Hnn | HNN Articles

Yes—Humanism Can Be Religious and Nontheistic

 

AHA Communications Associate Brian Magee argues that the Yale Humanist Community should be a part of the university’s ministries group because humanism can be religious without being supernatural.


The decision earlier this month by Yale’s Religious Ministries office to deny membership to the Yale Humanist Community is another example of how the many ideas contained within humanism continue to be simplistically misunderstood. While the large majority of people who call themselves humanists are also non-theists, humanism also proudly makes room for those who want to retain the structure and many of the ideals of popular faith communities. The ethical overlap between these humanists and many progressive theistic religious traditions is substantial, so the desire to come together should not be difficult to fathom. To exclude one group based on a single point of disagreement goes against the stated purpose of Yale’s Religious Ministries office to foster “respect and mutual understanding among people of different faiths and cultures as well as actively promoting dialogue within the University towards that end.”

The idea of seeing humanism in religious terms is certainly not a comfortable thought for all humanists. The “Good Without a God” phrase that the American Humanist Association makes, at a minimum, equal in importance the “good” and “without a god” parts, and there are secular humanists who are adamant that humanism never be connected to any religious framework. But these objections are, as mentioned above, based on a single point of disagreement concerning naturalism vs. supernaturalism. While this issue is indeed key to each worldview, it doesn’t need to be as divisive as it has become, especially for groups of people who have so much in common otherwise and have proven they can do good things together when they try. To shun each other over a single issue is not in line with pragmatic ideas that should be guiding all of us.

In addition to these points, there is already precedence for this happening and being successful. Several of the country’s universities have humanist chaplaincies in place. The push by the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers for the U.S. military to accept humanist chaplains also continues and is supported by a national interfaith group.

The only reason that the Yale Humanist Community was rejected for recognition by school’s Religious Ministries office is the idea that humanism is “explicitly nonreligious.” This assertion contains the misinformed idea that religion must be deistic, which is not true. Buddhism is often seen in nontheistic terms, and Yale includes them. A religious label for humanism is just as appropriate for those who wish to use it.

The good news is that this is not the end. Chris Stedman, assistant humanist chaplain at Harvard University, has said that he thinks “there are people on both sides that see the value of working together in an intentional and formal way but are just looking for the right language to describe it.” For humanists who find meaning and support from the useful and compatible parts of a familiar religious framework, there is no valid reason why they shouldn’t be openly accepted by others where so much commonality exists. And, that is perfectly in agreement with the statement all members of the Religious Ministries group signs that states, “I pledge that I will articulate information for the purpose of sharing knowledge about my faith community and will not undermine another faith community.”


Brian Magee, Communications AssociateBrian Magee is the communications associate for the American Humanist Association.

blog comments powered by Disqus

American Humanist Association

Phil Robertson's most recent hateful comments about non-theists and rape were ou...

20 hours ago

American Humanist Association

We are happy to announce the 2015 AHA Keynote Speaker for this year's annual con...

23 hours ago

American Humanist Association

We're happy to welcome a new chapter, Northeast Ohio Humanist Association, to th...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Happy Birthday to the incredible Gloria Steinem! Gloria was AHA's 2012 Humanist...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

We want to hear from you! Please take a minute to complete this survey on the A...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

For those who "liked" our page today after watching last night's CNN segment on...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

This website is so cool! You can buy a t-shirt, poster or tote with the entire...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

Our friends at the United Church of Bacon (yes, it's real!) were recently discri...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

Do you think public schools should continue to observe religious holidays?

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

More Americans are turning away from organized religion! Watch AHA Communication...

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

The new Netflix series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt adds a little humor to doomsday...

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

Over half of the population in the US would not support an atheist presidential...

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

Our friends Harry and Charlotte Shaughnessy of the Triangle Freethought Society...

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

Join the community that led activists like Steve Ahlquist and others to a deeper...

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

Have a great weekend, happy humanists! #dayofhappiness

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

"Do You Believe?" the latest Christian film just released today in theaters, app...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

Have you seen "Chappie"? Tell us what you thought.

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

The AHA conference is right around the corner and we can't wait! Join us in De...

8 days ago

American Humanist Association

Episode 19 of the Cartoon History of Humanism is out now!

8 days ago

American Humanist Association

Which major U.S. cities have the most religiously unaffiliated residents?

8 days ago

American Humanist Association

Latest Huffington Post article from AHA Executive Director, Roy Speckhardt. Whe...

9 days ago

American Humanist Association

Through a cooperative program between Foundation Beyond Belief and the American...

9 days ago

American Humanist Association

If you're planning to attend the AHA Conference in Denver in May and you live in...

10 days ago

American Humanist Association

What do specific groups think about scientific issues?

10 days ago

American Humanist Association

Trying to ban marriage for any non-religious person? What is the deal Oklahoma?

10 days ago

American Humanist Association

Brotherhood that breeds hate for their fellow Humans. How do these groups still...

11 days ago