A program of the Center for Inquiry
For Immediate Release: January 13, 2017
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director
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Does secular humanism have the answer to the meaning of life? Not quite. But in the latest issue of Free Inquiry magazine, bestselling author and philosopher Rebecca Newberger Goldstein reveals that a sense of mattering -- to ourselves and to others -- is what actually spurs us to live our lives, with no higher being required.
Goldstein, recently author of Plato at the Googleplex, says that the idea of “mattering,” which she introduced in her 1983 novel The Mind-Body Problem, “all but defines what it is to be human,” and that mattering theory provides evolutionary explanations for human behavior.
“When you assert your own mattering,” writes Goldstein, “you’re asserting that your existence presents circumstances that ought to motivate an attitude of appropriate attentiveness on the part of others.” This “identity-mattering,” rather than coming from God, is a function of natural selection, a strategy executed by our genes to allow themselves to replicate.
This is the basis for “the mattering instinct.” Writes Goldstein, “We can’t help feeling both that we categorically matter and, at the same time, feel compelled to demonstrate that we categorically matter.”
Philosopher Andy Norman of Carnegie Mellon University then explores how mattering theory applies to what he calls “ideological derangement.” He writes, “When reality frustrates our efforts to make a lasting difference in the world— as it tends to do—we find ourselves drawn to mythologies, pretenses, and delusions that provide an illusory sense of mattering.”
This often takes the form of religion, says Norman, and is unstable, prone to conflicting ideas, and being untethered to the real world, resulting in “skewed priorities.” Humanism, however, can fill in the gaps with honesty, allowing us to “open ourselves to learning about our astonishing, awe-inspiring universe.”
Also in this issue: Free Inquiry editor Tom Flynn lays out the stakes for secular humanists in the coming Trump administration; James A. Haught looks at how the “rise of the Nones” was insufficient to stop Trump; Greta Christina calls readers to prepare for a revival of Fascism under Trump; Mark Cagnetta urges a full accounting of God’s failures to thwart atrocities and tragedies; Maarten Boudry declares the freedom of religion to be redundant and worthy of scrapping; and much more.
Subscribe to Free Inquiry, in print or on the web, at secularhumanism.org/fi.
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Free Inquiry is a bimonthly magazine, published by the Center for Inquiry in association with the Council for Secular Humanism, featuring thoughtful and provocative commentary from such leading political and social commentators as Ophelia Benson, Greta Christina, Faisal Saeed Al Mutar, and Russell Blackford. Launched in 1980, Free Inquiry has a paid circulation of approximately 34,000 worldwide.
The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The mission of CFI is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at www.centerforinquiry.net.