What Else Can We Call a Humanist ?

A Humanist may refuse designations of herself that are offered by religionists because religionists tend to cast Humanists in, shall we say, watchful terms.

For example:

A Humanist may refuse the term ‘unbeliever.’ Everyone with a brain percolating at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit believes and dis-believes many things. A Humanist asks if any of us ought to be required to label ourselves ‘unbeliever’ because of the thousand-and-three things we disbelieve? We don’t actually think a certain circular dining arrangement in Arthurian legend existed. Shall we stain ourselves with the word ‘unbeliever’ from now on because of that disbelief? If the indelicate question ‘Are you a believer?’ is put to the Humanist, a Humanist says, ‘Yes, I believe many things, top of which is the need for friendship and the worth of play and the value of education and the significance of skillful performance and the importance of rearing children.’ When the indelicate question ‘Are you an unbeliever?’ is posed, a Humanist says, ‘I disbelieve many things, as for instance that incantatory words spoken over wands ever worked, but I would not summarize my whole being with the word unbeliever therefore, since I do in fact believe many things.’

A Humanist may refuse the term ‘atheist,’ though the Humanist has no gods. This term atheist would seek to suit the Humanist up on the theist’s playing field. Consider this: Should Jane insist that John label himself based upon his affiliation or disaffiliation with Jane’s label for herself? Jane is a Funk Fanatic (an FF) and calls herself so. Should Jane demand that John label himself by her label? Shall Jane require that John call himself either an FF or a NoFF? If the indelicate question ‘Are you an atheist?’ is asked, a Humanist says, ‘I am a Humanist.’ If asked further, ‘Do you believe in God?’ a Humanist responds, ‘Yes, I believe that God is the handiwork of human ingenuity and a recurring celebrity in world mythologies.’

A Humanist may refuse the term ‘irreligious.’ Again, this term irreligious seeks to put the Humanist on the religionist’s playing field. But the term ‘religious’ is elastic and may mean different things in the mouths of different people. The question ‘Are you religious?’ in one mouth may mean ‘Are you fastidiously moral?’ In another mouth, ‘Are you ritualistic?’ In yet another mouth, ‘Are you given to tingly feelings when viewing spectacular sunsets?’ A Humanist has one answer to all these queries: ‘I am a deeply devout Humanist.’ If pushed and asked ‘Are you irreligious?’ a Humanist says, ‘I am a Humanist with no need of decorative words like religious and irreligious.’

A Humanist may refuse to be called ‘skeptic.’ Although this is a term of high art and the gauge of all critical thinking, the word ‘skeptic’ refers to a negative disposition. It’s similar to unbeliever, and though both skeptic and unbeliever refer to actual mental states, a Humanist sees no need to characterize herself as a personality in chronic denial of fanciful metaphysical claims.

In short, a Humanist will not accept a term of self-designation that is intended as a term of abuse. Others call Humanists what they will. But a Humanist may answer to one name only, maybe two. Since a Humanist is typically unencumbered in thought and sometimes offers heterodox opinions in a climate of rigid orthodoxy, a Humanist may select one other lofty name: ‘freethinker,’ which in some languages is rendered ‘strong mind.’

for more, see uponreligion.com

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