Defining Humanist Spiritualism

I wasn’t always a spiritual Humanist.

I was once religious. I marched through the constant and mundane for two decades. I sat in a Catholic church and learned a Catholic existence. I believed it all. I believed in the one true God. I said my “Amens”.

It was my culture. It was my family and my school. “I am the Way and the Life,” He told me. And He was right. He was my education. He was my dinner prayer. He was my affirmation.

I began to doubt a lot of the teachings while in high school. I didn’t doubt God, just what man decided God was. Funny how a Catholic high school would teach me the history of the Catechism, the formation of the Bible and its doctrine. Funny how it taught me who the men were that formed the Church (and I don’t mean the apostles and disciples…I mean the politicians and the rich).

I doubted not just the facts of the Bible. I don’t think a religion should be based on antiquated morality stories, nor should it necessarily be judged by them. No, I started to doubt the veracity of the institution. I started to wonder why a Church that preaches giving and charity could sit on hundreds of millions of dollars in gold and art and history and knowledge. Not only does it sit there and fund this institution but it is hidden away from the general public. It’s locked in basements and vaults.

I started to doubt why I should worship the same false idol that the Bible told me not to worship. I discovered in my late teens that the golden calf tossed aside by Moses drew itself up and lives in Vatican City. I learned this happened all over the world in almost all forms of religion. The Castle of the Pope. The Palace in Salt Lake City. The Blue Diamond Mosque in Istanbul.

Despite my doubt in the institution, I stuck with the God. He gave me a reason to do things the right way. The fear driven into me throughout my entire life of the final judgment in the clouds hid what I now view as the truth. In college I still attended Catholic masses. I didn’t do it for the communion or the sermons or the prayers. I did it for the community.

While reading Plato’s Symposium and Sun Tzu’s Art of War, I began to widen my views. I read the Quran. Buddhism truly opened my eyes to new paths of spiritualism: karma, meditation, reincarnation; it struck me as more plausible. I developed a greater sense of self as a part of a whole, instead of a whole leading the self. It was my first step to humanism.

Humanism, for those of you who don’t know, is a mutable human-based philosophy that quite frankly, hasn’t even really been nailed down yet. It’s been around for a few hundred years now, but only in the last century or so has it developed into its own belief structure. You can read the Wikipedia article here for more info.

Humanism, however, has modernized over the years and has slowly moved farther and farther away from spirituality. I’m not talking about believing in the supernatural, a tenet of humanism to which I do hold true. No, I mean the interconnection of people and the mind; that mankind is not only a part of nature but IS nature, one with all other nature.

In the first Humanist Manifesto, written in collaboration at the University of Chicago, religion is still widely accepted so far as the spirituality and ethics of its teachings are used for the betterment of the individual and humanity as a whole. It was widely believed by humanists in the early 1900’s that religion was a necessary evil in our history. That it was needed for the evolution of the human mind, spirit and morality, but its time of usefulness had long since passed. (You can find the subsequent Humanist Manifestos here: II and III)

The beauty of Humanism is not merely its freedom from theism and the supernatural, but the fluidity of its doctrine. Humanism is wrapped in discourse and “informed by experience.” Its members are encouraged to adapt their beliefs as we evolve biologically, scientifically, artistically and more. It is always changing as we humans, too, are always changing. There’s no two millenia-old book to read. There are no ancient figures, no dogmas, no judgments.

I, however, need and want slightly more spiritually. I’ve seen the good things that happen when people work together for the good of others. I’ve seen them come together at a deadly fire or accident. I’ve seen them save lives and stop crimes. Not quite as life-changing but in my opinion just as important, is the emotions centered around sports or theatre. The applause and the camaraderie; the victory and loss. Thousands of people share those experiences and emotions and that is spiritual.

Human beings are spiritual by nature. There is no species so social, so dependent on the whole, as humans are. Humanism speaks to experience and all we have to do is look around throughout the day to see and experience the human spirit. If we as a species are to continue to thrive on this planet we absolutely must tap into the many things we have in common and not the tiny differences that wedge us farther apart every year.

We need to stop putting our supernatural beliefs above our terrestrial needs. We need to eat and we need to help others eat. We need love and we need to love others. We need happiness and laughter and friendship.

It’s time in this world to finally start worshiping the spirit of humanity and not the spirit of greed and the supernatural.

I am a Humanist. I am spiritual.

We all should be.

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One comment on “Defining Humanist Spiritualism

  1. Leah Senona says:

    I really appreciated this post, Tony. I too am a spiritual humanist. It’s been quite a journey. I always get excited when I discover another intentional wanderer.

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