War and Peace – my Humanist Perspective

A friend of mine asked me my opinion on world peace – specifically wanting me to address this as a Humanist Here is his question and my answer.


For me World Peace is how to save the World. The battle over what is real and Fake news (information warfare) is old but to me Humanism should not take the side of the establishment, and the War Machine's killing and arms selling to every war in the world with constant intervention and the destabilizing nations with US endless wars of regime change. The answer is here in America where the big changes are now happening. Can you take on this problem as only a Humanist?


I think that Humanists agree on what the world would ideally look like. But we rarely agree on the best way to get there.  Both Hayek and Marx were Humanists for instance and their economic prescriptions couldn’t be more different.

I was at a Humanist conference in DC years ago and a guy from the Tabula Rasa Institute, which no longer exists, did a session on “just war.” We explored whether we as individuals had a secular concept of “just war.” In other words, were there situations where use of force was not only justified but moral.  It’s a seriously difficult question to answer.  We, as a group, agreed on the concept and the requirements of what would constitute a “just war” defense of the defenseless, that sort of thing.  We then were asked to get into groups of 4 and discuss whether particular recent conflicts/wars were just based on our agreed upon criteria.  We couldn’t agree. At. All. On any use of force in any situation and whether it was just or not. It turned out that we all knew different things about the conflicts we were considering AND what we knew to be true was different too. It basically came down to whose side of the story did we believe. It was really eye opening for me. This is why I think discussions over figuring out what is true and what isn’t – is so important. No moral reasoning will be good if what we believe to be true is actually false.

 To me, Humanism provides the moral framework and the methodology to come up with good moral reasoning. What is a good moral course of action in any given situation? That is the question we ask. It’s not a perfect system though and people, who agree on ideals and values, will still disagree on how to act morally based on those values.

What I do know is that when I debate someone who I respect who has a different opinion than me, I learn something about the limitations of my own thinking and reasoning. Every interaction of this nature, helps me improve my moral reasoning. I may still not agree on the best way to create the future I want, but I at least will hopefully make fewer mistakes.

 The distinction between establishment and non-establishment is meaningless to me really. They are all establishment. We are all establishment. I have yet to see a good realistic workable solution to the war machine problem and the underlying greed at the heart of it. Identifying the problem isn’t’ enough for me. I want a solution. Not just someone who says – it’s a problem. Of course it’s a problem, how are we going to realistically solve it? I still don’t know.

Can I take on this problem as only a Humanist?  I am not sure what that question means.  I am not just a Humanist so I suppose not. I also take on problems as a woman and as a mother and as a sister and as a wife and as an intellectual and as a member of generation x.

The real question is what can I, personally, do to stop war and promote peace. What can or should all of us be doing as individuals?

The problem for me is – I have a limited amount of time and resources, and I have to make a living. So I need to spend my energy on things that will have the most impact and are within the scope of what is realistically doable. There are a LOT of inter-related problems to be solved. It isn’t enough for us to say – we won’t get involved in any given war. Other people are still fighting. The causes of war stem from a lot of different areas. I am working on areas I think I can have the most impact in AND I am trusting that my fellow humans are working on the things they think they can have the most impact on.

For instance: I don’t have the ability to go to N. Dakota to support the water protectors. Others do. And they will be more effective than I would. Not everyone has to work on the same problems. What I do well is I help people see past the us. Vs. them mindset that leads to conflict and war.   I am concerned about the economic underpinnings of exploitative economic systems that lead to violent oppression in the service of greed, which leads to war. So I’m part of a movement to teach and normalize humanistic business management – globally.  I participate in round table discussions with academics who aren’t yet understanding what they teaching and what we need to focus on – needs to change because it’s still frigging white western focused.

There is the religious nationalism that is tearing regions apart right now that is leading to war – that seeks and lusts after war and conflict. In fact, it can only exist in a conflict framework and mindset. These ideologies can only be addressed and defeated with Humanism.  The Islamic world is experiencing a reformation right now. Those are bloody. We need to insure that the forces of Humanism win the war of ideas in the same way the Humanists ideas eventually prevailed in the European reformation.  We have to support the voices of humanistic Islam and humanistic Christianity for that to happen. We have to make sure they aren’t killed – which happens with startling frequency. Humanism in it’s pure philosophic form is necessary right now to end war.

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