Ernest Caldecott

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Caldecott, Ernest (20th Century)

A Unitarian minister, Caldecott signed HUMANIST MANIFESTO I.

In 1944, for the Second Humanist Convention in Los Angeles, Caldecott wrote:

  • Humanism is the conviction that, as far as we know, human intelligence, ethically exercised, and applied to the phenomena of the universe, can produce the best possible conditions and make available to mankind the finest development. This is different from supernaturalism, which posits not only the existence of an all-powerful Being, but one who intervenes in the affairs of men, and who aids man in achieving what otherwise would be impossible. Humanism is predicated on the assumption that it is the essential nature of the universe, which produced man, to provide the conditions in which he can best thrive. Even this statement tends to be teleological, for, when we observe that the universe “provides” something the implication can easily be that a “Provider” exists. Actually, we are employing the word “provide” in the same sense in which the physical scientist speaks of “nature’s design,” as though nature were conscious and directive. Humanists aver that we do not know the “ultimate” nature of the universe, nor even if there be such. We know nothing of origins or ends. Our knowledge is confined to existences. . . . The human being is less than a speck in the scale of the teeming centuries which amount to aeons of time. But since it is man who measures, and it is not known that anything exists more worthy of consideration (and also more needing it), we assert again that “the proper study of mankind is man.” Supernaturalism impedes progress. This is not to suggest that all forms of orthodoxy, religious, political, economic, and social, are inimical to the race. On the contrary it happens that some persons, orthodox in this are liberal in that. A Roman Catholic, accepting on faith the things he believes for his soul’s salvation, may still think for himself in politics, although he is less likely to do so than he who thinks out his own philosophy of living. What must be noted is that the irrationalism of supernaturalism leads astray. Consistent supernaturalism would necessarily be harmful. Its superstitions are enormous. It is blind unreasoning belief. Its exponents are rarely men of learning and never of vision. The obvious is the real to them. The miraculous is normal. . . . It is highly important that humanists associate with others of their kind for effectiveness, at the same time not falling into the errors of visionaries who expect a few persons to change the world over-night. The best we can reasonably hope for is to act as leaven. There we can be very helpful. That enough rational thinkers exist is probably self-evident. Up to now the emancipated seem to sense no need for group relationship. Thence the weakness of Unitarianism and Universalism. Were those who agree with the philosophy of either movement linked up with them, they would constitute a power greater than obtains anywhere on the planet. The spearhead of this force might well be humanism. The time for such joining of forces is here.