Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The New Humanism

The inestimable Rev. Jonathan (aka Mad Priest), has highlighted an article by Simon Barrow in The Guardian written in response to Richard Dawkins' atheism-advertising plan for city buses. As often is the case, Simon's writing contains jewels that reach far beyond the topic at hand. I especially liked these bits:
The non-reality of "the gods" and the non-viability of any notion which makes God a thing, person or event subject to humanly verifiable rules of existence and to human classes of object is, of course, taken for granted by thoughtful people whatever their affiliation – Christian, Muslim and humanist. Perfectly traditional theology going back to Thomas Aquinas and beyond makes this evident.

Whether it rules in or out the transcendent God whose unconditional love many of us discover in and through the lesions of a free universe which can be both terrifyingly tragic and gloriously inspiring is, it seems to me, another matter altogether – and one that will not be settled by vituperative, knock-down arguments. It is, rather, a matter of faith. By this I do not mean the denial of rationality, but the kind of reasoning appropriate to a mystery which can never be captured by human mastery, and which requires an encounter with the personal (that is, the struggle to love) to perceive.

. . . .

As for me, well I'm not much of a believer in slogans. The truth of deeds matching words and vice versa seems to me to be a much more convincing argument for whatever it is people claim to believe than any attempt to cajole with arguments or posters.

But if I had to summarise my convictions in a way that could communicate with believers and non-believers alike (for the purposes of meaningful conversation, rather than to "prove I'm right") it would be by saying that my life is staked, deeply fallibly, on the conviction that the power of love is finally stronger than the love of power.
Do read the rest here.

Jonathan has written his own response, which includes:
I consider myself a Christian humanist from a long tradition that stretches back to before anybody had committed the concept of atheism to paper. The humanist part of my faith is, in essence, pretty much the same as the humanism of atheists who claim the description for themselves. Perhaps, if we started to use the word "humanist" in an exact way, without attaching it to belief or non-belief, Simon's wish that thinking, non-belligerent people of all faiths and none should come together for the good of the least among us, would be one step closer to becoming a reality.

When I am asked what "sort" of Christian I am, what tradition I adhere to, the only answer I am totally comfortable with is that I am a humanist. I really would love to see the formation of a "New Humanist" movement that would include "thinking, non-belligerent people of all faiths and none," in which the worthiness of the flesh and all creation is celebrated and where, together, we would strive to rise above our baser instincts to heal the world and its population that both religionists and atheists have damaged so much in our quest to become something that is not human.

Posted by MadPriest at 9:37 AM

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