Humanism gives ethics, purpose to people
The Daily Targum editorial entitled "Successful society requires religion," which ran Wednesday, is unconvincing. Non-theistic humanism can provide the philosophical and inspirational underpinnings of a just and forward-looking society. The fact that many countries, including the United States, are seeing a decline in religiosity does not mean the people are losing their morals or their sense of purpose in life. Rather, they are seeing the world in a way that is more honest and more useful to them.
As a humanist, my focus is on this one lifetime, on this world and the people in it. My family is all of humanity. My history is told in the stars, in the fossil record and in the DNA of all living creatures. I am inspired by human efforts to explore every corner of our universe and our own natures. I am moved by photos of distant galaxies, by freedom fighters around the world and by the touch of a child's hand. I find beauty in the struggle of each human being to build a meaningful and fulfilling life. My purpose is to help them succeed.
One of the pillars of the humanist philosophy is a concern with morality. In fact, the day the editorial came out, the Humanist Chaplaincy at Rutgers University had a meeting on the topic of moral issues we all face. We discussed the areas of ecology, family relationships and world events. Moral questions pervade our lives and humanist principles take that into account.
A statement by the American Humanist Association expresses some of their values regarding a just society: "Humanists are concerned for the well being of all, are committed to diversity and respect those of differing yet humane views. We work to uphold the equal enjoyment of human rights and civil liberties in an open, secular society and maintain it is a civic duty to participate in the democratic process and a planetary duty to protect nature's integrity, diversity and beauty in a secure, sustainable manner."
This is certainly a good start if we wish to have the basis for a successful society.
Barry Klassel is the chaplain of the Humanist Chaplaincy at Rutgers University.