A Humanist Message for my Father
The week my father died, a family friend came to visit him. Dad was not moving from his hospital bed anymore, but the bed was located in the bedroom of his home, the place where he had lived since 1960 and the only place for him to spend his final days. Dad was sleeping most of the time and our friend spoke to him as he slept, “Dale, you are a good man.” I think he visited just so he could give that message to my dad.
Dad had certainly not gotten that message growing up. His family was of German descent, and in many ways fit the stereotypical German temperament. Certainly his mother came across as distant. As the seventh children of seven, with an alcoholic father, and the gender dynamic of three older brothers, followed by three older sisters, Dad had to be pretty scrappy and resourceful in getting what he needed.
I think my father was an amazing man, who was deeply wounded as a child. This wound made him both a loving and affectionate father, as well as one who possessed a limited ability to deal with conflict in a healthy way. The messages he received and internalized in his fundamentalist church and college instruction impacted him as well.
What is Humanism, Anyway?
Humanism wasn’t something we discussed in my home. It really wasn’t even something that was on our radar as a blip. I believe my first introduction to it would have been as something antithetical to Christian faith, as it focuses on the goodness of humans, which is of course, not the message of Christianity.
I read a quote about humanism this morning on Wikipedia which resonates deeply within me:
“The general love of humanity … a virtue hitherto quite nameless among us, and which we will venture to call ‘humanism,’ for the time has come to create such a word for such a beautiful and necessary thing.”
And that’s why I have come to accept humanism. The general love of humanity for the sake of the love of humanity is what makes the most sense of all to me. It’s what can inform our interactions with each other, our treatment of ourselves, our care for the environment and the earth, our considerations for people who are of different race, creed, culture, sexual orientation, or education than we.
What if Humanism is the Highest Belief System?
Imagine each individual person looking both inward and outward and seeing the goodness that there is. Imagine what would happen if people could get a vision of themselves as being good and worthy and valuable at their core. Imagine the differences in how people take care of themselves, how they take care of others in their lives, and how they regard less powerful beings such as persons with special needs; those who have been abused; defenseless, dependent animals; those in poverty; the marginalized; panhandlers; the homeless.
Seeing myself and others as good is, to quote the words of a former pastor of mine, a goal big enough to demand my best.
I invite you to consider this question:
What is possible if we see the goodness in ourselves and others?