Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Are there any civilizations or periods in which humanist beliefs were simply not present in any way?
Dr. Herb Silverman: I think Humanist beliefs and values have always been present in every society, long before Humanism was defined. Many people have been and are humanists who hadn’t heard of Humanism. I used to be one of those people, as I suspect most Humanists were. Unfortunately, Humanism has not and does not dominate most cultures (think Nazi Germany, and authoritarian regimes today).
Jacobsen: It claims Humanism as a culmination of these traditions of meaning, ethics, and reason. What does Humanism shed from other less effective traditions in the light of this culmination mentioned?
Silverman: Humanism sheds religious beliefs based on so-called “holy” books written thousands of years ago. Many well-meaning religious people pick and choose from their preferred ancient book and ignore embarrassing parts. They haven’t taken one addition step of rejecting their holy book and treating it as any other book where we keep the good parts and reject the bad parts. A friend who supports gay marriage pointed out that that the Bible has countless passages about social justice and only five that condemn homosexuality. He didn’t have a good answer when I asked how many condemnations of homosexuality it would take to reverse his position. Humanists don’t have rules etched in stone. We have principles and values written on paper, and some of our ideas might change through a continuing process of observation, learning, and rethinking. Reason usually hasn’t been present in religious traditions, and our ethics sometimes change as we learn more about how better to interact with and treat others.