Benefits of Secular Humanism
Constantly under construction
- Secular Humanism’s most important benefit is that it allows people’s minds to freely inquire about anything that interests a person in any and all realms – the natural world, morality, philosophy and metaphysics, etc.. All the other benefits below flow from this one overarching benefit. While on the one hand this can be unsettling at times, that is far outweighed by the the personal and societal benefits of being grounded in reality and being open to appreciate all the wonders of the universe.
- Secular Humanist’s place their trust in the most trustworthy sources and therefore, the conclusions/positions that we reach, however tentative and open to revision, are more fully based in reality. We place trust in sources based on the sources ability, through peer-reviewed research, to make accurate claims about how the universe actually functions. This is stark contrast to placing trust in ancient manuscripts and the people who interpret them. When your source of information is poor, the conclusions you reach using it will also be poor.
- Secular Humanism does not make any “faith” claims that cannot be backed up by science and history. We therefore feel more secure and less defensive about our worldview and, given compelling evidence, less attached to having to maintain it.
- Secular Humanists, without a world view that places human beings at the center of the natural world, are able to have a more realistic sense of how we fit into and affect, both positively and negatively, our society and the natural world. We are neither insignificant nor are we the center of anyone’s attention. Our tendency to believe that we are the centerpiece of our lives is not a “moral” limitation or “sin”, it is a biological one.
- Secular Humanists have a more realistic view of our strengths and limitations and because we are grounded in science and the results of experience and observation, we are much better equiped to make effective, positive changes. This is in stark contrast to the belief that prayer, ancient scripture, or “faith” are sufficient or effective means to improving one’s life.
- Secular Humanists have a more realistic understanding of their nature as human beings. We soundly reject any concept of “original sin” or that “perfection” is achievable through faith or in an afterlife. “Original sin” is a concept that is demeaning to us as persons and as a species and causes much undue stress and shame. Evolutionary theory provides a much more accurate explanation of why we are the way we are. Evolution is a process that does not “seek” perfection, but one that is a “just good enough” process for survival (wouldn’t it be nice to have the eyes of an eagle or the nose of a dog!). As products of an evolutionary process, there is no need for “redemption” or a “savior”. Any improvements we seek are to be found by utilizing scientific knowledge.
- Secular Humanists have a reality based context in which to understand our strengths and limitations. Secular Humanism provides an philosophical framework in which to initiate effective mechanisms for improvement. What we understand is that we all have the capacity for good and harmful actions and this is largely based on the fact that, as evolving animals with a frontal cortex capable on evaluating our own actions, we struggle and often times fail to live up to the “better part of our nature” (those mostly associated with the frontal cortex). With this understanding, we feel guilty about mistakes (the evolved motivation for change), but we don’t feel like we are inherently “evil” or in any need of forgiveness outside of the person(s) we harmed and ourselves. We also see our strengths and limitations as arising from within the context of our experiences, our relationships, our biology, our environments, perceived options and our culture. As such, they are malleable and can be changed through evidence-based, determined effort to; encounter new experiences, make changes in our relationships, change our environment and biology (e.g. medicine), explore new options in living and improve our environments. This is contrasted with religion’s emphasis on prayer, “faith”, ancient texts, and largely untrained professionals (clergy, pastors, etc.) as well as some people’s reliance on untested, unproven and ineffective trust in areas such as astrology and alternative medicine. To expand on prayer, reliance in prayer alone can often lead to inaction, physical or mental harm, inhibit personal growth and if someone has been harmed, distance and resentment in relationships.
- Secular Humanism allows for great flexibility and a wider, deeper understanding and appreciation of the world. This is because Secular Humanists are open to all new lines of evidence and are not “attached” to any one position. While our beliefs are firm in many areas based on a preponderance of evidence (e.g. evolution, non-supernaturalism), we are open to but skeptical of, new evidence and claims in all areas when new, compelling evidence is presented.
- Secular Humanists are able to more fully appreciate and tolerate the customs, traditions, and beliefs of other cultures. Religion can tend to divide people solely on dogmatic grounds (she’s going to hell). Without a celestial dictator telling us that we and our beliefs are “special” or superior, Secular Humanists rely on experience, evidence, critical thinking, and an honest appraisal of the strengths and weaknesses of ourselves and others, to determine which beliefs to adhere to and which to abandon. Therefore, we are able to appreciate all sources of wisdom and knowledge – from Confucius, Jesus, and the Buddha to Einstein, Newton and Charles Darwin. We do not hold that any one source is universal or eternal.
- Secular Humanism has a much better chance of bringing more peace in the world. Religion divides people. It results in “us verses them” thinking. It has led to much human suffering through war, other forms of hostility, discrimination, and the inhibition of scientific inquiry/progress (e.g. some estimate that the Catholic Church’s centuries long prohibition on performing autopsies set back medicine several hundred years). In a world that is becoming increasingly more connected and integrated, fundamentalist religious thought (that which intends to extend it’s will/beliefs beyond the personal realm) will only serve to increase conflict and harm.
- Secular Humanists are focused on THIS life rather than an afterlife. This makes us more attentive to what we can do now to improve this world for ourselves, our communities and for future generations. Multitasking has been shown to be distracting and inefficient! We strive to accept responsibility for and live with the world we create. Since there is no god to save us from ourselves (e.g. like climate change) - there are no easy outs. This again, focuses the Secular Humanist on THIS life and THIS world.
- Secular Humanists are hopeful. We believe in human being’s innate ability, using our evolved brains and bodies individually and cooperatively, to improve as individuals, as societies and as a species. We do not believe that we are eternally “sinful” and/or “damned”. We do not need saving. We are all we have and therefore, what we do does make a difference in this life and the lives of future generations.
- Secular Humanism is morally superior to any static dogma because it is rooted in science, evidence and experience, and therefore as such, has a much better likelihood of actually reducing harm and improving the human condition. This is proven out in the uncounted ways in which mankind has benefited by free inquiry outside of religion (I don’t expect the pope to announce any major breakthroughs in cancer care as a result revelation, scripture or “faith” anytime soon). While not entirely true (edited to reflect this), there is some truth in the saying, “With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that (often) takes religion”. This is because people ,who are emotionally tied to a dogma which reinforces black and white thinking of right and wrong, often place other people as being either good and evil. This, combined with ample scripture examples of how other believers and non-believers can or should be treated, provides a justificatory scheme for otherwise “good” people to do some very harmful things.