Methodological Humanism – Beyond Belief and Disbelief
Methodological humanism is an attempt to promote true humanist cause beyond the various tenets of belief, and the ideas of non-belief, to create a platform from which we can all operate for the betterment of ourselves and the planet, regardless of our standpoints on religion. The main aim of methodological humanism is to create a society where we can all thrive; This is above and beyond the idea of well-being or simply surviving. As I wrote earlier in my piece which first outlined the ideas of methodological humanism:
So what is it about a methodological stance to humanism that sets it apart from “secular humanism”? Firstly, if we use the methodology of humanism, and set the secular nature of the situation aside, it allows for a person of belief to still enact humanist ideals and still hold their religious ideals. This means that everyone from a Muslim to a Zoroastrian, Christian, to Hindu, to Jew, can be humanists without fear of treading on their belief systems.
There is are however some provisos which needs to be satisfied, however, if this idea is ever to make any ground in a contemporary multi-faith/atheist society.
Firstly, the idea of well-being, and what affects our practices as religious and non-religious people have on others’ well-being. This means stepping back from our traditions and religious practices, looking at them from an outside perspective, and really attempting to see what they signify, whether they are truly a part of a belief system or simply the way it’s “always been done”, and then evaluate whether these practices are helpful to people or communities, or hurtful. This can be a difficult thing, even in secular situations, for there is a lot of string to unwind to find the core, and the older the tradition (religious or otherwise) the more difficult this core is to identify. For instance, the oft-cited traditional practice of female genital circumcision in Middle-Eastern and African nations is not only tied very deeply in the cultures of those practicing it, but is also used as an excuse to extol the tenets of Islam in those nations. Without getting into a discussion about who within a religion or culture backs such practices (I’ve heard both reports of pressuring from imams and clerics from Islam, and also cultural pressures from the women within the communities), a practice like this results in more harm than good, and should therefore be left outside the spectrum of humanism. In fact, any practice, traditional, cultural or religious, which causes more harm than good to the well-being of an individual fall outside of the spectrum of the humanist methodology. I am aware that most religious people do not stone their “adulterous” daughters to death for the “crime” of being raped, nor do they withhold medical treatment in favour of prayer, but some do, and these practices need to be addressed for what they are – harmful.
Secondly, we must recognise that the human basis for well-being is practically the same thing for each of us. As I have pointed out, beyond the needs each of us have for basic survival (i.e. living, breathing, not starving), well-being means both health in body and mind. Simply surviving is not enough for us as thinking and emotional creatures capable of evaluating our own pleasure or suffering. This means that the basis for well-being is the same for a man as for a woman or child, the same for a Muslim or Hindu, and the same for a king or homeless person. Religious ideology does not play a part in basic well-being at this level, although it can give comfort to some in times of need. Well-being means, as far as is possible, having the basics covered, access to food, water and health services, and living in a safe and comfortable environment It’s not buying a second car or flat-screen TV. It’s not about excess, it’s about basics. Having said this, I understand the concept of special-needs, and for those who require special medical treatment, ramps for access, carers etc., these aspects must also be taken into consideration for well-being to be truly met. Some people do require more to simply reach the level of well-being most of us take for granted.
Thirdly, we must have a want, and actual want, for those around us to enjoy the same basics as us in order to reach this base level of well-being. This is more difficult than it may sound. Many of us love our comforts, particularly those of us who are fortunate enough to have been born into a relatively stable society, one where we have more than we actually need. To some, these comforts, such as a bidet or a gigantic flat-screen TV, or an extra donut after dinner, are things they see as their “right”, but sneer at the homeless guy in the city for being a “lazy bum”. This has more to do with an attitude of entitlement and the culture of consumption than to do with one’s rights. As I have shown, the basics of well-being are much simpler than this, and needs to be something we are all willing to ensure all people have.
This may all sound so simple as to be infantile, but few people recognise the importance of these 3 points when talking of humanity striving together as whole for the betterment of all people. It is not about the impossible task of letting every person live in luxury, nor the undesirable (yet much more likely scenario) of everyone except for the extremely elite being dragged down into a situation where we cannot afford the basics.
My main objective here is to point out that, within a methodological framework of humanism, we are not ignoring the tenets of religious belief, cultural practices or traditions, only choosing to identify and leave out any aspects of belief that may cause harm to other people. Sounds simple, but with so many various practices, doctrines and dogmas entrenched within religion, these evaluations would have to be made on a case by case basis. As we encounter them, we evaluate the advantages against the disadvantages, and come to a conclusion about each one. By this I hope to be more inclusive in humanism than secular humanism tends to be, because it is not foregoing religion all together, rather recognising that it is a part of humanity that needs to be addressed and including it within the framework of the humanist ideal.
I’m interested in your feedback on this idea, what you identify as its strengths and weaknesses, and whether you think it is any different from anything proposed before. Please feel free to leave your comments below. Don;t be scared to voice your opinion either, as the only thing I ever censor is abusive activity, and I’m sure you’re all above such behaviour.