Soon I’ll be going to the polls again. This time it’s federal. So how’s a secular humanist to vote?
Before I go into Canadian politics, and lining up the parties, let’s see if I can shape a humanistic political view.
The first thing of note is that secular humanism is typically an apolitical philosophy. With secular humanism having no established dogma people are free to completely disagree with everything I’m about to say about secular humanism and politics and still call themselves secular humanists.
So where to begin?
As always it’s best to start with a rough definition or outline. First secular humanism can best be characterized in terms of:
- Need to test beliefs – A conviction that dogmas, ideologies and traditions, whether religious, political or social, must be weighed and tested by each individual and not simply accepted on faith.
- Reason, evidence, scientific method – A commitment to the use of critical reason, factual evidence and scientific methods of inquiry, rather than faith and mysticism, in seeking solutions to human problems and answers to important human questions.
- Fulfillment, growth, creativity – A primary concern with fulfillment, growth and creativity for both the individual and humankind in general.
- Search for truth – A constant search for objective truth, with the understanding that new knowledge and experience constantly alter our imperfect perception of it.
- This life – A concern for this life and a commitment to making it meaningful through better understanding of ourselves, our history, our intellectual and artistic achievements, and the outlooks of those who differ from us.
- Ethics – A search for viable individual, social and political principles of ethical conduct, judging them on their ability to enhance human well-being and individual responsibility.
- Building a better world – A conviction that with reason, an open exchange of ideas, good will, and tolerance, progress can be made in building a better world for ourselves and our children.
So immediately we must require a political ideal of secularism, ethics based on reason, and forward thinking governance with an emphasis on the scientific method.
Next, I have always found humanism promising in its affirmations of the value of human life. This is expressed in the value of our time alive as this is the only time we all have. The ability to pursue greatness in life should not be denied to anyone in a society that wishes to be humanistic.
So what does this idea get us to?
There are many forces that can get in the way of a person achieving their potential with their own life. Many (classical) libertarians would argue that it’s the government that solely gets in the way of an individual’s freedom. In many cases this is true. However, often corporations can also trump individual freedoms.
Consider a multi-national monopoly which has the ability to gouge customers in areas with no competition and undercut the competition where it exists. This company then has the ability to prevent start-ups and entrepreneurs by removing access to resources, and selling products undervalued. This limits the individuals freedom in ways that a government typically wouldn’t. (Note this is one example of a corporation limiting individual liberties among many others that could be conjured up.)
So now we require that a humanistic political party must only pass laws that promote or protect the freedoms of its citizens. This includes watching out for the long-term liberty of the populous, through measures such as environmental controls and resource management.
Personally, I feel the only way we can all be free to achieve our maximum potential is if we are all guaranteed some minimum standard of living. When one is living in poverty there exists many quick and easy escape vices (drugs, alcohol, gambling, and other addictions). By letting people fall into these traps (which are often difficult to escape), a society fails to protect the ability of some citizens to achieve their potential.
So here we arrive at my ideal secular humanistic political philosophy: social democracy.
I believe that only by supporting every individual citizen and the environment, while remaining fiscally responsible (as in the long term this is essential to protecting future members of the society), maintaining a scientific rigour and remaining vigilant about the separation of church and state, a political party can perfectly exemplify the values outlined by secular humanism.
On the road to the election, I will outline the relation between each of the Canadian political parties and this idealized secular humanist party. So stay tuned.
[tags]secular humanism, politics, humanism, socialism, democracy, Canada, atheism[/tags]