It is time to reintroduce Humanist Perspectives and Richard Young, the editor of the Winter 2014-15 edition:
Humanist Perspectives seeks to promote the idea that human problems can best be solved by human beings, by relying on our intellectual, moral and social capabilities, free from notions of supernatural purpose or design, and affirming that human life has meaning in its own terms. We publish articles, poems, artworks and stories that reflect the ideas of modern humanism: the belief that the only world we have is the natural world. We examine social issues from a rational, ethical perspective, and we celebrate human freedom and achievement.
In his editorial, “Fishers of Men,” Richard Young remembers a lesson he had to unlearn.
I went fishing for the first time when I was 8, at a quarry-turned-stocked-pond halfway between Brantford, Ontario, and Lake Erie. I went with my parents and another couple, family friends and fishing enthusiasts (a-fish-onados, if you will) Mr. and Mrs. R.
Although it was almost forty years ago, I still remember how uneasy I felt baiting the hook with a live, squirming worm. I also remember how un-easy it was to learn how to properly cast a line, but I managed to master it that day. All my effort paid off when I reeled in my first fish. What a thrill! Now, this is the good life!
But that first-fish thrill was short-lived.
It was a sunfish, not a bass or a trout. A sunfish, I learned, is a “garbage fish,” too small and boney, so it had to be unhooked and thrown back. Easier said than done. This fish had taken the hook deep – so deep that it was a job for needle-nose pliers and adult hands. After what seemed like an hour of crunching, twisting, yanking and cursing (in Ukrainian), the extraction was done and the fish released.
I was surprised to see that it did not embrace its regained freedom with much enthusiasm. It swam listlessly, in an arc, leaving an expanding red contrail behind. A moment later, it gave up and floated to the surface. There it remained, with one eye staring up at me, accusingly.
This is not how I imagined fishing would be.
Possibly having noticed my sudden deflation, Mrs. R walked over, put her hand on my shoulder and spoke this magical incantation:
“Don’t worry. It’s OK. Jesus Himself was a fisherman.”
And, just like that, I felt better.
It took me a good long while (I’m ashamed to say just how long) before I realized what had happened to me on that day: I allowed my natural empathy for a suffering animal to be extinguished by a reference to a holy book. I felt pity for an injured fish, but since Jesus – Jesus! Both god and perfect man! – didn’t seem to care about the suffering of a fish, then neither should I. What right does a little kid have to question the wisdom of The Creator?
I didn’t expect I’d ever be bringing up this old memory in these pages, but most of the articles in this issue brought it up for me. Too many adults in the world have allowed their flame of empathy to be extinguished by holy dogmas from holy men bearing holy books. I have experienced the allure first-hand and I know what it is like to have swallowed it, hook, line and sinker.
Young goes on to discuss articles in the Winter 2014-15 edition of Humanist Perspectives that show what happens when “adults in the world have allowed their flame of empathy to be extinguished by holy dogmas from holy men bearing holy books.”
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