04
Jun
10

Discussion Group Protocol

Harvard Humanist Alumni

Humanist Discussion Group

Working Protocol

Organizer: Rekha Vemireddy

Introduction

The Humanist Discussion Group (the “HDG”) is a twice monthly discussion group for people who identify with, or wish to investigate, Humanism, as defined by the American Humanist Association:

“Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.”#

The HDG emphasizes critical thinking, fact-based presentations, and articulate marshalling of evidence and coherent reasoning to support one’s position.  Accordingly, the HDG is open to discussion about the basic tenets of Humanism itself.

Although most attendees are atheists, agnostics, and other non-theists, the HDG is open to people who believe in the supernatural.  The term members refers to regular attendees of HDG sessions.

The HDG includes all types of Humanists, religious and secular, militant and conciliatory.  Accordingly, members need not have an interest in congregational life.

The HDG is sponsored by Harvard Humanist Alumni.  Although many members are Harvard affiliates, the HDG is open to all.  Newcomers are welcome to all the regular meetings.  The HDG is normally held on weekends.
Group Procedures

Regular meetings will officially start with all attendees introducing themselves, with an emphasis on their religious/spiritual, philosophical, political and/or ethics interests and background, Harvard or Boston affiliation, and social organizing activities.  The facilitator will then briefly review the other group procedures.

Regular meetings will officially start no later than 15 minutes after the posted time.  A discussion circle will be no more than 10 people; accordingly, a given meeting may generate multiple discussion circles.

We strongly urge firm RSVP responses to meetings from all members and attendees.

We strive for an inclusive, considerate discussion culture.  Each attendee should avoid chronically interrupting others, and should address others’ positions respectfully.  The HDG is not an appropriate forum for expressions of misanthropy, unreasoning hostility, or hate speech, including racism and sexism, and any such behavior will be addressed initially at the check-in following the meeting.

Each meeting will conclude with an opportunity for each attendee to briefly evaluate what went well and what could have been improved about the meeting (a “check-in”).

At the end of each meeting, the facilitator will invite announcements from the attendees.

Discussion Topics

Topics discussed range from the abstract–religion, philosophy, ethics, epistemology, history, ancient culture, politics, the relationship between science and culture, geopolitics, to the personal–marriage, romantic relationships, parenting, friendship, social associations, and communication.

Most meetings will have a specific topic, often based on a reading or current event, which topic will be announced at least 5 days in advance through its Facebook site.  Most meetings will have a facilitator.

Any member or attendee may suggest a topic, whether on the HDG’s Facebook site or at a meeting.

Confidentiality Policy

The intellectual topics of discussion may be summarized on the New Humanism’s community blog.

Personal topics will NOT be so recorded, and attendees are not to discuss an attendee’s personal disclosures with people outside the HDG.  The facilitator will introduce the HDG’s confidentiality policy.

In no event will the HDG record or publish a list of attendees.

On occasion, discussion circles may be taped by the media, researchers, or the organizer(s).  Any such taping will be announced in advance of the meeting, and only attendees who wish to opt-in to the taping will be so recorded.

Democratic Governance

We value input from all the members of the HDG; we encourage all members to assist in organization, including with suggestions of topics, introductory presentation of topics, and moderating meetings.

Facilitators will generally be members who are familiar with this protocol and who are knowledgeable about Humanism.

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