The last two values espoused in the Humanist Manifesto III continue the general feeling set by the previous two, which is to say they may tend to inspire a yawn. But again, I will attempt to find something positive about the statement “Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness.” In attempting to do so, I once again consulted the AHA on the subject:
Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness. Progressive cultures have worked to free humanity from the brutalities of mere survival and to reduce suffering, improve society, and develop global community. We seek to minimize the inequities of circumstance and ability, and we support a just distribution of nature’s resources and the fruits of human effort so that as many as possible can enjoy a good life.
I have just read that several times, searching for clear and deeper meaning. Yes, I understand that making society better for people is a positive activity. Perhaps this one is just a little to obvious to include in the list. Regardless, after a number of readings, it seems closer to an exhortation to embrace Socialism than anything else. If the Republicans hear of this, there will be very loud complaints.
This may have been an attempt to sum up the five values that preceded it on the list of six in the Manifesto. If so, it probably failed. It probably also fails as a clear goal. It seems that it could be replaced with “Try to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.” Well, that probably doesn’t fit in well with the rest of the list.
Still, it is the only one of the seven about which I could not find much positive to say. The rest if the values in the list, though not horribly clear, still carry a positive message. Perhaps they required a bit of thinking to flesh out the bones, but I generally consider that to be a positive thing.
The last Humanist Value is short, so let’s conclude our look the values today instead of tomorrow: “Respect for differing yet humane views in an open, secular, democratic, environmentally sustainable society.” That one is pretty clear, though it does sound a bit like it was done in the sixties or seventies by someone who was then considered radical (and perhaps hugged trees), before we discovered what “radical” really meant. Still, the environment is a valid Humanist concern.
The part of this value that really strikes home for me is “respect for differing yet humane views.” Notice that it says “humane” and not “Humanist.” Thus, it appears to me that the committee which framed this bullet point was thinking about the key value of respect for all other viewpoints, at a time when various other groups and individuals were dismissing that concept as, apparently, passé.
Perhaps that was how and when the Unitarian Universalist Association decided that they no longer had to respect the views of unbelievers, and when a group of radical Atheists decided that they no longer needed to respect anyone who believed in a god. These seem very much to me like items at the very end, one or the other, of a Bell curve. It certainly is nowhere near a centrist point of view, which tends to be the view that lends respect and manages consensus.
Could the Manifesto III have been better? Absolutely. And that’s part of what we’ll talk about next time.