There is a very short distance between empowering religious voices and reinforcing religious privilege. There is a very fine line between saying “You can be gay and religious!”, an important message I can get behind, and “It’s ok that you’re gay because you’re religious,” a message that reinforces religious privilege and leaves queer non-believers out in the cold. Did Creating Change 2012 cross this line?
It’s time to make spaces where God is not part of the offering. Reason, compassion and hope can stand alone without supernatural assistance. At the Humanist Community Project we intend to demonstrate that this is so, by providing the best resources, the best ideas, the best advice, the best thinking, the best strategies, to build Humanist communities. And with those communities, a better world, where reason, compassion, and hope reign supreme.
Should the 9/11 cross be housed at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum?
Ultimately, it’s a question of symbolic function…
How can we make sure that we are not simply protecting ourselves when we discuss our deepest beliefs, and are in fact evaluating the evidence and reasons with clear eyes? How can we ensure that our most precious ideals are always available for criticism, and are never unduly protected by our dogmatic defenses? In short, how can we defeat dogmatism?
Outside the White House, citizens gathered to wave American Flags and chant “USA! USA!” At Ground Zero and Times Square people came out in droves. Right now as I type people are pressing onto the T in Boston, heading to the Common. Heading to celebrate the death of another human being.
This leads me to question, as a Humanist: Do some people deserve to die? Is it ever right to celebrate the death of another human person?
In interfaith circles there is frequently a call for “dialogue” rather than “debate”. Is it really possible for those with deeply differing metaphysical commitments to engage in “dialogue”, or is the best we can do monologue past each other?
In short, when epistemic common-ground is in short supply, can we really talk?
When I read The Humanist Manifesto for the first time while sitting in my Cambridge University dorm room, I knew that this was who I was – someone committed to a naturalistic perspective, with a clear set of positive ethical values which prioritize human welfare and flourishing, and which seek to safeguard human dignity. I find this secular view of life to be both meaningful and enriching. I find beauty in the marvelous mechanisms of nature, and I feel compelled to act ethically given my understanding that we have but one life to live.
But I have a confession: sometimes I miss church.
“I do not know how to prove physically, that we shall meet and know each other in a future state; nor does Revelation, as I can find, give us any positive assurance of such a felicity. My reasons for believing it, as I do most undoubtedly, are that I cannot conceive such a being could make such a species as the human, merely to live and die on this earth. If I did not believe in a future state, I should believe in no God. This Universe, this all would appear, with all of its swelling pomp, a boyish firework.” – John Adams
To this, a Humanist reply: in the words of noted philosopher Katy Perry, “Baby, You’re a Firework!”
In January 1956, Martin Luther King was in despair. His decisions as a civil rights leader in Montgomery, Alabama were being questioned, even by former supporters. He had been receiving anonymous death threats by phone and by letter – 30 or 40 per day by late January. He feared for himself and for his young family.
On January 27th, in his darkest moment, he sat at this kitchen table and looked to God.
“Lord, I’m down here trying to do what’s right…But Lord, I’m faltering, I’m losing my courage…I’ve come to the point where I can’t face it alone.” King describes hearing “An inner voice… the voice of Jesus” saying in response “Martin Luther, stand up for righteousness, stand up for justice, stand up for truth. And lo, I will be with you, even until the end of the world.”
I am powerfully moved by this portrait, and I think understand the impetus that might drive someone to seek celestial aid. But, as an atheist, I am committed to the position that Dr. King was mistaken when he thought he heard the voice of Jesus. Does this matter, and how can we discuss this matter respectfully?
James is a teacher, researcher, actor, singer and a proud, gay Humanist. He teaches and studies toward his Doctorate in Human Development at Harvard University, where he works closely with the Humanist Chaplaincy.