Issue 122

Rosslyn Ives, editor of Australian Humanist, discusses the history of freethought, secularism, rationalism and Humanism in Australia; Its influences and key movers and shakers. It is an expanded version of a contribution she gave at the 'Secularism in the Modern World' conference held in Melbourne on 31 October, 2015

A series of before-and-after pictures shows the cost to a city that is bombed. A recent example is the UNESCO-listed sites in the Syrian city of Aleppo – one example is given above. After bombing these sites were all rubble.

The death penalty for homosexual acts between men was imposed in ancient Jewish sex codes. The rationale for these biblical injunctions was to prohibit sexual acts that did not produce offspring. In ancient tribal groups survival depended on population supply and growth.

The Christian church subsequently adopted these into their Ecclesiastical Law which later formed the basis of the British Common Law and subsequently Australian laws. The often quoted Leviticus 20:13 declares that homosexuals ‘commit an abomination: they should be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.’

Humanism is often presented as a reaction against religion. But it is best understood as an answer to a question, the question being: what is the meaning of life?

I have recently had some experiences facilitating humanist-oriented discussion groups. One issue that has often come up is the difficulty of producing a short explanation of Humanism that highlights it as a coherent and systematic viewpoint from which to approach issues, rather than an ad hoc set of policy positions.

As humanists, we seek to understand our world, without a need to seek guidance from culture. When we humans first began to speak, we quickly discovered the need for questions if we were to understand each other. Then came other questions, thousands of them. There were storms and hail, drought and gales, beloved dead parents came to one’s dreams, from where? Always some-one asked ‘Why? Did those parents still exist somewhere? Answers were found by our ancestors.

When I see a colourful sunset, my mind goes to a spectacular purple sunset I saw near the Mexican border many years ago. That memory stops me from being fully aware of the scene in front of me. No two sunsets are the same and my memory is stopping me from fully appreciating the spectacle before my eyes.

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