Sunday, January 7, 2007

Mr. Enlightenment meet Meom Loez

I was walking around the gallery in downtown Columbus last night when I got handed a pamphlet titled: "What is Secular Humanism?" written by Paul Kurtz. These secular humanists have to be careful; someone might confuse them with the Jesus freaks handing out pamphlets. According to the pamphlet "secular humanism rejects supernatural accounts of reality; but it seeks to optimize the fullness of human life in a naturalistic universe." (pg. 9) To be a secular humanist you cannot resort to anything beyond material nature in order to explain the nature of reality so anyone who talks about gods or metaphysics should not count as a secular humanist.
The pamphlet gives a history of secular humanism. Its heritage goes all the way back to Confucian China. From China we move to the Carvaka materialist movement in ancient India and finally to ancient Greece, which produced such great secular humanists as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. The glorious tradition of secular humanism now moves to the Romans who in addition to Lucretius produced the stoic philosophers Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. Then came those Dark Ages “during which faith dominated Western culture and humans looked vainly outside of themselves to a deity for salvation.” (pg. 11) Things turned around though once we got into the Renaissance and people started to turn away from the bible. The great scholars of the humanist movement were Marsilio Ficino, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola and Erasmus.
I do not know much about Confucian philosophy, but last I checked it involved metaphysics, various sorts of gods, ancestor worship and the belief that the emperor was the Son of Heaven. One wonders if Kurtz has ever bothered to actually read Greek philosophy particularly things like the Platonic dialogue, Timaeus. If Timaeus is secular humanism then so is the book of Genesis. The Epicureans may have been legitimate materialists, but the stoics were not. As for the Renaissance, one of the main things it was a renaissance of was biblical scholarship. How much did Erasmus need to write about the bible in order for him not to count as not being interested in it? Obviously a lot. I wonder do Martin Luther or John Calvin count as being interested in the bible? As for Ficino and Pico della Mirandola being secular humanists, I never knew that spreading Kabbalistic teachings was a hallmark of a secular humanistic mind-frame.
According to the commentary Meom Loez, Aristotle, right before he died, wrote a letter to Alexander the Great in which he expressed his regret for his “erroneous” teaching and that he wished that he could suppress and destroy his own books. For you see Aristotle had recognized that the God of Israel was the true God and Judaism the true religion.
We need to make a rule that if you wish to distort the views of past thinkers you should have to at least make up a decent deathbed conversion story. You should not be able to just have them believe the exact opposite of what they actually wrote.

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