Letters to the Editor

For HumanistNetworkNews.org
Nov. 11, 2009

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Humanists are Peacemakers

(Re: Saving the Soul of Secularism, Humanist Network News, Nov. 4, 2009.)

Thanks for a great article. Secular humanists, if they are true to their movement, must work for justice and peace. Separation of church and state is a very important issue which certainly ties into peace and justice. But the urgent task for peacemaking is now paramount, especially in America. A war hawk cannot be a humanist, just as a death penalty advocate cannot truly be a real humanist.

It is time for secular humanists to speak out more forcefully against the horrors of war and injustice. There are no winners in warfare, especially modern warfare, where hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and defenseless children are slaughtered for no good reason.

Active peacemaking should be a major part of our platform and should be written into our official documents. Otherwise we are just philosophers who are all talk and no guts.

–John William "Bill" Reitter, United States

Humanism Does Not Equal Pacifism

(Re: Saving the Soul of Secularism, Humanist Network News, Nov. 4, 2009.)

Jeff Nall seems to be mistaken in what he thinks humanism consists of. Sorry Jeff, just because you are opposed to the existence of Western and NATO militaries does not mean that every other humanist must be, to be "in the club".

This sort of rigid dogma is precisely what a lot of atheists, including me, reject.

Preventing Afghan women from being beheaded merely for wanting to be school teachers is to me something that all humanists should support; yet, I don't call to revoke your membership card in the humanist club for not sharing my opinion that ISAF troops in Afghanistan are undertaking an armed defense of humanist values against Muslim terrorists.  Humanism does not equal pacifism, no matter how many humanists believe in both.

By all means protest what you see as something to protest against, but don't assume that all humanists must share all of your causes and opinions. We are all free to have different opinions of how to best defend humanist values, and while there are armed theocrats and religious terrorists in the world, part of that defense will have to include armed force.

–Drew Shaw, Duncan, B.C., Canada

Defacement of the Moscow billboard

(Re: Humanist Billboard Vandalized in Moscow, Idaho, Again, Humanist  Network News, Nov. 4, 2009.)

Hi. I think that the defacing of the Idaho sign is just great.

A. It shows what cowards the defacers are, doing their dirty work anonymously at night. If they were serious, not  just violent, they could simply put up a competing bill board.

B. It generates publicity for our sign.

C. The last attempt actually highlights "out."  

With every good wish, 

–Steven Jonas, M.D., Port Jefferson, N.Y.

If a god did exist, what would you do differently?

(Re: Letters to the Editor, Humanist Network News, Nov. 4, 2009.)

"One either believes in gods or one does not," says Drew Shaw, in a letter to HNN.

Apparently he assumes that each of us is located on a spectrum of acceptance or denial of a particular metaphysical claim. He is mistaken. A more meaningful spectrum is between theists and atheists at one end, "indifferentists" at the other.

Theists and atheists both assume there is something meaningful on which to take a position. Yet in the absence of evidence to compel a decision, there is not.

The existence (or otherwise) of something is not made necessary just by putting three letters together without demonstrating that there may be something to which they refer. Theists and atheists are two sides of the same coin–both assume without evidence that there may be something to talk about.

"Indifferentism" is a position well defined by the Oxford English Dictionary. We have no obligation to choose between contradicting metaphysical claims about whether or not something undefined and untestable exists. Quite likely both claims are nonsensical and we do well to just say "I don't care."

Humanism is not a metaphysics; it is an ethical process through which we can move above and beyond the conflicting dogmas of past belief systems with their assertions and denials.

–Francis Mortyn, California