By: DAVID RICE Re: Secular Humanism Subject: University teaching secular humanism? Hello,

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By: DAVID RICE Re: Secular Humanism From: Nick Rezmerski Subject: University teaching secular humanism? Hello, everyone! We here at the University of Minnesota have been having a bit of a controversy lately, in the wake of David Noebel speaking on our campus about secular humanism as a religion being taught at state universities. I sent this letter to our paper, the Minnesota Daily, today and I'm looking for some feedback from other atheists/humanists. ___--------------------------------------------------------- In light of the controversy that has sprung up in the wake of David Noebel's lecture on campus (Nov. 10), the Daily article reporting on the event (Nov. 13) and the recent responses to the University Atheists and Humanists' rebuttal (Nov. 16), I think a few issues need to be clarified. First of all, David Noebel's charge that the secular humanist worldview is "tearing down the nation's values," is not only malicious but erroneous, for the simple reason that nations do not have values. People have values. The people of the United States represent many diverse values, which all have legitimacy even if the predominant values are Christian. Secular humanist values are shared by many people in this country who, although they don't call themselves humanists, also do not call themselves religious. The crime of secular humanists, to people like Noebel, is that of not worshiping correctly. The notion that values come only from religion, or that lack of religion causes a lack of social responsibility and criminal behavior, is also false. Statistics consistently show that criminals are disproportionately religious. Secondly, the idea that our public schools and government institutions are being manipulated by secular humanists is so far- fetched that it's a flat-out conspiracy theory. The people who work in education and government are a cross-section of our populace, mostly religious, and of those, mostly Christian. These are people who follow their own faith, yet realize the danger of religion and government being intertwined. They generally operate from a secular position to maintain impartiality, but even so, secularism is not secular humanism. Those who have bothered to talk to a real, live secular humanist probably know that we have trouble even getting people to come to our organized events, let alone co-opt teachers and politicians into a plot to impose humanism on the nation. Most closet atheists and humanists are not eager to subject themselves to derision at the hands of religious bigots. Noebel's propaganda doesn't paint a picture of reality, but instead uses scare tactics to make otherwise tolerant religious people think that Christianity is under attack in this country. This is, of course, nonsense; the U.S. has more churches than just about any country in the world. Christianity permeates American society, as those of use who are not religious are all too painfully aware. Noebel and others point to the 'moral decay' of American society and use secular humanism as a scapegoat. Our group exists to fight this slander, which is systematic, malicious and grossly misinformed, and we will not tolerate it. Finally, this is not the place to argue whether secular humanism is a religion. Much has been written on the topic, but suffice it to say that we have good reasons for believing as we do. To answer Patty Debelak (Nov. 20), science has shown the likely origins of our world, and is rapidly showing that our physical brain processes explain properties formerly attributable only to a soul. The neo-Platonist model of the mind as immortal and separable is not necessary or even remotely supportable. Noebel would tell you that our positions are based on faith, just as religious dogma is. However, to answer Adrian Teo (Nov. 21), we don't presume that the physical world is "all that exists," but rather that it is all we can be sure about. It doesn't take a great leap of faith to believe in the physical universe, but to believe in something beyond it certainly does. All of these philosophical issues are academic (no pun intended) to the issue of whether secular humanism is being taught at the U. Even if secular humanism is a religion, I'd like to know where it is being taught on campus. I doubt anyone (myself included) could come up with even one example. "Thou shalt not steal" is one of the ten commandments; if we teach kids not to steal, does that mean we are teaching Christianity? Not in the least. Similarly, teaching evolutionary theory in biology classes is not teaching secular humanism. It is possible, of course, that religion could have a positive effect on the nation's ills. But if lack of religion is not the cause, how can religion be the cure? Personally, I believe another trend is responsible for so many of our social problems -- the cult of irrationality. When people are told not to trust their judgment, that they are naturally evil by nature, and that intuition and feeling are to be our guides to action, confusion results. People forsake responsibility for their actions and accept that they are doomed to a life of sin. They are discouraged from understandng science and technology, and that might is right. How else can we explain why so many act on their impulses to fight, rob, defraud, rape, etc., without regard for the consequences? Skills in critical thinking are necessary to survive and prosper in our society, and to work effectively in government and business. As long as rationality is not highly prized, our society and government will continue to suffer. I and others like me think secular humanism's emphasis on rationality and methodical problem-solving have the best hope for repairing the damage done by the teaching of irrational ethics. I could be wrong, however. After all, it's just my theory. Nick Rezmerski Secretary, University Atheists and Humanists If you have access to the WWW, the letters and articles I have referenced are available at: Thanks for any and all opinions! ... "God never intended Christians to be fools." -- "Kato" * * Origin: "And furthermore, 'Don't call me brother.'" (1:124/9005)


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