About This Blog
In his speech “The Gods” (1872), the “Great Agnostic” Robert Ingersoll, a Humanist and the best-known orator of his time, said the following:
“We are laying the foundations of the grand temple of the future–not the temple of all the gods, but of all the people–wherein, with appropriate rites, will be celebrated the religion of Humanity. We are doing what little we can to hasten the coming of the day when society shall cease producing millionaires and mendicants–gorged indolence and famished industry–truth in rags, and superstition robed and crowned. We are looking for the time when the useful shall be the honorable; and when REASON, throned upon the world’s brain, shall be the King of Kings, and God of Gods.”
In 1873, echoing Ingersoll’s powerful oration, Felix Adler, founder of the Ethical Culture movement (and early Humanist congregational movement centered on ethics), called for the creation of what he called a new religion: the “Temple of the Future, [with] Justice its foundation, Peace and Goodwill its columns.” His vision, of congregational communities based on ethics rather than on beliefs about god – Deed before Creed – has never been as essential as now, when millions are questioning religious faith and are seeking nonreligious alternatives to the values-based communities religions provide.
This blog exists to revive Ingersoll’s mighty voice in service of Adler’s inspiring vision. I seek to empower Humanists – nonreligious people dedicated to ethical living without god – to express their worldview with the eloquence and immediacy of Ingersoll, and to build ethical communities – “temples of the future” – with as much impact on social life as Adler’s Ethical Society.
Susan Jacoby, in her book Freethinkers, writes “it is crucial for today’s secularists to find a way to convey the passions of humanism as Ingersoll once did, to move hearts as well as to change minds”. She laments that “There is no twenty-first century version of Ingersoll – indeed, there was no twentieth-century version of him”, and that “no champion arose in the twentieth century” to revive Ingersoll’s legacy as Ingersoll had revived Thomas Paine’s in the nineteenth.
I hope Temple of the Future will be Ingersoll’s champion and Adler’s successor: moving hearts, changing minds, reviving and reimagining Humanism for the 21st Century.
James Croft is a candidate for an Ed.D in Human Development and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE). He works alongside Greg Epstein as Research and Education Fellow at the Humanist Community at Harvard, trying to create a true Humanist fellowship in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He grew up on Star Trek, Sagan, and Shakespeare.
In his academic work James primarily studies the philosophy of education, including to how the arts help us learn and grow, and he’s particularly interested in how the arts promote ethical and existential development. Right now he is working on his doctoral thesis, an investigation of the nature, value and development of an independent mind – it is called “Free Thinking”. He holds an M.Ed in Arts in Education from HGSE, and an MA in Education with Drama and English from the University of Cambridge, where he graduated with a double first-class degree and won a number of academic awards. James is privileged to have been made a Frank Knox Memorial Fellow, which has enabled him to continue his studies, and is proud to have been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA).
James is also an Ambassador for the Teach First program (essentially Teach for America in the UK), from which he graduated with distinction in July 2007. Under the program he spent two years teaching English (and some Drama!) in a high school in Feltham, West London.
James is an experienced actor and singer, having performed in many locations around the world including St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Oriole Park in Baltimore, the Barbican Centre, and the Royal Albert Hall. He has sung with the National Youth Choir of Great Britain, and has taken on such varied roles as Oedipus, Jacques and Touchstone (As You Like It), Thomas Becket (Murder in the Cathedral) and Father Christmas. He currently sings with the Cambridge (MA)-based Oriana Consort and the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus. Amongst those who have seen him speak, James’ passion for public speaking is legendary.
For two years James worked part-time for the London Shakespeare Workout Prison Project (LSW), a charity that takes Shakespeare into prisons around the UK. During his association with LSW he visited HMP Send, Highpoint, Brixton and Pentonville, and helped organise a production of The House of Bernarda Alba that was performed at the Criterion Theatre in London. This was the first occasion on which inmates from a closed prison (HMP Send) were given leave to perform on a London Stage.
James is a board member of Join the Impact Massachusetts, a group of activists dedicated to using direct action to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, transgender and all queer people.
James is a committed Humanist and a Humanist Celebrant, who wants to build communities which foster the development of non-religious social capital and give naturalists the space to come together and appreciate each other more deeply. To further this aim, James is an Assistant Editor at The New Humanism and a Contributing Scholar for State of Formation(an interfaith community blog). He believes that society is desperately in need of living communities dedicated to human flourishing and freedom.