When humanists think of the many differences between humanism and the sort of Christianity many of us are familiar with, what are the biggest differences that come to mind? Every humanist may answer that differently, but for what it’s worth I think the biggest difference is inclusivity.
Christianity, at least when textually grounded in the Bible, is rigidly exclusive almost by definition. Humanism is not, and I think that’s the singular greatest strength of humanism. Thoughtful humanism is necessarily inclusive and accepting of others, including and especially of people who are not humanists, without desiring for them to change their worldviews and become like us. This is one of the most fascinating differences between Christianity, the religion that many of us are the most intimately familiar with, and humanism.
The inclusivity of humanism allows it to be a carefully constructed, adaptive philosophy and life stance that gives its adherents the framework for a flexible, mature worldview. Inclusive, action-oriented humanism, at its core, is about contemplating the different facets of life that affect us all.
This sort of humanism carefully considers the importance of what some might consider checklist identities—such as one’s race, sexuality, and any disabilities one might have—which are all important and, in a handful of cases, directly physical and observable identities. That said, the kind of humanism and humanist analysis we should aspire to is cognizant of deeper and less directly visible identities and classifications. Its assessment of situations goes beyond these identities, as well. It would include things like one’s education, status in certain social groups, and level of wealth. This kind of analysis is necessary if someone seeks to fully understand and make sense of complex situations.
Inclusive humanism will encourage careful analysis of a range of factors when someone is studying a situation. It will look at things and consider surface-level factors, such as the optics of a problem, and then go beyond to examine the deeper tensions that any analyzed problem causes or exacerbates. This humanism allows for a deeper and more thoughtful examination of a problem than something that focuses solely on one’s faith, like some religions do, and offers a more thorough examination of a problem than a less inclusive humanism.
Beyond being better at studying problems and possibly considering how to resolve them, a more inclusive humanism allows those of us who truly embody our humanistic ideals to be more considerate in how we approach the world. Inclusive humanism, at least in the idealized state we should all aspire to, is not something that is easy to do but is always worth the effort it takes.
Inclusive humanism allows a multifaceted look at every aspect of life. It gives those who aspire towards it a more nuanced and considerate look at problems, opportunities, and life in general. It is the sort of humanism that considers the power of privilege as thoughtfully as it considers the dangers of marginalization and othering. It also celebrates deeper diversity that goes beyond the surface level of life, recognizing how real the impact of things like class and education can be on worldviews and cultures and how amazing that can be.
If we blend our desires to act with a need to be thoughtful and comprehensive in our thinking we will raise the quality of our communities. We will create more inclusive places, that celebrate and joyously recognize wider aspects of identity, and that more easily and successfully consider differing viewpoints and thus peacefully transform conflicts into opportunities. This work is challenging. It will require an analysis of our biases and confrontation of parts of ourselves we might not want to work on, but the end result is worth striving towards.
Inclusive humanism mixed with the action-oriented kind of thinking that I have previously written about can produce wonderful things, if given the chance. It may take time to blend inclusive humanistic analysis with action-oriented humanistic thinking, but the end results will invariably be a world that is more equitable, more charitable, and altogether a healthier place for everyone. This work will inevitably require changes in thinking, and will definitely cause conflicts in the short term, but it is worth it to create happier, more compassionate places and to reduce inequality and suffering.
Inclusive humanism may be difficult to enact but the difficulties that enacting it will create are worth struggling through. It is worth a few moments of hardship, conflict, and temporary stresses to elevate our community and create spaces that are worth being a part of. We should strive to be more inclusive, to be thoughtful of all facets of identity, and to celebrate the differences that mark our communities, our spaces, and our understandings of humanism.