Well if I had said this was a post about Religion, Faith and the role it has in building community would you have even read this far?
Well in truth, this is not about conventional religious dogma but about the idea of Humanism. This is a broader based concept that embraces faith but is open in the idea that those without conventional faith - aka agnostics and atheists - are members as well
What happened to compassion, to empathy, to the idea that regardless of the name we give God or not at all, is seemingly associated with a place of worship. Do they hold the patent or exclusive to those traits?
As a child who attended private schools (both non and secular type) I have always found myself in a very interesting relationship when it comes to what it means to have Religion. My Mother was very keen on having faith as she felt it was the foundation to who you were. She didn't think it mattered what label, type or name you called your faith, just get some. And as many things I have come to accept and realize in life, she was right.
She knew then and as I know now its not what it does to you it is what it provides for you, a place to find a community where for at least one hour of one day you leave all differences at the door and share in one thing. At least that is something.
Over the years in the "intellectual elite" circles aka the "white establishment" or whatever label, name you want to put on it, having faith was equated with a lack of intellect, being a hillbilly or OH NO MR BILL, a Republican. What it did to people like me is push us into a closet I put akin to being Gay in the 50s. Heavily in the closet, in denial and seeking those similar by going down dark alleys or having some secret glance, handshake or pocket scarf that sends a signal to others that yes we are of like mind. For those in the lack of the know one of my most favored "intellectual elites", Bill Moyers, is quite open about his beliefs and faith and he is even on PBS! You can't get more liberal and elite than that!
I don't know exactly when suddenly all faiths became so extreme and so intolerant but its not just Islam that faces the defense of its existence but across the board from Judaism to Christianity it is now political and not personal and therefore, private and intimate and more importantly, non judgmental, which is what faith is to many. And by doing so you are turning that yet undeveloped Polaroid into a black and white snapshot.
I am exhausted trying to reach understanding, agreement and in turn empathy and compassion from those with letters which follow their name, often longer than their name, who advocate such intellectual superiority that even when attached to the end of check, struggle to treat others with dignity and respect. Meet a Doctor or Lawyer lately? Enough said.
I have found that I am never rejected in my faith and in my foundation I have a house that stands. I wonder without such would I still be standing given what has happened to me this year, I am unsure. As I said to a member of the Medical Matrix Complex, "I do have a voice in my head, God's."
I thought this was an interesting piece that asks the question - where are the Humanists when they are needed in a crisis? I think of them much like the Occupy Movement, good on intention and not so good on follow through.
We need each other. We cannot continue to think that this idea of our bootstraps are something we simply can pull up let alone hold alone.
In a Crisis, Humanists Seem Absent
By Samuel G. Freedman
Published: December 28, 2012
The funerals and burials over the past two weeks have taken place in Catholic, Congregational, Mormon and United Methodist houses of worship, among others. They have been held in Protestant megachurches and in a Jewish cemetery. A black Christian youth group traveled from Alabama to perform “Amazing Grace” at several of the services.
This illustration of religious belief in action, of faith expressed in extremis, an example at once so heart-rending and so affirming, has left behind one prickly question: Where were the humanists? At a time when the percentage of Americans without religious affiliation is growing rapidly, why did the “nones,” as they are colloquially known, seem so absent?
To raise these queries is not to play gotcha, or to be judgmental in a dire time. In fact, some leaders within the humanist movement — an umbrella term for those who call themselves atheists, agnostics, secularists and freethinkers, among other terms — are ruefully and self-critically saying the same thing themselves.
“It is a failure of community, and that’s where the answer for the future has to lie,” said Greg M. Epstein, 35, the humanist chaplain at Harvard and author of the book “Good Without God.” “What religion has to offer to people at moments like this — more than theology, more than divine presence — is community. And we need to provide an alternative form of community if we’re going to matter for the increasing number of people who say they are not believers.”
Darrel W. Ray, a psychologist in the Kansas City area who runs the Web site The Secular Therapist Project, made a similar point in a recent interview. As someone who was raised as a believing Christian and who holds a master’s degree in theology, he was uniquely able to identify what humanism provides.
“When people are in a terrible kind of pain — a death that is unexpected, the natural order is taken out of order — you would do anything to take away the pain,” Dr. Ray, 62, said. “And I’m not going to deny that religion does help deal with that first week or two of pain.
“The best we can do as humanists,” he continued, “is to talk about that pain in rational terms with the people who are suffering. We have humanist celebrants, as we call them, but they’re focused on doing weddings. It takes a lot more training to learn how to deal with grief and loss. I don’t see celebrants working in hospice or in hospitals, for example. There are secular people who need pastoral care, but we abdicate it to clergy.”
In fairness, it should be pointed out that the families of each Newtown victim chose religious funerals. The interfaith service, by its very definition, precluded the involvement of leaders from non-faith organizations like the Ethical Culture Society or the American Humanist Association. At the most divisive, the former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee asserted that violence like the Newtown shootings occurs because “we’ve systematically removed God from our schools.”
While tacitly excluded from religious coalitions, humanist groups did respond to the Newtown killings. The Ethical Culture Society chapter in Teaneck, N.J., helped organize a gun-control rally there. The Connecticut branch of the American Humanist Association contributed about $370 to Newtown families from a winter solstice fund-raiser. The organization American Atheists reports on its Web site that it has collected more than $11,000 in online donations toward funeral expenses in Newtown. A secular support group called Grief Beyond Belief operates on Facebook.
Still, when it comes to the pastoral version of “boots on the ground” — a continuing presence in communities, a commitment to tactile rather than virtual engagement with people who are hurting — the example of Newtown shows how humanists continue to lag.
That lag persists despite significant growth in the number of nonbelievers. A recent national study by the Pew Research Center found the share of “nones” had risen to about 20 percent of Americans from 15 percent in just five years. The humanist movement of the last decade has had eloquent public intellectuals in Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens.
Yet, in the view of internal critics like Mr. Epstein and Dr. Ray, humanism suffers in certain ways for its valorization of the individual. The inside joke is that creating a humanist group is like “herding cats.”
“You can’t just be talking about cowboy individualists anymore,” Dr. Ray said. “We have to get out of this mentality we’ve been in over the past 50 years of just saying how stupid religion is. We have to create our own infrastructure.”
Mr. Epstein is currently involved in a three-year, $2.5-million project to study, develop and spread the concept of nonreligious community. But he believes that better organizing must be accompanied by better messaging.
“A lot of humanist rhetoric of previous generations revolved around reason,” he said. “We’d say, ‘We’re people of reason rather than people of faith.’ But I’ve always been uncomfortable with that as the banner under which we march. We need to think of reason in the service of compassion — caring, being cared-about, a life of meaningful connection. Reason itself is the tool. When we see it as the end-product we miss the point.”