So, I’m often criticized for defining myself as a Humanist. It happens mostly because that declaration isn’t too common among ministers–and I’m not entirely sure why, except that humanists tend to shy away from theological discussion. Here’s the basic statement of Humanism, as defined by the International Humanist and Ethical Union:
“Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethic based on human and other natural values in the spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.”
To clarify the last part of that statement, they elsewhere state (emphasis added):
“Humanism clearly rejects deference to supernatural beliefs in resolving human affairs but not necessarily the beliefs themselves; indeed some strains of Humanism are compatible with some religions.”
(Side note: The word “supernatural” does not necessarily refer to God.)
Essentially, then, Humanists are in the business of being good people and trying to treat people with respect to their inherent value as being human beings. They don’t do it because it’s God-ordained or mandated…they do it because it really sucks when someone treats you badly, so you shouldn’t want to make anyone feel like you do when YOU’RE mistreated. (By the way, I’m often hit-and-miss at ALL of this…that’s the problem with having beliefs–there are always times when you fail them.) They don’t oppose religion, they just embrace people.
…kind of like Jesus…
Jesus was kind to people, no matter who they were. He regularly associated with people who hated Him. He went to wild parties. He abhorred the oppression of the common man. He even forgave those who murdered Him. Sure, He was/is GOD…so there were divine purposes for what He did…but if we truly think Jesus was also HUMAN, then He could have easily been fallible and chosen to do otherwise (though I agree with the assertion that He didn’t).
There are definitely divine reasons for treating people well…but that can’t be your only motivation. If you’re only being kind to someone because you’re afraid that God will stomp on you if you don’t, then you’re a hypocrite at best. That’s not true kindness; it’s fear motivated by selfishness. To truly be kind to someone, you have to see their value. You have to accept them, warts and all…you can’t just trust that GOD sees that…YOU have to as well.
This leads to a slight dilemma…there are some people who seem to have no innate goodness. There are some people who are genuinely sour inside. There are some who wouldn’t be worth your time of day if you were on fire and you needed someone to put you out. What about them? Well, the realist in me–for I have never lied to you–says that you treat people as what they ARE, and if they’re crappy, you’re not responsible for their poor choices. …but the Humanist in me tries to remember that at one point they were babies, and you can’t hate a baby…so there must be something un-hate-able in all of us SOMEWHERE, right?
The further dilemma arises (in Christendom) that if God is good, we should be good. If God loves people, we should love people. If God is our guide, we should be willing to be guided. So, how do we reconcile that to the concept that doing right by people is not dependant on God?
Well…let me put it this way… When’s the last time God spoke to you? I’m not talking about some inner feeling or emotional-swell…I’m not talking about the times where you were “sure” God was right there with you, helping you through a tough situation. I’m not asking about the last religious service you attended where you were “filled with the Spirit” and it caused you to dance. I’m asking when the last time was that God audibly–in Betamax quality or better–said WORDS to you. If you have an occasion in mind, you were either frozen in ice during the time of Moses, or you’re naive, or you’re a liar. God doesn’t do that. I’m sorry. He doesn’t. God doesn’t make things clear on a day to day basis. He hasn’t shared His divine plan with you. He didn’t tell you where to go and when to go there (ahem–pay attention Bible College students). You choose your own path. You can seek God’s counsel, but the CHOICE is yours. (And, by the way, God can bless bad decisions just as richly as good ones.)
He may intervene, should He so choose, to keep you from danger or to celebrate in your success…but He’s not necessarily to be credited with the fact that you made it through the day without a roof caving in on you. He’s God…He has bigger things to worry about. He’s the one you rely on to get you into Heaven when this whole thing’s said and done (through Jesus)…but I’d imagine He gets tired of humanity asking Him to help them with their romantic-lives. You can’t touch Him. You can’t see Him. I believe that He exists and He is concerned with each of us as individuals…I just don’t think He cares too much about our day planners. A lot like how you love your family…but you don’t really need to know about every turn they made on the road as they were driving home, and you couldn’t have protected them from the misbehaving idiots on the road anyway.
Put as simply as I can put it:
There is no predestination. You are not a robot. You are a human just like everyone else. God loves you. He also loved Hitler. You can do whatever you want with the gift of your life–your course is not predetermined. Just try not to be like Hitler.
God sent Jesus to Earth in HUMAN form. In my opinion, that is a pretty high endorsement of humanity and shows that He thinks humans are pretty good at doing good things). Jesus has as His essential message, “Trust in me and be nice to each other.” Jesus in the Bible said more about doing good things than He did about His own divinity. God in the flesh told us to be good people and be kind to one another…and then we killed Him. Seems like religion has never liked it when the Humanist message gets out there.
Rolling Stones – “Exile on Main Street”