“The significance of our lives and our fragile planet is then determined only by our own wisdom and courage. We are the custodians of life’s meaning. We long for a parent to care for us, to forgive us our errors, to save us from our childish mistakes. But knowledge is preferable to ignorance. Better by far to embrace the hard truth than a reassuring fable. If we crave some cosmic purpose, then let us find ourselves a worthy goal.”
― Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space
My name is Ronald Haines, the existential humanist who created this site, and existential humanism is simply the label that I selected because it made descriptive sense. Existential humanism is my personal philosophy, the track that I run on if you will, which I developed over the course of my life and now share with interested others.
The increased access to information we have in the modern world has contributed significantly to many people questioning their religious beliefs, but the more they are questioned the harder the authorities push back. The result is that many people are only appearing to follow a particular creed or doctrine purely for social reasons, while secretly harboring inner uncertainty or disbelief. The existentialists would put this frame of mind in the category of angst. Since humans are social beings simply dropping out of religion creates a void for them, leaving many searching for a religion that works for them in the modern world. Many people look to humanism, but, like me, find it to be just another structured institution. I developed existential humanism and it works wonderfully for me, perhaps it will for you too.
My benefits from existential humanism
I thoroughly enjoy my life, and I have a fully working understanding of what life is. I am a perpetual student, constantly seeking out new information and updating my world view when I come across knowledge that expands it. I am also a teacher, sharing what I have learned with interested others, and in this way may be able to contribute to the progression of humanity. I have no need for superstition or rote belief in anything. I live my life on my own terms. I am an advocate of individual freedom and its necessary companion, personal responsibility.
Existential Humanism satisfies the criteria to be an ideal religion
- Answers an individual’s need for knowledge by rejecting dogma and encouraging questioning and seeking answers wherever they may be. Encourages individuals to be perpetual students and constantly question everything.
- Is focused on the individual by being open and free from structure. Institutionalizing religion will only divert the focus to the group and away from the individual. This is certainly where the existentialist component fits in.
- Shared worldview with others means that other people who consider themselves existential humanists make up this diffuse community and they openly share what they learn through books, blogs, videos, presentations etc.
- Flexible, allowing for updates as new information is available. Existential humanists realize that truth is simply the best explanation that we have for now and accepts that today’s truth may be obsolete tomorrow.
- Tolerant of other points of view means recognizing every human being as a unique individual who may think and do whatever they wish.
I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it. Evelyn Beatrice Hall
Characteristics of an existential humanist
Has a working understanding of being finite in an infinite universe.
Realizes that life has no inherent meaning, which provides the individual freedom to have it be for whatever they wish.
Is a perpetual student of life, and also a teacher to others.
Strives for personal growth and knows it is achieved through intellectual curiosity and continual questioning
An existential humanist recognizes that freedom means life is unrestricted and he/she can do whatever they wish with it, and also accepts the personal responsibility to make it happen. Wishing for something to happen isn’t going to do anything, no external force is going to give it to you. You life is completely up to you, and you are solely responsible for it. The existential humanist knows that the appeal of many religions is that they take this responsibility away from the individual in exchange for comfort and that many people will take this route, but an existential humanist will never disparage another person’s choices.
Have life goals
While you are free to make your own choices, it is obvious that the choices you make will be influenced by the society and culture you are in, and that is fine. The key is to make the life that you want, and many of the things that influenced you prior to this point are important to you so of course you’re going to keep them. The key is to be able to first describe what the ideal life means to you and then determine how to live it. This isn’t going to be physical things such as possessions, but how you want to feel. Knowing that, you can then examine the various ways to achieve those feelings. It is your responsibility to then get there, to do what it takes, to achieve it. Risky? Nah! The biggest risk is to plod along and end your life with the words “I wish I had” on your lips. Also, it isn’t the achievement of the goal that makes you free. It is the journey, knowing you are in control of your life, that makes it so:
Man is a rope stretched between the animal and the Superman — a rope over an abyss. A dangerous crossing, a dangerous wayfaring, a dangerous looking-back, a dangerous trembling and halting. What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not a goal.
~ Frederick Nietzsche
The American founding father, Thomas Jefferson, put it correctly when he penned: “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” in the declaration of independence. He knew it was all about the pursuit, there is no end product. When are you going to declare yours?
Actually, Jefferson took this concept from John Locke
“The necessity of pursuing happiness [is] the foundation of liberty. As therefore the highest perfection of intellectual nature lies in a careful and constant pursuit of true and solid happiness; so the care of ourselves, that we mistake not imaginary for real happiness, is the necessary foundation of our liberty. The stronger ties we have to an unalterable pursuit of happiness in general, which is our greatest good, and which, as such, our desires always follow, the more are we free from any necessary determination of our will to any particular action…”
who had further developed the original thinking from the ancient Greeks.
In setting goals it is also important to know what to get rid of, specifically the things that you are letting clutter your life (this is where many of you might put your current religion).
Words and intentions are meaningless, only action and results matter.
Action cures fear (false evidence appearing real). We tend to cripple ourselves by giving into fears and doubts and allowing excuses to prevent us from living the life we can have.
Genius is not an inside thing, it is only seen by the result: work of art, literature, etc, that contributes to humanity. Immortality is achieved by your contributions to humankind.