Are you a humanist? Should you care? Take a look at this short, interesting video featuring some quite well known people talking on the subject, and then I'll share my thoughts with you.
Okay, what did you think? My feeling after watching it is that I quite like a lot that goes with being a humanist, apart from one huge assumption that all those taking part seem to make, which is that if you are a humanist you must be an atheist. You see, I think the most scientific religious viewpoint to take is to be an agnostic, and I don't see any conflict with being a humanist.
If you are an atheist you say 'I refuse to be open minded. I KNOW what the truth is and no evidence will sway me.' I don't think that's scientific. As an agnostic, I would say I don't think there is clear evidence either way, so it would be silly to take a Dawkinsesque stand on the subject.
Just to draw a parallel with a science issue, take the business of string theory. There is no evidence for string theory - it is totally untestable at the moment. Now the atheist view would be to say 'Because string theory is untestable, I will assume it doesn't have any validity and I will mock people who do think it's worth giving time to. We don't need string theory, we can get along perfectly well without it.' But as an agnostic I would say 'Okay, we don't have evidence either way yet, so let's suspend judgement until we do. I want to hear more about string theory and I will not mindlessly attack it. And frankly it would be very upsetting to all those people who have given their (working) lives to it, so I will be a little more considerate.' I know which sounds the better approach to me.
I have one other problem with this video, which is the section on death. I think all those smug, middle class, wealthy (mostly middle aged) people have a very specific view of how you can make the best of life and enjoy it to the full. It's a bit harder if you are a starving infant expected to die before your first birthday. I think they totally underestimate the comfort that religion has given to many people in dire conditions. This doesn't make religion true - but it does make the humanist view of death, as stated in this video, very much a view that would appeal best to a group of comfortable, privileged intellectuals with a good long life expectancy.
So will I be asking to join the British Humanist Association? I don't think so - but I genuinely thank them for a thought provoking video that raises some serious and important issues.