Many of my blog posts concern atheism or atheism’s relationship with theism. It would be understandable to think that my major identity is atheist. But it is not. My major identity is secular humanist. Unfortunately, in the United States if there’s a philosophical term more misunderstood or more vilified than atheism, it is secular humanism.
The reason secular humanism is my foremost interest is that it addresses the most vital matter in the lives of human beings (or, taken a step further, all sentient beings): our ability to live together most beneficially to human (or sentient) life. Atheism or, for that matter, deism is only useful in the face of widespread theism. (I’ll refer in this post to atheism/deism rather than to atheism alone. The reason is that, while deism maintains there to be a god or gods of great creative power—just as much as the god or gods of theism—there’s no godly interaction with humans and their affairs. Consequently, any argument between atheists and deists is for academic enjoyment, for neither has implications for worship, defining good and evil, or dogma.)
Atheism/deism makes impossible the delusion that moral rules for human life are imposed by an unseen, undocumented, supernatural being. It is crucial that the delusion be thwarted, for as long as much of the human race believes that a primitive phantasm is the best source of morality, we will be caught up in pleasing the delusion, not human needs. We will worry about earning the favor of a god, not the wellbeing of the human race. (Those who think these are the same thing are naive or uneducated.) I have written enough in earlier posts on what humanist ethics are based on (“The sin of sin,” Jan. 2, 2015; “Morality in secular humanism,” Mar. 16, 2015; “Lust,” June 16, 2015; “Lust still OK, damaging sentient beings is not,” June 25, 2015). Here I wish only to add that the broad development of humanist ethics is obstructed so long as superstition-based morality clutters the field.
It is not that all atheists/deists are secular humanists, but that their non-theism is a prerequisite to avoid theism’s damage to ethical development. I am engaged in the struggle against the inhumanity, absurdity, and cruelty of theism; that is, I’m an atheist. But I am also engaged in the struggle for fairness, scientific discovery, and enlightenment; that is, I’m a humanist who is secular. Not having the distraction of trying without end to find god or gods, and without the distraction of a moral code based primarily on what we think such god or gods have to say, we are able to turn our attention to what is best for humanity, what constitutes the good life and, indeed, what may reasonably be called goodness at all.