"It has its own journal, the New Humanist, and its own sages, the most prominent of whom is Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene and vice-president of the British Humanist Association. It runs advertising campaigns and letter-writing campaigns and is militant in asserting the truth of its vision and its right to make converts. But the vision is not that of my parents."He then goes on to use the "enjoy your life" aspect of the Atheist Bus Campaign slogan, "There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life", to illustrate his view that the "new humanism" is characterised by irresponsible hedonism.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this isn't a view of humanism, new or otherwise, that we share with Scruton (for the record, our magazine may be called "New Humanist", in fact it has been since the early '70s, but this doesn't mean we claim to promote something called "new humanism". That's Scruton's label, not ours). So our editor, Caspar Meliville, did one of the things Scruton claims we do best – he wrote a letter. More precisely, he sent The American Spectator a letter in response to Scruton, which they've now published on their website. You can read it all on their site, but here's the second half, which I think is an excellent statement of what we try to do with New Humanist:
"Scruton uses the example of one particular ad campaign on a bus, to paint us all as trivial hedonists who are uninterested in "man as an ideal," faith, hope, charity, belief or how to improve the world. He is absolutely right that we can be light-hearted (the bus campaign was successful precisely because the message was so simple and uplifting) and scathing – our God Trumps parody card game mines religious beliefs for laughs – but we also devote a lot of space in New Humanist to serious critical analysis of ideas (those of our 'sages' like Richard Dawkins as well as of believers), exploration of scientific and artistic endeavour, and discussions of what makes a sound secular basis for moral judgements and the good life (Our wide range of contributors include many of the world's leading thinkers on these subjects like Stephen Lukes, Amartya Sen, Paul Heelas, AC Grayling and Conor Gearty). During my tenure as editor I have published articles on all these issues as well as appreciations of, for example, Goethe, Mozart, Francis Bacon as well as photographers, film makers and musicians who cast light on the human condition provide stirring examples of human achievement.Have a read of both pieces and let us know what you think. You'll also see that on the same page as Caspar's letter there's another response to Scruton from philosopher Stephen Law, who heads the UK branch of the Center for Inquiry.
In addition to supporting this wide-ranging human-centred content readers of New Humanist have recently raised over £25,000 to support a secular school in rural Uganda – proving, I would argue, that we are not the hedonist, nihilists Scruton paints us. It is true that we are all wary of dogma, that it is harder for us to articulate what we collectively believe in than what we are not prepared to believe (we are after all advocates of free thinking), but trying to define that difficult bit – the shared values that underpin our common inheritance and destiny- is part of the fun, and what New Humanist seeks in its small way to do."