Why I <3 Daniel Radcliffe

NOTE: This is a post was originally posted February 23, 2012 on the Humanist Community Project —HarvardHumanist.org

No, I’m not a crazed Harry Potter fan. In fact I’ve only made it through one and a half of the books (I got bored honestly). I do plan on going back at some point because I’ve heard bits and pieces of some of the material that didn’t make it into the movies and I find some of the class politics of the magical world interesting. The movies were really fun fantasy epics that I appreciate and that is as far as my Potter-fandom goes.

My Radcliffe-fandom however has only increased since the last movie wrapped.

Over the past year or so, articles have been flying about the interwebs about quotes and interviews where Radcliffe has been open about his atheism, this has been especially useful when I speak to people about humanism and can now add to my famous non-theists a younger person who almost everyone can recognize. Sorry to the many great intellectuals and famous folks that are non-theists, but while Sam Harris is quite dashing, people don’t look at his photo and recognize him as one of their favorite characters of their childhood (or adulthood for the older fans).

So Radcliff is an atheist and that is neat (and useful for talks) but what REALLY has me using less-than-three emoticons around his name is his charity work, specifically the Trevor Project but the broader story here is that atheists, humanists, and non-theists do good work. We are motivated to help those in need not based on heavenly reward but from an deep impulse to help fellow human beings, or as I like to say, we are motivated not from without, but from within.

 

And if you ❤ Daniel as much as I do, you will probably ❤ ❤ ❤ the Humanist Graduate Community at Harvard (HGCH), which, for its third annual Spring Break Service Trip, will travel to LA to work with the Trevor Project (http://www.thetrevorproject.org/) and other groups that support LGBT youth in crisis.

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Online Humanist Courses: there’s a site for that!

NOTE: This is a post was originally posted February 9, 2012 on the Humanist Community Project — HarvardHumanist.org

We humanists tend to be a bookish bunch in my experience and perhaps now we are becoming an eBookish bunch! One of the defining characteristics I’ve found within humanist, freethought, and atheist groups is our penchant for learning. Whether I am in an Assembly on Sunday morning about Louisa May Alcott at my humanist congregation First Unitarian Society, reading an interview with humanistic therapist Leon F. Seltzer in the latest issue of the Humanist magazine, or reading Nonsense on Stilts by Massimo Pigliucci, I’ve found that being among humanists is synonymous with lifelong learning.

Along with being learners, I’ve appreciated that we are also huge fans of technology and what it can do in our lives. One of the biggest effects I’ve witnessed as a part of Generation Y is the connective power of the Internet. Never before has so much information been as readily available to so many. What do you get when you combine humanist thought with a community of learners and a website? Well you get the newly relaunched COHE courses!

The Continuum of Online Humanist Education (COHE) is the first website offering interactive courses in humanist thought. COHE is a service of The Humanist Institute, a non-profit U.S. organization with a mission to educate leaders and potential leaders to shape and deliver the message of Humanism.

There are currently two introductory courses about humanism broadly and six topical courses available. Through the rest of the year expanded courses on each of these topics will be released as well as new topic areas. It has been exciting to be a part of this work, and this is just the beginning!

Find the courses here: http://cohe.humanistinstitute.org

Current topic areas:

  • Humanist Activism & Organization
  • Science
  • Psychology
  • Law & Politics
  • Religion
  • Ethics

Visit the COHE site to discover what is already there and stay tuned as it is expanded!

To learn more about the Humanist Institute, visitwww.HumanistInstitute.org

Humanism 101: What Non-Theists DO Believe

Presenters:

  • Casey Magnuson, Hamline University Multifaith Alliance
  • Kevin Watson, staff member, Hamline University

Location:

Interfaith Youth Day of Service – A Diverse Day of Service Learning and Sharing
Great Expectations: Our Communities, Our Future

by Interfaith Youth Leadership Coalition
February 20, 2012

Slides & Resources:

Description:

Learn about people who don’t hold supernatural beliefs. Learn more about words like Atheist, Humanist, Agnostic, Unitarian Universalist, & Naturalist. Find out what these individuals do believe and the communities they create and participate in. You might be surprised to learn how many names you know are in fact Humanists!

…and I’m back!

Hello my faithful unbelieving readers (I know you are out there because I’ve actually heard from a couple folks during the past few months, so thank you!). Life got hectic and unfortunately this blog fell to the wayside for a time. There were summer travels, a few speaking gigs, a couple amazing humanist-related projects, and settling into my new job.

I’m back now, and just wanted to give a brief update of where I’m at with things Humanist and otherwise. In upcoming posts I plan to talk about a recent event with Chris Stedman from the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard; an update about where things are at with the Humanist Institute; and some potential new work around interfaith organizing.

Since my last post:

  • Shortly after my last post I presented “It Matters How We Communicate” on a panel of amazing Unitarian Universalist folks at the Prairie Star District of the Unitarian Universalist Associasion’s (PSD-UUA) annual conference entitled “It Matters What We Believe,” there is a reason acronyms exist! Out of this speaking experience I have begun the process of networking my way into more Communications/Marketing speaking gigs, more on that below.
  • I completed my first of three years of the Humanist Institute in April as well. The final gathering of year one was about world religions and I will have an upcoming post about that experience as well.
  • Also in the past few month’s I’ve been speaking about nonprofit communications, social media, and fundraising to a variety of audiences.
  • I’ve been a part of conversations happening in Minnesota on the 2012 anti-marriage amendment that would write discrimination into my home state’s constitution.

Upcoming Excitement:

  • I’ve been working on a special project as well which is due to be completed by December, online introductory courses on a variety of topics from the humanist perspective.
  • I’ve begun some great conversations around Humanism on college campuses and high schools here in Minnesota.
So, stay tuned friends. The good news about my lack of writing is that I now have a stockpile of topics to get some new posts created!

E-mail EQ: Tips to Tap the Emotional Brain

Presenters:

  • Cary Lenore Walski, Technology Education and Outreach Coordinator, MAP for Nonprofits
  • Kevin Watson, Communications Coordinator, Alumni Relations, Hamline University

Location:

MCN’s 25th Annual Conference
Great Expectations: Our Communities, Our Future

by Minnesota Council of Nonprofits
October 6, 2011

Slides & Resources:

Press & Reviews:

Description:

Just in time for the holiday campaign season, we will examine how to craft donation appeals that tap into the “emotional” brain of donors. Recently published psychological research has yielded surprising results about what does, and does not motivate people to give when they receive an e-mail from a nonprofit. Attendees will learn simple strategies to optimize both the look and language of e-campaigns to leverage the unintuitive insights yielded by research on how people think and behave online. There will also be time for Q&A to discuss more technical questions and concerns the audience has about e-mail marketing.

It Matters How We Communicate: Choosing Between Paper, Electronic and Social Media to Connect with Congregants

Presenters:

  • Kathy Brutinel — First UU Church, Rochester, Minnesota
  • Kevin Watson — First Unitarian Society, Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Chris White — UU Fellowship, Ames, Iowa
  • Ben Stallings — Prairie Star District staff

Location:

It Matters What We Believe
Annual Conference 2011

Des Moines, Iowa
by Prairie Star District

April 8-10, 2011

Resources:

Description:

This workshop will be a panel discussion about how churches have engaged their congregations through newsletters, orders of service, websites, electronic mailings, Twitter and Facebook. What options did they consider? What works and what is problematic? How much volunteer and staff time is involved? Come and hear how other churches are dealing with how to communicate cheaply and effectively.

It Matters How We Communicate

Post 22 of 40 of the Humanist Lent Writing Project

This weekend is the Prairie Star District of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Annual Conference in Ames, IA. I will be part of a panel called It Matters How We Communicate and speaking about my experience as a Communications Coordinator for a large UU church.

I’m excited to hear the questions and have some conversations about how to do communications in a rapidly changing environment. The information I plan to share goes beyond churches, I tend to focus on nonprofit organizations in my freelance life through www.AidanWebServices.com and I feel these tips work well for smaller organizations or businesses.

Website Advice:

  • Make it easily updated and don’t invest in a design for a lifetime, invest with a plan that it will need to be done again in 3-5 years (closer to 3 if you want to stay current).
  • I strongly recommend using WordPress.com or WordPress.org. This platform allows you to get a site up quickly, has a professional look and feel, and is easily updated by people without knowledge of html or programming languages. WordPress.com is easier to do, WordPress.org gives you more options and control.
  • Use Google Analytics (more on this below).

Social Media:

  • Facebook first, then the rest. If you are going to do social media and don’t know where to start, Facebook has the largest audience and the most functionality. It will change at the whim of Facebook but it will change for everyone.
  • Make a Page, not a Group.
  • Get a short URL for your Page (i.e. facebook.com/yourorgname). You can’t change it, so think about it first.
  • Once you start it, keep content going up there at least weekly.

Digital Communications:

  • Less is more. In  both design and content, I tend towards as simple as possible. If you need to have lots of text in a digital newsletter, try having a lead sentence or two and a link to the whole story on your website or blog.
  • Email Newsletters: www.constantcontact.com or www.mailchimp.com. They are simple to use, affordable, and you get a nice end product with the ability to track open rates and clicks.
  • DON’T BCC your email list to send out your newsletter. This leads to your organization being labeled as spammers and is difficult to fix (I know, it happened to an org I worked with once).

Print Communications:

  • Less is more, less is more, less is more. Sunday Bulletins, Print Newsletters, Brochures. All of these should be a concise as possible. Just a bit about a select few programs happening, stories of success, and then how to find out more online. Or better yet, how to get in touch with a real person to have a conversation.

Office IT:

  • Google Apps (www.google.com/apps). You can have email set up to @yoursite.org, along with google’s powerful suite of tools (docs, calendar, chat, and more) for free. Your whole organization can be running them anywhere they have an internet connect.
  • Cloud File Storage. If at all possible ditch the office file server for www.dropbox.com or www.box.net. This is an easy way to keep your files backed up, shareable with colleagues, AND accessible form multiple and computer with internet access. Also copies of the files stay on your computer as well so if you don’t have internet access you can make changes and they will sync when you get online again.
  • Analytics. Track what is happening with your communications. With your email newsletters and facebook page you can easily track how many people open, click, or “like” your organization.
  • Google Analytics. Also free, a GREAT product for accurately tracking visits and activity on your website.

These are my starting points, I also plan to talk about Branding and why I think it is important even for small nonprofits and I’m sure individual questions will take me in other directions as well.

Other ideas? Feel free to add on in the comments!

No More Glenn Beck: Will Young People Even Notice?

Post 21 of 40 of the Humanist Lent Writing Project

Glenn Beck is done? No Way! Now I don’t think it is a surprise that as a very Liberal person I’m not a Glenn Beck fan, but then I was never meant to be part of his fan base. The interesting thing here is I’ve long ago let his brand of craziness and attention getting fade into the background, like a child throwing a tantrum. The thing I didn’t consider was that his viewers would as well. Joanna Brooks offers a really great post about this.

As a Millennial and someone who lives and works online none of the major news networks can count me as a loyal viewer. I get my news through Minnesota Public Radio, twitter, blog feeds, facebook links, podcasts, emails from friends, and email newsletters. My home television is used to watch BluRays, Hulu Plus, and Netflix. We don’t pay for cable television but do pay for cable internet. I wonder how many of my peers and those younger than me are in a similar place?While I understand that the major news networks still hold incredible sway and have millions of viewers, for how much longer can will that be true?

I’m happy that my parent’s and grandparent’s generation won’t be bombarded with rants involving tear-streaked chalk boards. After I read of Beck’s potential departure I was surprised but elated, then I googled to see if other news sources were saying the same thing (here is a MSNBC article about his leaving and a hilarious Huffington Post piece with possible Beck replacements), finally I thought to myself: wait a minute… when was the last time I saw Glenn Beck that wasn’t on The Colbert Report or The Daily Show?

So at the end of the day my real take away from this news is how little it really impacts my daily life and how wonderful it is that those people in the world I disagree with on so much and I have a new commonality: neither of us cares what Glenn Beck has to say.

Half Way To…?

Post 20 of 40 of the Humanist Lent Writing Project

I started this blog a month ago today. Here is my first post, which seems so much longer than a month ago. It was shortly before Lent and I thought this would be a way to combine part of my final project for the Humanist Institute with a way to reflect on what I am doing locally in the humanist community and also provide a resource to the very active Minnesota/Midwest Freethought Community.

It has been a wonderful experience. I find that I am reading what other organizations are doing and reaching out to make connections as a result of this blog. I also find the time to reflect more and have begun to create an online community of folks that I see as great resources nationally.

I’ve also hit a wall with the coming of April and see how time consuming blogging can be. My main goal with the Humanist Lent Writing Project was to take a time of year that I haven’t really participated in before and make something personal out of it. The other big goal was to get into a habit of writing regularly. I’ve tried to blog or do reflective writing multiple times but find myself getting hung up on what to write and when to write, ending in simply not writing. So while I am a little behind schedule the experience of this project has been overwhelmingly positive. I don’t plan on posting as often after Easter but I think I will have an easier time maintaining what I’ve begun and a greater level of comfort in simply putting words on the screen. I didn’t ever imagine this first writing project as an end but really as a jump start to a much larger project of creating another place for humanist thought and hopefully another place for people to find out about our long and vibrate tradition of freethought, skepticism, and faith in our fellow human beings.

My Humanist Summer Reading List

Post 19 of 40 of the Humanist Lent Writing Project

Okay I admit it, I fell of the horse with this writing project (see link above) but I intend to catch up and still hit 40 posts by Easter! Today I’m sharing my summer reading list which I’m starting on the plane home from my third session of the Humanist Institute since I will be reviewing and finishing up those books the next week or so. I will also be reading a pile of books for my August session of the Humanist Institute so this list will be a little short.

  1. Meditations for the Humanist: Ethics for a Secular Age,
    by A.C. Grayling
  2. Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, by Rob Bell
  3. The Good Book: A Humanist Bible, by A.C. Grayling
  4. The Portable Atheist, by Christopher Hitchens
  5. Philosophers Without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life, Edited by Louise M. Antony

Some of these books I’ve read sections of or skimmed quickly but I hope by the end of summer to have these five books under my belt. Both Love Wins and The Good Book are newly released and I hope are as good as I’ve heard. I feel all of them provide a broad base to reflect on modernity and how to live as a Humanist in a more thoughtful way.