Let’s not make the concept vacuous
Nigel Warburton talks to Andrew Copson of the British Humanist Association. I particularly liked this bit –
I think it is more coherent to call Christians, for example, ‘Christians’ rather than ‘Christian humanists’ and Humanists ‘Humanists’ rather than ‘secular humanists’. If we try to call any and every philosophy that in some way has something to do with people ‘humanist’ then we make the concept itself vacuous. There is a recent book in the Teach Yourself series by the agnostic Mark Vernon which runs into this sort of difficulty. Thankfully, this is not a very prominent debate within Humanism and I think the common usage of ‘Humanism’ is still that of a non-religious philosophy.
That’s why so much of what Mark Vernon writes seems wrong-headed, at least to me. He’s so intent on, on the one hand, portraying atheists as dogmatic and fanatical and impoverished, and on the other hand, portraying religion as reasonable and rational and humanist. He seems to be on a mission to defend religion and denigrate atheism, despite (he always insists) no longer being religious himself. There’s a whole crowd of atheists and agnostics now making a career of rebuking atheists while flattering theists; Vernon’s one of the standard bearers of that crowd. They’re very tedious (and in Matthew Nisbet’s case, worse than tedious).