Humanism as Salvation

A special guest blog by former UNIFI President and founder, Cody Hashman.

“The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.” – Joseph Conrad

No doubt many of you have been encountered by a religious person on campus or in your communities who has informed you of the redemptive power of a relationship with Jesus or full submission to the will of Allah. An example of this tactic can be found here.

The hook is a strong one and one that I, and Joseph Condrad, will concede: humans are flawed and have a capacity for wickedness. The messenger then convinces or helps the lost soul realize the bad news that they have inherited the damning illness of sin, which is the cause of their wickedness. The good news is that there is a remedy that comes in the form of a Jesus-shaped pill.

People eat this shit up, and we as non-religious people need to start having a conversation as to why. We need to have a conversation about this phenomenon, not as enlightened individuals, but as the faulted beings that we are; capable of awesome and awful acts.

It is my opinion that the reason stories meant to convert the lost are so convincing and so compelling is that people are often, if not always, looking to better themselves or to find redemption from past transgressions. We want to avoid responsibility for the wickedness that Joseph Conrad spoke of above. We are far too often sold snake oil cures like these Jesus pills, Submission diets, or Karma shots, but what isn’t always advertised are the negative side-effects: institutionalized misogyny and homophobia, self-loathing, preoccupation with the afterlife, etc..

I believe Humanism can save us. Everyone can find salvation in Humanism as there is nothing magical about it. There are no doctrines to follow, the only sovereign is reason, and the message is simple: We are here, all alone, and the only thing that can save us is ourselves. When we accept that there is no magical pill, no eternal reward waiting to be discovered, we can be liberated from passivity, free to become conscious of our own will to power and our responsibility to each other.

While my favorite quote outlining this basic realization may well be Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot, I ran across a different quote today from Harry Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat series:

Now that we know that the only thing on the other side of the sky is more sky, the idea of an afterlife has finally been slid into the history books alongside the rest of the quaint and forgotten religions. With heaven and hell gone we are faced with the necessity of making a heaven or hell right here. What with societies and metatechnology and allied disciplines we have come a long way, and life on the civilized worlds is better than it ever was during the black days of superstition. But with the improving of here and now comes the stark realization that here and now is all we have. Each of us has only this one brief experience with the bright light of consciousness in that endless dark night of eternity and must make the most of it. Doing this means we must respect the existence of everyone else and the most criminal act imaginable is the terminating of one of these conscious existences.