Barbara Stanosz


The meaning of humanism adopted by the members of the associations united in IHEU has not been brought into the common use in the language of my community nor, at any rate, has it taken root in the Polish culture. The first association with the term "humanism", formed by an average educated person, is that with the period of the Renaissance and its characteristic interest in antiquity, particularly in the classical literature and languages. The second, a little looser association, is with intellectual orientation of the representatives of this or later epochs - principally philosophers and writers who focused on human affairs, human nature, needs and aspirations. This meaning of humanism does not, of course, presuppose atheism nor does it presuppose the scientific, rationalistic, or empirical philosophy of cognition - on the contrary: it is sometimes placed in opposition to the modern science as the alleged inspiration of the anti-humanist, "scientistic" attitude. Furthermore, this sense of humanism presupposes neither naturalistic view of life nor the earthly nature of morality; it allows unconstrained fantasizing on the sources and status of values, on the sense or purpose of human life, on the only "natural" principles of human coexistence etc., and especially, on the place and role played in society by religion and institutions which foster the religious worldviews.

The contemporary understanding of humanism as an atheistic worldview, rationalistic and proscientific, which regards religion as a purely social phenomenon and morality as a separate but also entirely social phenomenon has recently become a little more widely known in Poland - paradoxically - thanks to the adversaries of this life stance, namely the so called "People of the Church". This label is being used with regard to the relatively numerous group of Polish intellectuals and professionals who are at the service of the Catholic Church: mainly journalists, politicians, cassocks wearing philosophers, and orthodox lay theologians. This group has been granted incomparably easier access to the media and has been provided with the ample financial and organizational means, incomparably larger than any other life stance group - particularly humanists - so that they could effectively influence social consciousness. Since, however, humanism in the modern sense is rightly considered by the Church to be the main ideological enemy and even more threatening as it is allied with the liberal democracy of the West, the "People of the Church" cannot entirely ignore its presence in culture, including the Polish culture. They make, of course, arduous efforts in order to marginalize this understanding of humanism, to prove that it is just an outside influence, a remnant of the communist ideology or a manifestation of the Western "culture of death" which has formed an ugly growth on the healthy body of the nation which is catholic to the core. Humanist worldview is represented as an extreme and aggressive stance which, for that reason, cannot be assimilated into the prevailing culture of this nation.

This is exactly the atmosphere which has been created by the catholic activists and commentators around the organizations which have recently formed the Polish Federation of Humanist Associations, and particularly around the periodical Bez Dogmatu (Without Dogma) which has been published for 3 years now, by a group of humanists, mostly philosophers from several Polish universities. The magazine discusses the problems of worldviews but also reveals the dangers for democracy, individual liberties and social life which arise from the privileged position of the Church. The demand for the separation of the Church and the State, objection to the policy of upholding the power of clergy and to religious principles serving as the basis for the state law, pronounced in Bez Dogmatu, have elicited vociferous condemnations on the side of the “People of the Church” - far more aggressive than the reaction to the forthright atheism of the Bez Dogmatu circle. The group was labeled "close humanists" and the "People of the Church" indicated that the principle proof of their closeness is the fact, that they ignore the unworldly origin of the Catholic Church.

Blaming the atheist that they do not recognize the "other world" and its institutions may seem absurd and at the first glance makes an impression of being a kind of slip of the tongue. After due consideration, however, this censure must be treated as mature: for the "People of the Church" the precondition of the "openness" of any worldview, that is to say the prerequisite of any dialogue or any possibility to be granted the right to coexist, is the acknowledgment of supernatural character of their own religious institution. I shall come back to this issue in the final part of my paper.

Endeavors to discredit a stance by preceding its well connoted name with an adjective having negative, emotional connotations - as in the case of the word "close" - is one of the well known propagandist tricks. It The same trick had been applied by the ideologists of the so called real socialism who used to call ordinary democracy a bourgeois democracy. Another, similar propagandist trick consists in preceding such names with the adjectives with a positive tinge and using them to describe one's own views, generally, clearly discordant with the primary meaning of those names. The so called "people's democracy" or "true freedom" can serve as the examples of such practices; the former was in fact a contradiction of democracy, while the latter has been frequently used as a persuasive name for the various forms of enslavement.

The word "humanism" has been exposed by the "People of the Church" to the same

treatment: apart from the label of "close humanism" attached to the "contemporary humanism" they had earlier coined the term "integral humanism" and for the wider use the term, "Christian Humanism". It is exactly this pseudo-humanism, which forms the basis for the Church interpretation of the "true humanism" that I would like to outline in my paper. For obvious reasons I am going to omit the theological and philosophical constructs which make up this concept (or - more precisely - the concepts, since the Church vision of Humanism has undergone certain changes). Besides all that, this concept cannot be summarized in the fully intelligible language. That is why I will limit myself to the short account of the historical context in which it has become visible that the Church was in need of some kind of the counterfeit humanism in order to indicate, why this particular dummy had been chosen and what is its function in the present teachings of the Church inspired by its supreme superior.

In the late Middle Ages, after many centuries of partial achievements, the Church had finally dominated all fields of social life, including politics. It had almost organically merged with the institutions of feudalism and monarchy which, in return for their divine legitimization, provided the Church with wealth and unlimited power. Later, for one and a half century, the Church was not able to resign itself to the revolutionary, social and political changes which were commenced in the second half of XVIII century. The succeeding popes, starting from Pius VI, in the harshest words condemned democracy and human rights, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and any other form of the ideological neutrality of the state, making all the efforts to revive old political and social structures, together with the religious state.

These hopes were shattered soon after the First World War. Traditional monarchies fell into ruins, democratic regimes proliferated and in most cases became firmly established, whereas the totalitarian governments proved to be incapable of symbiosis which would satisfy the Church: Communism was clearly atheistic and Fascism - although supported by the Church in Italy and Germany alike - soon expressed black ingratitude and then simply fell.

The democratic state by its very nature cannot become an ally of the Church; on the contrary, it is obliged to counteract the aspirations of the clergy. Nor does it need its legitimizing services. The Church, condemned to the coexistence with democracy, but still not able to reconcile itself to the perspective of its degradation had to find a new ideology and a new prop, so that it would be able to counteract its degradation. The Church turned towards the notions of Human Person, Family and Nation. Human being as a person had been granted a certain amount of dignity and a number of rights - exactly as much as necessary in order to achieve the feeling of the inner independence from the state and its institutions - but not from the Church! Christian pseudo-humanism mystifies human being as a feeble and mentally awkward creature, incapable of making autonomous choices and infinitely lost if his path is not lighted up by the glare of the supreme truth. Whereas such truth - the infallible access to which had been previously granted to the pope - leads human paths independently from any earthly institutions and sources of knowledge, it demands from a man that he should renounce numerous - provided by them - possibilities.

Human sexuality and procreation has become the principal, obsessive concern of this truth. And it is not a fortuitous choice. When the principle of the heavenly sources of inequality between people and the principle of obedience to kings became dysfunctional, it was the Church that had to cultivate another strongly coercive taboo; the sphere of sexual and family life seems to be a good ground for nurturing such taboos. The limitations imposed on people in this field can radically reduce the scope of their choices in shaping their own lives, can separate them from many satisfying experiences and cause suffering. And that kind of people are the most faithful clientele of the Church.

The restrictions contained in the contemporary teachings of the Catholic Church have been carefully selected to serve this purpose. Sexual relation has been categorically restricted for heterosexual couples, exclusively in marriage and for procreative purposes. Preventing conception - if at all - has been permitted only through sexual restraint; conception - exclusively natural and the family - obviously heterosexual, numerous and indissoluble marriage with traditionally division of roles.

The special place in this doctrine is occupied by the issue of abortion. The emphasis put on the unconditional ban on abortion and sophisticated propaganda, launched in favor of such a ban - verbal and visual, evoking the whole range of emotions, from the soppy to aggressive feelings full of hatred, seems to attest again that the Church attaches great importance to this issue. This cannot be explained by the tradition of the Christian doctrine; the only emerging interpretation is that it is believed to be effective in mobilizing a large number of people - particularly those who are not direct subjects to this ban - to defend the "innocent, unborn ones", thereby demonstrating the power of the Church.

Here we touch upon another specific aspect of the Christian pseudo-humanism. It appears that it appeals to the oldest primal, irrational mechanism of human psyche - to those which used to be called instincts, or atavisms. The instinct to protect one's offspring certainly belongs to the strongest behavioral drives, and it is relatively easy to actuate human imagination so much that it is possible to notice a child in human zygote. Instinctive need to prolong one's particular species is one of the reasons for the relatively easy consent to the exclusively heterosexual family and an imprinted in our culture myth that for the good of a child it is necessary that a family is full, is a strong argument in favor of the dissolubility of marriage. Finally, the reminiscences of the herd instinct support a frail persuasive power of the arguments in favor of the traditional family with its specific hierarchy and role division.

It is also the herd instinct that the nationalist ideology, so closely connected with the Church doctrine, appeals to. The nation as a historical entity clearly distinguished from the society and its institutions, is very useful wherever - as in Poland - catholic identity and catholic roots can be ascribed to it (what counts is not the historical facts but their picture internalized within the culture.) The slogan calling for cultivating national traditions serves the purpose of isolating such countries from the outside cultural influence, particularly from the secularized societies of the West, with their liberal attitude and moral tolerance, with their real freedom of belief and - first of all - with the specific to the developed democracies manner the churches and denominational organizations are treated. In democratic countries the place of churches is on the earth, among other various, voluntary associations established by people and acting in accordance with democratic rules.

The Catholic Church in its present state cannot assume such a role. Its grotesquely hierarchical internal structure, anachronistic and plainly irrational doctrine, perverse methods of exerting obedience are applicable only as "gifts from the outer world" - nonanalyzable, and nonmeasurable according to the standards of the modern civilization. The Church cannot allow anyone to place it in this world; it would sooner accept atheism as a religion with equal rights and agree to admit IHEU to the company of the institutions "not of this world".

Humanists should persist in counteracting any possibility of such a qualification of their worldview. They can't allow - if they don't want to depart from their principles - cramming humanist movement into the framework of the world-wide religious industry. Humanist vision of the world should be addressed to critical individuals, capable of suppressing the inclination to wishful thinking, to the obedience to authorities and to the concessions made by the reason to psychological atavisms. The humanist worldview leads to the great intellectual satisfaction, but it is undoubtedly neither easy nor pleasant, so perhaps it shouldn't be advocated too earnestly; Let it rather be the property of those who are mature enough to adopt it.

And disclosing the real nature and function of religious doctrines and institutions - its character of the great business organizations, comparable with the entertainment industry - comes within the duties of social scientists and educators of the young generation.

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