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

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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.

Good Without God – Book Review

Post 6 of 40 of the Humanist Lent Writing Project

See Amazon page: http://amzn.to/foKkHb

Good Without God:
What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe

By Greg M. Epstein,
Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University

272 pages, published October 27, 2009

In Good Without God, Epstein writes an introduction to a huge population of the world – those who do not believe in God. I see this book as a great introductory text to a very large and diverse population of people. I don’t think it goes into great detail very often but instead keeps things simple and brief. That is the really great thing about this book, I really would recommend this to people who aren’t studying religions deeply or want to know every identity group within the nontheist/freethought movement and all the major historical figures that have done great deeds while not holding belief in the divine. There are many books out there that do these things but view that are actually casual reading on the humanist community and the many other names we go by.

I could see this book being used as the Humanist/Nontheist text in religious communities that teach about many of the world’s religious traditions (Neighboring Faiths in UU congregations as an example). I could see this being given to significant others/partners in mixed-religious couplings or other loved ones. This is also a great book for those who are looking for the first humanist book to begin to study on their own.

The biggest thing I enjoyed about this book was the lack of anger, the lack of attack of those that do believe. I struggle when reading other authors who seem to believe that you can convert from either a place of anger or of superiority over those “stupid enough to believe.” This book is a refreshing invitation. To hear a piece of what humanists believe. Does Greg Epstein’s words sum up each and every humanists notions of how the world works and why they are motivated to do what they do? Of course not, i doubt any book can do that for a gorup of people. I do however see this book as a great source of correct information about humanist philosophy and worldview.

People I have spoken with about humanist/atheist/freethought reading material often have had bad experiences and ended up angry after reading other popular authors. I feel confident that you will be pleasantly surprised with this book’s lack of venom. I hope this book and many more like it become the norm and not the exception in humanist writings.

Minnesota Freethought Organizations

Post 5 of 40 of the Humanist Lent Writing Project

Minnesota has many organizations that support individuals who are nonbelievers. There are meet ups, Sunday gatherings, rallies, coffee nights, seasonal celebrations, book groups, bake sales, happy hours, even a summer camp! All of these organizations operate around the state. Most are based in the Twin Cities area but not all. If you have any additions, please make a comment on this post with the information or email me: kevin@HumanistNotes.com.

I will be posting in the future about national organizations, conferences, and blogs. Stay tuned.

In the Twin Cities area:

Atheists for Human Rights – www.atheistsforhumanrights.org
Atheism accepts the natural world as all there is. To live without god beliefs is intellectually stimulating. To find one’s own purpose and be responsible for one’s own life is exciting. To be free of the imagined surveillance of good and evil spirits is liberating. To seek a peaceful world through work and friendship and civic action is life-affirming. – Marie Alena Castle, March, 1994

C.A.S.H.  Campus Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists – www.cashumn.org
The Best Damned Group On Campus Since 1991:
Campus Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists (formerly Campus Atheists and Secular Humanists) is a registered student organization at the University of Minnesota. We strive to create a community for atheist, agnostic, humanist, and other freethinking individuals. Our meetings are held each Thursday night at 7:00 PM, usually on the East Bank campus in Coffman Memorial Union. Attendance and membership are open to the public and encouraged amongst students and the community, regardless of religious or political ascriptions.

First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis – www.firstunitarian.org
The First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis, established in 1881 and affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association of North America, is an ethical and liberal religious community dedicated to promoting the ongoing search for truth and to affirming the inherent worth of the individual. We understand reality through human
experience, enlightened reason, scientific method, and the democratic process, and we find the central source of power and goodness within the human heart, mind, and spirit. Individually and collectively, we assume responsibility for our future, our community, our children, and our interdependent world.Our growth and actions as thoughtful, compassionate, and ethical human beings advance our humanist vision of a world of peace and love, dignity and equality, freedom and justice.

Humanist of Minnesota – www.humanistsofmn.org
Humanists of Minnesota is a nonprofit educational corporation and has been granted a 501(c)(3) tax exemption as an educational, scientific and charitable organization.

Minnesota Atheists – www.mnatheists.org
Minnesota Atheists is Minnesota’s oldest and largest atheist organization. We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit, educational organization that seeks to promote the positive contributions of atheism to society and to maintain separation of state and church.

Or Emet, Minnesota Congregation for Humanistic Judaism – www.oremet.org/
Humanistic Judaism celebrates Jewish culture and identity.Humanistic Judaism affirms the right of individuals to shape their lives independent of supernatural authority.Jewish history chronicles our continuing struggle for human dignity. Its outcome depends on human decisions and actions.We acknowledge that our Jewish heritage is a primary source for our ethics and commitment to tikkun olam (repairing the world). We create humanistic Jewish rituals and services that reflect the ethical core of Jewish history, literature and culture. We celebrate the major Jewish holidays.

Outside the Twin Cities:

Camp Quest of Minnesota – minnesota.camp-quest.org
Camp Quest of Minnesota is affiliated with National Camp Quest (Ohio), the first secular summer camp for youth in the history of the United States. Camp Quest was specifically designed for children of Unitarians, atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, humanists, or whatever terms might be applied to those who maintain a naturalistic, not supernaturalistic, world view. Our campers are girls and boys ages 8-15. We offer a Counselor in Training Program for 16 and 17 year olds.

Central MN Friends Free of Theism – www.freeoftheism.org
Central Minnesota Friends Free of Theism began in August of 1997 with support from Minnesota Atheists and ACLU of Minnesota. We’ve been meeting in a friendly, round-table atmosphere ever since, discussing rationalism, humanism, and atheism as it pertains to our daily lives and the world.

Lake Superior Freethinkers – www.lsfreethinkers.org
Lake Superior Freethinkers is a friendship group in support of: Rational thought, Morality without superstition, Freedom from religion, Separation of church and state. We are a gathering of Minnesota and Wisconsin atheists, freethinkers, skeptics, and humanists.

Red River Freethinkers – www.redriverfreethinkers.org
Located in Fargo-Moorhead area. To promote freethinking through education and activism.