For Secular Humanists: A Guide to the Blessed Path

Andrii Zvorygin yN-PH2196 mtH2a1 & GPT4
attender of Glad Tidings Fellowship, Tara, ON


1 Disclaimer:

This guide on the ”Blessed Path” is designed to help individuals align with the universal principles found across various religions, moral, and ethical frameworks. As Immanuel Kant wisely said, ”All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason.”1 . We encourage readers to approach these teachings with an open mind, critically evaluate the content, and adopt what resonates with their personal beliefs and understanding.

2 Introduction:

Historical figures have often emphasized the importance of transformation and growth. For instance, the philosopher Bertrand Russell once said, ”The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge.”2 This isn’t just a fleeting sentiment but a call for a deep-rooted commitment to these principles. In such teachings, we find the essence of genuine love, empathy, and altruism. Drawing from another reflection, Carl Sagan beautifully expressed, ”For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.”3 This presents a vision of a philosophy that is inclusive and unifying. It’s crucial that our beliefs and values be evident in our actions and compassion for others. As the humanist Protagoras said, ”Man is the measure of all things,”4 emphasizing our responsibility to shape the world through our actions.

3 Taking Responsibility and Active Participation:

Observations from nature and life often serve as reminders of our potential and responsibilities. Philosopher and biologist Julian Huxley once said, ”Operationally, God is beginning to resemble not a ruler but the last fading smile of a cosmic Cheshire cat.”5 This suggests that humans have the agency and capability to shape their destiny and surroundings. It’s not about passive existence but active engagement with the world, driven by purpose and ethical considerations. Just as nature operates in a balanced and purposeful manner, humans are encouraged to actively learn, integrate, and promote positive values. Albert Einstein’s reflection serves as guidance: ”Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”6

4 Recognizing the Shared Humanity and Potential Within Us:

The interconnectedness of life and shared humanity is a cornerstone of secular humanism. Carl Sagan beautifully captured this sentiment, saying, ”We are all made of star stuff.”7 This cosmic perspective reminds us of our shared origin, as the atoms in our bodies were once part of ancient stars. Delving deeper into the mysteries of the universe, quantum physics has illuminated the idea that at a fundamental level, everything is connected. The phenomenon of quantum entanglement, where particles become interconnected and the state of one instantly affects the state of the other, regardless of the distance separating them, serves as a profound metaphor for our shared existence.8

Advancements in string theory have evolved into M-theory or membrane theory, which suggests that our universe is just one of many, all existing as membranes oscillating in higher-dimensional space.9 This theory highlights an even deeper unity and interconnectedness of all existence, suggesting that we are all part of a singular, vibrating membrane moving through multiple dimensions.

Margaret Sanger’s words, ”No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother,” echo the shared human spirit and the importance of individual choice.10 Every individual’s choices, emotions, and experiences contribute to the collective human narrative. Embracing this interconnectedness means recognizing the potential within every individual. As philosopher Erich Fromm noted, ”Man’s main task in life is to give birth to himself.”11 Our journey through life is about understanding ourselves, connecting with others, and striving for a collective good. Recognizing the shared humanity in everyone allows us to serve as conduits of compassion, understanding, and positive change.

5 Service, Respect, and Love: The Secular Humanist Perspective

At the heart of human rights is the acknowledgment of the inherent dignity and worth of every individual. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, ”All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”12 This underscores the importance of treating others with fairness, equity, and respect, much like the golden rule of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Marriage, in many cultures and societies, represents a bond of mutual commitment and partnership. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights recognizes the right of men and women of marriageable age to marry and found a family, emphasizing mutual consent.13 This emphasizes the deep connection and unity that partners share.

Family is a cornerstone of human societies, and its importance is reflected across cultures. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights acknowledges the family as the natural and fundamental group unit of society.14 Beyond familial ties, humanism encourages a broader sense of kinship with all of humanity.

Extending compassion and understanding even to strangers and adversaries is a tenet of many philosophical traditions. The humanist Paul Kurtz posited, ”We are citizens of the universe and are excited by discoveries still to be made in the cosmos.”15 This spirit of exploration and understanding extends to our relationships with others.

Finally, our compassion is not limited to humans alone. Recognizing the interconnectedness of all life forms, the Earth Charter calls for a respectful relationship with the Earth and its inhabitants, emphasizing shared responsibility.16 By cherishing and stewarding the environment and all its beings, we affirm our commitment to the betterment of our shared planet.

6 Embracing Forgiveness, Love, and Acceptance: Psychological Perspectives on Human Connections

The Nature of Profound Love: Psychological studies often categorize love into different types, one of which is ’agape’ — a selfless, unconditional love. This love is not just an emotion; it’s an act of the will, similar to what many spiritual traditions describe. It involves choosing to love even in challenging circumstances, prioritizing others’ needs, and loving without expecting reciprocation. Research suggests that such love is foundational for deep and lasting relationships17 .

The Power of Forgiveness: From a psychological perspective, forgiveness is a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment towards someone who has harmed you. Studies have shown that practicing forgiveness can lead to better mental, emotional, and physical health, as well as improved relationships18 .

Duty of Kindness: Acts of kindness not only benefit recipients but also those who give. Psychologists have found that kindness can lead to increased feelings of happiness, well-being, and even longevity19 .

Love as a Fundamental Human Need: At the core of human psychology is the need to love and be loved. Maslow’s hierarchy places love as a fundamental human need, vital for our psychological well-being20 . Our interactions and relationships thrive when grounded in love and mutual respect.

The Call to Forgive: Embracing forgiveness is not only a moral act but also a therapeutic one. Holding onto grudges can lead to increased stress, whereas forgiveness can pave the way for healing and emotional freedom21 .

Our journey through life often involves navigating relationships, understanding others, and striving for mutual understanding and respect. Modern psychology emphasizes the importance of empathy, understanding, and positive human connections in fostering individual and collective well-being. By embracing love, acceptance, and forgiveness in our interactions, we promote a more inclusive, understanding, and compassionate society.

7 Navigating Through Human Empathy and Understanding

The Importance of Evidence: Empirical evidence stands paramount in our understanding of the world. As Carl Sagan once said, ”Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”22 All beliefs and assertions should be in harmony with evidence and reason.

Continuous Search for Knowledge: Emphasizing the importance of personal connection with empirical data, it’s essential to remember, ”The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”23 Every individual is encouraged to continuously immerse themselves in the pursuit of knowledge.

Education and Outreach: Empowerment Through Knowledge

Sharing knowledge, as Isaac Newton reflected, allows us to see further by ”standing on the shoulders of Giants.”24 However, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reminds us of the importance of freedom of thought and conscience.25 As Eleanor Roosevelt emphasized, education should cultivate individual abilities while valuing collective wisdom, ensuring a balance between shared knowledge and personal freedom.26

Avoid Blind Allegiance: It’s crucial to prioritize evidence and reason over mere rituals or traditions. As Bertrand Russell stated, ”The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”27 Genuine understanding goes beyond mere words; it involves critical thinking and evidence-based reasoning.

Critical Evaluation: Ethical Dissemination and Moral Responsibility

In today’s information-saturated age, discerning truth from falsehood is vital. As Richard Feynman highlighted, ”The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”28 Martin Luther King Jr. further emphasized the value of education that nurtures both intelligence and character.29 Upholding this principle means ensuring our teachings resonate with ethical guidelines like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which advocates for respect and brotherhood among all individuals.30 Through such commitment, we can foster understanding and unity in society.

Role of Thought Leaders: Upholding Ethical Standards and Avoiding Harmful Narratives

Thought leaders, characterized by their profound influence on societal norms and perceptions, bear a significant responsibility to guide with integrity and caution. As they navigate complex discussions, it’s crucial to sidestep both pride and dehumanizing rhetoric, which can not only distort the truth but also sow discord. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) succinctly captures this sentiment, stating, “Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.”31 Emulating humility and ensuring that messages promote unity and respect is essential for fostering a harmonious and informed society.

Unity in Humanity: Unity and collaboration are essential for societal progress. As Charles Darwin noted, ”In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”32 Despite varied interpretations across fields, the pursuit of truth and knowledge is a uniting force for all individuals.

In conclusion, evidence-based reasoning, abundant in human empathy and understanding, guides individuals on a path illuminated by knowledge and reason. Grounding oneself in empirical data and always seeking to align with evidence allows individuals to fully embrace the essence of humanist values.

8 Conclusion: Cultivating Unconditional Love and Kindness in Anticipation of Life’s Endings

Awareness of Mortality: Existential philosophers often emphasize the fleeting nature of our earthly existence. As the existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre once remarked, ”Life has no meaning the moment you lose the illusion of being eternal.”33 Every day that passes is a reminder that our time is limited, and it behooves us to make the most of our journey, seeking fulfillment and purpose.

Continuous Preparation: True wisdom lies in those who embrace the present moment and live according to their core values daily. As the renowned psychologist Carl Rogers emphasized, ”The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.”34 This underscores the importance of inner growth and genuine connection to our authentic selves. It’s not just about the actions we take, but the state of our inner self — a heart filled with kindness, love, and empathy, continuously nurtured until our last moment.

Facing Our Personal Day of Reckoning: Drawing from the second law of thermodynamics35 , it’s understood that the information and experiences accumulated throughout one’s life aren’t destroyed but rather dispersed into the universe. When we die, all the information and emotional state stored within us radiates outward, impacting the world around us. This underscores our responsibility not just to live authentically, but to ensure that our legacy—our emotional and informational imprint—is a blessing to the world. Philosophers and psychologists have long emphasized the significance of self-awareness and living with purpose36 , urging us to align with our true selves and spread love and contentment.