Category: Humanist Voices

Lessons in Color: How Tribalism and Racism Can Be Taught

When I was in college in the 1960s I worked every summer as a counselor at an overnight boys camp near Eagle River, Wis. Without a doubt this was the best job I ever had. The work was easy and the camp was located on a beautiful lake in the north woods. Moreover, because the camp catered to rich kids from the northern suburbs of Chicago, the facilities were top notch and the food was terrific. For the most part, every year both campers and counselors had a lot of fun, as well as warm memories.

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First-Person Humanism: My Journey Away From Indoctrination and Threats

I’m embarrassed. I was a Jehovah’s Witness for over 40 years. Not only that, but as an appointed elder of that church I taught lies that the average adult could easily point out as false. Having said that, I’d like to let myself off the hook by explaining how I became so thoroughly convinced that I was teaching truth. Excuse #1: Indoctrination. I was raised in the cult from the age of 3 or 4. JWs teach their members to be “in the truth.” I heard the phrases “Is Bill still in the truth?” or “Sadly, Jill left the truth.”

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A Humanist Mom Models Honesty for her Children in New Book of Essays

Ten years ago, I began writing a book of essays to my children. They were in grade school at the time and I hoped to craft a collection of simple life lessons. It’s an arrogance particular to parenthood that if only we could come up with the right things to say to our kids, then they would listen, make better choices, and avoid the painful mistakes we have made. Even acknowledging this delusion, I thought if I put my thoughts and stories in a bound volume, my kids might at least read them one day.

The Ethical Implosion of the Supreme Court

As many of you know, Earl Warren was instrumental in leading the Supreme Court to a new era where a broader interpretation of the Constitution served to increase the rights of many people in this country previously discriminated against or otherwise left behind. For example: decisions ending segregation, eliminating official school prayer in public schools, establishing a constitutional right to privacy, and mandating that a person arrested for a crime has a right to remain silent. 

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Let’s Increase Access to Secular Recovery Programs

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?”

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Free Speech Cases Highlight Dangers of Catering to Religious Sensitivities

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.

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What I Want for Christmas

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.

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A Humanist’s Take on ‘The Meaning of Life’

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?

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A Call for Humanists to Again Address the Question of War: Part 3

The Humanist Manifesto II was published in the October 1973 issue of The Humanist magazine. It was written by Paul Kurtz, editor, and Edwin Wilson,editor emeritus and former president of the American Humanist Association. It was followed by the signatures of 282 prominent humanist world leaders in fields including education, science, government, and philosophy. Subsequently thousands of humanists signed on. The sections related to humanism and war, articles 12 and 13, are as follows: “We deplore the division of humankind on nationalistic grounds. We have reached a turning point in human history where the best option is to transcend the limits of national sovereignty and to move toward the building of a world Community in which all sectors of the human family can participate. Thus we look to the development of a system of world law and a world order based upon transnational federal government.”

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Humanism and Stoicism: Relevant Philosophies for Modern Thinkers

HumanistsMN and Minnesota Stoics collaborated on June 4, 2022, to present a “compare and contrast” between humanism and Stoicism. Gabriel Blott of MN Stoics and Audrey Kingstrom of HumanistsMN discussed a handful of major topics and how each tradition views them. They covered core principles and practices, ethics to politics, the division of individual vs personal responsibility, and much more.

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A Call for Humanists to Again Address the Question of War: Part 2

Slavery was an evil institution created by humans. Reformers, believing that this evil could not be abolished outright, proposed making it less cruel and more humane. The great Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy countered by arguing that if slavery were humanized, it would never be abolished. But though it took a long time, it was ultimately seen as an irredeemable evil and was ended. What about war? Why couldn’t it follow this path as well?  That has proven to be more difficult. Some reformers in Tolstoy’s time proposed making war less brutal, believing that  would eventually lead to its end.  Tolstoy again argued against it, fearing that  making war more humane would just make it more tolerable.

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Team of Letter Writers Make the Case for Secularism

From George: You may have noticed familiar names in the StarTribune letters to the editor this year. That is no accident – a volunteer team of letter writers has been busy representing secular viewpoints on important issues. This is the story of our team. Early in 2021, I had to do a leadership project in the Freethought Toastmasters Club. It required putting together a team and leading it to goals that I had to define. I decided to put together a team to write letters to the editor of the StarTribune on secularist issues.

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America’s Historical and Racial Reckoning

scene from a protest

America is becoming more diverse. That’s obvious. But did you know that for the past decade, demographers have been projecting that by 2045 the majority of the U.S. population will be non-White? And now, those projections are becoming a reality. Data from the 2020 census  indicate that almost 53 percent of the U.S. population under 18 identifies as non-White. While Minnesota is less diverse than the nation as a whole, in the metro region especially but also across the state, the non-White youth population is growing significantly.

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A Call for Humanists to Again Address the Question of War: Part 1

Humanist voices are currently addressing many major issues. I propose we add one more. Let’s once again turn our attention to war. I suggest discussing the following questions:  For what purposes should we go to war? Should we continue our American empire and the military power and wars required to maintain it?  Should we continue to increase our military budget so we can enlarge and modernize our military establishment to deter Russia and China and be capable of engaging in a war with either of them? In short, is war still an acceptable means to protect or advance our interests?

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Critical Race Theory and the Struggle for Racial Justice

A body of legal scholarship that originated in the mid 1970s, Critical Race Theory (CRT), became notorious in 2020 when conservative activist Christopher Rufo sounded the alarm to Fox News (which alerted Donald Trump) about what he called a pernicious anti-American outgrowth of the racial-justice movement. Conservative state legislatures quickly passed laws banning the teaching of CRT in public schools.

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