In this post-Bush era fundamentalist Christianity is increasingly out of fashion, while its tormentor atheism is "in". There is wide resentment for the invasive crusades launched by religiously conservative America, whether against overseas "terrorism" or domestically, against nonbelievers and those who would dare to investigate stem cells. There was very little separation of church and state, and the religious right has had more than a fair hearing.
Atheism and Humanism are rebounding in reaction to those abuses, whereas religious orders such as the Jesuits are seeing their numbers dwindle toward the edge of extinction. But there are open schisms within those trends that could see Humanism become allied with the Jesuits, and return both to constructive prominence.
Humanism has a big problem with atheism - it is too often mistaken for religious non-belief - when it is actually a positive philosophy directed at the potential that lies within our species and in ourselves.
True Humanists are inclusive of religion as a private matter - atheists nonetheless have effectively hijacked Humanitas, with its origins in Greece and the Renaissance, for their own purposes; claiming "secular humanism" for themselves as a slave philosophy, and then ironically focusing on religion as its subject matter.
An example can be seen with evolution writer Richard Dawkins who, despite being a VP of the British Humanist Association, exploits this misidentification to sell books praising evolution while condemning religion. His readers then grandly claim to be Humanists, when his message is clearly atheism.
Given that Humanism may be the only philosophy Man is ever likely to universally adopt, the stakes here are much higher than one might first imagine.
Meanwhile the Jesuits, the largest order in the Catholic Church and considered to be the most influential, have since Vatican II in 1965 been progressively drifting away onto their own course. Jesuits are typically teaching or working for the poor in the Third World, and safeguarding them from the excesses of capitalism, rather than from their sins, as the Church rigidly insists. The Jesuit ranks are down by more than half since then, and there are very few "novitiates"
Philosopher Dwight Gilbert Jones, agnostic himself, sees these two camps as ideal allies. The Humanists lack fellowship, ritual, venues and tradition whereas the Jesuits must rededicate themselves to our species, as trusted critics and stewards of human affairs, and divest themselves of outmoded supernatural tenets and commitments. This can be achieved by creating an institution intermediate between the two credos, to repopulate emptying churches.
Jones' new book "The Humanist" envisions a Church of Man administered by the Jesuits, who build up a Humanist catechism with its focus on Homo sapiens - our governance, potential, and destiny. He proposes gradually recycling underutilized churches into centers of teaching and secular ceremony, with the same focus on science and honor that Jesuits have historically excelled at. He sees Humanists building a home for themselves for the ages.
The book goes further and foresees the Jesuits retaining the genomes of Humanists in repositories, for future reincarnation as we travel the Universe - or what's a heaven for? For Jones, it's a matter of recycling human aspiration back into our legacy institutions, bricks, mortar and ethics included, out of respect and loyalty for those who have come before us.
"The Humanist" is available free for reviewing purposes at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and at smashwords.com (coupon YG88H) as an eBook until January 31, 2010. Contact Humanist.ws.