On July 14, 2020, the Psychology Today website featured an article by Michael Friedman, Ph.D. announcing a new podcast entitled Hardcore Humanism. Friedman states in the announcement: Each week, we will be celebrating, talking with, and learning from an outside-the-box thinker—musicians, artists, writers, activists, and entrepreneurs who challenged conventional norms, discovered their life’s purpose and dared to put that purpose into action.
As an interview-based podcast, it appears to support a particular variety of humanistic psychology as conceived by Dr. Friedman. At humanistfreedoms.com we are interested to explore forms of applied humanism – the ways that people use humanism as a starting point for engaging with life and all of its challenges and joys.The Hardcore Humanism Podcast is an example that we’ll be checking-in on from time to time.
You can find the Hardcore Humanism podcast/website at: https://www.hardcorehumanism.com/. According to the site, hardcore humanism is a life philosophy, therapeutic modality and life coaching program that brings together the compassionate holistic approach of humanistic psychology with the scientific rigor of behavioral therapy. Humanistic psychology promotes unconditional positive regard – a basic belief that all people are good and have value – as they strive to achieve their life’s purpose and best self.
With Hardcore Humanism, the Humanistic approach is optimized to include the hardcore work ethic and science-based approach of behavioral therapy. In other words, Hardcore Humanism means not only understanding and accepting yourself but also working in a methodical way to achieve your purpose and find fulfillment.
Hardcore Humanism was developed in part from Humanistic approaches to psychology and psychotherapy. While Hardcore Humanism overlaps with other forms of Humanism, e.g. Ethical Humanism, in our belief in the fundamental value and goodness of human beings and their ability to shape their own lives, Hardcore Humanism does not take a stance on the role of religion or spirituality in one’s life.
The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.
When I was a schoolboy in British Columbia we began our day by reciting the Lord’s Prayer. I accepted this small duty as a normal ritual of the classroom. Then, two things happened. First, I asked one of my classmates to give me some evidence for the truth of stories in the Bible. He insisted they were true, but could offer no support for their veracity. Second, two members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses sect arrived at my home one Friday after school. I was home alone. These emissaries had a powerful story and I was willing to hear it.
Over the weekend, I plunged into the literature they had given me. I was caught up in the exhilarating evangelism that Jesus Christ supposedly taught and that his apostles practiced. On Monday, I returned home from school anxious to resume my religious reading. Perhaps five or six hours of secular boyhood, or an instinctive scepticism about most of what my elders told me, brought everything into focus. I came to the jolting decision that all I’d been told or read over the weekend was not believable.
Later, as I examined more closely religious practices around the world I also learned about Secularism, a practical system that fulfills the idea of separation of church and state by removing religious control of public institutions – the schools, courts, government, and all public endeavours.
While growing numbers in Western countries are content to live outside the church, most people of faith also support Secularism for its contribution to social order and its hands off attitude toward religion. But Secularism’s future, like the struggle to achieve it, is subject to the dynamics of public opinion and the pressures of social change. The most relentless opposition to Secularism stems from the polar opposites of Christian evangelism and Islamic extremism, one seeking to restore religious values to the public realm, the other engaged in terrorism to advance its interests. Mix these conflicting ingredients and the result is a contest of which no one can predict the outcome.
George Jacob Holyoake, a radical English social reformer and atheist, invented the word Secularism in 1851, propagandized its message, and struggled to raise the moral standards and material conditions of his countrymen. Yet for some unknowable reason, Holyoake has virtually vanished from history, unheard of by the public. There is no mention of his name in one of the most eminent of books on Secularism, Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age.
In order to bring Holyoake the recognition he deserves, I have written his first modern biography: A RADICAL LIFE: George Jacob Holyoake, the Invention of Secularism, and the Making of the Modern World. It will be published in Spring 2021 by McFarland & Co., USA.
George Jacob Holyoake was born in Birmingham, England in 1817 and died in Brighton, England in 1906. Notwithstanding his origins in the nineteenth century, Holyoake was a man for the modern age. His vision encompassed ideals of social justice that would become universally accepted nearly two hundred years after he first expressed them. Through a long, controversial, and conflict-filled life, marked by as many mistakes as triumphs, he was in the vanguard of almost every struggle to improve the lives of ordinary people – public education, the co-operative movement, freedom of the press, trade unions, women’s rights, and universal suffrage. He was hailed after his death as “one of the men who fought for and won for Englishmen that freedom of speech which we take as a matter of course today.” For a man largely neglected in popular history, he played a transformative role in the evolution of modern life and the rise of democratic rule in Britain and the West.
Holyoake came to the idea of Secularism after enduring hardship, persecution, and imprisonment as a social missionary for capitalist turned reformer Robert Owen and his Socialist utopian movement, the Society of Rational Religionists. After a Christian upbringing, George Holyoake fell into atheism with the imprisonment of a friend for blasphemy and his own arrest for a speech in which he declared he no longer believed in such a thing as a God. Convicted of blasphemy, Holyoake reflected on the conditions of English life during his six months in the Gloucester County Gaol. He came out convinced of the need for a new social order that would release the individual from the grasp of enforced religious doctrine.
Upwards of one hundred countries now affirm support for Secularism. The United States has functioned as a largely secular state despite a continuing presence of religiosity in its public life; the United Kingdom, secular in many respects, retains an established church with appointed bishops in its House of Lords, religious schools, and a monarch who is head of both the church and the state.
Canada, nominally secular, recognizes “the supremacy of God” in its constitution and provides public funding for Roman Catholic schools. Quebec’s bans on the wearing of hijabs by public sector workers in positions of authority may go too far, in the opinion of many. British-controlled India adopted Secularism for its promise of harmony between Hindus and Muslims, a hope that has receded under the long-reigning Modi government.
Religious belief is in free fall everywhere in the West. People of no religion (the ‘nones’) account for 52 per cent of the population of England and Wales, and one-quarter of the population of the United States and Canada. Only 12 per cent of Britons are affiliated with the Church of England, down from 40 per cent in 1983. France is on the verge of becoming majority secularist, along with the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Australia. China pays lip service to Secularism but uses its atheist ethos to oversee its Christian citizenry and oppress its Muslim minority.
In contrast to these trends, Secularism finds itself in a state of siege in many countries. Christian evangelists in the United States are pushing to have their religious ideas enacted into public policy in fields as diverse as health, education, foreign aid, and law. President Trump‘s attorney general has openly declared war on Secularism and hundreds of millions of dollars of COVID aid have been transferred to churches, in violation of the U.S. Constitution. In Turkey, long the most secular Muslim country, the famed Hagia Sophia, a museum since 1935, was recently reestablished as a mosque. Three states that were once secular – Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan – have enshrined Islam as their official religion.
Meanwhile, Islamic fundamentalism uses the blunt force of terrorism to attack rival faiths and the infidel idea of Secularism. Secular states must respond to the pressures of twenty-first century migrations and the accommodation of non-secular traditions.
George Holyoake looked beyond his own time, confident that “Secularist principles involve for mankind a future.” It would be a future of moral as well as material good, offering an infinite diversity of intellect with equality among humanity, and “all things – noble society, the treasures of art, and the riches of the world – to be had in common.” His was a vision of a Secularism that rises above sectarian differences or economic rivalries, and places universal opportunity, and individual freedom, in the hands of all who inhabit our rich and beautiful – but endangered – planet Earth. It is not too late for us to fulfill his vision.
Journalist, consultant, author and inveterate traveler — that sums up the busy life of Ray Argyle. He shows no signs of slowing down. Ray has worked as a journalist, publishing executive, and communications consultant. He’s the author of five biographies, two political histories, a memoir, and a novel of Victorian Canada.
Ray was born in Manitoba and educated in British Columbia. He pursued a career in journalism, working for newspapers, a wire service, and a radio station. He founded Argyle Communications Inc., a communications consulting firm, now merged with the Environics Group. Ray has served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, Ont., and the Scarborough (Toronto) Board of Education. He is the only Canadian to have been elected a Fellow of the International Public Relations Association. He received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in recognition of his “contributions to Canadian life.” More at www.rayargyle.com
The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.
Featured Photo Courtesy of Ray Argyle: Portrait of George Holyoake by Sarah Watson.
The reason why #BlackLivesMatter exists, or the civil rights movement needed to take place, or the Underground Railroad was created, or for that matter, why racism in all of its forms has ever existed, is because billions of people have failed to learn and then teach the truth regarding the common descent of all human beings.
The truth, simply put, is this: We are all African. The scientific evidence for this claim is overwhelming. The evolutionary sciences have unequivocally demonstrated that every human on this planet descended from common ancestors in Africa. If you want proof – and I would expect that you would demand it – there’s an overwhelming amount of it.
The truth of the fact that we are all indeed, African, is not open for choice; it is simply a scientific fact regarding the common ancestry of our human origins. If other beliefs, or feelings, or systems of belief stand in the way of accepting this scientific fact – whether they be religiously motivated or not – we need to recognize that such biases should have no direct affect regarding the fact that every human who has ever existed is related.
In 2005, I was fired from an Ontario university largely for teaching: “We are all African.” I had no idea those four words could get me in so much hot water in the academic communities. But they did. And they shouldn’t have. And it is because of the failings of our education systems at all levels, that the average person does not even know that we are, indeed, all African and hence, related. If we had taught critical thinking skills from kindergarten to grade 12, through all colleges and universities, and made it accessible to all businesses and professions, we would all know and accept this fact.
But we don’t teach critical thinking at these levels; and hence, here we are witnessing protests that need not happen had we all been better educated; for inherent within the critical thinking skill set is the understanding and application of scientific reasoning. Through the use of scientific reasoning, anyone can accept our African heritage as a fact. This, in turn, can allow us to better understand why racism is an extension of evolutionary traits involving xenophobia. The term xenophobia means ‘fear of foreignness or foreigners’. In biology, this translates to “better safe than sorry”. It creates a level of discrimination between species as to which other species might be considered predators or in any way harmful or detrimental to their survival and reproductive abilities. However, humans evolved with an emergent consciousness which allows us to better understand and function within complex social systems. Once levels of familiarity are reached between our species, the level of xenophobia or fear becomes reduced, and a peaceful level of cohabitation can occur. As a member of the mammalian animal species, humans have been naturally xenophobic and have been evolving from our primate ancestors for millions of years. Over that time, our conscious capacities have allowed us to move beyond basic survival strategies to develop complex societies. But again, to know this, requires humanity to be educated in the evolutionary sciences and to accept that we are the last surviving hominid lineage that originated in Africa and over tens of thousands of years, have populated this entire planet.
And now the hard part: Are we ready to accept these facts globally (or even nationally) and, as a consequence, understand their entailments?
For if we can accept our common heritage, then it becomes obvious that what we call ‘racism’ is not only a misnomer – for no races actually exist between humans – but that discrimination against any human on the basis of their physical or phenotypic traits is irrelevant in our attitudes and treatment of them. This is the type of information the entire world needs to know, understand, and accept. For if we can accept this information as true, then it reduces considerably the logic, the actuation, and the perpetuation of inequitable treatment based on such physical traits.
Can we all accept that every human on this planet is related and that all of our ancestors originally lived in Africa?
For if we can all accept this as true, then maybe it will become just a little more difficult to hate, to hurt, and to discriminate. Our education systems are failing us on a number of levels. But we can change this; and in so doing, we will deal far better with issues like racism because our youth will be far better informed.
If you want a better world – teach critical thinking.
Christopher DiCarlo is a philosopher, educator, and author. He often teaches in the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Toronto (in Scarborough) and the Life Institute at Ryerson University in Toronto. He is also a lifetime member of Humanist Canada and an Expert Advisor for the Centre for Inquiry Canada.
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