key points of western secular atheism
Of course the primary characteristic of atheism is the belief in the non-existence of any divine beings or non-physical dimensions of reality. There is no eternal spirit or persistence of consciousness after death. If there is any consciousness or spirit, it arises out of the confluence of physical processes and ceases to exist when the physical processes terminate. What we are, what we can become, and what we each will do with our humanity must be done in this life, by us. We are responsible for our own actions and choices, and the consequences of how we live.
Atheists are profoundly and deeply committed to the pursuit and defense of truth. Not only is deliberate deceit harmful to our shared humanity and to our own mental health, but so are other forms of untruth including ignorance, misinformation, delusional thinking, unfounded beliefs, logical fallacies, and anything else that dilutes or corrupts the truth.
As human beings, capable of rational thought, our first and foremost moral responsibility is to determine and adhere to what is true. We must actively engage in improving and advancing our intellectual capacities in the service of truth.
Truth cannot be merely declared or accepted. It must be substantiated and verified. The truth of any assertion, idea, or belief must be demonstrated to be true. The explanations must be logically consistent, supported by empirical evidence, and cannot contradict known facts.
As humans we are capable of rational thought, the most highly developed skill of intellectual potential. With reason we can accurately determine the true and the false; we can investigate the phenomena, properties and processes of the natural world; we can conceive abstract conceptual worlds of pure thought and ideas.
Reason is the basis of our aptitude for creating theoretical constructs, comprehending elaborate cognitive structures, forming a succession of ideas, a line of thought to a logical conclusion. Reason evolved from the mental activities of our pre-human ancestors; we have developed it deliberately and consciously so that it is one of the defining characteristics of our humanity.
Although the potential for reason is inherent in every human, reason itself must be learned through direct teaching, training, and exercise of logic and rational thought. Without learning how to reason, training our mind to reason and exercising reason, we fail to reach the potential of our humanity.
As human beings, we have a moral imperative to develop and use our faculty of reason.
Humans have a responsibility to guard against untruth. We have the intellectual facility of reason and logic, the tools of reliable scientific investigation, the evolved and evolving complex consciousness which gives us the ability to discriminate subtle and minute distinctions.
We are morally obligated to use our capacities to distinguish between the true and the untrue.
There is far too much untruth, of every sort and variety, in the worlds of human thought, interactions, and beliefs. Untruth, in all its forms, demeans and impairs the humanity of those who harbor it, allow it to guide and shape their lives. It often does real harm to others and can devastate whole communities and societies.
Untruths can be plausible, enticing, seductive. But untruth will always, ultimately, harm the one believing the untruth and many others connected to them as well. It is detrimental to our humanity itself and will drag us down to the level of the irrational and of our pre-human consciousness.
rejection of religion
Unlike other forms of atheism, Western secular atheism categorically rejects the validity of religion itself. As a social institution, it far too frequently creates an environment that justifies our worst behavior toward each other. It is often in defense of God and religion that we perpetrate truly inhumane treatment of others, sometimes on a horrific and monumental scale.
Religion tends to promote separative thinking, setting up boundaries and distinctions which disconnect us from one another, inhibit our capacity for empathy, and reinforce preferential biases which favor ourselves and our own people in contrast to others who are outside of the approved religious path.
Religion is a social construct which claims God for oneself while denying God in anyone else. By creating a divinely sanctioned distinction between the true believers and the unbelievers, religion tacitly legitimizes our pre-human tendencies toward territorialism, dominance and confrontation with outsiders. It fosters egoistic self-promotion while dehumanizing the Other.
Whenever we harbor or foster attitudes which dehumanize others, we are in fact dehumanizing ourselves, and taking everyone else down with us.
Our humanity, with its capacities for reason, empathy, conceptualizing, humor, imagination, abstract and theoretical thinking, and creation, constitutes the basis for a natural philosophy of life, a reason for being, a purpose for living. The humanist philosophy makes possible an ethic based on our common humanity; an inclusive rather than the exclusivist moral formation. It is an ethic grounded solidly in working for the highest good of humanity, both in generalized global terms and in the immediate and specific contexts of our individual lives.
Humanist philosophy seeks to foster the ideas, attitudes, actions, choices which lead to greater fulfillment of those aspirations which advance our humanity. It encourages views that promote increased awareness of our commonalities, greater tolerance of our differences, more advancement of mutual benefits. It attempts to find ways to create balanced living that brings greater well-being to all and less harm.
The humanist ethic urges us to adopt those alternatives which make us more tolerant toward and supportive of one another; that encourage us to be more forgiving, more compassionate, more generous, kinder, wiser, more informed, more honest. It discourages those things which tear down our common humanity, that divide us and set us against one another.
moral responsibility to the earth
We have a duty to our humanity, to the earth, and to all living things. As the species most capable of either destroying everything or creating the conditions for everything to prosper, we bear an inherent responsibility to protect, preserve and work for the benefit of all. We have a moral obligation toward the earth, the universe, and all its parts and creatures.
We have a particular moral responsibility toward all sentient creatures. They are our ancestors, our relatives, our cousins. We owe them care, support, protection, shelter and refuge. The closer their consciousness is to ours, the more deeply our humanity is impacted by our treatment of them.
Humans are not unique beings set apart and over all other species. We have come out of the same processes that have created everything else in the universe. We are a part of all that is. Our living and dying, prospering and failing are intimately bound up with everything else, with the whole mutually dependent order of existence. We cannot arrogantly separate ourselves from all other things but must construct our lives with respect and honest self-awareness as a living part of the full spectrum of everything.