What words do I avoid in my teaching when I talk about Humanism?

A couple of weeks ago, I gave the Sunday "sermon" for the Humanists of the Treasure Coast. My talk was on the True Holy Trinity for Humanists.

In the Q&A afterwards, the topic came to how to best market humanism and specifically to language we use to do our marketing. 

The problem with Secularism:

A big part of the problem movement Humanists have is we focus so much on secularism that we forget to promote the other aspects of the philosophy. 

Secularism is important to Humanists, but our secularism is in service to our morality and ethics. The ethics come first and should be central to our outreach.

There are several reasons for this. One is that while secular is a great word, it's not well understood.  When I was the executive director for the Humanists of Florida Association, I did some market testing on promotional materials. What we found about the word secular made me shy away from it as a marketing term. 

Here is the problem in a nutshell. Most people don't know what it means, so they guess. They pull apart the word and end up with secular - must have something to do with sect. Our audience doesn't want to have anything to do with a sect, so they immediately lose interest. The very people who would normally be drawn to Humanism, are repulsed by the word secular, even though they are technically secular. They just don't know it. In marketing, it's best to meet people where they are at their level of knowledge and introduce them to something and make a good impression. The word secular creates a bad impression. It's best to avoid it.

This led to another question: what other words do I avoid.

I don’t avoid words as much as I choose to use the language of my listener or audience. How do they talk about morality?  That is the language I use.

There are no concepts I avoid. Rather – I attempt to speak the language of my audience so they can understand the concepts fully – in a way that makes sense to them. 

This applies to all my work everywhere.  If someone asks me about a concept they hold dear, I talk to them about how that concept is important, even if I didn't highlight it in my talk.

Everyone you meet is an individual

Part of my practice as a Humanist and as a Humanist educator is to recognize that all individuals I meet are individuals, with dignity and worth.  My job is not to teach people, but to empower them to be the best most ethical people they can be.  

I don't need people to be like me. I want them to be themselves in all their glory. If I can do that by helping them find their moral voices, then I count that as win. What language we use is irrelevant to me. Humans share a basic ethical vocabular in terms of what we value. How we describe and talk about those common values may differ, but I don't like to get hung up on that. What language do they use to describe the love of their fellow humans? What motivates them to act ethically? That is what matters.

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