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Most Senior Appointment YET For A humanist Pastoral Carer at an NHS Trust

Lindsay van Dijk has been appointed to head up the chaplaincy and pastoral care team at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which provides person-centred pastoral and spiritual care. As a head of service role, this is the most senior role a humanist pastoral carer has ever held in the NHS. She is also the youngest person to have held such a position. Humanists UK has congratulated Ms van Dijk. It hopes her appointment will encourage other trusts to embrace more inclusive and diverse pastoral care teams.

Research shows that only 4% of hospital visits by religious chaplains are to non-religious patients. This suggests that non-religious people’s pastoral needs are not met when an NHS trust only has religious chaplains. People in need of support should be able to choose to speak to someone who shares their worldview. Until recently, only religious chaplains provided this kind of service. But recently some NHS trusts have started to introduce non-religious pastoral carers.

Previously, Ms Van Dijk was Lead Chaplain at Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust. She is also the chair of the Non-Religious Pastoral Support Network (NRPSN), which is part of Humanists UK. She holds a BA and MA in humanist pastoral care from the University of Humanistic Studies in the Netherlands. She is currently studying for a PhD in humanist pastoral care. She worked at the Humanist Community at Harvard as a humanist pastoral carer. She held posts in a hospice and nursing home for elderly patients with advanced Alzheimer’s disease. She has also worked as a humanist pastoral carer at a UK secondary school. She is a member of the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP) and accredited by the UK Board of Healthcare Chaplaincy (UKBHC).

Welcoming the appointment, Humanists UK’s Head of Humanist Care Clare Elcombe Webber commented,

‘I am delighted that Lindsay has been appointed to such a senior role within an NHS Trust. A few years ago, such opportunities were not open to humanists. Non-religious people were not able to get the like-minded support that they needed. It is a mark of how far we have come that a humanist is a Head of Chaplaincy and Pastoral Care. We hope this appointment will be a catalyst not only for other trusts to embrace inclusion and diversity, but other public institutions such as the prison service and armed forces to do the same.’

On her appointment, Lindsay van Dijk commented,

‘It is a great honour to be appointed to this position. The heart of my role is to ensure that patients get the person-centred care that they need and is right for them.’

NHS England is currently reviewing its Chaplaincy Guidelines, which set out best practice across pastoral, spiritual, and religious care. Humanists UK is currently working with other religion and belief groups to make sure that the new guidelines address issues of equality and inclusion as standard practice. This includes the need for non-religious pastoral care.

Notes:

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

Ms van Dijk has made an image available for use by media. Photo credit Edward Thompson. Twitter @_edthompson, Instagram @mredthompson.

Read more about Humanist Care.

Read more about the work of the Non-Religious Pastoral Support Network.

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

In 2021, Humanists UK is celebrating its 125th anniversary with a renewed focus on its history. The new website Humanist Heritage is a rich new web resource that uncovers the untold story of humanism in the UK – a story of people, groups, objects, places, movements, publications, and ideas.


Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy ofEdward Thompson. Twitter @_edthompson, Instagram @mredthompson.
  2. https://humanism.org.uk/2021/06/09/most-senior-appointment-yet-for-a-humanist-pastoral-carer-at-an-nhs-trust/

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 UK calls for broad curriculum in schools to protect freedom of thought

Humanists UK has called upon all states to make sure the school curriculum is critical, objective, and pluralistic, particularly in its approach to religions and humanism. This is necessary to safeguard the right to freedom of thought. Humanists UK made this call in response to a consultation issued by Dr Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

International human rights law includes the right to ‘freedom of thought, conscience, religion, or belief’. But, freedom of thought has been little considered in its own right.

Humanists UK said freedom of thought encompasses much more than our private internal experiences. It is a skill set. The skill of being able to seek out, receive, comprehend, and evaluate information. Like any skill, it needs to be taught and developed.

States have a duty to create a culture in which freedom of thought and free enquiry can flourish. In practice, this means having laws that protect people from propaganda and misinformation. It also means schools must teach critical thinking skills. These skills include an understanding of the scientific method. It also means teaching in detail about different religions and humanism, but in a critical, objective, and pluralistic way. All citizens must have access to a wide variety of educational resources, whether that means through books, online, or by other means. And the media also has a strong role to play in informing and educating citizens – particularly public sector media. It must also make sure its content is pluralistic.

Humanists UK also called for the global repeal of blasphemy and apostasy laws. As freedom of thought is an absolute right, no one should be punished because they hold certain thoughts. Laws that criminalise apostatic or blasphemous thoughts are thus incompatible with this right.

Humanists UK’s Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented,

‘Thought is not only a private experience. It is also a skill. Like any crucial skill, it needs to be taught and given the opportunity to develop. Thus, the state must ensure schools teach in a critical, objective, and pluralistic way. We are concerned that in the UK this is not being achieved. Religious education syllabuses still frequently exclude humanism. All state schools must conduct a daily act of compulsory worship – usually Christian in nature. And we are also aware of an increasing number of illegal religious schools. In these schools, the curriculum is extremely narrow, putting the children at risk of indoctrination. We need a society where all schools, the media, and public access to information is diverse and pluralistic.’

Notes:

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

Read the consultation response.

Read more about our education campaigns.

Read more about our international campaigns.

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

In 2021, Humanists UK is celebrating its 125th anniversary with a renewed focus on its history. The new website Humanist Heritage is a rich new web resource that uncovers the untold story of humanism in the UK – a story of people, groups, objects, places, movements, publications, and ideas.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. https://humanism.org.uk/2021/06/09/humanists-uk-calls-for-broad-curriculum-in-schools-to-protect-freedom-of-thought/
  2. https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomReligion/Pages/freedom-of-thought.aspx

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.

Human: The Movie

Upon occasion, a work of art catches our full attention when we least expect it. Maybe that work of art is a magnificent garden, cultivated over decades by a single family with a harmonious vision and discovered down that one street you kept meaning to walk along. Maybe it’s a piece of music that gets into your head and heart so completely from the first time you heard it that it no longer seems to be separate. Or maybe it’s some other bit of human skill and design – some exquisite sculpture, poem, painting, building, guitar, novel, or what have you that stops everything else and occupies you fully.

Human: The Movie is that kind of experience.

The Director’s cut version that I’ve linked from Youtube says in the description box:

What is it that makes us human? Is it that we love, that we fight ? That we laugh ? Cry ? Our curiosity ? The quest for discovery ? Driven by these questions, filmmaker and artist Yann Arthus-Bertrand spent three years collecting real-life stories from 2,000 women and men in 60 countries. Working with a dedicated team of translators, journalists and cameramen, Yann captures deeply personal and emotional accounts of topics that unite us all; struggles with poverty, war, homophobia, and the future of our planet mixed with moments of love and happiness. The VOL.1 deals with the themes of love, women, work and poverty. In order to share this unique image bank everywhere and for everyone, HUMAN exist in several versions : A theatrical version (3h11), a TV version (2h11) and a 3 volumes version for the web

The film appears to have been funded by two foundations The Bettencourt Schueller Foundation whose website says that “from its earliest days, the Foundation’s action has been driven by one unwavering principle: contributing to the common good. Acting with complete freedom while remaining true to this principle, the Foundation focuses on three areas of commitment: life sciences, the arts and inclusive society” and The GoodPlanet Foundation which is an extension of Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s artistic work and environmental commitment. GoodPlanet aims to make ecology and humanism a central issue in order to encourage people to take concrete action for the Earth and its inhabitants. The GoodPlanet Foundation takes action in three main areas: environmental and solidarity field projects, educating people on sustainable development and helping companies and people develop an environmentally responsible approach.

What is the next wave of humanism? In our earlier examination, we argued that  “contemporary humanists of the twenty-first century are concerned with applied humanism – the many ways that humanism is used for solving problems. The New Humanist says, ‘I am Extreme; I am Radical; I am Hardcore. I am Humanist.‘”….and it seems that the contemporary humanists are also saying “I am connected to my world. I care.”

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of: http://www.human-themovie.org/
  2. https://www.fondationbs.org/en
  3. https://www.goodplanet.org/en/

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.

Jane Goodall Receives 2021 Templeton Prize


Pennsylvania, USA, May 20, 2021 – Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, UN Messenger of Peace and world-renowned ethologist and conservationist, whose groundbreaking discoveries changed humanity’s understanding of its role in the natural world, was announced today as the winner of the 2021 Templeton Prize. The Templeton Prize, valued at over $1.5 million, is one of the world’s largest annual individual awards. Established by the late global investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton, it is given to honor those who harness the power of the sciences to explore the deepest questions of the universe and humankind’s place and purpose within it. Unlike Goodall’s past accolades, the Templeton Prize specifically celebrates her scientific and spiritual curiosity. The Prize rewards her unrelenting effort to connect humanity to a greater purpose and is the largest single award that Dr. Goodall has ever received.


“We are delighted and honored to award Dr. Jane Goodall this year, as her achievements go beyond the traditional parameters of scientific research to define our perception of what it means to be human,” said Heather Templeton Dill, president of the John Templeton Foundation. “Her discoveries have profoundly altered the world’s view of animal intelligence and enriched our understanding of humanity in a way that is both humbling and exalting. Ultimately, her work exemplifies the kind of humility, spiritual curiosity, and discovery that my grandfather, John Templeton, wrote and spoke about during his life.”

Jane Goodall Wins the Templeton Prize - SCIFI.radio - Your ...


Dr. Goodall has caused a revolution in how scientists and the public perceive the mental, emotional, and social complexity of animals, regarding them as extensions of ourselves. She was the first to observe that chimpanzees engaged in activities, such as creating tools, which were previously believed to be exclusive to humans. She also proved that they have individual personality, forethought, and complex societies, much like human beings. Through her observations, Dr. Goodall showed that under certain circumstances they wage war and also, like us, show compassion. Most importantly, throughout her career, Dr. Goodall has championed the value of all life forms on Earth, changing both scientific practice and the culture at large.


“I have learned more about the two sides of human nature, and I am convinced that there are more good than bad people,” said Dr. Jane Goodall, in her acceptance statement for the Templeton Prize. “There are so many tackling seemingly impossible tasks and succeeding. Only when head and heart work in harmony can we attain our true human potential.”


“I can identify closely with the motto that Sir John Templeton chose for his foundation, How little we know, how eager to learn, and I am eternally thankful that my curiosity and desire to learn is as strong as it was when I was a child,” she added. “I understand that the deep mysteries of life are forever beyond scientific knowledge and ‘now we see through a glass darkly; then face to face.’”


As the 2021 Templeton Prize laureate, Dr. Goodall filmed a reflection on her spiritual perspectives and aspirations for the world and an interview with Heather Templeton Dill to announce her award. She will
participate in the 2021 Templeton Prize Lectures in the fall.

Dame Jane Goodall: "It's because of our lack of respect ...


Dr. Jane Goodall’s legacy extends beyond her research. As a conservationist, humanitarian and advocate for the ethical treatment of animals, she is a global force for compassion, a United Nations Messenger of Peace, and an icon to millions around the world. She founded the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) in 1977 to continue her work to study and protect chimpanzees while also improving the lives of local communities through education and training. Since then, JGI has conserved 1.5 million acres of forests, supported 13 communities, and provided safe habitats to more than 5,000 chimpanzees and gorillas. Roots & Shoots, her environmental and humanitarian program, has inspired and empowered young people of all ages to become involved in hands-on projects to benefit the community, animals and the environment in over 65countries. Goodall has devoted her life to educating audiences of all ages about the natural world, traveling an average of 300 days per year over the last three decades.


Despite being grounded by the pandemic, her influence and popularity have grown with her virtual participation in events and lectures around the world. Since March 2020, Dr. Goodall has spoken to thousands of people in more than 150 countries, communicating on the global crisis and the connections between the rise of zoonotic diseases, biodiversity, sustainability, poverty, and humanity’s relationship with nature. At the same time, she launched a podcast, The Hopecast, from her attic studio at her childhood home in Bournemouth, England, and at the age of 87 is reaching millions of people through social media.


Dr. Goodall receives the 2021 Templeton Prize in celebration of her remarkable career, which arose from and was sustained by a keen scientific and spiritual curiosity. Raised Christian, she developed her own sense of spirituality in the forests of Tanzania, and has described her interactions with chimpanzees as reflecting the divine intelligence she believes lies at the heart of nature. In her bestselling memoir, A Reason for Hope, these observations reinforced her personal belief system—that all living things and the natural world they inhabit are connected and that the connective energy is a divine force transcending good and evil.

Goodall is the first ethologist and the fourth woman to receive the Templeton Prize since its inception in 1972. The Templeton Prize winner is selected following an extensive selection process that mobilizes an anonymous group of expert nominators from a diverse cross-section of fields, followed by a rigorous ranking process through a panel of judges, who have included royals, former presidents, scientists, and religious leaders. Judges rank nominees according to a range of criteria before scores are calculated for a winner. This year’s nine judges include Cecilia Z. Conrad, Ph.D., CEO of Lever for Change and Managing Director of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; Indra Nooyi, Former Chair and CEO of PepsiCo.; Rev. Dr. Serene Jones of Union Theological Seminary; and Anousheh Ansari, CEO of the XPrize Foundation.

I Was Here.: Jane Goodall


Under the leadership of Heather Templeton Dill, president of the John Templeton Foundation, in 2020 the Templeton Prize updated its nomination process to produce a more diverse candidate pool for its award. Such steps included encouraging the nominations of women, increasing the number of female nominators and judges to more than half, and making a priority of recruiting diverse backgrounds and experiences in the nomination and selection process.


Goodall joins a list of 50 Prize recipients including St. Teresa of Kolkata (the inaugural award in 1973), the Dalai Lama (2012), and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (2013). Last year’s Templeton Prize went to geneticist and physician Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health and leader of the Human Genome Project, for his demonstration of how religious faith can motivate and inspire rigorous scientific research. Other scientists who have won the Prize include Martin Rees (2011), John Barrow (2006), George Ellis (2004), Freeman Dyson (2000), and Paul Davies (1995).


About the Templeton Prize
Established in 1972, the Templeton Prize is one of the world’s largest annual individual awards. It is given to honor individuals whose exemplary achievements advance Sir John Templeton’s philanthropic vision: harnessing the power of the sciences to explore the deepest questions of the universe and humankind’s place and purpose within it. Currently valued at 1.1 million British pounds, the award is adjusted periodically so it always exceeds the value of the Nobel Prize. Winners have come from all faiths and geographies, and have included Nobel Prize winners, philosophers, theoretical physicists, and one canonized saint. The Templeton Prize is awarded by the three Templeton philanthropies: the John Templeton Foundation, based in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, and by the Templeton World Charity Foundation and Templeton Religion Trust, based in Nassau, The Bahamas. To learn more, visit TempletonPrize.org

The Templeton Prize I Celebrating Scientific & Spiritual ...


About the Jane Goodall Institute
The Jane Goodall Institute is a global community-centered conservation organization that advances the vision and work of Dr. Jane Goodall. By protecting chimpanzees and other great apes through collaboration with local communities, best in class animal welfare standards and the innovative use of science and technology, we improve the lives of people, other animals and the natural world we all share. Founded in 1977 by Dr. Goodall, JGI inspires hope through collective action, and is growing the next generation of compassionate changemakers through our Roots & Shoots youth program, now active in over 50 countries around the world. To learn more, visit JaneGoodall.org

Jane Goodall Biography ⋆ (THE TRUE STORY) | Goodread Biography

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of: http://www.la-epoca.com.bo/2018/12/13/jane-goodall-estamos-viviendo-la-sexta-extincion-masiva-de-especies/
  2. https://www.janegoodall.org/our-story/about-jane/

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.

Human Solidarity and Nature Conservation

In our search for interesting, challenging and critical perspectives on contemporary humanism, we occasionally find articles published in other venues that we think humanistfreedoms.com readers may enjoy. The following article was published on Manuel Garcia, Jr.’s personal website on April 11, 2021.



By: Manuel Garcia, Jr.

“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” Carl Gustav Jung [1]

Life is the actualization of potentialities embedded within the biochemical processes that form the mechanisms of genetics and evolution. Does life have a purpose, or is it entirely a statistically random fluke made possible by the astronomical number of possibilities available for the expression of molecular chemistry in the wide array of physical conditions interspersed throughout the vastness of space? To believe that life has a consciously intended purpose is to believe that life is an intentional creation by a conscious supernatural entity or entities. If so, what is that purpose?

We know that the most elementary organisms of proto-life, like the SARS-CoV-2 virus that infects people with the deadly COVID-19 disease, have no purpose beyond the mindless mechanical continuation of their genetic formats, by feeding their metabolisms through parasitism. But, what of more conscious organisms, like: plants, animals, us?

We humans pride ourselves as presumably having the most highly developed conscious minds of all life-forms on Planet Earth (though very deep ecologists and naturalists disagree with this presumptuousness). From this human-centric point of view, the various levels of consciousness of living organisms are all evolutionary adaptations enhancing the survivability of individuals, to thus enhance the likelihood of the propagation and continuation of their species as environmental conditions change.

For believers in the supernatural there is an imposed obligation, or supra-natural goal, or “higher purpose” to human consciousness, which can be most generally characterized as finding union with God. For non-believers, the fully conscious experience of being alive is the totality of that higher purpose. In either case, the realization of that purpose is to be had by the combination of human solidarity and nature conservation.

Homo sapiens are social animals, and their full development as individuals — their realization of purpose — requires social connection and connection with Nature.

TALES BY LIGHT

“Tales by Light” [2] is an Australian television series (in 3 seasons) about the use of photography and videography to tell stories visually so as to change society for the better: activism. Here, I am only writing about episodes from Season 3. By its very nature this series is visually “beautiful” — in terms of the technical perfection of the image composition, capture and presentation — even when abysmally grim and ugly situations are being shown in order to advance the complete story. This is about emotional punch delivered visually. And of course, incredibly happy bursts of emotion are delivered in the same way by the presentation of images of lushly colorful nature, and joyful and inspiring scenes of human warmth, kindness and sheer exuberance. The three stories (each given in two parts) that affected me were:

1, CHILDREN IN NEED: This story, by Simon Lister, is about the children of Dhaka, Bangladesh, who scrounge through the most disgusting, unsafe and unsanitary heaps of rubbish to find scraps of material that can be recycled locally — like plastic forks and containers — in the abysmal poverty of their society; or who do difficult work in unsafe and toxic conditions to support their families. There are millions of these kids in Bangladesh.

Many Bangladeshi kids work in primitive workshops with zero health and safety codes, procedures and equipment, for example to produce pans and bowls by hands pressing sheet metal against spinning mandrels, again with no protective shields from whirling machinery gears and belts right at hand; nor any proper ventilation and filtration to protect them from toxic metal dust, or fumes in workshops using solvents and chemicals.

The story of such child laborers in the poorest societies on Earth is being documented as part of a UNICEF program to bring world (rich world) attention to the problem of child labor, and to generate financial resources to then provide safe and sanitary spaces for such children to be able to get food, education, rest, shelter for the night off the streets, and the joyful companionship of other children. But, since the money these children gain from their difficult and hazardous work is always the lifeline for the support of their families, often of single mothers, such a labor force is considered “normal” in their societies, and lamentably economically essential for these individuals.

The ultimate “solution” for eliminating this heartbreaking situation would be a worldwide awakening to an actual commitment to species-wide human solidarity. That that idea becomes self-evident through the medium of photography testifies to its power as an art-form.

2, PARADISE IN PERIL: This story, by Shawn Heinrichs, is of the conservation of the ocean biodiversity and habitat of the Raja Ampat Islands. Here, the art of photography is being used to present the story of the value of an amazing tropical coral reef and mangrove forest environment in New Guinea (Indonesia).

That story is told in two directions, first “upscale” to the societies of the wealthy industrialized and developed economies, to generate financial resources needed to establish locally manned, maintained, patrolled, owned — and in selected zones sustainably fished — marine reserves, and to ensure their continued operation and ongoing scientific study.

That story is also told “downscale,” in video presentations in their own language to the actual people living in the environments that are being protected, so that new generations of conservationists grow out of the youth of that indigenous population, now fired up with a greater understanding of the positive impact their healthy local environment has on their own lives as well as on the global environment.

The emotional impetus to these conservation efforts, both locally and remotely, is sparked by the visual impact of the photos and videos of the stunning and vibrant beauty of life moving in that magical submerged translucent habitat. The Raja Ampat Islands is one of the few places on Earth where all measures of biodiversity and ecological health are improving right now, even despite advancing global climate change; and this is entirely because of cooperative human intentionality.

3, PRESERVING INDIGENOUS CULTURE: This story by Dylan River, an Australian filmmaker with an Aboriginal grandmother, is of the recording for posterity of Aboriginal ways and languages slowly being lost with the passing away of elders, of the stories behind some of their ancient rock art, of ways of living off the land and sea while being intimately connected to the natural environment, and of community as the essence of being.

On a visit to Arnhem Land, Dylan is immersed into a welcoming ritual by the Yoingu people, whose spokesman at the event states that though Dylan is from far away he is “part of the family” as is everybody in spirit. The entirety of this brief and simple greeting conveys a fundamental truth that is more clearly and wisely stated, and lived by the Yoingu, than with any of the fatuous self-satisfied pronouncements by our many supposedly powerful and always hypocritical political leaders, who collectively oversee and exacerbate the poisonous fractiousness and sociological cannibalism of our national and world societies.

The basic truth here is that every human being “is something Nature is doing” — as Alan Watts put it — and that Nature is integral, it is a harmoniously self-entangling network of life. And that is what healthy human community should be.

I recommend this series to you because of its many simultaneous dimensions of beauty.

To my mind, the financial investments made by the executives of Canon Incorporated, National Geographic (a subscription television network in Australia and New Zealand that features documentaries, and is owned by The Walt Disney Company), and Netflix, to produce and broadcast this series were very worthy, even as I know there would necessarily also have been a component of profit motive in those investment decisions.

What is needed in our world is ever the same: more human solidarity and nature conservation. The wider broadcast of these three stories from the series Tales By Light could help awaken more people to that realization, or at a minimum give some comfort to those who already know.

Acknowledgment: Gretchen Hennig perceptively brought Tales by Light to my attention.

Here is a musical ornamentation to all the above; about a child, really any child: “Chihiro.”
https://soundcloud.com/ellasolanagarcia/chihiro

Notes

[1] “Our age has shifted all emphasis to the here and now, and thus brought about a daemonization of man and his world. The phenomenon of dictators and all the misery they have wrought springs from the fact that man has been robbed of transcendence by the shortsightedness of the super-intellectuals. Like them, he has fallen a victim to unconsciousness. But man’s task is the exact opposite: to become conscious of the contents that press upward from the unconscious. Neither should he persist in his unconsciousness, nor remain identical with the unconscious elements of his being, thus evading his destiny, which is to create more and more consciousness. As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being. It may even be assumed that just as the unconscious affects us, so the increase in our consciousness affects the unconscious.”

C. G. Jung (1875-1961), from the closing chapter of his autobiography “Memories, Dreams, Reflections,” entitled “Life and Death,” written between 1957 and 1961. This excerpt is highlighted and discussed at
https://www.brainpickings.org/2012/03/13/memories-dreams-reflections/

[2] Tales by Light (on Netflix)
https://www.netflix.com/title/80133187

Tales by Light (official website)
https://www.canon.com.au/explore/tales-by-light

Tales by Light (series described)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tales_by_Light


Manuel Garcia, Jr. is a retired physicist who blogs at https://manuelgarciajr.com on “energy, nature, society,” like on global warming; plus idiosyncratic poetry. During his working career he designed many experiments in high power, high energy and explosive energy physics. His orientation is rationalist, leftist, Zen and humanist.

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of:
  2. https://manuelgarciajr.com/
  3. https://www.un.org/ungifts/content/sphere-within-sphere

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.

Mubarak Bala: One Year After

On April 28, 2021, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released the following statement regarding Mubarak Bala.

You may also wish to read Wole Soyinka’s letter on the 100th day of Mubarak’s detention.


One year after: Authorities must comply with Federal High Court decision to release Mubarak Bala on bail

GENEVA (28 April 2021) – UN experts* today called on Nigerian authorities to comply with the decision of the Federal High Court to release the prominent humanist and rights defender Mubarak Bala on bail.

“Today marks one year since Mr. Bala was arrested and detained in Kano State, without any formal charges, on allegations of blasphemy. His arbitrary detention has continued despite our appeals to the Government in May and July last year,” the human rights experts said.

As president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, Mr. Bala had led human rights education campaigns promoting freedom of religion or belief and worked to raise awareness about religious extremism. His arrest on 28 April 2020 followed a petition filed with Kano police a day earlier alleging that he had insulted the Prophet Muhammad in Facebook posts.

“The arrest and prolonged detention of Mr. Bala is not only a flagrant violation of fundamental rights, but it has also had a chilling effect on the exercise of fundamental freedoms in Nigeria,” the UN experts said. “Through his continued detention, the Government is sending the wrong signal to extremist groups that the silencing and intimidation of human rights defenders and minority non-believers is acceptable.”

On 21 December 2020, the Federal High Court in Abuja ruled that Mr. Bala’s detention, as well as the denial of his ability to choose his own legal representation, constituted gross infringements of his rights to personal liberty, fair hearing, freedom of thought, expression and movement. The Court ordered his release on bail and that he be awarded damages of 250,000 Naira (about 650 US dollars).

“We are disappointed that the respondents failed to comply with the Court’s order and blatantly undermined the competence of the judicial system,” said the experts. “The Government must take action to ensure that the responsible authorities respect the due process and enforce the judicial ruling.”

On 27 January, Mr. Bala’s lawyer filed another petition to the Federal High Court in Abuja to summon for Mr. Bala’s bail pending trial, if any. A hearing was scheduled for 20 April, which has not yet taken place because Courts are on strike.

“As soon as the Courts resume, the hearing of the new petition must proceed promptly and the authorities must end this unjustified prolonged detention of Mr. Bala for good,” the experts said.

“We remain deeply concerned for Mr. Bala’s security due to continuous death threats and his overall well-being in detention. Such prolonged incarceration may also amount to a form of psychological torture that could severely impact on his mental and physical health in consequence.

“International law protects everyone’s freedom of thought, conscience and religion or beliefs and the right to opinion and expression but it does not protect religions or beliefs per se. The use of blasphemy law is against international human rights law and the imposition of death penalty based for blasphemy is doubly egregious,” stressed the experts.  


*The experts: Mr. Ahmed Shaheed,Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or beliefMs. Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defendersMr.Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishmentMs. Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental healthMr. Morris Tidball-BinzSpecial Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions;  Mr. Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issuesMs. Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of expression; and Mr. Diego García-Sayán, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.

Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.

Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Check the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief

UN Human Rights, country page: Nigeria

For more information and media requests please contact: Ms. Chian Yew Lim (+ 41 22 917 9938 / clim@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact: Mr. Renato de Souza (+41 22 928 9855 / rrosariodesouza@ohchr.org)Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.

Concerned about the world we live in?
Then STAND UP for someone’s rights today.
#Standup4humanrights and visit the web page at http://www.standup4humanrights.org

Citations and References

  1. https://humanists.international/2020/08/wole-soyinka-sends-message-of-solidarity-to-mubarak-bala/
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/aug/06/wole-soyinka-protests-imprisonment-of-nigerian-humanist-mubarak-bala
  3. https://freemubarakbala.org/
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wole_Soyinka
  5. https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=27033&LangID=E
  6. https://allafrica.com/stories/202104280898.html
  7. https://religionnews.com/2021/04/30/global-pressure-mounts-for-nigerian-atheists-release-after-year-in-detention/

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.


Film Premiere: 8 Billion Angels

8 Billion Angels World Premiere
April 20, 2021 8PM EST/5PM PST

Celebrate Earth Day Week
By joining the world premiere of
8 BILLION ANGELS
with celebrity naturalist Chris Packham, hosting a conversation after the screening with expert panelists including 8 Billion Angels Producer Terry Spahr.

Click HERE for more event information


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.

Next Wave Humanism

Since HumanistFreedoms.com began publication early in 2020, we have witnessed more…and more frequent…signs that humanists around the world are seeking a next wave of humanism. Twentieth century humanism is dead – long live twenty-first century humanism!

What will the next wave of humanism look like?

Is Hardcore Humanism An Answer?

Do an internet search for “Hardcore Humanism” and you will find a website and blog for Dr. Michael Friedman, PhD – a clinical psychologist who promotes ” a life philosophy, therapeutic modality and life coaching program that brings together the compassionate holistic approach of humanistic psychology with the scientific rigor of behavioral therapy. Humanistic psychology promotes unconditional positive regard – a basic belief that all people are good and have value – as they strive to achieve their life’s purpose and best self. With Hardcore Humanism, the Humanistic approach is optimized to include the hardcore work ethic and science-based approach of behavioral therapy. In other words, Hardcore Humanism means not only understanding and accepting yourself but also working in a methodical way to achieve your purpose and find fulfillment.”

Whether Friedman’s clinical approach is particularly novel or not, fundamental to his branding is the marriage of humanism to a commitment so staunch, so unwavering and elemental that it is “hardcore”. Friedman’s podcast and website currently has a wide selection of articles which feature connections between heavy metal and punk subcultures and and music.

Is There Room For A Radical Humanism?

On July 1, 2020 Counterpunch published an article by Julian Vigo calling for a “radical humanism” in response to current social and political events and trends. Despite the bold title, “A Call for Radical Humanism: the Left needs to return to Class Analyses of Power“, Vigo did not directly define “radical humanism”. Nor did Vigo clearly state why or how a proposed return to class analysis of power by The Left would fulfill a radical humanism. Over the course of the article, Vigo jumped instead to a kind of applied radical humanism without providing the reader with the benefit of a defined radical humanism.

Vigo’s article suggests that there are contemporary humanists who crave the presence of a form of humanism that has been absent from contemporary public life and politics.

An exploration of the term radical humanism must begin with definitions of the two root words, humanism and radicalism.

Humanism has a rich, complicated and nuanced history that we’re going to set aside as too vast to explore in a short article. If you’re reading this article, you probably have a reasonably well-informed perspective anyway. For the purposes of this inquiry, the term humanism denotes ethical perspectives which focus exclusively on human (and not supernatural or theistic) actions, interests, values and dignity.

Radicalism on the other hand requires more exploration. Vigo’s article is not clear whether “radical humanism” is intended to suggest an extremist position or whether it is to indicate a form of humanist fundamentalism.

Whether Vigo intended a call for extremism or fundamentalism, or some combination of both, it seems that the call for radical humanism is a call for a stronger and more assertive wave of humanism that prioritizes a search for solutions to the root causes of the problems facing humanity over addressing their symptoms and a focus on substance rather than symbols addressing class.

Julian Vigo has given humanistfreedoms.com permission to republish “A Call for Radical Humanism: the Left needs to return to Class Analyses of Powehttps://humanistfreedoms.com/2021/04/02/essay-a-call-for-radical-humanism-the-left-needs-to-return-to-class-analyses-of-power/.

Who is the New Humanist?

In recent decades, it has been popular to characterize humanism as an ideology of “old white men”. This characterization has become so widely accepted that Roy Speckhardt, the most recent leader of American Humanist Associate recently resigned from the role stating that, “Being at the helm of such an organization as the AHA, whose mission is so critical to our times and whose influence far outstrips its size, was the greatest honor of my life, but I’ve decided it’s time for me to step down and make room for new leadership. It is my emphatic hope that my seat is filled with a Black or Brown humanist because our movement has gone too long without such diversity at the helm and this would open the door for the AHA to truly achieve its potential as a humanist and anti-racist institution.

On March 13, 2021 we published “Humanists – Where Are You” by Jay Rene Shakur. The article is signed as “The New Humanist”. The question of who The New Humanist may be is vital to the future of humanism.

Shakur heads-up the website HipHopHumanism.Com. The website explores the connections between Hip Hop music and culture and humanism. There is an important similarity between Friedman’s linking of metal and punk subculture trends to humanism and Shakur’s work to do the same between Hip Hop and humanism. In either case, within the mirrored statements, “I am Hip Hop” and “I am Punk” or “I am Metal” there is also reflected a particular statement of who the New Humanist is and how they may be found. The New Humanist is part of wide-spread cultural identities as well as niche sub-cultures with values and aesthetics that are no longer exclusive to “the old white man” of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Extreme Humanism

Another example of the contemporary urge toward an assertively-held contemporary humanism may be found in a new management book by Tom Peters titled “Excellence Now: Extreme Humanism“.

That the term humanism would be used as a primary component of a mainstream business-guru-genre book is evidence of just how widespread and essential humanism has become in mainstream culture. And the current appetite is not for yesterday’s average humanism. The appetite is for Extreme Humanism.

Where some parts of society have social sub-culture identities that form a vital connection to their humanism – others have professional sub-cultures. Business gurus and leaders like Peters are pursuing organizational excellence through humanism. The medical profession pursues better medicine through humanism by including humanism as a key-note speaking engagements or through patient relations initiatives. In January of 2021, PhD candidate Daniel Matthews-Ferrero published an article titled “Towards a Humanist Environmentalism” on Spiked where stating “if we are serious about overcoming the environmental challenges that are facing us, and coming up with social solutions to social problems, then humanism must be our starting point. Meanwhile, the technology industry has the Vienna Manifesto on Digital Humanism with an implicit focus on humanism.

Next Wave Humanism

Next Wave Humanism has already begun. It is an ideological building- block of a wide-variety of sub-cultures, professional perspectives, artistic approaches and adjacent ideological movements.

Earlier waves of humanism were pre-occupied with shifting ideological attention away-from supernaturalism and theology and toward humanity. Thanks to the successfully-waged ideological battles of yesterday, Next Wave Humanism is now far less-concerned with that fight. Contemporary humanists of the twenty-first century are concerned with applied humanism – the many ways that humanism is used for solving problems. The New Humanist says, “I am Extreme; I am Radical; I am Hardcore. I am Humanist.


Citations and References

  1. hiphophumanism.com
  2. https://www.hardcorehumanism.com/
  3. https://www.spiked-online.com/2021/01/11/towards-a-humanist-environmentalism/

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.

2021 World Happiness Report

The following content is drawn directly from the WHR website. HumanistFreedoms.com makes no claim to copyright, authorship or accuracy of the mater. We recommend that you visit WHR to review and consider the World Happiness Report’s full 212-pages of observations and analysis.


In observance of the U.N. International Day of Happiness on March 20, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN)Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University (CSD), and partners of the World Happiness Report (WHR) hosted a launch of the 2021 World Happiness Report. As we are living through an exceptional time dealing with the widespread effects of the pandemic, this year’s World Happiness Report discussed world happiness during COVID-19. This is the ninth report from WHR.

This year’s report focuses on the effects of COVID-19 on happiness and how countries have differed in their success in reducing the deaths and maintaining connected and healthy societies. The effects of the pandemic on happiness, mental health, social connections, and the workplace are covered in Chapters 2, 5, 6, and 7 respectively. The choice of strategies for dealing with COVID-19 are covered in Chapters 2,3,4, and 8. The countries that performed best in minimising the direct death toll from COVID-19 were also able to do better on other fronts, including income, employment, and the mental and physical health of the rest of the population.

WHR Figure 2.1 Part 1

The rankings in Figure 2.1 of World Happiness Report 2021 use data that come from the Gallup World Poll surveys from 2018 to 2020. They are based on answers to the main life evaluation question asked in the poll. This is called the Cantril ladder: it asks respondents to think of a ladder, with the best possible life for them being a 10, and the worst possible life being a 0. They are then asked to rate their own current lives on that 0 to 10 scale. The rankings are from nationally representative samples, for the years 2018-2020. They are based entirely on the survey scores, using the Gallup weights to make the estimates representative. The sub-bars in Figure 2.1 show the estimated extent to which each of six factors – levels of GDP, life expectancy, generosity, social support, freedom, and corruption – are estimated to contribute to making life evaluations higher in each country than they are in Dystopia, a hypothetical country that has values equal to the world’s lowest national averages for each of the six factors (see FAQs: What is Dystopia?). The sub-bars have no impact on the total score reported for each country, but instead are just a way of explaining for each country the implications of the model estimated in Table 2.1. People often ask why some countries rank higher than others – the sub-bars (including the residuals, which show what is not explained) are an attempt to provide an answer to that question.

WHR Figure 2.1 Part 2

We use the most recent years in order to provide an up-to-date measure, and to measure changes over time. We combine data from the years 2018-2020 to make the sample size large enough to reduce the random sampling errors. (The horizontal lines at the right-hand end of each of the main bars show the 95% confidence interval for the estimate.) The typical annual sample for each country is 1,000 people. If a country had surveys in each year, then the sample size would be 3,000 people. However, there are many countries that have not had annual surveys, in which case the sample size is smaller than 3,000. Tables 1-3 of the online Statistical Appendix 1 show the sample size for each country in each year. Because of our interest in exploring how COVID-19 has influenced happiness for people in different countries and circumstances, we have done much of our analysis (as reported in Tables 2.2, 2.4, and 2.4).

WHR Figure 2.1 Part 3


At HumanistFreedoms.com we can’t help but wish for a comparative analysis of the WHR’s findings and the establishment of secular conditions around the globe.


Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of : https://worldhappiness.report/
  2. https://bpr.berkeley.edu/2016/05/29/religion-and-politics-the-limitations-of-secularism-and-liberal-discourse-in-the-non-west/

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.

Religion in Revival Puts Secularism Under Siege Around The World

By RAY ARGYLE

Thomas Jefferson, writing to worried Baptists in Danbury, Connecticut in 1802, pledged that his administration would adhere to the “supreme will of the nation” on behalf of the rights of conscience and the free exercise of religion. The First Amendment, he said, had built “a wall of separation between Church & State.” America would have an impenetrable barrier to religious involvement in affairs of state.

File:Rembrandt Peale - Thomas Jefferson - Google Art ...
Thomas Jefferson

One hundred and eighty years later, on April 17, 1982, Queen Elizabeth II gave royal assent to a new Canadian Constitution at a rainy outdoor ceremony in Ottawa. It contained a much heralded Charter of Rights and Freedoms guaranteeing “freedom of conscience and religion” while asserting that Canada was founded on “principles that recognize the supremacy of God.”

Both countries had set out to build secular and humanist societies. The United States, to all appearances, rejected any role for religion in its founding documents. Canada, in contrast, subjected itself – at least titularly – to God’s will. It guaranteed public funding of Roman  Catholic schools and accepted the Queen’s role as head of state and “defender of the faith,” as symbolized by the Anglican Church.

Move forward to 2021 and a world slowly emerging from a global pandemic. What do we find? In the United States, relentless Christian evangelical attacks on secularism; in Canada, almost universal public acceptance for secular social policies. Arrived at free of religious interference, Canada guarantees, among other secular rights,  freedom of choice (abortion rights), the right to medically assisted dying, medical and recreational use of marijuana, and a long-standing ban on capital punishment.

Ironically, the most contentious secular issue in Canada is not the defence of secularism, but whether the Province of Quebec has adopted too rigid a form of secularism through its ban on the wearing of religious symbols (i.e., the hijab) by public service workers in positions of authority. Civil libertarians see Quebec’s “Act Respecting the Laicity of the State” as an unreasonable curtailment of individual rights.

National Assembly, Quebec City | National Assembly, Quebec ...
Quebec’s National Assembly

Around the world, secularism is under siege from religious forces ranging from populist Christian movements in Europe to extremist Islamic elements engaged in terrorist acts. Hindu nationalism in India has fractured a century of secular tolerance of Muslims and Hindus and China – ignoring its own secular constitution – is brutally suppressing its Uighur Muslim minority.

I gained a fuller appreciation of the ferocity of these attacks while researching Inventing Secularism, my biography of secularism’s founder, George Jacob Holyoake. The dangers I saw impelled me to add an epilogue identifying the actors and their strategies behind the assault on secularism which are now mounting around the world.

Thomas Jefferson’s proscription of religious involvement in affairs of state lasted until the mid -20th century. Then, Congress ordered  the phrase “In God We Trust” to appear on U.S. currency and inserted “Under God” into the Pledge of Allegiance. The third Thursday in May was designated as a National Day of Prayer. A secularist organization, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, sees this contrivance for what it is: “… a vehicle for spreading religious misinformation and fundamentalist Christian doctrine under the aegis of the government – precisely what the framers [of the Constitution] were seeking to prohibit.”

These largely symbolic acts, while contrary to the principle that religion should have no place in lawmaking, stand today as minor irritants compared to the systematic attack on secularism that has been unfolding in U.S. courts and legislative bodies, and in countries around the world. The flow of public funds to U.S churches and faith groups through executive orders and court decisions, including an undetermined billions of dollars in COVID-19 relief intended for states and communities, is unprecedented in American history.

Under the guise of strengthening individual freedom, recent decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court have enabled local governments to fund and maintain public religious displays, provide access to public funding for certain religious schools, and allow service providers to discriminate among those whose lifestyles or religious principles they find disagreeable. From a humanist perspective, these actions amount to a reinterpretation of the religion clauses of the First Amendment – one prohibiting the “establishment” of a state religion and the other guaranteeing the “free exercise of faiths.”

Opinion: Does Religion Have a Place in Medicine ...
“A person’s doctor or boss should not be able to use personal religious beliefs to dictate the healthcare their families can or cannot receive,” – American Atheists

As an example of anti-secular legislation by various U.S. states, a new Arkansas law would allow doctors, insurance companies, and employers to deny patients necessary healthcare on the basis of religious beliefs. “A person’s doctor or boss should not be able to use personal religious beliefs to dictate the healthcare their families can or cannot receive,” the watchdog group American Atheists said in a statement.

An air of optimism surrounded the first inter-faith meeting held by Pope Francis when he spent five days with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in Havana in February, 2013.  It was the first such meeting in the nearly thousand years since the Great Schism of 1054 split Christianity between Greek East and Roman West. The newly ordained Pontiff had brought a breath of liberalism to the Vatican and his ability to communicate church doctrine in simple, homespun ways was impressing Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

Any expectation that Francis, as head of the oldest and arguably most influential Christian church would lead his 1.2 billion adherents to a new reality of modern life was quickly dashed. A thirty-point declaration out of Havana confirmed traditional teachings of both the Russian Orthodox and Roman churches. Most notably, the statement marked the Pontiff’s endorsement of a fresh crusade against secularism.

“The transformation of some countries into secularized societies, estranged from all references to God and his truth, constitutes a grave threat to religious freedom,” the statement declared. It attacked the “very aggressive secularist ideology” that seeks to relegate religion “to the margins of public life.” It also declared that “Europe must remain faithful to its Christian roots.”

Aside from alarming humanists, the declaration troubled some Catholics. Jon O’Brien, president of the Washington-based Catholics for Choice, said it misrepresented the true meaning of secularism. “A secular society is not one in which one religion or religious belief is in any way opposed, but one in which all citizens can practice as they see fit. In a secular society, we can have freedom of religion and freedom from religion.”

Since Havana, Pope Francis has stepped up his assaults on secularism. In 2017 he traveled to Egypt to meet President al-Sisi and defend a “vision of healthy secularism” that he would like to see accepted by Muslim countries.  The Pontiff’s remarks made it evident that the trade-off for acceptance of his version of a neutered secularism would allow religion to dictate public policies on issues the Church regards itself and the Bible as sole arbiters. He pressed his attack in celebrating World Mission Day in 2019. “Rampant secularism”, he said, “when it becomes an aggressive cultural rejection of God’s active fatherhood in our history, is an obstacle to authentic human fraternity.”

During Pope Francis’s reign, virulent attacks on secularism have emerged in the American Catholic press. The National Catholic Register, which describes itself as the most faithful Catholic news source in the United States, has blamed secularism for the crimes of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, declaring “Secularism in any of its guises is deadly.”  Its article was headed ‘Beware the Stormtroopers of Secularism’ and was illustrated with a picture of Nazi troops in Poland taking a Catholic priest to his execution. Such hyperbole overlooks the fact that the Nazis defied secularist principles by persecuting a people based on their religious identity, while the Soviet campaign of atheism invaded the secularist right to freedom of religion.

This preoccupation with secularism is consistent with Pope Francis’s staunchly conservative theology, despite occasional flashes of liberality. Having cheerfully asserted that atheists should follow their conscience and can still go to heaven if they approach God “with a sincere and contrite heart,” Pope Francis also spoke tolerantly of same-sex relationships. “Who am I to judge?” he replied off-handedly in answer to a question about a gay priest. More recently, he has warned that priestly celibacy must be strictly adhered to and on other issues has reflected traditional Catholic views: opposition to abortion, birth control and gay marriage, denial of the right to assisted death, and restrictions on the role of women in the Church. Pope Francis has dealt with child sex abuse, a phenomenon endemic within the Catholic priesthood,  by ending the edict imposing secrecy on anyone reporting sexual abuse, and has ordered church leaders to report sex abuse cases and sex abuse cover-ups.

Why 780 retired generals and former national security ...
Former President Donald Trump Holding Christian Bible

In the United States, the deep strain of religiosity running through American politics has encouraged militant Christian evangelists in their determination to apply religious tests to civil legislation, and to gain public funding through means that violate the First Amendment. A 2020 survey by the respected Pew Institute had half of Americans (49%) saying the Bible should have at least “some influence” on U.S. laws, with more than a quarter (28%) holding the view that the Bible should take priority over the will of the people. Well known examples  include denial of LGBTQ rights, restrictions to abortion, withdrawal of funding to organizations like Planned Parenthood, and cancellation of foreign aid to  countries permitting family planning (a policy reversed by President Biden).

In such an environment, politicians are generally reluctant to express a commitment to humanist values. There are exceptions. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives, declined to attend the 2020 National Prayer Breakfast and just over a dozen Democrats make up the Congressional Freethought Caucus. Its most recent recruit is Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, a Muslim. Its perhaps most notable member is Rep. Jared Huffman of California who has declared himself a “non-religious humanist.”

Between 2017 and 2021, President Donald Trump and members of his cabinet came down consistently in favor of evangelical political positions. According to Mat Staver, president of Liberty Counsel, a legal advisory organization, about ninety per cent of fundamentalist goals were achieved under the Trump administration. “He’s been the most pro-religious freedom and pro-life president in modern history,” Staver told the Associated Press. 

“We will not let anyone push God from the public square,” President Trump declared. American states began to require schools to post the slogan In God We Trust on classroom walls. The State of Mississippi, in design of a new state flag, dictated it bear the same words.

These challenges to secularism were echoed in U.S. Attorney-General William Barr’s claim, made in a speech to the University of Notre Dame law school, that “militant secularists” were behind a “campaign to destroy the traditional moral order”.

Appointments to the Supreme Court by Republican presidents – in power for 24 years between 1981 and 2021 – have securely embedded conservative and pro-religious views on the nation’s highest judicial body.  Trump appointees Neil Gorsuch, Brent Kavanagh and Amy Coney Barrett tilted the Court further to the right.

The United States faces anti-secularism on other fronts, including white Christian nationalist groups like the Proud Boys and the instigators of QAnon who participated in the January 6 putative insurrection in Washington,  and neo-Nazi groups of the type that gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, to defend a Civil War monument and chant “Blood and Soil”, a Nazi rallying cry.

Secularists have welcomed the election of Joe Biden, a practicing Catholic, as President. But they look with concern on his repeated invoking of God and prayer and his description of America as a nation “sustained by faith.” Such comments are seen as a contradiction to the separation of church and state and an expression of disrespect to the nearly one-third of Americans – atheists, agnostics and other non-religious – who hold dissenting views.

Blasphemy prosecutions abound across the Muslim world. They provide a convenient legal process that near-theocratic states employ to control dissent and repress humanist expression.  The connection with secularism as known in the West may seem remote, but every charge of blasphemy is an offence to secularism and everything secularism stands for – democratic rule, human rights, religious freedom and freedom from religion, the exclusion of religion from public life, and government non-involvement in religious natters.

Assailants hack to death writer Avijit Roy, wife injured ...
Rafida Bonya Ahmed and Avijit Roy

In Bangladesh, human rights advocate Rafida Bonya Ahmed and her husband were attacked by a machete-wielding gang enraged by his online anti-religious, secularist comments. Police stood by as he was murdered. Appearing before a U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs subcommittee, she identified 83 countries with blasphemy laws carrying penalties of fines, torture, imprisonment, and death.

While blasphemy – showing contempt or lack of reverence for God – is considered a major crime in Muslim countries, apostasy – abandoning the faith – is considered an even greater offence. Ten countries impose the penalty of death for apostasy.

An Asian nation beset by the disintegration of secularism is India, where the Hindu nationalist government of Narendra Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has embarked on policies that repudiate the country’s long secularist tradition. The BJP’s policies are having the effect of turning religions that did not originate on Indian soil – notably Islam and Christianity – into alien essences. The most controversial is a Citizenship Act that provides for refugees who came to India from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal to be given expedited access to citizenship – providing they are not Muslims. A U.S. government commission on international religious freedom has called for punitive measures against India, citing a “drastic turn downward” in religious freedom.

Across Europe, secularism is under siege in many nations. In Poland, the ruling Law and Justice party has imposed a near-total ban on abortion, criminalized sex education in schools; and equated homosexuality with pedophilia. The German state of Bavaria mandated that government buildings display a crucifix to show the region’s “social and cultural identity.” In Hungary a populist government led by Viktor Orban has cracked down on the press and driven the Central European University, a research-focused institute founded by billionaire George Soros, out of the country.

Turkey, once the most secular of Muslim nations, has almost totally abandoned secularism under a government that has repudiated the policies of Mustafa Kemal “Ataturk”, who initiated modernization of the country in the 1920s. After jailing opponents and gaining control of most Turkish media, President Recep Erdogan has openly called for re-establishment of an Islamic state. In a dramatic move toward this goal, the historic Hagia Sophia, a secular museum since 1936, has been restored as a mosque. Within a month the mediaeval Church of the Holy Saviour, one of Istanbul’s most celebrated Byzantine buildings that has been a secular museum for more than 70 years, was also converted into a mosque.

England and France also have been affected by the strains of anti-secularism. The two countries have taken different historic paths to secularism but both have suffered terrorist attacks – notably the Charlie Hebdo and Bataclan Concert bombings in Paris and a London subway bombing and an attack on a Manchester concert venue in which 22 people were killed. These events traumatized people in both countries, although the victims were far fewer than the 3,000 who died in New York on September 11, 2001.

Secularists in the United Kingdom accept, reluctantly, the role of the Queen as head of its established church, but wage an unrelenting campaign to remove religious control from state-funded schools. They also oppose the appointment of the 26 Church of England bishops who sit in the House of Lords, pointing out that Iran is the only other state where the clergy are represented as of right.

Inventing Secularism: The Radical Life of George Jacob ...

Attacks on secularism, if not vigorously opposed, will lead inevitably to a world of less freedom and more oppression. A more positive alternative has been articulated by George Jacob Holyoake, the English social reformer who invented the term secularism in 1851. Writing in his groundbreaking Principles of Secularism, he saw it a duty to promote “the immediate and material welfare of humanity … amid whatever diversity of opinion may subsist in a Secular Society.” This is the challenge secularism still must meet, if it is to withstand the attacks of resurgent religious forces throughout the world.

Ray Argyle is author of Inventing Secularism: The Radical Life of George Jacob Holyoake, published by McFarland & Co, USA.. He lives in Kingston, Ontario.


References and Resources

  1. Featured Image Courtesy of: https://www.abc.net.au/religion/only-secularism-can-save-us-from-extremism/10098134
  2. https://www.flickr.com/photos/63649137@N06/6252130586/in/photolist-cdPBRm-bPdQsa-awtNAW-9HpbCn-M8B4n-efub9n-43a6yD-baQB5a-bPdQqt-eK8vKn-b2KNTi-a18Nu3-5G4ofC-69ojc2-7YBiBn-baQCQe-aguYhd-avTXvJ-6ZNbzx-cdPBmS-aYk7XT-bep9h4-bisKSH-nJ5DPm-aYk7Wv-9Hpb66-8a2vKV-e39fdG-dx1ES3-9FqS13-aWuLoZ-apWstA-a15W8z-e9TLhE-baQCSr-ny4pk5-fP8bjU-aYk7UZ-b96sYv-gfmmWQ-mHhgPb-b2KNRF-aWuPQF-bWpHPY-9Hs4dQ-6DwUej-aonVsc-acJQns-c4y6no-bs5jLr
  3. https://www.neurologyadvisor.com/topics/general-neurology/opinion-does-religion-have-a-place-in-medicine/

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.