The Humanist Identity Project Email

The American Humanist Association seems to be taking a page out of the Richard Dawkins’ Foundation’s OUT Campaign playbook.

They’ve started the “Humanist Identity Project.”

As this email I received (kind of like a chain letter sans the superstition) says:

THE HUMANIST IDENTITY EMAIL

I’m not going to suggest that forwarding this email to five friends will cause a miracle to occur in your life. Nor will you be met with a streak of bad luck if you don’t forward it. (As a humanist, I never take such superstitious emails seriously, and I usually delete them a soon as I receive them.) However, even though this email claims no supernatural powers, it is very important. So please read on.

This email is a way of shedding light on a problem in our society. The problem is that religious fundamentalists are able to exert too much influence in America. Wrapping themselves in God, fundamentalists have managed to vilify and marginalize those who reject traditional religion, often by suggesting that only religious conservatives can be truly moral and patriotic.

That’s why the American Humanist Association has launched a program called the Humanist Identity Project, which encourages those who share a humanist outlook to publicly identify as humanists. (The basic idea of humanism is relatively simple: A humanist approaches the world from a natural standpoint, guided by reason, goodwill, and progressive values, and giving no weight to religious dogma, claimed prophecy, or creed.)

If you’re concerned about the power exerted by religious fundamentalists in America, then you probably understand why it’s time for Americans to learn that millions of their friends and neighbors are humanists. When those with humanist values begin identifying as such and demanding a place at the table in the public dialogue, the influence of religious fundamentalists will naturally diminish.

Therefore, in case you didn’t already know, I want to use this email to tell you that I AM A HUMANIST. If you also are a humanist, I’d like to ask you to send this email to at least five people. This simple act, if repeated enough, will wake up many to the significant presence of humanists in America.

The emergence of humanists is long overdue in America. The USA is the only developed country with an organized, mobilized religious right, and that’s partly because humanists have been marginalized. Everyone (except the religious right) stands to gain when humanists become recognized and respected.

That may be no miracle, but it can lead to profound change.

The emphases are not mine; they were in the email.

I haven’t found any acknowledgment of this email or the project on the AHA’s website. Not sure what’s up with that.

That said, the idea (while several months behind the rest of the Internet) is a good one. We need more people to identify as any brand of non-theism. The more people who say they are atheists, Brights, Humanists, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Pastafarians, etc., the easier (and safer) it becomes for the next person to do it. Coming out about one’s non-religiosity could potentially have a huge impact if done en masse.

(Unless the person you send this email to just deletes it, like I do with most of the annoying, cutesy Christian “fluff” emails I receive…)

You might want to tell these people in person as well :)

One distinction to make: The OUT Campaign encourages people to “come out” as atheists. That’s a general term: atheist. The Foundation folk want people to come out as non-religious… I don’t think anyone cares which specific label you choose.

The Humanist Identity Project email wants you to come out as a Humanist. It’s very specific in that regard.

Maybe I’m making an incorrect analogy here (and I’m sure I’ll be blogally-bitchslapped if I’m wrong), but isn’t that difference similar to a campaign requesting people to come out as Christians-in-general versus another that wants you to come out specifically as, say, a Methodist?

I think the broader campaigns have a much better chance at being successful and should be supported by those under that umbrella. Why dice it up and risk alienating those in the vicinity of your camp?


[tags]atheist, atheism, humanism[/tags]

  • http://polypyloctomy.24kblogs.com Stefan Monsaureus

    The problem with coming out as an atheist is that it is uninformative – expressing the rejection of theistic belief tells nothing of one’s values. Declaring oneself a humanist, at least, provides a bit more specificity, and the atheism becomes incidental to a worldview of which nontheism is but one (albeit central) part.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Maybe I’m making an incorrect analogy here (and I’m sure I’ll be blogally-bitchslapped if I’m wrong), but isn’t that difference similar to a campaign requesting people to come out as Christians-in-general versus another that wants you to come out specifically as, say, a Methodist?

    That depends on your definition of “humanist”. According to their definition it probably is just another variation of non-theist. However, under a broader definition that emphasizes the moral/ethical commitments of Humanism and downplays the strict commitment to metaphysical naturalism, “humanist” is a term that could be inclusive of many religious folk as well. After all, humanism actually has it’s roots in Christianity (back around the time of the Renaissance and Reformation), and I know plenty of Christian humanists.

  • Pingback: Humanist Identity | Polypyloctomy

  • http://www.bloglongisland.com Sam Sutter

    “several months behind the rest of the internet??”

    LOL i’m curious just when e-mail forwards were considered an optimal persuasive medium?

  • Mriana

    Mike, IF this is the AHA deal, then they have a wide umbrella of Humanism- Secular, Religious, Christian (yes, I said Christian Humanist), Cultural, Ethical, etc etc etc. There are many definition and they list some on their website under the subject of Humanism: http://www.americanhumanist.org/humanism/whatis.php It is something I have attempted to study thoroughly. However, they are all Humanists and few actually clarify unless the subject comes up for whatever reason. The adjective isn’t really needed nor is there any real reason for it, because 99.9% of Humanists do not believe in a god. What are the .1% well the Christian Humanists with their non-realism, non-metaphysical Love is god (god-talk) deal is the only one I can think of and they don’t see that as an actual theistic deity.

    Anyway, there is a wide umbrella covering many types of Humanists.

    Hemant, you are right, I don’t see it on the AHA site either.

  • Rob

    I may be crazy but I’m not stupid. My friends and family are already well aware of my heathen ideas and dont need an email. The rest of my community does, but as I dont want to destroy my business I think I will abstain from forwarding this around.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ miller

    I feel this e-mail campaign is symbolic of what I don’t like about secular humanism. They have removed all hints of superstition from the chain e-mail, but forget that the superstition is not the only thing people dislike about chain letters. Similarly, they seem to emphasize that even nontheists can enjoy rituals, waxing poetic, and being in awe of the universe. But they forget that some people dislike these things for reasons other than their religious trappings.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Anyway, there is a wide umbrella covering many types of Humanists.

    That’s good to hear. Anyway, while, as you say, there may not be many Humanists who also call themselves Christians, I know plenty of Christians who would also consider themselves to be humanists (in the tradition of Erasmus, Pascal, Kierkegaard, etc.)

  • Richard Wade

    I see a logistical flaw in the way this is set up. If a humanist gets this email from someone else, then s/he knows of only one other humanist by this medium. Then if s/he sends it on to “at least five other people” they only know of one person who is a humanist by this medium, and so forth. The letter does not say, “Hey if you’re a humanist too, please get back to me.” It just says to send it on to others. The result may be millions of humanists who only know of one other humanist by this method, so nothing has changed as far as being in the dark about their actual numbers.

    This kind of thing is only useful if there is a central tallying of the numbers of people who belong to any of the non-theist points of view. Then everybody gets to know how many there are.

  • Mriana

    MikeClawson said,

    December 17, 2007 at 10:49 pm

    Anyway, there is a wide umbrella covering many types of Humanists.

    That’s good to hear. Anyway, while, as you say, there may not be many Humanists who also call themselves Christians, I know plenty of Christians who would also consider themselves to be humanists (in the tradition of Erasmus, Pascal, Kierkegaard, etc.)

    If they knew more about humanism, they might call themselves humanist too. I think I mentioned a couple of books on the subject of Christian Humanism in one of the most recent threads.

  • Tom

    Maybe I’m making an incorrect analogy here (and I’m sure I’ll be blogally-bitchslapped if I’m wrong), but isn’t that difference similar to a campaign requesting people to come out as Christians-in-general versus another that wants you to come out specifically as, say, a Methodist?

    Sorry Hemant, gotta bitch-slap ya here. In your analogy, you have “Cristians-in-general” (A) being further reduced to a single denomination.(B)

    If atheist were (A), you cannot reduce/go down a level to get humanist (b)

    All atheist is is not believing in a god. This INCLUDES Lavayaan Satanists, who I don’t agree with at all. I personally find it hard to identify myself simply as an atheist when it most definitely includes people like this.

    It’s tempting to apply Occam’s Razor here, and just keep it simple without having all these different name for atheist.

    But in my belief, (A) does not equal (B), humanism is a bigger thing.

  • http://paxnortona.notfrisco2.com Joel Sax

    Small problem here: Humanist Identity sounds too much like Christian Identity which is a white-supremacist organization. Maybe we could come up with another catchy phrase for the project?

  • http://aidanmaconachyblog.blogspot.com/ aidan

    The term Humanist in itself is sort of off-putting. It doesn’t really say anything beyond the vaguely obvious. The comment up top that more people should come out including Rastafarians certainly broadens the definition. I’m not sure if there is a sub-class known as Thelemic Humanist, if so that’s where I would hang my hat. But broadening the appeal is the way to go if only because people in general seem to have difficulty with concepts that have an abstract ring to them – ‘Atheist’ even being one of those. People need to be made aware that we aren’t just a generic brand of non-believer.

  • http://heathendad.blogspot.com/ HappyNat

    If I forward this around Bill Gates will send me money, right?

  • TXatheist

    I think Rob is right. Most people are aware of my humanism but I wouldn’t tell someone in an interview or if I had my own business because unfortunately there is prejudice.

    Mike C,
    I think Christian humanist is a great description of people like you(compliment intended)

  • Jeff P

    My preference would be for someone to have a way for non-believers to be able to appreciate the sheer number of other national non-believers, in a way that would protect identity but which might allow accurate calibration–in other words, what exactly is the “power in numbers” of non-believers?

    Maybe such a method doesn’t exist, but I would be willing to put my name down as a non-believer to the degree that it would be helpful for others to know.

    I would be less likely to forward an e-mail, as others have suggested.

  • http://www.eloquentatheist.com Michael

    This is a project that was started by David Niose about two years ago. It began with several top names in science appearing on the cover of the Humanist magazine. The project is now trying to reach a more grassroots level, getting people to proclaim their “Humanist Identity.”

    Michael

  • http://pedestrianobserver.blogspot.com/2007/12/atheist-for-president.html Political Jaywalker

    Thanks for posting this humanist identity project, I enjoyed reading it and couldn’t help blogging about it too.


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