The human infinite
by R. Lester Mondale
The first humanists protested they couldn’t “fathom the Infinite.” For them it was enough to “love and serve humanity,” but by the early 1930s there began to appear what has been called “The Second Generation Humanist.” Some of us of this second generation, whose background was not orthodox Christianity, had found that, although we couldn’t fathom the Infinite, the Infinite was nevertheless vividly real and very much with us.
Everything to which our skeptical minds turned seemed to be under the aspect of infinitude—mystery in every stick and stone and growing thing in the natural world, mystery in man and in the evolution of his institutions, mystery in our own inner selves. The mood expressed itself in different guises, but typical was the loneliness Bertrand Russell suggested in his description of human life as a brief voyage on a raft:
. . . [B]ut some of us also came to know how glowingly enchanting
and uplifting the universe about us can become, how inexpressibly and
wonderfully at home one can feel when one throws oneself without regard
for consequences into loving and serving humanity. We discovered, or at
least we thought we had discovered, the truth or law that underlies the
emphasis of Jesus upon first getting into right relations with one’s
fellow men—forgiving them, loving them, helping them—before
one can feel right with the world, or with what he called the Father in
Heaven. Our humanist experience was valid; it was the experience at the
core of all religion—at least on the social plane—however
much the interpretations might differ.