Douglas Berger

Douglas Berger
Columbus, Ohio, USA
January 14
Living in the Midwest watching TV and noodling on the computer. This is also a narcissistic attempt to create a cult following to hide my lack of talent and intelligence about a wide range of topics.

APRIL 8, 2012 12:14AM

Why Strident Atheists Don’t Bother Me

Rate: 1 Flag

created image of freak out on atheismIn the decades I’ve been involved in the atheist and Humanist movements, I’ve seen many “inner-party” battles over policy, plans, and actions. Many atheists I know are very vocal to the point they piss off many of my Humanist friends. So-called strident atheists never bothered me because of simple points I keep in mind that lowers my threshold of annoyance. I wish more in the freethought community would keep these hints in mind.

An example of the infighting I’ve seen inside the freethought community can read in an essay by American Humanist Association President David Niose:

As I looked out at all the young people cheering for Richard Dawkins and Tim Minchin, however, I also realized how important it is that humanism, and not just atheism, be part of this revolution. Indeed, for humanists, the success of the secular movement is only half the battle. After all, humanism is not just an arm of secularism, but a hybrid of the secular movement and the progressive movement.

If this seems difficult to understand, bear in mind that Karl Rove is reportedly an atheist, but he certainly would not find the American Humanist Association to be a comfortable fit for his worldview. Atheism, which addresses only the issue of the existence of gods, has no social, political, or economic philosophy, nor must an atheist reject all supernaturalism. An atheist might believe in astrology, ESP, magic, and of course, even worse, the conservative politics of Karl Rove (though thankfully most don’t).

For Humanists, the Secular Movement Is Only Half the Battle

I agree with Niose that Humanism is the better way to achieve progressive policy goals but I didn’t appreciate the painting of atheism as only having people like Karl Rove. I personally know some Humanists who are anti-abortion and anti-gay rights for example.

Humanism has many aspects that are progressive like having humans solve human problems and supporting economic justice but Humanism isn’t automatically progressive – it still takes progressively minded people to move it that way.

I also feel that one of the primary principles of Humanism is non-theism. You can be a believer and be a humanitarian but you can’t be a Humanist.

With that said I don’t see why there has to be any family conflict. I never look to see how my Humanism is better than my atheism or anyone’s non-belief. We only make up about 20% of the population so we need to work together on common goals and not let differences get in the way – like writing an essay on a public website saying how much better your philosophy is than your brother’s.

Here are 5 points I use to maximize my relationships in the freethought community (note I didn’t create these but I agree with the intent):

Don’t assume everyone shares my principles – Principles are facts that are known to be true and thus are non-negotiable

Don’t expect that everyone knows my convictions – Convictions are the unspoken statements we make by living our lives derived from principles.

Don’t force others to conform to your standards – Standards are the practical day-to-day living out of my convictions. It is at this level that tolerance of another’s views is introduced to the matter. Tolerance means simply accepting or allowing something NOT requiring approval and/or promotion of it.

Know the difference between your standards and your preferences – The end result of the same specific task given to two different people may look very much the same. However, the route taken to arrive at that end result may have been worlds apart. (Example: Two co-workers drive entirely different roads to arrive at the same restaurant after work.)

Keep your hangups to yourself – We all have them and we all need to get over them. This is where “you’re a big boy… deal with it comes into play. (Example: Genuinely arguing with the aforementioned co-worker that your route is by far the better way and “here are the 11 reasons why.”) Seriously… who really cares?

5 Keys To Making Molehills Out of Mountains

The last 3 points are the most important to me. I wish more people in the freethought community would adopt them so we would have less family squabbles.

Related posts:

  1. Practical Humanism
  2. Framing Humanism Is Okay But Not At The Expense Of Honesty
  3. Tooting my own horn

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
I find it hard to take seriously a blog that says.....

""Keep your hangups to yourself – We all have them and we all need to get over them. This is where “you’re a big boy… deal with it comes into play. (Example: Genuinely arguing with the aforementioned co-worker that your route is by far the better way and “here are the 11 reasons why.”) Seriously… who really cares?""

..............while doing exactly that! ;-)

Modern humanism has been infiltrated by the political left which has always referred to itself a "progressive."

Humanists are very hard to put in a box and label. The same is true of progressives. That some people of both groups set aside others who don't fit their own personal, narrow definitions is also a trait of both. This is remarkably similar to what religionists do.

Personally, if you call yourself a humanist and/or a progressive, and seem to act in accordance with those philosophies in general, I'll accept your definition of yourself. After all, who knows you better than you know you?

If you agree with a majority of Humanist beliefs but not the non-theism part then you are a humanitarian not a Humanist.

Words mean things. That's why we have dictionaries. I think allowing labels to mean whatever people want it to mean ignoring the definition by consensus is not rational.

Humanism is closer to progressivism than conservatism.

Atheism isn't equal to Humanism and vise versa but Humanism is atheism with a world view and support of the social contract.
With all due respect, humanism is not owned by either atheists or so called progressives. My personal experience in life tells me that many people are perfectly good humanists without being either. I have met many very religious people who, once off the topic of religion, are perfectly rational and use their ability to reason as well as any of us atheists do. In their regard for others their use of rational thought is no different than my use of rational thought.

What is irrational, however, is a deep seated need to set others apart from oneself or one's special group. People who suffer from this sort of irrational need are usually inordinately concerned about how they label things; and how others label them. So much so that they'll expend a great deal of time and energy in arguments over minute details of designation and "correctness" - just like religionists do.

That time might be better spent acting as humanists rather than applying labels.

If you really, really think that "dictionary definitions" have such importance in a casual discussion, then let's do it the right way.....

You said: ""Humanism is closer to progressivism than conservatism.""

Define what you mean by:
a) Humanism
b) closer
c) progressivism
d) conservatism

.......once we agree on our terminology, we can have a rational discussion. Until then, we may be unable to communicate clearly. If you wish to use a "dictionary definition," please give it because my dictionary may not agree with yours. A common occurrence.