[full of it]

The humanist in me

Posted in Uncategorized by susieyarbs on November 13, 2008

I’m going to try something new.  I’m going to actually pick something to write about.  I’ve sort of already been doing that, because I’m aware that reading about what I did each day is pretty boring.  I’m going to try to make it more interesting.  

Today I pick humanism and how much I like it!  It really appeals to me, from a lot of angles.  I wasn’t raised “in the church,” although we did frequent a Presbyterian church for a while, and throughout high school I went to the Unitarian Universalist church (although it hardly qualifies as “going to church”…it was more like a youth group that did social action and happened to meet at a church).  <–Actually, I’m going to modify that.  It wasn’t a traditional church.  We talked a lot about tolerance and love and community, it just was hardly, if ever, based on any religious text.  We spent quite a bit of time on year talking about Jesus, but in the context of a man, rather than as the son of God.  We talked about ethics, personal philosophies, stuff like that.  It was good times.  Anyway, even with all of those discussions, I never really spent much time thinking about what any of it meant to me personally (and who can really fault a 17 year-old for that).  The “why” questions were too much (and still are)-like why are we here-I think myself in circles and don’t get anywhere and just end up frustrated because some people seem to know, it’s right here in this chapter, see.  And then there’s the more philosophical aspect of a religion that I was missing, having a code that helps you make decisions, helps you decide what’s right and what’s wrong.  In the meantime, I’m aware that I’ve become an eternal optimist, I refuse to waste energy worrying about things that are inevitable, and that there’s no use getting in the way of your own happiness.  I’ve learned that if I let go a bit, if I trust that people are generally good and if I know what I’m worth and what I deserve, then I can’t help but be happy and content.  Of course, I attribute getting to where I am to being in an unblemished, perfectly healthy relationship, but the optimism and recognition of my own value started when things were rocky for me (and you could make the argument that I needed the rocky times to learn when I’m not being treated how I should), and being with John just served to feed the ideas that I already had.  That is, I’m a good person, other good people exist, I deserve to be treated in a way that’s commensurate with my worth, and I’m capable of giving that to someone else.  

Right, this is getting very far from where I wanted it to go.  I’ll back up.  Like I said, I never spent a lot of time trying to find a religion or a philosophy that worked for me, to use as a measure against which I could make decisions, determine right from wrong, live my life, etc.  I guess I never really felt I needed it.  And it only really came up in those rare discussions with friends when they get into “Well I’m Christian” or “I’m Buddhist” or “I’m an existentialist” (<–this person was more than likely just trying to sound smart), and when the question came up, “What are you?” I’d usually say something like, “Oh, I don’t know,” but it wasn’t just that I didn’t know, more that I didn’t care.  And I had/have a vaguely guilty feeling for not caring, but it’s like I said, I never have had a compulsion to want to figure it out.  And I can’t say that anyone is right or wrong in any capacity for what they believe, because it comes down to what you feel.  And I’ve always thought that I can be a moral person without having to rely on a group association.  

And it went that way for a while, and then I took that French literature class last year that turned out to be more like a philosophy course supported by literature, and although we never really concentrated on humanism, it’s difficult to mention existentialism or absurdism without mentioning humanism.  And then it was like OH MY GOODNESS.  There’s a name for this??  I’d certainly heard of humanism before, I’ve read lots of Kurt Vonnegut, but I don’t know why I hadn’t connected with it before.  “Humanists endorse universal morality based on the commonality of the human condition, suggesting that solutions to human social and cultural problems cannot be parochial,” says Wikipedia.  We can be logical, we can be devoid of religious faith and still be moral!  And still be happy!  We can be good for goodness’ sake, and that’s enough!  It’s okay for me to focus on just being and doing good where and when I am, and to be content with just what I see in front of me.  

It wasn’t like this was any huge revelation, and I think it’s too far to say, “I’m a humanist,” because it’s not that I necessarily needed any justification for the way that I happened to be living my life, but it’s kind of pleasing to know that other people have felt the same way.  I can subscribe to a line of thought rather than identifying myself by it.  I just like it.  It happens to parallel how I feel about most things.  

I’m not going to re-read what I just wrote because I have a feeling that it doesn’t make any sense.  And what prompted this was this article about a humanist ad campaign.  Now, I don’t think that humanism and religion are mutually exclusive, as it seems to imply…I think it’s safe to say some people will be upset by the ad.  Anyway, it just prompted me to revisit my fondness for humanism.

Time for lunch/dinner, then work.


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