Everyday humanism: How should we live?

One reason people leave religions behind is to escape the rules they impose on daily life. But does humanism have its own codes?

How should a humanist live? Wary of religious dogma, humanists are often reluctant to talk about how one “ought” to live. Secularism, a reaction to the political dominance of this dogma, is focused on what the state shouldn’t do, on what people should be free to decide for themselves. This is surely good. Yet while it should be no business of the state, the question remains: how should a humanist live?

This is the challenge set to 12 humanist writers whose essays fill Everyday Humanism, a book that aims to go beyond the discussions of Meaning, the State and the Good (what the editors call “macro-ethics”) to more regular, down-to-earth and, well, everyday issues faced by humanists. The book’s contributors hail from a variety of backgrounds, from professors to chaplains to campaigners, and between them they try to paint a picture of how the everyday humanist should live.

Read the article here.

Meeting on 21 May: tell us what’s on your mind

Hot Potato IssuesIs an issue bothering you that humanists ought to be concerned with?

Members and non-members are invited to propose topics that humanists might be particularly interested in for short discussions. You may particularly wish to raise an issue that doesn’t get aired often in the media or that many people don’t know about.

The format will probably comprise 3 to 4 separate issues, with no more than 5 minutes introduction by the proposer and a maximum of 20 minutes open discussion.

Please send a short title for your topic to the Secretary in advance of the meeting.

Topics could be chosen for a full meeting next year, or a campaign that SHG could support.

The meeting is at 7.30 pm at The Lantern, Meadow Farm Drive, Shrewsbury SY1 4NG. All are welcome. Donations are requested to cover the cost of room hire, refreshments etc.

Social on 4 July: Shrewsbury bridges walk and barbecue

DSCF2159-edited The annual summer social will be in Shrewsbury this year, on Saturday 4 July. All are welcome, especially if you would like to talk to local humanists in a relaxed atmosphere.

There will be a guided walk around the Shrewsbury river bridges followed by a barbecue lunch at the home of Simon and Bridget Nightingale by the river near Porthill footbridge.

The walk will start at 10.30 from the corner of Frankwell car park next to the footbridge, and you can walk all or part of the walk as it is easy to drop out and go straight to the lunch venue. We plan to visit (but not cross all) the bridges around the town centre and look at points of interest and some of the history. There will be some steps and inclines, and the route may be changed subject to the weather and any flooding.

If you don’t want to go on the walk, meet at the house in New Street, Frankwell, from 12.00 for the BBQ at 13.00. There is plenty to do in the house and garden, including table tennis, a rowing boat (with an electric motor for the lazy), a rather difficult maze and a house full of mechanical puzzles. There is very limited parking, but Frankwell car park is not far away.

There is a charge of £5 for the meal. If you’d like to come, please contact our Secretary who will give you the details. This enables us to plan for numbers and dietary requirements.

Iranian blogger: ‘Why I Love Being an Atheist Even Though I Live in Iran’

Here in England, we tend to take religious freedom for granted. But it was not always so. Up to the 18th century, it could be very dangerous to be an atheist, and at the very least there were serious restrictions on non-members of the established church. Even up to the 19th century, you had to be an Anglican to go to university or (apart from Jews or Quakers) to get married.

We may forget that for many people their religion still requires that others should not be allowed to practise their own beliefs freely, and given a chance, they would force that on the rest of us.

In some parts of the world, not believing still can mean death at the hands of the state or of mobs. This is why we can be impressed at the courage of Iranian blogger Kaveh Mousavi (a pseudonym) who would certainly be murdered if he were known. He writes:

So this is what good atheism has done for me: atheism has enabled me to wage a war to liberate those “the few cubic centimeters inside my skull”. It is ultimately a war destined to be lost – I will never not be the child of my time and my place, and I will never be entirely free in my thought. But it is a worthy war to wage nevertheless, for every battle won is a great victory in itself.

Because of atheism I can support democracy, oppose theocracy, support the equal rights for women and LGBT+ people without having to hold sacred a book which embodies the opposite of all these values and I do not have to resolve the mental dissonance of such an intellectual contradiction.

Because of atheism I can easily accept science and not be forced to choose between my dogma and the facts on issues such as evolution or circumcision or masturbation or abortion.

Because of atheism I can laugh at Mohammad and all else that is sacred, and save my outrage for the real injustices in the world, instead of getting angry at harmless satire targeting warlords of the past.

Because of atheism I can indulge in my harmless desires and to consider the naked human body beautiful, not something to be covered in shame.

Because of atheism I can think about the great questions without a God vetoing certain areas and certain concepts. I am not aware of all my unconscious biases and failings of critical thinking, but at least religious ones are not among them.

Atheism is freedom. Atheism does not equal critical thinking, or tolerance, or a truly liberated mind. But atheism is an opportunity, an option, a potential blank slate. To me atheism means that on this Saganian speck of dust we inhabit I find my own destination and I walk my own road and all my accomplishments and all my failures are ultimately my own, no idol is my god and no lord is my shepherd.

And this is something I relish, something that makes all those traumas and abuses worth it.

Read his article in full here.

His blog is here.

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