The Society of HumanKind
It cannot be concluded from the Axioms that all the past and present religious beliefs of our species are mistaken. That is so because the uncertainty of human knowledge created by the Axioms is absolute. The possibility of the existence of powers, entities or beings which are beyond the present grasp of the intellect, abilities or capacities of humanity can therefore never be dismissed by the Society of HumanKind. God and any or all of his competitors may forever lie beyond the unrecognisable limit on human comprehension set by the Axioms.
The absolute degree of doubt about our potentialities created by the Axioms also leaves permanently open the possibility that, in the full realisation of our knowledge, or perhaps through the exercise of attributes within us we do not yet recognise, we may come to identify an eternal all-knowing entity as the origin and creator of ourselves and all that surrounds us. Equally, and in the same way, we may discover that a predestined existence after death awaits every member of our species. The Second Axiom indicates that our future knowledge can never be fully predictable, and so those possibilities, however uncomfortable or unlikely they may appear, cannot be denied by adherents of the Society of HumanKind. Indeed a full understanding of the Axioms and Dogma has a further consequence for the Society. It is that, far from being contrary to the existence and preservation of religious and other beliefs, to the extent that those earlier ideas were intended to give purpose and meaning to our lives, the emergence of the Society can be regarded as their culmination.
The Principles derived from the Axioms reinforce and extend that conclusion. They make explicit an obligation on adherents of the Society of HumanKind to acknowledge and tolerate such earlier ideas. The Principle 1.2 indicates that the future form of human society cannot be predicted. One of the requirements of the Principle 2.2 is that every aspect of the intellectual capacity of the human species should be regarded as equally worthy of preservation and full development. That must include the capacity of our species to develop such beliefs, and to generate fervour in their advocacy. A devotion to the Aim of the Society of HumanKind must therefore necessarily include a concern to see that any such capacity and tendency is fostered and encouraged in any individual in which it may be found, provided no threat to the maintenance of the Conditions of the Dogma, or the achievement of the Aim of the Society, results.
By the same reasoning equal tolerance and encouragement must be shown by the Society and its adherents toward the practice of constructing systems of ideas that purport to foretell the future of our species or predict its development. That will apply whether those ideas take the form of an analysis of our past as a means to divine the future, or of attempts to make such predictions based upon assertions about our essential or fundamental characteristics. Or, it must be said, by any other as yet undiscovered means.
All those differing approaches to our history and our nature run directly contrary to both the Second Axiom and the Dogma. There is nevertheless, no incompatibility between, on the one hand, the development and promulgation of alternative views of the origins and purpose of humankind, and on the other, the existence and programme of the Society of HumanKind. All human beliefs, even mistaken ideas, are respected in the era of the Society. The purpose of the Society is not to seek to replace, supplant or destroy such beliefs and their associated movements. Rather it is to provide a refuge for those members of our species who, like the author of this book, cannot accept them.
This conclusion is significant and important in itself. When however, it is joined with those reached in the Treatise on the Individual an important practical consequence for the Society emerges. The duty of the Society is to respect all knowledge and to foster the full development of every individual, even when that leads to ideas and movements that are contrary to its foundations. This must mean that neither the Society, nor any of its adherents, can ever evangelise. If it is to concur faithfully in the uncertainty of all human knowledge, which is the first consequence of an acceptance of the Axioms; and if it is to comply with the Principles which flow from them; then neither the Society nor any of its adherents can embark on any attempt to convince others to give up their firm opinions or beliefs, nor can it seek to persuade them to join its ranks.
The tolerance of the Society and its adherents set out in this Treatise must not however, be extended to one aspect of these earlier forms of belief. Excessive fervour and belief in a divine or preordained destiny for our species by an individual or a group of humanity can pose a real threat to the maintenance of the Conditions of the Dogma, and thus to the achievement of its Objective. Zealotry may emerge, and with it actions that threaten the extinction of our species. A zealot or his group may aim at the destruction of humanity or some part of it, or attempt to put dangerous constraints on the permissible field of enquiry in our search for knowledge. Those threats arise precisely because the believer so completely trusts the truth of his faith. In his certainty the believer may conclude that he or his sect, which he may regard as the only true and worthy representatives of humanity, have nothing to gain from a line of enquiry nor anything to fear from any action or decision no matter how dangerous or extreme.
The arrogance and blindness resulting from this extremity of fervour may be matched in those who believe they have discerned a hidden purpose or inevitable progression in human history. Such believers may accept an analysis of human nature or human history that claims to predict with certainty the future course of events in our affairs. Again, such utter confidence about the future can lead to a loss of care for the present, and a lack of any feeling of personal responsibility for actions and decisions which may in extremis endanger the survival or progress of our whole species.
All the hopes of the Society are rooted in the maintenance of the Conditions of the Dogma. Any fundamental threat to the survival of our species or the growth of our knowledge strikes at the heart of the Society, and at its hopes for salvation and a life beyond death for all humanity. Any such zealous attack on the Conditions of the Dogma must therefore be regarded by all adherents of the Society as a matter of overriding importance requiring an unequivocal response. This is a rare example of exceptional circumstances in which no compromise can be found between the Society of HumanKind and its opponents. In these circumstances the Society is justified in using of every ounce of its power and authority, and that of all its members and supporters, to counter the threat.
There must, at the same time, be a limit to the strength of the response of the Society to this threat. Any defence of the Dogma by the Society must always stop short of endangering the survival of our species. The Society cannot embark upon actions that will bring about the destruction humankind if it is to abide by the Axioms and Dogma and follow the Principles. This is a dilemma from which there is no escape for the Society and its adherents. They will always be faced with the possibility of having to choose between risking the survival of our species by an extreme action or by a failure to take that action. All that can be said in anticipation of the unpredictable circumstances in which such a choice may have to be made is that our uncertainty must give the Society a slight preference for inaction over action, for delay over decision, and for prevarication rather than pre-emption.
In reaching that sad conclusion some comfort can perhaps be drawn by the Society from a reasonable presumption. Those who founded or taught the beliefs or ideas which the Society must oppose cannot have meant to bring about the decay or destruction of our whole species by their teachings, or even intended to have given rise to the risk of that consequence. Had that been their conscious or deliberate intent, then the Society is surely entitled to judge them as being mad or worse, and thus to be ignored if possible, or vigorously opposed if not. In any event the Society must conclude that anyone who claims that his understanding of his teachings is such that it leads him to believe that they allow for, or encourage, actions or proscriptions which risk the survival of our species or the destruction of our knowledge, is surely mistaken in his understanding; is himself mad, or is following the lead of a madman.
The Society may therefore safely take any proper steps to protect itself and its Aim, including applying sufficient restraint to such zealots to prevent them from pursuing their purposes. It may also, if necessary, apply judgement and sanction to such people without thereby contravening the requirement that tolerance should be exercised by every member of the Society of HumanKind toward the existence in our species of both a capacity for religious belief, and for a propensity to advocate a preordained or determined future for ourselves and our fellows.
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