Happy Humanist New Year, All You Thinking Parents! Now Get to Work

1 01 2010

How will you mark this upcoming season of renewed dedication, to living your own best life? How about never mind the customary concentration on “no” this time of year — ask not what you can stop, or quit, or give up; ask what you can give and give more of, what you can do and do more of.

So here’s a gift for all good people looking to give and do and affirm, to celebrate values we do believe in, to be the change we mean to make in the world.

Today, January 1, 2010, marks the grand opening of a highly evolved human network that in life-changing concept means as much to me now, as the National Home Education Network did in its nascence, way back last century. 😀

It is the Foundation Beyond Belief:

Our Mission: To demonstrate humanism at its best by supporting efforts to improve this world and this life; to challenge humanists to embody the highest principles of humanism, including mutual care and responsibility; and to help and encourage humanist parents to raise confident children with open minds and compassionate hearts.

On the educational side, the Foundation will help create and fund local groups for the education and social support of humanist/atheist parents.

I was cornered in the kitchen of a Christmas party by a well-lubricated older someone, who I’d not expected ever to pressure me about declaring Christian beliefs.

Despite his conservative political beliefs and fealty to FOX News, he’s only a church-goer in that culturally conformist, mostly secular way, if you know what I mean. I may have been a bit lubricated myself, too free of tongue in sharing my own real convictions about what is real and important right here on earth, and what gets in the way between people of good will.

So before I knew what was happening, he was staring into my eyes and declaring that I wasn’t the person he knew and admired, if I didn’t believe in his god and follow that particular god’s politics. Or else perhaps I was muddled and foolish and didn’t know my own mind; perhaps I was a good saved person who just didn’t understand how the almighty was indulging my silly disbelief, and I could come to my senses if he took a firm stand for my soul.

Well, what the hell do you say to THAT?! Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

You’ve got damned-deer-in-the-headlights stories too, I know you do, from the holidays each year and sports teams and parent involvement, public service, community projects and neighborly encounters, from the best and worst of times. Favorite Daughter the religion major does much better than I do at managing the belief-fraught social undertow that nearly drowns me on occasion (maybe because she’s still too young to drink at parties??) but she’s looking forward to this new community for good people free of religious tension, too.

We all have a lot to learn and contribute. Think of it as hmmm, a free water safety course? 😉

The original inspiration of Dale McGowan:

There were also surely atheists and humanists among the emergency responders and doctors and nurses and counselors who fought valiantly to stitch together shattered bodies, minds and hearts . . .

The atheists weren’t absent. They were invisible.

Their bodies and skills were easy enough to see, of course. But their convictions — that this is our one and only life, that its loss is something to fight hard against, that we have no one but each other to rely on when bad things happen — those convictions went unnoticed. Prayers and songs and religious rituals announce themselves. Quiet conviction goes unseen.

I began to think about the problem of atheist and humanist invisibility that month, the same month Parenting Beyond Belief was released. Many of the most tireless volunteers and most generous charitable givers I know are atheists and humanists. But unlike my religious friends, their efforts didn’t visibly express and reflect their worldview and their values.

Two years later, I filed the incorporation papers for Foundation Beyond Belief. And here we are.

This Foundation exists “to focus, encourage, and demonstrate” the compassion and generosity of humanists and atheists in part because of Mapantsula’s eloquent response to Dinesh D’Souza’s thoughtless screed. So I’ll take this opportunity to thank Dinesh D’Souza for making his ignorance known. He didn’t inspire atheists to do good in the world — let’s be quite clear about that — but his blindness to what was already there made me realize that others were surely just as blind to it.

It’s time to make visible our values and our efforts to improve our one and only life.



5 responses

1 01 2010

And keep reminding yourself that invisibility doesn’t mean deviance but usually the opposite. It’s doubtful any of these newsworthy folks of 2009 in my state, for instance, were raised as responsible, free-thinking humanists. 😉

“2009: A[nother] strange year in Florida”:

You know you’re living in a weird state when . . .employees at not just one, not two, but three state prisons use stun guns on their kids as part of “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.”
. . .Crime and food intersected a few times in Florida this past year
. . .Reptiles in the news included a 5-foot alligator that escaped during a Panama City elementary school’s show-and-tell.
. . .The Fort Myers Beach town manager was fired after the town council learned he married a porn star. The Brooksville city council voted to require city employees to wear underwear.
. . .A Miami Beach mayoral candidate was disqualified from the race after his qualifying check bounced, and a minister running for Belle Glade City Commission was charged with swinging a bat at a woman outside a polling place.
. . .Rep. Cliff Stearns asked Speaker Nancy Pelosi to basically shut down Congress early so he and some of the Florida and Oklahoma House guys could go watch their teams in the national championship game. She said no.
. . .The University of Florida’s disaster recovery plan included a section on dealing with zombies.

1 01 2010

PZ Myers’ post for this blog bonanza at Pharyngula

2 01 2010
Nance Confer

I’m glad to see this is getting some good exposure. Wish I had something to donate. 🙂 Ah, well, some day. . .


3 01 2010


So before I knew what was happening, he was staring into my eyes and declaring that I wasn’t the person he knew and admired, if I didn’t believe in his god and follow that particular god’s politics.

It sounds as if the disappointment was mutual. 😦

3 01 2010

Yeah, sigh, but it felt more like that apocryphal Wilde / Churchill quote: I figured I’d be sober again in the morning while he’d still have his problem . . .

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