By John MacDiarmid
John is a former Christian minister, attendee of a humanist "One Life" course, and occasional guest speaker at humanist-hosted debates. We asked him: "if you weren't a Christian, would you be a humanist?"
I have a strong background of Evangelical Christianity. Having flirted with atheism in my youth, I embraced Biblical Christianity firmly as a student, and have pursued it vigorously since then, having been involved in church all my adult life, including ten years as a Christian Minister.
At age 64, the years have done nothing to dent my enthusiasm for, and commitment to, my Christian Faith. It has been, and continues to be, quite a journey.
So – what do I make of humanism?
I first came across humanism in the person of David Warden about ten years ago. I was Chaplain to the Mayor of Poole at the time, and we had a visit from the Bishop of Sherborne, Dr Graham Kings. A vicar friend and myself decided to spice things up a little by getting the bishop to debate the question, "Is Britain a Christian Country?" with David, the chair of Dorset Humanists. (David argued "No". The bishop argued "Not yet!") It was there that I met David. We became friends, and shortly afterwards I attended his “One Life” course – described as a sort of Humanist Alpha course. Thereafter, David and I worked on a number of events together which included me being a guest speaker and debater at a number of Dorset Humanist events. So over the years I have had more exposure than most Christians to humanism.
Obviously, it goes without saying that I have the greatest difference with those who think that a life without faith, without a belief in God, is the correct way to view the life we have. Having accepted that difference, I have been staggered by the amount of values that we share. For one of our discussions, David and I came up with the strapline “Different worldview…shared values”. To me, that strapline sums up our personal relationship, and the relationship between my faith and humanism. We have hugely different worldviews, but a belief in the obligation and the power to make the world a better place for ourselves, for others and for those who will come after us. My impression of humanists (largely confined to my exposure to Dorset Humanists) is of a group of people who have a genuine desire to explore the universe, ethics, philosophy etc., and a passionate commitment to making choices that will make the world a better place. Whenever I am with Dorset Humanists I feel respected and valued, and I feel as if I am amongst friends, who share with me many of the values that I hold dear. I am proud to describe myself as a “Friend of Dorset Humanists”. Let the dialogue and friendship between Christianity and humanism continue.
If I wasn’t a Christian, would I be a humanist? Probably.