Humanism is the philosophy that places importance on the individual's thoughts and actions. Combining it with theology shifts that attention onto a person's religious ideologies and the rituals in which they partake. Combining humanistic theology with Christianity results in exploring how an individual's relationship with Jesus is balanced with their own needs and principles.
The Father of Religious Humanism
John H. Dietrich, once put on trial for heresy in 1911, had the view that Christians should try and live like Christ the martyr and not like a god who had died for the salvation of everybody's sins. He had been ordained as a Unitarian minister in 1905, but quickly ran into trouble with the church's benefactors because of the topics of his sermons. On Sundays, he would speak to the congregation about comparing and contrasting Orthodox ideas with more liberal ones. The benefactors found out, formed a committee to gather evidence against him, and concluded that Dietrich believed the following: the Bible was not infallible, evolution was correct, Jesus was not a god nor born to a virgin and atonement was not granted by Christ. That he added secular readings and themes to his sermons only further incensed the committee, and when he refused to defend himself at his trial, was defrocked in 1911. Dietrich did, however, go on to become a pastor at other Unitarian churches because of his popularity.
While Valla is best known for proving that the Donation of Constantine, a document supposedly written by Constantine I giving power to the pope, was a forgery, his work in humanism as a whole more accurately represents his philosophy. One of the first ideas he talked about publicly was his denial that Jesus' twelve apostles contributed one line each to the Apostles' Creed. Later, his works expanded to analyzing texts from a linguistic perspective. In his treatise Repastinatio, Valla acknowledged that the soul was immaterial but reduced it to possessing three characteristics: intellect, memory and will. In another chapter in Repastinatio, he theorized that God is only loved as a means to achieve personal pleasure, the notion of which is our highest good.
Positivism is the philosophical idea that truth can only be gleaned from areas like logic and math, not sensory experience. This seems to go against humanism, but they are both related in that individuals are encouraged to place importance on their own thoughts and actions in finding truth. In his various treatises, Comte can be seen as a mediator between the two philosophies. He advocated the view that science and society should be approached the way the Roman Catholic church was structured: social organization should have hierarchy and progress. He also theorized that secular sociologists, acting as a spiritual priesthood, should lead the way in educating the public in matters like morality.
Born in the second century A.D., Martyr was a Christian Apologetic, someone who approached Christianity with rationality and reason. He wrote that although God is the ultimate arbiter of truth, man's weakness and imperfection require him to need explanations and arguments to understand this truth. This shifted the burden from the object to the subject, as Martyr's philosophy centered on the individual's thoughts and actions being important in gaining knowledge about God. Martyr also united humanism and Christianity theology by teaching that while people could do good and virtuous deeds, Jesus was everything that was significant and good, and virtue could be traced back to Him.
- Harvard Square Library: John H. Dietrich: Religion Without God?
- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Lorenzo Valla
- Encyclopaedia Britannica: Auguste Comte (French philosopher)
- Purlieu: Positivism is a Humanism
- Encyclopaedia Britannica: Saint Justin Martyr (Christian apologist)
- American Humanist Organization: Chapter Eight: The Development of Organization
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