Tag Archives: humanist

Not Beholden But Free To Think

If you are not already reading “Confessions of a Supply-Side Liberal” by Miles Kimble I encourage you to do so. He shows that it is not unusual for us economists to be interested in matters like religion. As such a Homo economicus I am not alone in a Godless universe.

Noah Smith has guest posted on there, arguing that belief in God, whether or not there is a God, is beneficial for you so do it. But try and be a good human being by not being dogmatic about it:

But there is a way to avoid these dangers: Don’t subscribe to a religious dogma. Pick and choose your religious beliefs. Yes, we are all born with the ability to do this – we don’t need any chip in our brain. Don’t believe that God tells you that you’re superior to other people. Don’t believe that God commands you to wage holy war against the infidel. Don’t believe that God trivializes the life you’re living now.


But for many people, believing in God can make their lives better. If you’re one of these people, then go for it. Believe in God. And believe in a God that tells you to do stuff that’s good for your life – to treat other people well, be happy, work hard, etc. Believe these things not because you have evidence for them, and not because you desire them to be true, but because it behooves you to believe them.


“OK,” you may say, “but I’m not a pragmatist. I’m a positivist. I believe only in things I have evidence for. I value objective truth.” Fine, Mr. Positivist. I will not denigrate your epistemology. Have fun wondering whether or not you live in the Matrix!


The call for religious humanism which is personal to yourself sounds great. No problem cherry picking verses and root yourself in the moment to be a better human being than you would be. All without fundamentalist belief because if counter thinking benefits you do it. Do not just eat from the tree of knowledge,  go a la carte from the world’s religions,  mix and match – using something other than dogma, theology or divine sanction to decide if ethical

Whether we call such ideas religious, philosophy, ethics or morality we are always attempting to rationalize our personal beliefs. For me the thing to stress is not that Noah says it benefits you to believe in God (I recognize atheist bait when I see it and I ain’t biting), but it benefits you to work out what behooves you as a human being beholden to no other entity and yet thinking ethically. When you have to think for yourself what  behooves you not only does the chance for greater happiness await you – some actual thinking and hard graft is called for.

Noah is not offering you freedom or liberty to make it up as you go along – he is inviting you to think critically about whether something is beneficial. To be skeptical about something which is dogmatic. This is empowering, but with it comes responsibility when applying freethinking. To know things as they are. Whether we be in a matrix or not.


Bertrand Russell, an empiricist that would know to ignore a matrix loop fallacy, said:

Those who forget good and evil and seek only to know the facts are more likely to achieve good than those who view the world through the distorting medium of their own desires.

Believing in something that profits you might, if you dare to think about it, behoove you to decide whether it is a red pill or a blue pill you have taken. Part of the adventure in life, is you may never be certain which is in the hand outstretched to you. For me humanism, without the religion, is allowing me to go deeper down the rabbit hole.

I invite you to come underground and see how far it goes without making a promise that it might profit you, but that it might just be more real, and that makes the adventure more worthwhile as you dig deep to push the boundaries of our understanding. 

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Beyond The God Debate


For me the words of Marcus Aurelius sum up the conversation worth having. Leading a good life and the virtues to cultivate in doing so. Debating the existence or none of God clouds the issue – and detracts from the conversation. Because we can not experience an entity or concept beyond cause and effect, time and space, we end up having a meaningless conversation about something beyond our imagination.

It ends as a draw because you cannot win by saying I really cannot comprehend what happened before the Big Bang. I cannot anymore than someone can claim to know the mind of God and impose their dictates on others.

Meaningless becomes pointless when something we observe like the entity Homo sapiens is so profound they must have a cause by an even more profound entity that does not have a cause. Pointing this out as nonsensical ends up with further assertion from incredulity.


To believe a “God of the Gaps” resolves the issue of why there is something rather than nothing is more extraordinary, miraculous if you like, than the problem it needs to resolve. It is a reason most atheists will not say “There is no God” but rather there is no way to demonstrate there is such a being, let alone that he has appointed someone on earth to tell me not to jerk off, or revealed I should really be minus a foreskin to seal a pact.

As Aurelius states if there is such a being that comprehends like us virtue and the good life then they will understand my conclusions. I will not live my life fearing an unjust celestial being that needs appeasing by frivolous tokens of submission to outrages gestures. My intention is to try and live a good life without such an entity.

I do not say I have the answers, or anyone did thousands of years ago, nor take kindly to twisting ancient texts to somehow fit what we do know now. That actually mocks how those people tried to understand the world they lived in – we can try and be true to their thoughts and beliefs for it is a part of our human history. Revisionism and being an apologist for is to deny them to speak as they did in antiquity.


The conversation worth having is how we get to live on this ball of rock hurtling through space in an expanding universe. It is a human discourse which should concern everyone.

That discussion requires free speech, freedom of expression, free assembly, religious freedom and freedom from religion. Beware anyone that wants to stifle the conversation by denying these universal human rights we need for such a dialogue.

They are against humanity and most certainly not serving the interests of a just God.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Diana Nyad on “Soul to Soul” and Acting As an Atheist Ethically


Soul to Soul with Diana Nyad: “I’m an Atheist Who’s in Awe”

It’s incredible to think that the pigeon holing of atheists continues. That they are less civic minded, not good citizens – uninterested in life and the universe lacking the emotional response that people who believe in God have. No awe of nature or the spirit of humanity.

Diana Nyad on Oprah Winfrey’s show articulated awe without a supernatural element, spirituality without the divine. It sounded so good that Oprah did not want to call Diana an atheist. Rather patronising, but Diana handled with amazing grace. Talking about atheism as humanism that transcends the mundane to see and feel the sublime.

Diana showed a confidence to talk about her humanist view – which brings me to an article that David Silverman shared. That not talking about your atheism would be unethical. Silverman mentioned social benefits by more atheists being known in the community via a tweet.

According to David Silverman, president of American Atheists, “Hiding your identity means lying to everyone you know, forcing them to love someone fictional out of fear that they might not like the real you. However, given the chance, most family members love the person, not the lie, and everyone benefits from a more honest relationship.”

Why is being closeted about one aspect of one’s core worldview an untruth? Some nonbelievers will take offense to connecting this decision to ethics, suggesting that their lack of a god belief just isn’t important to them, so why advertise it? But that’s a weak argument because it’s undeniably of vital importance to many people in our society with whom they communicate. Despite the rising numbers of nonbelievers, belief in a god, specifically in the Christian God, is more than a majority idea in America. In fact, 78 percent of Americans believe in a Christian God, and 31 percent believe so strongly that they interpret their Bible as the literal word of God. Lack of belief in a god may not be the dominant issue in your personal life (most humanists understandably have a much more positive agenda than that), but it has to be recognized that it is meaningful to others. If people are to be respected, they deserve to know who we truly are.” [The Huffington Post article written by Roy Speckhardt Oct 15, 2013 whose opinions I am challenging here]


As I am sure David would acknowledge, it will not always strengthen family bonds to openly declare atheism as this article highlights much more vividly than Huffington Post:

While Namazie was “astonished” when she found out how many Muslims there are with atheistic, agnostic and secular tendencies, she admits that groups like the CEMB find it difficult to attract them, as most are deeply worried about airing their beliefs in public. “Muslims are not homogeneous,” she says, emphasising how – like basically every human in the entire world – they don’t want their identities to be pre-defined in narrow terms. Unfortunately, owing to fears like the possibility of their family completely disowning them, they often end up falling into line publicly rather than admitting their beliefs lie somewhere else on the Kinsey scale of faith. [Source]

Putting aside physical danger to being open as an atheist (which the article mentions), I find the use of the word unethical to keep hidden from the world views on the existence of the supernatural perplexing, rather than offensive. Am I being unethical when I say bless you to someone that sneezes, “Oh God!” at the heights of ecstasy or even naming a child with a gospel name nine months later?

The use of Christian names was brought up at an American Atheist Conference talk where it was suggested that using them entrenched Christianity – we should therefore name our children otherwise to promote a less religious society, rather than act in a way that condones religious sentiments.

This suggestion angered me. The talk suggested that our ethical character reflected on us as atheists. My radar is sharp to pick up such exertions on individuals to think of the group and others in our atheism. To suggest not being open about atheism is dishonest – not buying into that for the same reason. I happen to be an atheist and blog about it – such openness is not for everyone.

Intellectual honesty and being open about how you feel about faith or non faith are not quite the same thing. No one has a right to know what my religious feelings are – it is of my own free will to express them. No religious test may be imposed on me by the state or indeed anyone as a citizen. There should be no demands made to express or conform in society.


In a truly secular world whether I am a theist or an atheist would not matter. Yet for some there will be judgments made on them. That is unethical – not someone that keeps it to themselves. I also resent that personal views should be expressed for the social benefits of others. In matters of religion they are deeply personal and a matter of conscience. It is up to an individual to decide whether to make them public or not. Diana is a model of how to speak with heartfelt sincerity about atheism and the humanist view – but that was for her alone to decide and no one would deny the benefit of her public appearance talking about it.

We should be encouraging people that being atheist, and joining the discussion about religion, faith, secularism and pluralism is not just about being intellectually honest. It is a rewarding discussion to have, and yes may have a positive benefit to society when we evaluate social policy not by religious dogma but impact on people irrespective of it.

Telling atheists they are unethical for not being open, is to me not the way to go about this, and quite frankly sounds dogmatic however noble the reason for saying it. I may even go so far as to say ridiculous. If someone brings up religion it is entirely ethical to say back that is a private matter for me or not to reply – if they persist quote Bill Hicks above right back at them. The really ethical thing to speak up for is secularism – we still have a long way to go to ensure that all citizens are treated equally regardless of faith or non faith. We need to be having a go at those that pressurise others for public declarations of faith, for being unethical. Not mimic them in this as atheists.

I would encourage everyone to get involved with promoting a secular state that is for all. Declaring your atheism by contrast is up to you when you are ready, and confident to do so. You may however feel as Brian Cox says above, that declaring it is the least part of your true character to be concerned about. That is just being honest.

Just remember, it is up to you.

Update: via twitter David Silverman felt I was misrepresenting his view vis “Telling atheists they are unethical for not being open” I have replied and restate here this is a counter view to The Huffington Post article.

Have made clearer now that Huff article was written by Roy Speckhardt, and it is that article I am replying too.

Hope that clarifies.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Humanist ex-soldier denied opportunity to lay a wreath on Remembrance Sunday.

Why not allowing the non religious to commentate the fallen at offical ceremonies is a disgrace.

Honour, sacrifice and duty are what make us human – not religious.

Glen Carrigan - Homoscientificus

poppyUpdate, 24.11.2013: Grateful to have recieved a response from Mark Hendrick MP with regards to this article.

Update: Published on Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science

A few weeks ago I was asked by the Stockport Humanists if I could present a wreath at the official Remembrance civic ceremony. I was extremely happy to help and also honoured to be asked to take part in a day that has particular importance to me and all other serving and non-serving military personnel past and present. Imagine my surprise to be contacted a little later and told that I was not allowed to lay a wreath as an official part of the ceremony to pay my respects. Certain individuals and organisations including The Rt Revd Robert Atwell have the opinion that “we remain clear that this is a religious ceremony and wish it to continue as such” (Jan 14th 2013)…

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Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulou: For Feminism Religious Should Start Again


Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulou interviewed about “Are atheists ‘truer’ feminists?” states on the bible:

The biblical texts are the products of ancient societies in which the notion of gender equality was unknown. Despite claims at various points in the Bible that women, men and children are all valued by God, men and women are consistently portrayed differently – and unequally – in their perceived value as religious and social beings.

Regarding Islam:

Islam has inherited the male-centredness of the ancient religions and cultures from which it emerged …

… a pervasive religious preference not only to treat men and women differently, but to distance and segregate women from men: they are (usually) to pray separately, and they are to dress differently …

Women’s bodies:

Women’s bodies were deemed problematically different – too different – from those of men. And in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, they continue to be: whether the issue is veiling, male circumcision, segregated worship or women bishops, all three religions attest to the on-going problematizing of women’s bodies.

Conclusion on religion and feminism:

For the religiously-inclined, it would be better to rip up the old blueprints and start again.

I hope these quotes (deliberately cut short in post for copyright reasons) wet your appetite to read the full article here.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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