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Understanding World Religions

Religion is the driving force behind much of what happens in the world today -- particularly when it comes to the "big three" religions -- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Religious differences have and continue to spark wars, create nations, and spawn ongoing conflict down through the centuries. No matter what religion you adhere to (or even if you claim that you don't adhere to any religion at all), you need to have a basic understanding of the world's religions in order to understand what is happening in the world today so that you can be better informed and a more useful citizen of your nation and of the world. Without some knowledge of religion, you will not understand the underpinnings of what is happening in an increasingly global society.
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Nov 26, 2015

Our quote for today is from Simone Weil. He said, "Humanism was not wrong in thinking that truth, beauty, liberty, and equality are of infinite value, but in thinking that man can get them for himself without grace."

In this podcast, we are making our way through Garry R. Morgan's book, "Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day."

Our Understanding World Religions topic for today is, "Secular Humanism"

Secular Humanism is not merely nontheistic. It is zealously antitheistic. Secular Humanists hold that belief in God is the greatest danger humanity faces, and human "salvation" requires total elimination of belief in the supernatural.

So why include it in a book on world religions? Secular Humanism fits our working definition of religion as an organized system of beliefs that answers ultimate questions about life. It has councils and associations, conferences and workshops, and a statement of beliefs. As we've seen, many belief systems are not based on belief in or reliance on the supernatural. Theravada Buddhism, Jainism, and Confucianism, for instance, believe the answers come from within, not from any source beyond humanity. The inclusion of Secular Humanism is consistent, and besides, it would be strange to ignore a belief system that has the stated goal of eradicating the beliefs and practices described in every other chapter of this book.

Secular Humanism's foundation is built on the philosophy of naturalism, or materialism: that the material universe (the natural world) is all that exists. This it shares with atheism, the belief that there is sufficient evidence to deny the existence of God and the supernatural. Agnostics, those who say there is insufficient evidence to know whether God (or the supernatural) exists, may also embrace Secular Humanism. But for Secular Humanists, atheism is just a beginning point. They have developed a complete worldview and value system built on naturalistic presuppositions.

As an organized system it differs from secularism, a much broader term referring to the worldview of those who live as if God does not exist. This includes all the nonreligious, estimated by researcher David Barrett to exceed 20 percent of earth's population. Certainly, Secular Humanism influences secular beliefs, but it goes beyond passively ignoring God to actively building a lifestyle and worldview based on opposition to belief in God.

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