Posts Tagged ‘Humanism


The gun in our faces.


Marc Adams

I’ve stared at the business end of guns twice in my life. Once at the hands of a criminal and once at the hands of overzealous police. Neither incident will ever leave my mind.

Each time I see death and destruction like we have seen this past Friday I am quickly reminded of how I would have responded back in the day when I believed in the same theology as Mike Huckabee and those like him. A time when I lived life without owning a shred of empathy for others. My reaction would have been to respond just as he did, blaming others for removing (my) god from public schools.   Oddly enough I would have said (my) god was not allowed in public schools knowing in my heart I believed (my) god was omnipresent and knowing the impossibility of a government restraining access to my omnipotent god.

I would have done just as he did, ignore the insane and incomprehensible deaths of teachers and students and focused on trying to use the incident as a way to evangelize for my version of truth.

I would have responding in the only way I knew how, with selfishness and self-service.

It was a lonely path, thinking I was always being persecuted for my faith. Especially in moments like this when people would “attack” me for speaking (my decided) truth.

During times like this I feel humbled and still amazed that I was able to find a path to self-acceptance, the ability to love myself and miraculously, a way to learn empathy for others. It took me years to get those things right.

Now when I see the guns, the destruction of life, and the inevitable religious (it’s not always someone who identifies as a version of a christian) chaotic call, I still feel unsafe.  But it’s a different kind of lack of safety.

We are all responsible for lost lives and vanished hopes when we do not take moments like these as turning points. It’s not about guns, it’s not about my right to own a gun, it’s not about mental issues, and it’s definitely not about religion.  These days, right now, are about how we as human beings choose to make the world a safer place for everyone.

Safer for kids who should never feel bullied at school, let alone worried that they might never go home. Safer for teachers who should never wonder if their school will be next.  Safer for parents who trust so many other people with the safety of their children.  Safer for me and you, who need to be able to sign off on just one year where we didn’t have to watch or hear about loss due to our inability to do the right thing to protect each other physically, mentally and humanly.

Doing the right thing takes courage and compassion, something which is learned and tested by life’s experience.  In this instance it also means putting others before ourselves for the greater good of all.


AHA Conference Day 1 – Secular Student Alliance Session on Growing the Student Movement – August E. Brunsman IV and Jesse Galef

August and Jesse gave a fluent and helpful account of the current state of the Secular Student Alliance (SSA), outlining the success of their experimental program in North California, where a professional organizer was used to massively increase growth of students groups in that area. They also provided sage advice on how to grow student communities, how to deal with difficult transitions of leadership between one year and the next, and how to develop the capacities of young Humanist

The two speakers spoke eloquently about the four prongs of the SSA’s current approach: Activism, Community, Education and Service, but I was left wondering “What about scholarship?” Presumably, this is one of the main reasons young people become students, and yet the potential for the SSA to advance Humanistic scholarship among young thinkers went unmentioned in their presentation. This is particularly important for graduate students, who are often looking for interesting projects to investigate, and reputable journals to submit their work to, and who might be convinced to spend more scholarly effort on Humanism and related topics were they supported in doing so.

To give an example of what I mean, I’m about to head to the Institute for Humane Studies (HIS) for a week-long Seminar called “Scholarship and a Free Society”. The IHS is, essentially, a Libertarian organization which wants smart graduate to become Libertarians too, and then write journal articles, studies and books about Libertarianism. They pay for everything – food, board, the speakers, everything. They will help me with career options, by recommending open faculty positions and keeping me abreast of faculty appointments. In short, they are willing to do a LOT for me, and I am not even a Libertarian!

As far as I know, there are no equivalent organizations that do the same for Humanist scholars. I have not been able to find a single seminar series which invites graduate students to spend a week studying Humanism, even for a modest fee: those organizations which do offer courses in Humanism (some of which were represented at the Conference) tend to charge prices far in excess of what most students can afford, and often do not draw upon well-known and respected academics.

Further, the existing Humanist scholarly publications seem somewhat lackluster and lacking in real intellectual energy and weight. This means that tope young scholars are likely to bypass Humanistic topics for more fertile and exciting intellectual areas. And any movement without a core of top minds leading the charge is unlikely to grow as fast as it otherwise might.

Might the SSA provide something similar, or at least put some resources into furthering Humanist scholarship? In response to my question, August revealed that the SSA has a “secret motto”: “Mobilizing Students for a New Enlightenment”. For some reason, however, this slogan is kept in the background. To my mind, this is an excellent mission, particularly for a certain sector of the graduate community who respect Enlightenment ideas and want to feel part of a movement with real intellectual heft. Imagine the difference in tone that might result among the Humanist Community were this to become the rallying-cry of young Humanists around the USA. It also has the benefit of linking Humanism with a proud tradition of radical thought, allying us with figures like Baron d’Holbach, Hume, Kant, Jefferson, Montesquieu, Locke, Smith and Rousseau.

Further, the concept of “a New Enlightenment” (similar to the Royal Society of Arts’ idea of the “21st Century Enlightenment”) makes clear that the challenge ahead of the Humanist movement is a battle of ideas, as well as a call for political change and a march toward a better, more humane society. Finally, by associating ourselves with one of the great progressive shifts in human history we are reminded that to achieve our goals we need to raise our sights and raise our game. Seems like a win-win to me.


Humanism and Human Rights

Realizing that there is no hierarchical body of Humanists that can and would speak for the society of Humanists, let me ask each individual reader:  As a Humanist, what are your views on Human Rights?  Specifically, what are your beliefs in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that was presented largely through the efforts of Eleanor Roosevelt through the new United Nations in 1948.

 Just as most “religionists” who insist on posting the 10 Commandments don’t know that most of the Commandments deal with man’s actions with a god rather than other men, most Americans, and I would venture to say even most Humanists, do not know specifically what is included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).  (UDHR at Wikipedia)  The Declaration, as a declaration of the fundamental and inalienable rights of all members of the human family, was approved by the UN General Assembly.  The UN Commission was also tasked with drafting a legally binding international treaty on human rights and with creating effective means for implementing these. 

 For political reasons, the 30 Articles were set up as two Covenants:  The Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and The Covenant on Economical, Social, and Cultural Rights.  The Soviet Union ratified the Economical/Social/Cultural Covenant but refused to ratify the Civil/Political Covenant.  The United States ratified the Civil/Political Rights but has not yet ratified the Economical/Social/Cultural Covenant.  Jimmy Carter finally signed this Covenant, but Congress has yet to ratify it.

 What does the Economical/Social/Cultural part contain that’s Americans are afraid of?  Here are some examples: Continue reading ‘Humanism and Human Rights’