The Golden Rule covers it all - no God required!
The following article took me by surprise. I'm pretty much on the same page with the Humanists, and yet I never knew that this particular philosophy had a name. Go figure.
More discussion after the article....
God, humbug: Humanist holiday ads say just be good
By ERIC GORSKI Associated Press Writer
Nov 11th, 2008 | You better watch out. There is a new combatant in the Christmas wars.
Ads proclaiming, "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness' sake," will appear on Washington, D.C., buses starting next week and running through December. The American Humanist Association unveiled the provocative $40,000 holiday ad campaign Tuesday.
In lifting lyrics from "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," the Washington-based group is wading into what has become a perennial debate over commercialism, religion in the public square and the meaning of Christmas.
"We are trying to reach our audience, and sometimes in order to reach an audience, everybody has to hear you," said Fred Edwords, spokesman for the humanist group. "Our reason for doing it during the holidays is there are an awful lot of agnostics, atheists and other types of non-theists who feel a little alone during the holidays because of its association with traditional religion."
To that end, the ads and posters will include a link to a Web site that will seek to connect and organize like-minded thinkers in the D.C. area, Edwords said.
Edwords said the purpose isn't to argue that God doesn't exist or change minds about a deity, although "we are trying to plant a seed of rational thought and critical thinking and questioning in people's minds."
The group defines humanism as "a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity."
Last month, the British Humanist Association caused a ruckus announcing a similar campaign on London buses with the message: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."
In Washington, the humanists' campaign comes as conservative Christian groups gear up their efforts to keep Christ in Christmas. In the past five years, groups such as the American Family Association and the Catholic League have criticized or threatened boycotts of retailers who use generic "holiday" greetings.
In mid-October, the American Family Association started selling buttons that say "It's OK to say Merry Christmas." The humanists' entry into the marketplace of ideas did not impress AFA president Tim Wildmon.
"It's a stupid ad," he said. "How do we define 'good' if we don't believe in God? God in his word, the Bible, tells us what's good and bad and right and wrong. If we are each ourselves defining what's good, it's going to be a crazy world."
Also on Tuesday, the Orlando, Fla.-based Liberty Counsel, a conservative Christian legal group, launched its sixth annual "Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign." Liberty Counsel has intervened in disputes over nativity scenes and government bans on Christmas decorations, among other things.
"It's the ultimate grinch to say there is no God at a time when millions of people around the world celebrate the birth of Christ," said Mathew Staver, the group's chairman and dean of the Liberty University School of Law. "Certainly, they have the right to believe what they want but this is insulting."
Best-selling books by authors such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have fueled interest in "the new atheism" -- a more in-your-face argument against God's existence.
Yet few Americans describe themselves as atheist or agnostic; a Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life poll from earlier this year found 92 percent of Americans believe in God.
There was no debate at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority over whether to take the ad. Spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said the agency accepts ads that aren't obscene or pornographic.
I have never understood people who claim that there is no motivation to do good without the threat of a heavy-handed badass God looming over you. Or alternatively, people who claim that we can't know what good behavior is without the guidelines of the Bible.
Now first of all, there's this little thing called the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Plain and simple.
That covers a lot of ground as far as ethics and morality goes. Don't lie, cheat, steal, bully, torture, etc. Be a kind, noble and generous person. Help your fellow beings, human and otherwise. Give a hand up to those who are worse off than you, the poor, sick and needy. Comfort those who are hurt or grieving.
This rule also leaves out a lot of BULLSHIT associated with certain aspects of certain religions. Such as discrimination against people who are not like you for whatever reason. Be they a different color, a different religion, or a different sexual preference....the Golden Rule says to treat them all as you yourself wish to be treated by others. That's it.
Now, what is the motivation for following the Golden Rule? If there's no Mr. God up in the sky ready to kick your ass into eternal hellfire and damnation for breaking the "rules", then why waste time playing nice, right? Just go out and grab everything you can. Lie, cheat, steal, whatever you want.
Well first of all, society doesn't function very well if you don't follow the Golden Rule. Civilization starts to break down. Not because of God, but simply because people need to be able to rely on a certain set of expectations.
If you go to work every day, you will be paid and treated fairly. If you need medical help, you can get it. If you proceed through a green light at an intersection, the cross traffic will stop for you and not T-bone your car.
Did God makes traffic laws as well? No. Well then, why do people follow traffic laws? Well, not all of them do, of course. But most do, and they do so because if they didn't, the streets would be complete chaos and you would never arrive anywhere on time, or even in one piece.
Same with the Golden Rule. I know that if I am an asshole and start treating people badly, I will lose friends. I will lose status. I might lose my job, or even my family. If I break my word enough times, no one will trust me anymore. Because I'm breaking God's law? No, because I'm breaking the Golden Rule. I am treating people differently from how I expect to be treated. I am breaking the rules of society.
This doesn't address people who are so abused and down-trodden that they *expect* people to mistreat them, because abuse has become their norm. But I still think that those people can *imagine* how they would like to be treated, and act accordingly towards others. Yes, in a dream world maybe, but if you can't imagine it, you can't make it happen. If we all work together, and look out for one another without regard for petty differences in class, income, skin color or religion, that kind of situation shouldn't happen too often.
If your God helps you to look upon other beings with compassion, kindness and respect, and encourages you to reach out and help those in need of food, clothing, shelter, companionship, comfort....great!
However, if your God points to those who are different from your little group, and asks you to hate them, fear them, fight tooth and nail against them and never imagine yourself as being like them...man, then you need to find a better way. There are a lot of gods out there. You can choose no god too, and that's OK.
I think a huge problem with religion is that many people are simply taught to follow orders unquestioningly. They are taught to obey without thinking. So if critical thinking is suppressed, and blind obedience is encouraged, then yes, there will indeed be a problem if God's Rules are not there, because what else do people have? They can't think for themselves, or think of others in any other way except as Others. They are crippled and cannot mentally apply the Golden Rule, because it requires empathy, and the dissolution of perceived differences between people (not very popular in religions that set their members apart from the rest of the world) . It also take a little bit of thought sometimes. You have to be able to reverse the situation and imagine yourself in someone else's shoes. So in a way, religion can sometimes undermine true morality.
Personally, I think that there is some kind of spiritual energy in the universe. I have felt it from time to time like a deep vibration, underpinning everything. I don't know what it is, and I wouldn't necessarily call it a god. The best word that I can use to describe it is an energy, or vibration.
I have felt protected from the brutal winds of fate in my life. Many horrible things could have happened to me, and didn't. I have had many mystical experiences that were unexplainable. But can I say for sure that there is a GOD as other people understand the word? I don't know. I don't much care. If people want to believe in God and don't hurt anyone over it, then wonderful. Likewise, if people don't believe in God and don't hurt anyone over that, fabulous! To each his own. I really don't care what people in believe in, as long as they treat their fellow beings (and our shared planet) with care.
I think that if there is a God, she won't mind what I believe in, as long as I live my life in a way that improves the world around me....more love and kindness and enlightenment, less environmental damage and hatred. I just can't imagine the kind of vengeful God that would care what consenting adults do in the privacy of their bedrooms, for example, or who would prohibit people from dancing to music and expressing joy and happiness.
I'll keep looking to the Golden Rule for my moral compass. For the rest, I'll rely on Science. No need for a threatening God to keep order in my house, thank you very much. I never was a big fan of those authoritarian types.
Oh, as for Christmas...I celebrate it. I say "Merry Christmas" to people, because I think that it's a seasonal thing that everyone can get on board with. After all, almost every religion celebrates *something* in December. It's the time of the winter solstice, and there's no evidence at all that Jesus was actually born on December 25th, but rather the early Christians co-opted this date because the Romans used it as the birthdate of several of their major gods.
Anyway, I think the more holidays the better, and I'm not at all fussy about celebrating. If people want to choose a certain day to promote peace on earth and goodwill to men (and by that I mean women and children too!), then hallelujah, I'm all for it! I will argue with you on the concrete truth of whether or not Jesus was born on that day, otherwise...take your meaning where you find it!
It's a waste of breath to get offended over the specifics of "Merry Christmas" vs. "Happy Holidays". If someone wishes you well...accept it as the kind gesture that it is meant to be. Only a real grinch would get pissed off about getting the *wrong* kind of seasonal greeting from someone who is just trying to be nice. Come on people, what would Jesus do? ;-)