An Appeal to Humanity: The Close Cousin of Unitarianism, Humanism Rejects Supernatural Intervention

?God, Country, Freedom.? ?God Bless America.? ?In God We Trust.?

From Kentucky Fried Chicken signs to presidential speeches, these sentiments have been resounding across the United States ever since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

But quoting phrases that are both religious and patriotic creates new pressures for those who are loyal to their country, but don?t believe in God.

?It seems to be a growing perception, particularly in the last four weeks, that anyone who is not answerable to God is somehow unpatriotic,? explained Florien Wineriter, president of the Humanists of Utah.

The organization is a chartered chapter of the American Humanist Association, which was started by a group of Unitarian ministers in Chicago during the 1930s.

?The primary ideal is to convince human beings that it?s possible for us to solve our own problems without supernatural intervention. Human beings have a responsibility?to respect peoples around the world and to do whatever is possible to make this a better world [using] reason, thoughtfulness and consideration,? Wineriter said.

Considering that the organization appeals to humanity rather than a divine being, some people have questioned whether it is a valid church or religion.

According to Wineriter, it depends on how you look at it. Although he doesn?t consider it to be a ?church? because there are no specific rituals or celebrations, the organization does have wedding ceremonies, naming ceremonies and memorial services that differ from tradition in that they don?t appeal to a supernatural power.

?As far as a religion is concerned, I like to refer to it as religion with a small ?r.? What we are really concerned about are the highest values of humanity, and if that is what religion is concerned with, we certainly are a religion.

?But if religion with a capital ?R? is concerned with beliefs of supernatural beings of supernatural intervention in the affairs of human beings, then we would not be religious,? he added.

For many humanists, the highest values that they are concerned with can be summed up by Corliss Lamont, author of The Philosophy of Humanism. These values include democracy, peace, art, reason, responsibility, science and the freedom of every nation, race and religion.

Wineriter explained the value of art by saying, ?Humanists have a high respect for the artistic talents of human beings, and we encourage the development and respect for people with talents. As a matter of fact, the heroes of Humanists are the artists and scientists of history rather than military figures or politicians.?

Wineriter also clarified the concept of freedom, noting that Humanists believe in the rights of all groups of people.

?We consider women to be 100 percent human beings and totally equal with men in all respects,? he said.

?We?re [also] in full agreement with the gay rights movement, and we support them in Salt Lake City,? he continued. ?We are thrilled that the Salt Lake City gay community has been able to build respect. I?m particularly impressed that they have not been harassed during their celebrations.?

Taking the idea of sexuality even further, Wineriter noted that Humanists ?consider it to be one of humanity?s best pleasures. We need to look at sexuality as part of the human existence and not have so many views that it?s something antisocial.?

Since Humanists hold to what some deem as ?liberal? values, there has been a great deal of fear and backlash from more traditional organizations.

Tim LaHaye, an evangelist, wrote in his novel The Battle for the Mind that, ?We are being controlled by a small but very influential cadre of committed humanists, who are determined to turn traditionally moral-minded America into an amoral, humanist country.?

Other evangelists, like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, have echoed this sentiment, calling Humanists ?demonic? or ?satanic.?

But Wineriter dismisses these critics, emphasizing in his ?Philosophy in Brief? that Humanists seek to ?encourage compassion, cooperation, community, moral excellence, positive relationships and human dignity.?

While Wineriter and other Humanists remain firm in their belief of the power of human beings, events like Sept. 11 do offer great challenges for them.

In an address made during the monthly meeting held on Oct. 11, Wineriter expressed his grief.

?I have found it difficult to understand how one group of humans could wreak such havoc on another group of humans. It has tested to the limits my faith in the human capacity to choose good over evil,? he said.

However, Wineriter also stressed that it takes ?courage to live without answers,? and so turning to the supernatural is not always the best solution.

?I?m concerned with the overemphasis on expecting God to intervene. After all, the world has been in existence for millions of years and during the past 4,000 years, the world has been plagued by one war after another, one group of people killing another group for its particular ideals?and usually religious,? he explained.

?It?s alright with Humanists if people want God to intervene, but we think we?d be much better prepared to solve the problem if we used our human abilities to resolve conflicts, because this bombing is a terrible tragedy for the whole world. It?s an insane way to try and resolve problems.?

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