What are the shortcomings of Humanism?

There are 2 things about the philosophy people have difficulty with. And these are things most Humanists consider essential.

The first is that it is a secular philosophy. The second is that ours is a situational ethic.

Lots of people believe in supernatural things. Humanists, reject supernaturalism as an ineffective unproven field of inquiry. If something happens, you can prove it happens. There is no need to appeal to supernaturalism. People who like thinking in supernatural terms, don’t like this aspect of the philosophy.

But for Humanists, the rejection of supernaturalism and our focus on all things secular, is critical to the practice of our philosophy. We are mostly concerned with solving our real problems here and now. Appeals to supernaturalism don’t help us with that. In fact, in many cases, they make solving the problem impossible. Our focus on secular matters and rejection of supernatural - is pragmatic.

The other area people have problems with is that we approach ethics situational-ly. Our value system is based on compassion. Our goal is to do the most good and the least harm - in any given situation. There are no hard and fast rules. Our ethics requires active thinking, critical thinking and a willingness to make difficult decisions.

There are many people who prefer absolute ethics - where you have a rule that is always applied, but we humanists view that as an unrealistic ideal. In the real world, our values compete with each other. For instance, it’s not ok to kill someone. But what if killing that person would save thousands of lives? There is a great quote in the Hindi movie Faana. I’m going to paraphrase. Morality isn’t about choosing between good or evil. It’s about choosing between the greater of two goods or the lesser of two evils. Every situation is different and we are called on to make difficult decisions where the “right” solution that will do the most good and least harm - isn’t clear. Humanists view situation ethics as essential precisely because we understand we live in the real world - where what is “good” isn’t always clear and because - we are willing to do the hard work of thinking through those problems to come to a “good” solution and because we accept the responsibility to do this - is ours.

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