I very distinctly remember discussing human nature with my grandmother when I was fourteen. After hearing Ray Stevens sing "Everything is Beautiful", my grandmother commented that while the song was inspirational, it was clearly misguided: the world is not "gonna find a way". I then expressed to her my belief that people were naturally good with the best intentions at heart and that maybe the world "finding a way" was not so unachievable if we tried.
I had been a Christian for only a year or two at this point and discussed many concepts such as this with my grandmother, a very intelligent woman and also a fundamentalist Christian. I remember her disagreeing with me (calmy and sagely, as always) and reminding me of humans' sinful natures and the words of the unquestionable scripture: there is none that doeth good; no, not one and there is none good but one, that is, God. And, of course, of end-times and the rapture.
This shut me down as the Bible was the word of God, and that was that. To both my grandmother and me...then. Naturally we continued our discussion, but only under the premise that the Bible was correct and that my gut feeling, though loving and compassionate, was simply wrong.
But I couldn't entirely escape the belief that people are good. Sane people do not kill others for pleasure, but sane people do (for example) give change to homeless people knowing full well that they will receive nothing in return. Sane people do not kill their children willy-nilly, but sane people do love and protect their children everyday. Sane people do not go into professions with the intention to harm others, but sane people do go into professions to help others. How could bad people want to do so much good all throughout their lives?
So, at that time, I was compelled to accept two contradictory views: people are bad, and people are good. But I never questioned it. I never asked, or even thought to ask, "Both can't be true, so what is the evidence for both views?" I merely excused this contradiction by telling myself that people are good because God made us in His image, but people are bad because they cannot help but sin, being born in sin.
Then, after I had stopped believing in god because of the evidence I had found and followed further, I started looking for beliefs that I could embrace. First, I embraced the beauty of the world (and universe) that my loved ones and I inhabit through the "eyes" of science....and I cannot express in mere words how beautiful I found (and still find) it to be.
A couple of months after my deconversion, I happened upon a video by YouTuber Patrician Atheist titled, "Are You a Secular Humanist?" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SUFYwx-Hhs Extremely interested in this philosophy, I did some research...in fact, quite a bit of research. And quite a bit of personal reflection and thought regarding my findings. As I read the Humanist Manifesto III (http://www.redbankhumanists.org/PDF/HumanistManifesto_III.pdf), I recalled that talk with my grandmother, and how I had felt then and in the decade that had followed.
This philosophy felt natural to me. This worldview was one that I had held all along but could not fully adopt because of the religious indoctrination under which I had been held. This mindset didn't hold unnecessary contradictions with my own compassion and hope for my fellow humans and all of humanity or with what evidence and reality so clearly indicates.
With this philosophy, I can have my love for science, skepticism of unsubstantiated religious claims, my instinctive empathy toward humans, and my hope that perhaps....if we try...the world will find a way.