Is Humanism the Answer?

By Golda Wachtell

Humanism stresses the importance of love, kindness and good will—the kind of world imagined for centuries by thousands of poets and philosophers. Of course, we humans are but one of many creatures alive on the planet. This is their home too. Humanism stresses our ability to come together as brothers and sisters and make the world a better place for every living creature; we will use our intelligence, empathy and science to make it so there are no more Haves and Have Nots.

But the simple answer to the posed question is no: Humanism is not, and lacks the potential to be, “the answer.”  It has proven impossible to agree and implement world-wide humanistic policies even on a medium-term basis. The planet now literally faces destruction from climate change, or a plague, or nuclear holocaust; yet international cooperation has not come close to what is required. We may well be in the process of destroying the planet earth as we know it.

Humanistic principles draw from sources like Isaiah’s prophetic visions–“they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and spears into pruning hooks.” (Is. 2:4). It is a verse adorning the wall outside the United Nations, but fulfillment of the prophesy has proved impossible given the nature of human nature. The fact is that humanistic goals cannot be achieved when humans are helpless to overcome the addictions of envy and greed. Alo’el’s Dissent presents a set of complexly-related events from creation to the present day, that confronts us with the eventual ability humanity will possess to modify the human genome and thereby eradicate what cannot now be controlled by free will and reason.

To be sure, feelings of greed and envy are already proscribed by the Tenth Commandment—Thou Shalt Not Covet. As Katsh makes clear, this is the only commandment that calls for control of a feeling rather than taking some physical action (e.g., obey the prohibitions for the Sabbath day) or not taking a physical action (for example, kill, steal, give false testimony). But it is a dissonance that God chooses to allow and flourish. Alo’el’s Dissent reminds us of God’s seemingly schizophrenic attitude toward humanity. First, in justifying the flood, the Bible tells us (Gen. 6:5) that “the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”) After destroying the world with a massive flood, saving only Noah and his family, God promises never to destroy humanity again, and gives us the rainbow as a concrete symbol of His promise. He does so even while reiterating the reason he destroyed the earth with the flood—that “‘every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood.’” (Gen. 8:21). Why God could not or chose not to modify human nature to eliminate greed from human nature is a question we leave for the theologians to debate, as they have for nearly three thousand years, and counting.

This book is an adventure and a guidepost for how real change could happen. Notwithstanding that alien beings provide part of the answer in this story, the fact is that in a matter of decades or centuries, with or without assistance from the supernatural plane, humanity (if it survives long enough) will have the capability to engineer the human genome to eradicate the impulse to do evil. To finally make compliance with the Tenth Commandment possible.

If you’re interested in learning more about these questions and about: the maleficent influence of right-wing evangelicals in making U.S. law and policy; the right-wing Haredi movement; the magical breastplate worn by Jewish high priests from the time of Aaron, purchaseSalem Katsh’s book, Alo’el’s Dissent, a fast-paced thriller of a book about the journey of a young man–a mountain climber, archer, and sometime scholar–searching for meaning in life and the truth about religion, and finding that love and justice are true gifts to humanity, regardless of their source or fragility.

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