Religion


The End of Mankind

This pronouncement sounds scary and forbidding, but actually it’s an accounting of a win-win moment for “Humanist” progress, and a symbolic evolutionary triumph for half of us humans. So, don’t worry. This is a very happy story! The telling of this story is even a bit funny, as well, you’ll see, after I describe a few moments of worrisome anxiety!

But, first, let me preface the main theme of this story with a little preamble‚Ķthat of my own experiencing increasing annoyance, over my growing-up years, to find insistence, in spite of continuing inquiries and doubts, that a creator of all the universe and life as we know it, is a man-god. I grieved, picturing him as probably bearded with a booming authoritative voice. But, what about Mother Nature?… I would plead. Mothers are the nurturers, the beings that give birth! And a source of love and protection! It’s through this rejection route, that I had become a NON-believer, resenting all traditional religion as being tribal, contrary to science, and based upon illusion. I hadn’t yet learned that I’m a Humanist. And, what an amazing revelation to accidentally happen-upon the great researched works of Corliss Lamont!

And, even more amazing to be eventually welcomed into the physical presence of this great researcher, philosopher, author of The Philosophy of Humanism, Corliss Lamont, himself!

His works had been based upon extensive historical written evidence, and his own inspired conjecture, but necessarily written in the traditional academic style for accreditation. Upon reading the 7th Edition of The Philosophy of Humanism, I was both inspired and dismayed by the almost obligatory use of that same word that crowds-out a vision of newly empowered womanhood. Sheesh! We’re hardly recognized, and didn’t even get to vote until 1920!

Sister Humanist, Beverly Earles and I converged upon an amiable Corliss Lamont, with our sort-of giggly conspiratorial, but inspirational plot, to point out the book’s currant error. We took turns reading to Corliss from his own work, paragraph after paragraph, and inserting, instead of the traditional mankind, we used the word, very pointedly and with emphasis: WOMANKIND! This went on, without comment from Corliss, for part of a chapter.

We cast worried glances at him. He was sitting with elbows on knees and head in hands, not giving any clue for us to gauge. Are we insulting him? Is this approach un-humanistic? Stop!

Trying to sound brave and cheerful, I asked cautiously: “Well, Corliss, what do you think?”

He looked-up brightly and surprised us both with his nodding approval and his reassuring response: “You know, you’ve got a good point there! This should be changed to Humankind! And so it was! The 8th Edition of The Philosophy of Humanism celebrates Humankind! And our devoted Editor carefully inserted ALL US humans into the new Edition.

https://www.corliss-lamont.org/philos8.htm

Beth K. Lamont, Humanist Celebrant, and author of Lefties Are In Their Right Minds

Why I am NOT an ATHEIST

by Beth K. Lamont, Humanist Celebrant

I respect Atheists for their good intentions in attempting to free Folks from their superstitions and in helping to create laws that prevent religious domination from continuing to erode our Civil Liberties and our Right to Free Thought and the right of children to not suffer the indignities of coercion, fear and illogic.

I respect the adherents of religion who engage in GOOD WORKS for Humans, Here and Now, doing their best to improve Earthly conditions that are contrary to their own best beliefs in loving, compassionate, forgiving behavior. I do not begrudge them their “interior motives” of a heavenly reward. “Theism” is not the big problem. Resultant power, hypocrisy and greed are the REAL problems.

Because I am naturally optimistically inclined, and my life’s experiences have taught me that “change-for-the-better” can actually be achieved, my cup stays “half full” rather than half empty, and emphasizing the positive is my style.

Therefore, I do not PRESENT myself with a name announcing what I DO NOT BELIEVE! Why should I assume a title describing what I’m AGAINST? This is nonsense! To my way of thinking, it’s a negative and counter-productive stance.

To use the ancient term “A” meaning “absence of” to describe what I do NOT believe, or anything about me, is not helpful. Here’s how I see it! For instance, I believe with all my life experiences and the wisdom that I have amassed in all of these years, that the Capitalist Economic System, under which we suffer, does more harm to more people in this world, presently, than does any theistic belief. Even more, it exacerbates religious divides and causes more blaming.

Shall I then bill myself as an Acapitalist? This is nuts! Why should I focus who I AM, on what I DO NOT believe? My efforts are devoted to doing all I can, same as Atheists are, working toward changing things in the best interest of Humans.

I claim allegiance to the positive belief that guides my lifestance. I’m NOT an A-capitalist! I’m not an A-theist! I AM a HUMANIST!

I believe with all of my heart and mind that we must treat our precious Planet Earth, all Earthlings and other living things with respect; that we must take responsibility to do all that we can to make beneficial changes; to make Peace and live in harmony and promote the opportunities for all to live the Good Life!

In agreement with the Humanist Philosophy espoused by Corliss Lamont in all of his lifetime efforts, I believe that dismantling the war mind-set and its machinery, and protecting our would-be democracy from moneyed special interests is the proper focus for the work of helping to Humanize this war-weary World! Perhaps you agree?

The Long, Slow Death of Religion

Guest Post by James A. Haught

By now, it’s clear that religion is fading in America, as it has done in most advanced Western democracies.

Dozens of surveys find identical evidence: Fewer American adults, especially those under 30, attend church — or even belong to a church. They tell interviewers their religion is “none.” They ignore faith.

Since 1990, the “nones” have exploded rapidly as a sociological phenomenon — from 10 percent of U.S. adults, to 15 percent, to 20 percent. Now they’ve climbed to 25 percent, according to a 2016 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute.

That makes them the nation’s largest faith category, outstripping Catholics (21 percent) and white evangelicals (16 percent). They seem on a trajectory to become an outright majority. America is following the secular path of Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and other modern places. The Secular Age is snowballing.

Various explanations for the social transformation are postulated: That the Internet exposes young people to a wide array of ideas and practices that undercut old-time beliefs. That family breakdown severs traditional participation in congregations. That the young have grown cynical about authority of all types. That fundamentalist hostility to gays and abortion has soured tolerant-minded Americans. That clergy child-molesting scandals have scuttled church claims to moral superiority. That faith-based suicide bombings and other religious murders horrify normal folks.

All those factors undoubtedly play a role. But I want to offer a simpler explanation: In the scientific 21st century, it’s less plausible to believe in invisible gods, devils, heavens, hells, angels, demons — plus virgin births, resurrections, miracles, messiahs, prophecies, faith-healings, visions, incarnations, divine visitations and other supernatural claims. Magical thinking is suspect, ludicrous. It’s not for intelligent, educated people.

Significantly, the PRRI study found that the foremost reason young people gave for leaving religion is this clincher: They stopped believing miraculous church dogmas.

For decades, tall-steeple mainline Protestant denominations with university-educated ministers tried to downplay supernaturalism — to preach just the compassion of Jesus and the social gospel. It was a noble effort, but disastrous. The mainline collapsed so badly it is dubbed “flatline Protestantism.” It has faded to small fringe of American life.

Now Catholicism and evangelicalism are in the same death spiral. One-tenth of U.S. adults today are ex-Catholics. The Southern Baptist Convention lost 200,000 members in 2014 and 200,000 more in 2015.

I’m a longtime newspaperman in Appalachia’s Bible Belt. I’ve watched the retreat of religion for six decades. Back in the 1950s, church-based laws were powerful:

It was a crime for stores to open on the Sabbath. All public school classes began with mandatory prayer. It was a crime to buy a cocktail, or look at nude photos in magazines, or buy a lottery ticket. It was a crime for an unwed couple to share a bedroom. If a single girl became pregnant, both she and her family were disgraced. Birth control was unmentionable. Evolution was unmentionable.

It was a felony to terminate a pregnancy. It was a felony to be gay. One homosexual in our town killed himself after police filed charges. Even writing about sex was illegal. In 1956, our Republican mayor sent police to raid bookstores selling “Peyton Place.”

Gradually, all those faith-based taboos vanished from society. Religion lost its power — even before the upsurge of “nones.”

Perhaps honesty is a factor in the disappearance of religion. Maybe young people discern that it’s dishonest to claim to know supernatural things that are unknowable.

When I was a cub reporter, my city editor was an H.L. Mencken clone who laughed at Bible-thumping hillbilly preachers. One day, as a young truth-seeker, I asked him: You’re correct that their explanations are fairy tales — but what answer can an honest person give about the deep questions: Why are we here? Why is the universe here? Why do we die? Is there any purpose to life?

He eyed me and replied: “You can say: I don’t know.” That rang a bell in my head that still echoes. It’s honest to admit that you cannot explain the unexplainable.

The church explanation — that Planet Earth is a testing place to screen humans for a future heaven or hell — is a silly conjecture with no evidence of any sort, except ancient scriptures. No wonder that today’s Americans, raised in a scientific-minded era, cannot swallow it.

Occam’s Razor says the simplest explanation is most accurate. Why is religion dying? Because thinking people finally see that it’s untrue, false, dishonest.

White evangelicals tipped the 2016 presidential election to Donald Trump, giving an astounding 81 percent of their votes to the crass vulgarian who contradicts church values. But white evangelicals, like most religious groups, face a shrinking future. Their power will dwindle.

It took humanity several millennia to reach the Secular Age. Now it’s blossoming spectacularly.

James Haught, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is editor emeritus of West Virginia’s largest newspaper, The Charleston Gazette-Mail.

The Long, Slow Death of Religion was first published on CounterPunch on December 29, 2016.