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One river, many wells

Paul Andersen has provided a provocative title in an editorial, “Drop Religion and Embrace Humanism,” which was hard for me to drop and embrace.

Based on my vocation, one might think I would be immediately defensive. I am not. There are even some things I agree with Paul in his editorial. I agree, but would never dare say it quite that way myself, with his apathetic admonition, “If your church rules out contrary beliefs and denigrates others in the name of God, give it up.”

But I must address his basic premise, which is that because there are some problems with religion and religious tolerance we should give it all up and simply, all together, become homogeneous humanists.



Paul may be committing the crime in which he protests. I think he and I would oppose any single religion which imposes its myopic views on just about everybody else everywhere.

But his article states, “Let’s do away with religious language and . embrace the unifying philosophy of humanism.” Is this not proselytizing the same type of conformity with a singular plea for universal humanism?




I also think that any black and white distinction between religion and humanism is simply an oversimplification. It is because we are human, for better or for worse, that there are religions. Religion versus Humanism cannot be cleanly separated. Hopefully, a deep, thoughtful, compassionate belief will also practice humanistic ideals.

I think the need to think of things of the spirit and that which may be greater than the sum of the parts is innate within us as human beings.

There seems to be an eternal desire of humankind to connect with the divinekind. I also think people will keep thinking of and/or forming different religions and philosophies. This is the nature of nature and the humanity of humanity.

Paul wrote that “Tolerance is fine, but it falls short of an enduring solution” and that “Tolerance is like a Band-Aid on an unhealing wound.” Then he immediately pointed toward “religious leaders who cling to sectarian identities and inspire in their followers entrenched ideologies and traditions.”

Again, I agree with the last sentence, but ruling out tolerance as a value and inserting humanism as the only solution is, I believe, well, intolerable.

I would like to think that there is, as Meister Eckhart said, “One river, but many wells.” If all the people of the planet are unable to immediately abandon spirit and faith and embrace a single definition of humanism, I would suggest a greater tolerance in the meantime.

I think progress of spirit and humanity is possible in many different ways. At least, I hope so. There may always be the dogmatic, but I think there can be more and more people who become dogmatically opposed to dogmatism.

Gregg Anderson

Aspen Chapel


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