Thursday, 1 May 2014

HUMANISM and ANTI-HUMANISM

Whether in traditional religious societies of the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, or in the secular-materialistic West, humanism has been under attack throughout the 20th century, especially during the Cold War when western apologists of the market economy associated the broader concept of secular humanism with atheistic Communism. Needless to say, political propaganda intended to mold public opinion did not take into account that Muslims in the Middle East and loyal Catholics in Latin America viewed the secular countries - US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe - as guilty of embracing sinful secular humanism as the atheistic Communists.

There are political and cultural conservatives as well as religious fanatics not just in the US, but many countries around the world, arguing that there has been a systematic institutionalization of atheistic humanism in every sector of society from government to schools. That the market economy and its culture are largely the root causes of materialism and secularism seem to escape the same critics who decry humanism but embrace capitalism; a glaring contradiction for those wishing to scratch the surface behind the propaganda.

The anti-humanists complain that freedom of religion has been compromised in the interest of fostering atheistic humanism, but this is institutionalize religion that is immersed in materialism and has hardly any relevance with spirituality. Without a second thought or hesitation, the anti-humanists castigate humanism as the root of all evil in society, as part of a wider secular conspiracy to wipe out religion and replace it by worship of science. These are people not very different than those religious and political conservatives of the 1920s who opposed teaching of Darwin and theory of evolution in favor of the Biblical version as though the latter is hard science rather than a matter of faith.

But even if we accept that secular humanism as defined politically rather than analyzed from disparate perspective with a historical context, there is still a series of contradictions in the arguments of the anti-humanists.
First, rooted in the ancient Greek and Roman pagan philosophical tradition and revived during the Italian Renaissance, humanism takes into account the human being as the center of all things - an anthropocentric approach rooted in the empirical method rather than a Theo-centric approach that is rooted in spirituality and speculative or metaphysical analysis.

Second,how is it possible for anti-humanists to claim that they deplore humanism's ubiquitous role in society and at the same time society experiencing a surge of TV, radio, print and web presence of religious programs that have a major institutional role?

Third, if the value system of humanism has human beings at the core of its doctrine, does ianti-humanism mean to replace the value system with one that does not take into account human beings, or at least from the scientific and humane aspect?

Fourth, if anti-humanism entails embracing a dogmatic religious value system and mode of thinking, does this mean a rejection of a pluralistic and open society that is tolerant of all people of different belief systems and lifestyles?

Fifth, if Western societies are the products of the Enlightenment, do anti-humanist mean to reject the legacy of rationalism and democratic liberalism, civil rights and human rights that the Enlightenment passed on to the world, principles with which even Christian humanists would agree?

Sixth, If anti-humanists decry humanism's ubiquitous role in society because the values it projects are rooted in human virtues, does this mean that society ought to be governed on the basis of rule-based - authoritarian and dogmatic - set of ethics similar to a theocracy?

Seventh, if anti-humanist really mean to deny freedom and equality and the rejection of tyranny, as Enlightenment thinkers argued, then what would replace such a system if oppression and inequality.

Eighth, has society made greater progress under religious-based value system in one thousand years during the Middle Ages or after the Renaissance, Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment?

Ninth, do human beings bring out, or as Aristotle noted, realize their potential as creative creatures, living in a society where humanism dominates or in one where religious values dominate human endeavors and the human spirit?

Tenth, even if one so wished, is it possible to turn the clock back to the Dark Ages of 1000 years ago and totally erase humanism from human consciousness so that society serves some dogmatic goal of right wing ideologues? If we were to imagine society in the year 3000, would we want society to resemble the age of witch hunts in the late Middle Ages or the age of reason, progress and above all human compassion as the driving force behind creativity?

In the final analysis, the ideological, political and cultural influences of an individual determine the degree to which s/he embraces humanism, anti-humanism a bit of both, or as in most case never even thinks about these matters but simply lives within a social milieu dominated by one of the other, or a combination of both. However, the issue is significant because of the hypocrisy behind the anti-humanists' arguments regarding the role of secular humanism in society. A right-wing politically-driven agenda concealed behind the argument that somehow humanism entails suppression of religion is intended to force people into greater social conformity and never ask questions about the human condition, institutions shaping society and how progress can be achieved. A right wing agenda hiding behind the ugly face of anti-humanism must be exposed for what it is, namely, a hollow attempt to deny people basic rights and force them into a docile role in society.

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