Humanist Communities

There has been some recent discussion in the media and in the blogosphere about building Humanist communities, and I'd like to indicate my support for the idea and explain some of my thoughts.

The first question commonly asked is why Humanists don't just join a group of Unitarian Universalists. Some certainly do. As for me, though I have a positive opinion of UUs, I really prefer a group of people who generally share my beliefs, not simply a group of people who welcome me regardless of my beliefs. UUs emphasize love, peace and acceptance of all people, but not necessarily the critical thinking and intellectual rigor that I personally value so strongly. They use religious language and rituals in a non-dogmatic manner and they fully welcome atheists, but I much prefer to jettison anything from religion that suggests superstition and retain only the most humanistic elements of religious practice relating to the promotion of virtue and building of communities. These include such things as a recognizable name and symbol, meetings at least once per week, discussions of various topics, social activities, and small group interaction.

Here in Jacksonville, we have the First Coast Freethought Society, but I've only attended a couple of meetings. They only meet once a month on Monday nights, and the group consists almost entirely of senior citizens. I'm less than halfway to being a senior citizen and my wife is less than a third of the way there, so I have a more difficult time making social connections in such a group. There is also an atheist Meet-Up group with plenty of young members, and I've attended a number of their meetings, but the focus is almost exclusively on views of religion. Now I enjoy the criticism of religion more than almost anyone except perhaps some other bloggers, but sometimes I want to move beyond the inherent negativity in criticism and on to something more positive.

Since I've gotten married, my desire for such a community has noticeably weakened. An important part of that desire was to meet a young woman who shares my worldview, and now I have exactly that. I'm also much busier than previously with a wife and law school, so my life is rather full and I'd encounter difficulty in finding time to attend any meetings. I've already had to go on hiatus from improv comedy for several months, and if I find any extra time, it will be spent pursuing that first. If something new arises in the area, however, I hope to lend it whatever support I can manage.


Nothing New Under the Sun

I've grown weary of discussing the statements and actions of religionists in this blog. A couple of years ago I adopted a policy of monitoring the opinion section of my local newspaper in order to provide a source of regular material to address. Since then, I've written dozens of blog entries about perhaps a hundred letters and editorials. Although I've found a brand-new local violation of church-state separation, I've chosen to ignore it and to officially revoke the policy altogether. Believers have nothing new to say, and I have nothing new to say in response. It's the same idiocy over and over again. The average person in the area can't reason their way out of a wet paper bag, and I'm tired of arguing with a brick wall. This is not at all to say that I won't discuss the stupidity of religion, just that I won't feel obligated to myself to mention every example of stupidity that finds its way into the pages of the local newspaper.



Nothing to Fear

This opinion column by Terry Dickson was published in the life section under the title, “Righteous ‘fear’ has its place.” I found most of it unremarkable except for a few choice selections.

The slide in religious affiliation [in New England] may be because of a lack of fear.
Perhaps this is correct. Maybe more people are increasingly realizing they have nothing to fear from non-existent deities and their imaginary torture chambers.
I like what the Rev. Tommy Nelson, senior pastor at Denton Bible Church in Denton, Texas, sometimes says. He'll be reading along in the Bible and do a little interpretation. “In the original Greek,” he'll say, “the word fear means fear. Be afraid.”
I suppose he didn't get the memo from liberal theologians and apologists that Christianity is supposed to be a religion of love and peace, and he actually read Jesus' intolerant and exclusivist message in the bible!
“I'm prophesying we'll become more religious with this economic downturn,” [Rev. Jay Hanson] said. FDR famously said during the Great Depression, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
How utterly ironic! Dickson laments modern society's lack of fear of God throughout the entire column and then at the end suggests with this quotation that we have nothing to fear and should not be afraid of anything except irrational fear! Be not afraid, indeed!