Stephen Goeman: President of Tufts Militant Inclusionist Society

If this kid is the future of white America, we are in deep doo doo.

Tufts Freethought Society's president Stephen Goeman reflects on how nonreligious individuals respond to terrorism & Islamaphobia. Transcript below.

Stephen Goeman, A Humanist Reflection on 9/11
I'm Stephen Goeman, President of the Tufts Freethought Society, and I am a secular Humanist. The Humanist Manifesto describes Humanism as a lifestance that, without supernaturalism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity. Humanism has no shared text, and few discernable public faces. As such, we are left to find solace and resolution in times of tragedy through introspection. This afternoon, I will reflect on how the nonreligious find inspiration in the religious pluralism which has developed in the wake of the September 11th devastation.

Like most people I know in the class of 2013, I was only 10 when the attacks of September 11th took place. What I remember most is asking my teachers and family members how and why this could happen, and the resulting silence. The authority figures in my life could barely rationalize the loss for themselves, let alone to someone in grade school. My father, now the Commander of the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, was absent for months on end aiding the fight against a vague enemy, the rationale for which I didn't understand. It took years to comprehend the loss and our nation's reaction to it.

At the ten year mark, we seem to have accomplished closure. Osama bin Laden has been brought to justice and America has established itself as a force which liberates countries savaged by dictatorship. There is still much work to be done. There is a disturbing double standard present in American religiosity which reveals a dark side to our coping mechanism. According to a study released last month by Brookings and the Public Religion Research Institute titled "What It Means to Be An American; Attitudes in an increasingly diverse America 10 years after 9/11," 48% of Americans believe that Muslim extremists who commit violent acts represent their religion, while 83% believe that Christian extremists do not exemplify their faith. We are all familiar with the struggles "the ground zero mosque" has faced (despite being neither located at ground zero nor a mosque). Yesterday outside Tisch library, I witnessed one student react in disbelief upon viewing a flyer for the Muslim Students Association's meeting tonight—Is this a joke? She asked, flabbergasted that Muslims would dare commune and exist on this day. The grasp of Islamaphobia is great.

There is hope. Felix Adler, a hero of early Humanism, compelled all individuals to speak out against injustice against groups we ourselves do not belong to. Adler asserted, 'Every outcry against the oppression of some people by other people, or against what is morally hideous is the affirmation of the principle that a human being is not to be violated. A human being is to be respected and revered.' I have observed this to be a principle shared by my friends of faith, and a principle set in action by interfaith coalitions such as the Interfaith Youth Core and the Pluralism Project. Slowly, we are coming together as a nation of diverse religious backgrounds.

We are at war with an exclusionist ideology which seeks to divide our country, and the assaults against liberty aren't always hijacked planes and improvised explosives. Intolerance directed at any group of individuals must be vehemently opposed lest the principles of freedom and tolerance we uphold cease to carry meaning. Victory in the war on bigotry is a long way off, and will require the united spirit of every American. I have hope for the future, and faith in the ability of American citizens to do and be better together. As President Barack Obama put it, "We are the people we've been waiting for."
Meanwhile back on planet Earth, let's take a reality check on contemporary humanism, and Islam ...

Michael Lind, Secular humanists on the real planet of the apes
For all the variations, the common theory of human nature underlying contemporary secular humanism seems to be cosmopolitan utilitarianism, the conviction that human beings, if liberated from superstition by science, would behave less like selfish, scheming social apes and more like self-sacrificing social insects, giving their all for the good of the 7 billion members of the global human hive. "Life’s fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of human ideals…" says Humanist Manifesto III. "Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness."

The secular humanist movement avoids the difficult question of the coexistence of in-group altruism and inter-group rivalries by imagining, with John Lennon, that conflicts would vanish if only people stopped being religious and patriotic...

Unfortunately for Humanist Lennonism, evolutionary biology does not provide much hope for the sort of altruistic personal commitment to planetary solidarity that secular humanists want to encourage. Humanist Manifesto III claims that the joy in Stakhanovite that enlightened human beings liberated from religion are expected to feel -- an "ought" -- can be derived from an "is" -- biological fact. "Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships."

But social animals are not altruists. Nor are they strict individualists. They are nepotists. As a rule social animals, like wolves, deer, humans and chimps, show favoritism to their relatives and friends and allies, with little or no concern for members of their own species with whom they have no close connection. Abrahamic monotheism insists on the brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God. Darwinism insists at best on the distant cousinhood of humanity.

Among humans, nepotistic solidarity can be transferred, with difficulty, to political units larger than the extended family. But national patriotism is much harder to promote than city-state patriotism, and global patriotism may be a bridge too far.

The illogical leap from the acceptance of evolutionary science to the call for world government and world taxation is typical of the intellectual legerdemain practiced by secular humanists. They assert scientific naturalism leads to the currently fashionable attitudes of North Atlantic left-liberals, but they never provide any convincing arguments for the thesis that if you believe in Darwin, you must follow Dewey...
Note, this is only a problem with contemporary left-liberal humanism, a more conservative humanism would avoid these delusions of grandeur.

Sam Harris, The Problem with Islamic Fundamentalism are the Fundamentals of Islam
There is ... a religion of peace in this world, but it's not Islam. To call Islam a religion of peace ... is completely delusional ...

The problem is not religious extremism, because extremism is not a problem if your core beliefs are truly non-violent. The problem isn't fundamentalism ... the only problem with Islamic fundamentalism are the fundamentals of Islam ...

Osama bin Laden ... is ... giving a very plausible version of the faith ...

Osama bin Laden ... is giving a truly straightforward version of Islam, and you really have to be an acrobat to figure out how he is distorting the faith.
Sam Harris, The End of Faith - Chapter 4: The Problem With Islam
While there are undoubtedly some “moderate” Muslims who have decided to overlook the irrescindable militancy of their religion, Islam is undeniably a religion of conquest. The only future devout Muslims can envisage—as Muslims—is one in which all infidels have been converted to Islam, subjugated, or killed.
File under: "And when we are tolerant, we must know whether it is because of convenience or conviction" -- Denmark's Queen Margrethe; and What Stephen Goeman Needs To Know.

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