The world is still turning, and as distant and dreamlike as it seems from our vantage point, I believe that there will be a more peaceful, free and rational future whose people will look back on our era and wonder how anyone ever tolerated the kinds of injustices that afflict us.
We can bring that future into being, if we choose. We have all the tools we need. A rational, humanist understanding of morality is the map. Science and reason are the boots that carry us forward. And righteous, passionate, peaceful anger is both sword and shield, spurring us to take action and giving us passion for the fight. As always, there will be adversaries standing athwart the trail, trying to block our way, but when we recognize them for what they are, we can defeat them.
How much longer this dry spell will last, I don’t know. But all deserts end somewhere if you keep walking, and all dark clouds blow themselves out eventually. Progress comes slowly at first, and sometimes it advances and then recedes, but it leaves a high-water mark for next time.
I have never been concerned about all the people moaning about how the fundies and Muslims are outbreeding us — I see them as busily making minds that will be ripe for reason and knowledge.
Humanism can mean many things, but for us it means belief in progress. To believe in progress is to believe that, by using the new powers given us by growing scientific knowledge, humans can free themselves from the limits that frame the lives of other animals. This is the hope of nearly everybody nowadays, but it is groundless. For though human knowledge will very likely continue to grow and with it human power, the human animal will stay the same: a highly inventive species that is also one of the most predatory and destructive. Darwin showed that humans are like other animals, humanists claim they are not. Humanists insist that by using our knowledge we can control our environment and flourish as never before. In affirming this, they renew one of Christianity’s most dubious promises – that salvation is open to all. The humanist belief in progress is only a secular version of this Christian faith.