Saturday, June 16, 2012

Introducing The "Communicating with Believers" Page

Today we added a new page to our website. The Communicating with Believers page is intended to be a resource for freethinkers, humanists, atheists, etc., to defend or simply explain their (lack of) beliefs. We are hoping to build a comprehensive database of essays and websites intended to aid in communicating with believers.

Maybe you just told your family that you don't believe in God and they come to you with passages from the Bible. How do you explain why that isn't good enough? What if they argue that you can't disprove God's existence so you might as well go to church to avoid hell fire? Maybe our site will be able to help.

The page is a work in progress. So far we have only one document written by our current President, Jim Sullivan. If you have any suggestions that fall into the category of "communicating with believers," please send us a suggestion at gainesvillehumanists@gmail.com.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Defining Humanism

What does it mean to be a secular humanist? Is it just a euphemism for atheist, or does it mean something different? While most secular humanists do also identify as atheists, there may be a subtle difference in terms, whether by the technical definitions or by their connotations.

The word humanism, in its current sense, was first used in mid 18th century France and roughly meant "A general love of humanity." Today, the American Humanist Association defines humanism as [...] a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity. Does that mean that a humanist cannot have theism and supernatural beliefs, or does it mean that a humanist just doesn't use supernatural beliefs to guide his/her ethical life?

Now, the word "secular" is a little less vague. It means, roughly, separate from religion, or only pertaining to worldly things.

Another word that we hear often when talking about atheism, humanism, etc., is agnosticism. Agnosticism is the belief that supernatural claims cannot be proven or disproven with the current set of data (or potentially at all, ever). By that definition that would certainly make most Christians agnostic (it is all about faith, right?) and it certainly makes atheists agnostic. We cannot truly claim to know God does not exist, can we? Colloquially, agnosticism is used to suggest one's own doubt about whether or not a claim is true.

However, the most important definition of a word comes from how people actually use it. How do you identify yourself? What do these words mean to you when you hear them? Is "secular humanism" a redundant term, or can there be religious humanism?

Monday, May 21, 2012

An Afternoon with Humanists

In May of 2011, the Humanist Society of Gainesville gathered the day Harold Camping's predicted rapture.  We decided that if we were going to be left behind, we might as well enjoy ourselves!

Alas, Harold Camping's calculations were off... but that just gave us more time to enjoy a second party.  On Sunday, May 20th, our members and friends met for a picnic at Boulware Springs Park. 




We shared great weather, delicious food, and excellent company and conversation.  Thanks to all of the participants who came out to enjoy the day with us, and special thanks to our event photographer, Brigitta!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Community Voices

The Humanist Society of Gainesville participated in the Hippodrome’s Community Voices event on April 23.  We had a table at the event and well over 100 people had a chance to see what we are about.  We had a number of people sign up to be on our email list and the poster that Brandi designed for us was impressive.  This event consists of dramatic readings by Hippodrome actors or students followed by everyone gathering for snacks in an area where tables for the participating organizations where set up.

Our poster


This event was our first try at “tabling” and we used this as an opportunity to learn how to be more effective in this type of setting.  Our members who participated directly in this event included Brigitta Cuadros, Brandi P., Ginger Andrews, Pierce Butler, and Jim Sullivan.

The Hippodrome plans for this to be an annual affair and we look forward to participating again next year.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Grant from the American Humanist Association

By Jim Sullivan

Some time ago our now past president Susan Bergert applied for a grant from the American Humanist Association to allow us to purchase audio visual equipment and some other items.  The request was for $1,850.00.  We were awarded a $1,000.00 grant.

With this grant plus a little from our treasury we have purchased and received the following audio visual equipment.

An Epson Powerlite Presenter Portable Projector/DVD Player Combo (V11H335120)
Photo courtesy of Epson

A Gigant Multi-Purpose Projection Stand
Photo courtesy of Amazon.com

An 84 inch Picture King 50 X 67 Matte White 4:3 Video Tripod Screen
Photo courtesy of Amazon.com


With this equipment we will be able to play DVD’s, project computer images, and/or make powerpoint presentations at our meetings.

We are very thankful to the American Humanist Association of which we are one chapter for this generous grant and look forward to using this equipment.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Coming Out

Written by Brigitta

Childhood experiences taught me early on that there is no god.  I tested the limits of the Catholic religion that I was born into and as a result grew up fearless of the dark, of things that go bump in the night and of imaginary beings.  Santa Claus was the easiest when I pulled his beard to reveal the face of a neighbor.  I learned catechism and attended church as required. There was no body of Christ and I didn't go to hell after spitting the tasteless wafer into my hand.  There was a simple joy of learning for learning sake.

My attempt at learning about other religions was misconstrued as a search for god.  It was important to understand what religion is and how it works. Once understood, it loses it’s effectiveness.  My intent was to deal with the unrelenting religious propaganda and faith based, circular and irrational arguments that would label me an outcast.  My lack of faith turned into it’s own irrational belief that threatened to cost social ability, connection and autonomy.  Observation taught me that my atheism would cost me my career.   When I questioned my ‘born again’ brother about his beliefs he chose to end our relationship.  Another desperate family member lectured me about god, trying to save me from the pain of eternal hell fire.  In my growing circle of atheist friends, none dared to express their views on religion openly.  All marked their religion ‘box’ as ‘other’. 

In my opinion, the faithful and atheists have one thing in common.  We are all held down by the relentless propaganda system of organized religion and their constant re-enforcement to prevent us from pursuing our own interests instead of the self serving illusion of the church.  The religious must be told every day what the story is – the value of religion or they will turn to seeking an alternative to becoming more human, compassionate and connected to a concern for others and the planet.  Religion is based on a belief that we are relatively powerless. Churches freely exploit the freedom of speech for their own ends and very consciously and professionally manipulate people away from critical  thinking by controlling the perception of reality.

Like the comfort of returning to a prison cell, some return to the old time fables when facing their mortality because stepping into the beautiful light of reality is in conflict of deep, unresolved childhood fears of the boogie man, that were put in place to serve as the scaffolding for believing the unbelievable. It takes courage to step into the light.  But the rich reward of freedom, knowledge and fearlessness may be similar to being born again.  This time, without original sin. 
You are not alone.  We are leaving a light on for you.



Sunday, April 22, 2012

Survey Results

If you're on our email list, you should remember recently receiving an invitation to participate in our survey.  Our group has grown significantly over the course of the past two years, and we wanted to take the opportunity to find out what sort of things our members and supporters need and want from this organization.

The results are in, and in case you missed our last meeting, we're posting them here for you to check out:

Demographics
55% of respondents were female, 40% were male, and 5% did not identify as male or female.
 
Eight of our respondents were less than 50 years old, and 15 were over 50.
 

Participation
 
 79% of respondents read articles posted on our website at least some of the time.
  
69% of respondents participate in our general monthly meetings at least some of the time.

 

57% of respondents participate in social events at least some of the time.

  
Preferences and Insights

Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday are preferred meeting and activity days.


 Community service was the top priority for group activities, followed by guest speakers and discussion groups. 

Group Activities Rankings
1
Community Service
2
Guest Speakers
3
Discussion Groups
4
Educational Field Trips
5
Dinner & a Movie
6
Nature Hikes/Kayaking/Outdoor Adventures/Recreational Activities
7
Game Nights


Additional suggestions for group activities were as follows:

Book/News Article Reviews
3
Women’s Activities
1
Fundraising
1
Political Campaigns (school vouchers, creationism, homophobia, etc.)
1
Raising Awareness (tabling)
1
Attending Leisure Activities (sports, movies, theater)
1
Support Groups/Discussions about members' history &thoughts on humanism
1


 Community Service Suggestions:

Food Drives
6
Road Clean-Up
5
Secular Support Groups/Promotion of Humanism
4
Environmental Causes
3
Open to all Possibilities
3
Book Drive for Children
1
Clothing Drive
1
Outreach to African American & Hispanic Groups
1
Community vegetable garden in low-income area
1
Weekly volunteer efforts
1
Large scale projects (donating property for park/community center)
1


 Other suggestions for the Humanist Society of Gainesville:

Outreach to UF students
2
More group discussions at meetings
2
More community service
1
Improve public perception
1
More emphasis on humanism, less on atheism
1
More potlucks
1
Meeting more than once a month
1

Thank you to all of those who participated!  Your feedback is important, and gives our group ideas for future meetings, projects, and ultimately will better help the Humanist Society of Gainesville to serve its members and supporters.

Didn't have the opportunity to participate in the survey?  Weigh in below with your thoughts!