The RCP’s “Debating Humanism”

There’s a nice review in the New Humanist by Nick Cohen of the Furedi Personality Cult’s latest project: a waffly jargon-filled set of essays celebrating some slogans that Furedi thought up in the mid 1990s:

Furedi provides a reason beyond their inability to grasp elementary principles for keeping our new friends at arms length. His essay shows in embarrassing detail the leader of the RCP isn’t very bright. First, he flirts with epistemological relativism while denying he is doing it. Then he makes a good point for bad reasons but lacks the courage to follow it through because its inevitable conclusion conflicts with the party line. He, too, insists that opposition to religious intolerance shouldn’t define humanism. Instead, we should challenge the environmental movement’s ‘culture of misanthropy’ which denigrates the human race as greedy and destructive.

He has a case. Misanthropy undoubtedly informs the dominant strand on the post-modern European left. It takes a special combination of self-hatred and selfishness to insist that we can’t judge other cultures, place democracy higher than tyranny or say that brown-skinned women in Kabul must have the same rights as white-skinned women in Paris. A genuine humanist would notice that cultural relativism leaves its adherents naked before their fanatical enemies, but Furedi can’t acknowledge the logic of his argument because to do so he would have to admit that there are movements of the religious far right and it is the duty of humanists to oppose them. The admittedly grim truth that we are going to have to fight the old Enlightenment battles for freedom of thought, the vote and the emancipation of women all over again – and not only for our own sakes – is too much for him to bear.

It’s easier for Furedi and his comrades to carry on as before and get in the way of people with serious work to do.