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Humanist Anthology: From Confucius to…

Humanist Anthology: From Confucius to Attenborough

by Margaret Knight

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This is one hell of a book. It's quite short (~220 pp.), but every entry is carefully chosen and deeply brilliant. As the subtitle suggests, the essays and excerpts are from speakers and authors from the Greeks to our contemporaries. Being the page turner that it is, you'll still find yourself reading some of the passages over and over because they are incredibly moving.

Here are some representative excerpts from the book:

"Many, having observed in others or experienced in themselves elevated feelings which they imagine incapable of emanating from any other source than religion, have an honest aversion to anything tending, as they think, to dry up the fountain of such feelings. They, therefore, either dislike and disparage all philosophy, or addict themselves with intolerant zeal to those forms of it in which institution usurps the place of evidence, and internal feeling is made the test of objective truth. The whole of the prevalent metaphysics of the present century is one tissue of suborned evidence in favor of religion... It is time to consider whether all this straining to prop up beliefs which require so great an expense of intellectual toil and ingenuity to keep them standing, yields any sufficient return in human well-being..." (John Stuart Mill, 1874, 'The Utility of Religion', from Three Essays on Religion)

"[Man's] most sacred duty is to realize his possibilities of knowing, feeling, and willing to the fullest extent, in the development of human individuals, in the achievements of human societies, and in the evolution of the whole human species. I believe that an understanding of the extent to which man falls short of realizing his splendid possibilities will stimulate him to learn how they can be realized, and that is this will be the most powerful religious motive in the next stage of our human evolution. As a humanist, that is my faith." (Sir Julian Huxley, 1960, 'The Faith of a Humanist')

But it isn't a book printed for the purpose of reinforcing existing viewpoints, and I can't find any entries that do not wholly promote human understanding and well-being, as the passages above illustrate; it is very positive. Having said that, there isn't anything of a mystical nature in the book-- quite the opposite. It is extremely thought-provoking, and I can say that it's one that I would grab if the house caught fire. ( )
1 vote bclark | Sep 11, 2009 |
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The Master said, A young man's duty is to behave well to his parents at home and to his elders abroad, to be cautious in giving promises and punctual in keeping them, to have kindly feelings towards everyone, but seek the intimacy of the Good.
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