January 1998

The Future of Civilization?

“To speculate on the future requires knowledge of the past,” said Dr. Sherman Dickman in his December 11th presentation to the Humanists of Utah. Dr. Dickman cited economics as being a determining factor in western civilization and economic developments have resulted in capitalism. He speculated that the policies and practices of capitalism will likely determine the socioeconomic situation of civilization in the coming century. His brief outline of economic history outlined how capitalism evolved from feudalism. While feudalism maintained wealth and power in the hands of a few capitalism created a new and larger group of wealthy power holders. Dickman reminded his audience that early Catholicism opposed the capitalist philosophy saying the pursuit of wealth detracted from the primary purpose of life which is the pursuit of knowledge about God. The Protestant Reformation modified religion’s opposition to capitalism and encouraged the attitude that wealth is God’s reward for hard work, resulting in what we now refer to as “the Protestant work ethic.” This philosophy has been the dominant determinant of the human economic condition during the past 300 years and is likely to continue to be a major influence during the next century.

One of the major results of capitalism has been the expansion of our ability to rapidly communicate around the world. Instant communications, especially via television, has given citizens of third world countries knowledge of how wealth changes living conditions. Dr. Dickman said his visits to third world countries convinced him that people living in poverty want to participate in a system that will ease their burdens of daily life. They want the “good life” they see capitalist societies enjoying and will welcome the capitalist system.

Therein lie serious problems that will challenge world conditions as we move into the next century. Citing the problems created by transportation as a primary example, Dickman said that in the United States there is one car for every two people, imagine the environmental problems, he said, if China, with a population of over one-billion had the same ratio of cars as we have in this nation.

Globalization of capitalism will be the major influence on the peoples of the world during the next 100 years. Balancing science, technology, and capitalism to evolve a sustainable society, concluded Dickman, is the challenge of the future.

–Flo Wineriter


Marilyn vos Savant, who is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records Hall of Fame for “Highest IQ” has a regular column in the Parade Magazine supplement to the Sunday newspaper. In the December 7th issue she was asked why she “always answers questions based on logic.” The question further asked, “Do you believe that intuition, emotion, and other ways of making decisions are as valid as logic?”

Marilyn replied, “Good logic always takes emotion into account as an important factor, so our feelings are never neglected. But intuition-the sensation of knowing without the use of reasoning-is as lightweight as a first impression, and I wouldn’t use it to make a decision unless I had no other information at all.”

That’s All There Is To It

I’m a member of the American Humanist Association.

Since the year or so I’ve been a formal member, I’m often asked, “Why would you want to be a member of an organization like that? Aren’t they all communist?”

When I began to seriously think about humanism back in 1995, a good friend of mine decided that I was going to be a communist. He’s decided that I’m a socialist, too.

It doesn’t seem to matter what I say to him. It doesn’t matter how much I try and convince him, “I’m not a communist, a socialist or any other ‘-ist’ except humanist.” Because I’m a humanist, his reasoning seems to conclude that I must be some godless communist.

I found a funny poem that I like (by Curt Sytsma), and I tried to send it to him. He never responded.

In every age, the bigot’s rage
Requires another focus,
Another devil forced on stage
By hatred’s hocus-pocus:
The devil used to be the Jew
And then it was the witches;
And then it was the Negroes who
Were digging in the ditches.
The devil once was colored pink
And labeled Communistic;
Now, all at once, in just a blink,
The devil’s humanistic.

A few months after I joined the American Humanist Association, I joined the Humanists of Utah, the local chapter here.

I tried taking my friend to a meeting once. I don’t think it went over well. The Democratic nominee for Congress, Ross Anderson, was the speaker that day. I’m not a Democrat or a Republican, but I really enjoyed the talk. My friend thought Ross was a socialist communist.

Another close friend of mine (friend number two) learned from friend number one that I was a godless communist. Since I had just returned from a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he found that to be a bit incredulous. I still find it incredulous. Since he had just returned from a mission, too, I told him I wasn’t an Atheist, or any other type of “-ist” (though I didn’t yet mention being a humanist).

My friend dropped the subject at my word.

A while later I explained why friend-number-one had felt I was a godless, atheistic communist. “I’m a member of the American Humanist Association.”

What’s that?” he asked.

I pulled out my membership card for the Humanists of Utah. On the back, it says: “Humanism is a natural way of life that promotes living joyfully and compassionately in the present, using innate intelligence, science, the humanities and experience as the methods for discovering truths . . . and to be an association where all can have a sense of belonging to a larger community that supports a positive philosophy of reason, integrity, and dignity.”

He said, “I don’t see anything about Atheism or Communism in that. In fact, I agree with it. Integrity and Reason: how can you argue with that?” I was relieved that he felt that way.

That night we went to his house to watch a video. His father came in, as he always does, to talk to us. His father and I are good friends, too. We talk mostly about books. My friend (friend-number-two) had a copy of History of the Jews, by Paul Johnson, on his bed. “Oh, the Jews,” his father said. “Their history is rough. Their almost as stubborn as those awful secular humanists.” Or something like that; I don’t remember. The irony becomes almost humorous.

I’ve noticed that many of the fundamentalist Christian bent don’t like humanism. They think that humanism is the greatest evil that can happen in the United States. After all, the United States is supposed to be a Christian Nation, right?

No, the U.S. is not a Christian Nation. The Bill of Rights was written so that any religion, belief or faith could be respected in the U.S. However, part of the point is so that a religion, belief or faith does not interfere with the state as well. It is called “Separation of Church and State.” There’s a statement that reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

That makes the United States a secular nation. Secular means not under control of the Church; it also means of this mortal world. It does not mean anti-religious. It is not the opposite of religion. It merely focuses on the affairs of this world, and leaves religion to itself (unless religion is infringed upon, or religion is infringing upon others).

My girl friend at the time wasn’t too big on humanism either. That was back in October of 1996, when I joined the humanists. She didn’t want me to join. “Why?” I asked. She didn’t say anything except that she didn’t want to keep me from doing something I wanted to do. We talked about it later on. She asked me, “Is humanism a religion?”

No, humanism is not a religion. I told her that there are those who call themselves religious humanists. These individuals want a secular alternative to religion, and therefore decide to practice humanism in a religious way. They could be called a religion. But humanism, in general, is not a religion. It’s an organization for the promotion of the philosophy, attitude and culture of humanism. If humanism is a religion, then so is the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, or the American Civil Liberties Union. That clearly is absurd. So the answer is no, no, no.

My mother asked me the other day where I was to be going that night after I left her house. (I was working on their computer, and not yet finished, I told her I had to leave.) “I’m going to a meeting with the Humanists of Utah.”

“You don’t believe in them, do you?” she asked, rather shocked, and probing. As if I’m a member of some evil cult.

Why can’t people just ask what I believe? They always have to ask, Are you Mormon? Or, Are you Muslim, or Buddhist, or Hindu? Do you believe in God?

I don’t mind these questions. But I do mind when someone tries to qualify my goodness, and my morality, by a question like “Are you Mormon?” Or an accusation of “You are humanist, therefore you are Communist, therefore you are amoral.” That simply irks me to no end. That’s ignorance. That’s not taking the time to find out what the individual stands for, let alone the organization they’re a member of.

I’m a humanist. I’m a good a person, and I support good things. Things like human dignity; responsibility for my own actions; life; scientific thinking and learning; respect for others beliefs and the things, people and organizations that they support; and for (as my friend Flo put it) Intelligent Compassion. Intelligent Compassion is not just tolerance. Tolerance almost seems like saying, “I’ll just have to put up with you.” Compassion is a good thing, but too many have compassion willy-nilly and get goaded into something they shouldn’t. Intelligent Compassion however shows that you’re not gullible, but at the same time concerned for your fellow human beings and for Nature as a whole.

I stand for all these good things, and I’m a humanist, and that’s all there is to it.

–David Evans

Nancy Moore Dies X-mas Day 1997

Nancy Moore died on December 25, 1997. Paul Moore, her husband, recently made a substantial monetary contribution to Humanists of Utah “in honor of Nancy W. Moore.” Paul wrote, “I want to thank all the members for your support over the past 18 months. I know that Nancy has not consistently been responsive to the flowers, telephone calls, and notes during this time. I hope everyone knows that this…is due to Nancy’s illness and pain medications.” He further states that our chapter has been very important to Nancy. (There’s a perfect example of Pot calling Kettle black!)

Flo responded with a letter of gratitude and a pledge that the funds would be used, in part, to “spread the word” in an effort to gain more members. The Board also plans to erect a plaque or other reminder in Nancy’s memory.

Nancy survived much longer than anyone expected. Sincere condolences to Paul and the rest of the family. Nancy will be sorely missed, but as long as Humanists of Utah exists there will be fond remembrances of Nancy Moore.

Creative Interchange

Richard Layton’s Discussion Group Report

Just as traditional monotheistic religions have called for commitment to God as a supernatural person, Henry Nelson Wieman, (1884-1975) who was probably the most famous philosopher of religion associated with Unitarian Universalism, believed that “our ultimate commitment” should be to the process of creative interchange. Contrary to atheists, Wieman argued that we are not the source of our own good; creative interchange is the source of human good.”

David C. Oughton in “Wieman and One of His Disciples” in the winter-spring, 1997, issue of Religious Humanism explains Wieman’s concept of “creative interchange”: It is a way of integrating diverse perspectives so that people can understand each other, learn from each other, be corrected by each other, form a community with each other, and live in peace with each other. Wieman called it “the creativity that creates the human mind and personality after the first days of infancy, creates human culture and history, and creates the universe as known to the human mind. The universe as known to the human mind has been in the process of creation for thousands of years and is now being recreated more radically than ever before.”

Creative interchange operates in four stages: 1) getting the perspective of the other person (or philosophical system or alien culture) more or less fully and perfectly–generally very imperfectly; 2) integrating (mostly subconscious) of this new perspective with what one had before, this always with all degrees of perfection; 3) Consequent expansion in range of what one can know, value, and control; and 4) consequent widening and deepening of the community of mutual understanding and mutual support of the participants.

Weiman made a distinction among three approaches to religion: 1) Those who say that the object of supreme devotion is a supernatural personality (traditional theism) or cosmic consciousness (Whiteheadian theology) or Being itself (Tillich), 2) those who deny the existence of a supernatural personality and believe that there is no reality worthy of supreme devotion (atheism) or 3) those who maintain that “God” is not a personality but an actual process of creativity operating on the human level (religious naturalism).

Wieman argued against the first two positions and maintained the third. He opposed theism when it directs our ruling commitment to a supreme person. He claimed there is no evidence of a personal power that exercises supreme control over the universe or human living and even if there were such a sovereign person, human action guided by a commitment to such a person would not enable us to escape the greatest dangers, correct the greatest evils, or attain the fullest content of positive value. He also rejected religious humanism when it directs our ruling commitment to an ideal because even the highest human ideals are confined and perverted by special interests and prejudices. All ideals must be subject to correction and further development by religious commitment to creative interchange.

Contrary to atheists he argued that we are not the source of human good; creative interchange is the “source of human good.” We must counteract the counterforces that block or obstruct creative interchange–prejudice, all forms of ignorance, and all other evils that obstruct the creative process. There are no guarantees that creative interchange will bring this world to peace and justice, but it has that potential. It is the only hope.