Since I deconverted from Christianity nearly a year ago, I’ve struggled with what to call myself. Originally, I decided “atheism” was the best term to describe my beliefs: after all, I both lacked belief in gods and believed there were no gods, making me an atheist under both commonly used definitions of the term.
After coming out about my non-belief in gods last autumn, I jumped head-first into the “Atheist Community” and all it entailed. I began making YouTube videos promoting atheism, arguing with evangelicals on my university’s campus, debating Christian philosophers both online and face-to-face, and re-arranging my political and moral views to fit my new-found godless intellectual framework.
A few months into this, however, I realized that I could no longer align myself with the “New Atheist movement.” My YouTube videos offended many excellent people who happened to be religious, my Christian-era friends stopped talking to me, afraid of yet another ‘religious conversation,’ and even moderate atheists / agnostics / skeptics told me my attacks on religion had gone too far. I began to realize that my atheistic evangelical fervor was every bit as dogmatic and abrasive as its religious counterpart. In a quest to become a “rational warrior,” I had become an irrational fundamentalist.
During this time, I also began to notice the lack of diverse groups and social justice emphasis within the atheist community. Despite the fact that they touted itself as a haven for reason, logic, and inclusion, I couldn’t help but to notice that the vast majority of active New Atheists were Western, white, straight, able-bodied, cisgendered males. Sure, there were blacks, Hispanics, women, LGBT people, etc. within the movement, but they were specks within a sea of privilege, minorities within a minority. Incidents like “Elevatorgate” and the “Thunderf00t / Freethought Blogs fiasco” drove home the fact that the dominant cultural narratives of bigotry were still active within the atheist community.
While the above things helped propel me away from “capital-a Atheism,” perhaps the most salient factor in my departure was simply the philosophical poverty of the atheist position. Once I concluded the evidence against both theism and Christianity was convincing, I found myself torn from a philosophical and moral framework — however flawed — which gave me both a worldview and a guide for personal, social, and political action.
Atheism, in turn, offered no such worldview. As atheists love to say, atheism is just the lack of belief in gods, nothing more, nothing less, it implies nothing beyond disbelief in deities. This principle was borne out by the fact that so many groups of people, following both good and evil worldviews, united under the “atheist” label. There were atheist Humanists, socialists, liberals, and conservatives, and sadly, more sinister types like racists, homophobes, transphobes, misogynists, and even Neo-Nazis (actually, many Neo-Nazis are atheists).
I realized that “atheism” simply wasn’t enough for me, that I could no longer simply respond to the question “what do you believe?” with “I’m an atheist.” While an accurate statement about what I didn’t believe, the term “atheist” said nothing about what I actually stood for, and I did not, in any way, want to be identified with anti-feminists, homophobes, and Neo-Nazis, even if only under a term meaning “lacks belief in gods.” So I went in search of another worldview, something to, if not take the place of religion, then at least to give a framework for my values and a term to identify with when asked the inevitable ‘belief’ question.
Like many non-theists, my first stop was Humanism (sometimes called Secular Humanism), a “life stance” which combines nonbelief in gods and the supernatural with Enlightenment ethical values such as equality, justice, and human dignity. While Humanism’s ideals are certainly praiseworthy, I couldn’t bring myself to accept the movement’s explicit atheism. By this time, I had begun to realize that the existence or nonexistence of god(s) was largely irrelevant to humanity, and that the “God question,” though interesting on a purely intellectual level, was simply not that important to human existence. Atheism+, the novel social-justice-emphasizing “New Atheist” movement, also places an overemphasis on atheism and opposition to religion.
I also couldn’t help but notice that Humanism, despite the name, was highly Eurocentric, based almost entirely on Western epistemologies and ethical values. While Humanism drew heavily from Western cultural norms and philosophical traditions (the influence of Plato, Paine, and Rawls is clear), it largely ignored Eastern and Southern voices such as the Confucian, Jain, and Buddhist ethics and philosophy.
Having rejected Humanism (though still choosing to identify as Humanist for practical reasons), I looked into secular versions of religious traditions like Christianity, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Jainism. While I certainly admire the traditions, imageries, and some of the ethics of these religions, I found I couldn’t accept their theistic and supernatural baggage. The highly rigid gender roles of these religions were also, in my opinion, unjust and unsuitable for today’s world.
After considering all this, I’ve decided that no currently existing worldview accurately describes what I believe. So, in the spirit of innovation, I’ve decided to create my own: a secular (but not anti-religious) “life stance” where kindness to humanity, animal life, and the natural world is the highest value.
The axioms — “assumptions” or “starting points” — of this worldview, which I’m currently calling Kindism [philosophers, this has nothing to do with the ethical theory of Cultural Kindism, though I think that theory is interesting, too ] (if anyone can think of a better name for it, I’m all ears ), are simple:
All members of the human community, both individually and collectively, possess intrinsic value and are equal in moral and worth. They possess certain inalienable rights, including (but not necessarily limited to) life, freedom, happiness, self-determination, social equality, social opportunity, and economic equality. They are owed kindness, tolerance, dignity, and respect.
All sentient non-human animals possess intrinsic value and moral worth, and should not be killed or caused harm by human beings, except when essential to protect and / or sustain human life.
The natural world is intrinsically valuable, and must be defended, protected, and preserved, except when essential to protect and / or sustain human life.
From these three axioms, these values naturally flow:
All human individuals, regardless of sex or gender identification (including male, female, intersex, genderqueer, transsexual, “other,” etc.), are entitled to equal civil, political, economic, and social rights. This includes, but is not limited to, the right to choose, and, if they so wish, marry, a person of her / their / his choice.
All human beings, regardless of sexual orientation, are entitled to equal civil, political, economic, and social rights. This includes, but is not limited to, the right to choose, and, if they so wish, marry, a person of her / their / his choice.
All human “races,” ethnicities, nations, religions (including the lack of religion), and cultures are equal in every respect, none is more or less valuable than any other. All such groups are entitled to equal civil, political, economic, and social rights.
All human beings have the responsibility to treat other human beings with kindness, equality, tolerance, dignity and respect. As far as it is possible, it is incumbent upon all people to assist other humans and sentient creatures in their time of need.
All human beings have a responsibility to work for the good of their families, local communities, the human community, other sentient animals, and the natural world. Individuals, as far as they are able, are responsible to protect innocent life Specifically, each person and human community must work toward social justice, including (but not necessarily limited to) the eradication of sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, neurotypicalism, ethnocentrism, religious bigotry, speciesism, poverty, non-defensive violence, economic inequality, and unequal protection under the law.
All human beings have the responsibility to, as far as they are able, eradicate all forms of unjust suffering from the human community and the non-human animal world.
Violence, both on the individual and collective levels, is antithetical to the above axioms and values and must be avoided and vigorously condemned. Specifically, war, genocide, murder, rape, sexual assault, child abuse, animal abuse, bullying, and personal violence are abhorrently evil and must be avoided. Recourse to violent actions is morally permissible when, and only when necessary to defend human beings from deadly or otherwise grave harm. In such situations, one must use the minimum amount of force necessary to protect the person / persons in need.
Any person who knowingly and intentionally violates one of the above principles is morally blameworthy, and is deserving of punishment in proportion to their act. Except for the right to life, which is absolute, any aforementioned right and/or entitlement may not be taken except for just cause with due process of law.
I’m deeply indebted to the thousands of thinkers who first laid out these principles. I’ve drawn the “Kindist” axioms and principles from a variety of sources, including Christianity (specifically, the “peace church” tradition), Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Confucianism, Marxism, religious pacifist traditions, Humanism, Feminism, liberation theology, and postmodernist ethics, among others. They are not tied to any particular ontology, and are compatible with theism, naturalism, idealism, Platonism, or any other metaphysical viewpoint. Kindism makes no claims about the existence or nonexistence of gods or the supernatural; it is compatible with atheism, but is not explicitly atheistic.
Anyone can be a Kindist, regardless of their religion, race, national origin, etc., if they espouse the above principles. A Christian, Jew, Muslim, Jain, Sikh, Buddhist, Pagan, atheist, agnostic, apatheist, or follower of any other religion or non-religious viewpoint can subscribe to Kindism.
These principles are axiomatic, assumed a priori, and not deduced from any fact about the world (getting around Hume’s guillotine).
I didn’t list any “hard-and-fast” rules, both because I don’t feel it’s my place to do so and because I prefer to leave moral dilemmas to be decided on a virtue ethical basis — the goal isn’t so much to “do the right thing” as to “be the right person.”
As of now, Kindism is just my personal “life stance,” and I don’t intend it to become a “social movement,” like Humanism, “New Atheism,” or Atheism Plus. I’m just one man with an obscure blog, and I don’t have any delusion that people will even read this, let alone subscribe to my philosophy. Still, if you’ve gotten this far, and agree with my little “philosophy,” “like” this post. If you disagree, please leave a comment below and let me know what you think.
Peace, Love, and Kindness .