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BC Humanists’ World Humanist Day EVENT: George Jacob Holyoake

Visit the Event Page

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are a registered charitable organization. Our mission is:

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

Sources, Citations and References

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



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

Virtual Book Launch: Ray Argyle’s Biography of George Jacob Holyoake

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Conway Hall Ethical Society presents:

*ONLINE* National Secular Society: Inventing Secularism – The Radical Life of George Jacob Holyoake – book launch with Ray Argyle

Thursday 22nd April @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm (London, UK) – 2pm Eastern Daylight Time !

Event Navigation

 BOOK NOW

** This is an ONLINE only event. Please register for an online ticket using the “Book Now” link **

* Conway Hall is a charity and we politely ask you to add a donation of at least £5 when registering. *


You may recall Ray Argyle from his articles here on humanistfreedoms.com (search for “Ray Argyle” using the search tool). If you’re as crazy for the history of humanism and secularism as we are, you’ve been anticipating the release of his biography of George Jacob Holyoake for months. Well the virtual book launch is upon us!

What follows is the press-release information shared with us when the book was in pre-launch phase. We’re still reading and expect to launch our review soon!


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

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

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

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

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

Inventing Secularism, US$45.00, is available for pre-order at https://mcfarlandbooks.com/product/inventing-secularism.  

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


Sources, Citations and References

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


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

Books: The Sirens of Mars – Searching For Life on Another World By Sarah Stewart Johnson

On February 18, 2021 NASA’s Perseverance rover landed on the surface of Mars. Perseverance is the largest, most advanced rover NASA has sent to another world. It travelled 472 million kilometers over 203 days and the intact landing was broadcast live via the internet for anyone with an internet connection to witness.

Humanity is deep into exploration of another planet. If that doesn’t whet your appetite to know more about the possibilities of planetary exploration and planetary biology – including all of the philosophical and metaphysical implications they bring…we’re not sure what will!

The Sirens of Mars: Searching for Life on Another World ...
Sarah Stewart Johnson’s The Sirens of Mars

In 2020, Sarah Steward Johnson‘s publishers released The Sirens of Mars – Search for Life on Another World. At a little-over 200 pages in hardcover, the publisher’s categorize the book as “biography and memoir” given the frequent inclusion of personal anecdotes and reflections of the author’s life and relationship to the subject.

Sarah Stewart Johnson is an assistant professor of planetary science at Georgetown University. A former Rhodes Scholar and White House Fellow, she received her PhD from MIT and has worked on NASA’s Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity rovers. She is also a visiting scientist with the Planetary Environments Lab at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Countdown to Mars | Astrobiology

Stewart Johnson’s writing style is very approachable and relatable. It is a meaningful and worthwhile trend that scientists publish books which reflect their individual humanity as well as the humanistic principles that are deeply embedded in the work that they do.

The book includes a history of Mars exploration beginning with Plato,
Galileo and Isaac Newton through to both NASA’s and Russia’s programs as well as informative glimpses of the science behind one of humanity’s most astounding projects. The book is aimed at a broad and general audience but it isn’t a “picture book”, so if you’re looking to be inspired by photos of the red planet, the internet is a better source.

At the end of the book, Stewart Johnson writes, “In writing this book, I’ve come to understand better the meaning I find in searching for life. I’ve also come to appreciate all the people who came down this path before me and the astonishing lives they led, as well as the remarkable colleagues with whom I have the privilege of working today. In my final acknowledgements, I wish to extend my gratitude to all of those people, throughout the generations and across the disciplines, who have created and continue to deepen this field. If we find life on Mars, we will have done it together. In the meantime, we have this great human project, and we have one another.”

The book is worth the time and resources you may spend in its acquisition and study.

Side view of tilted rock layers on Mars

Citations, References And Other Reading

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of : https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/
  2. https://mars.nasa.gov/mer/mission/overview/
  3. https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/
  4. https://mars.nasa.gov/news/8865/touchdown-nasas-mars-perseverance-rover-safely-lands-on-red-planet/
  5. https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/529592/the-sirens-of-mars-by-sarah-stewart-johnson/

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s fresh.

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

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

Citations, References And Other Reading

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

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

Humanist Wins 2020 Ottawa Book Awards

HumanistFreedoms.com is thrilled to celebrate the recent announcement that one of our favourite poets and humanists, Henry Beissel, is a winner of the 2020 Ottawa Book Awards.

Henry Beissel is a poet, playwright, fiction writer, translator and editor. He has published 44 books published including 22 collections of poetry. He lives in Ottawa with his wife Arlette Francière, the literary translator and artist. While copies of the critically acclaimed Cantos North(1980 & 2017) and a poet-autographed copy of Fugitive Horizons (2013) adorn our shelves, it was Beissel’s Footprints of Dark Energy (2019) which caught the eye of the Ottawa Book Awards jury (Paul Carlucci, Lyse Champagne, Amatoritsero Ede).

Jury Statement for Footprints of Dark Energy: Part Idyll, part love song and mostly about man in nature, Henry Beissel’s Footprints of Dark Energy approaches the sublime in its epic treatment of its subjects. The meditative undertones of the shorter poems coalesce into the epigrammatic wit of the long title poem, and all are bolstered by the narration’s majestic sweep. 

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

Courtesy of Youtube and the ongoing COVID-19 social environment, you can enjoy a highly personal, yet socially distanced, reading by the poet himself:

Since 1985, the Ottawa Book Awards have recognized the top English and French books published in the previous year. Both languages have categories for fiction and non-fiction. All shortlisted finalists receive $1,000 and each winner receives a prize of $7,500. 

Footprints of Dark Energy

Winners of the 2020 Ottawa Book Awards were announced during a virtual ceremony on Wednesday, October 21, 2020, at 6:00 p.m. To watch a recording of the event, please visit:

Ottawa Public Library’s Facebook page!

Congratulations Henry! And well done! We admire the many contributions you have made to humanism and poetry.

Sources, Citations and References

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of https://ottawa.ca/en/arts-heritage-and-events/ottawa-book-awards#2020-winners-and-finalists
  2. https://www.henrybeissel.com/
  3. https://www.cbc.ca/books/beverley-mclachlin-henry-beissel-win-2020-ottawa-book-awards-1.5772822
  4. https://ottawacitizen.com/entertainment/beverley-mclachlin-beissel-among-winners-of-ottawa-book-awards
  5. https://theworldnews.net/ca-news/finalists-announced-for-2020-ottawa-book-awards
  6. https://canlit.ca/article/gifts-for-the-journey/

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

BOOKS: Pre-order Opportunity

You may recall Ray Argyle from his July 2020 article here on humanistfreedoms.com. If you’re as crazy for the history of humanism and secularism as we are, you’ve been anticipating the release of his biography of George Jacob Holyoake for months. Well the pre-order opportunity is here!

What follows is the press-release information shared with us…and now with you.

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

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

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

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

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

Inventing Secularism, US$45.00, is available for pre-order at https://mcfarlandbooks.com/product/inventing-secularism.  

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


Sources, Citations and References

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The book is well-worth the time spent.

Citations, References And Other Reading

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

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

Books: Kingdom of Frost

An award-winning science journalist explains what Earth’s frozen waters tell us about the past, present, and future of humanity.

Bjørn Vassnes is one of Norway’s leading science journalists and has won several national and international prizes. He has a regular science column in the newspaper Klassekampen, and has written several books for a popular science audience. He was also part of a popular Science TV-show “Schrødingers Katt” on NRK. Vassnes has been around the science journalism block. Having grown up in the Norwegian Arctic, one of the coldest places on Earth, he also knows his way around cold weather.

Vassnes frostens rike hd

The cryosphere, what Vassnes calls “The Kingdom of Frost“, is a term for those parts of the earth that contain frozen water; like snow, ice, permafrost, glaciers and even a phenomenon known as invisible glaciers. It’s a part of the world that is close to the hearts of Norwegians like Vassnes or Canadians like us at humanistfreedoms.com. The book benefits from a consciously Norwegian outlook.

Vassness explores how this shrinking frozen zone, from the peaks of mountains to the north and south poles, is still vital to human survival. It supplies us with water and helps cool cities from Bangladesh to Bangkok, Los Angeles to Oslo.

To tell the story of how the cryosphere helped to start life on Earth, Vassnes draws on cultural history and anthropology. He also offers a view on what will happen if it all disappears. Vassnes surveys climate research, biology, cultural history and archaeology. Weather you live in it or not, The Kingdom of Frost affects all life on earth.

Plus there are important summaries of recent climate science such as methane bubbles and explosions in Northern tundra and deep concerns about the potential effects of permafrost thaw. Vassness cites work by Ted Schuur which suggests that the upper 10 feet of permafrost, which contains more carbon than is currently present in the atmosphere, may thaw over the next 100 years.

Kingdom of Frost didn’t take us long to read as it is a slim (less than 200-pages) book and the English-language version was nicely translated by Lucy Moffatt.

Kingdom of Frost

Citations and References

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of https://www.dagsavisen.no/kultur/nekter-a-svare-om-margbok-1.283400
  2. https://greystonebooks.com/products/kingdom-of-frost
  3. https://norla.no/nb/books/927-the-kingdom-of-frost
  4. https://moffatt-editorial.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.

Listen: “the laborious, collaborative and sometimes poorly-compensated work of humanist scholarship between the Renaissance and Enlightenment”

From Francis Bacon to Barack Obama, thinkers and political leaders have denounced humanists as obsessively bookish and allergic to labor. In this celebration of bookmaking in all its messy and intricate detail, renowned historian Anthony Grafton invites us to see the scholars of early modern Europe as diligent workers.

That’s how the publishers of Anthony Grafton’s new book, Inky Fingers: The Making of Books in Early Modern Europe (Harvard University Press: June 2020) begin their exposition of the book.

To begin our approach to the labours of book-making, we turned first to a podcast! While that may be seem ironic, the rapid growth of podcasts as a transmission vehicle for information is fascinating to consider in light of the subject. Surely there is plenty of messy, intricate detail involved in producing any one of the thousands upon thousands of podcasts currently available.

In Theory is the podcast of the Journal of the History of Ideas Blog. On September 1, 2020 In Theory’s co-host Simon Brown interviewed Grafton on themes to be found in the book.

Grafton is the Henry Putnam Professor of History and the Humanities at Princeton University and has taught both undergraduate and graduate courses on art, magic, and science in Renaissance Europe and on the history of books and readers as well as the history components of Princeton’ four-course undergraduate introduction to Western civilization offered by the Program in Humanistic Studies.

Grafton’s special interests lie in the cultural history of Renaissance Europe, the history of books and readers, the history of scholarship and education in the West from Antiquity to the 19th century, and the history of science from Antiquity to the Renaissance.

Included in Grafton’s many publishing achievements are several “intellectual biographies” of a variety of original and influential thinkers such as a 15th-century Italian humanist, architect, and town planner, Leon Battista Alberti; a 16th-century Italian astrologer and medical man, Girolamo Cardano; and a 16th-century French classicist and historian, Joseph Scaliger.

Over the course of the In Theory podcast interview, Grafton discussed the various kinds of human labour involved in producing the works of scholarship, taking pains to contrast it with previous views of scholarship which relied on “divination” as the explanation of how scholarship worked. In considering textual divination Grafton suggested, “scholars realized that all that divination means is that you’re simultaneously applying many different kinds of knowledge: lexical, grammatical, stylistic, knowledge of the use of the author, knowledge of historical context, knowledge of the development of the language, knowledge of meter if its verse. All of those things are being focused down on a single passage and that’s what enables you to divine the answer. There’s nothing miraculous about it. It’s a highly interdisciplinary and remarkably erudite process.

At a little over forty-seven minutes in length, the interview is worth the listen. It is a reminder of the often-ignored but still necessary supportive contributions made by people that enable academic or intellectual output – whether that work is by a printing press operator, a scribe or a sound technician.

It also offers a vantage point to consider the subtle ways that systemic faithism has been, and arguably continues to be, deeply engaged in obscuring or appropriating human endeavour.

Finally, a listen to the interview suggests that Grafton’s book will provide valuable and interesting insights into humanistic scholarship. According to the publisher’s website, “Meticulously illuminating the physical and mental labors that fostered the golden age of the book—the compiling of notebooks, copying and correction of texts and proofs, preparation of copy—he shows us how the exertions of scholars shaped influential books, treatises, and forgeries. Inky Fingers ranges widely, tracing the transformation of humanistic approaches to texts in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and examining the simultaneously sustaining and constraining effects of theological polemics on sixteenth-century scholars. Grafton draws new connections between humanistic traditions and intellectual innovations, textual learning and craft knowledge, manuscript and print. Above all, Grafton makes clear that the nitty-gritty of bookmaking has had a profound impact on the history of ideas—that the life of the mind depends on the work of the hands.


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.


Sources, Citations and References

  1. Featured Photo Courtesy of: https://www.unibas.ch/de/Aktuell/News/Uni-Agenda/Anthony-Grafton-haelt-Basel-History-Lecture-2018.html
  2. https://history.princeton.edu/people/anthony-grafton
  3. https://soundcloud.com/jhi-blog/inky-laborious-humanism-simon-brown-interviews-anthony-grafton
  4. https://jhiblog.org/2020/08/31/in-theory-simon-brown-interviews-anthony-grafton-on-the-labor-of-humanist-scholarship/
  5. https://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674237179

Little Book of Humanism

A timely new book by Humanists UK President Alice Roberts and Chief Executive Andrew Copson is to offer universal lessons on finding meaning, purpose, and joy in our ever more uncertain world.

The Little Book of Humanism, published on 27 August, shares over two thousand years of humanist wisdom through an uplifting collection of illustrations, stories, quotes, and meditations on how to live an ethical and fulfilling life, grounded in reason and humanity. The book quotes everyone from ancient philosophers like Epicurus and Mencius, through to contemporary humanist sources of inspiration such as Frozen and The Good Place actor Kristen Bell, the novelists Zadie Smith and Margaret Atwood, and the playwright and poet Wole Soyinka.

It examines how humanity came to be, our unique place in the world, and why humanists reject religious explanations, before offering reflections on how to be good, how to live well, and how to think clearly. It emphasises the need to celebrate diversity and promote equality and why we should rely on science for the answers to many of life’s most important questions. Finally, it offers some particularly timely reflections on death and dealing with loss. It does all of this whilst drawing upon a cornucopia of humanist thought from many of the world’s greatest thinkers, accompanied by beautiful original illustrations.

Welcoming the publication of their book, authors Andrew Copson and Alice Roberts commented: ‘In the past, people were more likely to turn to religion during times of crisis than look to other sources of guidance. But there has always been an alternative – the humanist approach – and in today’s UK, where most people are now not religious, that alternative is more relevant than ever.  We hope this book offers timely sources of guidance, comfort, and inspiration, in a way that has a positive and lasting impact on people’s lives.’

The book can be purchased from Waterstones, Amazon, Blackwell’s, and all good bookshops, with both hardback and eBook available at £7.99 RRP. It is published by Piatkus Books, an imprint of Little, Brown. Author royalties from the book go towards supporting the work of Humanists UK.

About the authors

Professor Alice Roberts is a writer, broadcaster, and President of Humanists UK. She is the bestselling author of eight popular science books including Evolution: The Human Story, The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being and Tamed: Ten Species that Changed Our World. Making her television debut on Time Team in 2001, she has become one of Britain’s best-known broadcasters and has written and presented a huge range of television series for BBC2, BBC4 and Channel 4, including The Incredible Human Journey, Origins of Us and Ice Age Giants, and several Horizon programmes. Her humanist ‘mini-sermons’ on Twitter have been liked and shared many thousands of times.

Andrew Copson is the Chief Executive of Humanists UK and President of Humanists International. He has provided a humanist voice on many television and radio programmes and written on humanism for publications including The Economist, New Statesman, Guardian, Prospect, The Times and Buzzfeed. With AC Grayling, he edited the Wiley Blackwell Handbook of Humanism and his most recent book is Secularism: A Very Short Introduction.


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.

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