I am asked to expand about the meaning of religious humanism.
First of all, the position accepts as standard the usual debates and methods of the intellectual disciplines. This means evolution, of course, and no ghost in the machine with a hand on the tiller - it means local and specific, and it means humans are accidents and that all life forms evolve and evolve more quickly in chaotic or catastrophic conditions. All these disciplines have paradigms of explanations, contested and consensual. So we have mathematics, with its tautologies, logics and points where paradox comes in, underpinning physics. Philosophy has its logic and argument, its schools. There is scientific falsifiability, and then social scientific regularity and validity in primary research, and the use of maths, use of argument. Anthropology develops its valid research into rich observation that equates the report to an explained novel - we are story creating, biographical creatures. History has its houses, but gives primacy to primary documents. With the arts there are periods and styles, but difficult if impossible to objectify what is great art over the mundane.
Theology exists but in a very open approach: there are no closed hermeneutic circles, no protections offered up-front for apparently divine figures. The starting point is the disciplines; theology is just one more. God is not excluded, but can be theist, pantheist, panentheist, non-realist, representing linear time or spiral time, a Universal Principle and so on evermore.
The religious humanist asks what is special about humankind, whilst accepting humankind is but a tiny off-centre part of the universe. The answer lies in all those issues about mind and being conscious of being self-conscious. The question remains whether any machine based artificial intelligence will ever perceive of its own existence. If it does, it then acquires rights and responsibilities. Other animals have rights and responsibilities consistent with their sentience, with some generous extra. We seek, as religious humanists, the generous good.
Faith then is about orientating towards the good, and can draw on several religious and philosophical resources. I would draw upon the ethical Jewish eschatology of Jesus, as well as on insights within the Christian tradition. I would draw on Judaism and modern developments in Judaism. There is the Buddhist insight into dealing with the world in a developed and trained non-attached manner. There is the Hindu insight into plurality and modernist Hinduism's insight into philosophy and theistic rationality. There is the Baha'i insight, freed of its administrative dictatorship, into unity, peace and modernity. There is Islam's insight into purity and transcendence, and Sikh insight into removing particularities of joined insights when developing ethical faith. There is reinvented Paganism and its plurality, ritual and liturgy.
All of these, however, are approached critically: that is subject to individual and communal debate. The principles again derive from those intellectual disciplines. We can pick and choose. There is no exclusivity, but there may be a role for a consistent pathway as a critical raft to take across the water. That might exist as is, to be treated lightly, or self-constructed.
Prayer is more like meditation. Prayer may relate to any particular inheritance of the divine, or construction of the divine. It might tap into some sort of perceived energy or power. For many though, the function of prayer is collective and individual, without external, and is more like developing one's spirituality. The most useful God-metaphor may be depth. Religious content involved is like a fiction, useful fiction.
Ritual is something humans do as part of binding the individual to the group and intensifying the identity of the group. Sometimes the ritual involves considerable material sacrifice towards a spiritual benefit that may or may not come. Deities and helpers and practices are invoked, like transitory mind-body assistants. Ritual can also be moderate, or even severe in its coolness. Like meditation and prayer, it assists towards the reorientation and is chosen to be directed towards the good.
In the end faith is contemplative and reflective, and has the effect of some sort of transformation and reorientation. It requires discipline and self-evaluated behaviour. It seeks no reward other than the good generated, and although ethics must be situational there is more to this that reciprocal response: one hopes for more and better.
This is how I understand religious humanism: it uses rationality, is reasonable, draws and learns from others, and tries to deliver a spiritual benefit with a material outcome from a religious practice.
What's the difference between this and a Dawkins or de Sautoy humanism? One is that it is less sure, a little more agnostic; secondly, that it does allow concepts of God to be meaningful (however perceived); thirdly that it uses the arts far more in its expansion of meaning and support for doing religion and generating hope; but it is still consistent with the basic position of Dawkins or de Sautoy, and cannot be inconsistent withe the disciplines and their debates.
Is it modernist? In part it is, but postmodernism should be after modernism. It is more postmodern in the sense of being eclectic and drawing from around. I prefer pluralism to humanism in the end, but religious humanism offers more clarity perhaps as an arrived-at stance.
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