Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Humans for Humankind

That's it! I'm starting a new organization, club, group, PAC, whatever. I tossed out the comment "I'm all about humans first" after another mom recommended we not use disposable cups at a nature center, to which a different mom declared, "I'm just the opposite." Not nearly enough people are pro-human.

Environmentalism, socialism, or religion thinks humans are inherently bad. Religion has humans tainted with original sin and always battling the animal instincts in order to make themselves worthy for salvation. Environmentalism just considers humans a blight on the natural world (that we somehow ceased to be a part of once we started building permanent civilizations). Socialism believes that, with the hiring of their first employee, people suddenly turn from being trustworthy and in-need-of-protection to hideous blood-sucking task masters that would sooner see a worker drained of all vitality than leave work before their 23 hour shift is up.

For someone, like myself, who grew up admiring the wonderful accomplishments of science and technology, and whose interactions with all people have left me with the distinct impression that most people are honest and fair, these gloomy anti-human views are gross distortions. I'm so pleased that I can live without guilt. That's what comes of having a philosophy that actually supports happiness.

So I hope anyone who reads this will consider the basic idea that, in general, humans are not inherently bad or evil. Humans are a pretty decent lot. We have used our resources (specifically, our marvelously large brains) to feed billions of people, go around the world in a matter of hours, allow millions of people to live with decent standards on only a few square miles, uncovered basic laws of the universe, discovered the concepts of rights and law-and-order, and figured out how to make most people live far longer than ever before. I think that's pretty damned cool. Some people will look at that list, and for every item come up with a 'yes, but....' And for those people, I feel immense pity.

The civilized world is a great place, and humans have made it so! Please join me in being a "Human for Humankind" and take a brighter, more objective look at the modern world and our wonderfully full life and standard of living within it; all made possible through human ingenuity, hope, and perseverance.


Deb said...

Hear, hear!

christinemm said...

Next is a little graphic you can post on your blog and that others can post too.

I am not creative in that way with the computer or I'd be making all kinds of those things.

I appreciated your thoughts. It is nice to read some honest thoughts as it seems some others blog parroted stuff or make statements without having a reason behind it.

I'd blogged a while back (filed under label green living) that I was sick of the green movement. I was making better choices long ago when others thought I was weird. I still do things like compost that some still think is above and beyond. I am sick of the green movement as now I feel it is being shoved down our throats AND because many doing certain things are not evaluating the full picture.

A HS mom at the park said something to me about if we use a disposable cup then it will take X years to rot in our dump. I quickly corrected her that the trash from our area of the state is burned in an incenerator and turned into energy that the electric company then sells to us.

Once I had some HS kids here for a playdate (without mom). It was hot and I made frozen fruit smoothies. Perfect for using a straw. We don't use straws often in this house as they are just not necessary for most things. A HS boy said "no thanks, in 4H I learned it takes 10,000 years for a plastic straw to decompose and I don't want to add to that for our Earth". I quickly explained that our trash is burned here so that is not an issue. Now, not that the burning plastics don't have an effect. However as we know from Devra Davis' book "The Secret History of the War on Cancer" our own government is not even testing or figuring out the ill effects of some of what is done in America (i.e. the full effects of burning plastics).

Anyhow, my stance is that life is complicated and we don't know it all. So any group (i.e. environmentalists) who claim if we just do this one little right thing then X will be solved are grossly oversimplying things.

Also after doing some gardening and shrub-garden tending this year I will say that any environmentalist who feels that man is hurting nature extremely has not been trying to grow a few plants or "hold nature back" as nature is very resilient and "takes over" what we humans try to claim for ourselves (a small patch of yard, one pumpkin vine etc.).

Lastly I want to share that I think you are oversimplifying religion. Not all religions believe in original sin. Even people who align themselves with one type of religion (i.e. Catholicism) do not always believe every single thing that the leaders of the group claim defines them.

I don't think that anyone can argue that just trying to live by the Ten Commandments or to live out the advice given in The Sermon on the Mount is bad advice. In fact if more people chose to live out in real life those things the world would be an easier and nicer place. As somone who has been wronged a few times in just this last week by people definately not doing "Christlike" things I can say if they did instead choose various characteristics that are in line with the Ten Commandments or Christ's example I'd not be having a single issue caused by those other people.

So I can't fault people for having a religion or trying to do the right thing.

Also this week I ranted about celebrating Halloween with my kids and how some are coming down on me for it (Catholics and Protestants). While I do believe in Jesus Christ I am not in their camp on that issue. And actually it is not true that the entire Protestant church says "have a harvest festival instead".

I was raised in an Atheist home so I've not been 'brainwashed' as my father calls it, from my childhood years. What I believe now evolved in my adult years. I'll say also that if my father did choose more "Christlike" behaviors some things in my childhood, in my mother's life and in his mother's life would have been different and better.

Kim said...

Now I have some time to catch up on the comments. Christine, you gave me a lot to consider!

I did oversimplify religious doctrine. Not all religions have original sin, though all religion is based on man being told he is imperfect and that this life that we are all interacting in right now is a precursor for the reward that is to come in the afterlife. I disagree that man is imperfect by his very nature and that our lives on earth are expendable. I believe that perfection in this life is possible. Those people who do their damnedest to get there are my heroes. Of course, that is incidental to religion's requiring belief in an omnipotent being with no evidence.

Most of the ten commandments are about how to worship. I definitely get behind no murdering, lying, or cheating of the ten commandments, but I justify holding those beliefs in a completely different way that doesn't involve appealing to a mystic source.

I had to Google Sermon on the Mount. I disagree with most of the Sermon on the Mount. I know! It sounds crazy. Some believe in it because faith comes first and that this is the one true way to salvation. Most people have heard it so often, even atheists, that it is accepted without a second thought. After all, it seems to be a general guidance about being nice to other people--but that is not how I see it.

I have always been a (generally) nice person. I am polite to people I meet and loved doing my job well. I like helping people I know and love to get to know more people. Considering that I am not religious, why am I nice? Because I know that I have to live with the consequences of not being nice. If I were mean to someone I just met, then I could miss out on getting to know someone who is really interesting. I was dedicated to my job, and the required customers, because to do less would ruin my own self-esteem as a productive person.

Most people go through their entire lives without doing some of the hard work that you've done. Without a worked out system of thought that can help people answer the hard questions in life (what's moral? what value should I work to attain? what is my purpose for getting up every day?) many people fly by the seat of their pants. They will make decisions based on whatever thought or idea is topmost in their consciousness at the time. Some people do this for a while and realize that they have made conflicting decisions, or have a hole in what they thought they knew, or just realize they have made some really bad choices that have hindered their own lives. Once someone has realized that the way they were thinking was inconsistent and harmful to themselves, then they have some hard choices and work ahead of them.

They need to untangle the mess of ideas they have absorbed as their moral code. Religion is a popular option. There seems to be certainty there. The way to live your life is written down in a book that doesn't change, passed down from an ultimate being who will grant you perfect happiness if you can just follow the directions and (possible, depending on which dogma you pick) eternal damnation if you don't. Not only are there a number of different religions, even choosing Christianity is fraught with interpretations that are remarkably inconsistent.

I have often seen people in their philosophy shopping mode. They are the ones who are experimenting with different churches and reading "The Zen of Pooh." With religion's otherworldly origin, there is no place on Earth you can go to know which one is right. Some people might choose a religion because it is already close to their general sentiments. Others take that 'leap of faith.' Many continue following the religion they were born into.

Then comes the part about deciding to follow it. For those who have been born into their faith and others who are about the faith first, they may be very strict. They could live the exact way their pastor or conscience advises no matter how uncomfortable or annoying that makes their everyday life, or the lives of those around them (Halloween, again, along with spanking, subservience, and obedience). For others, it is more of an abstract idea and guideline, so the way they follow the directions is more in tune with personal comfort and worldly accomplishment while using the framework of the religion to help fill in those tougher areas of the Big Questions. And there really is no way to tell who is right until they are dead. And then that is not going to help anyone here. Unless you believe in predestination, in which case it has already been decided that whatever you do takes you to wherever you are going.

As you have seen from environmentalism, even religion cannot address all of the modern concerns. Ultimately, one cannot forget that religion covers only a portion of the decisions one needs to make in life. Many theologists are adding their two cents to modern issues and trying to add a religious aspect that can define the issues in divine terms. Others do not want to add new interpretations, so those people are again delving into the tangled mess of the concepts that they did not consciously add, but somehow sunk into their ideas of good and bad and trying to make a go of figuring out what to do. Conflict abounds. Most people are stuck here.

That is one of the reasons why people are unhappy with their decisions about the environment. They feel like they cannot determine how to do the right thing again. They have internalized all that they have heard about being good to Mother Nature yet recognize that there are certain aspects of comfortable living that cannot be reconciled with "green living." They believe that the environment is important but they recognize that they need to consider their own lives as important too. It is a huge source of guilt and worry.

I've decided to untangle the knots differently. I am a much happier person with a consistent, human-centered, philosophy to follow. My philosophy is integral to my happiness. There are a lot of people with full philosophical systems that require them to not be happy or that happiness is forever out of reach. I can say that knowing that there are areas of my thinking that need to be better aligned with my chosen system. When I choose to do that work, I will feel even better and even more confident in my choices.

The philosophy I follow requires me to do the hard work of learning to parent, which I am trying to continuously improve even with all of my admitted mistakes. My non-religious philosophy has certainly helped me realize how much I value my children and my husband and it helps me figure out how to show that value in my actions. It is terrible when a person does not treat his family with the esteem they should be to him. I do not doubt your assessment that your father's relationships would have been improved with some serious self-assessment.

Deb said...


This is a beautifully written post, and I think you should put it in your main blog for all to see, not just those who have signed up to receive comments from this post.

Kim said...

Thanks, Deb. It took a long time to formulate the reply. I did consider whether to make a regular post as well. I think it might be more lengthy than any other original post I have done.