The 39th Humanist Symposium

Welcome to the 39th edition of the Humanist Symposium! This is a blog carnival for atheists and agnostics with a mission: not considering yet more arguments for or against the existence of God, but taking that as settled, to demonstrate how nonbelievers find happiness and meaning in life, and how a rational perspective informs our view of moral issues. All of today’s entries do a marvelous job of advancing that goal, so without further ado, let’s get to them:

First up, it’s Chris Hallquist of the Uncredible Hallq, who muses on Can Beliefs Change the World?: Thoughts on Self-Confidence. Although being confident gives us no magical powers to shape the world to our desire, a realistic, clear-headed optimism does make us more willing to overcome doubts and more likely to succeed where others might have failed.

Next, it’s Jen of Blag Hag, who writes about her experience wearing an atheist T-shirt in an airport. In her case, this social experiment was a resounding success! This just goes to show that being out of the closet and proud is a vital way of advancing the atheist cause.

Michael Fridman of a Nadder! writes about the famous Milgram experiment as it relates to rape. By acknowledging that every person has a potential to act violently, and that the social setting is often the determining factor, we can learn how to construct a culture that discourages these acts from ever coming to pass.

Brent of An Honest Journey Through Mormonism to Intellectual Integrity (now there’s a mouthful!) discusses an experience in Ireland meeting several former Catholics, who credited their deconversion to the Internet and the vast amounts of information available there. The truth shall set you free indeed!

vjack of Atheist Revolution answers the rhetorical question, “If you don’t believe in an afterlife, why be moral?” Human empathy and reciprocity offer a more than sufficient reason to be good without needing reward or punishment.

On a related note, Cubik’s Rube asks: What if you only had a trillion years? It’s a clever and original thought: would an almost unimaginably long, but not infinite, afterlife suffice for you to lead a meaningful existence? If in all that vast time you couldn’t find ways to make your life worthwhile, then infinity would hardly seem to help – and if you could, then the same argument shows that this life can be meaningful as well, even if it’s finite!

C.L. Hanson of Letters from a Broad tackles the old aerodynamic chestnut about bumblebees not being able to fly. When we see something that violates our expectations about how the world works, a humanist should take it as a golden opportunity to learn something new.

Waiting For The Singularity discusses Ice Cream and the Freedom of Dessert. When the arguments over which is the best flavor seem interminable, it’s not the role of the state to tell anyone how to satisfy their sweet tooth.

Our next two posts take opposite perspectives on the same issue, showing that there’s no creed of beliefs to which all humanists subscribe. She Who Chatters gives her perspective on Ethical Cornerstones, arguing that morality is by nature a subjective construct, while Open Parachute, as part of a series on morality, writes that morality, like mathematics, has an objective basis. Both authors make good arguments; which one do you find more convincing?

Viktor Nagornyy of the Rochester Atheism Examiner writes about the upcoming book 50 Voices of Disbelief, a collection of inspirational stories on why the contributors are atheists.

Russell Blackford of Metamagician and the Hellfire Club analyzes a new law proposed in France: Should we ban the burka? Does living in a pluralistic society require us to respect others’ choices, even when those choices are rooted in a tradition of religious oppression?

And last but not least, Rose of the Jewmanist wraps up the carnival with a wonderful post on beauty and purpose. The knowledge that we are all products of evolution gives us good reason to respect the grandeur and diversity of nature, and gives our life true purpose and an almost spiritual sense of connection to all living things.

That concludes this edition of the Humanist Symposium. Our next edition will appear in three weeks at The Evolving Mind, so if you like what you’ve read here today and want to do your part to advance the humanist cause, please consider hosting or contributing! New authors offering their perspective on the humanist cause are always welcome. You can find guidelines and further information on the carnival homepage.

How Low Will It Go? The Continuing Decline of American Christianity
Pro-Gay Christians, Wouldn't Atheism Be Easier?
New on the Guardian: Atheists Are Diversifying
The Hidden Garden of Ex-Muslim Atheists
About Adam Lee

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


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