Musings on Secular or Humanist Thought

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The discussion was based on pages 202 and 203 of L Geering’s book ‘Such is Life – A Close Encounter with Ecclesiastes’ where he sets out 7 marks of secular or humanistic thought.  These formed the basis of some fine questions – responses to which showed we were not in full agreement with Prof Geering’s line of argument.  The 7 questions were:

1. What do we understand by “divinely revealed knowledge”, and is it the only source of reliable knowledge? This of course depends on ones interpretation of ‘divinely revealed’.  We decided that this had to be wider than the Bible.  How are we separate from god?  Are not our thoughts at times ‘of god?’

2. Do we feel bound by any set of absolutes handed down from the past? We thought that some absolutes are the likes of compassion, justice, mercy, relationships were worth holding on to and espousing.

3. Do we believe that the “physical universe constitutes all that is”?  No because this doesn’t take account of human creativity in music, art, technology, admiring a sunset, being moved to describe something as ‘awe-some’.

4. Does the evolving knowledge of human origins preclude an acceptance of a spiritual dimension? No – see compassion and creativity above

5. As the boundaries of time and space expand infinitely how do we understand human life and death? Heaven is unproveable – it could exist in other dimension(s) which we haven’t yet worked out how to perceive.  Consider the analogy of infrared and the impact IR and radio astronomy has had on visual observations.  Some existence after death is a widely and fondly held ‘hope’.  The truth is we don’t know.  What seems clear is that it is not physical in the sense we experience life.

6. Chance and uncertainty are integral to quantum theory – how does this play out in human development and in the events of history? One can either ‘surf the wave’ of the surrounding events or take a more deterministic approach.

7. How do you think an understanding of the spiritual dimension of the cosmos developed? An evolving awareness of ourself and our relationships to others, to a hope that the relationship might be renewed after death. The seeming punishments dealt out by nature were determined as vindictive – what have we done to deserve this?

Ian Harris

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