Singing and Building

It has now been nearly two months since our wonderfully successful conference but the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard hasn’t quite been able to slip into summer vacation mode, because of all the exciting opportunities that have been coming our way since.

This week, for example, we are the featured story in Newsweek magazine’s well known section on religion, “Beliefwatch.” It is wonderful to see the subject of Humanism, underappreciated for too long, lately receiving the attention of the nation’s largest magazines and newspapers. We are building towards the point where all of American society will have an opportunity to engage with Humanism’s message of ethical community and naturalistic values– that wider reach for the best of Humanism old and new is what the “new” Humanism is all about.

As far as this particular story goes, what is strong about it is not that it casts me personally “at the center” of the controversy it describes, nor that it depicts a personal debate between myself and people such as Richard Dawkins with whom I actually agree on many issues; but rather that the very idea of a controversy over the true significance of Humanism and atheism is being widely circulated. This story is strong in that it acknowledges that our community of Humanists, agnostics, atheists and the non-religious is coming into its own, and that it will help encourage the millions of non-traditionally religious people in America to think about what we can build up together, not solely about what we want to tear down. I am proud to take the opportunity to speak out in favor of a positive, constructive Humanism. And I am willing if necessary to receive the scorn of a few extreme atheists who see nearly all religion as child abuse and are working to eliminate it altogether. But the point is to nurture a nurturing Humanism, and I could never do so on my own– I am incredibly grateful for the wonderful work so many of my colleagues (far too many to list here, unfortunately, but for one example see the website, whose founder Jeff Nall is also featured in the Newsweek piece, and consider signing up in support of it today) have been doing, in some cases for decades, to build Humanism. Let us all continue to sing and to build together.

On the note of singing and building– one of the prominent themes of our April conference– you can now go to the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard’s revamped website,, and listen to many of the most inspiring moments (intellectual and musical) of our conference, by clicking on our new Podcast player, which currently features Salman Rushdie, E.O. Wilson, Dar Williams, and myself, and is soon to feature Sherwin Wine, Alan Dershowitz, and many more. Thanks so much to the New York-based Humanist think tank the Institute for Humanist Studies and its popular podcast, Humanist Network News, for putting these wonderful materials together.

And on a personal note, I want to add that in the weeks since the conference, I’ve finally finished my graduate work at Harvard Divinity School, which has kept me from having time to correspond with the dozens of you who’ve written me in the past few weeks. Hopefully over the summer, as a new grad myself, I’ll be able to get back to you sooner. It has been an honor and an amazing experiment working and studying nearly full time for the past three years, and I now look forward to now focusing exclusively on the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard.

1 Comment

  1. tomhill

    July 12, 2011 @ 6:56 am


    Interesting read and find…

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