The 15th Humanist Symposium

I would like to thank everyone who submitted articles to the 15th Humanist Symposium. There were many great articles submitted to the Symposium, and I found it painful to winnow them down to a mere ten that I think the best. (I intend to refer to some that didn’t make the Symposium in my “From Around the Net” feature, for there was some really great writing that, nevertheless, had very little to do with Humanism.) Here are the guidelines for the Symposium:

Submissions should touch on one or more of the following categories, or on topics similar to them:

  • The happiness and freedom of life as an atheist, or other positive aspects to living a life without religious belief
  • Efforts to evangelize for atheism, and stories of people who have recently deconverted from religion
  • How to find meaning and purpose in a godless life
  • How non-religious people deal with weddings, child-raising, deaths, and other significant life events
  • Posts that stir up the human sense of awe and wonder
  • The ethics and moral philosophy of the non-religious
  • How nonbelievers can foster and nourish a sense of community

So, without further background, here are the ten articles I’ve selected for this issue of the Humanist Symposium:

As Humanists, how can we make our lives meaningful? Each of has — or will — face that question at one time or another. In a well-written post, Professor V. N. K. Kumar systematically lays out three sound strategies for making our lives meaningful. His article should help anyone sort through their thoughts about meaning. The article is hosted at Daylight Atheism and can be found here.

Perhaps one of the more exciting areas of science these days is the research being done into the nature and origin of human morality. Over at The Picket Line, David Gross takes a look at one of the questions raised by the new research: What, if anything, is the relationship between the morals we evolved and the morals we choose? That question, or something like it, is only going to become more important as the science of morality progresses. Check out his article here.

Sometime ago, my friend Don and I discovered the local chapter of Freethinkers and attended a couple meetings. We lost interest, however, when we found the meetings were largely for people who’d been religiously abused as children. Nothing wrong with that, but Don and I wanted something more — something like a support group to help us deal with current challenges — rather than the problems of childhood. At The Atheist Revolution, VJack proposes precisely such a support group atheists, freethinkers and the like. He writes, “I’d like to learn something from others about dating, raising children, dealing with religion in the workplace, and many other topics.” Is this an idea whose time has come? Check it out here.

Alonzo Fyfe, over at The Atheist Ethicist, lays out an entirely logical and insightful argument against the notion that “only atheists can be moral”. Alonzo is one of the best ethicists I’ve found on the net, and his article — which can be found here — is alone worth reading as an example of how to reason well about ethics. But also take a look at Alonzo’s brilliant essay on the nature of lying and why we should condemn liars.

Greta Christina is both a fiery atheist and someone sensitive to the humanity we all share — believers and non-believers alike. She has often tried to bridge the “belief gap” between believers and non-believers by appealing to our common humanity. For instance, in her recent review of the book, Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me), she writes:

If I’m right, and religion really is (among other things) an elaborate rationalization for hanging on to a mistaken belief… well, that doesn’t make believers ridiculous and atheists superior. It puts us all in the same human boat. It puts religion in the same category as hanging onto ugly clothes and shoes that gave me blisters, for years, because I didn’t want to admit that I’d made a mistake when I bought them. It puts it in the same category as going through with a disastrous marriage, because I didn’t want to admit I’d made a mistake when I got engaged. It puts religion into a particular category of human fallibility… a fallibility that we all fall prey to, every day of our lives.

It’s an interesting thesis and well worth noting because there is a tendency to demean or even demonize those who believe differently than us. You can find that tendency everywhere these days and it’s an ugly one. Moreover it is decidedly anti-humanist. Check out Greta’s article here.

Are there any practical suggestions for living life as a Humanist? Ebonmuse — at Daylight Atheism — shares nine practical things you can do to have a richer, more fulfilled life here. The suggestions include such things as “exercise regularly” and “volunteer and give to charity”. He ties each suggestion into Humanist principles in an interesting and often inspiring way.

Over at Elliptica, Lynet writes about finding meaning in self-expression — especially (but not exclusively) through art. Her post is found here.

Mindfulness training has been demonstrated to help adults with reducing stress, reducing depression, and increasing health and happiness. Now, there’s a new movement to include mindfulness training in school curriculums. Jill Suttie writes about it here.

In “Test Your Sense of Natural Wonder”, Christian notes that “a sense of natural wonder” is important to our quality of life, and he proposes a simple thought experiment that anyone can do to determine whether that sense of natural wonder is best brought about by regarding the world as a creationist or as a scientist. From the blog, Free Thinking Joy.

For ages, some religionists have from time to time found it expedient to claim a false dichotomy between morals “anchored in God and scripture” and moral nihilism. Black Sun tackles the claim in an article that can be found here, at Black Sun Journal.

Once again, I’d like to thank everyone who submitted an article to this edition of the Symposium. The 16th Humanist Symposium will be held in three weeks at Glittering Muse. Please consider submitting articles to it using the form found here.

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