I think the journey I’ve been on, from the angry ex-Catholic to the liberated and happy atheist I am today, is one I had to take alone. I needed an impetus after years, hell decades, of leaving religion and all its trappings in the broom closet of my mind, and I got one from my kids and some evangelical, proselytizing Christians. I read, I studied, I learned, I thought, I debated, I wrote, and it finally came together until the shackles of the mind fell apart as if they were made of paper mâché. When I look at religion today I no longer see, or more importantly feel, any of what was drilled into my mind as a child of indoctrination.
It was an easy and natural transition for me to anti-theist and I feel comfortable in that role. No child should have to go through a brainwashing at the hands of clerics and believers in superstition and myth. Religion in the United States is powerful and encroaches upon the secular to impose its will, to in effect, share their delusion with us all, as they seemingly can’t be satisfied until they do. We need to fight this battle wherever it appears, whether in tax policy, science education (where they seem to have concentrated the fight) or discrimination against non-believers. But I’ve also found a way to do more.
A friend of my wife’s recently told her about a group she belonged to: the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry. My wife in turn, told me. She was interested and asked if I would be. Being more of a loner– the yin to my wife’s social yang–my initial reaction was No, but I didn’t express it. I’d heard the humanist term before, but wasn’t clear on what it was. I certainly knew what secular meant and I thought that if people were gathering together in the Dirty South to discuss secular issues, it was worth looking into.
Immediately impressed with the website and the newsletter, we completed the RSVP for our first meeting. We also joined the Facebook group and I soon found a common ground with these folks: non-theism. Whatever Humanism was, it was not a faith-based term, that much was certain. We attended our first meeting yesterday and I couldn’t be more pleased.
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. Guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience, Humanism encourages us to live life fully and well.
The above is taken from the Humanism Manifesto III, which succeeds the original of 1933 and goes on to affirm the following key points:
- Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis.
- Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change.
- Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience.
- Life’s fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of human ideals.
- Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships.
- Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness.
I was fortunate that at the first meeting of the SHL that I chose to attend, the two guest speakers were from the American Humanism Association. Executive Director Roy Speckhardt and Development and Communications Director Maggie Ardiente both gave talks about the AHA mission, and why it’s important that we organize in the first place. Atheists, agnostics, humanists, secularists, rationalists or skeptics (choose your label) together are the largest minority in the United States and we have no representation or political power. From the AHA’s Free Mind Newsletter, which they gave away freely at the meeting, you can read about the action the AHA is taking on Capital Hill to fight for separation of church and state issues. Maggie Ardiente met with Senators Nelson (D-NE) and Casey (D-PA) to encourage them to support a legislative agenda that honors the secular tradition upon which this nation was founded. The AHA is investigating the use of churches and other houses of worship as polling places. AHA lobbied Congress regarding their stance on the Protect Life Act and the “In God We Trust” resolution.
The AHA also sponsors Humanist Charities which specialize in “benevolent aid and action to further the health and welfare of humankind. Its purpose includes applying uniquely humanist approaches to those in need and directing the generosity of American humanists to worthy disaster relief and development projects around the world.” This provides an excellent opportunity for those who wish to contribute to help our fellow human beings in need, without concern that the recipients will get a dose of proselytizing with their malaria pills.
I am thrilled to have found this opportunity to not only be a part of a group of free thinking people in my area, who engage in service work, charitable giving and educational opportunities, but to know there’s a national movement that can do the hard work of fighting the legislative battles for secular humanists around the country. They need our help, all of us. If you don’t need a supernatural deity in your life to provide moral and ethical guidance, if you’ve seen no evidence to support its existence at all, if you value science and reason, logic and free thinking, you owe it to yourself and everyone like you across the country to get involved. Please go to the American Humanist Association website to find a local chapter, join the AHA, contribute to Humanist Charities and do your part to keep the only republic founded with a prohibition against the establishment of religion exactly as our founders intended.
“That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief: but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.” ~ Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), third President of the United States and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence; quote from The Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, enacted on January 16, 1786.