Just a Little Common Sense

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Posts Tagged ‘secular

Humanism PR Advice: Drop the “Secular”

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There are a lot of Humanist organizations and individuals out there who insist on calling themselves “Secular Humanist” rather than just “Humanist”.
While it’s easy to see why (since most Humanists are rather well-educated, many of them have a little fetish for academic accuracy), I do not think that being meticulously precise is a particularly smart idea in this case. The Happy Human, cheering for the one life we have.

So here’s a little PR advice: Drop all qualifiers. Do realize that most people on the street have never even heard of the term “Humanism” before. That fact alone is enough to make it the smarter move to present a united front to the public, as uncomplicated as possible.

Humanism is fine as it is.
From a PR point of view, “Humanism” is already a brilliantly chosen name. Most people who’ve never heard it before can already guess that it’s a somewhat humanitarian idea, and this is a positive association that we should strive to maintain at all cost. The same is true for the “Happy Human” symbol: It’s perfect. Don’t fix what ain’t broke. The name and the symbol give exactly the right impression, and that, as any PR-pro will tell you, is worth incredibly much.

Disassociating ourselves from “religious” Humanists isn’t worth it.
I am aware that there is a recognized form of religious Humanism out there. But if you google “Humanism”, if you look it up on Wikipedia, or any encyclopedia, they are not what comes up first. We are. Humanism is in itself a secular idea: The name itself makes it perfectly clear that humans are what it’s all about, not deities or other allegedly “higher” ideals. We, the secular ones, are the mainstream of Humanism, and calling ourselves “secular” or “agnostic” Humanists is to surrender that, to leave the term for others to claim.
Again: We are the mainstream. If the few religious Humanists do good, it will be free PR for us. If they don’t want that, fine. Then we ought to leave it up to them to disassociate themselves from us, not the other way round. What we most definitely should not do is to surrender our brand, our trademark, just because we don’t want a few modern, liberal and harmless theists on our side.

POST SCRIPTUM: Some people seem to have misunderstood what I was getting at. My aim was never to play down the role of secularism or criticism of religion. Both are deeply necessary, and if you are familiar with this blog you know that I spent some serious time debating faith-heads and arguing against religious tenets, religious organizations, and even wrote a post pointing out the damage that is caused by even the most moderate and liberal theistic belief.

But Humanism has an agenda. We strife to change our society, even all societies. This entails the pursuit of very concrete political goals, and to achieve those goals as a group of non-government organizations, we have to think practical. The various religious communities around the globe have demonstrated what a lobbyism can achieve in nominatively secular democracies. Non-believers are usually ignored, and the majority of them is completely unaware of all the religious privilege they unknowingly sponsor with their tax-dollars.
So there is a dire need for a Humanist lobby. Religious organizations are crumbling, their numbers dwindling, and Humanism needs to demonstrate its ability to fill the gap.
In a democracy, the political power comes with the number of people one can claim to represent. Humanist organizations are in need to gain some weight to toss around in the political arena. This is the reality of the situation that we need to face. To put it in radical terms: We have a product to sell on the market place of ideas, and the competition is hard. We need to awaken interest and cater to the masses. This is not a simple task, but there are known and proven ways to get there. From this point of view, the “secular” is not only superfluous, but even counterproductive and damaging to our cause.

Yes, it is important to criticize religion. But it is important as a result of the values we hold, because it is a cause of suffering, and at the same time poses one of the largest obstacles on the road to societal change and progression.
Criticism of religion is thus important purely for practical reasons, and has no inherent value of its own. It is not, by itself, a core principle of Humanist thought, but merely a result of it.
My donations to charity, too, are results of my Humanist values. Like criticism of religion, they are not by themselves a tenet of my creed, but merely a means to the end of alleviating suffering. Like my loud and uncompromising secularism, donating to charity is something my Humanism compels me to do, but not by themselves the center of my Humanistic thinking.

The reason I don’t call myself a “secular” Humanist is the same reason I don’t call myself a “donating” Humanist.

Written by Phil

August 30, 2011 at 19:14

Much Ado About Nothing

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My local catholics are playing dress-up again, walking the streets chanting and carrying candles. I left my window open for just a minute too long, and now my whole fucking room stinks of fucking incense. I am seething. Just what gives them the right to rub their silly rituals in my face like that?
If I’d run through public streets at this hour being as loud and producing as much smell, I’d be arrested within minutes. From noise pollution to disturbance of public peace, scandalization and what-not, I’d be charged with a variety of stuff and it’d end up being a very expensive prank. Plus, if I was wearing as silly a costume and a funny hat while annoying the shit out of people for no reason, I’d probably be put straight into the mental ward. And rightfully so, because that is where people who engage in this kind of activity belong. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Phil

November 14, 2010 at 19:34

A Humanist Manifesto

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I just browsed through Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great, intending to look something up for a discussion I’ve recently had with a friend. A paragraph from the first chapter cought my eye, and once again I wasn’t able to put the book down until over an hour later. I really admire Hitchens’ command of the english language; there are few writers so effortlessly eloquent.
There is only one thing to criticize: His misleading use of the word ‘atheist’. Theism is usually defined as the belief in a single God as personal, present and active in the governance and organization of the world and the universe. All that is necessary in order to qualify as an atheist, is not to believe in that. Even if one defines atheism as the positive doctrine that there is no god (there is some controversy about wether atheism describes a lack of belief in existence, or the assertion of the nonexistence of god), the values that Hitchens names are absolutely optional. Atheism is one belief, not a belief system. That is also why ‘atheism’ is written with a lower-case ‘a’, while ‘Theism’ is written with a capital ‘T’. What Hitchens laudates here are essentially the values of Secular Humanism, and are far beyond simple non-belief. Anyhow, it is a beautiful and moving piece of writing, so enjoy: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Phil

May 18, 2010 at 21:15

Germany: Victims of Abuse Speak Up

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GERMANY. A group of former inhabitants of Christian foster homes and schools are speaking up about the many cases of physical and mental abuse they had to endure. The group, whose official internet presentation can be found under jetzt-reden-wir.org (roughly: “now it’s our turn to talk”, website in german only) recieved support from a range of secular organizations, such as the Giordano Bruno Foundation, the IBKA and the Humanist Association of Germany. Düsseldorf resident and artist Jaques Tilly contributed a three-meter-figure of a viciously grinning nun, sporting a crucifix in one hand and a stick in the other, with a lettering on the chest that reads “Nie Wieder!” (Never Again!)

The Abusive Nun

The first demonstration took place on April 15th in Berlin, and recieved large attention from the media, even beyond the borders of Germany. The “Heimkinder” (Foster Kids) protested against the preliminary report of the government’s “Round Table on Foster Home Education”, presented in January 2010, that simply ignored the main issues: The systematic violation of human rights and the abuse of home-children as forced labour.
Among other things such as apologies and compensation, they demanded access to their files, which they are still denied today.

On May 13th, the group protested in Munich. Occasion was the Ecumenical Chruch Day, on which the different confessions of Christianity celebrated Ascension Day. Part of the Christian celebration in Munich was a procession through the city; The “Heimkinder” followed, carrying their banners, the nun, and informing on-lookers by speaking to them, handing out flyers (pdf, german only), and a megaphone.


Note: Pictures of the demonstrations will be added as soon as I recieve permission to use the files.

Written by Phil

May 15, 2010 at 08:20

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