Introduction: Humanism, A Joyous View
Humanism, a Joyous View
Could you be a humanist without realizing it? Perhaps you have been looking for a meaningful philosophy of life that is in harmony with mature intelligence. Humanism is an alternative to traditional religious faith and is in tune with the growing knowledge of our physical and mental worlds. And now, when many long-held ideas no longer seem relevant, it provides a new source of joy, strength, kindliness, and morality. Rational thinking and its handmaiden science can free one from guilt brought about from giving lip service to ideas that are not really believed. And it can end the feeling that life is just a waiting room at the entrance to heaven or hell.
Humanists understand that there is no supreme power with a human face that controls us. They know how problems can best be solved by perceptive, rational thinking. They have found that, with a better grasp of the processes of the world, personal lives become energized and more meaningful. Humanists share in the discovery that the meaning of life is that which they give to it. They gain access to a more full-bodied excitement as they feel closer to nature and become a part of all that lives. Vision is wedded to knowledge, and a sense of freedom lets each day become more exhilarating, more of an adventure.
This is the philosophy of evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, philosopher Daniel Dennett, social critic Barbara Ehrenreich, journalist Michelle Goldberg, novelist Joyce Carol Oates, evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker, novelist Salman Rushdie, politician Pete Stark, magician James Randi, comedian Julia Sweeney, business leader Ted Turner, writer Gore Vidal, and biologist Edward O. Wilson. This was also the philosophy of the late entertainer Steve Allen, science fiction author Isaac Asimov, sexologist Mary Calderone, psychologist Albert Ellis, inventor R. Buckminster Fuller, paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, actress Katharine Hepburn, biologist Julian Huxley, elder citizens’ advocate Maggie Kuhn, anthropologist Ashley Montagu, civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph, philosopher Bertrand Russell, astronomer Carl Sagan, birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger, novelist Kurt Vonnegut, and other thoughtful, constructive people of the twentieth century. Becoming free from outworn dogmas has opened many to greater understanding, new insights, and a more rewarding life.
Today, in an increasing number of nations, an increased and more humanistic sense of inclusiveness has supplanted the notion that relationships between genders, classes, and ethnic and national groups are eternally fixed. The domination of women by men has been recognized as rooted in ancient religions. Millions of people have come to realize that most of the turmoil in the world has been fostered by those holding onto and fighting for outmoded dogmas. Consider the situation in much of the Middle East, where people are divided into rival Muslim sects, following their banners as they destroy their neighbors. If most everyone in what is now the Islamic world were an agnostic or an atheist, would there be such strife?
Moral inconsistencies and social agonies throughout the world can usually account for the widespread retreat to religious fundamentalism at one extreme and the narcotic escapism of some New Age structures at another. Meanwhile, traditional mainstream religions still cannot fully accommodate current knowledge and belief or meet emotional needs.
So humanism is a true alternative. But not everyone who has acquired a humanist outlook has automatically felt drawn to use the humanist label. Nor have all sought to become part of a humanist organization. But those who have made this choice find value in having a clear identity and in being part of a community of the like minded. It can be enjoyable and often useful to join at least occasionally with others who understand and feel much the same way. Moreover, individuals of all social and cultural proclivities can feel they are not alone in their humanist point of view.
As a life philosophy, humanism brings together the subjective and the objective. It furthers moral values and prepares a person to accept change. And asserting the value of the human adventure, it provides purpose and meaning to life and energizes the motivation to carry on.
Many thoughtful individuals have made helpful suggestions that aided in the completion of this book. Without the inspiration of Alfred Smith and the conscientious attention of Fred Edwords and Karen Hart, this book would have remained unfinished.
Many other people have, in one way or another, stimulated the thinking of the authors. Ideas which blossomed in the works of Oliver Reiser, Edward Ericson, Brock Chisholm, Porter Sargent, Warren Allen Smith, Abraham Maslow, Alfred Korzybski, Bertrand Russell, and Cora L. Williams were often in our minds.
Of course, there were innovators who developed slants and programs that influenced our attitudes at significant times. Among these were Roy Fairfield, Garrett Hardin, Fran Hosken, Arthur Jackson, Edna Ruth Johnson, John Kessler, Beth Lamont, Gerald A. Larue, David Loye, Pat Maginnis, Stephen Mumford, Lyle L. Simpson, and Rabbi Sherwin T. Wine.
There were and are the adventuresome innovators with unique and often glorious humanistic ideas, some of which are yet to come into their own. Here we were indebted to Joseph Ben-David, Norman Fleischman, LeRue Grimm, Mel Lipman, Michael McOmber, Francis Mortyn, James W. Prescott, Pearl Ross, and Roger Williams.
We were also fortunate over the years in being able to share our outlooks with friends. More than that, we were often able to bask in the aura of their warm common sense. Early on there were Frances R. Dewing and Cyrus Eaton, and later James F. Hornback, Lester R. Mondale, Ernest Morgan, Ward and Barbara Tabler, and Herbert Tonne.
Friends, thinkers, glorious innovators, and creative, insightful movers have all played some role in this endeavor to give an overview of the humanist terrain.