American Humanist Association
San Jose, California
June 4, 2010,
Humanist Universal Values:
Can We Realistically Hope to Live in a Humanist Civilization?
(The Code for Global Ethics)
Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay,
Emeritus professor, University of Montreal
Ph.D. Stanford University
Former president of the North American Economics
and Finance Ass'n
Author of the book “The Code for Global Ethics, Ten Humanist Principles”, 2010 [Prometheus Books, ISBN: 978-1616141721]
"When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves, in the course of time, a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it."
Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850), French economist
"The Bible is a manual of bad morals [which] has a powerful influence on our culture and even our way of life...It is a catalog of cruelty and of what's worst in human nature. Without the Bible, we would be different and probably better people.”
Jose Saramago, 1998 Nobel Prize for Literature winner
"The National Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and cooperation. It will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life."
Adolph Hitler, My New World Order, Proclamation to the German Nation, Berlin, February 1, 1933
“Certain hierarchs of the Catholic Church in Latin America used prayer as an anesthesia to put the people to sleep. When they cannot dominate us with law, then comes prayer, and when they can’t humiliate or dominate us with prayer, then comes the gun.”
Evo Morales, President of Bolivia, July 13, 2009
“I think that on balance the moral influence of religion has been awful. With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil—that takes religion.”
Steven Weinberg, 1979 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Let me begin on an optimistic note. Last January (2010), a group of Atomic Scientists pushed back the 1947 symbolic “Doomsday” clock that shows how close mankind is to self-annihilation to six minutes before midnight, from five minutes before. They cited a "new era of cooperation is a change in the U.S. government's orientation toward international affairs brought about in part by the election of (U.S. President Barack) Obama." They even hinted that "global warming is more of a threat now than nuclear war." We’ll see if such a renewed confidence is justified or not.
There are many other reasons to be less optimistic, however, if not squarely pessimistic, as to the direction that human affairs are taking. My main message here is simple: Humanity needs a new worldview,—a new moral code— a new objective standard of right and wrong, because the prevailing sectarian religion-based worldview leads to divisiveness and destruction. And that better worldview is the universal humanist worldview, both to comprehend our global problems and to solve them.
My topic can be divided into five related broad themes.
First, the increasing globalization of modern problems. Second, the scope of humanistic human empathy and consciousness, from tribal in the remote past to global today. Thirdly, why religions and sects of all sorts have so much appeal. Fourthly, the inadequacy of establishing our moral view of things through the prism of the major established religions, which can be counterproductive. And fifthly, how we can articulate and apply universal humanist principles to solve human problems.
I- Global issues
Many of our modern problems and threats are not only severe, but they have also become increasingly global in nature. In fact, our scientific and technological progress seems to be advancing much faster than our moral progress, with the consequence that problems arise faster than our moral ability to face them and to solve them can cope. Indeed, our problems are more and more global in nature, while our worldview is still essentially parochial.
At the very top of human preoccupations is the way the new technologies of war are being used and the growing willingness to use them.
Indeed, it was widely thought that wars of aggression (or pre-emptive wars) had been abolished with the adoption of the United Nations Charter on June 26, 1945 and the issuance of the Nuremberg Charter on August 8, 1945. But wars of aggression persist and those who initiate them are rarely punished, especially if they are powerful. —We also thought that financial crises and the severe economic recessions and sometimes depressions they provoked were a thing of the past, thanks to a protecting net of financial regulations designed to control greed and prevent a repeat of the past. Well, twenty years of wholesale deregulation has brought us back to an era of anything goes and financial collapse.—We also thought that the problem of poverty in the world could be alleviated, but abject poverty persists in many parts of the world.
There seems to be a pattern here, and that is that humanity seems unable to break out of a cycle of wars, economic crises and endemic poverty.
And, these throwbacks to an unpalatable past coincide with other developments, such as the spread of nuclear weaponry, the persistence of ignorance, growing social and economic inequalities, disregard for basic democratic principles, the rise in global pollution, , and an increasing religion-based willingness to kill and terrorize.
For example, as a case in point, former U. S Vice President Dick Cheney once boasted that a U.S. president can destroy the world on his own volition: “The [U.S.] president has 24/7 access to nuclear codes in the event of a nuclear attack against the United States ... He could launch the kind of devastating attack the world has never seen... He doesn't have to check with anybody, he doesn't have to call Congress, he doesn't have to check with the courts, he has that authority." (Dick Cheney, George W. Bush's Vice President, Sunday, December 21, 2008). This is quite something. Nobody asked him if this was moral!
II- The Modern Scope of Human Empathy
The circles of human empathy have gradually become larger and larger over the course of human evolution.
1- First, there was the empathy within the immediate or entended family of an agricultural, gathering or hunting society with ethical sharing among family members, with the sorcerer playing an important role in explaining the mysteries about the world and as a leading oral communicator.
2- Second, came the empathy within a large tribe or clan with religion playing an important role in creating cohesion and in spreading kinship altruism to non-family or non-relative members within an enlarged group. Morality is implicitly designed here for a society of co-religionists (of brothers and sisters within a state religion), with non-kin or outsiders viewed with suspicion and even excluded and fought. The mysteries about the world are partly explained through a common belief in all-powerful supernatural agents such as gods, spirits, angels or demons.
3- Third, empathy within a larger and more pluralistic nation-state and even an empire, the government playing the traditional father role in providing security and in promoting different levels of sharing among all citizens within an extended welfare state. Science and religion or superstition compete then as the major sources of human knowledge. Industrialization raises labor productivity and the average standard of living. Communication is enhanced by the printed word and wide scale taxation is being made possible by advanced accounting techniques.
4- Fourth, and I think this is where we stand today, empathy is beginning to be practiced on a global basis with humanity in its entirety being viewed as the worldwide extended human family. Knowledge-based industrialization is spreading worldwide, while energy sources become more diversified. Instant communication is being made possible worldwide through the Internet and satellites, with increasing economic and financial interactions. Morality is now necessarily more centered on universal values and the rule of law.
III. Atheism is not enough
I often tell friends in the New Atheist movement that atheism is not enough. Even though books such as R. Dawkins' The God Delusion and S. Harris' The End of Faith or Letter to a Christian Nation are certainly useful in cleaning the intellectual table of unfound religious myths and illogical religious claims. But, for many people, this is just like flogging a dead horse. This does not go to the essential reasons why people adhere to religious organizations, and these reasons are not theological.
I may surprise you, but let me say that, maybe not for you, but for many people, organized religions are useful, and for some, very useful institutions.
Indeed, in the real world, people join organized religions for many reasons other than the metaphysical promises they make and they receive tangible benefits from it. It is indeed important to realize that people's motives to join and militate within established religions are not only rational, but also belong to the world of emotions and to the reality of services provided. And that is why, for many people, organized religions can be seen as useful.
IV- Fundamental Reasons Behind the Appeal of Religion
1- They are usefull, first and foremost, for an emotional and social reason, because people have a natural instinct to to belong and to join, much more than they want to believe in a given set of metaphysical propositions. People want to be part of a community. They want to connect (some like to hold hands ad sing in a group). In sum, they like to belong to clubs, if the entry fee is not too high. In many societies, the most important social organizations are religious organizations. As a matter of fact, one is “expected” to belong to them.
As I explain in my book (The Code for Global Ethics”), people join, or sometimes are pressured to adhere to, some organized religions as if they were political clubs or parties. They hold “their” religion as if it were a flag or a standard to rally around. That is part of their identity. That is why for political leaders, religions have served very often as political tools to bring a needed cohesion and unity within their realm. That is the reason why also, in the past, political leaders doubled up as religious leaders.
There is an strong element of mass psychology involved here, depending on the society, when individuals are placed under the emotional pressure to join and conform. The more socially and politically totalitarian an organized religion is, and the more social harmony is valued in a society, the more pressure for an individual to conform and to join a state religion, and the more it is done at a lower age. In fact, in religion-dominated societies, the individual sometime has no choice but to join the official or state religion, if he or she wants to avoid discrimination or even persecution. It's a form of tyranny, probably the most insidious of all but it is a fact of life in many countries.
Of course, the results of such strong social cohesion are not always positive. Indeed, religion is a powerful too of group dynamics. It can create family-like links between people that can isolate them from the rest of society, or from the rest of the world. Fanatism, radicalism and extremism may thus ensue, especially if that evolves into a form of “mission-mentality” against “the others” or against members of other persuasions or other beliefs.
2- The second reason is more rational. In many poor countries, religion is a provider of social welfare and an insurance against fear and uncertainly.
Indeed, for some people, especially the poor and the disadvantaged, an important reason to adhere to or to remain active members of an organized religions is to receive concrete social services and assistance, at a low cost. When the government is corrupt or nearly absent, some organized religions can become de facto governments in themselves in providing education, health care or social assistance. These are tangible benefits. This has nothing to do with the metaphysical ideal of an afterlife, but a lot to do with real social support. The lesson, however, is that religious organizations are in direct competition with state institutions, and where the latter are absent, incompetent or corrupt, the former take over.
Different religions may also have different impacts on economic development within a country. For example, on the question of the influence of different religions on economic development, Xavier Couplet and Daniel Heuchenne (Religions and Development, 2009) have found that in 2007, on average, a Protestant “produced” 2 times more wealth than a Catholic, 4 times more than an Orthodox, 13 times more than a Muslim, 18 times more than a Buddhist, 25 more than a Hindu and 42 times more than an animist. Clearly, religions seems to influence the level of poverty or of prosperity of a given country.
3- Of course, a third reason that attracts people to organized religions is more emotional, and it is their promise, for some, of an afterlife. And it is very easy to understand. Unless new research on other mammals reveal otherwise, Homo Sapiens seems to be the only species whose members know they're going to die. Thus, it is understandable that there is a demand for any form of drug that can help to deal with this harsh reality. Religion is a cheap form of therapy against anxiety.
Indeed, the promise of an ever-lasting life can act as a drug to calm people's natural anxiety toward death. It has been said that religious temples are intellectual serotonin-manufacturing plants, providing a needed drug against human frailty. The prize of living eternally in a life of total bliss is a big prize indeed. It's worth a lot, as long as one clings to the idea, even if it is purely illusory, or as Blaise Pascal (1632-1662) had it, “take a wager, ...just in case that is true”.
The human brain has a lot of problem, from an emotional point of view, with the idea of death. It tends to revolt against the very idea. Soothing that fear of death is therefore a useful contribution on the part of religions. It remains, however, that the religion-based promise of eternal life is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on humankind. There is not an ounce of evidence or justification for such an extravagant claim.
A recent study indicates how complex is the functioning of the human brain. Indeed, it has been found that when some people pretend to have experienced a "near-death experience," with flashing lights and divine encounters, it is simply the result of the brain having unusually high levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the blood, thus creating hallucinations.
4- Finally, a fourth and more rational reason to cling to religion: People may have serious doubts about religious metaphysical promises, but they may want to cling to religion because it is a source of morality principles to be followed or to be taught to children.
This was the rationale advanced by Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), for keeping religious organizations. If you remember, Immanuel Kant in his analysis of religions, came to the paradoxical conclusion that although the philosophical foundations of established religions were false, it was nevertheless necessary to accept them (the religions) because they were a necessary source of morality for men.
Kant also based human morality on the supreme principle of universality of the “categorical imperative” “Act only on that maxim by which you can at the same time want it to be a universal law”. Principles of ethics must be acceptable as being universal. If they are not, they are not acceptable.
Modern ethics is based on democratic rule, on tolerance, on freedom of thought and expression, and on equality between men and women. Many organized religions, sad to say, are still prisoners of century-old biases and reject these most fundamental democratic and humanist principles. Many religion-based ethical principles are not universal and are thus unacceptable.
That is why, personally, I prefer to reverse Immanuel Kant's position on religion, at least as far as ethics is concerned. —I am in agreement with Kant that religions are usually based on false and irrational beliefs and myths. However, unlike Kant, who lived in the eighteenth century, my analysis of religion-based codes of ethics has led me to the conclusion that they are either fundamentally deficient and inadequate, or at the very least very incomplete, for a humanity which must live and survive in the new globalizing context.
My analysis leads me to the conclusion is that organized religions, far from being a reliable source of moral values, are rather, in many senses, a moral threat to humankind. In fact, institutionalized religions are a flawed source of morality essentially because:
1-they tend to generate conflicts, as well as to create a god-ordered incentive to kill and maim others;
2- they promote bigotry and exclusion;
3- they promote moral dualism between the state and the individual;
4- they promote anthropomorphism with the wrong idea regarding man's true place in the Universe;
5- they rely on intimidation through inventions like Hell;
6- and because they draw a non-scientific and arbitrary separation between the physiological and intellectual functions of the human body.
From this series of errors flows a variety of adverse consequences for the organization of human affairs. Therefore, my first conclusion is that there could be many good reasons to follow a particular religion, but, on the whole, organized religions are not the key to moral behavior or to self improvement. There are better ways.
And that's here where universal humanism can play a useful role and provide a useful and superior moral substitute. Humanism is at a somewhat disadvantage because it cannot make in good faith the promise of eternal life with a reward of an infinite value (or of a punishment of infinite severity). It can, on the other hand, provide a better moral code to humanity and it can provide assistance to people in need.
Therefore, cleaning the intellectual table, as far as the religious metaphysical propositions are concerned, is not enough if one's purpose is to contribute to liberate people's mind. A simple defense of atheism is not sufficient to persuade many people that religions are not useful. Besides, “atheism” has two fundamental defects: It is a negative term and it is a religious term. That is why I personally rarely use the term. Besides, it has acquired over time the unjust connotation of a lack of morality.
I give this example of American evangelist Billy Graham's trick to defame atheism as being a selfish proposition when he says that “those who reject God want to escape moral restraint and want to pursue desperate lives of sin.” Talk about inanity! Of course, this is a complete falsehood since study after study show that people who live outside of established religions are, on average, more moral than religious people.
V- More Fundamental Problems with Religion-based Morality
There are two additional problems with religion-based morality.
-First and foremost, we can say that the foundations of religion-based morality are in direct conflict with the scientific knowledge developed over the last four centuries. Indeed, humans' vision of themselves in the Universe has been forever altered by three fundamental scientific breakthroughs:
- Galileo's proof, in 1632, that the Earth and humans were not the center of the Universe, as so-called holy books have asserted.
- Darwin's discovery, in 1859, (“On the Origin of Species”) that humans are not some unique god-like creatures among all species, destined to live forever, but are rather the outcome of a very long natural biological evolution, having evolved from other forms of life.
- The Watson-Crick-Wilkins-Franklin's discovery, in 1953, of the structure of the double helix DNA molecule (Deoxyribo Nucleic Acid) in each of the 46 chromosomes in human cells, and the devastating knowledge that humans share more than 95 percent of their genes with chimpanzees.
I would add, also, that ongoing research about how the human brain functions has cast new light on how some phenomena, such as different kinds of thoughts, including religious thoughts, are generated in different zones of the brain, an indication that all psychic phenomena have their origin in the brain.
Therefore, nobody can assert anymore that the Earth is the center of the Universe; nobody can claim that humans are unique in the scale of things; nobody can maintain that the human body and the human mind are two unrelated entities.
This knowledge has tremendous consequences for our moral stance. The ideas of afterlife rewards or punishments, of the existence of a paradise or a hell in some extraterrestrial world, and the myth of so-called “chosen” people or races, are pretty much negated by this new scientific knowledge. And such knowledge cannot be ignored under the pretext that science and religion belong to two different worlds. They are both an integral part of the human experience and they must be reconciled.
-A second important problem with religion-based morality is that its precepts, as presented in so-called “holy” books are at best very ambiguous, and at worst, they can be fundamentally very immoral. As summarized by Jose Saramago, the Portuguese laureate of the Nobel Prize for Literature, in the case of the Hebrew and Christian Bible: "The Bible is a manual of bad morals [which] has a powerful influence on our culture and even our way of life...It is a catalog of cruelty and of what's worst in human nature. Without the Bible, we would be different and probably better people.”
VI- A Superior Humanism-based Morality
But, we may ask, what are the universal values that a majority of people living in Western democracies adhere to? As a matter of fact, those are basically universal humanist values.
The contradiction between modern problems, new scientific knowledge and the inadequacy of our prevalent source of morality or of ethics, which are mainly religion-based, has led me to write a book, “The Code for GLOBAL ETHICS, Ten Humanist Principles”, [ISBN: 978-1616141721] prefaced by Dr. Paul Kurtz and published this year by Prometheus Books.
In this book, I ask a certain number of fundamental questions, such as: Why do we have this uneasy feeling that the world is less moral than it should be? In fact, can we not talk of a moral bankruptcy at the highest levels of our societies, both in politics and in business?
Or, again, why is it that the resurgence of religions, especially the three Abrahamic and proselytist religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) seems to have coincided with a drop in basic human morality at a time when global solutions to global problems are more acute than ever? Would the world be a better place if we adhered to universal humanist principles? And, what can be done realistically to bring about a humanist civilization?
In general, when religions of all stripes cease to be instruments of personal spirituality and experience and morph into politicized and state systems, they lose much of their overall usefulness. Indeed, there is a huge gap between religion as a system, and individual spirituality and morality.
Religious fundamentalism and rigidly pyramidal religions—not the least is the example of the Abrahamic religions—necessarily lock individuals in a dehumanizing intellectual and moral straitjacket. Clinging to outdated dogma or to deficient moral rules is of no help in developing one's personal spirituality, or a modern morality for that matter.
This has led me to ask what humanism can offer as moral principles or as a moral code that would be more attuned to our current global problems, as compared to what traditional organized religions have to offer with their so-called holy books, written millenia ago when societies were smaller, were family- or tribe-oriented, and agricultural.
In essence, I am asking what would be a truly humanist civilization based on fundamental humanist values? And, if, as I think, humanist values are superior to any other type, why is it that the world seems to be moving presently from humanism to embrace dangerous absolutist religious worldviews?
VII- A Humanist Civilization
Let me answer the first question about what a humanist civilization would look like.
In essence, in such a humanist civilization,
• All human beings would be equal in dignity and in human rights.
• Life on this planet would not be devalued and seen as only a preparation for a better life after death, somewhere beyond the clouds.
• The virtues of tolerance and of human liberty would be proclaimed and applied, subject only to the requirements of public order.
• Human solidarity and sharing would be better accepted as a protection against poverty and deprivation.
• The manipulation and domination of others through lies, propaganda, and exploitation schemes of all kinds would be less prevalent.
• There would be less reliance on superstition and religion to understand the Universe and to solve life's problems and more on reason, logic and science.
• Better care of the Earth's natural environment—land, soil, water, air and space—would be taken in order to bequeath a brighter heritage to future generations.
• We would have ended the primitive practice of resorting to violence or to wars to resolve differences and conflicts.
• There would be more genuine democracy in the organization of public affairs, according to individual freedom and responsibility.
• Governments would see that their first and most important task is to help develop children's intelligence and talents through education.
First and foremost, the scope of human empathy would be universal and global and not limited to some chosen people, to the members of some religion or to some civilizations.
To reach such a moral stage, in practice, would require that we move to a higher level of human morality that stands above the traditional or standard Golden Rule (“Treat others as you would have others treat you.”) that one finds in all moral codes. We would adopt instead what I call a Super Golden Rule of humanist morality that incorporates the humanist rule of empathy: "Not only do to others as you would have them do to you, but also, do to others what you would wish to be done to you, if you were in their place." — Of course, the corollary also follows: “Don't do to others what you would not like to be done to you, if you were in their place.”
[This is a far cry from the implicit rule that former President George W. Bush seems to have been following while in power: "Do unto others before they do unto you!"]
This is a general moral principle, which requires that we judge whether an act is moral or not as if we did not know in advance if it would apply to us or to others. This is a concept that is analogous to John Rawls' famous “veil of ignorance” for distributive justice. Thus, racism is wrong because you would not want people to treat you badly if you were of another race; sexism is wrong because you would not want to be treated disrespectfully if you were of another sex; torture is wrong because you would not want to be tortured, etc.
As can be seen, humanist ethics goes beyond the natural Golden Rule of human morality which stipulates that each one of us should attempt to treat others as we would have others treat us. Indeed, the Super Golden Rule of humanist morality that I develop in detail in the book (see chap. 3) is the very foundation of universal humanist ethics.
VIII- Different Ways to View the Humanist Rules
—There are many ways to divide the humanist rules of global ethics. A first approach is to divide them between individual and collective rules. For example, we can say that humanist rules #2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 apply principally to individuals, while humanist rules #1, 7, 8, 9 and 10 apply primarily to human societies or collectivities.
—A second approach is to divide humanist rules between what I would call the basic natural morality rules (not to kill, not to steal, not to lie, and to share in a spirit of justice and fairness) that can be found in most moral codes and that apply primarily to individuals. Such natural morality is our blood, in our genes, as surviving members of the human species through a very long process of evolution. They appear here in rules #2, 4 and 5.
—However, other important humanist rules for private and public morality belong to what I would called a more advanced morality code and they must be learned. Because, in general, they do not come naturally, such more advanced rules of ethics have to be learned through education and persuasion, as they can be deducted from historical experience, reason, judgment and scientific knowledge.
Such is the rule of the inherent dignity and equality of human beings, whatever their race or sex (rule #1). For example, it is fair to say that the principle of equality between men and women is far from being accepted all over the world. In fact, most religions de facto refuse this principle.
—The other great humanist principles, such as the requirement of tolerance (rule #3), the rejection of superstitions that come essentially from ignorance (rule #6), the need to leave to future generations a clean environment (rule #7), the outlawing of wars of aggression and of wars of conquest (rule #8), or the proclamation of the human value of democracy (rule #9) and the human value of education for all (rule #10) are not necessarily inscribed in nature.
For example, dictatorship or aristocratic rule can come as naturally, or even more naturally, as democracy. After all, the law of the jungle and the rule that “might makes right” do exist.
Indeed, when one applies the general humanist empathy principle, one recognizes that one's own rights and needs are also everyone else's rights and needs. The general humanist empathy principle is the foundation for the rule of tolerance in our complex and pluralistic world. As such, the fundamental right of freedom of conscience means that people have a right to their own thoughts, their own beliefs, their own philosophy, and their own religion. The only requirements for social peace are double: First, people should not impose these beliefs on others and should not use these beliefs to foster violence and intolerance toward others in a way that perturbs public order or in a way that negates constitutional rights and, secondly, the state should remain neutral in matters of religion and beliefs. —Fanaticism, extremism, and proselytism are the opposite of tolerance, trust, and open-minded attitudes in human relations.
IX- Religion-based Morality vs Humanist Morality
Some religions are in denial, partly or totally, of most of the basic humanist principles.
- Rule # 1 about dignity and equality: Many religions deny that man and woman are equal, either in principle or de facto, and they have accepted for centuries the practice of slavery.
- Rule # 2 about respect for human life as primordial human property: Some religions consider life as a privilege bestowed by deities and not as a fundamental human right. This error comes from the religious premise that political power come from deities and not from people and that god-appointed leaders can take the life of people as they wish.
Rule # 3 The value of tolerance is often denied by some religions under the pretext that an absolute moral authority must rule the world. It is a fact that some religiously oriented people think that humanist "tolerance" reflects a rejection of any absolute moral principles. Of course, this is wrong. This is a sad caricature.
- Rule # 4 The requirement of sharing can be found in both humanist and religious ethics. However, most religions prefer to rely on private charity, which is proven in most cases to be insufficient, while humanist ethics relies on both private and public sharing.
- Rule # 5 Most organized religions only pay lip service to the requirement of non domination, since their power rests on the domination of people's mind.
- Rule # 6 Of course, reliance on fear and superstitions is essential to organized religions while humanism reject it.
- Rule # 7 Respect for the environment can conceivably be part of religion-based ethics. However, by placing humans at the center of “Creation” and by negating the scientific reality of human evolution, some organized religions indirectly provide solace to the deprecation of the natural environment.
- Rule # 8 The religious approach to wars and conflicts is wrought in contradictions, especially among the so-called “imperial” abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). Such imperial religions became over time “state religions”, a status that forced them to condone all kinds of state violence, including so-called wars of religion (“my god is stronger than your god”!).
- Rule # 9 Most organized religons are hierachical organizations that see democracy with suspicion, refusing the democratic principle that power comes from the consent of the people and rather pretending that such power over humans comes from deities.
- Rule # 10 Historically, organized religions have played a central role in educating children. However, some of them have placed the educational emphasis on teaching children to memorize and recite byh rot so-called holy books, at the expense of more useful scientific knowledge.
X- The Current Civilization is a Far Cry from being Humanist
Obviously, we do not presently live in a humanist civilization.
For example, after World War II and the adoption of the United Nations Charter in 1945 and the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1949, it was hoped that a humanist civilization could replace political totalitarianism and the savagery of the world wars waged during the first part of the twentieth century. The persistence of wars and genocides indicates that this has not been the case.
The disappearance of fascism and communism seems to have been replaced by a new form of war-proned corporatocracy or of corpocracy, i.e. a form of government where large business corporations, banks, conglomerates, and government-sponsored enterprises control the electoral process, the media, the courts and the government of a country. Such a system could also be called plutocracy, which is a form of fascism.
As we see, humanist morality goes much further than raising the question of human moral perfectibility or even asking if human nature is evolving too slowly. It's obvious that there is a gulf between the idealism of utopian perfection and the human reality of greed and cruelty that surrounds us. Nobody denies that. But, even if we accept that human moral evolution is necessarily a very slow process, this does not mean that we should not attempt to develop better moral codes to guide human actions and interactions, along with appropriate institutions. And for that, the humanist ethical code would seem to be the best that humanity could adhere to.
 According to Immanuel Kant, a good moral rule should satisfy the condition of universalisability, that is to say that it could consistently be willed as a law that everyone ought to obey. The Humanist Super Golden Rule meets this criterion.