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HumanistFreedoms.com on Facebook

To celebrate World Humanism Day 2022, we’ve launched a new Facebook page where we invite thoughtful, respectful and dignified discussion of articles appearing on HumanistFreedoms.com and about topics related to contemporary applied humanism.

HumanistFreedoms.com readers may have noticed that most articles appearing on the site do not provide the option for reader commentary and feedback. While we celebrate freedom of thought and freedom of expression, the HumanistFreedoms.com website has never been intended to be a publication that required the ongoing active maintenance which a community’s commentary section would inevitably entail.

For those who may wish to undertake thoughtful, respectful and dignified discussion of HumanistFreedoms.com articles and content, we’ve developed a Facebook page and will soon be recommending discussion boards that you may find interesting. Watch for articles to appear on this topic in the coming weeks and months.

So if you have a few words to share – please visit us on Facebook. And please remember that we’re always accepting article proposals related to contemporary applied humanism, humanist principles & values and human rights.

We’ve also developed a new logo concept adapted from the familiar “Happy Human” logo familiar to humanist organizations throughout the world. We think the logo’s three happy human individuals, each moving in their own direction from a common launching point of “Humanist Freedoms”, is an apt depiction of the Humanist Freedoms perspective on contemporary applied humanism. The focus on a green font is intended to evoke a connection to ecological concerns.

World Humanist Day in 2022 is Tuesday, June 21. Falling on the (northern hemisphere’s) summer solstice, it is the day designated by humanist organizations around the world to celebrate the positive, world-improving values of humanism. Whether and how you may celebrate humanism in your life, these are just two new steps we’re taking to expand our celebration of humanists and contemporary applied humanism.

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What Does a Humanist need to know about Humanism, Human Rights and Afghanistan in 2022?

In our search for interesting, challenging and critical perspectives on contemporary humanism, we locate articles and information published via other venues that we think HumanistFreedoms.com readers may enjoy. The featured image is from the portfolio of Farzana Wahidy, an award-winning photographer from Afghanistan. Born in Kandahar in 1984, Wahidy moved with her family to Kabul at the age of six. She was a teenager when the Taliban took over Afghanistan in 1996. At age 13 she was beaten in the street for not wearing a burqa. Looking back at that moment, she stated that she wished she was a photographer at the time, able to show today’s society what it was like for young girls like herself, but photography and other forms of creative expression were banned. During the Taliban era women were forbidden from continuing their education. Hiding books under her burka so she wouldn’t get caught, she attended an underground school with about 300 other students in a residential area of Kabul, and when U.S.-led forces ended Taliban rule in 2001, she began high school. In 2007 Wahidy received a full scholarship for the two-year Photojournalism Program at Loyalist College in Belleville, Ontario, Canada, graduating on the Dean’s List in 2009. Since 2008 Wahidy has been the recipient of numerous awards and grants from organizations such as the Open Society Institute, National Geographic All Roads Film and Photography Program, University of Missouri and Mountain Film for her photography work.

Following is a collection of information pertaining to humanism and human rights inf Afghanistan.

What Do You Have to Say?

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What does Secular Underground Network Have to Say?

Based in Rotterdam, an organization going by the name Secular Underground Network was started in 2020 as an initiative of the International Association of Atheists. The group’s stated purpose is to connect atheists, agnostics, secularists, apostates and their friends to support community members in need. The group aims to provide wide-ranging assistance to the defined community from moral support and job finding resources to fleeing a dangerous situation, providing shelter, study help.


What Does the United Nations Have to Say?

December 14, 2021 – Excerpts from Humanitarian crisis threatens basic human rights

Briefing the UN Human Rights Council, Nada Al-Nashif detailed how the profound humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is threatening basic rights, with women, girls, and civil society among those most affected. 

Staff from the UN human rights office, OHCHR, remain on the ground in Afghanistan, where the economy is largely paralysed and poverty and hunger are rising. 

Ms. Al-Nashif said that as Afghans struggle to meet basic needs, they are being pushed to take desperate measures, including child labour and child marriage. News reports have also surfaced of children being sold.

Ms. Al-Nashif was also deeply concerned about the continued risk of child recruitment, particularly boys, by both ISIL-KP and the de facto authorities.  Children also continue to comprise the majority of civilians killed and injured by unexploded ordnance.

Meanwhile, women and girls face great uncertainty when it comes to respecting their rights to education, livelihoods and participation. Some 4.2 million young Afghans are already out of school, 60 per cent of them girls.   

There has also been a decline in girls’ secondary school attendance, even in provinces where the de facto authorities have permitted them to attend school.  This is largely due to the absence of women teachers, since in some locations girls are only allowed to be taught by women.

Afghan civil society has also come under attack in recent months.  Since August, at least eight activists and two journalists have been killed, and others injured, by unidentified armed men. 

The UN mission in the country, UNAMA, has documented nearly 60 apparently arbitrary detentions, beatings, and threats of activists, journalists, and staff of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, attributed to the de facto authorities. 

Several women’s rights defenders have also been threatened, and there is widespread fear of reprisals since a violent crackdown on women’s peaceful protests in September. Many media outlets have shuttered, as have numerous civil society groups.

Furthermore, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission has been unable to operate since August, while the Afghanistan Independent Bar Association faces a loss of independence as the de facto authorities now administer its activities under the de facto Ministry of Justice. 

“The safety of Afghan judges, prosecutors, and lawyers – particularly women legal professionals – is a matter for particular alarm,” Ms. Al-Nashif added. “Many are currently in hiding for fear of retribution, including from convicted prisoners who were freed by the de facto authorities, notably men convicted of gender-based violence.” 

December 12, 2021 – Joint Statement: UNHCR & UN Women join efforts to protect and uphold the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan

Kabul, 12.12.2021- UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and UN Women, the UN entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women signed a letter of intent committing to strengthen their partnership to protect the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan.

The complex humanitarian crisis unfolding in Af­ghanistan is marked by gender-specific restrictions that directly impact the ability of women and girls to realize their rights. Afghan women and girls face unique vulnera­bilities and risks as gender inequality is interwoven with conflict dynamics and humanitarian needs.

Recognizing how gender inequality is shaping the ongoing humanitar­ian crisis in Afghanistan, UNHCR and UN Women committed to further strengthen their partnership to protect the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan.

The overall objective of UNHCR and UN Women in Afghanistan is to strengthen cooperation between the two organizations leveraging their respective leadership role in ensuring the centrality of protection, with a particular focus on addressing the specific needs of women and girls, through jointly advocating for the rights; and responding to the needs, of women and girls among refugees, returnees, internally displaced persons, and vulnerable members of host communities.

Without a gender lens the interna­tional community risks exacerbating pre-existing forms of inequality rather than creating pathways to ensuring no one is left behind. The UNHCR, UN Women partnership also strives to advance the civic, social and economic empowerment of women and girls and strengthen the evidence-base by improving sex and gender disaggregated data collection systems and gender analysis that address discriminatory gender norms.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

What Does Human Rights Watch Have to Say?

Image Courtesy of the Human Rights Watch website January 5, 2022

What Does Amnesty International Have to Say?

Excerpts from Amnesty International‘s website

Women and girls continued to face gender-based discrimination and violence throughout Afghanistan, especially in areas under Taliban control, where their rights were violated with impunity and violent “punishments” were meted out for perceived transgressions of the armed group’s interpretation of Islamic law.

Violence against women and girls remained chronically under-reported, with women often fearing reprisals and lacking confidence in the authorities if they came forward. According to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), more than 100 cases of murder were reported during the year. Where these cases were reported, there was a persistent failure to investigate them. In some cases, victims of violence came under pressure from their communities or state officials to withdraw their complaints, or “mediation” was used to resolve complaints beyond the protection of the law. As a result, there was widespread impunity for the perpetrators of beatings, killings, torture and other ill-treatment, and corporal punishments.

Children continued to face harassment and sexual violence. Despite the sexual abuse of children being well-publicized, and the abusive practice of “bacha bazi” (male children being sexually abused by older men) being criminalized in 2018, the authorities made little effort to end impunity and hold perpetrators accountable.

Children lacked adequate opportunities to pursue their right to quality education. According to UNICEF, over 2 million girls remained out of school, and according to government figures about 7,000 schools in the country had no building. Large numbers of children continued to be pressed into forced labour or begging on the streets.

The conditions grew more difficult for journalists, media workers, and activists to function due to increasing insecurity and the targeted killings of activists, journalists, and moderate religious scholars. Journalists raised concerns over the lack of access to information and did not enjoy adequate protection from attacks by armed groups. The government introduced a draft mass media bill, which would have imposed further restrictions on the right to freedom of expression. It was forced to withdraw the bill in the face of widespread criticism.

Discussions were ongoing in parliament over a draft bill on public gatherings, strikes and demonstrations, which if passed would significantly restrict the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

The cabinet rejected a third draft bill on NGOs after Amnesty International raised concerns that it placed unnecessary restrictions on registration processes and operational independence.

Attacks and targeted killings against activists, human rights defenders and journalists increased. Human rights defenders continued to come under attack, facing intimidation, violence and killings. In March, government officials in Helmand province physically assaulted human rights defenders who had alleged corruption. They needed hospital treatment for their injuries. In May, Mohammad Ibrahim Ebrat, a facilitator of the Civil Society Joint Working Group, was attacked and wounded by unknown gunmen in Zabul province. He subsequently died of his injuries. In June, two staff members of the AIHRC, Fatima Khalil and Jawad Folad, were killed in an attack on their car in Kabul.


Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy ofhttps://www.farzanawahidy.com/portfolio-item/burqa/
  2. https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/12/1107902
  3. https://www.hrw.org/asia/afghanistan
  4. https://www.amnesty.org/en/location/asia-and-the-pacific/south-asia/afghanistan/report-afghanistan/

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.

Politics and Humanism in Malawi: Wonderful Mkhutche

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 Malawi24 and Africa Press.


By: Chisomo Phiri 

Political scientist and writer Wonderful Mkhutche has written a book on humanism and politics in Malawi which he says will help people understand how issues of humanism affect politics.

Speaking in an interview, Mkhutche said the book, ‘Humanism and Politics Short Essays’, seeks to provide deep understanding on how politics affects humanism and in turn how the humanism affects politics so as for people to grow in religious beliefs and at the same time practicing politics well in the societies.

“Through this book, I want to do two things. First of all, help the readers understand how issues of humanism affect politics and vice versa. Secondly, to provide alternative ways on how best to grow in spiritual life as well as practice politics in a good manner,” said Mkhutche.

Mkhutche said the book is currently receiving positive feedbacks from readers who say it is a helpful book that will transform people’s lives politically and spiritually.

“It is quite interesting that people are now appreciating this book saying it is a very important book in life. To me this is an achievement and I feel myself to be a great of today and tomorrow. No matter how it gets to me, this is an achievement and the work of spreading knowledge and ideas is now on track”, he said.

The writer further said there were so many challenges that were chocking him in his journey of coming up with the book but he still never gave up. One challenge he mentioned was how to manage his other duties and at the same time concentrate on the book.

“Another challenge was about generating ideas on humanism topics since this is uncommon thing in Malawi and many people oppose them. You have to take time to present ideas that can persuade readers,”, he said.

Mkhutche then said government needs to promote reading culture by giving an opportunity to budding writers to have space in book promotions and publications saying this is an expensive task to be done by the writers alone.

Comment on the book, Edgar Kapiza Bayani said the book is a very important book if one wants to understand politics and humanism in Malawi. The ‘Humanism and Politics Short Essays’book will be launched this month at Mzuzu University in Mzuzu. Apart from ‘ Humanism and Politics in Malawi” book, Mkhutche has also written other several books including a biography of musician Lucius Banda


Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of:  http://malawi24.com/2021/11/15/political-scientist-mkhutche-writes-book-on-humanism-and-politics-in-malawi/
  2. http://malawi24.com/2021/11/15/political-scientist-mkhutche-writes-book-on-humanism-and-politics-in-malawi/
  3. https://mkhutchewonderful.wordpress.com/author/mkhutche/
  4. https://www.humanism.scot/what-we-do/policy-campaigns/malawi/

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.

Henry Beissel Poetry Reading

Saturday, December 11, 2021 at 4:00 PM EST

With the financial assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts through the Writers’ Union of Canada, Humanist Ottawa hosts this afternoon selected readings from the works of Henry Beissel, award-winning poet, playwright, essayist, translator and editor. Henry is a past winner of the Ottawa Book Award for his book of poetry, “Footprints of Dark Energy”.

The title poem of this collection takes us on an epic journey across past and present historical events and through spaces defined by the natural sciences, as it explores the challenges of being human in these troubled times. It is accompanied by a gathering of shorter poems that confront the dark forces in our world as they struggle for the light at the end of the tunnel. In stark imagery, these poems turn words into music to celebrate the anguish and the glory of being alive.

Henry Beissel is author/editor of 44 published books. Among his 22 collections of poetry are his epic “Seasons of Blood” and the lyrical “Stones to Harvest” as well as his celebration of Canada in “Cantos North” and the 364 haiku in “What if Zen Gardens …”. He lives in Ottawa with his wife Arlette Francière, the artist and literary translator.

Register in advance for this meeting:
https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUqc-isqTMqG9SJkkLWOIGiZ-sAHsoNSjqf

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Humanist Action For Humanist (And Other) Refugees Who Must Flee Taliban Rule

A consortium of humanist individuals and organizations has begun to work collaboratively and cooperatively to express concern to the Canadian government regarding what they view as a discriminatory oversight (we prefer the term omission) of certain categories of people from the Canadian response to political change in Afghanistan. Particularly, the consortium has expressed concern for Canada’s failure to specifically include atheists, agnostics, humanists and other apostates from its list(s) of categories of those who are vulnerable and may qualify for Canadian assistance. Following is a statement by the consortium.

Statement to Address Discriminatory Oversight in Canadian Special Humanitarian Assistance Program for Afghan Nationals

October 4th, 2021

The tenuous and dangerous living circumstances in Afghanistan following the nation’s fall to the Taliban are dire for many of its citizens, especially atheists and other apostates. Humanist, atheist, and agnostic organizations in Canada represent a diverse group of people who believe that each of us has the responsibility to give meaning to our own life. Those citizens finding meaning in rethinking and rejecting the idea of supernatural entities, including gods, must be as respected as religious believers. In the spirit of the universalism of secular humanism, a consortium of Canada’s many humanist, atheist and agnostic organizations have come together to urgently call upon the government to ameliorate a grave error in the Special Humanitarian Assistance Program for Afghan Nationals.

The current policy language of the Special Humanitarian Assistance Program for Afghan Nationals is as follows:

“There are 2 eligible groups under this program.

Group 1:

You may be eligible for this program if

  • you’re an Afghan national
  • you’re outside of Afghanistan and
  • you don’t have a durable solution in a third country

This group will include people such as

  • woman leaders
  • human rights advocates
  • journalists and people who assisted Canadian journalists
  • persecuted religious minorities
  • LGBTI individuals
  • immediate family members of one of the above

Group 2:

You may be eligible for this program if you’re an extended family member of someone who helped the Government of Canada and has already been resettled to Canada.”

The language used in this policy that exclusively designates eligibility based on membership in a persecuted religious minority group explicitly discriminates against those persecuted on the basis of their non-belief and atheism. 

Atheists and apostates from Islam in Afghanistan face extreme danger and this serious risk should be neither overlooked nor dismissed. It is well established that the classical punishment for apostasy in Islamic jurisprudence is death. Senior Taliban officials have recently announced their intention to impose strict traditional Sharia (Islamic law) punishments, including execution and the amputation of hands. Thus, the safety of all apostates and non-believers is of the utmost concern.

This policy’s highly restrictive current language fails to meet Article 18 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which enshrines the observance and promotion of “freedom of religion or belief.” The government of Canada is also failing to fulfill its responsibility as a party to the United Nations 1951 UN Refugee Convention, which describes refugees as those who are “unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”

Our collaborative endeavour urgently calls upon the government of Canada to immediately issue a clarification of its Special Humanitarian Assistance Program for Afghan Nationals, to explicitly include non-religious Afghan atheists, humanists, and agnostics.

The above statement is supported by the following organizations and individuals:

Abdullah Sameer, YouTuber & Blogger, Friendly Ex-Muslim, & Previous Founder, Light Upon Light and Verse By Verse Quran

Ali A. Rizvi, M.D., Author, “The Atheist Muslim”, & Co-Host, Secular Jihadists for a Muslim Enlightenment podcast

Andy Blair, Founder & Chair, Ubuntu Canada Refugee

Armin Navabi, Founder, Atheist Republic, Author, “Why There Is No God: Simple Responses to 20 Common Arguments for the Existence of God”, & Co-Host, Secular Jihadists for a Muslim Enlightenment podcast

Prof. Arthur Schafer, Founding Director, Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics, University of Manitoba

Babak Yazdi, Executive Director, Kanoon-e-Khavaran

Barrie Webster, Vice President, Secular Connexion Séculière

Christine Ball, Co-President, Ontario Humanist Society

Christopher DiCarlo, Ph.D., Philosopher, Founder, Critical Thinking Solutions, & author of multiple titles including, “So You Think You Can Think? Tools for Having Intelligent Conversations and Getting Along”

David Rand, President, Libres penseurs athées — Atheist Freethinkers

Diane Bruce, Director, Centre for Inquiry Canada, & Branch Manager, Centre for Inquiry Canada — Ottawa

Doug Thomas, President, Secular Connexion Séculière

Edan Tasca, Board Member, Centre For Inquiry Canada

Fika Taillon, Founder & Organizer, Minds & Hearts Without Borders

George Cordahi, Vice President, Halton Peel Humanist Community

Gus Lyn-Piluso, Ph.D., President, Centre for Inquiry Canada

Henry Beissel, Distinguished Emeritus Professor, Concordia University, Montreal

Homa Arjomand, Active Director, The Cultural Bridges Association, & Coordinator, The Campaign Open Borders for Afghan Women and Children Fleeing the Taliban

Jannalee Morris, President, Atheist Society of Calgary

Jason Sylvester, Board Member at Large, Atheist Alliance International

Jocelyne Lemoine, Branch Manager, Centre for Inquiry Canada — Winnipeg

Katherine Dimou, President, Society of Freethinkers

Kendra Getty, Branch Manager, Centre for Inquiry Canada — Saskatoon

Kenn Bur, Founder, Secular Wall

Kerry Bowser, Co-President, Ontario Humanist Society

Lawrence M. Krauss, Ph.D., President, The Origins Project Foundation, Host, The Origins Podcast, & authorof multiple titles including, “The Greatest Story Ever Told–So Far: Why Are We Here?”

Leonard Walsh, Branch Manager, Centre for Inquiry Canada — Nova Scotia

Lloyd Hawkeye Robertson, M.Ed., Ph.D., President, The New Enlightenment Project: A Canadian Humanist Initiative

Madeline Weld, Ph.D., Co-Editor, Humanist Perspectives magazine

Martin Frith, President, Humanist Canada

Muhammad Syed, President, Ex-Muslims of North America

Neil Bernstein, YouTuber, Neil The 604 Atheist

Onur C. Romano, Human Rights Chair, Centre For Inquiry Canada, & President, Ateizm Derneği International

Randolf Richardson, President, Canadian atheists

Richard Dowsett, President, Halton Peel Humanist Community, & Coordinator, Humanist Association of Toronto 

Richard G. L. Thain, D.D.S., Founding board member, Centre For Inquiry Canada, & Founder, Humanist Canada Student Essay Contest

Richard Young, M.Eng.,Co-Editor, Humanist Perspectives magazine

Robert Hamilton, President, Humanist Ottawa

Sandra Dunham, BSc, MPA, Executive Director of Development, Centre For Inquiry Canada

Scott Douglas Jacobsen, Independent Researcher, Journalist

Seanna Watson, Vice President, Centre for Inquiry Canada

Sheila Ayala, President, Secular Ontario

Simon Parcher, President, Canadian Humanist Publications

Sohail Ahmad, President, Ex-Muslims of Toronto

Sophie Shulman, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sci., Branch Manager, Centre For Inquiry Canada — Victoria

Steven Pinker, Ph.D., Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, & author of multiple titles including, “Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters”

Susanna McIntyre, President & CEO, Atheist Republic

Tahmineh Sadeghi, Spokesperson, Hambasteghi – International Federation of Iranian Refugees

Tarek Fatah, Fellow, Middle East Forum, Columnist, The Toronto Sun, & author of multiple tiles including, “The Jew is Not My Enemy”,

Yasmine Mohammed, Founder, Free Hearts Free Minds, & Author, “Unveiled: How Western Liberals Empower Radical Islam”

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of:
  2. https://www.atheistrepublic.com/press-release/secular-organizations-charge-government-errors-afghan-humanitarian-program
  3. http://www.secularconnexion.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.

Books: The Council of Animals by Nick McDonell

A fable is a story that imbues animals and imaginary creatures, along with any manner of natural or supernatural forces, with human-like traits to convey any part of its plot, meaning or narrative. It seems that fables have been a staple of human storytelling for as long as humans have had stories to tell. Even the oldest documented story currently know, The Epic of Gilgamesh, contains elements of fable carved into tablets.

Given this fundamental position of fable in human culture, it should be no surprise, that fable retains a key role in contemporary story-telling. Human connection, whether individual or collective, to the natural world is too vital for fable to ever be completely banished. Fable may be considered as humanism over-lain on the natural world.

We do tend to used fable where it seems to have proven highly effective: story-telling to convey a moralistic message. Often that means children’s stories, but fable is certainly not exclusively for children.

The Council of Animals, by Nick McDonell was published early in 2021 and is a contemporary fable. The storytelling is not particularly innovative nor is the story itself novel and compelling. At the beginning of the story, a council of animals is gathering to decide the fate of humanity – will the animals decide to exterminate the last of humanity or leave them to live out their lives in peace?

In reading the story, other fables readily come to mind and it seems only marginally necessary to state their titles. Pick the first five fables that come to mind and you’ve probably stitched together much of the plot and much of the narrative style. Mentioning McDonell’s willingness as an author to mug for the camera via animal-themed puns and set-pieces and that might be the end of it. It’s almost unworthy of a book review.

Except that the book feels as though its original intent, a story where Kingdom Animalia renders judgment on humanity, had been leant a new direction when the global pandemic came to town. Over the course of the story, it is revealed that some unspecified pandemic had struck down humanity’s population and provided animals (and some mythological creatures) the opportunity to finally gather their collective strength and dominance to be able to decide what to do with the stragglers that had survived.

The efficacy of fables is not their reality. The efficacy is in their ability to convey a moralistic meaning. McDonell’s novel expresses existential concern regarding humanity’s relationship to nature and existential panic in the face of pandemic. Whether that should be considered to be moralized fear-mongering, naive hand-wringing or something else entirely may be up to the reader.

Whether the book is viewed as any of these things should not preclude recognizing that the matter of the book’s panic (a human-created pandemic that threatens to end humanity) is the smaller consideration compared to the book’s concern ( humanity’s relationship to nature).

The book does not seem to be a book of humanism, however it is a book which offers a reminder that contemporary humanists, or perhaps more accurately, contemporary human societies whether they’re humanist or not, currently have the significant challenge to set aside human-centered existential crises in order to address the larger and more significant concern of this planet’s capacity to support life in any form at all. We need a new and vigorous Biophilic Humanism – a humanism, and a humanity, that places its interest in itself within the sustaining interests of the natural world we inhabit.

The moral of the story, when it comes to reading The Council of Animals, is that the time for fables, this over-laying of human priorities and characteristics onto nature, seems to be reaching its limits. Now is the time for laying of nature’s needs and priorities over human character.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of :
  2. http://www.nickmcdonell.com/

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.

BC Humanists’ World Humanist Day EVENT: George Jacob Holyoake

Visit the Event Page

June 22, 2021 at 5pm – 6pm (Pacific Daylight Time)


Secularism, the world’s most widely applied model for the separation of church and state, has freed peoples and their governments from control by religious authority. At a time when it is being challenged by evangelical Christianity and fundamentalist Islam, Inventing Secularism, the first modern biography of secularism’s founder, George Jacob Holyoake, is scheduled for the Spring 2021 list of McFarland & Co.

Ray Argyle, Canadian biographer of French president Charles de Gaulle and American ragtime composer Scott Joplin, writes that George Holyoake “changed the life experience of millions around the world by founding secularism on the idea that the duties of a life lived on earth should rank above preparation for an imagined life after death.”

Jailed for atheism and disowned by his family, Holyoake came out of an English prison at the age of 25 determined to bring an end to religion’s control over daily life. He became a radical editor and in 1851 invented the word secularism to represent a system of government free of religious domination. Inventing Secularism reveals details of Holyoake’s conflict-filled life in which he campaigned for public education, freedom of the press, women’s rights, universal suffrage, and the cooperative movement. He was hailed on his death in 1906 for having won “the freedoms we take for granted today.”

More than 160 secular and humanist organizations around the world today advocate principles set out by George Holyoake in his newspaper The Reasoner and in hundreds of lectures as well as books and pamphlets.

Argyle’s Inventing Secularism warns that a rise in religious extremism and populist authoritarianism has put secularism under siege in countries ranging from the United States to such once staunchly secular nations as Hungary, Poland, Turkey and India. He writes that Holyoake “looked beyond his own time, confident of a future of moral as well as material good, offering an infinite diversity of intellect with equality among humanity.” 

McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, is located in Jefferson, North Carolina, and is one of the leading publishers of academic and scholarly nonfiction in the United States, offering about 6000 titles in print.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is argyle_holyoake_Final_Cover-600.jpg

The British Columbia Humanist Association has been providing a community and voice for Humanists, atheists, agnostics, and the non-religious of Metro Vancouver and British Columbia since 1982. We support the growth of Humanist communities across BC, provide Humanist ceremonies, and campaign for progressive and secular values.

We are a registered charitable organization. Our mission is:

  • to promote the ideas and philosophy of secular humanism by all available means of education and communication;
  • to serve the educational needs of its members and others of humanistic, scientific and naturalistic outlook, in a democratic, non-dogmatic manner free from authoritarian doctrine;
  • to provide opportunities for fellowship, study and service at all levels of humanistic endeavour, and to advance the values and welfare of humanity in dedication to the continuing enhancement of human life through human effort and understanding;
  • to offer and provide meaningful ceremonies to members and non-members at significant times such as marriage and death; and
  • to elaborate and to express publicly Humanist positions on issues of concern to people, including values, morality and ethics.

Sources, Citations and References

Featured Photo Courtesy of https://rayargyle.com/a-radical-life/



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.

Footprints of Henry Beissel: A Conversation With A humanist Poet

ZOOM EVENT! MARCH 27, 2021

In a celebration of the humanities, Humanist Ottawa hosts this afternoon of conversation with Henry Beissel, poet, playwright, fiction writer, translator, editor and winner of the 2020 Ottawa Book Award in English Fiction for his book of poetry, “Footprints of Dark Energy“.
 
In awarding this prize, the jury said, ” Part idyll, part love song and mostly about man in nature, Henry Beissel’s Footprints of Dark Energy approaches the sublime in its epic treatment of its subjects. The meditative undertones of the shorter poems coalesce into the epigrammatic wit of the long title poem, and all are bolstered by the narration’s majestic sweep.”
 
The title poem of this collection takes us on an epic journey across past and present historical events and through spaces defined by the natural sciences, as it explores the challenges of being human in these troubled times. It is accompanied by a gathering of shorter poems that confront the dark forces in our world as they struggle for the light at the end of the tunnel. In stark imagery, these poems turn words into music to celebrate the anguish and the glory of being alive.
 
Henry Beissel is author/editor of 44 published books. Among his 22 collections of poetry are his epic “Seasons of Blood” and the lyrical “Stones to Harvest” as well as his celebration of Canada in “Cantos North” and the 364 haiku in “What if Zen Gardens …“. He lives in Ottawa with his wife Arlette Francière, the artist and literary translator. 

Feel free to forward this invitation to any of your friends.

When:            Saturday,  March 27, 2021

Time:                1:30 pm  Eastern Time

Medium:           Zoom  –  
Please register in advance for this free event at:  

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZcrcuCtpz8vHdawRAzYyEy2q1Of6QlmmwJM 


References and Resources

  1. Featured Image Courtesy of: Humanist Ottawa

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.

Books: Transcendence, How Humans Evolved Through Fire, Language, Beauty and Time by Gaia Vince

Evolution. It’s only one word, but how many hundreds or thousands of other words, ideas and opinions does that one word conjure up? How many books have been written about evolution since Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species was published in 1859? A comprehensive collection that included all books for, against, explaining, confusing, misrepresenting, re-purposing and otherwise largely or wholly devoted to evolution were included, it would make an astounding and enjoyable library.

Even in the absence of such a devoted library, it is entirely possible for the average enthusiast to delve the shelves of their public library and reach a point when it seems like there isn’t much more to be considered. Perhaps academics, biologists and others of specialist sort may have further footnotes to add, but really – is there anything fresh?

Well, yes there is. In 2020, Gaia Vince published Transcendence: How Humans Evolved Through Fire, Language, Beauty and Time. According to the author’s website, Gaia Vince is an “award-winning science journalist, author, broadcaster and speaker…. particularly interested in how human systems and Earth’s planetary systems interact.” who feels that “this is a unique time in Earth’s history, in which climate change, globalisation, communications technology and increasing human population are changing our world – and us – as never before.”

At about 350 pages, the book incorporates a mix of anecdotes, storytelling, and science journalism that is often but not always effective on the first read. But that may be a characteristic in its favour. Like evolution, the book requires a commitment of time. It isn’t exactly like all the other books on evolution. It needs to be read and considered – and sometimes even re-read.

It’s fresh.

In a unique time in Earth’s history when human population is rapidly changing the world, fresh perspective-taking is needed. We shouldn’t be glazing over our routine understandings of the fundamental processes of life. We need to struggle with them a bit more. We need to deepen and widen our perspectives. That is what it seems that Gaia Vince has tried to do with this book.

The book is worth the time and resources you may spend.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of : https://wanderinggaia.com/
  2. https://www.mit.edu/~ejhanna/sci/evobook.html
  3. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43521776-transcendence

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.

Books: Great State: China and the World By Timothy Brook

It approaches impossible to be a humanist without eventually trying to reach an understanding of the politics of China. Enter just about any conversation about secularism and sooner or later someone is going to mention the human rights record of the Chinese government over the last 80 to 100 years. Here’s a book that may be a good place to move toward an understanding of China’s immense history.

Great State: China and The World was published in 2019/2020 by one of Canada’s leading scholarly experts on China. It is a collection of thirteen historical vignettes written to support its author’s thesis that China is, and has very nearly always been, a “Great State”.

Timothy Brook is a professor at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver). A native of Toronto and graduate of the University of Toronto, Brook moved from Toronto to become principal of St. John’s College at UBC in 2004, where he was named to the Republic of China Chair. Brook previously held positions at the University of Alberta, Stanford University, and the University of Oxford, where he was Shaw Professor of Chinese from 2007 to 2009.

Book Marks reviews of Great State: China and the World by ...

At a little over 400-pages, the entire book is well-worth reading; however humanistfreedoms.com found particular interest in ….Chapter 8: The Missionary and His Convert, a chapter providing some interesting insights into how China’s political leadership has approached religious influences in the country. The chapter is set in the early 1600’s and reviews political events stemming from the arrival of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in China. Brook demonstrates that some leading Chinese political forces felt that “...these foreigners were not official envoys from their rulers. There were protocols for receiving tribute envoys, but these men had entered China without having received such clearance. That they were in China to speak of matters of Heaven – which could be construed as infringing on the divine authority of the emperor – only made the illegality of their status that much more offensive.” (pg. 203)

It is not uncommon for Western people to view China as having been cut-off from the world (i.e. Europe) for must of its existence. Brook attempts to dispel this view as a myth. But he also reinforces, in this chapter and others, the deep concern Chinese political leaders have had regarding foreign influence in their country’s affairs. The lesson seems to be that foreign influence that is cut-off is very different from foreign influence that is limited and controlled.

Another valuable chapter to the humanist student is Chapter 10- The Lama and the Prince, dealing with the Dalai Lama and China’s occupation of Tibet – what Brook describes as China’s act to “reimpose its active sovereignty over the territories of the old Great State.

Despite being reasonably attentive readers, we found it difficult to locate where Brook differentiates a “Great State” from an “Empire”. Clearly in certain parts of Western culture, the words empire and imperialism carry a great deal of baggage. The words bring up notions of militarily-strong foreign control and influence of local populations.

In the book’s introduction, Brook argues that Great State is an “Inner Asian concept. It is not a term that Chinese today will recognize, let alone accept, but it has hugely shaped Chinese Political thinking since the time of Khubalai Khan. Before the 1270s China was a dynastic state in which one family monopolized power at the center because, so the theory went, Heaven had given that family an exclusive mandate to rule.. What changed with the coming of the Mongols was the deeper conviction that this mandate entailed the right to extend the authority of that one family out across the entire world, incorporating all existing politics and rulers into a system in which military power is paramount. This was the Great State, and this is what China became.

The book is well-worth the time spent.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of https://thetyee.ca/Culture/2020/03/25/China-Pandemics-UBC-Expert/
  2. https://www.harpercollins.com/blogs/authors/timothy-brook
  3. https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/books/2019/09/myth-chinas-great-state
  4. https://history.ubc.ca/profile/tim-brook/

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.