Sunday, November 8, 2009

Humanist Symposium #45

Fellow humans:

Thank you for tuning your Feeds to tonight’s presentation. As mandated by law, we are required to remind you not to engage in full-mind activities while driving, operating machinery, or performing any other task that may require the majority of your mental capacity to perform correctly. Remember, nourishing your mind can be dangerous if done without regard for your surroundings. Feed Safely™.

The International Council of Historians is most pleased to present tonight’s edition of: Humanist Relics.

*cue exciting music and dramatic, colorful title screen*

Here on Humanist Relics, we open the ICH archives and showcase some of the greatest works ever created by human minds. It is our ambition to bring the history of Humanism to the world so that all humans may know and remember the struggles our forbearers went through to actualize a society built on truth, reason, and the pursuit of equality.

Tonight’s piece is one of the crown jewels in our collection of timeless Humanist writings. It is with great honor that we present to you the following archival data, entitled: The Humanist Symposium #45.

Taken from the “Internet”, and written in 2009 (just three years before… well, we all know what happened in 2012 from our history classes, don’t we?), this collection of writings is an outstanding microcosm of Humanist thought during that time period. We’ve broken down the original long piece into a few subgenres and taken the liberty of reformatting them to meet current data specifications, for easier user processing. (Please note: All written data has been translated from Old New English to Modern Word. For the data in its original Old New English format, please contact ICH.) If your Feed is not equipped with the necessary emulators to run this ancient program, please activate this link to download the appropriate drivers.

And now, without further ado, tonight’s datastream:

Topic One: On Being Humanist - Writings about the world from the viewpoint of an atheist/humanist, and what it means to live in a world guided by humanist principles. (A note to our viewers: These pieces were written prior to the adoption of Humanism as the global worldview! A fascinating look into life as part of a growing minority population.)

TitleFunerals and Christianity

Author – Amanda ; Original archiveFree to be Me

Notable quotation – “I’m accustomed to Southern conservative Christian funerals being a ‘salvation’ sermon instead of a standard eulogy, but I guess I’d never really paid attention to it before because I was so involved. Basically, the message boiled down to ‘I know he’s in heaven; if you want to see him again, get saved!’ There was also your standard variation of hell sucks, if you want to avoid it get saved! Where, in either of these two examples, is there a motive of becoming a Christian because you believe in the saving power of Jesus Christ?

TitleThe Purpose of Life

Author – PaulJ ; Original archiveNotes from an Evil Burnee

Notable quotation – “In the absence of a religious purpose for human life (for instance, "the glorification of God"), it might seem reasonable for perpetuation of the species to be offered as a substitute. But reproduction is simply what humans, and other species, do. If they didn't, they would become extinct. Reproduction is not, therefore, a purpose, but simply the result of evolution. Those that are best at reproduction (which includes being good at surviving to reproductive age) are the ones who pass on their genes to the most offspring.

TitleLife's Value

Author – the chaplain ; Original archiveAn Apostate's Chapel

Notable quotation – “One does not need to believe in divine sanction to treasure life. Rather, all one needs is an appreciation for the wonder of a cosmos that humankind is just beginning to understand. As far as we can tell so far, life forms play small roles on the stage of the cosmos. Organic beings may be relatively few in number, but we’re pretty amazing nonetheless. This shouldn’t surprise you. After all, it’s often the bit characters that steal the show.

TitleIn Honor of Terry Pratchett

Author – Ebonmuse ; Original archiveDaylight Atheism

Notable quotation – “If you're an atheist and a regular reader of sci-fi and fantasy, you probably know the name Terry Pratchett - and if you don't, you should. He's the award-winning and much-loved author of Discworld, a series of fantasy novels set in a flat, circular world that's carried through space on the back of a giant tortoise…Pratchett is also an atheist, and many of the Discworld books (including my personal favorite, Small Gods) show the virtues of atheism and humanism - no small feat in a riotous fantasy world where, as the author puts it, ‘the gods had a habit of going round to atheists' houses and smashing their windows’.

TitleComing Out Atheist: Is Losing Your Relationship Worth It?

Author – VJack ; Original archiveAtheist Revolution

Notable quotation – “It is fairly common for people in a relationship to be as attracted to the potential of someone rather than to the actual person. And yet, it has been my experience that such relationships are often doomed if they do not quickly progress beyond this point. If I am in love with what I want someone to be rather than what they really are, I'm resigning myself to being perpetually disappointed and unhappy. One could reasonably argue that this wouldn't be a relationship at all but merely a form of narcissism. It is difficult to imagine it working in the long run.

TitleMarriage, or why I really really want same sex couples to be able to marry.

Author – Michelle Bell ; Original archiveThe Gaytheists

Notable quotation – “My emotional tie up is more than wanting equal rights, and it’s more than fighting against religion having a bitchfit that they can’t make the government their happy fun-time bigotry playground. I guess I have a little bit of a confession to make – I want same-sex marriage because I’m selfish.

Topic Two: Humanism in Action – Writings about the ways in which Humanism and Humanists are working to make the world a better place for all people. (A note to our viewers: As commonplace as Humanist principles now are in law and social life, there was once a time when Humanist organizations were viewed as fringe and looked down upon by the majority of society. These activists were well ahead of their time, and should rightly be regarded as heroes for their efforts despite great opposition.)

Title - The gay marriage: All animals are equal but some are (apparently) more equal than others

Author – Robert Nijssen ; Original archive - Gibburt

Notable quotation – “If you would want to defend that you have a certain right, but you would not want to extend that same right to your neigbor [sic], there is an easy strategy to follow: first find a distinguishing quality between you and your neighbor…an example could be that the neighbor wears glasses. Then you take that feature and argue that because of this feature he should not be allowed to have this right, for example people with glasses are not allowed to use the public bus system. And presto no more people with glasses on public buses (this last step of course will only work if you can convince enough other people of your idea).”

TitleWorld Food Day

Author – Michael Fridman ; Original archivea Nadder!

Notable quotation – “But suppose we could teleport food. Surprisingly, this can cause more harm than good. The USA gives more food than any other country. But its policy (or law?) is that it must be US-made food brought on US Navy ships. This floods the local market with food, driving prices down and sending local farmers into even greater poverty. And ironically it’s local farmers who’re most likely to go hungry. Their crop becomes worthless so they can’t sell it to buy other produce they need. So even giving food is no silver bullet.”

TitleRepair Job

Author – Secular Guy ; Original archiveTowards a Rational America and an Enlightened Judaism

Notable quotation – “If nothing else, it's in our own self-interest to try to improve society and in turn benefit from these efforts. Moreover, through such responsible living perhaps people will mature ethically and will outgrow the need to look to an imaginary supreme being for guidance. Under these circumstances, ‘God’ will wither away, and civilization can then advance, liberated at last from the constraints of theism.

TitleBrights co-founder on atheists and the 'non-religion religion ballgame' (video)

Author – Paul Fidalgo ; Original archiveSecularism Examiner

Notable quotation – “…but I also think that if the Brights approach adoption from the standpoint of ‘being an atheist is too stigmatizing,’ they will continue to have trouble, as most momentum that I've seen is on the side of pushing broad acceptance and pride in the a-word…They will have to sell themselves as an augmentation, a clarification, much as the term ‘humanist’ is, if they wish to woo more atheists to their particular cause.

TitleScientific Thinking to Guide Compassion

Author – Andrew Bernardin ; Original archivethe evolving mind

Notable quotation – “But I do realize that simply throwing money at a problem can miss the mark. What the practice of throwing money at a problem accomplishes is the comforting thought that you are doing something, and sometimes little else. I want to help, but not if in the end it’s not helping.

Topic Three: Appreciating Humanism – Writings about gaining a deeper understanding of Humanist principles, tenets, and concepts. (A note to our viewers: It may seem strange to write articles about topics that are now commonly taught in schools and public forums, but at the time these pieces were written Humanist ideas were still in development. Historical archives such as this one are enthralling because they show the development of Humanism over time.)

TitleWhy The New Humanism

Author – Greg Epstein ; Original archiveThe New Humanism

Notable quotation – “It is also important to note that the New Humanism and the New Atheism absolutely share the same views on questions such as whether God exists (almost certainly not), or how best to understand the nature of the world around us (science and empiricism). And as to whether we ought to fight for such causes as the separation of Church and State, the teaching of evolution, and the promotion of atheism and Humanism as valid, patriotically American ways of life, our answers are also the same as those of the New Atheists -- you bet your life we ought to.

TitleScience and the Worship of Truth

Author – Eric Michael Johnson ; Original archiveThe Primate Diaries

Notable quotation – “While religious proponents believe that there is a One Truth that has been revealed through their sacred book, science operates under the assumption that human reason is finite and that a scientific theory is only valid until further evidence either refines or discards it for a better explanation. Science is never finished. It's a continuing work in progress and any accepted theory is merely ‘provisionally true’ for the time being.

TitleA Few Words on the Dangers of Language

Author – E.M. Cadwaladr ; Original archivee.m. cadwaladr

Notable quotation – “…Social identity is, as it were, familial identity writ large. It is an expression not of the need for a reliable source of knowledge, but rather it is the expression of the need for a reliable source of personal context and security. To be either a Christian, a communist, or even (to an admittedly lesser extent) a certified public accountant is to project what is essentially a family identity onto a group of individuals far too large and diverse to be a family. It is to expect a certain level of protection from inclusion in this group, even if, in some cases, this protection only amounts to a vague sense of social legitimacy.

TitleAtheism, Openness, and Caring About Reality: Or, Why What We Don't Believe Matters

Author – Greta Christina ; Original archiveGreta Christina's Blog

Notable quotation – “There is an impossibly huge infinitude of things that we could imagine about the universe. Only the tiniest fraction of those things are actually true. If we're going to be truly open to the mind-altering magnificence and hilarious freakiness of the universe, if we're going to truly understand and accept and explore what is true about the universe to the best of our ability, we have to be willing to say ‘No’ to the overwhelming majority of things we can imagine about it. We have to be rigorous in sorting out reality from unreality... and relentless in our rejection of unreality.

TitleReverse-Engineering Religion, part four: A Humanist Creation Myth

Author – D ; Original archiveShe Who Chatters

Notable quotation – “So see your vanity for what it is, embrace your vexation with all your spirit, and chase after the wind with a joyous heart. In the fullness of time, there shall be no reckoning, for everything that there is shall return to the nothing from whence it came. Fear nothing, and hold to the Law. All the World is open to you now, so take up understanding and love and pleasure, and be at peace with your mortality. This is the final mystery, for as death comes to us all, in death no one knows any thing, and so even your love and understanding and pleasure shall pass from you even as you yourself pass into the nothing.

This concludes our program for tonight. Tune in for our next show on November 29th, 2009, when we’ll be presenting The Humanist Symposium #46 (due to restrictions from our network hosts, this presentation will be broadcast on an alternative Feedquency entitled You Made Me Say It!) Thanks again for your interest in the diverse, fascinating, and inspiring history of Humanism!

Be well, and may prosperity and peace flourish in the lives of all of humankind.


  1. Oh, I love the presentation! Awesome sauce indeed for so delicious a Feed. The download link was pretty cool, too - did you make that yourself just for this?

  2. Naw, I didn't make the download thingy. I wanted some kind of 404 error screen, so I Googled that. Turns out there are fan sites for 404 screens, and after browsing a couple of links on one such site, I discovered the page you saw. A pretty awesome find, and it fit right in with the theme!

    Anyway, I'm really glad you like it! :)

    Have you read Feed? I'm assuming you have, since you seem to know the reference.

  3. Excellent presentation and a nice selection of posts. Thanks for your work. I also enjoyed the "download" link - very funny.

  4. No, I've never heard of it! What's it all about?

  5. @ the chaplain: Thanks. Glad you enjoyed it!

    @ D: It's wonderful book by M.T. Anderson. It is, so Wikipedia asserts, a "dystopian novel of the postcyberpunk genre". Basically, it's the story of a guy and a girl and their friends. They all live in a futuristic world, and everyone has these devices calls "Feeds" implanted into their heads. The Feed is more or less the Internet wired directly to your brain: you can text, chat, watch movies, listen to music, and go shopping, all without even opening your eyes. The book explores things such as the transformation of language (speech has become much shorter and less complex), the effects of constant instant gratification (everyone can have anything they want more or less delivered immediately), and the externalization of knowledge (much like the iPhone, the Feed allows instant access to Google and Wikipedia for quickly looking up information; no need to remember anything anymore). It's a really good book and one that will see eerily prescient of where our culture is headed (did I use that word right?) You should definitely check it out!

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