Let’s imagine that I have a problem with the Major League Baseball organization. If I want to prove that the league is flawed then I’m going to need to gather some evidence. Where would I gather this evidence? I could visit the Commissioner of Baseball in New York city, but it wouldn’t do much good. There are not actual baseball games that take place in his office, even though he is the top official in The MLB. The MLB is an organization of teams. So if I want to gather evidence that the MLB is flawed I’d need to pick a stadium and attend a game.
Now, as I choose which specific team to watch I’d think about a few things. I’d ask myself question like, which team is the most indicative of the whole baseball league? I’d want to pick a team that is most likely to falsify my point if I’m wrong, or prove my point if I’m right. I’d want to pick a team that represents the league accurately, but also has a descent reputation. It’s always possible to find the worst candidate to prove your point, but that doesn’t really prove your point.
After doing some research, Let’s say I pick the Texas Rangers. They are a good, middle-of-the road team which can accurately represent the MLB. They are not the best, by any means, but they are not the worst either. I attend their next game and find out some very interesting things. It seems that all baseball players really do is stand around most of the time, chew tobacco, and talk about their previous night’s date with their teammates mother. Why they are so infatuated with one another’s maternal figures, I don’t know, but it’s clear that the MLB could use some cleaning up. Now that I have my evidence I can say that I know a thing or two about baseball, and make a determination on what can be done about it.
My problem was with the major league baseball organization in general, but I had to pick a team to analyze. By watching that specific team I’m analyzing the baseball league by proxy, even though on a specific level I’m analyzing a single team.
In a way, that is what I’m going to do here. Atheism represents a league of various worldviews. I believe that atheism is not a trustworthy representation of reality, but to prove it I have to look at those who are practicing atheists. There are plenty of options, but I’ve noticed pattern that is worth mentioned. Most atheists, at least in Western countries, are functionally secular humanists. The things they say are often a restating of the Humanist Manifestos, even if they don’t know it. Many who identify themselves as “atheist” don’t even realize that the things they add to atheism to make it a workable worldview, are pragmatically identical to secular humanism. They are like the duck that didn’t know he was a swan.
There’s another reason why I’ve chosen to look at the secular humanist manifestos. It turns out that the secular humanists are more organized than the tavern song singing atheists. They have been brave enough to drive a stake in the ground and say, “this is what we believe.” Although Atheist individuals have done this, there is no great consensus that exists among all atheists. You can think of atheists as divided into denominations. There is not a widely accepted set of basic atheism documents that can be analyzed for their validly. Don’t misunderstand me here, there are lots of atheist documents that are written every year. However, there are none that represent a kind of consensus that the secular humanist manifestos have experienced among secular humanists.
The third reason that I’m going to primarily focus on the secular humanism brand of atheism, is because it is more content-full. Basic atheism is very basic. At the binary level, atheism is simply a denial of theism. There’s not much to discuss there because there is little to compare and contrast. So, for these reasons I’ve chosen secular humanism; it’s indicative of general atheism, it enjoys a wide consensus of well defined beliefs, and it is more content driven than the simplicity of basic atheism.
Therefore, at times my evaluation of Secular Humanism will also apply to those who simply adhere to an atheistic worldview. However, this evaluation will go beyond that which is only atheism and delve into the particular material provided by secular humanist consensus. Namely, this material appears in the Humanist Manifesto III.
If you haven’t read the three Humanist Manifestos, I would encourage you to do so. This is especially true if you call yourself an atheist. I say this because it’s fairly likely that you are actually a secular humanist if you don’t believe in God, live in a western country, and function within society. Even if you ascribe to atheism alone, the manifestos are worth a read. They are short and can be found online through the search engine of your choice.
It should be noted that these manifestos are not doctrinal statements that must be accepted to be ‘let into the club’ so to speak. Anyone can call themselves a Secular Humanist much like anyone can claim to be a Christian. The Humanist Manifestos are a set of documents that simply lay out the beliefs that most secular humanists already hold. The beliefs in them could be described as the similarities between most recognized Secular Humanists.