Good is Secular Humanist

This is about a particular type of claim made against Secular Humanism (hereafter referred to as Humanism) and it takes on several forms.

One common claim launched against Secular Humanism (usually as a defense of religion) is that Humanism "is Christianity without God" or "adopted Christian values". This claim accuses Humanism of having values and morals only because it adopted them from Christianity and that it has no grounds for its moral framework.

Another claim attacks Humanism on similar grounds, asking rhetorically, in effect: "Why Humanists say that their way is the rational/moral/correct way?" to accuse Humanists of acting just like dogmatic/fundamentalist religious people.

Going along similar lines, if Humanism is another religion, it extends to the idea that Humanists are breaching the wall between church and state when the government acts in agreement with Humanist values.

Religion or not?
Let's deal with the latter two claims first. Is Humanism a religion?

Yes and No. It depends what you are talking about.

Legally, Humanism should recognized as a religion as a practical category that it fits into. Humanism is a philosophy that are not a religion but play a similar role in a person's life. With regards to the law and rights, there isn't much of a difference between a life philosophy that includes a god (a religion) and one that doesn't have gods. Non-believers should not be denied the same rights religious people have.

Generally speaking however, there's a huge difference between a philosophy, like Humanism, and a religion. Religions have a supernatural or dogmatic aspect -- this makes it fundamentally different from Humanism. In religions, god(s) are supernatural entities and in each religion there are certain beliefs that must be held (dogmatism). Humanism have neither -- in fact, Humanism rejects both on the grounds of skepticism.

So, legally, yes, Humanism is a religion. But aside from that, no, Humanism is not a religion unless you wish to destroy the distinction between philosophies and religion by rendering the word "religion" meaningless.

Getting it backwards
Humanism is not a religion without morals (and thus having to import "Christian values") -- it has morals without religion.

Humanism is a philosophy that stems from rational thought, empirical understanding and driven by human empathy. It values skepticism and the scientific method as tools for improving our understanding of the world. Morals is born of the marriage of reason and empathy.

For some religious people, it may be difficult to understand how morals can be of reason and empathy. Especially those who, unfortunately, believes that morals must be handed down by their god.

But think about it a little more deeply.

Do you do charity,
-- because your contributions can help alleviate another person's suffering,
-- because it feels good to help people,
-- because you need the extra cash/time less than less fortunate people, or
-- because god instructed/liked it?

Do you not commit murder,
-- because you are robbing someone of their right to life
-- because you simply do not have such a desire
-- because you are potentially harming the people who love that person
-- because god said so?

In both cases, only the last option is the truly religious -- the only one that can be regarded as having "Christian" (or whatever religion) value. The first 3 can easily be reached via reason and empathy. They are of human value.

No god required
People operate using reason and evidence to deal with everyday issues. When you get the change from the cashier, you count if you want to know if you were given the right change, you don't pray to find out whether it's really 35 cents. When your television is not working right, you check the manual or the internet to see what could be wrong, you don't go to your holy book for advice.

But somehow, some religious people think that: when they want to know how the world came to be, they read their creation myth instead of gathering evidence from the world to ascertain what they can know about the subject. When they want to know what are morals, they adhere to "wisdom" from an old book written by ignorant men who thought they knew god instead of evaluating the moral issue rationally.

Humanism did not adopt any religious value. On the contrary, religions co-opt human values.

Notice that I said human values as opposed to humanist values. Because it is simply an unfortunate situation that we have to identify ourselves as humanists. Humanists are what humans should be unless they are corrupted by religious dogma and fantastical thinking.

Some religious people like to characterize Humanism as their religion without their god like a beautiful flowering plant without its flower. But the truth is their religion is humanism corrupted by god(s) and other magical thinking -- akin to a beautiful garden which became overrun by the supernatural, dogmatic weeds.

Put another way: "Good religion" is "bad religion" stripped of obvious immoral nonsense. Secular Humanism is just "good religion" stripped of ALL nonsense.

There is no gods

TheraminTrees has uploaded the third and final video of his video response titled "there is no gods". The series is a brilliant piece of work, explaining many reasons why an atheist would reject theistic claims.

This is the third video:

The first and second videos are here:

Slavery in the Bible

For ease of referencing, here are the Bible verses relevant to its support of slavery.

The Old Testament
The Old Testament explicitly condones slavery -- providing instructions for acquisition, treatment and punishment of Hebrew and non-Hebrew slaves.

Exodus has Yahweh speaking to Moses directly, stating "Now these are the ordinances which you are to set before them" in Exodus 21:1 before a string of instructions including those pertaining to slavery.

Exodus 21:2-11
If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years; but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment. If he comes alone, he shall go out alone; if he is the husband of a wife, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master gives him a wife, and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall belong to her master, and he shall go out alone. But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,’ then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently.

If a man sells his daughter as a female slave, she is not to go free as the male slaves do. If she is displeasing in the eyes of her master who designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He does not have authority to sell her to a foreign people because of his unfairness to her. If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her according to the custom of daughters. If he takes to himself another woman, he may not reduce her food, her clothing, or her conjugal rights. If he will not do these three things for her, then she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money.

That's a divine legal loophole for permanent slavery of your fellow Hebrew -- Marry your slave to another slave, blackmail him into permanent slavery if he wishes to stay with his spouse and children.

Exodus 21:20-21
If a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod and he dies at his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, he survives a day or two, no vengeance shall be taken; for he is his property.

Causing your slave to die after 1-2 days is criminal. But after 2-3 days is just dandy because he's just property anways.

Exodus 21:26-27
If a man strikes the eye of his male or female slave, and destroys it, he shall let him go free on account of his eye. And if he knocks out a tooth of his male or female slave, he shall let him go free on account of his tooth.

Beat your slave but don't cause permanent harm or you lose him/her.

Leviticus 19:20-22
Now if a man lies carnally with a woman who is a slave acquired for another man, but who has in no way been redeemed nor given her freedom, there shall be punishment; they shall not, however, be put to death, because she was not free. He shall bring his guilt offering to the LORD to the doorway of the tent of meeting, a ram for a guilt offering. The priest shall also make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering before the LORD for his sin which he has committed, and the sin which he has committed will be forgiven him.

If you fuck your slave, she has to be punished if she is betrothed to another man. You? Just go sacrifice a ram and you're scot-free.

Leviticus 25:44-46
As for your male and female slaves whom you may have—you may acquire male and female slaves from the pagan nations that are around you. Then, too, it is out of the sons of the sojourners who live as aliens among you that you may gain acquisition, and out of their families who are with you, whom they will have produced in your land; they also may become your possession. You may even bequeath them to your sons after you, to receive as a possession; you can use them as permanent slaves. But in respect to your countrymen, the sons of Israel, you shall not rule with severity over one another. 

Hebrews for permanent slavery? No. Everyone else is game.

The New Testament
The New Testament is less explicit about slavery laws than the Old Testament. It recognizes that slavery exists but does not criticize it. Instead, it frequently compares slaves and masters to the relationship between believers and God, implying that it was acceptable.

Ephesians 6:5-9
Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.

And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.

Open, tolerant and respectful

I am guessing that most Singaporeans should have noticed that when it comes to racial or religious harmony, our government always reiterates the same points with the same rhetoric all the time. Don't get me wrong; I do agree that we should maintain racial/religious harmony -- that's not the issue here.

What gets on my nerves is how vague they are every single time that I've seen it. It's always the same vague language, imploring that we should be open, tolerant and respectful of other beliefs. Okay, good. What does that mean?

What is being open?

To be open is to be ready to entertain new ideas. And here in Singapore, I never really thought that this was an issue at all (so far).

What about being tolerant?

To be tolerant something is to permit and endure its existence. Again, I, for one, have no issue with this. I am not, and I hope nobody else is, going to prohibit religion or irreligion in general.

Then what about being respectful?

To show deference to a right. Sure, people have the right to have or not have religious beliefs -- that's fine.

What then is the issue here?

Wait, there's another commonly used meaning for respect I'm forgetting -- to hold in esteem or honor. That? HELL, NO.

Now, think of the common thread that holds this 3 terms together. For non-believers on the internet, I'm pretty sure you might have guessed it -- Criticism of religious doctrines and practices.

In the eyes of (some of) the religious and squishy liberals, simply criticizing religious doctrines and practices is equated to being close-minded, intolerant and disrespectful. Guess what? They're wrong. One can be open, tolerant and respectful of religious beliefs without silencing all opposing ideas (ie, criticism).

I will entertain your beliefs, respect your right to hold them, tolerate your practices AND tell you what I find disagreeable. But the last part is what seems to get their goat. And that appears to me, what they wish to achieve with the usual rhetoric.

When tensions between religions (and the irreligious) mount around the globe, the rhetoric is used to quell any tension that might be building here in Singapore. In this case, it might have been the tension between the freethought community and the religious in the USA and Europe.

It becomes ironic when you consider what happens when religious conflicts do escalate. It ends with one religious faction making a hell of a fuss by rioting. So essentially, I cannot criticize you because you might lose your sanity and kill people -- and this is supposed to be acceptable?

For example, if a riot broke out because a group of people were unhappy with the government's decision, those people are insurgents. But if a riot broke up because a group of people were unhappy because they were presented facts about their religion, those people are good citizens who should be protected from information? Bite me.

I genuinely hope the that is not the position the government is holding and is possibly using that same old rhetoric about religious harmony for more benign reasons.

To summarize, my position is that, I will defend your right to believe in nonsense so long as you do not deny my right to call it nonsense.

Adaptive Immune System

I haven't posted anything for quite awhile so I thought I'd recommend a video.

Here's a video from the FreeOK Convention - there are 5 segments on TheThinkingAtheist channel if you're interested. This one is a presentation on vaccination and your adaptive immune system by Abbie Smith.