I haven’t read anything about Shirley McClain and her New Age spirituality, lately. Perhaps she’s just meditating in her advanced years. Her comments about Jews, Christians and Stephen Hawking in 2015 apparently provoked enough criticism to silence her rants about karma and the Holocaust, UFOs and the reason Hawking was afflicted with ALS. I only wish the attacks on Judaism and Christianity had not been taken up by some despicable members of the US Congress. And I wish attacks on Jews and Christians were not increasing throughout the world.
Western Civilization is built upon the foundation of Judeo-Christian ethos. Perhaps when Elizabeth Warren stated “you didn’t build it” she was referring to this framework of Western Civilization, founded upon 4000 years of Judeo-Christian heritage, enabling Americans to succeed. Nah, progressive that she is, she just believes the government made it happen, rather than an individual’s inspiration, work and risk taking.
For thousands of years, Jews have been persecuted. I don’t believe you appreciate health until you suffer from an illness, and I don’t believe you can understand persecution until you’ve experienced it. Since I am an American, I cannot comprehend the horrors of the Holocaust. The closest I can come is The Diary of Anne Frank and the movie Schindler’s List. However, as the worldwide persecution of Christians continues in communist China and Islamists move from the Middle East to the credulous and politically correct US shores, I’m feeling the “burn” as they say in the gym.
You may not have heard of the newest religion that conquered Europe and has now invaded America. It is called secular humanism. I’m a stickler for words and definitions, especially in an essay where there is no communication other than my words. So, hang with me.
The term humanism arose after the Age of Faith (Middle Ages) when academics, aka scholastics or schoolmen, began to use “studia humanitatis” or studies of the humanities (grammar, rhetoric, history, poetry and moral philosophy) in the universities of Europe. This rediscovery of the Greek and Roman classical perspectives led to the Renaissance and ultimately The Age of Reason. The Renaissance humanists sought to engage citizens in public life through education and teaching the classical Cardinal virtues (see my essay from April 2019, Who Am I?).
In the 18th century Jean-Jacques Rousseau and other Enlightenment philosophes thought that a utopian society could be constructed through reason, aided by educating and feeding the masses, rather than through religion. We’re still trying to build this utopian reality by the same means. Interestingly, utopia is a word coined by Sir Thomas Moore originally meaning “nowhere.”
In modern terms, Mr. Webster defines humanism as “a doctrine or way of life centered on human interests, attitude or values; especially a philosophy that rejects supernaturalism [God] and stresses an individual’s dignity and worth and capacity for self-realization through reason.” Webster’s definition seems rational for a pluralistic country like America, at least until it is misused like a codgel by those who demand their own brand of orthodoxy. Today, orthodoxy is often associated with religion, but its root words mean traditional opinion. Even Webster uses the synonym “unprogressive” when defining orthodox. And who would not want to be “progressive,” as Flo hawks Progressive Insurance in her white pant suit? I’ll raise my hand because I am not progressive. I am conservative. I believe in Judeo-Christian traditional values. I believe in America, the national anthem and the flag rather than Colin Kaepernick, AOC or “progressives” who now march under the Democrat ensign.
I don’t eschew reason; I just don’t believe humans are capable of understanding everything. And I am glad to be part of the human clan. John Donne said it best in his beautiful poem written during a life-threatening illness where he thought he was going to die. He said,
“No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.”
Perhaps I have more than a bit of humanist in me after all. But, can’t I be more than one thing? Can I not be a theist and also be part of human endeavors? I believe that I exist within the Creation and I worship the Creator, not idols of human thought or human beings. And though I exist in the secular or worldly realm, I see secular humanism as existing within God’s Creation.
Lately, I’ve begun to hear the term projection bandied about. Of Webster’s many definitions for this word, I’m referring to “the attribution of one’s own ideas, feelings, or attitudes to other people.” As an example I might “project” my thoughts onto someone else and assume or demand they think or feel as I do. I think this is a dangerous perspective and certainly not “liberal.” Demanding this type of orthodox thinking often results in labeling someone a bigot, a racist, a homophobe, etc.
A term somewhat similar to projection is found in medicine and is known as transference. As an example, a patient may smoke cigarettes for 40 years and then blame their doctor for a delayed diagnosis of lung cancer. I have experienced the anguish of illness transferred to me as anger. This is a frequent cause of medical malpractice lawsuits.
The Psalmist sang, we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Yes, that is true and more. We are made in the image of God and imbued with reason and the ability to love. For all we know, human intelligence may be unique in the universe. As a science-fiction buff, I personally believe, though cannot know, the universe is full of thinking and loving and worshiping beings. We should all be a bit more tolerant of each other’s beliefs because, inevitably, each of us must find his own way through this life and onto the next.