Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Violent Hand of Ideology: A Fanatic Attacked Salman Rushdie

On 12 August 2022, Salman Rushdie was brutally attacked and severely injured during a speaking event in Chautauqua, New York. As a publication devoted to humanism and human rights – including the right to freedom of expression which is so fundamentally linked to this situation – HumanistFreedoms.com condemns the attack and expresses hope for Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie’s best possible recovery.

While there are many stories about the attack in mainstream media providing reports of the attempted murder, the attacker’s name and hints to his motivation, these particulars seem to be little more than incidental to the attack. There seems to be little point in re-sharing information that is so readily available . Indeed, there seems to be much more sense in focusing on who the attacker was in the bigger picture. This latest attacker was nothing other than the inevitable and violent hand of extremist ideology.

Some of us at HumanistFreedoms.com had the opportunity and privilege to attend Rushdie’s reading from one of his novels when he visited the Toronto Public Library in 2015. It was a lovely and engaging evening – exactly the way attending a reading ought to be. The way the event in Chautauqua ought to have been. A room full of mostly mild, curious and intelligent individuals; a brief and charming interview; an author sharing their own voice with those who wished to hear it. It was the kind of thing Rushdie had so clearly been doing for many previous years and clearly expected to do for many future years as well. After all, who goes to hear an author speak other than those who want to hear what he has written and may have to say about it?

It is not possible, however, to have attended a reading by Salman Rushdie without being aware that he had lived under the threat of attack and assassination since 1989 when a fanatical ideologue and politician issued a faith-based assassination order against him. His conversation never seems to be far from that simple fact nor from the implications that it carried: sometimes people attend these events to prevent others from hearing the things that may be said.

The fact that the fanatical politician/ideologue/religious leader who had ordered the assassination happened to be a high ranking Shia clergy member and the “supreme leader” of a nation ought to have been enough to keep fanaticism and the perpetual probability of violence on anybody’s mind. In 1989, someone tried to complete the assassination and blew himself (and some of a hotel) up. Apparently there is a shrine in Tehran describing the person

Salman Rushdie: Violently attacked due to a work of fiction written almost forty years go.

as a “martyr”. in other words, a religious hero.

Fanaticism is a state that must be developed, encouraged and maintained. It must be cultivated. The fanatic and their cultivator each bear a portion of the responsibility for any violence which they promote and enact. To claim anything else is cowardice, at best – but more probably an indicator of traits worse by far than mere cowardice.

In the Iranian government’s first public comment on this more recent attack, its foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said “Regarding the attack on Salman Rushdie, we do not consider anyone other than [Rushdie] and his supporters worthy of blame and even condemnation.” The message is clear when it comes to ideologues. Cross them and you’ll get what they think you deserve.

But not everyone is like that. Not everyone flinches from truth.

The attacker’s mother had some different perspectives to offer, “As I said to the FBI I’m not going to bother talking to him again. He’s responsible for his actions. I have another two minors that I need to take care of. They are upset, they’re shocked. All we can do is try to move on from this, without him.

Only a few things more need to be said in context of an initial reaction to this brutality. Violence is the inevitable conclusion when extremist ideology, and let us emphasize any extremist ideology, is left unchecked, when fanatics are allowed to persist in delusions that their opinions and preferences cannot be challenged, when destroying another human being is considered a morally-entitled response to being offended.

And what do the humanist organizations have to say so far? We might have wished for more…and more emphatic than what we have been able to locate so far (Frankly, Rex Murphy seems to have done a better job of it). But we searched several prominent English-language humanist organizations with Salman Rushdie’s name and here is what we found on 2022/08/16

Unrelated to the attempted slaughter of an author by the violent hand of ideologues, one of our humanist mentors had recently shared a quotation from Martin Luther King: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.”

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of :  https://www.salmanrushdie.com/salman-rushdie-the-author/
  2. https://www.msn.com/en-ca/news/world/rex-murphy-trudeau-biden-wont-name-actual-threat-to-salman-rushdie/ar-AA10ImbW
  3. https://www.ndtv.com/world-news/hadi-matar-mother-of-man-who-stabbed-salman-rushdie-says-he-changed-after-trip-to-lebanon-3256055
  4. https://www.cnn.com/2022/08/15/middleeast/iran-blames-rushdie-attack-intl/index.html
  5. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11110905/Mother-alleged-Salman-Rushdie-attacker-says-son-responsible-actions.html

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.

Humanists Call on UK Government to Reverse Decisions on Sexual and Reproductive Rights

Over 20 human rights, pro-choice, and international aid groups, and the Norwegian and Danish Governments, have called on the UK Government to reverse its decision to arbitrarily strip ‘sexual and reproductive health and rights’ and ‘bodily autonomy’ from an international human rights statement it – and 22 other countries – signed only two weeks ago.

The ‘Statement on freedom of religion or belief and gender equality’ was issued by the UK as part of the International Ministerial Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief conference it hosted in London on 5-6 July.

However, the agreed statement, published on the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office website, was inexplicably amended without consultation; removing any references to ‘sexual and reproductive health and rights’ and ‘bodily autonomy’.

Now the Norwegian and Danish Governments have criticised the move. The Norwegian Government has told the Guardian:

‘Norway and Denmark have approached the UK and the Netherlands, who are the chair and co-chair respectively of the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance (IRFBA), to enquire about and protest against the substantive changes to the statement and the way the changes were made. Norway has yet to make a decision on being a signatory to the amended version of the statement.’

Furthermore, an array of influential charities and rights groups have signed a joint letter asking the UK Government to explain its reasoning behind the shock move and to reverse its decision immediately. The letter was organised by Humanists UK, which first spotted the change. Signatories include Amnesty International UK, Human Rights Watch, ActionAid UK, BPAS, MSI Reproductive Choices, Liberty, Fawcett, Brook, the End Violence Against Women Coalition, Article 19, and Maternity Action.

They write to the Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss:

‘We are writing to you with serious concern about the deletion of references to ‘sexual and reproductive health and rights’ and ‘bodily autonomy’ from the UK-organised ‘Statement on freedom of religion or belief and gender equality’. We urge you to reverse this move, and hope you could explain why the change happened in the first place.

‘As Professor Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, has said in response to the changes: “Claims that freedom of religion or belief can be invoked to deny women and girls the exercise and enjoyment of their sexual and reproductive health rights have no foundation in human rights. Rather, such claims must be rejected as representing intolerant and patriarchal attitudes that deny the equal rights of men and women to freedom of religion or belief. Such claims especially ignore that freedom of religion or belief also guarantees to women the right to bodily autonomy and conscientious choice.”

‘At a time when abortion provision around the world is under serious threat, due to the reversal of Roe v Wade, it has never been more important for the UK Government to stand up for sexual and reproductive health and rights and bodily autonomy. We note that the latest British Social Attitudes Survey to ask indicates that less than 5% of the UK population oppose access to abortion in all circumstances. In addition, 22 countries had signed up to the statement before revision – a similar number to those signing the other Ministerial statements – which is further indication that there is no sound reason for these amendments. We urge that they be reversed immediately.’

Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of Humanists UK said:

‘The Government must surely be aware that, given the recent events in the United States, abortion rights are under threat. To amend an agreed statement in such a manner, omitting these rights, is therefore particularly poorly timed, never mind about being regrettable anyway.

‘Unfortunately, this supplanting of individual freedom under the guise of “religious freedom” is an example of the right to freedom of religion or belief being abused in order to infringe the rights of others.

‘The Government should withdraw these amendments.’

Marie Juul Petersen, Senior Researcher at the Danish Institute for Human Rights, helped draft the original statement. She has told the Guardian that the revised text was ‘a big surprise’ and called the amendment process ‘flawed and unreasonable’. She added:

‘I saw the original statement as such a big step forward because this has been a very conflict-ridden area – the relationship between freedom of religion and belief and gender equality. For so many years, there have not been many attempts at finding synergies and overlaps or at demonstrating how these two sets of rights are actually compatible and in fact intertwined and inseparable. And I thought this statement was really a big step forward in that direction, showing that these two rights are not in opposition to one another but can actually reinforce one another. So I was really disappointed.’

A total of 22 countries signed the Statement before it was amended. The revised Statement has seen that number reduce to five of the original signatories, plus one new addition – anti-abortion Malta.

The stated intention of the London 2022 International Ministerial Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief was bringing international governments, parliamentarians, faith and belief representatives, and civil society together to increase global action on freedom of religion or belief for all.

Speakers included Humanists UK’s Chief Executive Andrew Copson, in his capacity as President of Humanists International, who spoke at the opening session alongside the Foreign Secretary, Archbishop of Canterbury, Chief Rabbi, and global Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh leaders.

Notes:

Those signing the letter protesting the changes to the original statement are:

Andrew Copson, Chief Executive, Humanists UK

Clare Murphy, Chief Executive, British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS)

Bethan Cobley, Director of Policy and Partnerships, MSI Reproductive Choices

Sacha Deshmukh, CEO, Amnesty International UK

Yasmine Ahmed, UK Director, Human Rights Watch

John Good, Acting CEO, ActionAid UK

Martha Spurrier, Director, Liberty

Jemima Olchawski, Chief Executive, Fawcett Society

Helen Marshall, Chief Executive, Brook, UK

Andrea Simon, Director, End Violence Against Women Coalition

Quinn McKew, Executive Director, Article 19

Ros Bragg, Director, Maternity Action

Mara Clarke, Founder, Abortion Support Network

Emma Campbell, Co-Convenor, Alliance for Choice

Jane Fisher, Director, Antenatal Results and Choices (ARC)

Dr Hayley Webb, Co-Chair, Doctors for Choice UK

Lesley Hoggart and Jayne Kavanagh, Co-Directors, Abortion Talk

Marge Berer, Retiring Coordinator, International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion

Tanya Taylor, Communications Manager, Sister Supporter

Rachel Adamson and Laura Tomson, Co-Directors, Zero Tolerance

Jackie Longworth, Chair, Fair Play South West, the women’s equality network

Professor Claire de Than, Chair, Sexual Health and Disability Alliance

Jo Kinsey, President, Business & Professional Women UK

Dr Pam Lowe, Senior Lecturer, Aston University

Marie Fox, Professor of Law, Health Law & Regulation Unit, University of Liverpool

Grainne Maginnis

For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at press@humanists.uk or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

In terms of what has changed in the statement:

  • A part said ‘Discriminatory personal status laws, laws that allow harmful practices, or restrict women’s and girls’ full and equal enjoyment of all human rights, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, bodily autonomy, and other laws that justify, condone, or reinforce violence, discrimination, or inequalities on the grounds of religion, belief or gender should be repealed’.It now merely says ‘Challenge discriminatory laws that justify, condone, or reinforce violence, discrimination, or inequalities on the grounds of religion, belief or gender and that restrict women and girls’ full and equal enjoyment of human rights’.The significant change here appears to be the removal of ‘laws that restrict women’s and girls’ full and equal enjoyment of all human rights, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, bodily autonomy… should be repealed’.
  • A part said ‘We commit to protect and support individuals, organisations and institutions that work to promote gender-responsive religious interpretations and practices’.‘gender-responsive’ has been replaced with ‘human dignity through’.
  • A part said ‘support and build capacities of local religious and belief leaders to advocate for gender equality, denounce sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices and ensure access to sexual and reproductive health and rights’.Everything after ‘religious and belief leaders’ has been deleted. So again, sexual and reproductive health and rights has been removed.
  • As already noted, 18 signatory countries of the statement have come off the list, while one – Malta – has signed since.

Read the original and revised statements, and view the differences between the two as tracked changes.

Read more about the Ministerial.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, they advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Humanists UK provides ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and its campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of :  
  2. https://humanists.uk/2022/07/22/norway-denmark-and-human-rights-groups-challenge-uk-over-abortion-rollback/

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.

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).

Atheism, Irreligious and Anarchist: A Cadre Education Perspective

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 CounterCurrents.org on June 17, 2022.

By: T. Vijayendra

T. Vijayendra (1943- ) was born in Mysore, grew in Indore and went to IIT Kharagpur to get a B. Tech. in Electronics (1966). After a year’s stint at the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kolkata, he got drawn into the whirlwind times of the late 60s. Since then, he has always been some kind of political-social activist. His brief for himself is the education of Left wing cadres and so he almost exclusively publishes in the Left wing journal Frontier, published from Kolkata. For the last nine years, he has been active in the field of ‘Peak Oil’ and is a founder member of Peak Oil India and Ecologise. Since 2015 he has been involved in Ecologise! Camps and in 2016 he initiated Ecologise Hyderabad. He divides his time between an organic farm at the foothills of Western Ghats, watching birds, writing fiction and Hyderabad. He has published a book dealing with resource depletions, three books of essays, two collections of short stories, a novella and an autobiography. Vijayendra has been a ‘dedicated’ cyclist all his life, meaning, he neither took a driving licence nor did he ever drive a fossil fuel based vehicle. Email: t.vijayendra@gmail.com.

India is going through a lot of communal tensions for the last few years. As a response to it some secular persons have been, among other things, organising ‘Inter – Faith Meetings’. Recently in Hyderabad we have been having such meetings. Many religious leaders came. I was asked to represent the Atheists. In the meeting I declared myself ‘atheist, irreligious and anarchist’. These three concepts are related and I believe they can play a small but significant role in reducing these tensions in our country.

The tone of this article is neither theoretical nor polemical. It is in the tradition of ‘cadre education’. This is so because neither in the mainstream nor in normal ‘secular or left wing media’ these trends are adequately represented. Often they are represented in a negative way. In this article I will begin with removing some misconceptions about them and then expound the positive role they can play in the current situation.

Atheism

Most people have not met atheists. They may well imagine atheists as an incarnation of devil with horns on their heads. The religious people denounce them as godless or those who do not fear God. They imply that atheists have no morals or ethics and they can do anything including immoral things.

As a matter fact the oldest Atheist Society was called ‘Ethical Society’ and the international organisation is called IHEU – International Humanists and Ethical Union!

The Ethical movement is an outgrowth of secular moral traditions in the 19th century, principally in Europe and the United States. At the international level, Ethical Culture and secular humanist groups have always organized jointly; the American Ethical Union and British Ethical Union were founding members of Humanists International, whose original name “International Humanist and Ethical Union” reflected the movement’s unity.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethical_movement)

Humanists International (known as the International Humanist and Ethical Union, or IHEU, from 1952–2019) is an international non-governmental organisation championing secularism and human rights, motivated by secular humanist values. Founded in Amsterdam in 1952, it is an umbrella organisation made up of more than 160 secular humanist, atheist, rationalist, sceptic, free thought and Ethical Culture organisations from over 80 countries. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanists_International).

Atheism in Ancient India

According to popular belief, atheism is a modern invention: “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him,” Friedrich Nietzsche declared in 1882. Supposedly, it was the modern European mind that invented the criticism of religions and religiosity.

But what if it was the other way around? What if philosophical skepticism, rational arguments, and non-religiosity came first, while religions developed later? What if irreligiousity was suppressed by medieval religious minds, before this worldview was resurrected in the modern era? In the beginning was … atheism?

The Indian school that rejected supernaturalism was originally named Lokāyata, which can be translated as prevalent (ayata) among the people (loka) – in addition to meaning “this-worldliness”, “worldly”. Since the last half of the first millennium CE, the term Cārvāka or Charvaka, has also been used for these atheist, skeptical, naturalist, and materialist traditions.

-The untold history of India’s vital atheist philosophy by Dag Herbjørnsrud (https://blog.apaonline.org/2020/06/16/the-untold-history-of-indias-vital-atheist-philosophy/)

Atheism Today in India

Of India’s 1.4 billion people, fewer than 33,000 are self-declared atheists. (https://religionnews.com/2022/05/17/in-india-hindu-nationalists-embolden-challenges-to-atheism/). These are census figure. ‘The religion data from 2011 Census of India was released in August 2015. It revealed that about 2,870,000 people had stated no religion in their response, about 0.27% of the nation’s population. However, the number included atheists, rationalists and also those who believed in a higher power.’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irreligion_in_India). Obviously they do not include Jains and Buddhists because in the census they do not declare themselves as atheists. If we include them the number will be much higher. Most of these atheists do not go about talking about atheism. Most Indians don’t even know that the Jains and Buddhists are atheists. It is only when atheism is combined with irreligiousity that it becomes a social issue and attracts the hostility of current Hindutva lobby.

Irreligiousness

All atheists are not irreligious. As we have said above, Jains and Buddhists are atheist and are religious. Today for all practical purposes Jains are indistinguishable from Hindus. There is a lot of inter marriage between Jains and Hindus. Other atheists also by and large do not wear their atheism on their sleeves.

However there are atheist organisations which promote rationalism and scientific temper. They conduct programmes in public, schools and colleges to spread the scientific temper and expose the frauds of false god men. They expose the ‘miracles’ performed by these false god men and show that they are nothing but tricks performed by magicians. In villages they protect widows who are falsely accused as witches and who allegedly cause death of infants. Their journals carry articles by atheists who are important scientists and philosophers (like Bertrand Russell). After independence to till 1990s, their activities went quietly because Nehru personally and Indian Constitution supported spread of scientific temper. Even some government departments like Department of Science and Technology actively promoted rationalism.

All this has changed drastically in the last decades. The Hindutva lobby has been propagating glories of ancient India through all kinds of unscientific readings of the past. Rationalists are regularly harassed, jailed and some time even murdered. The cases of murders of four rationalists — Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, MM Kalburgi and journalist Gauri Lankesh are well known.

(https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/dabholkar-pansare-kalburgi-lankesh-murder-cases-digging-out-weapons-million-rupee-question/articleshow/70301389.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst)

 Anarchism

Not all atheists and irreligious people are anarchists nor are all anarchists irreligious and atheists. Before going any further, let me give a definition of anarchists: Briefly: 1. Anarchists are opposed to all authority, 2. Anarchists believe in self management within a local community on the basis of ‘a free association of free people’, 3. The Anarchist community will federate with other communities also on the basis of ‘a free association of free people’.

As in the case of atheists, there are a lot of misconceptions about anarchists. Since they are anti authoritarian, the image is that of a young man with long hair, unkempt dirty clothes, who doesn’t listen to any one, who does what he likes, in short he is an anarchist! It is true that many anarchists in the past and today have long hair, but rest of it is just an image. They forget the second point about self management within a local community. In general anarchists are gentle, low profile people, often good gardeners or have some good artistic manual skills. A large number of poets, authors, artists, theatre persons, philosophers, educationists, musicians etc. have been anarchists. The reason is obvious. Creativity needs freedom and hence anti authoritarian philosophy attracts these people.

At a social level, many poor and working people have been oppressed by authority. During medieval periods every mainstream authoritarian religion had a corresponding rebel group. Islam has Sufis, Christians have Quakers and a large number of smaller groups and Hinduism has Bhakti movement, particularly ‘Nirgun Bhakti’ movement where all the saints have been from artisan castes. As a matter of fact the philosophy of these Nirgunias and Sikhs was very close to the Sufis and most of the conversions to Islam have been from these castes.

However the mainstream revolutionary anarchist movement in modern times does combine atheism, irreligiousness with anarchism. The great anarchists have been: Proudhon, Bakunin and Kropotkin. Anarchism as a movement was largely in France, Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal and in Latin America, though there are anarchists in all developed countries. They were a major force in Spanish Civil war and are still a major force in Mexico.

In the last twenty years global climate emergency and the response to it, that of, transition towns and the Russian Eco villages are very much in the Anarchist tradition.

Concluding Remarks

Humans have been around 3 lakh years. Until recently, that is until 9000 years ago, they lived in self managed small communities. Concepts of God, religion and state/governments etc have come since then. So 97% of the time humans did not know God, religion or state. Thus they were ‘atheists, irreligious and anarchist’ people! What happened in between and in recent times?

Man has the capacity to modify nature much more than any other species. Around 9000 years ago this capacity of Man became significant and man began to ‘exploit’ nature. Through a complex social process exploitation within the species also began and thus emerged what Frederick Engels described as ‘Origin of Family, Private Property and State’. There has been rebellion also among human species from the beginning.

This exploitation of man by man reached a very high level in the last 300 years and at the same time rebellion and revolution also reached high levels. In the latter half of the 20th century exploitation of nature also reached very high level. Rachael Carson’s book, ‘Silent Spring’ was the first important book of this kind. Since then in the last 20 years it has become clear that all this has become unsustainable and we are on the verge of collapse. ‘The only way to achieve a sustainable and just world is via a Transition Towns movement. The required sustainable social form must be based on mostly small, highly self-sufficient and self-governing, cooperative local communities, willingly embracing far simpler lifestyles and systems. (Detailed in ‘The Simpler Way’, 2019.) The Simper Way would be liberation from the consumer-capitalist rat race, enabling a far higher quality of life. It would not involve reduction in modern technology.’ (Ted Trainer, ‘Can we Strengthen the Transition towns Movement?’ Unpublished, personal communication.)

In this situation the theories of atheism, irreligiousness and anarchism have a big role to play.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Feature Image Courtesy: https://countercurrents.org/2022/06/atheist-irreligious-and-anarchist/

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.

Humanist Children’s Book Released to Muslim-majority Countries

“Everyone has a right to think freely” – free children’s books about science and humanism released to Muslim-majority countries

Where do we come from? What are we? How can we all get along?

For many, answers to these questions are sought in houses of worship. But like almost half of their Gen Z peers, youth authors Elle (12) and Bailey Harris (16) draw their guiding principles and values from science and humanism, not religion. The sisters have written four beloved children’s books — Elle the Humanist and the three-book My Name is Stardust series — which explore secular topics including humanism, the solar system and evolution in language and pictures that young children can understand. 

Bailey, who was eight years old when she began writing her first book, explains, “I wanted kids of all ages to see that we humans are a part of something beautiful, natural and larger than ourselves.” Now, the impact of their books is larger than she or her sister ever imagined. With the help of the Translations ProjectLabel Free Publishing is thrilled to announce that all four books are now available in Arabic, Urdu, Farsi and Bahasa Indonesia for free as downloadable PDFs at www.translationsproject.org.

The Translations Project was created by the Center for Inquiry in response to a growing appetite for scientific literature in Muslim-majority countries, where accessing such literature in the local language can be difficult, and sometimes dangerous. The program began by offering free translations of evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkin’s many books and today records over 20,000 downloads a year. The translation of the Harris sisters’ books marks the first time the program has taken on children’s literature — and the response has been overwhelming. 

Wafa Bahri, Director of the Translations Project, explains, “We’ve gotten so many emails from the translators, many who must stay anonymous out of fear for their safety, about how much they appreciate working on these children’s books. They understand the importance of this work, and care deeply about bringing change to their own countries.”  

Greg Epstein, the Humanist Chaplain at Harvard and MIT adds, “Elle the Humanist is one of my favorite humanist books — period. There are countless millions of people all over the world who are essentially raising their children as humanists, but without the tools or understanding of what that identity really means. This little book could help spark a conversation that changes the world’s perspective on religious diversity.”

Label Free Publishing is based in Santa Barbara, California and aims to inspire a love of science and nature and a sense of wonder at the universe. The Translations Project is a program of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, part of the Center for Inquiry.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Feature Image Courtesy: https://www.kingsenglish.com/event/bailey-harris-and-douglas-harris-my-name-stardust
  2. https://stardustscience.com/pages/news
  3. https://religionnews.com/2022/06/09/humanist-childrens-books-translated-available-free-in-muslim-majority-countries/
  4. https://stardustscience.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.

Alex Coghe: How to Make Humanist Photography That is Respectful of People’s Dignity

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. In December of 2021, we introduced photojournalist and photography coach Alex Coghe and his approach to HumanistFreedoms.com. We asked Alex a few questions about his humanist approach and he’s kindly supplied a few answers. You may be interested to see Alex Coghe’s new book, The Ricoh Files.


By Alex Coghe

I was asked to go deeper into the humanistic aspects that inspire my photography. So I am answering to some questions.

From the project: They ask me for photos – 2021
From the project: They ask me for photos – 2021

Anything starts from this statement I proposed in a post on this blog:

I believe the dignity of the people portrayed and respect never fail.

How does this work in my photography?

Despite I am a photographer who uses spontaneous photography a lot, without asking for permission many times, i am not hiding what i do on the street. My presence as a photographer is obvious and I don’t use ninjia tactics. My every choice is made in awareness and in the will to portray reality as it is. Avoiding sensationalism or altering to make a situation more dramatic.

You can see it through my decisions to leave the photo as natural as possible without those pushed post productions that aim to contrast and make everything more dramatic. But this approach influences on a technical level also my choice of lenses ranging from 35m to 40mm. In this way I have a result more similar to that of the vision of the human eye, avoiding making people ugly due to lens distortion. Many associate with asking permission from people before photographing them with respect for them. But I don’t think so: you can also ask for permission but if your approach and your mindset is wrong people will be uncomfortable in front of your lens.

I believe that if you are a person who is really interested in the other and you are not taking a picture only for yourself, if there is real communication and intention, in respect, this is felt by the person photographed, even if you do not ask him/her before to be able to photograph him/her.

How does this relate to Humanist Photography as a genre/field?

Today we assist too many times to photographers that are not really interested in humanity and yet they photograph people. This is because they make photography for the wrong reasons: to get famous, to win awards, to have objects, pieces in their compositions and they are forgetting the individual with his/her dignity. Or simply they are photographers focused only to build their project, which is often only driven by their personality and not that of the subject and theme. In that case clearly photography is just a selfish act. And this is not good at all.

In my career I could see for my direct experience as Humanist Photography can be a great tool of change and improvement for a social issue. This is the reason hy I collaborate with NGOs and I offered my service as photographer for free in several situations.

Is there ever tension in these issues that you experience in your own work or the work that you observe others do?

A big issue is about not respecting really the culture of people. Many photographers think to solve everything by buying people. Yes, some photographers buy people. for example they use models using traditional clothing of a community, even to propose their documentary workshops. The result can obviously also have an aesthetic impact and they will be sure to bring home beautiful photos, but I consider it an absolutely negative thing to do at various levels. It is a question of a cultural appropriation which, counting with the false and the posed, also damages the sociological reception of images.

And after all we have seen how even among photographers considered masters this practice has continued for years and continues today, especially among those who today prefer to define themselves as storytellers.


In 2018 Polaris Images commissioned me a breaking news work on the situation of migrants arriving in Mexico City. Today I am talking to you about that work and how, in carrying it out, the dignity of people was the priority aspect that I took care to preserve.

In photojournalism there is a thin line that demarcates the territory of documentation from that of the exploitation of people through images. The photojournalist is required to document what is happening with images and texts. In approaching certain issues, already difficult in themselves, the photographer should take care of photographing reality as it is, without sweetening it or making it more fascinating, but above all he/she should avoid dramatizing events for his/her own gain. Unfortunately this happens more and more rarely and we are witnessing aesthetic extremes to give character to the photographic work.

The Human Caravan coverage

Hundreds of immigrants crossed the south border of Mexico from Central America (Honduras mostly) arrived in a “caravan” and they were hosted at “Casa del Peregrino” a first reception humanitarian center.

How I approached the work on assignment

I don’t do a lot of breaking news but when I do it I give my all. I document in advance on the issue to be addressed in order to have a mental order and choose a certain setting rather than another. Obviously I am aware that there will be other colleagues in the place dedicated to the documentation and I also consider the way of telling the various small stories that I will meet in a different way, in order not to have images similar to those of all the others.

I mentally referred to the work on the Great Depression commissioned in the United States by the FSA. The model had to be that to ensure dignity to the people portrayed.

The work required as much empathic contact as possible with the subjects portrayed. Talk to them and take an interest in their story before you even start taking pictures.

When I say that a photographer reveals a lot about himself I am referring to the fact that, for example, in the photos you immediately notice if the subjects feel uncomfortable and the exact opposite if, instead, the photographer was able to empathize with the subjects and do not make the act of being photographed as something to be suffered.

As a photographer, first of all, I am interested in preserving people’s dignity. In this case we are talking about people who have been forced to leave their country in spite of themselves. And where they would like to return as soon as conditions allow. All this must emerge from the photos of a truly humanist photographer.

In my head there was undoubtedly the idea of making photos as iconic as possible but at the same time in full respect of the person portrayed.

In reviewing this work after three years I am still satisfied with what I have managed to achieve.


Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy ofhttps://alexcoghe.com/portfolio/project-one-z9zrg
  2. https://alexcoghe.com/journal/humanist-and-realist-at-the-center-of-the-approach
  3. https://alexcoghe.com/journal/how-to-make-humanist-photography-that-is-respectful-of-peoples-dignity

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.