The “secular humanist” label so popular with Creationists and other Old-Testament types is an unusual moniker, and I accept it myself only years after others applied it to me. I accept it because it’s literally true, and because I have arrived at my own definition of the term.
Secular Means Temporal
We use “secular” to mean “nonreligious,” but it really means “worldly,” “of the ages,” or “temporal.” My concerns are indeed worldly. I care about food, shelter, medicine, education, and other worldly concerns. On the other hand, I don’t really care about whether folks drive cars on Sunday, draw offensive cartoons, say their prayers, get extreme unction, take Mass, observe Passover, eat beef, or study the Bible. Those are religious issues, and they don’t much concern me. That makes me secular. I’d rather feed someone than convert them.
Humanist Means Humanitarian
A humanist is someone who puts humans first. To the left of the humanist is the radical ecologist who sees humanity as no more worthy of survival than moss, maybe less. To the right of the humanist is the theist who sees humanity as depraved, ignorant, even possessed by demons. Here in the middle, we humanists value humans above all. We see justice, poetry, language, and morality to be human inventions of which we should be duly proud. I’m totally there. Humans are connivers, but we’re also creators.
So the secular humanist is one who cares about the real-life needs of flesh-and-blood people, not the spiritual desires of this or that supernatural entity. Ironically, I chart much of the West’s practical concern for individual humans back to the teachings of Jesus.
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