Saturday, November 13, 2010
Where Human Ethics Begin
I don’t recall if I blogged on the America Humanist Association’s ad campaign of 2008 near Christmas/Xmas, which consisted of the phrase, “Why believe in a God? Just be good for goodness’ sake,” but this is more general, which I hope will make it more accessible. When the holiday campaign came around, we had the usual suspects harping on a supposed secular “war on Christmas” that are a decided minority. Though if the opposition and criticism of this new ad campaign is any indication, the 200 grand being spent on this campaign is probably nothing compared to the amount of money Answers in Genesis spent on their own moral high horse billboards, ranging from thoughts on abortion to cosmogony. It always seems ironic to me that the same people who are so faithful in their God are worried about a minority of atheists/humanists and their attempts to make people see their side of things when they’re supposed to be focusing on more important things, like feeding the hungry, providing for widows and orphans, stuff that’s in the Bible alongside their apparently more pointed call for evangelism. And it’s not as if Christians haven’t called themselves humanists over the centuries, albeit it’s the same issue with the term liberal as it’s evolved over time and cultural immigration.
The main problem of the criticism of the ad campaign is that it relies mostly on non sequiturs to distract the reader from what are the genuine problems that exist within Christianity that take the form of literalists and such like Ken Ham, who despite the evidence to the contrary, believes that the Earth is only a little over 6000 years old. He notes the contextual problem of quoting the verse in the Bible saying that women should not teach and should be silent, saying that it’s not saying women are not equal in God’s eyes in terms of their personhood and thus should not be treated as chattel or second class citizens as they were before women’s suffrage. But he then clarifies that the verse referenced does clearly state that women should not be spiritual leaders (e.g. priests or even ministers), and should perform their proper roles, such as being housewives and other domestic duties. Honestly, the man is stuck in the 50s; around 30 years after women had been given voting rights. But blacks had not yet been given such a privilege, since they were apparently lower than white women, who up until recently had been considered less than white men in their merit for voting privileges.
And in reaction to the quotation of the prophet Hosea speaking of the eventual fate of Samaria, having abandoned the orthodoxy of that era, their women and children being threatened with brutalities, Ham points to the practice of abortion as something that humanists are somehow directly responsible for. Though one already has to point out that abortion is in many cases just a buzzword to get people’s attention and draw them away from the real issue: in this case that God would apparently stand by and watch while its creation is progressively conquered, raped, and pillaged because they supposedly lose their blessing from the Almighty if they decide not to practice particular rituals of ancient Judaism. It’s no different than the people insisting that AIDS was a punishment from God alongside hurricane Katrina and the 9/11 attacks. When you boil down even natural disasters alongside willed terrorist attacks to God’s sovereignty, you’ve reduced your alleged divine judge and creator to a bean counter that tries to equal out everything to work out in the end for those poor people who suffered the loss of children, what little they had managed to bring together in impoverished economic times and otherwise had been oppressed by people that thought that either their power or their influence gave them a right to do whatever they felt justified to do to those that were less than them or deserved their so called “help,”. All the while, the divine architect sat idly by, and seems not to care whether someone says it’s God’s judgment or that the evils of the world, natural or human, are simply a reflection of the sinful state of the world and are not things that God wills. At least with the latter explanation, you at least admit that the problem is not something that can be solved by everyone believing in the exact same thing by coercion or even voluntarily, but something that lies deeper in humanity itself.
And this is where humanist ethics can align quite squarely with Christian ethics; especially those admonitions to aid those in poverty, famine or otherwise suffering outrageous misfortune through little fault of their own beyond either being born in or living through times of difficulty, political, religious or otherwise. And then there’s issues like gender equality and abortion, which while it may seem that there is little ground for common understanding, it’s not as if all humanists insist that abortion must be the default option for women, but that it should be an option of consultants for those women in these positions, whether by accident or premeditation or anything in between. Just because humanists in the more atheistic sense might disagree on why they agree with Christians on the need to help the hungry and impoverished of the world and vice versa with Christians, does not mean that they have to be at each others’ throats as if their dissonance about whether there is a “God” was the be all and end all of their interaction with each other. This isn’t the Middle Ages, to put it somewhat bluntly, so why not find the common ground that we share instead of being fixated on the stark differences? They’re relevant to consider, but not to the exclusion of common ethical impulses we both have. So while not all humanists may have these beliefs that we should be charitable; some are even eugenicists and Social Darwinists in the strictest sense; the majority of humanists are people that love and care for their fellow humans with only the human element as their motivation. Is it that bad of a perspective to want to help people just because they’re also people? Until next time, Namaste and aloha.