Fund “Brighter Than Today: A Secular Solstice”!


What do you do when the world turns dark? When the days wither, the wind chills, and and bare trees claw the sky with scratchy fingers? If you’re anything like me, you draw closer to others, find solace in human company, and sing.

The first speech I gave consistently at Humanist conferences was on the importance of culture. I argued – and continue to argue – that until secular philosophies develop cultural expressions as rich and profound as those which frequently accompany religious traditions we will struggle to compete in the marketplace of ideas. Jason Silva reminds us that, for big ideas to grab the attention, “you gotta make them sing”, and music, art, narrative, and ritual are ways of making ideas sing. Humanists could do so much more to harness the power of culture.

That’s why I was so excited when I first heard about Brighter than Today: A Secular Solstice, a project to develop a Humanist solstice celebration organized by Raymond Arnold. When I first spoke to Raymond, I felt one of those strange senses of kinship you sometimes, but rarely experience – a sense that we had been thinking the same thoughts. Raymond’s project is an amazing example of a growing attempt to find ways to give Humanist values cultural form – and, from the looks of the Kickstarter campaign he’s developed, it’s one of the finest attempts to date. In Raymond’s own words:

Join me this winter for a performance commemorating a new holiday; a Secular Solstice! We’ll celebrate the light of human progress in the face of the longest night of the year with inspiring music, words, and friendship.

My name is Raymond Arnold and like many of you I’m not satisfied with the existing holidays. So with your help, I’m reimagining the Winter Solstice, one of the oldest rituals in the world, and creating a new holiday in celebration of humankind’s potential and the incredible work we’ve done so far.

Iā€™m inviting you to join me for an original musical performance on December 14th, something epic enough to mark the creation of a new secular tradition.

What separates this effort from the many other attempts to create Humanist holidays and celebrations is the pure quality of the components. The music sounds fantastic, the visuals are rich and appealing, and there is a clear appreciation for poetry, story, and shared ritual experience throughout.

Now Raymond needs your help to secure what is the best possible space for this celebration: the auditorium at the New York Society for Ethical Culture. It’s an amazing venue – large and dramatic yet also warm and inviting, and resonant with Humanist history. I’ve donated to the cause, and it looks, from the current state of funding, that it might even meet a stretch goal or two! So if you believe, like me, that a Humanist culture would be a better culture, then I encourage you to support Brighter than Today: A Secular Solstice.


About James Croft

James Croft is a Humanist activist and public speaker who has swiftly become one of the best-known new faces in Humanism today. He is a graduate of the Universities of Cambridge and Harvard, and is currently studying for his Doctorate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. As a leader in training in the Ethical Culture movement ā€“ a national movement of Humanist congregations ā€“ he is an in-demand public speaker, an engaging teacher, and a passionate activist for human rights. James was raised on Shakespeare, Sagan and Star Trek, and is a proud, gay Humanist. His upcoming book "The Godless Congregation", co-authored with New York Times bestselling author Greg Epstein, is being published by Simon & Schuster.

  • mkbell

    To me, this feels disrespectful to the people who developed HumanLight. If he were seeking funding for an awesome HumanLight celebration to be held at the NYSEC, I would probably contribute, but to totally disregard those who have gone before is not a way to build up a culture or a movement.

    • Raymond Arnold

      Hello mkbell! This is Raymond, the project organizer.

      I hadn’t heard of HumanLight at the time I started working on this and it somehow didn’t come up in the conversations I had with other secular leaders in the area. Someone else pointed it out soon after the kickstarter launched though, and I’ve e-mailed the HumanLight group to talk about the existing holiday and discuss how my project can relate to it. Haven’t heard back yet but I’m looking forward to talking with them.

      When I first started, I wasn’t trying to create a unified secular holiday, I was trying to celebrate a particular set of ideas that were important to me and my friends. But you’re right – I should have done more research once the project started taking off.

      It may well be that the correct approach is to make this a HumanLight event. And if not (it *is* a bit more a specific celebration than HumanLight is), I’d expect to learn a lot from collaborating with people who have done similar work in the past.

      • mkbell

        Excellent. Thanks for the reply. I hope that this works out.

        • Guest

          Thanks for your excellent question! Haven’t heard back from yet, although I’m about to send them a followup e-mail.

          As James notes, whatever name gets attached – what humanism desperately needs is a lot of compelling artistic work. I’m hoping not just for my own efforts to resonate with people, but to inspire a lot more people to contribute music and ritual-design to future events. Winter is just one thing humanists have to celebrate together.

          It’d be great if you could help out (if you won’t be able to attend the ceremony, you can get a cd afterwards for $25 with the original music, and even just contributing $5 is helpful). And if it doesn’t make sense for you to back financially, letting other people know about the event would be helpful.