What I Believe – My Three Philosophical Pillars

A while back I decided to write out my beliefs. I ended up limiting myself to three philosophical categories: 1) my ethical philosophy, 2) my epistemic philosophy, and 3) my political philosophy. So, here they are!

[My views are constantly being refined, and do not represent absolute beliefs which will necessarily remain static. I pride myself on being open to ideas, and any beliefs I have are merely a reflection of my current mindset. That being said, I wrote this about three months ago, and found it to still be an accurate representation of my views. It seems I have come to a place of moderate stability in my intellectual development since my deconversion.]

Ethical Philosophy: Secular Humanism

I believe that all actions should be taken primarily for the benefit of human beings, with consideration given to animals and the environment.

Supernatural beliefs play no role in my ethical decisionmaking and religious concepts are only valued insofar as they enforce humanistic values. I do not oppose supernatural beliefs, but I do oppose harmful consequences of those beliefs (e.g. teaching creationism in public schools; persecution of LGBTQ individuals, etc.)

I consider myself an atheist and a naturalist, but I do not seek to force those beliefs on others. I believe that people should be aware of humanism and the benefits of living a secular life so they can decide if it’s a worldview they could accept.

I respect intellectual and religious diversity, although I do not think any belief should be above appropriate criticism and scrutiny. I believe that robust and respectful discussion and debate of important issues is beneficial and necessary. Every person should be encouraged to form their own conclusions about the world and pursue truth wherever it leads.

Epistemic Philosophy: Empiricism

I believe that the foundation of knowledge is sensory experience and that the scientific method is the most effective way to gain reliable knowledge about the world.

I believe that the unfalsifiable testimonies of intuition, personal anecdote, emotion, and hypothetical entities or senses (e.g. sensus divinatus or testimony of the Holy Spirit) are not enough to support a truth claim in the absence of relevant objective evidence. These may or may not be sufficient justifications for personal belief, but they do not meet the minimum requirements of proof in an interpersonal discussion. The reason being that if these were allowed as legitimate evidence to establish truth, any hypothesis could be considered true on the testimony of personal belief; with the corollary that every belief must therefore be true.

I believe that public discussion and debate should center around identifying common values, and using reason, logic, supported by  relevant, objective evidence to determine the best course of action to take.

Political Philosophy: Progressivism

I believe that we should seek to improve the conditions of life for all people, rather than resting on the accomplishments of the past. There is still work to be done to improve our nation and world, and applying a critical approach to the issues we face and suggesting possible solutions is an act of patriotism.

I believe that cultural traditions can and should undergo a constant process of re-evaluation in light of advancements in science, education, and moral attitudes. No pre-existing belief is beyond scrutiny and revision in accordance with our expanding knowledge of the world.

I believe that tolerance of others’ beliefs and practices insofar as they do not cause direct harm or infringe on the rights of others is a virtue. I believe in justice and liberty.

Democracy, human rights, and the pursuit of a reasonably egalitarian culture of prosperity, security, health, and psychological well-being are the foundational elements of my political philosophy.

Thank you for considering my perspective. Your opinion matters to me, and I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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Philosophy, Society

When Humanistic Ideals Collide with the Myth of Anthropocentrism

The pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Protagorus famously said “Of all things the measure is Man,” which is usually paraphrased as ‘Man is the measure of all things’. Despite it’s poetic value, Protagorus’ statement represents what is essentially the pinnacle of human arrogance. This paradigm of thought is reflected in religious beliefs about humanity’s eternal destiny, superiority over wildlife and the earth, and the supposed importance of individual purity and morality. But it  was also a cornerstone of enlightenment ideals, which still strongly influence secular thought.

Yesterday I met an atheist in my town through a Unitarian Universalist event. He is a fascinating British man who gave me some great ideas to chew on. One of which is a provocative philosophical concept called inhumanism, which at first blush sounds horrifying until the meaning is explained. As a self-identified progressive Humanist, this idea appeared to contrast strongly with certain tenets of my own philosophy.

The term inhumanism was coined by the 20th century poet Robinson Jeffers to describe his philosophy. He elaborated on it in the preface to The Double Axe  (1948):

The first part of The Double Axe was written during the war and finished a year before the war ended, and it bears the scars; but the poem is not primarily concerned with that grim folly. Its burden, as of some previous work of mine, is to present a certain philosophical attitude, which might be called Inhumanism, a shifting of emphasis and significance from man to not-man; the rejection of human solipsism and recognition of the transhuman magnificence. It seems time that our race began to think as an adult does, rather than like an egocentric baby or insane person. This manner of thought and feeling is neither misanthropic nor pessimist, though two or three people have said so and may again. It involves no falsehoods, and is a means of maintaining sanity in slippery times; it has objective truth and human value. It offers a reasonable detachment as rule of conduct, instead of love, hate and envy. It neutralizes fanaticism and wild hopes; but it provides magnificence for the religious instinct, and satisfies our need to admire greatness and rejoice in beauty.

Essentially, inhumanism is about shifting the focus off of humanity, and the myth of anthropocentrism, and onto the universe at large, which we are inseparable from. No longer should we view ourselves as the center of the universe. Instead we should recognize that we are but one tiny part of an enormous whole.

The catalyst for such a worldview shift should be obvious. With looming ecological, geopolitical, and economic disasters staring us down, we, as if looking up the barrel of a gun, must stop denying the nature of reality, and admit that the world, and the universe may go on without us very soon. We should recognize that at the very least, the destruction of civilization as we know it may very well be inevitable.

The prognoses appear grim on most fronts. As exemplified by the sobering title of the great intellectual Noam Chomsky’s 2014 article for In These Times:“The End of History? The short, strange era of human civilization may be coming to a close.” Whether it be the possibility of nuclear war, environmental collapse, or socio-economic upheaval, we are facing some damn scary hypotheticals as a species.

There is still human optimism, but much of it seems naive or pragmatic at best. I am no scientist or economist, so I could be wrong.  Like most people, I am only capable of second-hand knowledge of such matters.  Maybe human civilization will rise to the challenge and work it’s way out of the messes we are facing. Maybe something unforeseeable will occur which changes everything. Who knows?

But it seems like the cracks in humanity’s optimism are showing. Are we really so confident? Is progress inevitable? Are we just hitting another speed bump along the road to victory?

Why do we assume that the Earth needs us? Can we imagine a universe without humans? It seems almost scandalous to suggest that humanity may just be a passing fad, subject to the arbitrary whims of the universe’s ever-changing taste in cosmic fashion.

A concept so unorthodox as this can easily be opened up to the charge of unproductive pessimism or fear-mongering. I think at it’s worst, a sense of hopeless, nihilistic determinism could be a potential side-effect. At it’s best however, it could challenge those who can accept it to reprioritize their lives accordingly. For example, I continue to feel more and more inclined to see art as a more noble ‘purpose’ so to speak, of mankind’s existence. Rather than being concerned with humanity’s self-aggrandization, illusions of progress, and anthropocentric fantasies, maybe we should focus more on living a life of beauty and harmony while we are here.

I believe that these sort of ideas should probably be tempered by the pragmatic ideals of Humanism. Progress can still be valued, even if demoted to a lesser role;  human optimism has a important psychological role to play; and sometimes artistry and beauty must compromise with the ugliness involved in facing difficult humanitarian crises. Secular Humanism and inhumanism may not be as mutually incompatible as they appear. Maybe more complementary.

I’d encourage you to check out the  Dark Mountain Manifesto, from the website created by a group of artists and activists. They create art and writings based on this philosophy of inhumanism, which they somewhat euphemistically label uncivilisation. If nothing more, it will give you some food for thought. It resonates with my skeptical side; especially when it comes to criticizing political, economic or scientific optimism.

This story has many variants, religious and secular, scientific, economic and mystic. But all tell of humanity’s original transcendence of its animal beginnings, our growing mastery over a ‘nature’ to which we no longer belong, and the glorious future of plenty and prosperity which will follow when this mastery is complete. It is the story of human centrality, of a species destined to be lord of all it surveys, unconfined by the limits that apply to other, lesser creatures . . .

. . . Today, humanity is up to its neck in denial about what it has built, what it has become — and what it is in for. Ecological and economic collapse unfold before us and, if we acknowledge them at all, we act as if this were a temporary problem, a technical glitch. Centuries of hubris block our ears like wax plugs; we cannot hear the message which reality is screaming at us. For all our doubts and discontents, we are still wired to an idea of his- tory in which the future will be an upgraded version of the present. The assumption remains that things must continue in their current direction: the sense of crisis only smudges the meaning of that ‘must’. No longer a natural inevitability, it becomes an urgent necessity: we must find a way to go on having supermarkets and superhighways. We cannot contemplate the alternative.

Dark Mountain Manifesto, via

Thank you for considering my perspective. Your opinion matters to me, and I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

The contents of this article may be used in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license. Credit should be given to