Humanism at the National Level

Presenters:

  • 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

Location:

First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis, www.firstunitarian.org

April 29, 2012

Slides & Resources:

Description:

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.

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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!

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.

More than Brunch on Sundays for Nonbelievers

Post 17 of 40 of the Humanist Lent Writing Project

Sundays might either be really amazing or pretty boring for folks that don’t believe in Gods depening on your perspective. Sure you can sleep in, or go to brunch but what else do you do when a significant percentage of other people are off at a church or other Sunday morning religious service?

Side Note: While the  figure is 40% for average American weekly church attendance, that might be highly over reported so you might not be alone in wanting to sleep in.

Sundays have a lot of options, but beyond that one day a week there are lots of other opportunities to join up with freethinking crowds all across Minnesota.

Check out the highlights below for the first half of April. More events and event details can be found on the events calendar. Don’t forget there are also two big freethinker conferences happening in April as well!

April 1-15 Event Highlights

  • Sunday, April 3, 9-11am
    Lake Superior Freethinkers Monthly Meeting | Duluth, MN
  • Sunday, April 3, 10:30-11:30am
    FUS Service: Spirituality for Skeptics | Minneapolis, MN
  • Thursday, April 7, 7-8pm
    Humanists of Minnesota presents “Corporate Personhood” | Minneapolis, MN
  • Thursday, April 14, 5pm
    Drinking Skeptically | Minneapolis, MN
  • Thursday, April 14, 6:30pm
    Rochester Area Freethinkers Monthly Meeting | Rochester, MN

All events I know about for the first half of April are online now. If you know of any I missed drop them in the comments. I will be adding the rest of April and beyond in coming days.

Consider Humanism Campaign

Post 14 of 40 of the Humanist Lent Writing Project

I posted earlier this week on the A Week on Facebook campaign, part of the larger OUT Campaign. There is another campaign going on as well, for those who identify more with the term Humanist. It is called Consider Humanism. While each of these campaigns is doing something slightly different, they fit together nicely to create more spaces for people who collectively believe in people and the natural world and not deities and the supernatural.

One of the Consider Humanism videos:

The best few years seems to be an interesting moment in the long history of freethought, atheism, secularism, and humanism (for an EXCELLENT book on this rich history check out Susan Jacoby’s book — Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism). There is more cooperation between different organizations at the national level and a bigger push to be OUT and raise awareness that we exist. We aren’t a tiny sliver of the population but a significant group with a valid alternative path for people who aren’t happy or shunned in various religious communities.

I’m excited to see what the rest of 2011 brings as well as the upcoming US Presidential Elections. Will nonbelievers be part of the conversation in an open way? What would you like to see done next to raise awareness of humanism and the larger freethinker community?

The Reliability of Change: why religion matters to this humanist

Post 8 of 40 of the Humanist Lent Writing Project

In my part of the world, that of urban liberal college campuses (my day job is on a campus) it seems the world is oh so gay (not meant as a pejorative for once). I’ve got LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) colleagues, friends, family members. Queer-headed families are part of the norm for me. So are pride festivals, conferences overflowing with people who bend just about any identity one can imagine. My religious community has queer folk all around raising kids, serving coffee, speaking from pulpits. I say this to show what my normal level is (which for some may seem heavenly, or Gomorrahesque depending on your outlook).

Now, one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had in recent memory was one that was filled to the brim with religion, there was god language, shawls, mats, labyrinths, religious texts, smudging, calling the quarters, singing, dancing, and yes even Humanists and atheists. Not only was this one of the most religiously diverse experiences I’ve ever been in but it was also one of the queerest. At the beginning of February in Minneapolis after months of planning the national gay and lesbian task force came to Minneapolis. And not only did it bring a whole lot of LGBT folk, it packed a whole lot of spirit and faith as well. During the larger annual conference called Creating Change, another mini conference happened called Practice Spirit, Do Justice (PSDJ). There were moment when the two blurred in some amazing ways but what happened at PSDJ seemed to be somehow a special hidden area as well.

For this gay humanist it couldn’t have been more fun. I saw religious leaders both queer and allies talking about things lgbt people rarely seem to get together to talk about, god and how we as a movement in tat wit this notion. How religion is a part of our society and can hinder as well as help LGBT people achieve the equality we are working for. I met gay and gay friendly Mormons, Lutherans, Jews, Muslims, Native American Elders, Atheists, Quakers, Buddhists, Pagans, Wiccans, and so many more traditions during these few short days. I’ve been thinking about the LGBT families and individuals in religious spaces for a while now. I see this area of society as crucially important for us to move forward. I think we have done a lot in the secular arena very quickly, lots of amazing things that people just a little older than I couldn’t imagine happening in their lifetime and people just a little younger barely noticing as new and different.

We’ve done this great work by building some walls and opting out of spaces. Important walls that helped people who had been hurt by the religions they trusted and the families they loved. Opted out of the communities that turned their backs. We’ve built new families, communities, homes, religious groups, and spaces to heal. But I feel like things are changing, in church-time, about a decade or two after we would like. But they are changing none the less. This is something we can’t ignore or belittle, there have always been individuals and congregations here and there that have gone against the fray and opened the circle. There have been whole denominations, though they tended to be smaller ones, less “mainstream” or the ones we’ve created ourselves as LGBT people have done time and again when they couldn’t find what they need in the mainstream. But now, finally the small overtures and special rules that sometimes have allowed gay people to participate, and sometimes have taken that away are becoming something more. Clergy are able to be out; we are starting to be able to be married in places of worship and be out in religious choirs, and in the church office; and we are being recognized as being in the pews already. We aren’t those gays out there; we are the congregants already at the table.

By showing up to the table and refusing to give up our seat we do create change. Slowly, continuously, but just existing in places that sometime don’t want us or feel safe we are less the other and more just a committee member or coffee server. It isn’t always dramatic but these constant interactions where we just are start to pile up. We just are on tv, we just are at the office, we just are getting the mail. We just are. And by being in places that might not have always wanted us we are doing amazing things, life saving things.

Now, you might be wondering why a humanist cares. I gave up the Christian space long ago, as a gay man, as a nonbeliever, as someone who was left feeling betrayed by religion. I’ve found my spaces, created some, joined others, and have a life that goes over, under, and between places I don’t want to be. Why does what happens in the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church matter to me when I can go about my merry gay humanist life without walking through the doors ever again? Because our communities’ children are in those places I’ve fought to opt out of, as many have. Our children or in the places next door to the MCC churches we’ve built, the liberal synagogues we’ve founded. LGBT people are unique in a lot of ways, but one way that I would argue we are different than almost any minority group in the world; we rarely create and raise the next generation of our community.

So I learned a lot about religious community, religious organizing, progressive faith, and the power of building bridges at Practice Spirit, Do Justice. But the lesson that finally hit home for me is that we truly are everywhere. And while it is true that it is pretty rare for LGBT people to be raised by LGBT people (though it does happen) it is also true that I know a lot of nontheists, religious liberals, and other people in my life that grew up in religious spaces that didn’t work and even hurt them. Most of the amazing LGBT religious leaders and our allies are not a part of the religion of their childhood either. So opting back in to religious conversation doesn’t just help LGBT youth, it helps humanists youth, atheist youth, Unitarian youth, and so many other young people that could grow up to be amazing agents of change from within the traditions we’ve left. While it is true that gay people are making change by just being who they are in spaces that might not be comfortable all the time, the same is true for those who don’t believe in god. Just being who we are as nontheists at work, school, and in conversations changes minds. Five years ago I didn’t think I would have worked three years at a church, voted for and elected an African American president, or have ten countries around the world recognize same-sex marriages as equal. That is in five short years. Now imagine how much the world could change in the next five? What if instead of arguing with so much of the world we had conversations? I’m excited to see how much my showing up time and again in religious spaces changes them. I’m betting in ways I can’t even imagine.