MyNotes: Exploring Humanism, Chapter 4-6

This blog entry continues my exploration of Greg Epstein's book, Good Without God. Be sure to read prior entries for context and links to the book, as well as what kicked this exploration off.


  1. Without any conflict, human life is tedious.
  2. Humanism's basic focus is about engaging with life, acknowledging the reality of aging, sickness, death, and other problems so that we can learn to most fully appreciate the time, health, and life we have.
  3. Essentially all the world's religions were founded on the principle that divine beings or forces can promise a level of justice in a supernatural realm that cannot be perceived in this natural one.
  4. Karen Armstrong, Charter for Compassion - Watch video
  5. Humanists reject the idea that any supposedly divine commandments, as they are proclaimed by human beings, ought to have absolute authority over our lives.
  6. Humanists believe that laws and ethical principles must come from human reason and compassion.
  7. If a given religious precept can help lead to a good life and society, we may adopt it.
  8. Humanist Commandments?
    1. Seek the best in yourself and in others, and believe in your own ability to make a positive difference in the world.
    2. Pursue truth and honesty in all you do; and be wary of allowing power, status, or possessions to substitute for moral courage, dignity, and goodness.
    3. Be positive and constructive rather than negative and disrespectful.
    4. To be healthy, you must balance work, play, and rest.
    5. All members of the family should respect each other.
    6. Do not commit murder.
    7. Do not be unfaithful to your husband or wife.
    8. Do not steal.
    9. Do not lie or speak badly about others.
    10. When you see nice things owned by others, let them be your inspiration, rather than a source of bad feelings. If there are things that you want, work hard to get them.
  9. Humanism fights against the message of a very important book. The book is Humpty Dumpty.
    1. The HD mentality says that the world--be it our personal lives or society as a whole or whatever--needs to be repaired. That things were once perfect and round and bright and shiny like an egg until they fell and broke into a million pieces, and now it's our job to reassemble all the pieces.
    2. The only problem with this mentality is everything. Because there was never, ever, at any point in our lives or in human history, a perfect egg of goodness to shatter.
    3. Ceasing to believe in God or religion becomes a truly meaningful, worthwhile position when it also means ceasing to live in the past. We move on. We focus not on who wronged us, but on what we can do, what we can build, how we can grow, to make our lives better.
  10. Humanism principles:
    1. Growing. So long as we continue to grow in some way, we are living, not dying
    2. Voluntary simplicity means an ordering and guiding of our energy and desires, a deliberate organization of life for a purpose. It means making the most of where you are.
    3. Sustainability. Live our lives in a sustainable way.
Chapter Five: Pluralism: Can You Be Good with God?
  1. Pluralism: To compete with one another in good works.
  2. "We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly" (Source: Martin Luther King Jr as cited)
  3. Say that you do not believe in God at all, and despite whatever else you might add about the good things you do value, there are many who will consider you indecent and unfit.
  4. We should cultivate agape: "Understanding, creative, redemptive good will toward all men"
  5. Religious pluralism:
    1. energetic engagement that affirms the unique identity of each particular religious tradition and community
    2. celebrates diversity and welcomes religious voices into the public square even as it recognizes the challenges of competing claims
    3. recognizes that in a pluralistic democracy, competing claims must be translated into moral language that is understood by fellow citizens (believers and nonbelievers alike) who must be convinced of the benefits of what is proposed
  6. Interfaith cooperation on big issues such as
    1. Climate change: because global warming doesn't care what we believe about God
    2. Church-state separation: maintaining it successfully requires compromise and coalition
    3. Arms reduction, poverty and torture are many other issues
  7. Make inclusion work:
    1. Ask why we are motivated to be good, or to work with you
    2. Reach out to atheist, secular, and Humanist groups and solicit their participation
    3. Advertise as religiously pluralistic
    4. Use inclusive language
    5. Include groups in programs
    6. Learn and teach about different groups (including Humanists)
Chapter Six: Good Without God in Community: The Heart of Humanity
  1. Your relationship with religion is about how you live life every day, how you respond to a thousand situations that are impossible to fully predict or prepare for.
  2. Beyond ritual, what is the role of culture more boadly in religion and Humanism? How should we understand the relationship between belief in God and religious affiliation? We've seen how many good arguments there are against belief in God. But remove religious affiliation, and for most people, you also strip away their sense of connection to their unique ancestry, heritage, memory, and identity. Is the sacrifice worthwhile?
  3. ABC approach
    1. A is an activating event or adversity
    2. B is a the belief you have about the A. 
    3. C stands for the consequences of your beliefs about A, both emotional and behavioral.
    4. D stands for disputing your own irrational beliefs so you can bring about better consequences
    5. E is effective new beliefs. By disputing irrational beliefs, you can take yourself back to step B to form new, healthier beliefs in response to the challenging events in your life that you may or may not be able to control
  4. Benson's Relaxation Response:
    1. Pick a focus word, short phrase, or prayer that is firmly rooted in your belief system
    2. Sit quietly in a comfortable position
    3. Close your eyes
    4. Relax your muscles, from your feet to calves, thighs, abdomen, shoulders, head, and neck
    5. Breathe slowly and naturally, and as you do, say your focus word/sound/phrase/prayer silently to yourself as you exhale
    6. Assume a passive attitude
    7. Continue for 10-20 minutes
    8. Do not stand immediately
    9. Practice the technique once or twice daily before breakfast or dinner
  5. If you are not a Humanist, please go in peace.

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


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