Humanism is a philosophy about the future. We are rarely satisfied with the status quo as we are almost always thinking -- what if we can do better. One way we can do better is to end discrimination.
Humanists are motivated by compassion. Unfairly judging a person based on arbitrary accidents of birth is cruel, stupid and harmful to all of society. To a Humanist discriminating against someone because of gender, skin color, sexual preference, national original, language spoken, disability, social status or religion is as stupid as arbitrarily deciding to discriminate against people because of their eye color.
Humanists feel intense empathy for anyone suffering from limitations forced on them due to some arbitrary social judgment. Our emotional response is so strong that, to paraphrase Robert Ingersoll, it makes us want to wield our compassion like a sword.
We are keenly aware of how much society is harmed when any member of our human family is treated as less then equal. Humans are social animals by nature. We require the support of our community in order to live and to thrive. If we don’t allow everyone to contribute fully to society because of something as stupid as skin color or gender, we are not only harming the people we exclude, we are harming ourselves. And that sort of stupidity makes us angry. We can and must do better.
This isn’t to say that we don’t make value judgments, because we do. It is just that Humanists feel it is much better to judge people based on their individual merits and actual behavior then to decide upfront that someone is unworthy based on irrelevant and arbitrary concerns. Humanists as far back as Confucius, Buddha and Socrates argued for this simple change in the way we humans judge one another. Changing the way we think about our fellow humans is the single easiest thing we can do to improve the society in which we live.
When we think of each other as humans first we erase the arbitrary barriers that divide us. We can finally see each other for who we really are as individuals and not just as generalizations.
This view of humanity is simple but powerful. The idea that we can and should be treated as individuals worthy of basic respect and dignity regardless of our social status has been at the root of every major advance in human and civil rights throughout history.
Ours is not an impossible dream. If we can choose to see our fellow humans as individuals regardless of social status, skin color, gender or eye color then perhaps everyone can. And the world will be a better place when we do.
Jennifer Hancock, is a writer, speaker, and Humanist. For more information, visit http://www.jen-hancock.com.