On Liberal Secular Humanism

I am, among other things, a Liberal Secular Humanist (LSH). Of course, by that, I don’t mean I’m part of a “movement”. That label just seems to fit me well. So, why am I a Liberal Secular Humanist?

I am a Liberal: I believe government should work to protect the rights and improve the lives of all citizens, not just those at the top. I also believe that government should be willing to try out new things (progressivism), even if they don’t always work the first time, rather than just support the status quo for its own sake (conservatism). Ultimately, I am a liberal because I am fully dedicated to the ideal of individual freedom.

I am a Secularist: I believe that, while religion has an important and legitimate role to play in our communities, the job of government is best accomplished through reason and our evolving knowledge via the natural and social sciences.

I am a Humanist: I believe that government programs should first and foremost deal with real issues involving real people. While values and beliefs cannot be divorced from policy, they can (and often are) divorced from reality. Policies that are based purely on ideology, religious concepts, or manipulation of data to support an agenda benefiting the few make for bad government (please note last five years as a good example of all three in action). Good government should address actual human needs, not the unknowable desires of a diety or the demands of an abstract philosophy.

Liberal Secular Humanism does indeed have central values (as all systems do). However, they are not essentially Christian in nature (as any good Christian today will tell you). LSH did not derive from Christian structures, but from politico/philosophical ideas birthed during and after the Renaissance when Europeans were rediscovering ancient Greek and Roman texts, which held themes of beauty, reason, and the essential richness of the material world—which was in direct conflict with Christian values of humility, meekness, and eschewing this world in apprehension for the next. Very much unlike Christian thinking at the time, Humanism began to value the human being as a living creature (a value adopted from the Greeks), not as a corrupt vessel filled with sin.

Between the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, more and more thinkers began to recognize that structures of government could not be effectively based on religious canon. Since religion (and especially Christianity) is deeply supernatural, it must be removed from political discourse. Instead, the values informing this brand of secular humanism (as it was finally coined in the 20th century) were free inquiry (over religious dogma), science (over revealed “knowledge”), and rationality (over faith).

Liberalism, at it’s root, is the value of individual freedom (L. liberalis “noble, generous,” lit. “pertaining to a free man,” from liber “free,”), an idea that also stems from Greek thought. As a political notion, it derived from resistance to authoritarian governments, especially the oppressive monarchies of France and Spain, and the various forms of religious clericalism. Early maninfestations of Liberalism were ideas like free trade and individual property rights. It would be a mistake to assume that the central value of Liberalism is based on an idea that every human is exactly alike every other. Rather, it assumes that every person has an equal right to liberty. The political root of this notion is not found in Christianity, but in the writings of John Locke, who asserted that all people have the natural right of “life, liberty and property” and Adam Smith, who addressed the ideas of private property and free trade. Over time, people of reason began to notice that free trade and absolute property rights within a capitalist society generated a different form of oppression (in some ways worse than 18th century monarchies): it resulted in things like slavery and the corporate monopoly. This takes us to where we are now, with ongoing attempts to balance human and property rights.

Aleister Crowley gave the world a superior Liberal Manifesto: Liber LXXVII, OZ, which clearly states the natural rights afforded every Star.

This very brief abstract is designed to show that LSH derived ultimately, not from Christian values, but from ancient Greek thought. The core values are individual freedom and reason. The tools are scientific inquiry and self-reliance, both as individuals and collectively, to solve human problems and advance society.

To my mind, these values and tools are deeply Thelemic. Some will disagree, but that’s okay by me: as far as I’m concerned, they have the natural right to think for themselves, form their own conclusions, communicate their ideas openly, and work to make our government solve problems as they see them (all Liberal Secular Humanist ideas, of course).

For more on Liberal Secular Humanism, see:

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