opportunity/equal rights.
Most SH favor a blend of capitalism & socialism such as the case in the United States, UK, and Germany with government programs such as Social Security and Medicare.
Myth 8. “Secular Humanists worship humanity.” Hardly!
Reality: we recognize that people are capable of great self-sacrifice and generosity. They are also capable of horrific cruelty and indifference to the suffering of others.
We do believe that proper education from a young age will generally result in responsible, compassionate adults who value critical thinking. In fact, we think this kind of education is the only way to save our children & grandchildren from themselves and each other. Ultimately, it is our only hope.
Myth 7. “Secular Humanism is a religion.” Not so!
Reality: To be a religion, a worldview must embrace the supernatural.
A worldview that lacks supernaturalism is, at best, a philosophy. SH is a philosophy or ideology, rather than a theology, and Secular Humanists, by definition, do not believe in the supernatural. We don’t care what you believe unless it harms others. Unfortunately, all religions harm the innocent and vulnerable as we shall see in Session III.
Myth 6. “Atheists, such as Secular Humanists, are arrogant.” OK, but compared to whom?
Reality: Arrogance is defined as “offensively exaggerating one’s own importance.” No one is more arrogant than those who consider themselves God’s Chosen People and all others are heathens, heretics, and barbarians.
No one is more arrogant than the dogmatic faithful who believe that their worldview does not have to be supported by empirical evidence and sound logic and that anyone who does not believe as they do deserves to suffer in this life and will be condemned to a horrible existence in the afterlife.
No one is more arrogant than the willfully ignorant faithful who refuse to seriously consider new evidence and reasoning that challenge their long-held and intransigent theology.
We Secular Humanists can be assertive in our beliefs. We take a certain pride in our beliefs because they are actually intellectually defensible. We are enthusiastic about our worldview and our ability to defend it rationally because we believe it will lead to less suffering, fewer preventable deaths, and widespread social justice.
Myth 5. “Atheists have no reason to live.” Definitely not true!
Reality: Secular Humanists know that when the faithful make this unsubstantiated claim, they mean that “without God, life is meaningless.” This is absurd!
Most SH live very meaningful lives, deriving ample meaning & joy from family, friends, work.
Myth 4. “Secular Humanists want to outlaw religion.” Oh, don’t tempt us.
Reality: Secular Humanists believe that religions – all religions – are not just silly, but dangerous. However, we know that religion cannot be stamped out by criminalizing it.
That would be like trying to outlaw human nature. The Soviet Union and Communist China tried using the harshest methods imaginable. But we are willing to work hard to keep religion out of domestic & foreign policy so it can do less harm.
Myth 3. “Secular Humanism is the religion of public education.” If only this were true!
Reality: Unfortunately, religious fundamentalists are trying to inject religion into our pluralistic public education (prayer in school, creationism is science class, etc.) SH want public education to be based on reason and compassion, not superstition and dogma.
Myth 2. “Secular Humanist ethics are really based on Christian values.” Don’t bet on it.
Reality: About the only thing Christian and Secular Humanist ethics have in common is the Golden Rule, which is more or less rational and predates Jesus by several thousand years.
Myth 1. “Secular Humanists, like all atheists, are immoral.” Not so! We have some morals.
Reality: Secular Humanists are morally opposed to cheating, lying, and stealing. We even oppose murder. We do believe that exploiting others is wrong. But widespread belief in this myth keeps us from being elected to public office and exerting more influence.
In superstitious America, it is nearly impossible for an avowed atheist to be elected to public office. We are less popular than Muslims, but slightly more popular than pedophiles. Yet, more than 90% of the U.S. prison population is religious and mostly Christian. The 10% of Americans who are atheists comprise less than one tenth of one percent of U.S. inmates.
The region of the U.S. that is most religious (Christian), the states of the Old South, have by far the highest rates of teen pregnancy, child abuse, rape, theft, and murder. The most secular regions of the U.S. have the lowest rates of social dysfunction and criminality.
A site written by Christians to rebut criticisms of faith in general and Christianity in particular.
A site written by atheists to rebut claims of faith in general and Christianity in particular.
A site written by skeptics detailing Biblical non-sense.
4. The Atheist’s Bible: an illustrious collection of irreverent thoughts. Ed.; Joan Konner
End Session I