I believe in humanism because I believe people create our social world and can therefore change our social world. Mountains of empirical documentation bear this out. I am drawn to the high value humanism places on scientific knowledge to deal with the realities of human life. Humanist assertions that “people can lead ethical lives of service to the betterment of the human condition without theism or supernatural belief” fit with my experience, observations, and education. Problems of human existence must be solved by human efforts.
The poverty and religious extremism that took terrible toll on my poor mother were the result of human social arrangements and behavior; they could have been mitigated by human efforts. The life of a minimally educated but articulate and intellectually curious woman was frustrated as a result of human social organization not by some ethereal being. She would love to have pursued languages and travel had resources been made available by political-economy and family systems. Patriarchy, a human creation, heavily proselytized by the Catholic Church, among others, into which she was indoctrinated, condemned her to a lifetime of childbearing, poverty, evangelical fanaticism, heartbreak, and insanity. Theistic orientation thrust upon her by human arrangements created boundless misery for her, her ten children, two of whom committed suicide, and most everyone who came in extended contact with her.
On the other hand, as a child, the sister that served as my surrogate mother was what could accurately be called a Humanist. She did what she could to protect and nurture me, a younger, vulnerable sibling. She was hyper-empathic, truly experiencing the pain and despair of others and earnestly tried to embrace the fundamentalism that was forced upon us. When it became obvious that the bolts of lightening and other miraculous transformations were not going to occur as promised, she moved on to the realities of life. She pursued causes that she believed would improve the human condition from a practical perspective, things like sexual education to prevent unwanted births, civil rights, education, and policies that help ease difficulty for living humans. She lived a life of kindness and compassion, taking care to do no harm to living sensate individuals.
I along with other Humanists recognize that humans have feelings and emotions that are real and powerful. Our actions toward one another have far-reaching consequences. They are the vehicle by which we create lives of hell for others or ease pain and hurt. I strive to treat others in ways that enable progress and creativity. I support providing adequate survival resources for all and try to live a life of compassion, encouragement, and support for others. These things I can do and they do not require mystical spirits.
Humanism understands and promotes reason, knowledge and human cooperation to address the seemingly intractable problems of human life. It provides me with a stable basis of belief that pinning my hopes on the possible benevolence of some supernatural being does not. I need to believe something verifiable and practical.