“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”
from the song “Free Will” by Rush
At last month’s Drinking Skeptically, there were a couple of newbies there. As I usually try to do, I asked them about how they came to be there and and how they had come to be skeptics and that sort of thing. The guy (and I’ve forgotten his name) talked about having been at the last Pittsburgh Secular Freethinkers event and found it not to his liking. Now that’s perfectly understandable – no group can be all things to all people. But without any prompting, he volunteered that they all seemed to be secular humanists and had “an agenda” and that he wasn’t interested in that at all.
Knowing Nicole and most of the people that attend PSF events, I would agree with his assessment that most of them are secular humanists. And most secular humanists do indeed have “an agenda” – they want the world to be a better place and are willing to work toward that end. But everybody has an agenda, even if it is to have no agenda. If someone wants to go through life focusing solely on their own life and their wants and desires, they still have an agenda – namely to maximize their own enjoyment of life and not concern themselves with the plight of others. But they need to at least be honest with themselves and admit to themselves that they too have an agenda; it is merely different from other non-believers or skeptics.
I’m not really trying to criticize the objectivist ethos – I’ve sure got my own character flaws and ethical lapses in abundance. And in my younger days I embraced such thinking myself. It wasn’t until later in life as I experienced more fully what it meant to be human and suffer the travails of life and things beyond one’s direct control (not to mention making huge mistakes) that I came to realize the ethical conflicts of such a belief system. Of course it also helped to have a woman who I respected point out to me the selfishness of my views (thank you Dorothy Brecher). But I digress.
My point in all of this is that while we may not all have the same identical cookie cutter viewpoints, we all have some things in common – things such as reason, a desire for evidence-based public policy, minimization of magical thinking in the public square, and living an examined life. And as such, we need to celebrate that which unites us, such as our common humanity. Even though we may have different agendas.