Josh: Looking For
Philosophy Of
Secular Humanism?
Val Henson

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Val Henson"
Subject: Re: Agnostic Seek Philosophy of Life
Date: November 06, 2001 8:13 AM

That likelihood was such the natch that I assumed he already knew he was looking for. It was clear from his letter that he had at least been exposed to a basic overview of Secular Humanism -- I even suspected, for one brief moment, that he may have been a Humanist "testing" our Forum to see if that's where we'd send him! However, my policy, in person and on this Forum, is to take people at their word unless a huge discrepancy in what they say points vividly in another direction.

His specific question, though, was, "What is Positive Atheism?" (And it was a good question, at that, because it shows that if he did recently expose himself to a basic overview of Secular Humanism, then he's not the type to run with the first plausible-sounding thing that comes his way.) So my response intended to show (to demonstrate, rather than to spell out) that Positive Atheism does not plug in any of the answers but, rather, celebrates the individual's ability to come up with those answers through one's own efforts, talents, and innate resources, always offering one's ideas up to the scrutiny of others. We also recognize the individual's right to do this and even one's responsibility to do it. As such, Positive Atheism is even compatible, as an added "twist," if you will, with Humanism. Even as brief of an exposure to it as I gave him could give him a whole world of perspective that he might find useful in the future. If that wasn't clear in my letter to him, here is yet another opportunity to reiterate!

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
    people with no reason to believe

Graphic Rule
Added: November 6, 2001

Graphic Rule

From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Val Henson"
Subject: Re: Agnostic Seek Philosophy of Life
Date: November 06, 2001 9:32 PM

You name for me one tenet of Christianity that you can say this about (besides the Golden Rule, which has existed as the Silver Rule in just about every society that's ever existed, including Jesus's Judaism)! The Golden Rule and similar "easy" tenets are what I call "hooks" because that's what the PR department gives you when you're showing an interest in joining. Once you're in, though, you get "the business" and that "business" is a very strange, very unnatural ideology (rather, non-ideology, being a statement, a dogma) that's unique to the group. It's a statement that you must believe in order to be accepted as a group member: they even call it a "Statement of Faith"!

These are the "litmus test" dogmas that I've been talking about lately (it's a new concept that I've been working on in my attempts to describe certain styles of religious faith, that is, to distinguish them from how my mind works "in the buff" (if you can handle that one!). And unlike Secular Humanism, it is so utterly unnatural [not to mention unhealthy] that it boggles my mind).
     "When Was The Trinity Invented?" with Kris
     "Leaving Religion Over Guilt? How Utterly Absurd!" with Paul Murray
     "Strange Loops In The Logic Behind Evangelism" with Phil

A "litmus test" dogma, to me, is a "Statement of Faith" which, when recited, verifies to the group leadership and the other groupers that you have submitted your autonomy in obedience to the group's god (actually, the group's leaders, who identify, define, and uphold the group's traditions, simply calling it "God's Will").

If I gave you a notepad, left you in a cave with a year's worth of supplies, and told you to come up with a philosophy of life, would you ever think of anything along the lines of redemption by the death of Christ on the Cross? The "Four Spiritual Laws" booklet from the Campus Crusaders for Christ? a Jack T. Chick comic strip? Never! These tenets (and similar religious tenets from other sects) are keys to admission into the sect: to get into the cult you have to agree to assert that you believe this wild, cockamamie line that nobody in their right mind would ever believe on their own accord -- and everybody in the group agrees that it's utterly absurd! Paul even goes to great lengths to talk about how "foolish" the Cross is, designed "to confound the wise," he says!

The "litmus test" dogma must be something that's so utterly unnatural that nobody would ever stumble upon it on their own, and nobody would willingly admit to believing it apart from the motivation to join this elite group. The reason for this is so the cult leaders can assert their authority: they told you to believe this stuff and you obeyed; thus, your reward is admittance into the elite group!

I am convinced that the ancient Pagan mystery cults upon which Christianity was based were invented this way: the leaders sat around and made up these tales and tested them on one another and on initiates (when each initiate had his own secret initiation ritual). I think the ones that became common were the ones that partially explained the mysteries of life, but I also suspect that part of the criteria for becoming the key to admission was the sheer unlikelihood that people would admit to believing them apart from a very powerful motive for doing so (such as admission as a member in the group).

And the only reason you could ever bring yourself to believe this line of bullogna is in obedience to the authority of the group. The less natural the dogma, the more likely it was that when somebody "confessed" to believing it, they did so as a direct result of having submitted to the authority of the group's leadership. This prevented people from "accidentally" stumbling upon the key tenet of belief, and it minimized the chance that somebody would "confess" halfheartedly (the tenet was just too bizarre and objectionable for that). This is why I think so many religious tenets are so contrived, repulsive, and just plain weird -- in short: inhuman; unnatural.

Secular Humanism is the exact opposite of all of this: I'm constantly meeting people who think that after rejecting religion they've developed for themselves a unique philosophy of life -- and it's Humanism! Now, there are a few others that a re quite unlike Humanism but are just as atheistic and just as natural. Particularly prominent is the atheistic intellectual Conservatism of my Father, a sort of William F. Buckley or Barry Goldwater, lacking all of the Radical Christian trappings that dominate the Republican Party today. (Both men, as far as I can tell, were staunch Separationists -- particularly Goldwater, who was, to me, the last of the true Conservatives. The staunchest Conservative support for personal Liberty is, today, found in the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay and lesbian faction within the Republican Party.) I think this atheistic philosophy of life is even more popular in America than the Liberal-leaning Humanism that you're discussing.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
     people with no reason to believe

Graphic Rule

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