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Humanist Ethics


I‘m a new subscriber to "Free Inquiry" magazine, which is published by
the Council for Secular Humanism, which I’m certain many are more than
familiar with, but the Aug/Sept issue includes a wonderful piece by
Paul Kurtz.  I’ve read many of Kurtz’s articles over the years, but
this is the best in my opinion.

Titled, "The Future of Secular Humanism in America", Kurtz asks
basically two questions.  First, and most important, he wants to know
where we’re going as secular humanists.  In other words, are we simply
anti religion and just another atheist organization, or do we
represent something more.  Are we proactive and stand for an
alternative to religion, or simply reactive against dogma and
superstition?  Are we something more than just "individualistic
libertarians", which simply encourages each person to do their own
thing, "in the hollow pursuit of self interest?"  Or, do we believe in
a moral alternative to religion?  Kurtz believes in the later.  "I
have stated that the goal of humanism is to develop a new eupraxsophy,
i.e., virtues and values drawn from the application of intelligence
and the scientific perspective…..secularists have the responsibility
to cultivate moral integrity and high standards of personal morality".

Second, Kurtz asks what the meaning of life is, or, does the universe
have meaning?  He believes this to be THE existential question, and
even quotes from the book of Job in the old testament.  But Kurtz goes
on to explain that theistic explanations no longer work as we now rely
on scientific inquiry.  This is where the author gets poetic, which is
something I miss in so much of our humanistic literature.  Lets put
matters into some sort of scientific perspective, to once again quote
from the text:

"The human species exists on a minor planet on the edge of the Milky
Way.  Our galaxy has an estimated 400 billion stars, countless
planets, and enormous clouds of gas.  The spiral arms of the Milky Way
extend some 50,000 light years, revolve every 220 million years, and
speed through space at 400,000 kilometers per hour toward our nearest
galaxy, Andromeda".

So, what’s the meaning of it all?  Was it created by the almighty for
the human species in his own image.  Not hardly!  That’s rather self
indulgent!   Again, the existential question is how we live, which
Kurtz believes to be the overriding question we all face.  Waxing
poetic once again, "The meaning of life is that it can be found to be
good and beautiful and exciting in its own terms for ourselves, our
loved ones, and other sentient beings".  I absolutely loved that
quote, we simply don’t need a supernatural being for it all to make
sense.  It makes sense in its own right, if, that is, we’re up to the
moral challenge.

I believe Kurtz is right on track here.  We do need to profess a moral
imperative, and we must simply stop playing rope-a-dope with religion.
 My personal opinion says that religion can simply be ignored until it
steps over the boundary of our secular government, at which point a
left hook usually does the trick for a short while.  There are issues
and challenges that must be met with religion, of course, but in our
own right, we can look forward.  Let the superstitious live in the 3rd
century BCE, we’re going forward.

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