The State Capitol was abuzz on May 3 as more than 70 advocates for secular government gathered to commemorate the National Day of Reason. HumanistsMN joined hands with First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis and Or Emet – the Minnesota Congregation for Humanistic Judaism to sponsor a breakfast with legislators to affirm that policy should be based on reason, science, and evidence, not religious preference. The event, the third of its kind, drew people from across the state, including eight legislators, most of them members of the Secular Government Caucus that was set up after last year’s Day of Reason gathering. We are lucky to have strong legislative allies.
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Anyone who faces the task of confronting an addiction will find barriers. These barriers can be so daunting that a person who needs help often cannot see getting beyond them — and may turn their backs on pursuing the idea any further. “What about the friends I might lose?” “Will I have to go into a treatment program?” “What will happen to my job if I need to take time off?” “What will my family, friends, or other loved ones think of me?” And of course, “Can I even do this?”
Audrey Kingstrom, HMN program coordinator and a humanist celebrant, gave a secular invocation at the beginning of a House legislative session in February. The sessions normally open with a prayer, so this was a wonderful opportunity to exercise the separation of religion and government.
Given its location and relevance, you’ve probably heard of the January debacle at Hamline University. You probably haven’t heard as much about the album poster censored across the pond, but we’ll tackle that after the rundown of this first case. For those unfamiliar with why Hamline is in the news, or for those interested in reviewing the timeline with some more detail, here’s a summary of what happened:
Back in September, adjunct Art History Professor Erika López Prater disseminated an 11-page syllabus warning students that she would show historical art depicting religious figures, including the Prophet Muhammad, and offering to work with students should they feel uncomfortable with viewing these images.
Happy New Year! I’d like to enthusiastically thank you all — dues-paying members, event goers, volunteers, generous donors, the Board, committee chairs and participants, fellow humanists, and newsletter readers. You not only help to make our organization thrive, but each play an important role in raising awareness about spreading our values into the community and the world. I cannot wait for 2023. We are seeing unprecedented momentum in HumanistsMN and in secularism overall.
Robert Ingersoll, known as “The Great Agnostic,” was a prominent lawyer and 19th century orator who drew huge crowds to hear his lively denunciations of religion. He published the following essay in The Arena literary magazine in 1897:
If I had the power to produce exactly what I want for next Christmas, I would have all the kings and emperors resign and allow the people to govern themselves.
I would have all the nobility crop their titles and give their lands back to the people. I would have the Pope throw away his tiara, take off his sacred vestments, and admit that he is not acting for God — is not infallible — but is just an ordinary Italian.
A seeker has learned that the wisest guru in all of India lives atop India’s highest mountain. It’s incredibly steep, and after many travails and hardships, including bitter cold and hunger, the seeker finally reaches the top. And there’s the guru, sitting cross-legged in front of his cave.
Oh, wise guru, the seeker says, I have come to ask you what the meaning of life is. Ah, yes, the meaning of life, the guru says. The meaning of life is a teacup. A teacup? I came all the way up here to find the meaning of life and you tell me it’s a teacup? The guru shrugs, it isn’t?
From time to time, a powerful series of quotes by Carl Sagan pass through my mind:
“As long as there have been humans, we have searched for our place in the cosmos. Where are we? Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people.”
“All of the rocks we stand on, the iron in our blood, the calcium in our teeth, the carbon in our genes were produced billions of years ago in the interior of a red giant star. We are made of star stuff.”
“For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.”
Marie sees that Roe v. Wade was overturned. She heads to Instagram and posts about her outrage. Her post gets dozens of “likes,” but within a day, it has become buried in people’s feeds and minds. Carl also finds out about Roe v. Wade and springs into action behind his phone screen. He finds a reputable organization to donate to and posts a link on Facebook. Friends and acquaintances see this post and are inspired. They donate a cumulative $500 via his link.
I’m honored to be writing my first column as president of HumanistsMN. I first want to thank my predecessor, Harlan Garbell, for his steadfast leadership. It’s been an honor to serve as his vice president and observe his dedication to our organization, encouragement of new ideas, and commitment to the mission of growing the humanist community. I’m inspired by how he has empowered people to grow, get involved, and help us reach new heights. I aim to carry the momentum maintained by presidents past with enthusiasm, creativity, and a profound belief in the tenets of humanism.
HumanistsMN condemns the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned the significant degree of bodily autonomy that Roe v. Wade had granted for nearly 50 years — the right to have an abortion before a fetus would be viable outside the womb. The 6-to-3 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is expected to lead to abortion bans or severe restrictions in about half of U.S. states.
HumanistsMN denounces the U.S. Supreme Court decision this week in favor of a high school football coach who led Christian prayers on the playing field surrounded by public high school students. We echo our parent organization, the American Humanist Association: the 6-3 decision in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District basically moots the Establishment Clause of …
There is a genre of fiction called “alternate history” (sometimes referred to as “alternative history”). You no doubt have either read a novel or watched a movie or television program based on an alternate history of events. Some of these books or programs are very good, some not. But they all challenge us to see the world as it might have been had someone made a different choice, or had chance intervened to change the trajectory of human events. As I have aged and looked back on my own life, I have often marveled at how things could have been so different had I made just one different choice.
Like many of you, I have been closely following the horrific war between Russia and Ukraine these past few weeks. The world has indeed been outraged by the unjust and extreme level of violence targeted at a people who just want a country of their own. What kind of person could unleash such death and destruction to so many people without remorse? Perhaps the following vignettes will give you an insight on the character of the man who unleashed this carnage on Ukraine, Vladimir Putin.
Many years ago I had an existential crisis — literally. It dawned on me that I would actually die. Maybe not the next day, or the next year, but I would certainly die. Of course, part of growing up is learning that every living being has to eventually die. But, strangely, on some level, I thought that death would not apply to me. (This is different from thanatophobia, which is fear of death.) Psychologists will tell you this is not an uncommon experience. After all, the only reality that I had ever known, or could comprehend, was my own existence through conscious awareness. I couldn’t really comprehend non-existence. Nor did I really want to.