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Good counsel from a Humanist

Faith has always been a hot-button issue in this country, and lately the divide between people of faith and people of reason has been widening. I want to emphasize that for me, neither position is mutually exclusive by nature, but I'm talking about those on either side of the divide who are more interested in building walls than bridges. When the two positions at the table are "Atheists are going to Hell" and "Religion is the cause of most human suffering," there's not a lot to talk about.

I'm a person of faith, and my walk is Christian. 90% of the Christian world would disagree, simply because my church happens to have its headquarters in Salt Lake City, which brings me to my thesis: more energy is spent telling others that their spiritual walk1 is somehow defective than is expended on trying to raise the human condition. The noise is deafening, and the results are discouraging.

Imagine, then, my surprise at reading a blog post from the Spring of 2011, in which Chris Stedman wrote:

"This is a call to Humanists and atheists everywhere: Can we set aside intellectualizing and debating, even just for a moment, and start putting our money where other people's mouths are? I hear a lot of talk among my fellow Humanists about truth and knowledge -- but not yet enough about love and compassion. The Humanist case for compassion and engagement is so compelling that it should be more than an afterthought.

Until we make this a priority, we will likely continue to be seen by many as mean-spirited and immoral -- and we will be hypocritical for making the criticizing of the religious our top priority while failing to act on our values with the incredible frequency that religious people do."

I use his call to his fellow Humanists as an example, not because I'm singling out Humanists, but because it's applicable to people of all walks. If we are to build a world that works for everyone, with no one left out, we really don't have time to be hurling barbs at one another for how we see the world. Whether you see God as the old guy with the white beard, or as a flying spaghetti monster, or as an outdated concept, there are people in the world who are hungry, and hurting, and cold... and each of us has two hands to work with. I would rather see Humanists and people of faith working side by side to shovel mud out of a flooded home than listen to the acrimonious debates about the relative merits of faith or niggling points of doctrine.

There's nothing inherently wrong with faith, or believing that your way is the best way, or even the only way. It's when we as humans use our particular belief system to justify treating our fellow sojourners as objects of dwindling value that we get into trouble. Stedman's call to action for Humanists is not much different than what one reads in the Epistle of James: "Yea, a man may say, I will show thee I have faith without works; but I say, Show me thy faith without works, and I will show thee my faith by my works." The message is basically the same: talk less, do more.

It's counsel we would all do well to heed.

1When I say "spiritual," I include humanism - it's whatever you look to as a source of external strength.

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Nov. 19th, 2011 10:41 pm (UTC)


The Old Wolf

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