Amongst John Lennon’s most famous words are the following:
“Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one”.
Imagine that world, completely free of religion, a humanist world.
Tragically, billions of people are still chained to a past thousands of years old, to a past in which superstition, fear and control via religion ruled supreme.
The Oxford Companion to Philosophy:
“An appeal to reason in contrast to revelation or religious authority as a means of finding out about the natural world and destiny of man, and also giving a grounding for morality…Humanist ethics is also distinguished by placing the end of moral action in the welfare of humanity rather than in fulfilling the will of God”.
How beautiful is that?!
Pears Cyclopaedia, 87th edition, 1978:
“That man should show respect to man, irrespective of class, race or creed is fundamental to the humanist attitude to life. Among the fundamental moral principles, he would count those of freedom, justice, tolerance and happiness…the attitude that people can live an honest, meaningful life without following a formal religious creed”.
Compare that to the world in which we live today!
Wikipedia (i.e. I can’t attribute this quote to anyone):
“a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasises the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence (rationalism, empiricism) over established doctrine or faith (fideism)”.
Beautiful, beautiful words.
I read those definitions and drift off in a sea of dreams…
In the future, 100 years, 200 years, 1,000 years, I don’t know, if mankind has not destroyed the planet, people, our great, great, great, great grandchildren, will read history books with incredulity, they will laugh when they learn about the irrational belief, held by billions of people, in a supernatural being concerned with mankind (or, rather, not concerned at all, judging by the rivers of blood that meander through the streets of the world in the name of religion).
Religion was a mainstay in a previous stage of civilisation evolution. It was (and still is):
a) an instrument to control the masses (‘useful idiots’)
b) a ‘god gap’ – in the absence of answers to questions like: “what was that massive wave which just came on shore and swallowed up thousands?” and “what was that flash of light that came from on high and killed that person?”, in the absence of answers, people filled the gap with god(s).
As I see it (and I don’t mean to disrespect or hurt anyone in saying this), those who still have an irrational belief in a god(s), who are ‘religious’, who can’t see the anachronistic, irrational, divisive, dangerous nature of religion, they have not evolved, they have not arrived in this latest stage of civilisation evolution, a stage in which the irrational has dissipated and has been replaced with the rational, with logic, with humanism.
I sat in Shul (Synagogue) on Kol Nidre and over Yom Kippur (the most solemn 25 hours or so in the Jewish calendar) this year, overcome – literally, overcome – with a surreal sense of not belonging to the kahilla/congreagation amongst which/whom I was sitting. Physically, as a matter of fact, I was in the Shul, I could see those around me and I’m sure that they could see me. Mentally, however, I wasn’t there. The sense of not being there was very real. It was a fully conscious sense. I felt invisible, I felt as if I was looking in from outside or, more precisely, from above. I couldn’t get my head around what I was seeing, people, in rows, standing next to their chairs, hands in the air, eyes closed, reaching out, talking ‘in prayer’….I couldn’t digest the fact that these people were, in 2015, (and I really am sorry if this offends), lost in a sea of complete delusion. It was, in a sense, frightening to behold.
I see humanism as my present and mankind’s future which can only mean that I see the age of religion as uncivilized.
The age of humanism is one in which mankind lives as one people, a world in which we don’t strive to live as a Jewish People, a Catholic People, as a Shiah or a Sunni People but as a People, as mankind. Religion is the foundation on which mankind expresses and manifests division, hate, arrogance, superstition, all in the extreme. We need to break down the divisions, the walls built with the bricks of religion. We need to replace the irrational with the rational.
It is surreal, I have evolved, I feel liberated, but I still live in a civilization comprising people motivated by religion and that depresses me. When (I really am sorry) I was deluded, I was blissfully ignorant of my irrational state of mind. It’s difficult now, I have evolved, I have broken the chains of archaic superstition and fear but I live in the deluded world, a world in which decisions are taken in the name of God and religion, decisions which further divide us, decisions which are often deadly.
I say that I have evolved. I’m not sure that I can say that I have fully evolved. I am an atheist and a humanist and, in that sense, I have evolved. I don’t suppose, however, that I have culturally evolved, that I have escaped the ‘birds of a feather’ analogy. I still feel Jewish although I’m not sure what exactly I mean by that statement. I guess it is a fact that, culturally, we Jews have a history – it would have been better if religion had never been ‘invented’ but it was and it did divide us. The Jewish people were, and are, one of those divisions. I am a ‘member’ of that division/group. We have things in common, a history, culture, food, experiences which link us and it is these elements within our religion which draw us to each other. I feel that bond. I feel related to the Jewish people culturally. However, even that is an element within the divisive character of religion and if I want to completely free myself of the shackles of religion, if I want to completely break free, if I want to completely evolve, if I want to fully immerse myself in humanism, I should aspire to breaking even the cultural links, not as an anti-Jewish move but to fully, completely evolve from the age of religion….but maybe that is not right, maybe that is just another manifestation of extremism – and I abhor extremism. Maybe extremist humanism has a dark side. One could argue that such adherence to humanism would necessary reflect intolerance, intolerance of the right of others to NOT be humanist. Such is the nature of man that one could imagine humanism being forced on religious people, destroying the very nature of humanism!
Food for thought, how to, in the real world, reconcile humanism, atheism, rationale and a rejection of religion with perhaps man’s natural tendency to veer towards the familiar. Ultimately, however, the world will be a better place when the only characteristic linking us all is humanity itself.