The Humanist Symposium: Inaugural Edition

It is a brilliant spring morning, and the first-ever gathering of the Humanist Symposium has convened here in the Garden at Daylight Atheism. The crowd of attendees has gathered in a natural clearing delineated at one end by a vast, ancient oak, its upper branches dappled gold in the sun, great weather-worn stones embedded in the ground among its roots, and flowering vines curling around its trunk. At the tree’s foot, a wilderness of brilliant blue and red pansy violets grows wild in the grass, their bright petals nodding in the sun like heads deep in thought. After a lingering winter, spring has finally arrived, and there is a rich, ineffable sweetness in the air of life and joy renewed. The land is already vivid green with new growth, though there are buds on every branch still waiting to bloom.

The Humanist Symposium’s host and founder, Ebonmuse, takes a place at the head of the gathering and addresses the crowd.

“Welcome, friends, to the inaugural edition of the Humanist Symposium! As you’re all doubtless aware, this is a carnival intended to celebrate the virtues of atheism and promote the philosophy of humanism as a beneficial, attainable way of life. I believe the positive aspects of godlessness and freethought need to be more widely known, and I founded this gathering not only to showcase writing on this topic, but to encourage more of it to be produced.

I’ve been greatly encouraged by the outpouring of responses, and we have a full slate of brilliant and powerful humanist essays for you today. I sincerely hope this edition is only the first of many to come, but that’s out of my hands now. Only you, my friends, can determine whether the Humanist Symposium thrives – so if anything you read here today motivates you to consider contributing, please do so! You don’t even have to have your own blog or website to take part, as you’ll see from some of our featured speakers today.

And now, without further ado, let’s get to the contributors.

Leading the way is tobe38, author of A Load of Bright, with a beautiful post that really sums up what the Humanist Symposium is all about: The Credit We Deserve. Being a humanist, and knowing that life is finite, makes it infinitely more precious and meaningful.

In another quietly eloquent post, Everyday Atheism writes of how humanism gives him a feeling of peace and serenity, in Through the Eyes of an Atheist.

Next, David W. of Atheist Self forecasts the future of freethought and offers a strategy for how we can best spread the good news, in Trickle-Up Atheism.

Our next two contributors don’t have blogs of their own, but they took the initiative to contribute and I’m glad to have them here with us. First, please give a warm welcome to Jim Coufal and his essay, One Weak Atheist’s Source of Morals, on where nonbelievers find the incentive to behave ethically. Next, Patrick Robotham speaks of the many reasons he is glad to be a humanist, in Godless Pride.

Elliptica waxes rhapsodic on the beauty of understanding and metaphor, in The Truth.

C.L. Hanson of Letters from a Broad reviews a recent publication by our very own Hemant Mehta, the Friendly Atheist, in The Good News about Atheists!: Hemant Mehta’s I Sold My Soul on eBay.

And speaking of Hemant, he has something to say about The Events That Change Your Life.

BlackSun of Black Sun Journal also offers a review, this one of Matthew Alper’s The God Part of the Brain.

In a theistic world, secular humanists can face pressure to conform from unexpected directions. fta of Main Street Plaza deals with the tricky question of what a humanist parent should tell her son in a world defined by religious identity, in “I want to be something”.

On a similar topic, Brian Larnder of Primordial Blog gives us a template for how a humanist parent can discuss sexual responsibility with their children in an honest and rational way, in The Talk.

From birth to sex to death, humanism has answers. Heliobates of the promising-looking new blog Sartre’s Answering Machine offers a meditation on discussing the end of life with children, in What the Thunder Said.

Is There a Dog? gives a humanist answer to the most basic of all questions, Why be good?

Greta Christina, of the appropriately named Greta Christina’s Weblog, offers a humble and profound meditation on the purpose of life, in Why Are We Here? One Agnostic’s Half-Baked Philosophy (and she informs me that since writing it, she’s taken the final step and begun calling herself an atheist).

JDHURF of Secular Humanism With a Human Face gives another answer to that fundamental philosophical question, in The Meaning of Life.

Vjack of Atheist Revolution explains the basics of secular humanism, a broader and more comprehensive worldview than atheism, in Secular Humanist First, Atheist Second.

The anonymous individual behind Confessions of an Anonymous Coward offers a post that anyone should be proud to take credit for: an essay on the transcendent beauty of our deep interrelation to all life on Earth, in The Wonder of What We Are.

And finally, we have one truly extraordinary piece of writing for you today. I couldn’t reach the author to ask his permission, but the Humanist Symposium wouldn’t be complete without a piece of such sorrowful and piercing beauty. I wept when I read it, my friends; I think you will too. Daily Kos diarist Mapantsula – a professor at Virginia Tech, and an atheist – tells us how he reacted to the recent horrific tragedy on his campus, in An atheist at Virginia Tech.

That concludes this week’s edition of the Humanist Symposium. Thank you, all, for being here with us on this beautiful Sunday morning! Don’t forget, the next edition will appear in three weeks at Confessions of an Anonymous Coward, so don’t forget to send those submissions in (you can use the BlogCarnival form). Until then, my friends, let’s go out into the world and be the best representatives for humanism we can possibly be!”

New on the Guardian: Beyond Debating God’s Existence
Why People Are Flocking to a New Wave of Secular Communities: Atheist Churches
SF/F Saturday: Terry Pratchett’s Death
Why Atheism Is a Force for Good
About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, City of Light, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • John P

    A lot of good reading here. It may take all day for me to get through it all, between chores, but it’s a nice way to spend a lovely sunny, Sunday. Better than going to church!

    I wonder if I can get my laptop to work outside?

  • vjack

    This was everything I had hoped for and more. Congrats on an excellent new blog carnival, and here’s hoping that it will succeed beyond your expectations.

  • Zipi

    Thank you, Adam. This was needed.

  • anti-nonsense

    a LOT of great reading, thank you to Ebonmuse for organizing this and for all the great humanist writers who contributed.

  • bassmanpete

    Well said Jim Coufal:

    It may be that even rarer than intelligence itself is the wise use of intelligence.

    Reminds me of the old saying attributed to the Cree Indians “Only When the Last Tree Has Died and the Last River Has Been Poisoned and the Last Fish has Been Caught, Will We Realize That We Cannot Eat Money”

  • Toni


  • Judy Williams

    One word: Hooray!

  • James Bradbury

    A great idea and some great contributions! It’s good to hear a proactive, positive angle more often, I think that is important in getting these ideas recognised more widely.

    Next time I’ll bring a picnic and write something myself!

  • Janice Rael

    It will take me forever to read all of these blog articles, but I wanted to thank you and congratulate you on an excellent premiere.

  • Pete Dunn

    How do I get to be a carnie in this circus? I’ve got a great new post responding to Ken Jennings suggestion that Mormonism is too reverend to be mocked.

  • Ebonmuse

    You’re welcome either to host or to contribute (see this link for instructions on how to do both). Be advised, however, that the Humanist Symposium is intended as a forum for promoting a positive view of atheism, not for criticizing religion. We have plenty of the latter; we need more of the former.


    Fantastic compendium of humanist literature! I also have to thank Daylight Atheism for being kind enough to feature my entry! I’m still reading all of the various entries, they all make for an enjoyable read. Well done!