VIEW VIDEO  Good morning, friends. It is good to be back after yearly meeting and Fifth Sunday. After speculating three Sundays ago that if Jesus were alive today, he’d be a humanist, I am announcing the beginning of a new series entitled, “You Might Be a Humanist If…” In the Sundays ahead, I will be sharing with you the priorities and values of humanism, which I believe to be consistent with the moral precepts and historical priorities of Quakerism. You’ll remember we defined humanism as having a strong interest in or concern for human welfare, values, and dignity.

Though the word humanist has been used as a pejorative by many evangelical Christians, I want to affirm my appreciation for the aims of humanism, which include the assertions that 1) knowledge and wisdom are best obtained by studying the observable world using the scientific method as opposed to words from a god whose existence we cannot indisputably prove and whose actions we cannot reliably predict, 2) that humans arose through evolution, are self-aware, possessing the ability to discern right from wrong, and 3) that our moral principles are not determined by divine commandments, but by examining the results that our actions yield in the lives of real men and women. Simply put, if our actions result in happiness and well-being for ourselves and others, they are moral. If not, they are immoral.

Today, I want to speak about the first assertion, that knowledge and wisdom are best obtained by studying the observable world using the scientific method as opposed to words from a god whose existence we cannot indisputably prove and whose actions we cannot reliably predict. You’ll remember from high school that the scientific method is the process of objectively establishing facts through testing and experimentation. We trace its origins to the early 1600s and attribute its founding to the Italian mathematician and astronomer Galileo and the English philosopher Francis Bacon. For their efforts, Galileo was placed under house arrest by Pope Urban VIII and Francis Bacon died in disgrace, bankrupt and alone, confirming the adage that no good deed goes unpunished.

Where does knowledge come from? I was at yearly meeting last week and heard a man say that God is the giver of all knowledge and that if we wanted to be wise, all we had to do was ask God to show us the truth and God would. I tried that in high school after failing to study for a chemistry test. I sat quietly at my desk, bowed my head, and asked God to fill my mind with the Periodic Table, but apparently God was busy helping another high schooler because I flunked the test.

When I started having gallbladder attacks this summer (Have I mentioned my gallbladder attacks?), if I had gone to a doctor and they had placed their hands on my abdomen and asked God to cast out the demons tormenting my body, I would have found another doctor. Instead, the doctor employed the scientific method, objectively establishing facts through testing and experimentation, thereby deducing my gallbladder was, in her words, “underperforming,” which Mike Goss noted was the theme of my life.

Let’s think about this. In nearly every aspect of our lives, we employ the scientific method, whether we’re seeking medical advice or financial guidance or relational insight, we’ll seek out someone who depends upon the scientific method to acquire their expertise. When we do that, we are affirming the value of humanism, whether we realize it or not.

Several years ago, I was at the Dairy Queen and another pastor in town was standing in line behind me. He said, “Did you know I had a heart attack and almost died?”

I said, “Yes, I had heard that. I’m glad you’re alright.”

He said, “My wife drove me to the hospital, and they airlifted me to St. Vincent’s and the doctors operated on me and here I am. God took care of me.”

I couldn’t help myself. I said, “Not to mention the helicopter pilot who took years learning to fly a helicopter and surgeons who spent fifteen years learning to do heart surgery. Plus, the scientists who invented the drugs keeping you alive today. And let’s not forget your wife who drove you to the hospital in a car someone else invented and manufactured. They helped too.”

He said, “No, it was the Lord.”

And there you have it, friends, the utter refusal to admit our indebtedness to our fellow beings for their contributions to our well-being.

Humanism teaches us how to be grateful. Humanism asks us to be honest about the observable, verifiable facts of our lives. Humanism allows us to be appropriately aware of and appreciative of the good things that happen in our lives. To acknowledge that we have been blessed by human knowledge and kindness in no way denigrates God. It’s no secret that I have married one of the finest persons on Earth. If I were to wake up each morning thanking God for Joan but neglected to whisper a word of gratitude to her, I would be thoughtless and inconsiderate. It’s important in this life to know when and to whom to be grateful.

Friends, there are many bright and helpful people making real differences in our world. To discount their contributions is to deny the value, worth, and dignity of humankind. Goodness is goodness, wisdom is wisdom, to be appreciated no matter their author. For God to be good, humankind need not be evil. For God to be wise, humankind need not be foolish.

Today, I am grateful for Galileo and Francis Bacon, who with so many others, have taught us not only the value of observation, but the importance of knowing whom to thank and when and why.