Why I’m a Humanist: Choosing the Secular over the Sacred

Why I’m a Humanist: Choosing the Secular over the Sacred

Our beliefs and values lie at the core of who we are. A lot of our beliefs and values are determined by political leanings, life experiences, and are often shaped by what we have learnt, but for me, a significant influence on my own beliefs is the fact that I’m a Humanist. I take beliefs and values from this philosophical stance, and I have also come to call myself a Humanist because my existing views are in line with the movement. When people ask me why I am a Humanist, I’m not particularly good at articulating it, so as I’m better at explaining stuff through the written word over the spoken word, I thought I’d write a blog post about it.

Note: By writing this article, I’m not saying that I am right or that Humanism is superior to other philosophies. Rather, it is the one that works best for me, and I appreciate that for other people, their sacred or secular beliefs work best for them. It’s also worth noting that whilst there are religious Humanists, I’m going to be focussing on Secular Humanists (which is how I identify).

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I first heard about Humanism in a GCSE Religious Studies lesson when learning about alternatives to religious views on a variety of ethical dilemmas. I’d called myself an atheist for a long time, but I’d struggled to define my beliefs within that definition. I went away and did some research, and I found that the descriptors on websites like Humanists UK and Humanists International really summed up my stance on life.

In school and society, we all get taught and learn about the key religious traditions, which I of course think is important for understanding the perspectives and lives of others, but there’s not as much space dedicated to educating people about atheism and Humanism, and at age 16, this was the first time that I’d heard about it. I think many people would find that their beliefs align with those of Humanism without really realising it, once again because it’s not as well-known as the global religious traditions.

Humanism means different things to different people, but there are some key points that we tend to agree on. Here are some definitions (they’re quite lengthy, so I’ve highlighted the key bits):

“Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethic based on human and other natural values in the spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.”

The Minimum Statement on Humanism (1996)

A rationalist outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters.

–    https://www.lexico.com/definition/humanism

Now, we could go into a long conversation into whether or not God exists (that would take up an entire blog) but this post is more about why I am a Humanist, not why I am not religious, or atheistic (if that makes any sense). Sure, the latter two come into the former, but I think it goes without saying that just because I chose to deviate from religious norms it doesn’t mean that I don’t respect religious practices and continuously seek to learn more about them. When The Minimum Statement on Humanism mentions that Humanism is an “ethical life stance” it’s not saying that organised religion lacks this, just that this is one of the key values that humanists have.

So how do I set my moral compass? Some say that non-religious folks are morally bankrupt, but I would say that my account’s in pretty good shape. I transact intuition and human experience when faced with a dilemma or a decision, or to make a judgement on what’s happening in the market. I hope my bizarre financial metaphor makes sense: essentially, it’s about empathising and using your experience of feelings and emotions to decide whether something’s right or not.

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I’m no scientist, but the focus on science and reason really stood out to me. Of course, there are a lot of intersections between Humanist beliefs and religious beliefs, but in this post-truth world where we aren’t listening to experts enough, a world-view with these values at the forefront really appealed to me. I liked the opportunity to focus on the tangible in the world around us; I’d also called myself a naturalist (someone who believes that only natural laws operate in the universe) and Humanism felt like the obvious next step.

If you want to know more about Humanism, I strongly suggest taking a look at the Humanists UK page, which has a plethora of information as well as a quick, informal quiz that takes a look at your beliefs and how close they are to a Humanist’s. They also offer free membership if you are a student. Let me know in the comments what your experience is with Humanism: have you heard about it before? Are you or anyone you know a Humanist? I’m looking forward to hearing your views!

Further Reading:

Humanists UK – https://humanism.org.uk/

Humanism International – https://humanists.international/

February Film Review: To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You, Jojo Rabbit, and Emma

February Film Review: To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You, Jojo Rabbit, and Emma

February has been the month of book adaptations for me, starting off with To all The Boys: P.S I Still Love You, the light-hearted adaption of the book of the same name by Jenny Han, then to Jojo Rabbit, a much looser adaptation of Caging Skies, and finally Emma, a new take on the eponymous classic. Even though we’re now closer to April than February, I thought I’d reminisce on what I watched at the cinema; March’s run-down is going to be sourced from Netflix due to the current lockdown. It’s probably worth mentioning that I haven’t read any of the books that these films are based on.

  1. To All The Boys: P.S. I Still Love You

The long-awaited second instalment to the cult teen movie “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” has finally landed, starring Netflix’s veteran of the teen movie circuit Noah Centineo and Lana Condor. When I sat down to watch this, on my own on Valentine’s Day, I was expecting much of the same as the previous installment: a heart-warming story that requires little concentration but makes you feel good. I was not wrong, but let’s be honest, that’s the aim of the film and there’s nothing wrong with that – in fact, that what I was looking for, and I’m sure what most people watching the film are looking for. My main criticism is that nothing really happened over the course of the film, but I enjoyed this one and I’m looking forward to relaxing and watching the next instalment when it hits Netflix in due course.

      2. Jojo Rabbit

Now from a teen romance to a Nazi satire, Jojo Rabbit tells the story of young Hitler Youth member Johannes “Jojo” Betzler, who conjures up an imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler himself, portrayed by Taika Waititi as cowardly and moronic. As he witnesses more and more of the dark side of the ideologies holding up the dictatorship, he starts to see himself as someone who can think for himself, not the blind follower that he has been for most of his young life.

A film like this is particularly suited to today’s atmosphere, especially with the ease of access to hatred and prejudice through social media and the increased awareness of the impacts of such sentiments. Without a doubt the film is a bold move, often treading the line between the comedic and the insensitive, but nevertheless, emphasises the importance of individualistic thought, and the consequences of the lack thereof.

However, at the end of the film, I was expecting more of a stronger anti-Nazi, anti-anti-Semitic message to come through; the film was building up for Jojo to have a moment of realisation when he sees that the dogmas he’d been fed all of his life were untrue, but it wasn’t really there. All in all, though, as someone who has spent time studying this era, this was an interesting portrayal of a period when, over a very short space of time, societal norms metamorphosed in line with the convictions of the State.

      3. Emma

Emma is a simultaneously heartwarming, funny and beautifully crafted film with many highlights, the main one being the stellar cast; Miranda Hart was the star of the show for me ( not surprising, considering the number of times I’ve watched her sitcom). It definitely took me a while to get my brain adjusted to the language that they were using, but it made it feel more authentic for the Regency period. The perfect film to watch with your mum, or anyone who’s up for two hours and twelve minutes of gladsome viewing.

February was a great month for films, but it looks like I’m going to have to look online for my March choices. On the bright side, it’ll mean I’m saving some money and of course limiting social contact. I’ll try and be more on time with this month’s round-up!

Take care, Al

 

Five Podcast Recommendations

Five Podcast Recommendations

Ever since I learnt how to get podcasts and realised how many were out there, I have been on the hunt for interesting and entertaining programmes. I believe that there is definitely something out there for everyone, but at the same time, the wide variety on offer can feel daunting – at least, that’s how I felt when I started looking for something to listen to! Podcasts are a perfect background to workouts, cleaning, or just relaxing.

So, I thought that I would tell you about some of my favourites that you might enjoy! If you have any other recommendations, please leave a comment, because I’m always on the lookout for a good pod!

p.s. the ‘available on’ list is not exhaustive; I’ve included the apps that are most used/popular.

Welcome to Night Vale (Night Vale Presents) – available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Youtube

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http://www.welcometonightvale.com/

Welcome To Night Vale is in the format of a radio news show from the fictional town of Night Vale, documenting the unusual goings-on of the town; be prepared for everything from the mysterious to the downright bizarre!

When I first heard about the concept of this podcast, I struggled to understand what it was about, and really didn’t know what to expect. It is quite weird, and entertaining, and I found myself wanting to know more about Night Vale and its residents. The storytelling is very immersive, and they are the perfect length for quick listening.

Brexitcast/Newscast (BBC radio) – available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and BBC Sounds

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05299nl/episodes/downloads

I decided to try Newscast after I wanted a different format for learning about politics. What I like about this daily podcast is that it is quite accessible – it’s good for making sense of what is happening in British politics at the moment. Laura Kuenssberg, Katya Adler, Adam Fleming and Chris Mason have a laugh, and bring their interesting insights to the podcast. You only need to spend a couple of seconds on the internet to know that current events can be confusing and complex, so this podcast is the one for you if you want it broken down!

Dear Hank and John (Complexly and WNYC studios) – available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts

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https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/dear-hank-john

This is probably one of my favourite podcasts, and I think it’s something about the Green brothers’ humour and intelligence that make this both an entertaining and educational listen. The pair invite emails from their listeners with their questions, and then they answer them – a simple format, but one that works really well.

You’re Dead to Me (BBC Radio 4) – available on BBC Sounds, Spotify, Apple podcasts

Image result for you're dead to me podcast
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07n5ghy

This podcast is super accessible for all levels – whether you’re a history buff or just interested in learning something new, then this one is for you. Dubbed as “The history podcast for people who don’t like history… and those who do”, it combines academic input with comedy; each episode has one guest historian and a comedian, which is really effective at making this a relaxing listen. It’s organised by event or individual, which is really helpful when deciding on what to listen to.

Mortem (Whistledown for BBC sounds) – available on BBC Sounds, Spotify, Apple Podcasts

Image result for mortem podcast
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p081ylhn/episodes/downloads

This one is certainly not for everyone, but I found it fascinating. Narrated by Anatomical Pathology Technologist Carla Valentine, the podcast looks at different crimes from a mortician’s perspective. The stories are fictitious, but the science behind it is really interesting; it shows how police can solve crimes from tiny forensic finds. It is really well narrated and produced to a high quality, but be warned, it’s quite descriptive and it’s worth checking out the link above to see if it is the pod for you.

I hope that these recommendations have been useful – let me know how you find them and if you have any other recommendations!

An Update

An Update

One of the words that have been used to describe recent events is “unprecedented”, and it’s accurate. If you told anyone in January that we would be where we are now in March, they wouldn’t have believed you.

While we are all going to experience shortages, boredom and restrictions on freedom, some people will feel it much more than others. It’s so important to bear this in mind over the coming months.

Coming to terms with the fact that my A-levels have been cancelled and the feeling that two years of hard work have come to nothing was difficult, but I’ve decided to focus my time to posting on this blog, to try and start a discussion as well as give some of my recommendations. I know it won’t solve anything, but hopefully it’ll be helpful if this kind of thing is what you are looking for.

As I’m clearly no expert on the situation, I’m going to refrain from discussing any scientific or legal elements of the disease, but will try and post posts on my blog that are a distraction from what’s going on – whether it be things to do or recommendations for films and books, I thought it would be important to acknowledge the situation so when I started to post unrelated posts to the situation, I wouldn’t come across as ignorant or naïve.

Take care everyone.

January Film Review: 1917, Little Women, and The Personal History of David Copperfield

January Film Review: 1917, Little Women, and The Personal History of David Copperfield

After finishing my mock exams to varying degrees of success a month ago, I decided to get a membership to my local cinema and actually go and see the films that I’d been meaning to see for a long time. It was the perfect time for it as well, as the cinemas are currently brimming with good films! Here’s a run-down of what I saw, and what I thought! I know that this is a bit late, but even though January ended seventeen days ago, I thought that these films were really worth discussing. This is my first film review, so I’m learning as I go!

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Why We’re Getting Speech Wrong

Why We’re Getting Speech Wrong

Hello and welcome to my new blog! I’m really looking forward to getting started, and for my first post, I’ve decided to discuss something that I’ve been thinking about for a long time; speech, but in particular, the way we view speech and our relationship with it.

Getting called out for being offensive is nothing new, especially in today’s age of social media – we’re becoming more aware, as a society, of the words that we use and the meaning behind them, and undoubtedly, this is a good thing. One thing I’ve noticed, however, is that too often, people feel that their language is determined by what is socially acceptable; as if they feel that they must follow some sort of invisible rule book, fearful of being accused of being “politically incorrect”. I feel like this is sorely missing the point, and not what we should be aiming for – in short, we’re getting speech wrong.

What I’m trying to say is that we should view speech, more specifically language, as a moral matter. Too often, when people talk using what is deemed as “politically incorrect” language – discriminating, stereotyping, or using slurs, for example – cries of “you can’t say that!” seem to dominate discussion spaces. Instead, I believe that we should use respectful language because we care. Simple as that. Some people see this as a weakness; apparently, it means I’m “giving in”, but retrospectively, I’m showing strength by educating myself and being self-aware.

I think that if people began to see it this way, then our relationship with words will be better, and the only way to achieve this is through education. Education that talks about privilege, history and self-awareness would be beneficial for individuals and society.

 I decided to make this my first post as I haven’t seen people talk about this a lot, and I began to wonder whether this meant that it was blindingly obvious to everyone else, or whether it was something that many people hadn’t considered. I’m really interested to find out whether the former or the latter is true, so please start the conversation in the comments!