Secular grace is a proactive acceptance, love and caring for our fellow human beings person to person.
Secular humanism has a ways to go to catch up to religious organizations in regards to building community and facilitating deep human connection. Religion has had centuries and sometimes millennia to fine-tune their strategies. Some of their strategies have been manipulative and others have been genuine. One of the manipulative strategies is easy to induce guilt in the guise of sin against a deity. One of the more effective and genuine strategies is simply loving acceptance sometimes called grace.
Find out more about Secular Grace. Looking for Secular Humanist Graces (saying grace)?
When I was a Christian I was a grace junkie. I became a Christian because of grace and I stayed a Christian much longer than I would have without my understanding of grace. I understood on a deep level my need for acceptance. I saw it as equally important to give grace to other people. I still do.
Many atheists hate the term grace for a number of reasons. For one, the implications of both substitutionary punishment and substitutionary atonement are offensive. The idea that someone can be punished for another’s crimes is heinous as are the implications of human sacrifice. Atheists also don’t like the term because it implies people are broken in some way and are in need of fixing. The very idea of sinfulness has dark implications about how one feels about oneself. Lastly, atheist balk at the idea that people can do anything immoral and then just repent/confess and all is forgiven. Is that really moral?
Christians will argue atheists are reacting to the “offense of the cross,” without really thinking through the implications because to them atheists are actively rebelling against God. They cannot begin to comprehend how someone would reject such a wonderful offer sometimes while simultaneously condemning atheists to hell.
So let’s remove the theological implications of grace for a moment. At its best, grace is about being accepted and loved for who you are as you are. I believe there is a deep human need for this kind of acceptance and love. One of the great draws to religion is becoming a part of a community that cares for you. Our need for human connection does not go away when we discard belief. In fact, that may be the time of our greatest need.
So is grace about being forgiven by an omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent god? Or is it at its heart people caring for people? I realized after deconverting that it is very much about the latter. And since then I have noticed more and more that religious organizations are leveraging their communities to bring people into their doors. It is the people and not a deity that provide meaning and connection.
Humanism is the idea of being good and ethical without the need for a god. I propose an addition to humanism: secular grace. Secular grace is a proactive acceptance, love and caring for our fellow human beings person to person. Humanists being human to other humans.
The concept of Secular Grace acknowledges that there is nothing more valuable, moral or ethical than people loving and accepting one another.
It is summed up succinctly in the South African term, ubuntu:
“I am because you are.”
Secular grace does not assume people are broken. It does not assume punishment is required substitutionary or otherwise. Neither does it necessarily condone peoples’ poor decisions. It does attempt to understand them. But most of all Secular Grace attempts to empathize with people without requiring them to conform to an ideal. This simple act of human kindness is quite powerful.
You do not have to look far for the opposite of secular grace. Many atheists and theist online see it as their personal mission to disabuse each other of their respective positions. I’ll admit debate and argument are a lot of fun. But it rarely actually changes someone’s mind.
I am much more interested in interacting with people who are questioning, deconstructing, on their way to deconverting or have recently deconverted. It is clear to me that this is the group of people who could benefit most from secular grace. People in these positions are in the greatest need of human connection and community.
When a person is considering giving up their belief structure, it is not just their beliefs they are losing. They may be risking relationships with family, careers and their concept of meaning. That is a fragile place to be. They need a listening ear more than cold hard logic.
I am looking for ways to create humanist community. And to help those who are doubting, deconstructing and deconverting through the process.
We need each other and each other is all we need.
You can follow my journey and further discussion of Secular Grace on the Graceful Atheist Podcast.
5 thoughts on “Secular Grace”
Sounds like u never dug deeply into Bible especially the NT. Did u just listen to some burn if u don’t turn theology preachers and got converted? I agree its all about loving other fellow human beings that includes the offensive fundamentalists.
To love other after u love urself is what Jesus about. The kind of love he demonstrated is hard to emulate, doesn’t matter theists or atheists.
Atheists like you shouldn’t even bring the word God and even worse demonizing religious people. Real atheists don’t need comparison and critiquing theists. No need to use the word Grace either.
“You do not have to look far for the opposite of secular grace. Many atheists and theist online see it as their personal mission to disabuse each other of their respective positions.”
Indeed, even in the comments on a post about Secular Grace.
How could you even begin to type this comment when the simplicity of what the author is trying to say is JUST BE. Love everyone, regardless if you end up in Heaven or Hell. Also, you’re judging. God does not like that.
It is my opinion that some harmful behavior is due to being “broken” and no one sought forgiveness, reconciliation and/or to somehow mitigate the original harm in some fashion. I also think not all behavior is forgivable from just a human stance. What do humanists or atheists propose to do about those people – life long prison? Why bother if unforgivable? (I happen to NOT support capital punishment) What’s the line that cannot be crossed? I think lines vary depending on how deep we dig – some people can be irrevocably changed leading to self or other harm by just a careless comment made before one had developed coping mechanisms to put the comment in a less detrimentally impacting perspective. I’ve heard or read some of Hitler’s angst (surely not all!!!!) came from his not being accepted into an art school. I could keep spiraling. But my point is that’s where there being something bigger than just humans kicks in for me – something mysterious I just can’t know everything about yet, but that generally provides “measurements” or perhaps standards from which I derive “rules” or perhaps “most helpful suggestions” about living. Hard to explain what I want to convey in a few sentences. I personally think the idea the author tries to assert here – in a VERY thoughtful and VERY well written way – still implies there is a “measurable” quality about human behavior, and one might therefore assert a “gold standard” or “best functioning prototype” of sorts is needed against which we can measure to make decisions. Mine is Jesus – not as pop culture sometimes defines, but what I think I see demonstrated in the New Testament of the Bible. Overall I didn’t come here to argue or tell anyone they are right or wrong – honest!! I went online for some info to share with a loved one who chooses to be an atheist, but I still want to support their understanding that extending forgiveness may ultimately lead to better mental health, among many things. I’m trying to respect and support them where they are without somehow implying life doesn’t work without a deity. Anyway – I enjoyed reading this! Like I said it is thoughtful – and thought provoking! And I know you didn’t ask for arguments – I don’t even know why I want comment except that I really do want to say I enjoyed reading this and I think it is thoughtfully well written. I’m tired of pop culture putting all Christians into one basket of hate – being stereotyped. I strive not to do that to other people of varying opinions so maybe I feel compelled to do the same to the author whose opinion on there being a deity isn’t the same as mine. Thanks for sharing in such a kind, interesting and intelligent way! I like to contemplate such things and will the rest of my life.
Sorry to see you would not allow my comments printed – the whole thing seems to have disappeared. I’m disappointed after taking so much time to compose it. Ah – graceful sharing of ideas is apparently not ok! Perhaps you only want to print comments that are not kind and respectful to keep in line with your stereotype of certain people? After reviewing more of the sight I see you have a slightly different purpose than what I thought. My mistake and certainly your choice snd right. Take care in your journey!