Posts Tagged ‘Humanism’

On humanism, and being positive

Monday, September 10th, 2012 | Humanism

One of the criticisms that has been put forward about humanism is that it always has to be positive. Many aspects of that humanism is there for are simply not positive – it’s an alternative to religion, and religion is a thought controlling, people oppressing, unscientific load of nonsense.

However, as someone who labels myself as a humanist, I think both these statements can be true, and work together well.

Yes, religion is an evil that the world would be better off without. But saying that you can’t tackle this issue with a positive attitude is not only incorrect, but it is also naively counter-productive, even though it may seem intuitive.

The reason is, is that we know by now that, most of the time, arguing with someone’s beliefs only entrenches them further.

I mean, how many people do the believer and atheist camps actually win over to the other side? Almost none. In fact, it’s so rare that when we do, we feel the need to put a spotlight on them and get them to give talks about their conversion, because it almost never happens.

One of the reasons for this, is that arguing your case, even if you’re case is incorrect, actually reinforces your own belief that you must be right. In fact, even for us skeptics, who are aware this is a problem and try to counter against our own biases, it is difficult to avoid.

This has been general knowledge for a long time, but a great example is given in Richard Wiseman’s recent book about captured American soldiers in the Korean War.

During their time in the prison camps, they were often bribed to say or write about how positive communism was, and were encouraged to take part in mock debates in which they argued for communism.

The result – because they undertook the actions of promoting communism, an idea that not only doesn’t work and isn’t fair (in my humble opinion) but was specifically what they were fighting against in said war, they actually started believing what they were saying.

Similarly, when you get someone in a confrontational argument about their beliefs, where it be religion or any other form of ill-founded prejudice, bigotry or simply factually untrue belief, getting them to argue the point is only going to reinforce their belief most of the time, not weaken it.

So what can we take from this?

Firstly, I think it is a mistake for those in the freethought movement who suggest humanism’s approach of being nice and positive with people, is a sign of weakness or that we not as firmant in stopping the evils of blind faith from damaging our society. It isn’t – they’re just going about it in a more rational, scientific way.

Secondly, when considering your attitude, especially when running groups, it is important for it to be informed by this research.

For example, at A-Soc we discussed, on several occasions, the idea of having a debate with the religious societies where we would take the opposite position. IE, we would argue there was a god, while they would argue there wasn’t. Unfortunately, we never followed through with the idea. It is also worth considering what interfaith (sorry, can’t think of a better term) activities can be done between atheist and believer groups that promote an understanding of each others principles, rather than a confrontational nature – which in the end, actually have a reverse effect from what they are intended to have.

Humanism: The National Scene

Sunday, March 11th, 2012 | Humanism

Last Thursday, I headed down to the Humanist Society of West Yorkshire to see Dan Bye, council member of the National Secular Society, present a talk on Humanism: The National Scene.

I saw Dan speaking last year at Leeds Atheist Society on faith schools and it was a great talk. Thursday was no less interesting, with Dan giving an excellent overview of the non-religious movement in the UK and reminding us that we actually have it better now than we ever have had in our lifetimes. Religion is shrinking and public debate is on the rise.

Mark Edon tells it like it is

Thursday, December 1st, 2011 | Events, Humanism

Mark Edon recently gave a talk to West Yorkshire Humanists about “talking to creationists.” I’ve already seen Mark talk three times before but never the less it was interesting as ever, with plenty of fresh material.

North West Humanist Conference

Friday, October 14th, 2011 | Events, Humanism

I would just like to congratulate my friends in the various north west humanist groups that were involved in the inaugural North West Humanist Conference which took place last weekend. Unfortunately I missed the event due to illness (gutted, as a Yorkshireman I can’t stand not attending events I’ve already paid for) but it was never the less a big success and I look forward to attending next year.

Perspective Citywide: Humanism

Sunday, March 6th, 2011 | Events, Foundation, Humanism

On Wednesday, we welcomed Hull & East Riding Humanists secretary Tim Stephenson over to Leeds to present the Perspective Citywide session on Humanism. Tim’s talk was excellent, looking at both the philosophical side behind Humanism and also why it is important to stand up and be counted as a Humanist.

Perspective 2011: Humanism

Thursday, February 17th, 2011 | Humanism

Last Friday saw the second session of Leeds Atheist Society‘s 2011 Perspective. Unfortunately the speaker, who was going to be speaking on Hinduism, was unable to do the Friday, so Norm kindly stepped in at the last minute to save the event and talk about Humanism.

That’s what we’re talking about

Sunday, February 13th, 2011 | Events, Humanism

Last Sunday was the February meeting of the Humanist Community of Leeds. Discussions were lively indeed – to the point that by the time the discussions first quietened down, most of the meeting was gone and we only just managed to squeeze the news in!

Greg Epstein in London

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010 | Foundation, Humanism

On Tuesday we headed down to London for an evening with Greg Epstein, the Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University.

Greg’s presentation was reasonable, though the true value was in his ideas – he has a vision for Humanism that is truly excellent – building communities, providing a humanist alternative to things like religious charities and offering pastoral care to the non-religious are the exact ideals that we have been working towards at Chris Worfolk Foundation.

While it was clear there was some unease between Greg and the British Humanist Association, who advocate that such enterprises should be secular and we should remove both religious and humanist projects, they too seemed very taken with Greg’s ideas and hopefully this will lead to a more unified vision for the future of Humanism in the United Kingdom.

Humanist Chaplaincy Network

Saturday, August 14th, 2010 | Foundation

This September we’ll be launching the Humanist Chaplaincy Network, a support network for those who are volunteering or working as non-religious chaplains. The network will provide training, resources, advice and a community. To find out more information, visit the website.

Easter Sunday at Humanist Community

Sunday, April 4th, 2010 | Foundation

This morning we held out “Easter Sunday” event at the Humanist Community of Leeds. The day started with Chris talking to BBC Radio Leeds about the event though given so many people were spending time with their family this weekend we were expecting a fairly low turn out.

It was quite a shock then when we got such a turnout, though certainly a pleasant one! The discussions were great, the feedback was positive and Sunday lunch was as enjoyable as ever. Roll on our May meeting!