There is often a quest in religious or moral philosophy for the idea which, when applied universally, will elicit the morality of a situation at all times.
Humanism is the religion of all humanity. We all understand compassion and empathy, even the senile and mentally-ill respond to kindness.
There is a core and essential philosophy preached by every religious messenger: Jesus, Moses, Krishna, Muhammad, Buddha (peace be upon them). Human kindness and virtue are the central tenets.
Religious poverty is another such tenet. Almost all the prophets and saints lived in utter destitution. The mark of being on the Path of God is not knowing your next meal is coming from.
I spoke to an anarchist I met at Occupy Wall Street. He said he was a transient, and if he stayed in one place too long, he got anxiety. He only found peace travelling across the country in anarchist communes. He said he worked in the kitchen at Occupy Wall Street because the most important thing was feeding people. He also felt an affinity for all living things and for him, fulfilling people’s needs was just a practical way to help the survival of his race, his species. Such a man felt a deep bond with humanity, one I can’t claim to have at such great intensity.
He said, however, he was an atheist, and considered God to be an anathema to human freedom. I tried to convince him the prime directive of any religion was to feed the hungry person. If an atheist fed the poor, he is more like Jesus than a regular churchgoer who does not give charity. That is humanism.
Some time ago, the category of “secular humanism” was created to differentiate it from “religious humanism” as preached by the Catholic Church. Both humanism’s believe that human beings are the most important priority in any decision, but religious humanists believe that God gave us human souls to cherish, and secular humanists believe humans are important in themselves; but there is no conflict in the absolute goal of uplifting individual lives and reducing collective suffering.
If a person is religious, but does not care for human beings; then his practice of religion is morally bankrupt.
The Semitic Deity is the Old Testament God we were all taught to worship and fear. His vindictive acts in Exodus and during the age of the Kings of Israel, establish Him as cruel as any gangster, and genocidal as any despot.
But at the same time, He expresses higher ideals for the community at large, and blesses His chosen messengers with lofty kindness and subtle Grace. He seems to value literacy, and Fairness, and cherishes most deeply those who worship Him.
A most interesting event with Him happens at the biblical Mount Sinai. Judaism is alone among world religions in claiming mass revelation from the Deity Himself. Every word of the Torah was supposedly zapped into the Children of Israel, one-word-at-a-time, to a million Children of Israel sitting at the base of the mountain. In this transmission, the People of Israel saw the Face of the Deity Himself, God in His Unveiled Form. Seeing the true form of God is so shocking to the human soul, it results in instant death; so the Israelites were resurrected word-by-word to hear their Lord’s message. (A French artist depicted the event as below; while the hazy image of a man seated on a throne is not endorsed by Orthodox Jewry, this representation is accurate in demonstrating the Jewish belief that the Deity Himself appeared in full and in person to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai.)
Our Semitic Deity later led these people out of the desert and into the Promised Land to build a temple for Him in the City of Jerusalem. This Temple would house the Presence of God, and daily animal sacrifices would atone for the sins of human beings. But once a year on Yom Kippur, the Deity Himself would be in the center room, where the high priest alone could enter.
Why would God be in one room any more than anywhere else in the universe?
— There’s another Semitic tradition with similar claims. Millions of Muslim pilgrims outside of Mecca during the Hajj, climb Mount Arafat to reach the Face of God, the day before the holiest day of the Islamic calendar, Eid al-Adha. It is said the Deity Himself descends to touch these pilgrims that day. The nearby Ka’aba is also said to be the House of God, and can be equated to the Jewish Temple above. Again, we find the Semitic Deity claims to rule the universe, but is also said to cohabit a certain place and time.
— I prefer to worship a universal Deity, the God of all men and all women, who sustains every living thing. He takes no special fancy to the Semitic race, He is pleased greatly by acts of worship and kindness to all human beings.
I worship the God of Socrates, who keeps the hapless fool going at opportune moments, and declares that the names of righteous men and women will remain immortal throughout all history.
The God of Socrates was virtue. Something ought to be done not for profit or advantage, but because it is supremely right. And until wise men rule us, society will be crushed by the blindness of the unwise, and be a tyranny of its own wants.
— The source of religion is a cult of personality. Moses, Jesus, Krishna, Muhammad, Buddha, Socrates (peace be upon them); all these men tried to show us a civil way to live, and saw the most important thing was feeding the poor and caring for human souls.
Almost certainly, their environments confounded their message (Muhammad (pbuh) owned slaves and depopulated the Jews of Arabia), but the larger message of human dignity is well-embedded throughout. Salafists who seek the belligerent aspects of Islam, such as dismissing all nonbelievers as destined for the Hellfire, ignore various traditions of the Prophet (pbuh), such as him standing up for a passing funeral procession of a Jew, or said that the narratives and various apocryphal stories of the Christians and Jews are reliable.
God does not speak to laypersons, for the most part. He sends messengers to every nation to show them righteousness, and the closest thing we have to Prophets today are the saints. — And so every religion is an emulation of a Man of God, who is inevitably condemned by his own era, and teaches us to be kind to our neighbor and look after your brother in humanity.
How can economics work with these ethics?
Capitalism is based upon the ethical ideals of exploiting gaps of knowledge (i.e., where a retailer gets his wholesale goods) and the least generous labor agreements possible.
In my ideal, you could publish a book by having a conversation with a book publisher. He, in turn, would get paper and supplies from having a conversation with the paper mill owner. Human company would be the currency.
Economics, particularly right-wing economics, says everything has a cost, and human relationships are secondary. Such a policy has led to a legacy of millions homeless, billions hungry, and trillions lost. Economists can count the GDP, but the hours a grandmother babysits or the meals she prepares are innumberably more valuable than her meager Social Security check. She is performing an essential service, from reducing crime to better nutrition for her grandchildren, and the benefits of that cannot be measured in the cost of ingredients, or the economist’s GDP chart. Without anyone knowing, grandparents are a huge chunk of the economy. Can our society, then, let them go homeless and hungry?
— The most elegant solution would be to dissolve money altogether. You would simultaneously eliminate wealth and poverty alike. If money is more important than human beings, it will be another economic system to realize that for us. State socialism can only roughly realize that. Welfare states bring neither love nor a new consciousness.