Salvation has a religious connotation, but I choose that word deliberately and with irony to describe what secular humanism has the capacity to do. Secular humanism has the capacity to not only “save” us individually but also to “save” the human race and allow for an unprecedented quality of existence.
I grew up in a typical loosely Christian home in America. I don’t really think I ever really believed in the claims religion made, and I doubt that my parents did either. We seldom participated in religious ceremonies, and when we did it was mostly because we knew someone would be watching us. Looking back on this experience, I can see we were simply trying to adhere to social constructs that in retrospect seem absurd and primitive. But though I didn’t really believe in the Bible’s claims, I still had the ability to participate in the tribalism that religion encouraged. I could easily have claimed homosexuals were immoral people because the Bible said so or protested the use of contraceptives in Africa to combat overpopulation. If I were less moral, I might very well have done so out of adherence to my chosen social constructs, but I didn’t. And now I never will. Once I recognized myself as a secular humanist, I was, ironically enough, “saved” from these manufactured religious dogmas. I am certain that many individuals face the same quandary with religion that I did and could be “saved” by rejecting it. By doing so, we’d march ever closer to realizing the human race’s full potential by “saving” it with humanist principles.
On the individual level, by adopting humanist principles instead of theistic/religious ones, we can truly be dignified and moral. If you believe in religion and laud its effects on humanity, you must believe in the sadistic view that we have no morals, that we are born in sin or filth, and that our only chance at redemption from a downfall that tainted us before we were born is to spend a lifetime groveling before a deity. Secular humanism reverses this dogma, effectively allowing us to be “saved” from being the abject and servile individuals religion is so intent on making us. We can nearly be redeemed for our barbaric past by conceding that the heavens are empty and that we are all alone on this planet, refusing to defer our problems and triumphs to the numinous and contending with them ourselves. When we accept the personal accountability that secular humanism demands, we can finally take responsibility for our immoral actions. We can be judged by our fellow primates as to whether we are living a proper moral life. Viewed through the lens of humanist values, no one can claim to be superior to all others and above all laws.
On a larger scale, if we view the entire human race from a secular humanist perspective, humanity can realize the entirety of its potential for the first time in history. Getting rid of religious labels (at least the public ones) will finally end the tribalism that arises when we identify ourselves crudely as Christians or Muslims. Instead we can identify ourselves as human beings. If we view our global society through the lens of secular humanism, superficial conflicts between faith groups are meaningless. In the modern world, these artificially created grudges cause more fearful strife than they did in the past and have the potential to threaten the entire human race.
Previously, conflicts among religions were localized, but that time has ended now that nuclear weapons have become increasingly ubiquitous. This is further complicated by the eschatological aspect of the two most worrisome religions today: Christianity and Islam. Both carry scriptural predispositions to end the world, literally, to speed the fulfillment of prophecy. More than a thousand years ago, when these myths were penned, no such consequence was imaginable. But how long now before some religious group attempts to act on this “annihilation aspiration” with nuclear weapons? It’s not a question of if, it’s a matter of when.
This is why secular humanism is so necessary. We don’t need to ban all religion, but we need to view our global community from a secular humanist point of view. There is no “god” whose intervention we can hope for. We must grapple with our own problems and combat religious immoralism with the only concrete viewpoint we can legitimately use against it: objective humanist morality. These morals are the only way we can save our species from annihilation. It will be no easy fight-but the best shot we have at saving our species lies within secular humanism. Secular humanism is salvation.