Questions Responded by Sassan Sanei (38th WRC)


Questions Responded by Sassan Sanei

Humanist Officiant and Board of Directors for Humanist Canada

Representing Humanism 

Question 1: What do you think about the idea that converting people to any religious ideology (including atheism) is always rooted in colonialism? By Beth

Answer: Colonialism is about more than expanding a nation's territory and greedily exploiting new resources. Historically and throughout the world, every colonial power has tried to "help" the indigenous people in the newly acquired lands by imposing its own language, culture, traditions, and beliefs onto them. This is founded on the belief that one's own civilization is superior to all others. The religious duty to spread one's ideals was, and continues to be, at the heart of many crusades and conquests, with devastating and tragic consequences. Humanists do not do this. Humanism is undogmatic, imposing no creed upon its adherents. Forcibly converting people to any religious ideology goes against our principles, which support democracy, human rights, personal liberty, and social responsibility.

Question 2: Secular laws have trumped religious social values in Canada, e.g. homosexual, abortion rights. What can people of all faiths do to change this reality?

Answer: Why would any person of faith want to change this reality? Secular laws exist to protect everybody from discrimination, including you. Equal rights for other people do not hurt you or limit your freedom in any way. There are no secular laws in Canada that diminish your religious freedom. You can still pray in school, but you may not require everyone else to also. You can still marry the person you love regardless of sex or gender, but you may not prevent others from doing the same. You can still have children, but you may not force unwilling women into childbirth. Other people have the same rights as you. You may disapprove of their choices and choose differently for yourself, but Canada is a free country and you may not force everyone else to live by your code.

Question 3: As a scientist, how do we respect humanity while incorporating ideas like genetic modifications? By Frank T Asheri

Answer: Science gives us the means, but human values must propose the ends. Ideas like genetic modifications can be used creatively or destructively. We can reduce famine by developing food crops that are more drought-resistant, higher yield, and less prone to spoilage. We can potentially cure diseases like cystic fibrosis with genetically-modified embryonic stem cells that are capable of unlimited self-renewal. We might even someday cure cancer by programming a virus to attack and destroy tumour cells based on their unique DNA, while leaving healthy cells intact. We respect humanity by being transparent about the risks, publishing our discoveries so that others can learn from them, and recognizing that our duty of care to all of humanity exceeds our need for financial gain.

Question 4: Say, I as a human want to understand the world to help the earth heal from the Global warming. (a) I could use existing knowledge to repackage solutions (b) I could discover or gain insight into laws that we haven’t known before. So question is that how is it in human hands to know something previously unknown? From Sai

Answer: Humanism recognizes that reliable knowledge of the world and ourselves arises through a continuing process of observation, evaluation, and revision. We used to think the Earth stood still while the sun and the moon and all the stars moved across the sky. Over time, we realized that the Earth itself was spinning and traveling through space. We used this knowledge to understand day and night, the seasons, and eclipses. These insights were not revealed to us by God. They were developed by thinking and through painstaking hard work by early astronomers peering at the sky every night, recording their observations, identifying patterns, collaborating with others, refining their ideas, and eventually gaining insight into the laws we had not known before.

Question 5: Sassan seems to be categorizing all religious people to be socially fundamentalists, narrow-minded and unscientific. Why is this so? By Nathaniel Devries

Answer: Not at all. Some of the most socially progressive, open-minded, and scientific people I know are religious. My comment was directed only at those who think their religious freedom gives them the right to discriminate against other people and deny them equal rights. Humanism affirms the right of every human being to the greatest possible freedom compatible with the rights of others, and I know that many people of all faiths share this conviction.

Question 6: If God won’t punish after death punishment for not loving Him back then how would you justify suffering/misfortune and special need kids?? (i.e. what about in this world)

Answer: What has a baby ever done to deserve pain and suffering? It makes no sense for a loving and merciful God to create an innocent human being, and then torture it. When you experience suffering, it is the result of unfortunate events, not a punishment. Look to the cause, not the purpose. There can be an earthquake that destroys your home, brakes that fail on your car, or a virus that gives you measles, for no reason other than bad things just happen. If you fall off a ladder and break your arm, it is simply because you lost your balance, not because God reached out and pushed you.

Question 7: How would you explain about the differences among people (i.e. some poor, some rich, some beautiful some ugly) in regard of God as the creator?

Answer: It seems unlikely that God would deliberately create some people to be rich and others poor, because wealth is usually the result of education and hard work, although being born into a rich family can mean many more opportunities. There is also no evidence that God creates each person to look a certain way, because we know that your features are based on the DNA from your parents, as well as your environment and the time and care you put into your appearance (hair, clothes, fitness).

Question 8: What is the nature of Homo sapiens? From Francis Tuntu Asheri

Answer: Homo sapiens, which means "wise man" in Latin, originated in sub-Saharan Africa and migrated in waves across the planet over many thousands of years, establishing our genetic diversity as we adapted to each local environment. Early homo sapiens prospered through the use of tools, agriculture, animal domestication, and the formation of settlements. Modern homo sapiens developed the capacity for abstract thought, written language, and artistic expression, making it possible to preserve stories and develop technology over the course of many generations, as well as to learn collectively. We may be the only animal species who values artistic creativity and imagination, who recognizes the transforming power of art, and who affirms the importance of literature, music, and the visual and performing arts for personal development and fulfilment.

Question 9: [Twitter Question] Mr. Sassan Sanei, do you believe in the existence of other life forms in the universe? Why or why not? And how does this relate to your beliefs? By Salmaan Khan

Answer: There are over a billion trillion stars in the universe, more than all the grains of sand on all the beaches on all the Earth, so it seems likely that there are other planets out there with just the right temperature and composition to support some form of life. Unfortunately, the nearest planet is so far away that it would take us many thousands of years to travel there, so we will probably never know for sure.

Question 10: [Twitter Question] Mr. Sassan Sanei, as a humanist, which philosophical ideology guides your/the humanist perspective of morality? Eg: are humanists utilitarian or do they adhere to various means of morality? If every humanist differs, is that a sign of inconsistency? By Omar Khan

Answer: Humanists believe that morality is an intrinsic part of human nature based on understanding and a concern for others, needing no external sanction. As to the means, many favour maximizing outcomes, others consider intentions, and some seek artistic beauty. This is not a sign of inconsistency, just a lack of adherence to dogma. What guides us all is the desire to build a world on the idea of the free person responsible to society, while recognizing our dependence on and responsibility for the natural world.