My talk: ‘Is Humanism a Religion?’
March 3, 2012
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Embedded here is the video for my talk, ‘Is Humanism a Religion?’, soon to be followed with a transcript to my written lecture.
- This is the last time I ever read a prepared lecture. This method might be appropriate for presenting a paper at an academic conference, but it is boring and overly dense for a public talk;
- The audience spent way too much time in discussion period on whether or not Humanists have sacred principles and not nearly enough on discussing the implications of identifying as ‘religious’;
- I am a bit surprised, because I think it’s boringly obvious that Humanists treat the intrinsic value of human wellbeing/flourishing/happiness as sacred: anyone who does not affirm this value, at least through decisions and behaviour, is very unlikely to be part of a Humanist community, and while there is discourse as to what wellbeing looks like, there is no debate over whether or not this value obtains;
- Several discussions afterwards with audience members suggested that for those who were quite willing to accept that humanists have sacred values, this was insufficient to shift some of them from a definition of ‘religion’ focusing on supernatural beliefs;
- I will probably change the way I approach definitions and terms in the future to avoid running afoul of our distaste for the very idea of identifying as ‘religious’;
- In the future, it might help to have a moderated discussion period, rather than an open one;
- I should’ve spent more time talking about how the process of interpreting the meaning of that value in practice is analogous to what [other] religious groups such as Christians or Muslims are doing with their holy books, and less about the socio-structural determination of sacred principles. I thought this would illustrate how it is far more salient to talk about social function rather than metaphysics when trying to understand religion, but this just ended up being distracting;
- Did I mention that reading a dense essay was bad form? Oy. I will definitely restructure this entirely for future iterations.
- I speak too quickly.