“Humanists are especially eager. They claim Sagan as their own, and see in the “Cosmos” series — a multipart journey to the outer reaches of our universe — and in his dozen books a vibrant strain of their own philosophy. That philosophy favors reason over religion and holds human beings as both good and responsible for the Earth’s plight.”
Regardless of whether one believes that our desire to be good comes from God or from our evolutionary past, Humanists and theists can work together to build a more just society. They can work together to help alleviate poverty, hunger, and suffering. They can work together to protect and sustain our planet. And, together, they can find happiness and fulfillment in the effort. -
My Hartford Faith & Values blog is up – and I’m not saying nice things about Bill Nye’s decision to debate Ken Ham at the Creation Museum.
A group of Hartford Area Humanists recently met in a member’s home on a snowy morning for a group conversation about death and bereavement. This gathering was part of Hartford Area Humanists’ ongoing discussion on “Rational Spirituality.” While many Humanists eschew any mention of spirituality, dismissing it as supernatural “woo-woo” unworthy of serious discussion, others embrace spirituality as a natural human phenomenon that is not dependent upon anything supernatural. These “rational spiritualists” seek to live a happier and more fulfilling life by exploring the deeper aspects of being human.
Sandy Hook Elementary School. Image courtesy of HartfordFAVs
It was no coincidence that we discussed death and bereavement on the first anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings. Tragedies such as Sandy Hook raise difficult questions for Humanists. In the weeks after Sandy Hook, New York Times columnist Samuel Freedman pointedly asked “where were the humanists?”, noting that, while Humanist and other secular groups raised money and held anti-gun rallies, there was no visible Humanist presence offering solace to the victims’ families. Atlanta Page, a Christian blogger writing in Examiner.com, declared that Humanists have nothing to offer the bereaved in the wake of such tragedies, arguing that only faith in a loving God and belief in an afterlife can sooth those facing the otherwise unbearable grief of lives taken too soon. Ms. Page argues that, while the Humanist stance that people should find meaning and purpose during our lives may be work well when celebrating the end of a long and rich life, that approach is inadequate in responding to the tragic and violent death of children.
Implicit in the accusation that Humanism has nothing to offer the bereaved is the assumption that the Humanist worldview is not an effective way of dealing with tragedy.
Thousands of protesters gathered yesterday at Wal-Marts throughout the country. They targeted our largest retailer on the busiest shopping day of the year to make a point: there are not enough hours in the week for many Americans to earn a living wage at the low wages paid by many companies. Wal-mart earned about $17 billion in profits last year, yet the average Wal-Mart employee requires about $2,000/year in public assistance. Taxpayers subsidize Wal-Mart’s payroll, because they are not paying workers a living wage.
Yes, the minimum wage needs to be raised. But, that is going to take time in the current political climate. In the meantime, consumers should support businesses that pay their employees decent wages. Companies like Trader Joe’s, Costco, and Quicktrip have won recognition by paying higher than industry averages. They have proven that paying a living wage can be a profitable strategy, because there is less turnover and better performance when employees are paid and treated well.
Wages will rise when more businesses realize that paying a living wage is good for business. And, more businesses will get that message when consumers spend their money at stores and restaurants that that treat their employees fairly. We have Fair Trade certifications for coffee and chocolate. Why not a “Fair Wage” certification for businesses? The cost of a drive-through lunch wouldn’t be that much higher if the folks who prepared were paid a few bucks an hour more than a typical McDonald’s employee. In Connecticut, the Wal-Mart protesters focused on a store in Avon because, according to one of the organizers, “this is a fairly wealthy area of the state, surrounded by wealthy towns, and these are a lot of people that have financial choice to shop somewhere else.”
Many consumers do have a financial choice on where we shop It would be a great help if we had better information so that we could meaningfully exercise that choice. Fair Wage Certification would help consumers separate the Costcos from the Wal-Marts.
While I truly miss Randy Cohen’s “The Ethicist” columns in the NYT Sunday Magazine, I do enjoy reading Chuck Klosterman’s contributions. I chuckled at the advice he gave to a concerned Hawaiian who was concerned that his wishes for good weather were harmful to local farmers. Pointing out that the writer’s desires have no impact on the weather, Klosterman advised, “What happens solely inside your mind is not cause for ethical alarm.”
By contrast, our conduct can and does have an impact on climate – and the ethical implications are profound.
The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Legal Center is threatening to sue public schools that are participating in a program run by Frank Graham’s “Samaritan’s Purse” group to collect toys and distribute them to needy kids. Nothing wrong that that by itself – that is praiseworthy and noble. But, the gifts come with a string – the kids are given “Pledges to Christianity” to sign. Worse yet, the parents and kids that donated the gifts were often in the dark about the Christianity Pledges.
Isn’t it ironic that Frank Graham named his group “Samaritan’s Purse”? In biblical times, the Samaritans practiced their religion differently and were despised by the Jews for being different. The whole point of Parable of the Good Samaritan is that people of different beliefs are worthy and capable of doing good.