Today is June 21, the summer solstice. It is the longest day of the year, where we can go outside and enjoy the sunlight and warm weather. Today is also World Humanist Day, a day to celebrate the life stance of secular humanism, and to spread information and combat misinformation about this worldview.
To those of you who are unsure as to what Humanism is, the following excerpt from 2003’s Humanist Manifesto III ought to enlighten you a bit as to the concepts of this philosophy:
“Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.” -Humanist Manifesto III
Below are six more points taken directly from the Humanist Manifesto III.
A conviction that dogmas, ideologies and traditions, whether religious, political or social, must be weighed and tested by each individual and not simply accepted on faith.
Commitment to the use of critical reason, factual evidence, and scientific methods of inquiry, rather than faith and mysticism, in seeking solutions to human problems and answers to important human questions.
A primary concern with fulfillment, growth, and creativity for both the individual and humankind in general.
A constant search for objective truth, with the understanding that new knowledge and experience constantly alter our imperfect perception of it.
A concern for this life and a commitment to making it meaningful through better understanding of ourselves, our history, our intellectual and artistic achievements, and the outlooks of those who differ from us.
A search for viable individual, social and political principles of ethical conduct, judging them on their ability to enhance human well-being and individual responsibility.
A conviction that with reason, an open marketplace of ideas, good will, and tolerance, progress can be made in building a better world for ourselves and our children.
Humanism is all about, well, humans. It is the belief that we humans are neither innately good nor innately evil, yet we are able to act in an ethical and moral fashion without God or religion. One of the major points of humanism is the attempt to improve this world, to make it a better place. By better understanding our nature and the consequences of our actions, humans can then act in a fashion that will be to the benefit of those around them, which will in turn make this world a better world for all those involved.
The idea of humanism really hinges on the hope that people will actually take the time to consider others and the effect of their actions on others. The hope that when people do analyze what the consequences of their actions will be, they will choose the path that benefits their fellow man and will improve the state of our world.
Thus whether humanism actually works or not is dependent on people choosing to take the action that will benefit the world and others rather than harm them.
So what will us humans do? Will we do what is in our self-interest but might hurt others, or will we do what we don’t really want to do but will help others?
Since today is June 21, World Humanist Day, a day where humanists everywhere can celebrate and spread the ideas of humanism, I feel that this day can also answer the question as to which path us humans will take when given that choice.
June 21, 1621, also known as “the day of blood” among Prague Protestants: After the Battle of White Mountain ended a revolt by protestants in Bohemia against their new king, the catholic Ferdinand II, the king executed twenty-seven Bohemian nobleman in the Old Town Square, including a famous composer and a famous physician. Twenty-seven crosses still adorn the square cobblestones in honor of these victims.
June 21, 1919, known as “Bloody Saturday” in Winnipeg, Canada. The ongoing Winnipeg General Strike, where workers were demanding better pay and working conditions, heated up after police arrested ten strike leaders. In protest, 25,000 strikers, many of them war veterans, assembled in Market Square in downtown Winnipeg. The mayor of Winnipeg, Charles Frederick Grey, chose to call in the Canadian Royal Mounted Police. The police, upon facing the protestors, decide to charge into the crowd on horseback, beating the protestors and firing their weapons against the unarmed workers, people who only wanted livable wages and safe working conditions. Two of these workers were killed, killed by the very men that were supposed to protect them, and countless others were injured.
June 21, 1964, three civil rights workers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, traveled to Neshoba County, Mississippi to investigate the burning of a church known to have ties to civil rights activists. Once in Neshoba County, they were detained by Deputy Cecil Price, “for investigation.” Then the deputy, a man sworn to do what is best for others and not for himself, alerted the Ku Klux Klan and waited for them to set up an ambush on the road out of the county. The civil rights workers were denied telephone calls, and after the men failed to check in by phone with their friends, their friends called the Neshoba County Jail asking of their whereabouts. There, a secretary, another employee of the government called to act for the people, lied and said the men were not at the jail.
The men were eventually released, but Deputy Price followed them to the edge of town and there pulled them over again. He held them until members of the Ku Klux Klan’s murder squad arrived. The three civil rights workers, men who were there only to help others, were then taken to an isolate spot away from the road. The Ku Klux Klan members then savagely beat Chaney, the only African-American in the group. After Chaney had suffered two broken arms and numerous other injuries, the three men were shot in the head and the bodies buried. These three men, who sought not personal gain but the gain of others, were betrayed by a deputy, a man sworn to protect and serve others, and then murdered in cold blood.
It seems that we are not only celebrating the anniversary of World Humanist Day today, but the anniversaries of several horrific events in human history. Those days were only three days in god knows how many days the human race has been around, but on each of those days men in a good deal of power choose to act to the detriment of others.
Time and time again we see people, ourselves included, make the decision that helps only ourselves and not others. So I ask this then, given our past and given our knowledge of what we’ll do in the future, how can humanism honesty say that people, without God, will make the right choice to make this world better?
Happy World Humanist Day.