SEVEN COLOURS OF THE HUMANIST RAINBOW

After my book From Islam to Secular Humanism…A Philosophical Journey was published in September 2001, and I appeared on a number of radio and television programs, I was asked a number of questions privately and publicly about my philosophy. Of all the questions that my religious, spiritual and atheist friends asked me, the one that inspired me the most to reflect and introspect was:

What does humanism mean to you?

The more I thought about the question the more I realized that humanism meant different things at different stages of my life and now it has become a multi-dimensional philosophy and lifestyle for me. I also realized that different people have different interpretations of humanism and there might be as many definitions of humanism as there are humanists in the world.

          When I reflect on my past as a whole I realize that for the first few years of my life, I travelled in the dark tunnel of blind faith that was surrounded by the dark clouds of rituals and superstitions. Gradually I saw the sunlight of humanism and then explored its different colours. So far I have discovered seven colours of the humanist rainbow that I will share in this article.

FIRST COLOUR…HUMANIST PHILOSOPHY

Over the years I realized that to become a humanist I had to leave blind faith behind and study science and philosophy so that I could develop logical and rational thinking and use critical thinking to question all the myths and supernatural teachings of my family, community and culture. In this journey writings of Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Bertrand Russell, Jean Paul Sartre and many other philosophers paved my way to my acceptance of atheism and humanism. I am glad that humanist philosophy helped me in making rational and responsible choices for myself and communicating with others who have a scientific attitude towards life.

SECOND COLOUR…HUMANIST PERSONALITY

 When I realized that people’s behaviours may not be a true reflection of their belief system and their personality may not be in harmony with their philosophy, I started paying more attention to people’s behaviours and personalities. Now I have come to the awareness that humanist personality reflected in a caring, kind and compassionate attitude might be seen in different people with different ideologies and philosophies. As compared to humanist personality some people have a fundamentalist personality that is very critical, judgmental and aggressive. People with such personality try to convert others and get into angry and bitter debates with their opponents. It is quite amazing for me to see how some religious people have a humanist personality while there are some atheists who have a fundamentalist personality. Over the years I have tried to develop a humanist personality alongside acquiring a humanist philosophy.

THIRD COLOUR…HUMANIST LIFESTYLE

. After developing a humanist philosophy and striving to have a humanist personality, I realized that both of them had to be actualized in a humanist lifestyle. When I put my philosophy and personality in practice I realized that other humanists welcomed it but it created a tension with the traditional friends and religious families I knew. I had to learn to be tolerant and accepting of their truth. It was a struggle to accept the reality that my truth is a truth and not the truth. It was a test for me to accept that other human beings have the right to their ideology and philosophy as long as they do not impose it on me or stop me from practicing my truth. In this transition I lost some of my relatives and friends who could not accept my humanism and associated atheism with an immoral and unethical life. Now I have a circle of friends from different cultures and backgrounds who are respectful of each other’s philosophy and are willing to have a meaningful dialogue.

FOURTH COLOUR…HUMANIST PSYCHOTHERAPY

. As I accepted my own truth and felt confident to acknowledge it publicly in my social life I also introduced humanist philosophy to my clinical practice. Reading the writings of Eric Fromm, Carl Rogers, Victor Frankl and Abraham Maslow helped me at a conceptual and philosophical level to accept my patient’s experiences and truths and then help them decrease their suffering and improve their quality of life. Such a journey helped me create my unique clinical practice of my Creative Psychotherapy Clinic and with the help of my colleagues Anne Henderson and Bette Davis write a series of books about my Green Zone Philosophy. Such a philosophy and practice has helped me in helping my patients to develop a kind, caring and compassionate personality. I helped them in trusting their conscience more than the religious traditions of their families and communities that contributed in their concept of sin and feelings of guilt. Therapy also helped them either resolve their social conflicts with their religious relatives or dissolve their relationships with relatives and friends who have fundamentalist personality. As therapy evolved they were able to create a healthy, happy and peaceful lifestyle. I feel very excited that now we are creating a Green Zone documentary so that more and more people can benefit from a Green Zone Philosophy and develop a humanist personality and lifestyle.

FIFTH COLOUR HUMANIST EDUCATION

. After I realized that my religious upbringing had negatively affected my personality and had introduced me to the concept of sin producing feelings of guilt about sex and many other things and it took me years even decades to unlearn those values, I tried to share with others that it might be wise to teach religious traditions of the world at homes and in schools as a part of history rather than a part of their faith. Parents and teachers have the responsibility to pass on collective knowledge and wisdom to the next generation so that children can make rational and responsible choices for their own lives as adults. I had to share with parents and teachers that humanist values can be taught even without wrapping them in religious and faith based practices. It is encouraging to see that more and more parents and teachers are realizing that education based on secular values married to science, philosophy and psychology encourages children in developing a rational and critical mind.

SIXTH COLOUR …HUMANIST COMMUNITIES

. Since I am a poet and a writer alongside a psychotherapist, I became involved in the social and political dialogues of different groups in Pakistan and Canada. It has been my experience that as more and more people become aware of the effects of religion on people and how different religious and political leaders exploit and abuse the concepts of God and Religion to create holy wars between different sects and different religions, it is important for free thinkers to try their best to raise social consciousness. Being a writer I have written many essays and books on these subjects and translated writings of atheist and humanist philosophers in Urdu so that we can promote humanism through education in Urdu speaking men and women. I receive many emails from Asia and Middle East from men and women who read my essays on website or in my book and share their struggles. I feel that free thinkers need a moral support as they are in minority and need a group where they can share their struggles and get into meaningful dialogue while they are in search of their truth. Creating a secular community is essential part of humanism so that there is not only freedom of religion but also freedom from religion. There are many communities all over the world that have very punitive traditions and persecutory laws against non-believers. In some communities atheists are afraid to be killed by religious zealots. Such an oppressive environment forces people to become hypocrites and not share their truth openly and honestly and lead a double life. I met some atheists and humanists from Muslim families who have kept their truth secret from their dear ones, as they are afraid to be penalized and persecuted.

SEVENTH COLOUR…HUMANIST CULTURE

 It is my dream that we reach such a stage in human evolution where we can see a humanist culture all over the world. I am of the opinion that the unresolved conflicts of class, gender, race, sexual orientation, language, nationality and religion continue to be the cause of human suffering and we need to work together to create a just and a humanist culture. Such culture will help all of us to become fully human individually and collectively.

I am well aware that these are the colours of my humanist

dream but I also know that we all have to dream before the dream comes true. We need a critical mass of humanists who are dedicated and committed and willing to work together to create humanist traditions in their families, schools and communities. It is encouraging to read that in 1900 only 1% people publicly acknowledged that they did not believe in God and organized religions and in 2000 the number had increased to 19% internationally. As the numbers grow I become more hopeful that my humanist dream will come true.

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