Category Archives: Ethics

Humanism

How Humanist Are You?

That I’m taking a look at humanism should not suggest any doubt or move away from my Christianity. I think it is helpful to understand other belief systems, as well as my own faith. If you are interested too, you can try the free online course I am undertaking INTRODUCING HUMANISM: NON-RELIGIOUS APPROACHES TO LIFE.

The very first thing I noticed. in the introductory video of the course is that, aside from not believing in a deity, a lot of what humanists believe does not seem to conflict with Christianity, or other religions.

Humanists are much more committed to testing everything, acquiring scientific evidence for what they believe. The italics for believe are deliberate. For a religion, I use the term advisedly noting they have certain religious type characteristics, requiring testing and evidence, they refer to beliefs an awful lot. If “belief” is necessary because some elements cannot be objectively demonstrated and proof provided through evidence, then how is humanism different from any other religion or belief system that has elements that cannot be proven objectively?

I was interested to take part in the How Humanist Are You quiz that is on the Humanist UK website. The first time I took the quiz it told me that I am, apparently, 71% humanist. I suspect that might be a higher percentage than some self professed humanists, but the quiz itself makes me uneasy.

The quiz is of the multiple choice answer type and, one answer can be selected to each question. It seems to me that a number of potential, relevant answers are missing. Some of the allowed answers are not mutually exclusive, so more than one could be ticked if the design of quiz permitted it. I ‘believe’ the quiz to be deliberately slanted to suggest a humanist viewpoint at its conclusion. Of course according to humanists my ‘belief’ is as valid as theirs.

I took the quiz a second time, selecting alternative answers where I would have ticked two for the question, if the quiz permitted me to do so. I received a new score of 55% humanist.  So perhaps, averaging the two attempts, I am 63% humanist.

In line with the humanists’ own contention that everything we ‘believe’ should be tested and be evidence based, where is the evidence that the quiz is fair? What tests have been done to prove that by entering every possible combination of answers the results show a linear progression of 0% to 100% humanist?

As I write I am at the end of week two of the online course. This post will be updated if my views change as the course progresses.

Advertisements

Covenant

But what is a covenant?

In the Old Testament, God establishes his covenant with Noah (Genesis 9:8-17), “for all generations to come” (UK NIV). But what really is a covenant?

Almost every one of us probably has a fair understanding of what a contract is. We probably enter into some kind of contract every day. Every time we buy something in a shop, we enter into a contract, in that example a consumer contract, in which every person who buys the same thing gets it on the same terms and conditions.

A contract requires an offer of some product or service, an acceptance of the offer and a consideration, some form of payment for the product or service, usually but not always financial.

Contracts can be express, where every little detail is explicitly spelled out, or implied, where under normal circumstances the buyer has a reasonable expectation that a product or service be supplied in a certain way, for example a meal in a restaurant will be properly cooked.

But what exactly is a covenant? It’s not a promise, because a promise does not require a consideration, or it would become a contract. Neither is it really a contract, with every little detail upheld by law.

I have trouble actually defining a covenant myself, though I think I know a good example, found in the original 1960 film, The Magnificent Seven.

A poor Mexican village has hired a group of seven gunfighters to protect them from outlaw raiders that steal their crops. At a stage where it looks like the hired men might have bitten off more than they can chew, we hear them having a discussion about whether to stay in the village or leave.

A short snippet of their conversation when someone suggests they leave goes:

Chris:  “You forget one thing. We took a contract.”
Vin:   “It’s not the kind courts enforce.”
Chris:  That´s just the kind you’ve gotta keep.

That, it seems to me, is the essence of covenant over contract. A matter of honesty and honour.

Recycling Dilemma

The trouble with multi material packaging.

Where I live the council supplies six refuse containers to each household. There are two bins, two boxes and two bags, each for a different purpose and five of the six are for recyclable waste. Each household has to sort their waste into the appropriate container. So far fine.

Paper, glass and metal in one box, food waste in another. Cardboard in one bag, recyclable plastic in the other. Garden waste in the green bin and everything else in the grey. But what about the rubbish that is not a single material? Most commonly, but not exclusively, is food packaging with plastic windows and window envelopes; paper with see a through panel for the address.

We are supposed to separate the materials, i.e. remove the plastic windows from the cardboard boxes and envelopes. It’s not always easy to separate. If it is particularly hard separating materials in some packaging, I resort to discarding the item into the grey bin, as non recyclable rubbish.

Why is the onus entirely on the public to separate the materials? Why can’t the manufacturers standardise their packaging so that one package/packet has only one material?

Modern printers can print envelopes without windows so why do envelopes need plastic panels?

Boxes can be printed with pictures of their contents, doing away the need for a plastic window.

Printing on plastic is possible now, doing away with the need for a paper label.

Isn’t it time manufacturers/producers helped the consumer streamline recycling?

All these can reduce the waste going to landfill but there is a better way. There are many products that do not need packaging at all, it is there as a marketing aid with no other practical reason. Where possible, do away with packaging completely.

Poppies

Lest we forget.

These hand made poppies are each added to the memorial on the anniversary of the death of the serviceman they commemorate.

Poppy day, more correctly Remembrance Day seems to cause some controversy these days. Most recently I saw that someone had said they thought it was glorifying war. What poppycock.

Maybe I should say before continuing that I was born after World War 2. Like the great majority of people today, I have no direct experience of war beyond news reports so also like them I will probably never understand it’s full horrors and sacrifices.

My father was a conscripted soldier who served in Burmah in WW2. He was not killed or injured but he never spoke of his wartime experiences to anyone I know of, in or outside our family.

I choose to wear a poppy though many will not, that is their choice. I wish they would wear a poppy. I will not run them down, argue with or insult them for not doing so. Nor do I expect someone who does not wear a poppy to lambast me for wearing one.

We live in a free country, where we can choose to wear or not the poppy, freedom fought for by the men for whom the poppy is worn. The Independent newspaper asked “when does the time come to shift the emphasis away from the past and into the present? My answer is that the poppy is the present.

What kind of country would we be living in if we had lost those terrible wars? We almost certainly would not have the freedom we enjoy now. We are not just remembering the dead. We are remembering what they did for us, why they gave their lives to give us a free country to be proud of. Suppose Hitler had won the war. Imagine the kind of regime  we could be living under now.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

From Laurence Binyon’s poem, For The Fallen. These lines form the fourth verse, though apparently they were the first to be written.

No Passion For Fashion

Even if it’s green, it’s not eco. friendly.

As I write, it’s London Fashion Week, which is a misnomer as it only runs from 21st to 24th September. It’s when designers and fashion houses show off, er, I mean showcase their latest clothing designs. Designs that will make a lot of money for the designers, some money for the manufacturers and some for the cheap-jack makers of copies.

What the new designs almost certainly won’t do is be kind to the environment. The fashion industry relies on making people discontent with what they are wearing, so that they can be sold something else.

It doesn’t matter that most of today’s clothes are still perfectly wearable, there is a drive to sell the consumer something else. The latest, completely unnecessary, fashion to suck in the gullible who are too afraid to resist peer pressure, to wear what they want instead of what they are persuaded they want. Fashion seems to me to bea parasitic industry, preying on insecurity in people trying to ‘fit in’, instead of having individuality.

No matter what the industry may say, fashion is consumption and it is not eco-friendly. Even if it is using re-cycled material, it is likely to be unnecessary recycling of useable clothing. Remember that while the material might be reusable, energy is still used in the recycling process.

To be eco friendly the cycle should be reduce, re-use, recycle. I suspect the fashion industry, when it does make a token effort at being green, jumps direct to the recycle option. It never reduces, that would hit profits and it doesn’t want us to reuse, when we can spend money buying something else.

A New Heaven And a New Earth

Are they one and the same?

In The Bible’s book of Genesis, humankind are given “dominion” over the plantet upon which we live. At the end of The Bible, in Revelation, we are told of “a new heaven and a new earth”, which are also the final words of the book Unveiling a Parallel. which I reviewed here, that inspired this post.

At the end of the Unveiling a Parallel story, the unnamed traveller to the planet Mars saw in the society of that planet what could be a different way of living for the humanity of this Earth. He came to appreciate how the people of Mars lived an idyll; a new heaven. Or, what could be heaven like if Earth’s humanity could learn to live peacefully together.

Earth’s humanity has taken “dominion” as giving ourselves the right to exploit the planet, usually for profit. We have forgotten that dominion also confers responsibility to respect and protect, to manage and steward Earth’s resources in a way that does not harm the planet. We have ignored these inconvenient aspects of dominion.

Humankind has taken oil and coal, metals and minerals from planet Earth with little regard to the consequences. We have poisoned great tracts with chemicals and pumped greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. We have cut down great swathes of the trees that make the oxygen we breathe. Ee face global warming and an uncertain future, largely due to our quest for profit, which ignores the inconvenient truths.

What if, taking Revelation as as a illustration, a new parable maybe, the new heaven and new earth were one and the same?

The traveller to Mars sees a society, and a way of living, that he perceives as a potential heaven on Earth, if only we people of planet Earth could overcome our petty squabbles, wars, injustice, violence and exploitation of the the Earth’s resources for profit.

What might be our new heaven and new earth? Could the new heaven and new earth be one and the same? We are, albeit slowly, beginning to realise the harm we are are doing to our planet. The only planet we know that can support human life.

Could it be that if we fully realise the extent of our destruction of the planet, it is not too late to do something about it?

It took millions of years for planet Earth to evolve to a human habitable environment. It took only a few hundred to strip it and damage it, to its present state. As with everything, damage to the planet was inflicted much, much faster than its evolution and our ability to repair that damage.

But suppose for a moment we do repair the damage. It will probably take generations; thousands of years to return it to the state it took hundreds to bring to its current state. If all the people of the planet started tomorrow to repair the damage, it would take generations to repair and recover but at the end of it all, our descendants could once again live on a clean, fecund planet. Perhaps a new Heaven and a new Earth.

Unveiling a Parallel

By Alice Ilgenfritz Jones and Ella Merchant, published 1893.

Once again I find myself adding a book review to my Christian themed blog, before I add it to my book review blog. I add it here because of the comparisons Unveiling A Parallel draws with Christianity.

Unveiling A Parallel is billed as a romance. Some might say it is science fiction, as it is set on the planet Mars. Some would call it feminist literature, if the term “feminist” existed in 1893. I describe Unveiling A Parallel as social-science fiction, that just happens to be set on another planet.

Remember as you continue that Unveiling a Parallel was published more than a century ago. The society in which the protagonist finds himself is still a stratified society, in which there are rich and poor, servants and masters, characteristic of the era in which the story was written.

The reader is not told at any point the protagonist’s name, or how he comes to be on Mars. The story begins at his arrival on the red planet.  It goes on to recount his experiences with the “Marsians” whilst amongst the people.

The Marsian people are humans, who have evolved entirely independently of the humans of our planet Earth. The differences between the peoples are in intellects and social orders, not in any physical aspect that defines a human being.

The traveller’s male pre-conceptions, of how a society should function, based on his patriarchal Earth background in a male dominated society, are challenged from soon after his arrival on Mars.  As he begins to get to know Mars’ people, he finds an egalitarian, equal society where the female of the species is the equal of the male socially and morally, without needing legislation to achieve it.

It is also interesting to see the protagonist’s observations on religion, specifically Christianity, as he begins to come to terms with the “Marsian” society in which he finds himself.

Unveiling A Parallel is not SciFi in the form that readers of such as Asimov, E E Doc Smith or Larry Niven would probably appreciate. It is, to a greater extent, commentary on the differences between societies, that have evolved in different places, under different conditions and traditions.

“You worship the man – the God, if you will, –
instead of that for which he stood.”: – Severnius.