A great deal of ink has been spent on discussing the nature of humanity. It is an important discussion, especially as it relates to creating theology. After all, if we think humanity is depraved and sinful, our understanding of a greater reality will reflect that, such as in the concept of original sin. If we think humanity is basically good, with a few notable exceptions such as sociopaths, then our theology will reflect a sunnier ultimate reality.
But perhaps the question is too variable to answer. We are such complicated creatures; capable of great compassion but also capable of horrendous violence as we have seen in Ukraine. And now comes the potential violation of a woman’s right to autonomy over her own body, mandated by a minority in power, convinced that they are following God’s law! How much suffering can we endure?
We do contain the best and the worst of our ideas and creations. After all, it’s none other than the creator of Peanuts, Charles Schultz, who has Linus tell Lucy “I love humanity, it’s people I can’t stand.” For better or worse, we are human beings who act in ways that are not always predictable. Rebecca Solnit, in her book Paradise in Hell, chronicles that after a natural disaster, people are generally good and not as rapacious as so many dystopian movies make us out to be.
I have found that the best answer to the nature of humanity is to look to the best we can be without the need for a higher power. This understanding is called Religious Humanism and, for me, it is the sister to my Religious Naturalism. Religious Humanism holds that we are greatest when we see and celebrate the best humanity has to offer. Religious humanism has its roots in the Enlightenment but it goes far beyond that.
I believe that humanism is our religion. We keep people alive longer than necessary in the hope that they will garner more meaning from our existence. And we as UUs have been embracing that humanism for nigh on the last 500 years. It’s not that we reject a deity per se, but that any deity we imagine must, by necessity, include us as active participants. Homo Deus to be sure, but not at the expense of other living creatures. We must include the rest of our planet. Our future faith will be embraced by our first and seventh principle: that we do believe in the inherent worth and dignity of all people, AND we believe in the interconnected web of existence of which we are a part.
Humanism is our common faith: the belief that we are all interconnected is the higher ground that we call the world to. It is the reason we are about the business of building the radically-inclusive community. It is true to our heritage as Unitarian, the believers of One God, and the Universalists, the believers in Universal Love. So strong is this common faith that we could actually save the world with it, testify to Congress for it, and shout out to the world with it.
Humanism is not the rejection of God. It is, rather, the belief that human reason, intellect, and experience are sufficient means by which to discover and hold the sacred – the greater meaning to our being here. It is a rich and abiding heritage and, current theocratic tendencies notwithstanding, it is more a part of our world than we may think.
As my colleague Bill Sinkford, the former President of the UUA, once preached, “Humanism…gave us a doctrine of incarnation which suggests not that the holy became human in one place at one time to convey a special message to a single chosen people, but that the universe itself is continually incarnating itself in microbes and maples, in hummingbirds and human beings, constantly inviting us to tease out the revelation contained in stars and atoms and every living thing.” (The Language of Reverence)
Here’s to one another, despite it all!
Yours Always, Rev. John