Friday, October 12, 2012

An Argument Against Theistic-Based Humanism

Is it possible for a theistic religion no matter how liberal its doctrines to be truly humanistic? I have a close friend who's an ardent Reform Jew and who strongly believes that the two thought systems are indeed compatible.  In fact  one reason for his dedication to  Reform Judaism is its enlightened concern with the human condition instead of on rigid observance and ritual as is the case with Orthodox Judaism.  Personally, I admire Reform Judaism for its historic attachment to progressive causes. 

But in the final analysis as long as Reform Judaism and other moderate forms of  religions have a theistic component, I don't see them as being fully humanistic.  Here's why. There's a conflict between humanism which by its nature is secular and traditional religion. Humanism of course  as the name implies is a perspective on life that's human centered, one that enables people to grow and unfold their powers to understand the world around them and be able to relate to their fellow humans. (BTW I credit my perspective on this point to the influence of humanistic psychoanalyst Erich Fromm)

Theism on the other hand is is god-centered.  As such it requires people to look to a supreme being, whose existence is unproven, for the answers  to life's questions. This limits their horizons of searching  and awareness to the confines of this deity's dictates.

As Richard Dawkins said "I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world".  Inasmuch as theists tend to address human needs in terms of such archaic concepts as the soul and man's relationship with God, the same is true about religion's limited approach to humanity and humanism.


northierthanthou said...

Unfortunately, your argument is circular. You simply define humanism as secular. With that as a starting premise, the rest is pretty much just expounding on the definition you started with.

Secular Guy said...


Thanks for your input. I think that it would have been circular if I had said that secularism is a requirement for humanism; therefore, humanism is a requirement for secularism. But that's not my assertion.

I'm merely stating that IMO humanism and theism don't mix because according to god-believers, God, rather than man is the ultimate focus and source of our understanding of and place in the universe and our relationship with it and each other. Therefore, humanism requires a secular component in order to be truly human centered.