Posts Tagged ‘humanism’

Haiti relief

January 14, 2010

As many of you have already heard, there was a recent major earthquake in Haiti, January 12 at 5:00 measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale. Some discussion can be found here and here. From the latter,

“It’s incredible,” Preval (the President –lt) told CNN. “A lot of houses destroyed, hospitals, schools, personal homes. A lot of people in the street dead. … I’m still looking to understand the magnitude of the event and how to manage.”

Preval said thousands of people were probably killed. Leading Sen. Youri Latortue told The Associated Press that 500,000 could be dead, but conceded that nobody really knows.

“Let’s say that it’s too early to give a number,” Preval said.

This is the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere, ill-equipped to handle a catastrophe of this magnitude. They need help. I’ve heard from a few charity organizations that instead of trying to give food, water, etc., the most effective help that they can use is money. One place to donate is The Red Cross. Under “Getting and Giving Involved” scroll to “Donate” and there’s several options on ways to donate. If you select “online”, choosing the “International Response Fund” is apparently the appropriate choice for Haiti relief.

Several other good secular options are listed at Highly Kaffeinated (nice name). Just for convenience (and raise their Google rankings), they include, Doctor’s Without Borders, Operation USA, Direct Relief International, and Humanist Charities. All good choices.

Let’s get some help out there.

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District 9 review

September 8, 2009

Well, we finally went out and saw the movie District 9. For its intent, this movie was quite well done. In the extremely unlikely event aliens would ever come here, and if they were in the sad shape these aliens happened to be in, I would hope that the outcome would be different. Sadly, in this hypothetical situation, I can see this movie as being not too far off the mark. In the movie, the worst of humanity was put on display for our visitors. Humanity’s inhumanity to others who are different, to themselves, along with a healthy dose of greed and superstition. The reason this is somewhat plausible is because this is stuff we’ve seen before. With European colonization of the Americas, to apartheid in South Africa, to Nigerian witchhunts, to the genocide in Rwanda. The fact that people do notice these things and that there is moral outrage is a sign of progress, but it seems we have a significant ways to go to raise the bar.

Possible spoilers below the fold.
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Dancing with the broom

June 6, 2009

Over at Evidence for God, one of those religious sites I check out once in a while, there is an intriguing article on human worth and what the Bible has to say about it. The sermonesque story begins on a cleaning person sweeping the floors of a laboratory and apologizing for getting in the way of “important” scientists, saying in effect that she was “dancing with the broom”. The author correctly points out as a society, we seem to place the lion’s share of importance on movie stars, athletes, politicians (and scientists too we hope!), and so on. The point is then made that in God’s eyes we are all equal and Jesus said that he himself came to serve. That the greatest is the least and least is the greatest and so on. That we should try to see our fellow humans in this light. This is similar to other interpretations about parables where Jesus tells his disciples that when they do things to others they do so to him. The relevant interpretation that I am thinking about is that we all have a Christ-like nature.

There is a tremendous amount wrong and even atrocious with most religions and Christianity specifically. However, there are a few gems that can be picked out of any religion, and with a little polishing, the idea of equality of human nature and helping others is one of them. It is a good moral instruction with which I believe most of us can agree. But here is a major difference. The writer of the afore-mentioned article writes:

The reason why we are to act without partiality is because God Himself does not show partiality towards individuals. So, the Christian is to serve others on the basis of the strength God supplies, so that all glory goes to Him. God values all human beings equally, since we are all created in His image. Even though we are created in the image of God, we have all strayed from His morally-perfect image, and so need a Savior to be declared Holy and acceptable to God by faith in Jesus Christ, in order to gain entrance into heaven. However, once we enter that state, our station in heaven will be based upon our record of service to others in this life. So, it seems likely that the famous people on earth might be the broom pushers in heaven, while the lowly are given the highest honors.

No, we do not need a God to justify acting towards others with impartiality. Why is it not enough to recognize each others basic humanity? To recognize our common shared heritage of several billion years of evolution and the shared progress of civilization. Why is it not sufficient to be self-aware enough to recognize our own imperfections and inabilities but to know our strengths and how they can be used to help others in this fantastic journey of humanity. To know that others too will also not be perfect but will have abilities that perhaps we lack? That each of us contributes to the human experience. Grow when we can, self correct, learn, move forward, ever onward. In the indifferent eyes of the cosmos, we are all the same and insignificant. We all stand humbled by the amazing (yet ever more comprehensible) complexity of life, power of shifting continents, power of the sun, and a cosmos stretching out billions of light years and containing billions of galaxies. In the face of all this and all there is yet to learn, what we have is each other. Each of us an amazing complex arrangement of star dust.