APA Research and Atheism

In our search for interesting, challenging and critical perspectives on contemporary humanism, we occasionally find articles published via other venues that we think HumanistFreedoms.com readers may enjoy. The following articles and studies were located on the APA website and in several online publications.

Self-referencing affects perceptions of workplace discrimination against atheists.

Cantone, J. A., Walls, V., & Rutter, T. (2022). Self-referencing affects perceptions of workplace discrimination against atheists. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/rel0000466


Abstract

The number of self-identified atheists and nonreligious individuals is increasing, yet research examining discrimination toward atheists in the workplace remains rare. The present study expands prior work on religious hostile work environment complaints to one involving an atheist employee alleging discrimination. In the present study, 234 students and community members (gender: 133 women, 93 men, 6 nonbinary/transgender, 2 unreported; religious status: 126 religiously affiliated; 75 “none”; 10 atheist; 6 agnostic; 17 unreported) were recruited to complete an online legal decision-making study. Participants read the complaint of an atheist employee alleging that an Evangelical Christian supervisor’s proselytizing constituted discrimination. Participants were randomly assigned to one of four conditions varying the complainant’s gender (male; female) and student status (student; worker) to examine the role of similarity. Participants completed legal measures from both the objective perspective required by the law and their own subjective perspective to examine the role of self-referencing. Participants’ subjective ratings of whether the conduct would constitute discrimination if it happened to them generally affected their objective ratings of whether the atheist employee had been discriminated against. Religious status similarity, as well as gender, affected participants’ legal ratings. In particular, nonreligious, atheist, and agnostic participants were more likely to see the conduct as discrimination, while Evangelical Christian participants were less likely. Results show that self-referencing and similarity affect how people perceive workplace discrimination faced by atheists. Recommendations for future research and workplace trainings are discussed. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved)

Being agnostic, not atheist: Personality, cognitive, and ideological differences.

Karim, M., & Saroglou, V. (2022). Being agnostic, not atheist: Personality, cognitive, and ideological differences. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/rel0000461


Abstract

Thomas Henry Huxley coined the term agnostic in 1869.

Why do several nonreligious people self-identify as agnostic and not as atheist? Beside epistemological differences regarding what is knowledgeable, we hypothesized that such a preference reflects (a) personality dispositions, that is, prosocial orientation, open-mindedness, but also neuroticism, (b) cognitive preferences, that is, lower analytic thinking, and (c) ideological inclinations, that is, openness to spirituality. In a secularized European country (Belgium), we surveyed participants who self-identified as Christian, agnostic, or atheist (total N = 551). Compared to atheists, agnostics were more neurotic, but also more prosocially oriented and spiritual, and less dogmatic. Strong self-identification as atheist, but not as agnostic, was positively related to analytic thinking and emotional stability but also dogmatism. Nevertheless, spiritual inclinations among both agnostics and atheists reflected low dogmatism and high prosocial orientation, and, additionally, among agnostics, social and cognitive curiosity. From a personality perspective, agnostics compose a distinct psychological category and are not just closet atheists. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved)

Explaining anti-atheist discrimination in the workplace: The role of intergroup threat.

Rios, K., Halper, L. R., & Scheitle, C. P. (2021). Explaining anti-atheist discrimination in the workplace: The role of intergroup threat. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/rel0000326


Abstract

Based on the common ingroup identity model and Intergroup Threat Theory, as well as the fact that atheists are among the most stigmatized groups in the U.S., the present experiments tested whether and why people would be less willing to accommodate atheist (relative to Christian, Jewish, or Muslim) employees’ religion-related requests in the workplace. In three studies, participants responded to vignettes depicting an employee who requested to express his/her religious beliefs (or lack thereof) at work—for example, by displaying a quote at his/her cubicle or wearing a pin with a religious (or non-religious) symbol. As predicted, participants were especially unlikely to honor the atheist employees’ requests; this effect was driven by participants’ perceptions that the atheist employees posed a symbolic threat (i.e., were trying to impose their beliefs onto others; Studies 2–3) and, to a lesser extent, a realistic threat (i.e., jeopardized the organization’s economic status and resources; Study 3) in the workplace. Though the effects of participant religiosity were inconsistent across studies, the tendency for reluctance to accommodate the atheist employees’ requests was slightly stronger among religious than non-religious participants. Implications for how anti-atheist bias at work arises and can be mitigated are discussed. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of :  
  2. https://www.psypost.org/2022/07/new-study-sheds-light-on-a-key-factor-influencing-perceptions-of-workplace-harassment-against-atheists-63464
  3. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2022-44664-001?doi=1
  4. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2022-44665-001
  5. https://www.psypost.org/2021/08/people-are-less-tolerant-of-atheists-expressing-their-beliefs-at-work-compared-to-christians-muslims-or-jews-61626
  6. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2017-25719-001
  7. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2021-22804-001

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

Humanism in Education: With Hope that a Broad Curriculum May Lead to Broad Minds

Under legal pressure from a humanist parent, a school without a religious character in Worcestershire has radically altered its planned Key Stage 4 curriculum for 2022/23, in order to make sure that its religious education is fully inclusive of humanism.

Humanists UK, which supported the parent, said the decision marks a ‘significant win’ in making sure that schools do not force a narrow curriculum on children, and says the Department for Education and other schools must now make sure that such a broad curriculum is also offered everywhere else. In a timely coincidence an amendment to the Schools Bill, to replace RE with ‘religion and worldviews’ education in schools without a religious character, is due to be debated during Report Stage of the Bill on the afternoon of 12 July. The amendment is being proposed by crossbench peer Baroness Meacher.

Humanist parent James Hammond launched the case after learning that his child was being mandated to study an RE GCSE with a syllabus that was not inclusive of non-religious worldviews. No additional teaching was to be provided to make up for this exclusivity. All other schools in the academy trust apart from the one in question appeared to provide inclusive RE. Furthermore, since the school did not provide alternative GCSE options for those withdrawing from RE, if Mr Hammond withdrew his child, then they would have missed out on one GCSE qualification compared with their peers.

The academy has agreed to meet the parent’s request by providing, in addition to the GCSE course, two other units of RE, one for Year 10 and one for Year 11, focusing on non-religious worldviews and taught from a critical and objective perspective. Each unit will run for 6-7 weeks, and will meet the requirement to accord equal respect for non-religious worldviews in RE, as established in 2015 by the Fox case.

Parent James Hammond said: 

‘I’m delighted that the school has conceded in this case, and by so doing accepted that its RE provision for years 10 and 11 was unlawful, due to not being inclusive of non-religious worldviews.

‘It was wholly wrong that a school of no religious character was imposing such a narrowly-focused RE curriculum on 15 and 16 years olds: at that age they are developing advanced powers of reason and thought, so to deny them the ability to learn about non-religious beliefs and values was both discriminatory and short-sighted, given the increasingly non-religious demographics in Britain.’

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Robert Cann said: 

‘This is a significant win. The Fox case in 2015, which was supported by Humanists UK, clearly set a legal precedent – this school should never have forced Mr Hammond into taking this action in the first place, and we are glad that it eventually conceded the case.

‘But the fact that the school was able to behave in this way in the first place was due to a failure of leadership by the UK Government. We’d much rather not be going through the courts – the Government must enable the Schools Bill to bring this case law onto the statute book, by accepting today’s amendment on religion and worldviews education.’

Dan Rosenberg of Simpson Millar said: 

‘While my client is pleased that the case has been resolved in a way that enables his child to be taught RE in a more inclusive way, it should not have required the threat of legal action to resolve this. Mandating a GCSE course focused exclusively on religious worldviews for all pupils, at a school without a religious character, and as the entirety of their RE provision, was always going to run into legal trouble. The school has sensibly acknowledged the need for a significantly wider offering.

‘My client hopes that other schools will take a cooperative and responsible approach to providing non-discriminatory, inclusive education for all children, and no other parents will need to instruct solicitors to ensure that their  concerns and beliefs are taken seriously.’

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of :  
  2. https://humanists.uk/2022/07/12/school-will-provide-re-fully-inclusive-of-humanism-following-legal-threat/

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

Requiem for a Discussion Page

As a follow-on to his popular article “Is Wokism a Mind Virus?” article, Dr. Robertson has agreed to share his experience as a moderator of a popular humanist-themed social media discussion page.

By Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson

In the early 1990s the Humanist Association of Canada (HAC) created an on-line open discussion forum for people who believed in the free and open exchange of ideas and were committed to respecting the dignity of each individual. This forum moved to Facebook shortly after 2005, and the discussion group’s membership grew to more than 1,500. Then, in 2015 a re-branded Humanist Canada unveiled its new professionally designed Facebook page. Only board members could initiate posts on this new platform (although this right was eventually taken away from them as well). The old HAC listserve was allowed to continue. Although it was basically self-monitoring, board secretary Michel Virard was named administrator and I was named as one of three moderators. This article is about how this discussion group came to be viewed “problematic,” and was terminated.

Dr. Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson

The major part of my time as a volunteer Humanist Canada board member at the time was to research the need for ceremony in the lives of humanists (Robertson, 2017b). As a consequence, I was invited to participate in a HAC thread initiated by the Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics of Manitoba on the need for humanist ceremonies. As expected, the discussion was cordial, informative and productive. I returned to the discussion group site in 2019, but this time the language was anything but cordial. Some members were calling on the moderators to ban others they called “racists,” “alt-right,”  “white supremacists,” and “anti-humanists.” I read the offending posts. No one had advocated racism, white supremacy or even conservative politics. Earlier, white academic activists who used such language to support what some called “cancel culture” had appropriated the term “woke” from black culture to imply those that did not share their views were “not awake.” I told these Woke to keep the discussion civil. A couple of weeks later I found the former victims giving as good as they got, so I admonished them all. Over time non-Woke stopped participating. With no debate, the only new threads on the old site were pleas for donations from a humanist school in Uganda that was, at the time, partially funded through Humanist Canada. To stimulate discussion, I posted an article by a police officer (Wilson, 2020) arguing against the then current campaign to defund the police. I invited comments, but as a moderator offered no opinion. One commentator stated that articles published in Quillette Magazine should not appear in a humanist forum. I set up a separate thread to discuss whether we should censor articles based on their magazine of origin.  

Image Courtesy of vectorstock.com

Several articles from Quillette were posted but none promoted an ideology of racism, sexism or hate, and I refused to impugn motives based on some subjectively held notion of “dog-whistling.” One participant repeatedly expressed insult over my refusal to share my own views on the RCMP officer’s article. I agreed to do so, but under my own name outside of the moderator role. The resultant exchange was reasoned and civil.

Steven Pinker

Two posts in a different discussion thread implied, without evidence, that humanist Steven Pinker was associated with pedophilia. I viewed this as promoting hatred against an individual, and in the role of moderator, I deleted the posts. During the subsequent discussion, I informed one of the posters that he could appeal my decision to the site administrator, but he replied that he would approach “Martin,” the Humanist Canada president, instead.

During the ensuing months the HAC site generated more comments than the official Humanist Canada page despite having one third the members, and discussions were mostly civil. Then, in early August 2020, another moderator who had only recently become involved, cancelled a participant’s right to post under circumstances I challenged. The moderator explained:

The reason I blocked Ullrich Fischer form (sic) the HAC site had nothing to do with the nature of the content he was posting, but for targeting another member for harassment by systematically going through her previous comments on previous posts and replying to each one. (Sassan Sanei, e-mail, Aug. 6/20)

Ullrich had posted “five or six” replies to separate posts mostly responding to comments the other member had posted to him. For example, she had advised “Please don’t post alt-right material to a Humanist Group” to which he had responded, “Please don’t define as alt-right everything which disagrees with you about anything.” I restored Ullrich’s privileges because due process had not been followed. I explained that we could create a rule limiting the number of posts a member could make, but in fairness we would need to communicate such a rule to everyone in advance, and no one should be cancelled after a first offense. I also pointed out that the alleged “victim” here had called yet another member a “terrible human being” and had sent that member a private message calling her a “condescending bitch,” so if anyone should be cancelled it should be this alleged victim. Sassan then apologized to Ullrich admitting:

It was wrong of me to do that without informing you why the action was taken, giving you an opportunity to respond, or discussing it with other moderators. I’m sorry, and I promise you it will not happen again.

Sassan took exception to my use of the term “Woke.” While the term had been appropriated from U.S. black culture, he explained the word was now used as a slur directed against the appropriators. I agreed to use an alternate term “Identitarian Left” instead.

In early September I deleted four posts that consisted of name calling, swearing or belittling of people. In keeping with our protocol, I notified the other moderators. Sassan re-instated two of the posts explaining in an email, “The idea of a safe space does not extend to non-victimized or non-marginalized persons.” One member whose post remained deleted after calling another “a racist piece of shit,” declared that I, the moderator, favoured “raping and torturing children.” When asked for evidence, he posted that I had deleted the incriminating posts.

Brand Management: Entity over Ideology? (Image Courtesy Marketplace Valet)

At a meeting that included the Humanist Canada president, Sassan and me, it was decided to remove all reference to Humanist Canada in the old discussion group as the discussions were “hurting our brand.” I thought it odd that the site administrator had not been invited to this meeting. Nonetheless, the Identitarian Left still insisted that anything stated on the site represented Humanist Canada policy. In keeping with the discussion at our meeting, I posted:

This is not the official webpage of Humanist Canada and the opinions expressed here do not conform to any official statement or position. This is an open discussion group for humanists with a wide variety of opinions and perspectives. We ask that participants to this forum talk to each other respectfully.

One poster became so offended by this statement that he called on the president, Martin Frith, “to do something with me.” In the meantime, Sassan suspended comments on a thread in support of ex-Muslims who had become humanists, and he suspended the person who started the thread for the next 30 days with the ominous warning “if another admin approves (his posts) I will remove them.” As it had become apparent that the two moderators were following different rules, I decided to bring it to the Humanist Canada board for resolution. I proposed that Sassan and I each resign to be replaced by a former Humanist Canada treasurer who could be seen as a neutral moderator using the following rules:

  1. No racist, sexist or hate speech permitted;
  2. Bullying including name-calling is not permitted;
  3. Posts that contain racist, sexist or hate speech or otherwise exhibit bullying will be removed;
  4. Participants who have posts removed will be advised of the reason for the removal;
  5. Persistent abuse of the rules will result in an individual losing their posting privileges.

Sassan’s response at the board meeting was to demand an apology from me for using the term “Identitarian Leftist!” The board decided to refer the matter to its social media committee. I reverted to using the term “Woke.

Four new discussion group members identified as transgender. When Sassan posted a “trans rights are human rights” banner in the forum, one trans person accused him of appropriating trans issues to advance his organization. He replied that his post was necessary because many humanists had been posting “transphobic” and “hateful” statements. I had not seen any such statements, and I asked Sassan to produce them. He said he had deleted them, but as moderator, I had access to all deletions, and found none. Sassan subsequently deleted as “transphobic hate speech” an article written by a transwoman, that was critical of J.K. Rowling. I did not consider her call for dialogue to be hate speech, so I reposted it under my name. The initial discussion on this article was civil, but it was interrupted by an individual who called me a transphobe and a bigot without any arguments supporting those assertions. Ze also contacted me on my private messenger service with threats to have me removed as moderator. Ze subsequently posted, on the personal Facebook of another member, “You are completely uneducated. Ignorant. Privileged and bigoted.” As this individual had six similar posts removed earlier, I cancelled the member’s posting privileges. Sassan reinstated the person without contacting me. I cancelled the person again. I then discovered I was cancelled as moderator. I appealed to the site administrator but he had been cancelled too! The president suggested we sort this problem out at the social committee meeting he would schedule.

The dam burst. Transactivists and their allies attacked non-Woke with the same derision that had prompted me to become an active moderator the year earlier. Three participants defended me saying that they had searched my postings and did not find any posted by me that were anti-trans. Woke replied that I had removed the offending posts. One of the Woke organized a letter writing campaign. Sassan defended this behaviour stating, “The member(s) in question was (were) not harassing anybody. They were standing up and speaking out against the endless stream of hateful, transphobic commentary and bullying that has dominated the group in recent weeks.No examples of such hateful, transphobic or bullying comments were given.

 The HAC discussion group was shut down with the rationale that social media necessarily degenerates into such divisive name calling. I believed this was likely true at the time, but the New Enlightenment Project (NEP) established its own Facebook discussion forum in 2021, and it has proven to be a safe place in which humanists can have respectful, informative and civil conversations about controversial topics.

Sassan had not been authorized to terminate a moderator or the discussion group administrator. President Frith was determined to ensure that this matter would not be discussed by the Humanist Canada board, and he invited me to attend a “discussion group post-mortem.” After waiting for Martin who failed to attend, Sassan apologized for his actions to the cancelled administrator and myself. I thought he should apologize to the board because he had broken a board protocol, but the former administrator suggested that we should move on to educate humanists about the threat of Wokism.

This was my first direct experience observing Wokism in action. The Woke accused those who disagreed with them of being anti-humanist. People who said Canada’s first prime minister should not be blamed for things that happened well after his death were accused of favoring the torturing and raping of children. Feminists who want to ensure biological females have safe spaces were accused of wanting to deny transsexuals right to exist. Those who defended their positions were accused of harassment or bullying. There were thus two types of humanists represented: the Woke who viewed freedom of speech, science, logic and reason as “white, male ways of knowing” in opposition to their “anti-racist” narratives; and, those grounded in the Enlightenment view that we can learn about objective reality through careful observation, science, reason and logic. To these Enlightenment humanists, freedom of speech acts as an antidote to dogma and is a means of checking our own subjectively held biases. Those who coined the term “The Enlightenment” implied that those who disagreed with their approach were unenlightened, but in my book,  The Evolved Self  (Robertson, 2020), I argue that these values flow from the individualism inherent in having a self, and that this self is both cross-cultural and ancient. The Enlightenment was not about educating unenlightened people so much as removing cultural constraints on the powers of mind. From this lens, Wokism is a reactionary movement seeking to re-impose such constraints.

I came to the conclusion that Wokism is not a coherent ideology but amalgam of partially assimilated and conflicting belief systems (Robertson, 2021). It replaces the economic ruling class of Marxism with the racial designation “white.” It uses anti-Marxist postmodernism to “deconstruct” all beliefs with no rationale given as to why its own dogma is exempt from such deconstruction. Its attack on science and reason is copied from Martin Heidegger (1962), but it claims to be anti-fascist. It claims allegiance to social justice but ignores the egalitarian basis of the civil rights movement upon which social justice is built. The Woke claim to be anti-racist but promote the racialization of society through identity politics. They claim to be anti-capitalist while being embraced by the largest corporations in the world. They are convinced of their moral superiority, but are prepared to act unethically to defeat their opponents. These contradictions help explain the psychology of the people I observed.

Sassan had been extremely deferential to the transperson who accused him of using trans-issues to further an agenda. Sometimes referred to as “victim culture” (Campbell & Manning, 2014, 2016; Gabay et al., 2020; Haufman, 2020), Wokism establishes a hierarchy of identity groups with members of some groups presumed to have suffered greater victimization thereby acquiring greater moral entitlement.  One would think that white males would be at the bottom of this hierarchy, but they are given a special role. Several times white males in the discussion group would state that they were “giving voice” to those “without voice.” This gives them a leadership position in which they engage in aggressive attacks on others as evidence of overcoming their own “whiteness.” On numerous occasions I observed Woke amending their posts after the discussion so as to make themselves appear more effective.

In periods of high emotion, Woke act as though they are subject to a moral panic, but individuals cannot sustain such energy indefinitely. I have demonstrated how complexes of cultural memes can attach to the self of an individual acting as a kind of mind virus (Robertson, 2017a), and I subsequently determined that Wokism meets this criteria (Robertson, 2021).  Put simply, the Woke virus attaches itself to the selves of individuals so that a challenge to Wokism is felt as an existential attack on oneself. Like a primitive religion, Wokism protects its flock from alternate ideas by censoring individuals, declaring media it does not control to be racist, and by denying objective reality. If there is no objective reality, then science, empiricism and reason are empty culturally sanctioned performances legitimate only insofar as they promote Wokism.

Like a secret cult, Wokism may not be named and attempts to name it are deemed to be “slurs.” The Woke would prefer to be known as “Left” or “Progressives;” yet we know there are many people who identify with the Left who embrace science, reason and free speech. We also know that progressivism is an Enlightenment doctrine that peoples’ lives can be improved incrementally. By this measure a leading progressive is Steven Pinker (2012, 2018), a humanist whom the Woke have repeatedly denounced.

Every cult needs some means of identifying authentic members, and the Woke do this through the inventive use of language. For example, the word “Latinx” is not used by Hispanic people and it is not used by Woke talking to Hispanic people. It is used by Woke talking through Hispanic people to other Woke. The word “systemic” is thrown in before words like “racism,” “sexism,” and “oppression,” but it is not used as an adjective because the Woke never explain how systems work to establish these problems. The word “problematic,” is used in preference to the word “problem” so as to appear more “systemic.”  Similarly words like micro-aggression, intersectionality, and cisgender are not needed for communication, but signify that the user is Woke.

“in the final analysis, wokism is abut power.”

In the final analysis, Wokism is about power. The Woke have taken over universities, school boards, media, non-government organizations and government agencies for the purpose of creating more Woke. Although they were successful in disabling and shutting down an open humanist discussion group, the Woke were not finished with Humanist Canada. Enlightenment humanists need to recognize the challenge to our movement and to update our understandings in light of modern conditions.

References

Campbell, B., & Manning, J. (2014). Microaggression and moral cultures. Comparative Sociology, 13(6), 692-726. https://doi.org/10.1163/15691330-12341332

Campbell, B., & Manning, J. (2016). Campus Culture Wars and the Sociology of Morality. Comparative Sociology, 15(2), 147-178.

Gabay, R., Hameiri, B., Rubel-Lifschitz, T., & Nadler, A. (2020). The tendency for interpersonal victimhood: The personality construct and its consequences. Personality and Individual Differences, 165, 110134. https://doi.org/doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2020.110134

Haufman, S. B. (2020, June 29). Unraveling the Mindset of Victimhood: Focusing on grievances can be debilitating; social science points to a better way. Scientific American.

Heidegger, M. (1962). Being and Time (J. Macquarrie & E. Robinson, Trans.; First English ed.). Blackwell. http://books.google.ca/books?id=S57m5gW0L-MC&pg=PA3&source=gbs_selected_pages&cad=3#v=onepage&q&f=false

Pinker, S. (2012). The better angels of our nature: Why violence has declined. Penguin.

Pinker, S. (2018). Enlightenment now: The case for reason, science, humanism, and progress. Penguin.

Robertson, L. H. (2017a). The infected self: Revisiting the metaphor of the mind virus. Theory & Psychology, 27(3), 354-368. https://doi.org/10.1177/0959354317696601

Robertson, L. H. (2017b). Secular weddings in Canada: An examination of a humanist response to the evolution of marriage. Journal of Secularism and Non-religion, 6, 1-10. https://doi.org/<http://doi.org/10.5334/snr.76>

Robertson, L. H. (2020). The Evolved Self: Mapping an understanding of who we are. University of Ottawa Press.

Robertson, L. H. (2021). Year of the virus: Understanding the contagion effects of wokism. In-sight, 26(B). Retrieved March 1, from https://in-sightjournal.com/2021/02/22/wokism/

Wilson, M. (2020, June 30). Policing in the anomie era. Quillette, June.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of :  http://liveyesand.com/episode-101-be-woke/
  2. https://www.hawkeyeassociates.ca/

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.

Don Cullen (1933-2022): A Wonderful Human and a Wonderful Humanist

To all of Don’s many friends and family, HumanistFreedoms.com would like to express our most heartfelt condolences and sympathy. if you have memories or sentiments to share, please add them as comments or send an email and we’ll be proud to share them on this page.

Recollection by Eric Adriaans

A little over a week ago, I received an email message from an old friend that said simply, “Don died on Sunday. We’re all a bit shocked. I’ll let you know more soon.” Messages from old friends can be like that sometimes. There doesn’t really need to be more -every word carries its own freight of memory and significance. Old friends know how utterly, deeply felt and shared is the loss of a friend like Don Cullen.

I first met Don in the cramped and stuffy Toronto offices of Centre For Inquiry Canada (CFIC) at the corner of Yonge & College in the spring of 2014. I had recently joined the organization and wasn’t altogether certain whether I had gotten my myself and my career onto a pretty unusual path. Then Don popped-in for a visit, wearing what seemed to be a kind of trademark big-grin-avec-fishing-vest ensemble, and we chatted for quite a long time.

Don Cullen with a copy of the infamous Charlie Hebdo “Je Suis Charlie” edition.

We chatted about the forming of CFIC and some of the other humanist organizations in Toronto and Canada; also about Don’s interests, career and memories. He told me about the Bohemian Embassy, about his poetry and about his deeply-felt and long-considered ideas about humanism and atheism. Don’s warmth, humour and intelligence were a welcome indication that I probably was on an unusual path – but there was wonderful company to be had. It was Don’s first of many gifts and lessons to me about humanism. It’s a gift I try to carry and share that gift of welcome and community with others.

I wasn’t aware at our first meeting, but Don was one of the people who helped to create CFIC. Later, I was able to obtain some recollections from him about this history and I want to recall some of that here.

In the late 1990’s, a vibrant American import name, Terri Hope, became coordinator of the Humanist Association of Toronto (HAT).  Membership was growing and George Baker became a life member.  George was a non-academic intellectual.  Because of the Great Depression, he had left school in grade seven.  Tests for air crew in the Royal Canadian Air Force proved George to be above average intelligence.  It got him interested in great ideas.  He read, attended lectures.

At that time, HAT had no home base.   There was a phone number and an answering machine, a fax number and a website.  Many HAT members wanted a store-front, a gathering place….a home.  Proposals were made.  George Baker was more than interested.  Hard work and good luck had brought serious financial rewards and he wished to do something for Humanism.

I had presided over four incarnations of the Bohemian Embassy coffee house where Margaret Atwood, Ian & Sylvia Tyson, Al Purdy, Gordie Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Bill Coshy and many more performed.  I arranged a meeting with George.  He and I had already become acquainted with the Centre For Inquiry  in Amherst, New York.  Paul Kurtz, the founder, Tom Flynn and Joe Nickell had spoken at HAT events.  I had attended talks in Amherst and CFI presented a 2-day conference at the Ramada Inn on Jarvis Street.  They indicated a desire for a Toronto location and sought cooperation from HAT.  Nothing resulted.  Some say it was apathy among HAT members, fear of American domination or was it that CFI Los Angeles had drained the exchequer!

HAT members Ron Burns and Jim Cranwell joined George and me.  Using the CFI model, we envisioned an umbrella organization with HAT, HAC and the Toronto Skeptics sharing the same roof.  We needed a location.  Feeling a need for more youthful participation, we wanted to be close to the University of Toronto and consulted Neil Wright Real Estate.  he found us a location on Harbord Street.  It needed a lot of work.  George hired an architect.  Plans were drawn up.  A strike at City Hall delayed approval month after month.  George, in his 80s, couldn’t stand the delays.  He sold Harbord Street and got out.

Robert Buckman, an internationally famous oncologist had come to Toronto.  He had a lot of TV exposure in Great Britain, had partnered with Monty Python’s John Cleese in several projects.  He did several programs on TV Ontario.  He had a high profile and he replaced Henry Morgantaler as President of HAC.  HAT and HAC presented some events under Rob’s direction.  Membership at HAT soared well over 200.

Quite separately, things were happening at U of T.  It was decided to create a multi-faith Centre.  Two students objected.  Independently, Jenny Fiddes and Justin Trottier felt that a university should be secular, supporting no religion.  Religion might support colleges but not the university.  Where did atheists fit !?

George Baker and I heard about it and gave them a couple of hundred bucks for stamps and envelopes.  I was on the HAT Board of Directors and proposed for Jenny and Justin to make presentations on the U of T campus.  They were successful with considerable interest in Humanism and Atheism.  George and I arranged a lunch at Bumpkins Restaurant with Justin, Jenny and Rob Buckman.  Rob imagined a Humanist Drop-in Centre near the university.  A meeting with Henry Morgantaler, Rob, Ron Burns, Jim Cranwell and me occurred and we decided we would do it.  I contacted Mr. Wright and he found 216 Beverly Street.

The umbrella organization idea began to unfold.  The skeptics were skeptical and decided not to participate.  The Humanist Association of Canada wanted their headquarters to stay in Ottawa.  A vote of HAT members was 100% for moving in and the organization was set  up.  The student team at U of T was enthusiastic….(more on the CFIC website)

It is eminently fitting to re-share one of Don’s own stories. Whether it was the forming and re-forming of the Bohemian Embassy or helping to shape humanist communities – Don seemed always, when I was with him, to be sharing a story. But also creating a stage for those around him to sing just as purely, laugh just as joyfully, think and feel just as deeply and shine just as brightly as he did.

Don was a wonderful human and a wonderful humanist.

Reflections by Richard Thain

I first met Don at a Humanist Association of Canada (HAC) conference almost four decades ago, and it was a pleasure knowing and associating with Don through HAC (now Humanist Canada)Humanist Association of Toronto, Centre for Inquiry Canada, etc.

As most of us know, Don was a creative dynamo, entertainer, writer, and Canadian cultural luminary. In addition to his professional work, Don found the time to support numerous secular humanist organizations. He regularly attended and contributed to humanist conferences, was a founder of Humanist Association of Toronto (HAT), and Centre for Inquiry Canada (CFIC). Don was an articulate and staunch supporter of all our humanist causes. One of the last conversations he had, before he died, was about how extremely upset he was over the recent news from the USA, regarding the overturning of the Roe (v) Wade decision.

In recent years, while visiting Toronto, I occasionally was able to join Don, Jim Cranwell, and other humanist, atheist friends, at their Friday afternoon social and discussion sessions. The conversations were always fascinating and enlightening, to say the least. On one such visit, he passed me his brilliant Quotesanon pamphlet. The pamphlet included a poem which he had written:

A Found Poem by Don Cullen

An eye for an eye 

Makes the whole world blind. *

Only human kindness 

Will save humankind. **

*   Accredited to M.K. Gandhi

** Accredited to Bertrand Russell 

Don Cullen was a thoughtful, generous, creative, and compassionate man. Last week we lost a wonderful friend – a great Canadian humanist.

Don Cullen, seated, in centre. 
Jim Cranwell, second from right. 

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Feature Image Courtesy: Dr. Richard Thain

The views, opinions and analyses expressed in the articles on Humanist Freedoms are those of the contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the publishers.


DRL FY20 IRF: Promoting and Defending Freedom(s) Inclusive of Humanism

In our search for interesting, challenging and critical perspectives on contemporary humanism, we occasionally find articles published via other venues that we think HumanistFreedoms.com readers may enjoy. The following article was located on the US Department of State Website.

DRL FY20 IRF Promoting and Defending Religious Freedom Inclusive of Atheist, Humanist, Non-Practicing and Non-Affiliated Individuals

FUNDING OPPORTUNITY ANNOUNCEMENT

BUREAU OF DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS, AND LABOR

APRIL 21, 2021

The U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) announces an open competition for organizations interested in submitting applications for projects that support Religious Freedom globally.

“Religious freedom” refers to the right set out in Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, including the freedom to adopt a religion or beliefs, change your beliefs, practice and teach your beliefs (which may include through publications, public and private speech, and the display of religious attire or symbols), gather in community with others to worship and observe your beliefs, and teach your beliefs to your children. It also states that no one shall be subject to coercion that would impair one’s freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his/her choice. Proposed programming must be responsive to restrictions on religious freedom, and must be in line with the U.S. Government’s religious freedom, democracy, governance, and human rights goals.

Helpful resources for applicants include the annual country-specific International Religious Freedom Reports https://www.state.gov/reports/2019-report-on-international-religious-freedom/ and annual country-specific Human Rights Reports https://www.state.gov/reports-bureau-of-democracy-human-rights-and-labor/country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/.

Applicants will be responsible for ensuring program activities and products are implemented in accordance with the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution.

DRL’s goal is to ensure everyone enjoys religious freedom, including the freedom to dissent from religious belief and to not practice or adhere to a religion. By not adhering to a predominant religious tradition, many individuals face discrimination in employment, housing, in civil and criminal proceedings, and other areas especially in the context of intersectional identities. DRL’s objective is to combat discrimination, harassment and abuses against atheist, humanist, non-practicing and non-affiliated individuals of all religious communities by strengthening networks among these communities and providing organizational training and resources.

Activities should take place in 2-3 countries selected within one of the following regions: South/Central Asia- countries within the SCA region as defined by the State Department; or the Middle East/North Africa (excluding Libya, Syria, and Yemen)- countries within the NEA region as defined by the State Department. Proposals are discouraged from including countries where ongoing conflict or violence would negatively affect beneficiary safety or quality of program oversight and must be accompanied by a strong justification in the proposal narrative should any such countries be included. By addressing and combatting discrimination towards those who are non-affiliated, non-practicing, or of no belief will increase the levels of religious freedom enjoyed by all people.

Expected Program Outcomes include but are not limited to:

  • Increased availability of mechanisms for members of minorities and marginalized groups – particularly atheists and nonbelievers – to advocate with community leaders and local and regional government officials regarding their religious freedom concerns;
  • Increased capacity among members of atheist and heterodox individuals to form or join networks or organizations, implement advocacy campaigns, and to engage with the public on issues of tolerance and acceptance of all regardless of faith;
  • Increased awareness and understanding among relevant government officials and law enforcement of the value and importance of human rights, peace, mutual respect, tolerance, and inclusion for all, irrespective of one’s religion or beliefs;
  • Increased awareness among citizens at the community level of concepts and implications of religious pluralism, mutual respect and inclusion for all, regardless of religion or belief;
  • Increased community-level interfaith or advocacy interactions inclusive of atheist, humanist, non-practicing and non-affiliated individuals (particularly those who are pressured, mandated and/or coerced into religious participation that is contrary to their personal non-belief system or philosophy);
  • Legal sector actors and/or local government officials are respectful and attentive towards the needs and interests of these individuals.

Program activities could include, but are not limited to:

  • Creating or strengthening networks of advocates for the diverse communities of atheist, humanist, non-practicing and non-affiliated individuals of all religious communities in target countries.
  • Strengthening the capacity of organizations representing diverse communities of atheist, humanist, non-practicing and non-affiliated individuals of all religious communities to advocate for their rights to political, legal, and societal leaders. Capacity building activities may include improving management structure, public engagement skills, legal rights advocacy, digital security, physical security, psychosocial support and coalition building techniques for these groups regardless of faith affiliation;
  • Expanding or creating opportunities for dialogue, coalition building, and joint action between faith and non-faith organizations in support of freedom of religion and belief. This can include but is not limited to public fora, town halls, journalism, public outreach/education, media campaigns, small grants, and other work;
  • Increasing capacity for monitoring and documenting religious freedom abuses or discrimination against individuals because of non-belief or on the basis of frequency/nature of an individual’s religious observance/practices- particularly those who are pressured, mandated, or coerced into religious participation that is contrary to their personal non-belief system or philosophy. Documentation can include: incident reports to support justice sector action, aggregate reports for legal or policy change advocacy, or quantitative reports for advocacy with international or multinational human rights bodies or agencies.

For all programs, projects should aim to have impact that leads to reforms and should have the potential for sustainability beyond DRL resources. DRL’s preference is to avoid duplicating past efforts by supporting new and creative approaches. This does not exclude from consideration projects that improve upon or expand existing successful projects in a new and complementary way. Programs should seek to include groups that can bring perspectives based on their religion (including non-belief), gender, disability, race, ethnicity, and/or sexual orientation and gender identity. Programs should be demand-driven and locally led to the extent possible. DRL also requires all of its programming to be non-discriminatory and expects implementers to include strategies for integration of individuals/organizations regardless of religion, gender, disability, race, ethnicity, and/or sexual orientation and gender identity.

Competitive proposals may also include a summary budget and budget narrative for 12 additional months following the proposed period of performance, indicated above. This information should indicate what objective(s) and/or activities could be accomplished with additional time and/or funds beyond the proposed period of performance.

Where appropriate, competitive proposals may include:

  • Opportunities for beneficiaries to apply their new knowledge and skills in practical efforts;
  • Solicitation of feedback and suggestions from beneficiaries when developing activities in order to strengthen the sustainability of programs and participant ownership of project outcomes;
  • Input from participants on sustainability plans and systematic review of the plans throughout the life of the project, with adjustments made as necessary;
  • Inclusion of vulnerable populations;
  • Joint identification and definition of key concepts with relevant stakeholders and stakeholder input into project activities;
  • Systematic follow up with beneficiaries at specific intervals after the completion of activities to track how beneficiaries are retaining new knowledge as well as applying their new skills.

Activities that are not typically allowed include, but are not limited to:

  • The provision of humanitarian assistance;
  • English language instruction;
  • Development of high-tech computer or communications software and/or hardware;
  • Purely academic exchanges or fellowships;
  • External exchanges or fellowships lasting longer than six months;
  • Off-shore activities that are not clearly linked to in-country initiatives and impact or are not necessary per security concerns;
  • Theoretical explorations of human rights or democracy issues, including projects aimed primarily at research and evaluation that do not incorporate training or capacity-building for local civil society;
  • Micro-loans or similar small business development initiatives;
  • Initiatives directed towards a diaspora community rather than current residents of targeted countries.

More available on the US Department of State’s website (link at the top of this article).