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

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

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.