The Secular Humanist Pantheon: Introduction

Say you’re a Secular Humanist, like the BeliefNet Belief-O-Matic says I am. Despite your complete lack of faith in any deity, or indeed any kind of supernatural force, you might nonetheless from time to time find youself doing something resembling praying.

It’s almost always during a particular kind of moment, when nothing you do can effect an outcome you desire. And it makes sense for that to be the case, because if there was something you could do, you’d be doing it, instead of just praying. You know no-one’s listening. You’re completely confident that no effort of will on your part can in any way change what will happen. And yet still, you find your thoughts completely consumed, even if briefly, by a mantra: “please, please, please, let X occur.”

I found myself wondering about this the other day. If you are praying… then to whom?

Actually, I’ve thought a lot about this question since it occurred to me, but the full report on that line of reasoning is for another, more serious, post. This post is about a frivolous and yet effective answer.

It all started when one day, as I waited on an NYC subway platform for a train. There I was, thinking “please, please, please, let a train come soon,” when in a flash, it hit me – I was praying to the deity of NYC public transit, the great and powerful (and capricious) M’Ta-A. (That’s pronounced “mm-ta-aah”.)

So now you know. When you’re on a tight schedule, and your 1 train downtown pulls into the 72nd street station, and there’s a 3 train just waiting for you across the platform, and you have been favored by M’Ta-A. If you mutter thanks, M’Ta-A hears it. And should you find yourself assed out in Queens at 3am waiting for the G, you know who has forsaken you.

Mike Doughty sure knew it, when he wrote Thank You Lord for Sending Me the F Train.

Thus was revealed to me the notion of the Secular Humanist Pantheon. Now that I know, it’s so obvious, and as a Pastafarian, I already worship one of the supreme lords of this pantheon.

In future posts I may elaborate on the members of this pantheon.

3 thoughts on “The Secular Humanist Pantheon: Introduction

  1. Last time I was waiting for the F at 3am, I was praying to the god of not puking in front of all these people. Apparently I am a chosen one.

  2. This actually reflects the ideology behind faith of any sort. Where the hope behind that faith brings comfort that something good will happen.

    So, I ask you, do you question your designation as a Secular Humanist?

    At the same time, I am skeptical about the Belief-o-matic because it clearly makes the assumption any quiz-taker is seeking a formal religion that matches his/her beliefs. I may have my beliefs about the existence of a deity, but that doesn’t mean I need a religion to justify or support those beliefs.

  3. Good points, mel. As you’ll see in my more serious treatment of the subject, which I expect to post in a few weeks, I actually think that more important than the comfort that comes out of faith is our raw human imperative to visualize positive outcomes.

    I read up on Secular Humanism on Wikipedia and have started to track down the resources that were linked to there, and this far it seems close enough to the mark for me to agree.

    The thing that I find interesting about the B-o-M is that it’s possible to classify someone’s faith tendencies in a descriptivist manner, that is, analyzing what they believe, grouping them with people of like beliefs, and assigning a label to that group. I agree that there are limitations to the B-o-M in its current form, but it appears to be using “religion” in a different sense than you are in your claim that you don’t need religion to justify or support your beliefs.

    In the sense you are using it, you mean an established religion — you don’t need any legacy, scripture, or established congregation to justify anything you believe about deities. The B-o-M, however, appears to be trying to classify you based on your stated beliefs, and regardless of whether you are seeking a religion or not, it’s certainly possible to classify, and it appears to be this sense of “religion” that it is using.

    Take, for example, the personality analysis questionnaires. You may not be looking for a label to explain your personality, but the questions lead to classification along a few axes, like introverted vs. extroverted.

    That said, I did wonder while taking the questionnaire if there wasn’t a whole range of secularists that was being ignored.

Leave a Reply