What Humanism ISN’T, and why the F-Word is needed

Note: I wrote this Friday, March 23 but wasn’t able to post until today so while much has changed in the Trayvon Martin story, the key pieces remain still shocking and upsetting. 

Some days you get double slapped with awful human behavior, the wonder that is the internet keeps a steady stream of information flying across the various screens in our lives. Well within moments I saw two stories in my Facebook Newsfeed that were shocking, rage-inducing, and dumbfounding all at once.

I’ve often been asked about definitions of what Humanism is; had discussions about why someone would be a moral or ethical person without a belief in any god(s); or even about what drives someone to do good work if there isn’t a supernatural force guiding them to do so. All good questions, but today I’m struck simultaneously by examples of what Humanism ISN’T and proof that the F-Word is still a part of my vocabulary after years of fighting to never use it again.

First there was the Belvedere Vodka Rape Ad:

And no, it isn’t a meme or something like the Onion, it is actually an ad to sell expensive vodka: http://jezebel.com/5895931/the-rapey-belvedere-vodka-ad-that-just-got-pulled

Followed closely by “journalist”-extraordinaire Geraldo saying that the way Trayvon Martin was dressed had just as much to do with his being murdered as George Zimmerman. What?!

I am urging the parents of black and Latino youngsters particularly to not let their children go out wearing hoodies. I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was.

— Geraldo Rivera on Fox News

See the clip here: http://gawker.com/5895867/minorities-who-wear-hoodies-just-asking-to-be-shot-says-geraldo-rivera

So what do these examples of awfulness have to do with Humanism? Nothing and everything. So often Humanists, Atheists, and Secular folks get labelled as immoral or are questioned on why someone would do anything good in the world if they lacked faith. Well I feel that examples like these highlight something important. When a core part of how you view the world is: human beings are capable of doing good without any supernatural being intervening, and then you see examples of how awful people are to each other you actually need to use the F-Word. Faith of course.

I go out into the world each day and interact with my fellow humans believing that there is no special creator looking out for me or there to help me in a time of crisis. If I need help or assistance I need to turn inward to myself or outward to other people but there is no referee in the sky to help me. People make thousands of choices each day some of them are helpful or creative others are harmful or destructive. Yet at the end of the day I believe that the human mind has — through a stroke of evolutionary luck — developed the ability to aspire toward ideals. That is something pretty close to unique and why I feel people, though flawed and capable of horrendous acts and stupendous statements, are still worthy of faith. Given this belief my forehead may hurt from self-inflicted face palms from time to time. And now to reference my favorite Humanist quote:

Faith in god means believing absolutely in something with no proof whatsoever. Faith in humanity means believing absolutely in something with a huge amount of proof to the contrary. We are the true believers.

— Joss Whedon (source: http://bit.ly/GJNoEK)