By Gene Rigelon
According to the United Nations World Food Program, 25,000 people die of malnutrition and hunger-related causes. That means that one person dies every second; unfortunately the majority of them are children who are the most vulnerable. In the United States, 15.1 percent of persons live in poverty according to the 2010 census, the highest poverty rate since 1993. Again, children represent a disproportionate share of the poor in United States; in 2010, 16.4 million children, or 22 percent were poor, a disproportionate share being African-American (38.2 percent) or Hispanic (35 percent).
Yet there is enough food in the world to feed everyone. The problem is that the hungry are trapped in poverty and lack the resources to buy enough food to feed themselves. As human beings, we have an obligation to enact programs to alleviate human suffering. Humanism, in my opinion, offers a realistic alternative to achieve that end by committing ourselves to the application of reason and science. We must transcend our differences and strive to work together for the common good of humanity. All we need is faith!
Faith in the ability for humanity to solve the world's problems, to bring an end to poverty and violence varies over a wide spectrum. There are those who believe that we humans are totally incapable in that regard and must rely completely on a supernatural power to achieve that elusive goal. Others believe that we have a limited ability but must have help from the aforementioned source while others believe that we humans have powers of a remarkable kind, that we have a high degree of ability of freedom in what we choose to do and not only can but have a moral responsibility to do so. The later is faith in humanity from a humanist perspective.
Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change. Humanists recognize nature as self existing and rely on the rich heritage of human culture, and the lifestance of humanism is to provide comfort in times of want and encouragement in times of plenty. We seek to minimize the inequities of circumstance and ability. We support a just distribution of resources and the fruits of human effort so that as many as possible can enjoy a good life.
Humanism offers the best way to lead a good life without religion. Humanism is a philosophical world view based on naturalism as opposed to super naturalism. It is based on the belief that this world, including us humans, operates in accordance with the immutable laws of nature. Like most liberal and moderate religions, it is based on love and compassion for all human beings no matter their race, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation. We believe that, ultimately, we humans are responsible for the kind of world that we live in. We believe that it is immoral to wait for an invisible friend in the sky to act for us. It is up to us to bring an end to violence and poverty in this world. We are the only species capable of abstract thought, that is to say that we have the ability to think and therefore to reason, which gives us a high degree of freedom in choosing what we do. Only we have the power to bring about change in this world for the better.
We are dedicated to preserving the constitutionally protected wall separating church and state. We disagree with fundamentalists who believe they have the moral high road, that their efforts are above reproach and do not need government oversight. We are not anti religious. To the contrary, we encourage all to pursue the religion of their choice. All we ask is that you don't force your religious views on the rest of us through the legislative process. We should be allowed to participate in that legislative process without being branded as unethical atheists who are enemies of civilization.
Thus engaged in the flow of life, we aspire to this vision with the informed conviction that humanity has the ability to progress toward its highest ideals. The responsibility for the kind of world we live in is ours and ours alone.
Gene Rigelon of Front Royal is coordinator of the Shenandoah Area Secular Humanists, sash.wash.org. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org