Question everything

I consider myself a freethinker as I cannot accept authority, especially religious authority which is founded on dogmatic principles, and unfounded beliefs. Mark Twain once said that when you side with the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect. This is especially relevant when the majority of the human race believe in a divine power that dictates how they live their life, and this doesn’t sit well with me as we are individual, and unique, and whilst we are indeed social animals we have our own identity that we should preserve with honesty and dignity. Empiricism is the basis of freethinking and takes into account things that are discovered through experience through the senses. What you touch, smell, taste, see and hear, and your imagination, superstition, revelations or dogmas cannot be trusted, and scepticism comes into play.

“Empiricism is a philosophical belief that states your knowledge of the world is based on your experiences, particularly your sensory experiences. According to empiricists, our learning is based on our observations and perception; knowledge is not possible without experience.” – Source

Freethinkers compliment atheism by claiming that there’s insufficient evidence to support the existence of a divine authority, as it’s not passed the scrutiny of reason. The freedom from religion foundation say that we have everything to lose if we sacrifice the indispensable tool of reason on the altar of superstition. For me this makes perfect sense as I have to make decisions based off my own personal judgement as opposed to an authoritarian figure like a clergy, or politician as they were born to pass off false information. Many freethinkers go beyond atheism and approach religion from an antitheism stance, as whilst some good has come from religion, the harm and destruction far outweighs it.

“Freethinkers reject faith as a valid tool of knowledge. Faith is the opposite of reason because reason imposes very strict limits on what can be true, and faith has no limits at all. A Great Escape into faith is no retreat to safety. It is nothing less than surrender.” – Dan Barker

If you claim to be a freethinker to a Christian they instantly think you’re under control by Satan himself as without god we are free to enjoy sin. Freethought is an alien concept to the brainwashed members of religious faiths, as anything good is by the will of god, and anything evil is because of Satan’s influence, and these are adults making these claims. Adults who are free to vote, breed, carry firearms, or fight for their country. It’s a scary world that we live in.

In reason we trust

‪The words belief and believe get thrown around too often for my liking, and to believe something is not using one of your most important mental tools; reason. Reason is a method of making sense of something using rationality and logic, and reaching a conclusion through evidence. Reason is also a way of reaching a moral decision, as it’s using impartial thinking to give the most benefit to the interests of others.

‪Reason is what separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom, as we can contemplate our decisions and select the most appropriate and logical action, where the rest of the animal kingdom rely on instinct and habit. If we are to believe in the concept of a god providing us with the art of reason, why do so many who worship him fail to understand its concept, and instead prefer superstition and fantasy over facts?‬

‪”Beliefs do not change facts. Facts, if one is rational, should change beliefs.” – Ricky Gervais‬

‪Reason is the basis of philosophy and the scientific method, as scepticism is the partner of reason, and doubt leads to questioning, and questioning leads to research, and research leads to answers, rather than accepting something on faith. This leads to critical thinking which is about dealing with facts to form judgement, and is an important aspect of science as it attempts to be unbiased and without ego, influence or prejudice.

“I don’t want to believe, I want to know” – Carl Sagan

Those nine words sum up reason perfectly for me.‬ To reason is to question everything, to study cause and effect, and find out why, not assume. Many theists use the following method to justify their faith:‬

‪’Allah is proven by the Qur’an, and the Qur’an is proven by Allah.’‬

‪Where is the logic, the reason, the rationality and the facts?‬

‪’Jesus loves me’‬

‪’How do you know?’‬

‪’I can feel it in my heart’‬

‪Love isn’t reasonable, and it often leads to people making terrible choices as their emotion overcomes their rationality. Love is far from reasonable when it’s claimed that some dude who’s been dead 2000 years loves you, but you’ve never met him. Of course emotions are a good thing as we wouldn’t be human without them, but emotions don’t lead to reason. Take empathy as an example. You view life from someone else’s perspective, and your conscience tells you to help them, or support them, which is what we should do, but at the end of the day, emotions are subjective and are based on personal feelings, opinions and experiences. Emotions can cloud your judgement as you’re making a decision that you think is the right one, and often disregard using reason. Reason is objective as it deals with views that are factual things, such as things that can be verified in experience without opinions attached. ‬

‪Reason, I think, is quite a complex subject and can cause contradictions in life. As above I wrote that reason can lead to moral decisions by being objective, but using emotions is subjective as is often without using reason, but empathy, humility and compassion are all key ingredients to morality and living an ethical life. What are your thoughts?‬

Humanism: is it a religion?

For me, this is an easy question to answer, and it’s a resounding no, but in a way I can understand why ignorant people can mistake it for one, especially if they think that atheism is a religion. Disingenuous people like Ken Ham either ignorantly link it to what he calls secularist atheism, which he claims is a religion, or he says it to cause intentional provocation. Humanism is a way of life with a set of principles that most humanists agree on, but that’s where its comparison to religion ends.

Humanism has several key focuses, and some of them are extremely frowned upon by religious groups as it goes against their personal beliefs and their religious texts. Humanism is an area of philosophy that focuses on the importance of humanity individually and collectively, and the value of sentient life. They accept that this life is the only one we have and it’s our job to live it morally and respectfully, and knowing that we live in a reality of naturalism, there’s no need for superstitious beliefs as we are solely in charge of our own destinies. There’s no life mapped out for us, so it’s our choice to make decisions that are ethical, and try to preserve the well being and happiness of those around us.

It’s a strange myth that atheists have nothing to live for. It’s the opposite. We have nothing to die for. We have everything to live for” – Ricky Gervais

The key elements of humanism is using logic and reason, and to gain knowledge through evidence as opposed to belief or faith. The only way to gain true knowledge is through the scientific method, and strict scepticism. It’s also about defining morality as maximising happiness, and minimising suffering whenever possible by using compassion and empathy rather than fulfilling the will of an egotistic god who demands to be obeyed. Doing as you’re told to please a master is not a moral action, and it really baffles me as to how theists believe a god gives them moral superiority, when in truth, there is NO morality in god fearing religions.

“A non-religious philosophy, based on liberal human values.”

– Little Oxford Dictionary

I’ve been a member of Humanists UK for a little over a year, and the reason I decided to join, and pay a monthly subscription is because of its charity status and the campaigns it tirelessly fights for. One of the things I feel most strongly about is human rights and equality; be it gender, sexuality, physically,mentally or racially. Everyone has a voice that deserves to be heard and respected. Despite this, I still find it extremely hard to stay civil with religious zealots, but I’d always fight for their freedom of religion, but I’m just as entitled to my freedom from religion.

SECULARISM

Where I live in England is not a very religious area at all, and no one I know attends church. The churches before the COVID 19 pandemic lock down were trying any methods to encourage people through the doors, ie fitness classes. But this doesn’t mean for one second that my country hasn’t got a relationship between the government and the church. The Church of England, who’s leader is Queen Elizabeth II, is England’s state religion, and because of this bishops get automatic seats in the House of Lords, but no other faith has these rights. This is why Humanists UK is campaigning for disestablishmentarianism which is to remove religious influence from the government.

PUBLIC ETHICS

A few of the public ethical campaigns are confusing to theists, or they simply cannot accept them because their religion frowns upon them. These include assisted dying, abortion rights, genital mutilation, and enforcing schools to adopt sexual education and making mandatory.

Abortion is a pro-choice stance with humanists, and it’s not about the murdering of babies, or a form of contraception, it’s about a woman having the right to terminate for a number of reasons that include rape victims, or serious health concerns relating to the unborn baby or the mother. This is where sexual education is important to teach children that contraception is important, and no one is required to have sexual interaction if they don’t want to. As well as sexual education, humanists require schools to teach children what homosexuality is and you don’t have to be ashamed of your sexuality, and it’s not about perverting society and turning people gay like some Christians think.

Assisted dying is another important issue that extremely sick humans are denied the right to die with honour and dignity, and anyone who helps a loved one pass away can potentially face criminal action and possibly prison. Why should someone who’s suffering, has no quality of life and just wishes to leave be denied the right for painless euthanasia? If an animal is sick and suffering a vet will euthanise them to end their suffering, so why have animals got the right, but not humans. The religious argument that god gave you life, and he decides when to take it away is sheer madness and unacceptable.

ANIMAL WELFARE

Another campaign I feel strong about is animal welfare, and this ranges from treatment to unethical religious slaughter, that is usually carried out without stunning, or sedation, and involves a sharp blade cutting the throat and the animal bleeding out until death. Whilst a larger number of Halal slaughters are using stunning techniques, Kosher does not, and the animal dies slowly whilst being in a fully conscious state. Humanists UK fully supports the ‘Five Freedoms’ which are listed below.

  • freedom from hunger, malnutrition and thirst;
  • freedom from fear and distress; 
  • freedom from heat stress or physical discomfort; 
  • freedom from pain, injury and disease; and
  • freedom to express normal patterns of behaviour.