The Sacred Ground of Humanism


The religions of the world have their fair share of holy sites. It might be the ruins of an ancient temple or it might be the birthplace of a religious prophet or the alleged son of a deity. For some, graveyards are considered sacred ground. As an atheist, none of these things apply. My sacred ground is all around us. My only holy site is the one we are all standing on and, if we are not careful, it will be in ruins. It will be the graveyard of all humanity.

Warring about who are the chosen people of the gods or which ancient text was divinely inspired just seems to be incredibly shortsighted to me. Prayers, rituals, ancient superstitions, and the false certainty of faith divide us. As a godless humanist, I would rather focus on what we can reasonably know and how we can use that to make the world better for us all. I don't see vague ancient prophecies of rapture and damnation as helpful in this regard and I would much rather see people living their lives working toward a better future for humanity rather than clinging to their faith in a heavenly reward for themselves.

It is only when we are able to see the Earth from somewhere else that we begin to realize just how silly our ancient superstitions really are. We live on a small planet in a massive universe and yet people are fighting about a worthless patch of desert because they believe that the creator of the universe gave them the deed to this holy land. Instead of fighting over these things, we should be working together to settle other worlds.

We could be building moon bases and Martian colonies. We could be building generation ships to reach the newly discovered habitable planet Wolf 1061c. But instead, we have to fight religious terrorists who faithfully believe that their God demands satisfaction. And don't think for a moment that because I used the word, "terrorist" that I am only referring to Muslim extremists. No, there are Christian and Jewish terrorists who are also extreme in their beliefs that God needs them to violate the civil liberties, torture, and sometimes even kill the unclean and the unrighteous.

While obviously not all religious believers act this way, all of these ancient religious texts do preach this way. After all, they are ancient. They were written by people who have never seen a photo of the Earth from the moon or from Mars. They were written by people who lack the knowledge of our true place in the cosmos. These ancient scribes didn't know that there was anything outside of the Earth. They didn't know that there was a universe of wonder waiting for us to explore. They believed that it was possible to build a tower to Heaven, that such an attempt was the height of hubris, and should rightly be punished by God.

Interestingly enough, I don't think we were properly able to learn where the real hubris lied until we observed the Earth as a "pale blue dot," as Carl Sagan referred to it, from a vantage point much greater than any tower could provide us. This is our sacred ground. We are all on this small planet together and only together can we put the lessons of the ancient world in their proper context so that we can move forward into the future.