Let’s stop dividing people into theists and atheists. By referencing something, we automatically validate it, it is why the term “atheism” is self-destructing, as one describes oneself by the term denoting the absence of god while one does not believe god exists! For me the term “atheist” is meaningless.
The term humanist is the best- better than naturalist, atheist, freethinker, etc.- it is species-specific, solid and logical. It should be an “umbrella” term, similarly like theists (or extrahumanists) have their religions, cults, and sects. Let’s talk about humanists and extrahumanists.
Humanists are the people who see the source of the goodness and morality inside the nature of human being. This nature was build for eons by evolution, later modified by culture and endless tapestry of the earth’s civilizations. It includes all the instincts and wisdom of our ancestors, the heroes, the kings and the prophets, down to everybody’s dad and mom. Everybody contributed and now it is our time to carry on.
Extrahumanists are the people who see the source of the morality and ethics in a message from an intelligence higher than humans, actually infinitely higher. This source, they believe, is beyond evolution created human mind, it is all powerful God or gods, or aliens, or Heavens, or just unknown Order or Force permeating all the Universe. By definition and by design, this intelligence, which is the source of scriptures and their moral messages, is beyond the capacity of the human brain to comprehend, so its nature and its reasoning are unknown; they are the subject of faith and speculations. Scriptures tell the faithful what to do, but they give very few details about the origins of the message, say why we should not work on Sunday, or Friday or Saturday (depending on the God). And, again according to the extrahumanists, humans should not even attempt to completely figure all this out, they would not be able to understand it. So the extrahumanists are assured (or assure themselves) that that higher intelligence will take care of them, and maybe even of us poor humanists. They will listen to the message of the Lord, act accordingly, and go to heaven. Naturally, historically and ethnically, different sources or deities suggest different things to do. No surprise. On the mythical and ethnic level, these suggestions may be locally and temporally quite beneficial for the faithful, but may be very unpopular for the rest of humanity. These mythologies and rituals, while often beautiful and sentimental, also tend to become, by and by, pretty ridiculous and embarrassing as the times change.
It might appear that there is the attitude which do not fit either of the two groups. Some scientists and other materialists just refuse to engage into philosophy. They are out to discover the laws or the things in the world leaving the philosophical quibble to the lowly humanities. If pressed, they usually agree that they assume some order in nature. Obviously, we do not know, will never know everything, but what we know is built by the animal, and then human intelligence, therefore they are humanists by default.
Defining somebody’s worldview by pointing to what he or she does not believe, does not make any sense. As a humanist, I have plenty of ideas to explore, beliefs and doubts, but it is useless to discuss things which do not exist. So do not call me a-theist, as I am not calling you a-humanist. Like in the restaurant, it would be odd to concentrate discussion on the dishes we will not order, or are not even on the menu. Anyway, the content of the message is the most important, the ethics and the values, while the quibble about the source may be irrelevant. It seems that across all religions and spiritual systems, the more contemplative the training, the deeper the level, the more barriers fall away and all the messages become the same. Perhaps it is because their origin is the core of the human nature.
Exploring these messages, including mythology and wisdom of all religions and philosophies, examining the human nature with the human mind not only discovers the unifying goodness and beauty but creates it (ie, goodness & beauty) in the process. Like, searching for the meaning of life makes it meaningful, or, according to modern phenomenologists – “living is making sense”.