Kia ora: December looms on the horizon. A new January always appears with freshness and anticipation. On a drive with Humanist Peggy Slater, we saw some Boarding Catteries. We wondered why there are not Boarding Doggeries? Of course, these are called Boarding Kennels. December this year will be illuminated with three movies: King Kong, the next Harry Potter and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
December monthly meeting: Monday 5th December 7.30 pm until 9 pm, Turnbull House. Wellington. All welcome.
Topic: A social evening. We invite you to come with your thoughts of 2005 in Review and your Preview for 2006.
Bring a plate with some End of Year Morsels and something special to drink.
Last Meeting: Kent Stevens combined and developed the two strands of evolution and religion, from the speakers at our October seminar.
Summer Gathering: Sunday 29 January 2006 from 11.30 am. Begin your year with a Shared Lunch at 17 Allen Tce, Tawa. All welcome. Bring a lunch dish to share.
Radio Access: 11 am 783 kHz Sunday 18 December, 15 January 2006, 12 February 2006. DID YOU LISTEN via your computer on November 20th? If you did not, you missed a most interesting and well-presented discussion. Jeff and Joan reviewed a book by Margaret Mahy Catalogue of the Universe. This book is a chronicle of the history of science and understanding. Jeff’s description of the movement from idealism to empiricism was striking. He moved from ancient faith based imagination to a more modern view in which even the greatest imaginings demand rational investigation. We look forward to more of this exciting saga.
Email discussion group: Is operating now on Yahoo at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/nzhumanism Have you registered to meet with other members via the web world of communication.
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Intelligent Design Debate: Columnist Joe Bennett had a delightful column Praise be for our designer on the Intelligent Design Theory in the Nov 9th issue of The Dominion Post. The final snippet was ” All things bright and beautiful. All creatures great and small. All things wise and wonderful. The Lord God intelligently designed them all. (” Except,”added Peastem sotto voce “for bird flu, leprosy, the Pakistan earthquake, Hurricane Wilma and genital warts,” but such was the general delight that nobody heard him.) This column has brought a number of disapproving Letters to the Editor. However, our Humanist voice has been read with the following Letter to the Editor from Kent Stevens (President) ” Congratulations to columnist Joe Bennett for writing excellent satire on the whole Intelligent Design debacle. It is great in showing how ID is the result of spin-doctoring. Creationists were not doing very well at trying to thrust creationism into school science, so rebranded their philosophy ID. I hope that religious people in general can move on to having a world view that is compatible with empirically gathered research.” Published Dominion Post Nov 15
Newsletter distribution: This issue will be sent by e-mail where possible. However, a hard copy will be mailed out where we know members would like this. If you receive only an e-mail copy but wish for a hard copy, please let us know immediately.
Secularism. Will it survive? The Oct/Nov 2006 issue of Free Inquiry celebrates 25 years of publication. They put the question Secularism. Will it survive?, to significant figures around the world and gathered more than 40 replies. A few of these are included with this newsletter. A consistent trend emerged with American respondents sharing a sense that now is a time of decision for the future of American secularism. Many had misgivings, others rejoiced e.g. evangelist David Noebel. For European correspondents secularism stands unchallenged. ALBERT ELLIS director of the Albert Ellis Institute and the originator of rational emotive behavioral therapy (REBT).” Will secularism survive? Yes, because it is a humanistic philosophy that promotes reason, realism, logic, discourse, and morality, all of which favour humans and other animals and their environment. It simultaneously opposes fanaticism, dogma, damnation, and rigid thinking, feeling, and believing. Along with rational emotive behavioral therapy (REBT), it shows people how to unconditionally accept their limitations as people and accept life.
Will it Survive?
David A. Noebel
Secularism will not survive, indeed, has not survived! Secular humanism, on the other hand, will survive but with far less influence than it presently has. Let me explain.
Secularism, as defined by Ian S. Markham in his A World Religions Reader, sees human life as nothing more than “complex bundles of atoms in an ultimately meaningless universe” (p. 6). Secularism is a not a worldview by any definition of the word.
Secular humanism, on the other hand, is a religious world-view with something to say about anything, anyone, and everything, and all proudly displayed under its religious symbol- the Darwinian fish. As Irving Kristol noted in Commentary magazine (August 1991),” Secular humanism is more than science, because it proceeds to make all kinds of inferences about the human condition and human possibilities that are not in any authentic sense scientific. Those inferences are metaphysical and in the end theological.”
Secular humanism, therefore, has a perspective on theology
(atheism-Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist); philosophy (naturalism-only matter and the void are real); ethics (relativism-there are no moral absolutes except abortion); biology (evolutionism-life originated as a foamy blue-green algae pond scum); psychology (the mind is reducible to chemical reactions in the brain); sociology (trial marriages, open marriages, homosexual marriages, and hook-ups are all morally equivalent); economics (a John Dewey-type socialism, Democratic Socialists of America, etc.); law (positive law pioneered by Oliver Wendell Holmes, “living Constitution,”); politics (a liberal heaven on Earth, world government, United Nations, U.N. Human Rights Commission, etc.); and history (multiculturalism, blame America first)!
Secularism, per se, has nothing to say about most of the above ideas, issues, and disciplines except to say that God is dead, long live Mother Nature! Hence, who would want it to survive? After all, a meaningless universe is not very exciting and atoms even less so (unless, of course, they are Designed). Secular humanism, on the other hand, has staying power because it has something to say and has a platform to say it-the New York Times, Time, Newsweek, CNN, colleges, and universities.
However, as Mister McGrath notes in his The Twilight of Atheism, secular humanism’s theological foundation (atheism) has lost its moral high ground during the twentieth century with millions shot, starved, or slaughtered (Stephane Courtois, ed., The Black Book of Communism). Then, too, Intelligent Design advocates are crawling up its back, having already persuaded one of FREE INQUIRY’s contributing editors to bid adieu to the old guard (Antony Flew).
Add to this the postmodern Left’s assault on science, reason, and technology (see Paul R. Gross and Norman Levitt, Higher Superstition, p. 248), and we find secular humanism increasingly in the crosshairs.
All in all, while secularism is graveyard-dead, secular humanism is hanging on by half a dozen threads and a respirator. How long’? Probably until two or three more Antony Flew-types, using reason and science, jump ship!
The Reverend David A. Noebel is the president of Summit Ministries, an educational Christian ministry based in Manitou Springs, Colorado. He is the coauthor (with evangelist and Left Behind novelist Tim LaHaye) of Mind Siege: The Battle for Truth in the New Millennium (2000).
George A. Wells
In Europe (with which alone I am familiar), criticism of Christianity is hindered by the still-prevailing conviction that it is somewhat improper to undermine religious convictions that appear to be harmless; and widespread ignorance of the Church’s history sustains the view that Christianity has always been a force for good. Also, the fact that many people are content with near-meaningless formulas for so many subjects promotes acquiescence in those proffered on behalf of religion. Above all, religious expectations cannot easily be disconfirmed, as they pertain to supposed postmortem situations.
These factors are, however, insufficient to stifle secularism decisively There are many more unbelievers than those who speak out; most are silent either through indifference to the topic or because they do not wish to offend others or expose themselves to any unpleasantness. But ever since the Renaissance, religion has had some outspoken critics, and the Church can no longer make it dangerous or even difficult for them to voice their views. Nor can the general public be unaware that it is the least rational forms of religion that now flourish and that many doctrines taught for centuries are abandoned by numerous spokesmen of the mainstream churches, who are reduced to justifying the old formulas by novel interpretations. It is our species-increasing its numbers so recklessly and destroying evermore nonrenewable resources-rather than any one branch of human ideas that, seems to me, is at risk of extinction.
George A. Wells is a professor emeritus of German at the University of London and the author of Did Jesus Exist? and many other books.
Perhaps memetic research could find out whether there is a threshold percentage of believers in a population below which religions cannot come back or an environment in which their tricks will fail.
Will secularism survive? Yes definitely; there is no other alternative. Secularism is the only solution for the evolution of humankind. People will always have the right to practice their faith privately However, the business of organized religion will be diminished as more and more people break the chains of ignorance, open their minds, and question the validity of religious dogma.
Many of the greatest thinkers and philosophers over thousands of years have pondered the question of how religion and democracy can coexist. Their answers are clear and cannot be misunderstood or even denied. Democracy will rule. Secularism is the foundation of democracy and the world is on a path to achieving freedom, liberty, and equality for all.
We may be feeling that there has been a setback in America due to this administration and its backward view of the issues it faces; however, it will not last. As humanity climbs the mountain of oppression and ignorance toward the peak of democracy there will always be situations in which we have to step back in order to find the shorter pathway to climb further. This must not influence us to deviate from achieving the goal.
Secularism is the only way for human beings to find peace and prosperity on this earth. As the world becomes smaller and smaller due to our technological advances, the idea of “my God is better than yours ” becomes increasingly preposterous and absurd.
The question of this symposium should not have been “Will secularism survive?” because the answer is obvious: it will. But what is the shortest path to a secular, democratic world? Now there is a question!
Parvin Darabi is the president of the Dr. Homa Darabi Foundation and author of Rage against the Veil.
I take secularism to be the doctrine that there is only one world. Around this world, we have constructed various special theories-historical theories about how the world got to be as it is and scientific and mathematical theories about how it works. But, still, there is just one world-our world.
If we are soon to enter a period of ecological catastrophe, it may be that our present civilization will be destroyed. In a new Dark Age, only fundamentalist religion may survive among a reduced population.
But I hope that all humans will survive and that secularism will prevail-in politics, in ethics, and even in religion. It is hugely liberating for human beings at last to be able to affirm life in this world, despite its transiency, contingency and the imperfect nature of our physical bodies. I am a philosopher of religion, and I would like to point out that, in the Christian tradition, we always hoped that at the end of history everything would return to this life, on this earth. This hope for the complete secularization of religion was once called the coming of the Kingdom of God on Earth and was even part of the American dream. Intellectually we are about due. When it comes, we will learn to love life exactly as our forbears once loved God.
Don Cupitt is an Anglican priest and writer. He spent his career lecturing on the philosophy of religion at Cambridge University, where he remains a Fellow of Emmanuel College. He has published almost forty books, including The Sea of Faith (1984), which sparked a religious humanist movement in the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.
[B]arring a new Dark Age in which science is removed from the schools and its books and journals burned, the empirical fact that there is no need for God is bound to seep into common knowledge.
Victor J. Stenger
By secularism, I understand the view that religion should be excluded from public life and restricted to the private domain. This concept developed not from the efforts of nonbelievers but out of the early modern wars of religion, which so exhausted the combatants that they finally had the idea of agreeing to disagree. In other words, it grew from the imperatives of too much faith, not an absence of it.
Secularism has two main roles today. In an era when global jihad presents the major international danger, it offers a unique brake on the path to religious war. In an era of mass migration, it offers a unique method of integration. I worry, however, that alternative approaches, and their consequent bitter results, will have to be tasted before the benefits of secularism become fully apparent.
Daniel Pipes is founder of the independent think tank Middle East Forum and a proponent of intellectual “hand- to-hand combat” with militant Islam.
Secularism was a term introduced by George Jacob Holyoake. His idea was that it is pointless to be concerned about the supernatural world-either to affirm or deny it-when the natural world, which no sane person doubts, calls out to be ameliorated. John Stuart Mill, whom Holyoake notes in his memoir (chap. cx), approved it “as a useful departure from the theologic thought of the day ever obstructive of secular improvement.”
Understood as such, how could anyone doubt the sanity of secularism, its huge influence over the past century and a half, or that it will survive? We are still driven by secularism, i.e., by our well-being in this life and not by the search for the ultimate purpose of this world or ourselves.
But is secularism sufficient? In my view, it isn’t. Probably the most concise way I can put this is to say that some otherworldly craziness is also needed. Since I cannot hope to justify this here, I offer two vignettes for support.
The first concerns the wisest of men, Socrates. We all know him as the father of rationalism. What is not so well known is Socrates’ faith in his supernatural daimon, whose commands he implicitly obeyed-even when they brought his life into jeopardy and even though they were issued without a reason. In my view, Socrates’ rationalism would not have been possible without his daimon.
Consider, too, the success of secularism itself. Surely one key element was the moral fervor of men like Holyoake and Mill, most dramatically shown in Mill’s daimonic outburst against H. L. Mansel in 1865. The problem is that the fervor is running down. It is the supernaturalists who now seem to have it. Present-day secularism is not so much a sterile ideology as a tired and all-too-worldly one.
David Berman, PhD is an associate professor of philosophy and a fellow of Trinity College, Dublin. His publications include A History of Atheism in Britain, George Berkley: Idealism and the Man, and an edition of Schopenhauer’s World as Will and Idea. His main academic interest is in what he calls ‘psychological philosophy’.
Secularism will survive.
The question is whether it will
survive through a reasoned
political process or only after
religious sectarian strife.
Joyce E. Salisbury
Richard E. Leakey
I find it difficult to marshal an argument in favor of the survival of secularism at a time when our species seems to be displaying an almost universal willingness to follow narrow-minded, shortsighted, and ignorant leaders. I certainly hope that secularism will survive as the loss of free thought and rationalism is too depressing to contemplate.
In some respects, the current swing toward faith-based fundamentalism may bring future generations to their senses. Clearly the fundamentalists are going to continue to create sociopolitical conditions where world peace and real global development take root. One can only hope that the basic human qualities of free thought will overcome the consequences of “herd” behavior and from this will emerge a new generation of practical and rational leaders.
Am I optimistic that this will happen soon? No, I am not, and I believe we will see far greater problems before things begin to get better. I am thankful that immortality is but a fiction and that I, along with many other secular rationalists, will not have to live with these problems.
Richard E. Leakey is a world-renowned paleontologist and environmental activist and a former director of the National of Humanism. of Kenya. He is a Laureate of the Academy of Humanism.
Secularism – Will it Survive is Reproduced from Free Inquiry October/November 2005 Vol. 25 No. 6. See Free Inquiry for other views.