|Humanism: My Path to Being Good Without God|
The God-talk that surrounds us in American society is a glossy cover for a book of life whose content bears little relation to the cover. Such talk is a distraction from a clear understanding of both the goodness in people and the fundamental social problems we need to be addressing. In my view, we have but one life to live and one planet on which to live it. My engagement in promoting free interchange of ideas unrestricted by any religious mindset and working with others to solve social problems is what gives my life meaning.
As a humanist, it seems to me that throughout history humans have created gods to explain things they didn't understand. These explanations have filled a need for a particular social grouping and a particular time. But others have followed with elaborations and scholarly treatises that have given the gods a life of their own within each society, and social pressure has followed toward acceptance by all of what the scholars have written. This pressure is exerted most strongly through family and through the religious institutions that have developed in each society.
An example of family pressure brought to bear on me came when I wrote my father, during my college student days, that I had been elected president of the campus group for Unitarian students. His response was as follows:
"I must say I am deeply disturbed that you have decided to be satisfied with the shallow humanist faith of unitarianism. I had hoped that you would think and pray your way through to a dynamic faith ... which calls forth the courage to venture and live by faith in spite of doubts. ... Love of God is the foundation of faith. This love of God becomes so deep and genuine that God himself becomes one's ultimate concern."
This illustrates how important one's god concept can be to a person, and I am not hostile to such concepts, but as a result of my personal growth they have simply ceased to carry any meaning for me. Goodness is something we come to understand from our experience in interacting with our fellow human beings, and for those who look to holy scriptures or god concepts for guidance, these sources of guidance need to be informed by that human experience. Religion fails when that does not happen.
The above essay was submitted to the United Coalition of Reason on June 15, 2009, for their 500 word essay contest preceding publication of the book "Good Without God: What a Billion Non-Religious People Do Believe" by Greg Epstein, Humanist Chaplain of Harvard University.