Rethinking organized religion

What Christians or Muslims believe is roughly familiar to everyone. On the other hand, virtually nothing is known in the public about what denomination-free people think and consider to be “credible”. That is actually astonishing, since in Germany they make up more than a third of the population, in Berlin, for example, they represent the vast majority.

A representative survey conducted by the opinion research institute Emnid in the spring of 2016 showed that 61 percent of Berliners described themselves as nondenominational, 21 percent as Protestant and nine percent as members of the Catholic Church. The remaining nine percent include Muslims, Jews and around 50 other religious communities.

The majority of non-denominational people hold a worldview that consciously distinguishes itself from religion and a God above all else. Although a minority among them has left the church, they often still consider themselves to be religious in some way.

Newspapers, radio and television are reserved when it comes to depicting the thoughts and actions of non-religious people in Germany. In all international treaties concluded between each federal state and the respective radio and television stations, it is expressly stipulated that they must report adequately on all relevant social groups and on all relevant social views and opinions. But only the “state-supporting” religions have representatives in the media councils.

And of those almost only the Christian churches have their own editorial offices and fixed broadcasting times. Thus, despite all the alleged separation of state and religion, they possess a privilege granted by the state. Therefore it is understandable that in the Emnid survey mentioned above 54 percent of the Berliners interviewed do not feel sufficiently informed by the media and politics about the large group of nondenominational people.

Humanist without knowing it

The Emnid study provided highly remarkable insights into the attitudes of church-organized citizens and revealed how little Christian views still determine their lives, even among church members. One of the statements to be answered was: “I lead a self-determined life based on ethical and moral convictions and free from religion and belief in a God. An overwhelming 74 percent of the Berliners questioned agreed with such a humanistic view of life.

85 percent of the non-denominational people agreed with this statement, but also 57 percent of Catholics and 64 percent of Protestants said that they live a life “free from religion and belief in one God”! And certainly for many believing readers, another result of the survey is perceived as irritating, namely that with increasing educational level the consent to humanistic-secular views of life grows, i.e. it decreases to religious views. A phenomenon known from all major cities in Germany.

What today’s humanists think, what values they assume is widely unknown, especially among believers. At best one associates the rejection of religion and the denial of the existence of a God. These views are often connected with the assumption that people without religion, especially those with an atheistic attitude, would not know morals, since they feel obliged to no divine power.

Morality, too, has undergone an evolution

Obviously one assumes that moral principles, which regulate our actions and omissions, could only be anchored in God. In fact, sociobiology can show that morality, too, has evolved evolutionarily. For how different is it, for example, to explain that the core tenets of the Ten Commandments are spread throughout the world, regardless of religion or God’s concept? But also people can agree on norms of behaviour and insist on their observance, as for example the American Declaration of Independence or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights show.

So man can give himself his ethical norms and rules. The Church’s disapproval of man’s alleged self-importance is that “such ethics are only oriented towards the actual or presumed interests that a human being has”. A humanist would rather not perceive this as criticism. Rather than confirming the principle that man – always with a view to responsibility for the other – is the measure of things and not a divine being described in Holy Scriptures.

Man is indeed the measure of all things

At the centre of my humanistic concept is the statement, which may sound like a provocation to many people’s ears, that man is the measure of all things. I am well aware that the mere exchange of instances is no guarantee for a better solution. But it is not individual people who should decide on fundamental norms and problematic ethical questions, but people who communicate with each other, who weigh and judge on the basis of expertise, life experience and impact assessment on.

In this respect, ethics committees would be justified if they were actually a reflection of the moral and ethical views of the citizens and were not often one-sidedly dominated by the church and religion.

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