Thursday, September 06, 2012

Thoughts from A+ to eupraXsophy passing through Secular Humanism

By Gary Berg-Cross

At a recent Atheist MeetUp I attended the topic a A+ (‘Atheism Plus‘)came up. The women explaining it to me provided a small history to it, initially by feminists as a reaction, in part, to the “New Atheism” of Richard Dawkins and the other 3 horsemen.

Jen McCreight, self described as a “liberal, geeky, nerdy, scientific, perverted feminist atheist; kicked some of this off with an article called “How I Unwittingly Infiltrated the Boy’s Club & Why It’s Time for a New Wave of Atheism” in a Freethought blog. In effect if the New Atheism is the 2nd wave then A+ is an attempt at a 3rd wave. An apparent motivator for Jen and others is what they describe as various attitudes they associate with folk like the horsemen who are described as ‘old’ ‘white’ ‘male’ and ‘privileged.’ You can read much of the thinking in New Statesman article frequently quoted by the Freethought bloggers involved. Here is one way they describe Atheism+

“at its most basic, an attempt wrap things together more formally, to create a movement that prioritises issues of equality and does so from an explicitly non-religious perspective. Some would say that such a philosophy already exists in the form of humanism. Others prefer the label Skeptic.”

I’m new to this debate topic and as an old, white male not motivated to argue the fine points of the debate. There is already a counter attack. I would like to pursue the idea which struck several of the people at the Meetup, that some of the founding principals of ‘Atheism plus’ are a version of Secular Humanism – just with a catchier A plus title and icon to match.

You get some of this from the writing of Greta Christian who principles and values for A Plus include:

  • we care about social justice,
  • we support women’s rights,
  • we protest racism,
  • we fight homophobia and transphobia,
  • we use critical thinking and skepticism.

I like a focused positive stance and exchanges using optimistic language and perhaps we will see more discussion like this out of the A+ thinkers. I would welcome a connection to what Paul Kurtz has written about captivatingly in his succinct and to the point book Affirmations: Joyful And Creative Exuberance and earlier in the Secular Humanist. One of the principle is:

  • We attempt to transcend divisive parochial loyalties based on race, religion, gender, nationality, creed, class, sexual orientation, or ethnicity, and strive to work together for the common good of humanity.

Below are some others:

  • We are committed to the application of reason and science to the understanding of the universe and to the solving of human problems.
  • We deplore efforts to denigrate human intelligence, to seek to explain the world in supernatural terms, and to look outside nature for salvation.
  • We believe that scientific discovery and technology can contribute to the betterment of human life.
  • We believe in an open and pluralistic society and that democracy is the best guarantee of protecting human rights from authoritarian elites and repressive majorities.
  • We are committed to the principle of the separation of church and state.
  • We cultivate the arts of negotiation and compromise as a means of resolving differences and achieving mutual understanding.
  • We are concerned with securing justice and fairness in society and with eliminating discrimination and intolerance.
  • We believe in supporting the disadvantaged and the handicapped so that they will be able to help themselves.
  • We want to protect and enhance the earth, to preserve it for future generations, and to avoid inflicting needless suffering on other species.
  • We believe in enjoying life here and now and in developing our creative talents to their fullest.
  • We believe in the cultivation of moral excellence.
  • We respect the right to privacy. Mature adults should be allowed to fulfill their aspirations, to express their sexual preferences, to exercise reproductive freedom, to have access to comprehensive and informed health-care, and to die with dignity.
  • We believe in the common moral decencies: altruism, integrity, honesty, truthfulness, responsibility. Humanist ethics is amenable to critical, rational guidance. There are normative standards that we discover together. Moral principles are tested by their consequences.
  • We are deeply concerned with the moral education of our children. We want to nourish reason and compassion.
  • We are engaged by the arts no less than by the sciences.
  • We are citizens of the universe and are excited by discoveries still to be made in the cosmos.
  • We are skeptical of untested claims to knowledge, and we are open to novel ideas and seek new departures in our thinking.
  • We affirm humanism as a realistic alternative to theologies of despair and ideologies of violence and as a source of rich personal significance and genuine satisfaction in the service to others.
  • We believe in optimism rather than pessimism, hope rather than despair, learning in the place of dogma, truth instead of ignorance, joy rather than guilt or sin, tolerance in the place of fear, love instead of hatred, compassion over selfishness, beauty instead of ugliness, and reason rather than blind faith or irrationality.
  • We believe in the fullest realization of the best and noblest that we are capable of as human beings.

Another connection might A+ might make down the road is to the new concept coined by Paul Kurtz in 1988 using the term Eupraxsophy. Composed of Greek roots, eu (good, well); praxis (practice, conduct), and sophia (wisdom)—eupraxsophy literally means "good practice and wisdom." Eupraxsophy characterizes nonreligious approach to life that involves commitment to a good life that is passionate while also being tempered by wisdom and guided by scientific, practical skepticism.

I note in passing that Nathan Bupp, who will be one of the panel members to discuss Kurtz living legacy at the Sept WASH MDC meeting, has edited a book on this topic called Meaning and Value in a Secular Age: Why Eupraxsophy Matters - The Writings of Paul Kurtz

Image Credits
eupraxsophy gearhead:

A+ logo :


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