“Humanists are especially eager. They claim Sagan as their own, and see in the “Cosmos” series — a multipart journey to the outer reaches of our universe — and in his dozen books a vibrant strain of their own philosophy. That philosophy favors reason over religion and holds human beings as both good and responsible for the Earth’s plight.”
Regardless of whether one believes that our desire to be good comes from God or from our evolutionary past, Humanists and theists can work together to build a more just society. They can work together to help alleviate poverty, hunger, and suffering. They can work together to protect and sustain our planet. And, together, they can find happiness and fulfillment in the effort. –
A group of Hartford Area Humanists recently met in a member’s home on a snowy morning for a group conversation about death and bereavement. This gathering was part of Hartford Area Humanists’ ongoing discussion on “Rational Spirituality.” While many Humanists eschew any mention of spirituality, dismissing it as supernatural “woo-woo” unworthy of serious discussion, others embrace spirituality as a natural human phenomenon that is not dependent upon anything supernatural. These “rational spiritualists” seek to live a happier and more fulfilling life by exploring the deeper aspects of being human.
Sandy Hook Elementary School. Image courtesy of HartfordFAVs
It was no coincidence that we discussed death and bereavement on the first anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings. Tragedies such as Sandy Hook raise difficult questions for Humanists. In the weeks after Sandy Hook, New York Times columnist Samuel Freedman pointedly asked “where were the humanists?”, noting that, while Humanist and other secular groups raised money and held anti-gun rallies, there was no visible Humanist presence offering solace to the victims’ families. Atlanta Page, a Christian blogger writing in Examiner.com, declared that Humanists have nothing to offer the bereaved in the wake of such tragedies, arguing that only faith in a loving God and belief in an afterlife can sooth those facing the otherwise unbearable grief of lives taken too soon. Ms. Page argues that, while the Humanist stance that people should find meaning and purpose during our lives may be work well when celebrating the end of a long and rich life, that approach is inadequate in responding to the tragic and violent death of children.
Implicit in the accusation that Humanism has nothing to offer the bereaved is the assumption that the Humanist worldview is not an effective way of dealing with tragedy.
The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Legal Center is threatening to sue public schools that are participating in a program run by Frank Graham’s “Samaritan’s Purse” group to collect toys and distribute them to needy kids. Nothing wrong that that by itself – that is praiseworthy and noble. But, the gifts come with a string – the kids are given “Pledges to Christianity” to sign. Worse yet, the parents and kids that donated the gifts were often in the dark about the Christianity Pledges.
Isn’t it ironic that Frank Graham named his group “Samaritan’s Purse”? In biblical times, the Samaritans practiced their religion differently and were despised by the Jews for being different. The whole point of Parable of the Good Samaritan is that people of different beliefs are worthy and capable of doing good.
Starting this month, I will be writing for the Hartford Faith & Values blog. My first contribution, which is today’s lead story, discusses efforts by Humanist groups to help establish SMART Recovery meetings in Connecticut. SMART Recovery is a science-based program that has been demonstrated to be effective in combating alcoholism and substance addiction.
The Buy Local and Fair Trade movements help local businesses, improve local economies, and promote economic justice and sustainability. Anyone interested in learning more is invited to to the Humanist Association of CT’s monthly dinner series event tomorrow, Feb. 26. Our guest speaker will be Dan Finn, Director of Pioneer Valley Local First. We will be at the Wood-N-Tap in Rocky Hill. All are welcome, and attendees are encouraged (but not required) to respond via Meetup.
Charles Darwin’s birthday is today – February 12. It is a big deal among the science and humanist communities. Local groups in Fairfield County hold an annual banquet to honor the event (rescheduled to Feb 16 due to the storm – you can still register).
The International Darwin Day Foundation’s website has a good explanation for why we celebrate Darwin’s Birthday on or around February 12:
Charles Darwin as a Symbol for the Celebration of Science and Humanity
Celebrations are an important part of every culture. They provide a tradition and a common bond to be shared among those who make up their culture, permitting them to experience a meaningful connection to one another and to the principles to which they subscribe. Unfortunately, most celebrations are based on ancient traditions that are relevant to only a specific country or culture, and they have often been, and continue to be, the source of serious conflicts.
At this juncture in history, the world has become so small and interdependent that we need a Global Celebration to promote a common bond among all people. The Darwin Day Celebration was founded on the premise that science, like music, is an international language that speaks to all people in very similar ways. While music is both intellectual and entertaining, science is our most reliable knowledge system, and it has been and continues to be acquired through human curiosity and ingenuity. Moreover, evolution via genetic variation and natural selection, introduced by Darwin, has become the central organizing principle in biology. In addition, evolution also plays a central role in astronomy and cosmology, where it refers to the way that stars, galaxies and the entire universe ‘change over time.’ To study biology while neglecting evolution would be like studying physics without Newton’s laws that govern the universe or chemistry without the periodic table. Clearly, Darwin himself has become an internationally acclaimed figure, whose influence on progressive modern thought continues to be both profound and pervasive (Ernst Mayr, Darwin’s Influence on Modern Thought, Scientific American, July 2000).
Current research in the field of genetics, including that on the human genome, has conclusively shown that all humans are essentially identical and that we are genetically related to all other living things on this planet. Thus an enlightened view of genetics is one of unity and equality among all humans and also one that fosters a deeper sense of respect and appreciation for all life. Today the validity of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection rests in our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of genetics. Therefore, we conclude that Charles Darwin is a worthy symbol on which to focus, in order to build a Global Celebration of Science and Humanity that is intended to promote a common bond among all people of the earth.
Happy Darwin Day!