A Humanist Leadership program you say?

Are you looking to develop skills and knowledge on a broad range of topics from a humanist perspective? Does a group including atheists, ethical culture folks, religious humanists, unitarians, and secular humanists sound interesting? What if they were from around the country?

There is a place where you can learn about the history of humanist thought, freethinking, and how secularism became a movement. You can develop a network of friends and colleagues from around the country. Meet with leadership from the largest humanist organizations. You even get to spend time annually in New York City and Washington D.C.

The Humanist Institute is a three year, low residency, graduate level program. You are part of a cohort class that gathers together three times each year in either New York or D.C. for intensive discussion work.

The next class starts this December! Find out more and Apply at www.HumanistInstitute.org.

I recently spoke at First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis about my experience with the Humanist Institute, read and listen to that presentation – Humanism at the National Level.

Here is the breakdown of each session’s theme:

Year One

  • Session One: Essential Humanism
  • Session Two: Being Human
  • Session Three: Humanist Ideas in World Religions

Year Two

  • Session Four: Leadership
  • Session Five: Critical Thinking
  • Session Six: Science, Methods and Uses

Year Three

  • Session Seven: Contemporary Culture
  • Session Eight: Aesthestics
  • Session Nine: Celebration

Humanism at the National Level


  • Introductions: Kristin Wintermute, Executive Director of the Humanist Institute
  • The Story of the Humanist Institute: Carol Wintermute, Co-Dean & Class 1 Alumna of the Humanist Institute
  • The Impact of the Humanist Institute: Kevin Watson, Class 17 of the Humanist Institute


First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis, www.firstunitarian.org

April 29, 2012

Slides & Resources:


Carol Wintermute, past Director of Religious Education at FUS shares the history of Humanist Institute began, how the Humanist Movement has changed over time, and where it is going today. Kevin Watson, FUS member shares from his experiences as a current student and the work this program has inspired him to do. The goal of this Sunday was to connect the work of the Society to the foundations it has laid and the work happening today at the national level. Our community helps sustain the work of the Humanist Institute and directly benefits from the Humanist Leaders it helps to shape. The Humanist Institute exists to equip humanists to become effective leaders, spokespersons, and advocates in a variety of organizational settings, including within the humanist movement itself. Come learn more about the Humanist Institute and First Unitarian Society’s unique place in its history, as well as its future. Find out more at www.HumanistInstitute.org.

What Humanism ISN’T, and why the F-Word is needed

Note: I wrote this Friday, March 23 but wasn’t able to post until today so while much has changed in the Trayvon Martin story, the key pieces remain still shocking and upsetting. 

Some days you get double slapped with awful human behavior, the wonder that is the internet keeps a steady stream of information flying across the various screens in our lives. Well within moments I saw two stories in my Facebook Newsfeed that were shocking, rage-inducing, and dumbfounding all at once.

I’ve often been asked about definitions of what Humanism is; had discussions about why someone would be a moral or ethical person without a belief in any god(s); or even about what drives someone to do good work if there isn’t a supernatural force guiding them to do so. All good questions, but today I’m struck simultaneously by examples of what Humanism ISN’T and proof that the F-Word is still a part of my vocabulary after years of fighting to never use it again.

First there was the Belvedere Vodka Rape Ad:

And no, it isn’t a meme or something like the Onion, it is actually an ad to sell expensive vodka: http://jezebel.com/5895931/the-rapey-belvedere-vodka-ad-that-just-got-pulled

Followed closely by “journalist”-extraordinaire Geraldo saying that the way Trayvon Martin was dressed had just as much to do with his being murdered as George Zimmerman. What?!

I am urging the parents of black and Latino youngsters particularly to not let their children go out wearing hoodies. I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was.

— Geraldo Rivera on Fox News

See the clip here: http://gawker.com/5895867/minorities-who-wear-hoodies-just-asking-to-be-shot-says-geraldo-rivera

So what do these examples of awfulness have to do with Humanism? Nothing and everything. So often Humanists, Atheists, and Secular folks get labelled as immoral or are questioned on why someone would do anything good in the world if they lacked faith. Well I feel that examples like these highlight something important. When a core part of how you view the world is: human beings are capable of doing good without any supernatural being intervening, and then you see examples of how awful people are to each other you actually need to use the F-Word. Faith of course.

I go out into the world each day and interact with my fellow humans believing that there is no special creator looking out for me or there to help me in a time of crisis. If I need help or assistance I need to turn inward to myself or outward to other people but there is no referee in the sky to help me. People make thousands of choices each day some of them are helpful or creative others are harmful or destructive. Yet at the end of the day I believe that the human mind has — through a stroke of evolutionary luck — developed the ability to aspire toward ideals. That is something pretty close to unique and why I feel people, though flawed and capable of horrendous acts and stupendous statements, are still worthy of faith. Given this belief my forehead may hurt from self-inflicted face palms from time to time. And now to reference my favorite Humanist quote:

Faith in god means believing absolutely in something with no proof whatsoever. Faith in humanity means believing absolutely in something with a huge amount of proof to the contrary. We are the true believers.

— Joss Whedon (source: http://bit.ly/GJNoEK)

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.

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


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


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:


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!