Developing Sanity in Human Affairs

By Susan Presby Kodish; Robert P. Holston | Go to book overview

31
Putting up Lightning Rods: General- Semantics and Secular Humanism

Susan Presby Kodishand Bruce I. Kodish

When Ben Franklin discovered the electrical nature of lightning and invented the lightning rod in 1752 ( Seckel and Edwards, p. 54), churches were often the tallest structures and were particularly prone to strikes (p. 54). Because many religious authorities resisted placing rods on churches despite evidence of their useful, many people died unnecessarily in the practice of ringing church bells during thunderstorms to scare away the 'devils' believed responsible for them (p. 54). Eventually, the sheer force of evidence as to the effectiveness of the rods could not be resisted and became 'common sense' by the end of the eighteenth century (p. 55).

Our problems seem much more complicated than electrical storms. How we seek to face them will determine to a large degree the kind of future we, as individuals and as a species, will live in.

If we cling to outdated dogmatic beliefs, ringing church bells to drive out storm 'devils,' our prospects for the future appear bleak. Facing the future with some realistic hope will require that many more human beings give up their tightly held certitudes so that we can deal with our problems more constructively; that is, we had better 'stop ringing church bells' and 'put up lightning rods' instead.

I propose that this reorientation will require embracing secular humanism and general-semantics. Here I give an overview of then approaches and then link the two.


SECULAR HUMANISM

The terms humanism, humanist, and humanistic have had a variety of uses over many years. Here we're concerned with humanism viewed as a 'philosophy.'

-393-

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