Posts Tagged ‘humanism’

If you read the statment in this atheist meme and declared “Yes, that’s me,” well, let me join you and say it even louder: “YES, THAT’S ME.”

Repeat Frank’s Cottage visitors know that I’m not a fan of religion. Perhaps it works for some folks, but I join much of the world in seeing religion as little more than:

  1. Following rules, many of them petty and pointless.
  2. Putting on appearances, so everyone will think you “have it all together”.
  3. Using the first two points to self-righteously judge people who don’t follow all the rules and don’t have it all together.

In the end, religion puts rules, appearances and judgmentalism ahead of people. It often descends into cold-hearted tribalism – ranking people based on whether they’re in or out of our “religion”.

Sounds awful, doesn’t it?

Let me offer an alternative that puts human beings ahead of dogma and traditions. Prepare yourself, because that alternative is controversial. That alternative is life-giving. That alternative, in my opinion, defines humanism for all time.

That alternative is Jesus of Nazareth, who many people believe is the divine Son of God.

During His physical time on earth, Jesus often ran afoul of rule-obsessed, stone-hearted religious leaders.

They were aghast at seeing Him hang out with what many in ancient Israel regarded as the bottom-feeders of their society. Today, those people might be:

  • supporters of widely disliked politicians or political parties
  • those who have unchanging ideas about right and wrong
  • convicts and those who have spent time in prison
  • alcoholics or drug addicts

In one of His four original-source biographies, Jesus says this about fans of religion:

They don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden. Everything they do is for show.

Jesus leaves dogma and traditions at the side of the road. In fact, He goes so far as to ask:

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He challenges us with the truth about what’s required to qualify for Heaven when this life is finished: “You must be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect.

None of us can meet that standard, so Jesus took on his shoulders ALL the wrong things we’ve done and ALL the right things we’ve failed to do. He took them to the cross, where He was put to death on trumped-up charges. Then He showed His mastery over death by coming back to life three days later.

Now, anyone who declares Jesus as Lord and Saviour takes on His perfection. That’s how God sees Jesus followers and they spend eternity with their Creator.

Sound like a good deal? Yes or no, post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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vonnegut“Being a Humanist means trying to behave decently without expectation of rewards or punishment after you are dead.” – Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007)

I guess you won’t be shocked when I write that Vonnegut, the great American writer of such renowned novels as Slaughterhouse Five and Breakfast of Champions, was not a fan of “religion”.

At various times in his life, he described himself as an agnostic and an atheist and, according to Wikipedia, believed people were motivated to join religions out of loneliness.

Who knows, maybe that’s true for some people. But that’s a debate for another essay. What intrigued me about this quote (posted on Twitter by the Huffington Post online newspaper) is Vonnegut’s notion of behaving “decently”.

We all have ideas about what that means and I’m sure some of those ideas are the same – don’t kill anyone or set their house on fire, patiently wait while seniors cross the intersection, help someone get their car out of the snow, etc.

But — and this is a pretty big ‘but’ — do you really want to place all your hopes on these commonalities? Consider just these few examples:

  • It was only 200 years ago when behaving “decently” meant not whipping your slaves.
  • Only 50 years ago, behaving “decently” included putting aboriginal children into residential schools, where they were stripped of their culture and often abused, sexually and physically.
  • And right now, there are cultures where it’s considered decent behaviour to persecute Christians, throw homosexual people in jail and stone women who are accused of adultery.

My point? I can’t trust “humanists”, people of faith or even ME to figure out what is truly decent behaviour.

That’s just one reason why I became a Christian. Those of us who follow Jesus Christ — who serious Christians, and many others, believe is the son of God — know we can trust His ideas about decent behaviour, because we know those ideas came straight from His father.

And those ideas, however difficult some may be (I’m still working on loving my enemies, for example) are as meaningful and truthful today as they were 2,000 years ago.

What about Vonnegut’s assertion about “expectation of rewards or punishment after you are dead”? Well, I’m not about to deny that this is part of my motivation for following Jesus. I want eternal life in Heaven, with Him. And I’m not the least bit shy about saying so.

But that’s definitely NOT my prime motivation for following Jesus and his ideas about decent behaviour. I do it because He knows better than I do about what’s wrong and right. And I can trust Him because like other serious Christians, I believe He died to make up for all the wrong things I’ve done and all the right things I’ve failed to do. Then he came back to life to defeat the power of death for all time.

What He’s done is a glorious gift that I’m glad to accept. That same gift is offered to you, too. Are you interested in thinking about it? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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