Featured Faith

While Humanism doesn’t technically qualify as a faith (i.e. a belief based on no evidence or in spite of the evidence), the BC Humanist Association was featured in yesterday’s edition of The Province on their Sunday Faith feature.

The full article is available on The Province’s website and is copied below.


B.C. Humanists

By Kent Spencer, The Province, July 6, 2012

B.C. Humanists don’t believe in religion, faith or God.

They believe science provides explanations and humans are capable of understanding the answers without the aid of higher beings.

“We believe in the ability of ourselves to live moral, self-fulfilling lives,” says Ian Bushfield, youthful executive director of the B.C. Humanists.

“There’s just no evidence of God,” he says.

Bushfield, 26, who is the non-profit society’s first employee, is tasked with building a program.

B.C. Humanists are a relatively small “community” who have been around since the 1980s.

They don’t believe in magic, miracles or walking on water.

“We’re a very skeptical bunch. We want to see proofs and arguments,” says Bushfield, 26, a physicist who once founded an atheists club at the University of Alberta.

“For instance, people should be able to get help with drug addictions without having to submit to a higher power, like you do in some self-help programs,” he says.

He believes the Bible has “cultural, literary and historical value,” but calls it a work of fiction.

“There are no revelations in humanism. We won’t write a book because someone heard a voice,” he says.

On the surface, humanism looks pretty similar to established religious organizations.

There are regular meetings and they are held on Sundays. Donations are accepted and newcomers are always welcome.

On the moral side, the emphasis is on reducing harm, like other religions, but directives include ones for human rights, freedom of speech and peaceful relations.

The biggest departure from traditional religion comes when answers are sought to the profound questions concerning mankind’s existence.

Humanists believe the universe was created by something called the Big Bang, where everything came together in an instant 13.7 billion years ago. [The theory doesn’t seem to address what came before the Big Bang.]

On the big questions, Bushfield has this to say:

“We are here because of random processes and luck.

“The purpose of life is so we can create for ourselves.

“Humanists believe in the power of people to be good,” he says.

If the responses seem hollow or lacking, Bushfield says the sense of wonder is to be found in things like space-based telescopes which glimpse fantastic sights.

Bushfield believes the scientific story is way more fascinating than the creation story.

“The religious story only takes a few pages in the Bible. It isn’t enough,” he says.

“We’re trying to find a niche for a community which doesn’t involve a church. It can be a place for people in Vancouver who want to make friends. We’re good, moral, ethical people.”

Religion: Secular Humanism (not considered by all to be a religion)

Message in a tweet (140 characters): A progressive world view informed by science, inspired by art and motivated by compassion.

How many people attend services? 30-50

What is traditional about your congregation? While we are a very non-traditional group, we still believe in building positive and supportive communities.

What is modern? The fastest-growing religious identification in Canada is the non-religious. Our world view is constantly re-evaluated in light of the latest discoveries.

What might people be surprised to know about? Both Dr. Henry Morgentaler and Pierre Elliot Trudeau belonged to the Humanist Fellowship of Montreal.

What is the most beautiful thing about your church/temple/place of worship? I’ll offer a beautiful rephrasing of Darwin: “Humanists see beauty in the simple laws of the world that give rise to such stunning magnificence.”

Overall I think it was a fairly positive piece that reflects well on what our group and humanism is all about… except that little bit about “something called the Big Bang.” Dane Praed submitted a nice rebuttal to the journalist that I’ll include here:

Kent, you write that as though you consider it to be a fringe theory held by a few odd individuals. Please choose your words more carefully.  I’m hoping that was just a little tongue-in-cheek. In the extremely unlikely event that it wasn’t though, please read the following from Wiki. And as for the verging-on-snide comment in parenthesis about what happened “before” the event, obviously there was no “before” as time and space both began with the Big Bang. Granted it’s an extremely difficult concept for us to get our minds around but there’s an explanation for that too.  😉

Comments on: "Featured Faith" (3)

  1. “What came before the big bang?
    Where did god come from?

    Those of faith believe and answer “He always was”

    Doesn’t make any sense….it is all belief without substance or even any semblance of proof.

    The ultimate truth is that no one really knows where it “all” came from….makes as much sense to say we came from stardust as to say god created us.

  2. I prefer to think that the big bang was a change, not a beginning of all beginnings. We can’t view the entire universe, only the part that is “near” to us, even with our best technology. So it makes little sense to claim that the big bang was the beginning of everything including all that we can’t detect. This may be a common view, but it is similar to claiming everything is the same as what we can see with our eyes.

    I more often talk about nature than the universe, and define nature as encompassing all that exists and occurs naturally. Theists have a tendency to put limits on nature in order to make room for a creator God. Nature produces and reproduces itself in every detail and at every moment, without the need for a god. I have no problem seeing humanity and the other animals, plants, water, stars, planets, black holes, wind, precipitation, big bangs, etc. as part of nature. I would even go so far as to say that because we are part of nature and human imagining, inventiveness and engineering are part of human nature, then everything we produce, even though it doesn’t otherwise exist in nature, can also be considered part of nature..

  3. Dr. Marty Shoemaker said:

    Nice crisp summary Ian. Sometimes it is hard to admit that most of what you believed as a younger person needs to be amended and step out for Humanism as a point of view of what is true. I have started to let my humanistic and god free philosophy be more public. I guess I have been so used to being in the “in” group that it is hard to feel the dissapproval one can receive by saying you are an “atheist”. I prefer to say what we do believe, which you have stated well, Ian, and not what we don’t.

    I like what Bob has to say about nature and what we can see is limited. I think the Bible as well as a few other revelatory documents are correct when they say “we see through a glass darkly”. This is mystery even when one releases theism. but we do understand and see a little bit more every century.

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