on humanism

For thousands of years, humans believed that authority came from the gods. Then, during the modern era, humanism gradually shifted authority from deities to people.

Yuval Noah Harari

Maybe it’s because I spent most of the morning in the Metaverse that I find myself sitting here in a dimly lit room thinking about humanism.

I wasn’t playing games (Ok I did sneak off to watch some of the World Cup in VR), but apart from that, I was doing some serious work with a lady from Canada. She was giving me some useful tips on running events in AltSpaceVR which is Microsoft’s version of the Metaverse.

As I returned to the “real” world, a random question popped into my head: What is the downside of humanism? Where that came from, I’m not sure, but I decided to do some research on humanism.

Here’s what I found:

Humanism is a belief system that emphasizes the value and importance of human beings, as opposed to supernatural powers or deities. It focuses on human potential and culture, rather than religious belief.

Humanism is often associated with scientific thinking, but it is not strictly tied to science. It involves a philosophy based on reason and empathy for other humans and animals alike.

Humanists believe that people should live in harmony with nature, rather than dominating it; we should avoid harming other creatures unnecessarily. We can find meaning in our lives through things like art, music, literature and science—not just by following rules created by religions or governments.

One of the most important figures in humanist thought was Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466–1536), who wrote On Copia of Words and Ideas, a treatise on education that emphasized critical thinking and learning to think for oneself instead of just accepting what others say. He also wrote In Praise of Folly: A Dialogue Between Folly and Prudence, where he criticized religious superstitions like relics and saints.

The benefits of humanism include:

  • Acceptance of all people regardless of race or religion
  • A focus on personal growth instead of dogma (and so fewer rules)
  • A belief that humans have a responsibility towards each other (rather than just towards God)

Some criticisms about humanism include:

  • A lack of ritual (some people find this comforting)
  • No belief in an afterlife or divine intervention (some people find this scary)
  • A lack of moral guidance (people have to make up their own minds about right and wrong)

Some people say humanism is a religion, but it isn’t. It doesn’t involve rituals such as prayer or worship, and there are no churches or priests who can perform weddings or funerals. Humanism is also different from atheism—people who don’t believe in God aren’t necessarily humanists, though many are.

From what I’ve found so far, I like humanism. Especially since I blow hot and cold on religion and spirituality. Sometimes I feel connected to a high power or spiritual energy; other times, I don’t. Humanism seems like a good play in terms of being a decent human being.

I suspect the big issue, though, is reconciling the religious/spiritual question.

What are your thoughts?

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