A while back a friend of mine asked me to do a writing assignment. He asked if I would write out my beliefs in three different forms: A short version that covered the basics, a medium one that covered a little more, and a detailed one that describes me: Let me start with the short version:
I am a humanist
Simply put: At the core of my beliefs I am a humanist first and foremost.
Next up is the medium version:
I am a skeptical, free-thinking, autodidactic, agnostic, atheistic, secular humanist.
This gives a more comprehensive understanding of where I stand on many subjects in regard to philosophy, education, morality, and information collection.
Lastly is the full version:
I am a skeptic in that I require validation of factual claims. Furthermore, I reserve the right to revise my stance on any subject in the light of new evidence. I am a free thinker in that I reject authoritarian models of information dissemination. Any source claiming complete knowledge of any subject requires further scrutiny to verify or deny claims made by said source. I am an autodidact in that I prefer to do my own study on a given subject rather than solely rely on experts in any given field have the only say in a subject. This does not mean, however, that I do not value the experience and knowledge of experts, only that I do not blindly accept information given to me by a source. I am an atheist in that I do not believe in the existence of any supernatural creatures no matter the source. I am an agnostic in that while I do not currently believe in the existence of supernatural creatures, I am subject to change my mind based on repeatable, verifiable information that contradicts my current stance on their existence. Lastly but most importantly, I am a humanist. I believe that we are all tied by the shared experience of being human and this is a common bond with which we can unite. Empathy and compassion are the lenses I use to view my fellow human beings.
I found this whole project to be illuminating and a good exercise in reflection. By starting with the shortest version I found that I had to drill down the essence of what I was to just a few short words. I didn’t describe myself as an atheist as many of my fellow atheists do. At my core I am truly a humanist. All the other terms I used to describe myself I found were used to clarify my humanism rather than be independent descriptors of who I am.
If you’re willing to take the time, feel free to repeat the process I did. Come up with the three versions of how you view yourself and write them out. Feel free to post them in the comments either on Facebook or on the blog if you like.
My friend says he reviews this every so often for accuracy and makes changes as he sees that his stances have evolved. I hope that others will find this an interesting project and be willing to repeat it for their own edification.