Is it Hard Out Here for a Humanist?

My alma mater is turning up in religious news stories this week.  It turns out that the Yale Humanists have asked to join the consortium at Yale Religious Ministries, and have been turned down [further discussion at Friendly Atheist].

The organization in the ministry are “dedicated to the spiritual, ethical, intellectual, social, and physical welfare of students, faculty, and staff,” which, for the most part, sounds like a decent match for the Humanists.  I can come up with a couple reasons they might have been excluded, beyond their non-religious nature.

Perhaps it was a problem that they don’t belong to any overarching body (credal or otherwise); the YRM agreement, that all affiliates must sign, talks about groups being responsible to both Yale Religious Ministries and some specific “faith community” with which they must remain in good standing.  Or maybe it was a problem that humanism doesn’t entail anything beyond, as their website would have it, a rejection of revelation, a rejection of nihilism, and a rejection of positive theism (though not Deism or agnosticism).

I do wonder what other non-religious groups on campus might be able to join the Yale Religious Ministries if either of these constraints were relaxed.  I’ll admit that freshman me would have been tempted to start a Deontology group and show up politely on the Chaplain’s door with an application.  But if the Yale Religious Ministries expanded to all philosophy groups, not just those that are god(s)-focuses, I know one currently existing group that would presumably make the cut.

The Objectivist Study Group at Yale (OSGAY) does meaning of life questions, is affiliated with an outside tradition (the Ayn Rand Institute), and seeks dialogue (often over vodka and cookies) with weekly discussions of topics like “Should a Father be a Soldier?” and “Can Sacrifice Ever Be Rational?”

I’d be curious if Chris Stedman, the Coordinator of Humanist Life at Yale, thinks OSGAY should also be part of the discussion at Yale Religious Ministries.  Would it make more sense for there to be a larger umbrella for all Yale groups offering preparation for death (i.e. philosophy) that would include the Humanists, OSGAY, my hypothetical crew of Deontologists, and the members of the Yale Religious Ministries as a subset of this larger group?  Would it make sense for the explicitly religious groups to distinguish themselves in this larger conglomerate?

In the end, I suspect part of the problem for the Chaplain was related to two provisos in the agreement for affiliates of the Yale Religious Ministries:

5. As a member of YRM, I pledge respect and support for other recognized ministries on campus, and when acting in the name of YRM, I agree to do so in a nonsectarian manner while at the same time acknowledging the faith tradition I represent.

13. While acting in my capacity as member of YRM, I pledge that I will articulate information for the purpose of sharing knowledge about my faith community and will not undermine another faith community.

These would presumably limit the Humanists ability to run down other religions on campus or possibly to host prominent New Atheist speakers like Dawkins or Harris.  I remember, when I was an undergraduate, that I had Catholic friends who were disappointed that the campus church has signed this agreement and limited its ability to go after Protestants as heretics, instead of fellow affiliates.

I do wonder how tight the restrictions are for YRM members, and whether the Humanists would have found them tolerable.  Having roomed with a former President of OSGAY, I am certain that the Objectivists wouldn’t have been able to toe this line in good conscience.

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as an Editorial Assistant at The American Conservative by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • K.Chen

    There are sorts of secular humanism in the world that are (from an objective and Clifford Gertz influenced standpoint) at least religious as Theravada Buddhism (which is atheistic), and there are kinds that are nothing more than vague collections of people who reject God and/or religion and/or the religious but seek the company of fellow travelers)

    In my very limited experience, college groups tend to present the latter and struggle with the reformer. I think if you look at the evolution of humanist manifestos over time, the latter point of view has gained more influence as well.

    Another concern I would have if I was the decision maker would be whether or not the Yale Humanists sincerely understood themselves as a “faith group” “faith community” or a religious ministry, or were they perhaps suggesting instead that all of the other religions are really nothing more than overgrown philosophies.

    On the other, other hand – colleges are a place for young people and old professors to explore ideas, and you can’t explore ideas in a vacuum.

  • Dan

    What are the advantages to membership in YRM? They must be noticeably significant to counter-balance the listed disadvantages that limit a group’s activities.

    And, on a tangent, it was probably for the best that your Yale Catholic friends couldn’t decry fellow Christians as “heretics.” That sort of proselytism–and I mean “proselytism” in the Catholic sense–tends to cause more harm than good.

  • Randy Gritter

    The website is funny.

    Point #1. Reason and no revelation.
    Point #2. There is morality and purpose in our lives

    How do they know point #2? Revelation? Reason alone can’t give you morality and purpose. Yet you restrict your reason to exclude the possibility that there is no such thing as morality and purpose. Now it is unclear what that means. Nobody denies morality and purpose in the weak sense. That is things seem moral and things seem meaningful. The question is whether those perceptions are accurate or not? If that question is really closed for rational inquiry it seems like a very strange group.

    Of course point #3, the non-existence of God, could also be seen as revelation of a sort. But at least atheism is kind of expected. A rejection of Nihilism seems very strange for atheists. If they apply the same skepticism to morality and purpose that they apply to God they will arrive there pretty quick. Then they are kicked out? Really?

    • Dan

      I believe that most humanists believe that our moral norms derive from evolution (i.e., what we consider right and wrong developed due to natural selection). Animal behaviorists have observed social norms in the behavior of other primates, which humanists can use as evidence. And even humanists who don’t believe that morals have an evolutionary root can certainly argue that we should behave in a certain manner as to maximize group happiness (or another selected “virtue”).

      I suppose I have a slight quibble with “reason” if the humanist is a materialist. If free will is an illusion, then isn’t reason an illusion as well? Overall, though, this quibble is basically arguing over semantics.

      The point is, however, that there are more options than Nihilism and Religious Theism.

      .

      • KG

        “The point is, however, that there are more options than Nihilism and Religious Theism.”

        Thanks for acknowledging that! This point is ignored far too often, in my opinion. I’m glad that the Yale Humanist website attacks that dichotomy so directly.

        By the way, I don’t see any reason why materialism precludes reason. Why can’t reasoning be a material process? Chemical processes in our brains lead us to draw conclusions based on what we experience (more chemical processes). No more, no less. We can certainly disagree about whether materialism is true, but on this narrow point of whether “reason” as defined above is compatible with materialism, I should hope you’ll agree it is coherent.

        • Randy Gritter

          “I’m glad that the Yale Humanist website attacks that dichotomy so directly.”

          It attacks it but does not give a reason. It just declares it to be false. I think you need something to avoid Nihilism. It does not have to be God. It can be virtue or some other transcendent thing. Then you have the question of where that came from. Still you can imagine it.

          The trouble is that saying virtues exist runs into the same objections that atheists launch at God. That is a lack of material evidence.

          Materialism and reason? The trouble is that chemical processes do not seem to be ordered towards truth. Reason seems to be ordered towards truth. That seems like a hard problem to overcome. Perhaps not impossible.

        • Dan

          “Chemical processes in our brains lead us to draw conclusions based on what we experience (more chemical processes).”

          Yes, if a materialist defines reason as above then it is coherent. Any potential argument arises because of how we might define reason (which would be simply semantics).

      • Randy Gritter

        There is a huge difference between morals having an evolutionary root and moral feelings having an evolutionary root. Evolution can make me feel bad about killing you. It cannot make killing you wrong. So moral norms deriving from evolution would tend to show morality does not really exist. It is a way evolution tricks human minds into doing certain things.

        You can escape that conclusion. Evolution might be ordered towards some objective morality. That would require that moral code to exist before humans evolved.

        I don’t know what to say about calling the denial of free will a quibble. Denying free will eliminates moral responsibility. It eliminates the value of human life and love. Sure reason falls too. Some quibble.

        • avalpert

          The existence of morality among humans can be the result of evolution – just as the existence of religion among humans is the result of our evolution.

          Try harder to get past your assumptions when evaluating the arguments of others – it will make you less likely to misunderstand what they are saying.

          • Randy Gritter

            “The existence of morality among humans can be the result of evolution ”

            Exactly, but morality among humans does not need to be true morality. It can be just conventions like eating with the right fork. In some groups it is considered immoral to teach a girl how to read. Evolution can produce that sort of thing.

            The question is whether there is a true moral code that these human moral impulses ought to comply with. If there is, can evolution create such a true moral code? I would say No because it is not a feature of any human mind. Evolution could respond to such a moral code if it existed but it could not create one.

          • avalpert

            “The question is whether there is a true moral code that these human moral impulses ought to comply with.”

            But that wasn’t the question, that’s an assumption of yours that may underlie how you read their usage of ‘morality’ but that doesn’t mean they are using it that way.

          • Randy Gritter

            That is true. The website says “that there is morality and purpose in our lives.” They don’t define it beyond that. Could it mean just human feelings and societal conventions? That would make the statement highly trivial. Nobody denies humans and societies treat some things as good and some things as bad.

            So I assumed the non-trivial statement that there are some true obligations on the human person.Things we ought to do or ought not to do. I understand the other meaning. I just don’t think it made sense in that context.

          • avalpert

            See, i think they make it fairly obvious that their morality is rooted in a method of discovery that can and will lead to different conclusion of what morality is – but that doesn’t bother them. It is the process itself that is of value – not whether there are any absolute right answers.

            If the answer to why reasoned experience always leads to morality and purpose in our lives (even though the content of that morality and purpose will be radically different) is because evolution has wired us for that to be the case, then that’s ok. It doesn’t negate that our reasoned experience leads there.

          • Randy Gritter

            Different conclusions? That means wrong conclusions. Many answers with no way to tell which is right. That does not bother them? A process that does that is seriously flawed.

            It does remind me of Sola Scriptura. That is the protestant process that produces many conflicting answers. Yet they value the process, trust the answers and ignore the problems. You get to pick which arguments make sense to you but nobody can correct you when you make an error.

          • avalpert

            “Different conclusions? That means wrong conclusions. ”
            Not at all, if people have different views on a piece of art or literature are they necessarily wrong?

            Maybe there is no right answer, that doesn’t bother me even if it may bother you. And no, a process that does that is not seriously flawed – if the goal is having a shared process, even if we reach different conclusions, than a process that allows for different conclusions isn’t flawed. In fact, if the flexibility of the process allows more people to accept the outcome of it by others it would be strength of the process not a flaw.

            If you want to meaningfully engage here you have to get past your bias for the assumption that there must be a ‘true morality’ out there.

          • K.Chen

            If I say an apple is “red” and another says that an apple is “round” we have different conclusions but neither of us is more wrong than the other. That having been said, I actually am I on the side that concludes there is an external/objective aspect or entity of morality.

          • avalpert

            Interesting that was the example you chose. I was thinking more along the lines of reaching different conclusions on the meaning of the Mona Lisa or the tasting notes of a fine Merlot (are those blackberries or currants in the finish – you decide).

            Not that I think it is surprising, but I don’t see any evidence for an external morality and do see lots of evidence to suggest no such entity exists.

          • Randy Gritter

            So that would exclude you from the humanist group? If morality is about “you decide” then you are in the same place as the nihilist.

            Why bother pursuing what is good if you just made up the notion of goodness yourself? Or maybe you inherited it from you culture or whatever. Why is it worth sacrificing anything to do what is right when the concept means so little?

          • avalpert

            Well, I don’t identify as a humanist and as a general rule try to minimize time spent in New Haven so I never expected to be included in the group – but I am curious what I wrote that led you to summarily exclude me from it.

            “If morality is about “you decide” then you are in the same place as the nihilist.”

            Well, I didn’t say morality is about “you decide” I said it was about the process used to make decisions. And I think you may be equivocating on the word nihilist so I would appreciate it if you tell me what it means to you in this context.

            “Why bother pursuing what is good if you just made up the notion of goodness yourself?”

            For its own sake, because it provides a sense of self satisfaction, because it is important to you, because you think it right, because you want to. Not everyone needs a daddy to reward and punish to make acting good worthwhile.

          • Randy Gritter

            The website says you need to believe “there is morality and purpose in our lives.” You just denied there is an external morality. So you limit morality to something you manufacture yourself. That stretches the word to the extreme. It more of an illusion than real morality. A moral nihilist accepts people can imagine such morality. They just think it isn’t real. That is where you are.

            For its own sake, because it provides a sense of self satisfaction, because it is important to you, because you think it right, because you want to.

            But you are not really acting good. You are just acting according to a cultural notion of goodness that has questionable value. Why would that result in satisfaction? Why would it be important? Why would you think it right?

          • avalpert

            “The website says you need to believe “there is morality and purpose in our lives.” You just denied there is an external morality. ”

            Hmm, you seem to have added an adjective there – are you sure you aren’t projecting your views onto them…

            “That stretches the word to the extreme. It more of an illusion than real morality.”

            I just want to take a second to laugh at that one – it’s amusing to have someone point out that morality is an illusion who believes he drinks gods blood.

            “A moral nihilist accepts people can imagine such morality. They just think it isn’t real.”

            We don’t need to dissect the difference between moral nihilism and moral relativism here – but thanks for explaining how you were using the term ‘nihilism’. In the future, it would be helpful to say moral nihilism when that is what you mean so you don’t add a lot more baggage to the term than you intend.

            “But you are not really acting good. You are just acting according to a cultural notion of goodness that has questionable value.”

            You may think there is a difference and I may not. I know you are certain you are right but I am just as certain you are wrong, so I guess we can leave it at that.

            “Why would that result in satisfaction? Why would it be important? Why would you think it right?”

            Because we are wired to find satisfaction in it. Because we are wired for it to be important. And because it is right in as much as any morality is right since there is no morality outside of that constructed by given humans and their cultures.

          • Randy Gritter

            “Hmm, you seem to have added an adjective there – are you sure you aren’t projecting your views onto them…”

            Actually I am not sure. I have said that weakening that to include a subjective morality would exclude nobody, even Nihilists who the statement explicitly claims to be excluding. That does not mean it was not meant that way. I think it was ambiguous for a reason. These statements are debated endlessly.

            We don’t need to dissect the difference between moral nihilism and moral relativism here – but thanks for explaining how you were using the term ‘nihilism’. In the future, it would be helpful to say moral nihilism when that is what you mean so you don’t add a lot more baggage to the term than you intend.

            The website refers to both morality and purpose. So Nihilism there means moral nihilism and existential nihilism. We dropped the existential bit somewhere along the way. I think the baggage is legit. There is a reason the website excludes Nihilists. The trouble is much of the thinking they are referring to leads there.

            Because we are wired to find satisfaction in it. Because we are wired for it to be important. And because it is right in as much as any morality is right since there is no morality outside of that constructed by given humans and their cultures.

            That really reduces the good you do. We are wired to urinate once in a while too. If you go and help the poor is that on the same level? If you can’t say it feels good because it *is* good in a real objective way then your act becomes kind of self-centered. I do it because it is part of my definition of goodness.

          • Darren

            “The question is whether there is a true moral code that these human moral impulses ought to comply with. If there
            is, can evolution create such a true moral code? I would say No because it is not a feature of any human mind. Evolution could respond to such a moral code if it existed but it could not create one.”

            An interesting point…

            _If_ there is such a thing as a true moral code, some
            objective _thing_, big M Morality, then we are dealing with a real and knowable feature of the world. Can evolution ever result in an organism that accurately discerns such a feature of the world? Leah has stated she does not believe it could, but I would disagree. Evolution has crafted an organism that can perceive Math, so why not Good? Humans accurately model that Tigers should be avoided, so why not that contraception kills the soul?

            If you want to say the evolution could not ever do such a
            thing (not just didn’t but can’t, my eyes don’t perceive UV, but they could have), then why not? This puts Morality in a different category than Math, a different category that objective, real, knowable things, yes?

            Now, the situation where humans don’t appear to be able to perceive some objective Good in the universal way that humans perceive objective 2 + 2 _except_ where such universal moral feelings also just happen to have some
            pretty mundane evolutionary behavioral explanations, to me, suggests the absence of any such Objective thing.

          • Randy Gritter

            I actually think evolution could and perhaps even did select for morality. Many of our moral impulses have no survival advantage so we seem to have a moral sense. Did it evolve? Maybe. It could have come into being when we were infused by God with an immortal soul. Maybe a little of both. Can evolution do that sort of thing perfectly? I don’t think so. The physical world is simply not capable of rising to that level.

          • avalpert

            But alas it did so clearly is is capable of rising to that level. Actually, it also clearly hasn’t done a perfect job of instilling a moral sense in all individuals of the species, so we can argue on how good a job it has done.

            In any case, no need for a very silly story that overturns what we know about evolution just to manufacture why our species’ manifestation of what we call morality is different in degree than other animals.

          • Darren

            “I actually think evolution could and perhaps even did select for morality. Many of our moral impulses have no survival advantage so we seem to have a moral sense. Did it evolve? Maybe. It could have come into being when we were infused by God with an immortal soul. Maybe a little of both. Can evolution do that sort of thing perfectly? I don’t think so. The physical world is simply not capable of rising to that level.”

            It would likely help to define what moral impulses you have in mind. Altruism? Heroism? Bravery? Fidelity? Numerous works exist on how such attributes _might_ have arisen quite by natural means. Dawkin’s “The Selfish Gene” from 1976 comes to mind, though I am more fond of Dennett’s “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea”. Does a plausible natural origin preclude some hidden hand of God from lurking beneath the quarks and leptons, nudging here and nudging there for 12 billion years to produce, voila!, an organism with the impulse to care for an orphaned child? Nope, but one might reasonably ask why that same hidden hand of God also found it necessary to craft said organism so as to more likely murder that orphan, if it happened to be the unfortunate progeny of a rival tribe.

            It might also be helpful to define exactly what our big-M Morality is, Morality objective like Gravity or Math objective. When Trilobite first met Trilobite, 2 + 2 was still 4, but what was morally wrong? If masturbation is objectively wrong, what did that even mean before there were hands, or genitals?

          • Randy Gritter

            “Numerous works exist on how such attributes _might_ have arisen quite by natural means”

            Why do these works arrive? Because there is a problem to be solved. Mostly these works have failed to solve it. Look at art. No survival advantage in doing art. Or is there? If beauty is real. If it is not something evolved but something external. Then it is easy to see a survival advantage. People do better when they connect with ultimate beauty. It makes them love to be alive. Now if beauty is completely in the brain then that is a very inefficient way to connect yourself with yourself. But if beauty is not in your brain but in the spiritual world then it makes more sense.

            Morality is a bit harder to see but I think goodness can have the same impact. Things like guilt and payment for sin are hard to see as having advantages. Unless an external goodness is there and we have acquired the ability to sense when we are good or evil.

          • Darren

            “No survival advantage in doing art.”

            Oh, I dunno. Everyone knows artists get laid a
            lot…

          • Randy Gritter

            You sound jealous. Is there a story behind this? If they get laid a lot it is because there is a connection between beauty and sexuality. Again, if there was no such thing as beauty it would be the worst way to make sex work. Way less efficient then smells or sounds just producing arousal. But if beauty is out there and we want it then it makes sense that sex and beauty would be connected.

          • Darren

            Randy Gritter said, “Morality is a bit harder to see but I
            think goodness can have the same impact. Things like guilt and payment for sin are hard to see as having advantages. Unless an external goodness is there and we have acquired the ability to sense when we are good or evil.”

            Not an evolutionary behaviorist, but I can conjecture a bit.

            For a species of ground-dwelling apes typically living in tribal groups of 5 to 50 closely related individuals and whose individual and collective survival depends largely on close cooperation, guilt and redemption have pretty plausible survival value as a non-violent mechanism for enforcing
            social cohesion. It would actually be quite efficient to ‘design’ a creature capable of internalizing the group rules and monitoring its own behaviors and initiating reconciliation actions when it had transgressed as opposed to requiring a police force of creatures monitoring and enforcing those rules.*

            Apes display guilt / redemption behaviors. So do dogs.

            * – Pretty sure I nicked this from Dennett or maybe Sagan

    • Steve

      Christians and humanists both believe in things that they can’t actually prove. Christians believe in a God. Humanists believe in morality and purpose that exists independent from any god.

      The difference is that Christians are honest about it.

  • http://thinkinggrounds.blogspot.com/ Christian H

    I have a number of thoughts.

    1. “13. While acting in my capacity as member of YRM”
    What does this mean? Is YRM an umbrella organization which contains campus ministries (like set theory), or is it a distinct organization that connects, supports, and authenticates campus ministries (like connective tissue)? In what situations is a person acting in their capacity as member of YRM?
    I ask because if it is the former, then Item 13 does seem to restrict Dawkins invitations and critiques of religion, but if it is the latter, then Item 13 seems only to restrict critiquing religion at YRM events, not Yale Humanist events.

    2. While the idea of a Life Philosophies group, of which YRM is a subset, has a lovely set-theoretical perfection to it, and I am tempted by it, I think that it wouldn’t really work out practically. I suspect you’d get philosophy-groups uncomfortable with their new association with religions, and religious groups concerned that onlookers would think of them as mere philosophies (when, sociologically/anthropologically speaking, religions play roles that moral philosophies do not). Maybe I’m wrong; maybe both groups would be thrilled with the association. But there’d still be the problem of deciding who got to count as a religious ministry rather than “just” a philosophical one. What of Confucianism, for instance? It might be safer to over-include everyone rather than make distinctions which are, at best, arbitrary. (Speaking with my Religious Studies student hat on here, getting a consensus on a definition of religion which clearly includes or excludes different phenomena is probably impossible, and that’s not a problem with the method or the researchers but with the subject itself. So it would be unrealistic to expect YRM to develop a good working definition that always excluded or included the right groups.)

    3. So the thing about Protestants-as-heretics cued all kinds of rage inside of me. Also, a fair amount of hurt. The two are probably related. I suppose Tyrion is wrong: even if I make my armour of it, people can still use it to wound me.

  • Irenist

    The term “faith group” already seems distinctly Abrahamic to me, not to say specifically Christian (indeed, in its rhetorical emphasis, kinda Protestant). It’s hard to think of Buddhists or Neopagans, e.g., spontaneously self-describing as “faith groups.” I think a lot of chaplaincy-type situations, both in universities and in the military, started off with institutional software designed for intra-Protestant ecumenism, and they’ve had to keep adding ever kludgier epicycles to their models as society has secularized and diversified.

    • http://thinkinggrounds.blogspot.com/ Christian H

      I’ve got an anecdote that confirms at least some of your intuition: in the Interfaith group I go to, some of my friends report that the Buddhists do not care for the term “interfaith” because it doesn’t very accurately represent the way they do religion.

      However, this group isn’t directly an outgrowth of intra-Protestant ecumenism, exactly; the lineage that I’ve heard members give is one made of assorted formalizations of originally informal groups of people who shared their religious experiences (the example usually given is a particular group of religiously-diverse mothers with children of the same age who became a de facto interfaith group while taking their children to the playground, but a more proximate example would be the religiously diverse students who got talking after class). I think the problem you identify probably is related to the history of chaplaincies as you give it, but I think this is just one instance of a more widespread problem: the culturally dominant definition of religion is grounded in a limited sample of religions (with Protestantism and a mythological thing called “totemism” as the examplars), and this dominant definition is therefore not a good fit with a lot of the other things that we have good reasons to want to include under that umbrella.

      Sorry to be so long-winded.

    • adrianratnapala

      But, but, there is a limit to how dull and prosaic we can make our language, and “faith group” is already pushing that envelope hard.

      My best guess about C.H’s Buddhists is that they object to the word “faith”. Well what can you do? Some will object to “religion”, and *I* would object to “philosophy”. But at some point you just have to pick a word. And in the, Buddhism explicitly requires faith – even if it plays a more conditional role than in Christianity.

  • stanz2reason

    I wonder if a group of Pastafarians from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster would be allowed to join…

    • Dan

      I suppose it depends on the Pastafarian sect in question. My guess is that the Reformed Church of Barilla is disfavored in progressive circles.

      • stanz2reason

        … blasphemy

    • Irenist

      Hmm. I think there would need to be an actual institutional CFSM, but otherwise, it looks like they would.

      • stanz2reason

        I could become an ordained minister of the CFSM to perform legally recognized weddings. There is a ‘loose cannon’ of scripture. And were we to accept the notion of a geographically widespread but digitally close community, you could make an argument for a congregation of sorts. I’m not sure at what point we’d define an ‘institutional CFSM’, but an argument can be reasonably made, perhaps unconvincingly, that there is a sufficient framework to qualify as such.

        • K.Chen

          As it happens, most the places I’ve looked at you don’t actually need to be an ordained minister of anything to perform legally recognized weddings. Just hand over 50 bucks.

  • Paul Chiariello

    Let me introduce myself: I’m the Co-Founder and current Director of Operations and have been working with Yale Religious Ministries and the Yale Humanist Community for well over a year now.

    From this vantage point, I hope I can clear up some confusions that Libresco has about the situation:

    1) We “don’t belong to any overarching body”?
    False. We are a chapter of the American Humanist Association and the Unitarian Universalist Humanist Association. This information is on our Yale Humanist “About Us” page.

    2) We are only defined in the negative as “a rejection of revelation, a rejection of nihilism, and a rejection of positive theism”?
    False. Our website, which I wrote, first pairs two positive options and then selects one, namely “Reasoned Experienced vs Revelation” and “Morality vs Nihlism.” We reject revelation, BUT we accept reasoned experience. The last is of course is a rejection, namely of theism, the same as Buddhism and so many other religions.

    For a vastly more detailed list of positive aspects of Humanist Thought, I suggest Libresco and others read the list of Humanist Manifestos and Declarations I listed at the bottom of our “What is Humanism?” page.

    A common quick definition of Humanism, which we give on our homepage, is “Humanism is a progressive philosophy, rooted in scientific naturalism, that affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity. Humanism—guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience—encourages us to live life well and fully.”

    3) There is no substantive difference between OSGAY and the YHC?
    False. The YHC represents a expansive worldview or life stance, and not merely a single theory of ethics, like with Objectivism or Deontology. In addition to a perspective on ethics, Humanism offers a perspective on politics, epistemology, metaphysics, theology, and a number of other areas of thought. Humanism is a worldview and Objectivism/Deontology is a single theory of ethics.

    4) We are “limit[ed in our] ability to run down other religions on campus”.
    False. The only explanation of this claim can be that Libresco is completely unaware of Stedman’s CV. The subtitle of Stedman’s first book, Faitheist, is “How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious.” He was also a pioneer curriculum developer for the national inter-faith dialogue group the Interfaith Youth Core.

    The YHC is a conciliatory group which aims to nurture relationships and not burn bridges. Regardless of YRM acceptance, we would not invite Dawkins or Harris to come and speak. We have no qualms announcing this publicly.

    • Irenist

      “The YRM is a conciliatory group which aims to nurture relationships and not burn bridges.”

      Bravo!

      “In addition to a perspective on ethics, Humanism offers a perspective on politics, epistemology, metaphysics, theology, and a number of other areas of thought. Humanism is a worldview….”

      As “a nontheistic worldview guided by reasoned experience, which aims at making the world a better place,” as your website puts it, is there a shared overarching perspective that Humanism brings to ethics, politics, etc.? I had taken Humanism to be more of a “big tent” with few necessary shared principles, akin to UU. Indeed, often in conversations with atheists (a subset of Humanists), I find that atheists will hasten to point out that “atheism is just the absence of a god belief; it doesn’t imply anything more than that. It’s not a religion or anything.” While I realize that Humanism != atheism, I find your statement about Humanism’s “perspective on . . . areas of thought” to be an intriguing contrast to the “mere absence of a god belief, nothing more” attitude I’m far more used to encountering. I’d be intrigued if you could elaborate your statement. What is the distinctively Humanist perspective on the topics you list? Thanks!

      • Paul Chiariello

        In short, Humanism is a expansive worldview and atheism is a statement about one single question “Does God exist?” For instance, atheism says nothing about whether or not morality exists, community is important, the natural world is all there is, etc? It only is a comment on God’s existence, as you rightly state.

        Check out the YHC website’s “What is Humanism” page and the other resources it links to. If you want, find me on facebook and we can chat more privately.

        • stanz2reason

          In what sense would you say ‘morality exists’?

    • LeahLibresco

      The reason I read that page as framed primarily negatively, is because I couldn’t get a clear sense of which morality the Yale Humanists endorse. It doesn’t feel like the movement/philosophy has much predictive power (i.e. knowing someone is a humanist doesn’t tell me that much more about them). Which seems to track the way you differentiated YHC from OSGAY.

      I’m familiar with Stedman’s activism, so I certainly don’t expect he’d want to run down other religions on campus. But I am wondering how tight the Chaplain’s office’s restrictions are. Having known OSGAY folk, I doubt they’d clear this hurdle, for instance.

      • Paul Chiariello

        First, the specific morality is left open, in the same way the morality of the Catholic Church is left open. Namely, that morality is important and you figure it out through a specific method – interpretation of the Bible and the history of the Church Hierarchy.

        With Humanism the method is reasoned experience instead. What does ‘reasoned experience’ lead to? There is a bit of disagreement. But there is also quite a lot of disagreement about what is a consistent interpretation of the Bible and lots of debate within the Church Hierarchy.

        Second, OSGAY is irrelevant. Everyone doubts they’d “clear this hurdle”.

        • Irenist

          “What does ‘reasoned experience’ lead to? There is a bit of disagreement.”

          Indeed. Are there any prominent areas of agreement within Humanism about what “reasoned experience” leads to?

          (I’m not really up for a private FB chat of the sort you mentioned in your reply downthread, but I won’t be offended in the slightest if you’d prefer not to dialogue with me in this thread. Cheers.)

      • Darren

        “It doesn’t feel like the movement/philosophy has much predictive power (i.e. knowing someone is a humanist doesn’t tell me that much more about them).”

        This is a consistent statement that you make, but for that statement to have any meaning, I really do think we need to calibrate it against the predictive power we might have from, oh, let’s say a person who checks the Catholic box.

        Newt Gingrich, Stephen Colbert, Francisco Franco, Simone Campbell, and Bébé Doc Duvalier walk into a bar… Now what?

        • stanz2reason

          Leah’s complaints about predictive power often bother me too, but I’ll play devil’s advocate here and say a response to this might be that it is the actual Catholic teachings that leads to the predictive power she’s suggesting, rather than a prediction of how any single person might deviate from those teachings. For instance Stephen Colbert might deviate from traditional teachings to views on gay marriage, however it is still fairly clear what those teachings actually are.

          Take your other example of Newt Gingrich, who is just a contemptible disgrace of a human being… I had nothing to add here in terms of a point, but felt this just needed to be said.

          • K.Chen

            I’ll turn it into a point if you don’t mind, Newt Gingrich is nominally a Catholic, self identifies as a Catholic, but pretty much everyone, Catholic or otherwise finds this odd, or at least in tension with many of his specific behaviors, especially vis-a-vis his divorces. So while being Catholic turned out to be a poor predictor of Gingrich’s behavior, that failure proves the point in so far as it makes his deviance from the predicted model so striking.

            The predictive power of religion is limited, but not non-existent, it gives you a base model where certain deviations are to be expected – and the deviations probably have ready explanations because of how aware the holder of beliefs is to those deviations.

            Religion is predictive the same way culture is predictive: best in broad strokes at 30000 feet, but immensely useful on that scale. Less so the further you zoom in.

          • LeahLibresco

            Yeah, I agree with stanz in this way. It’s easy to see the parts of Gingrich’s life that are in tension with his faith. I’m not sure what to cite for a hypocritical humanist.

          • K.Chen

            I’m curious, do you see that as a problem with humanism structurally, or humanism in the world as it stands now?

          • stanz2reason

            It’s easy to see the parts of Gingrich’s life that are in tension with his faith.

            A priest who is conflicted about a woman serving as a priest is someone whose views causes tension with his faith. To describe as you did someone who left not one but two wives who were sick and dying in addition to a lifelong contempt for the poor is… excessively polite. I both question and admire this politeness.

            How about this… A hypocritical humanist might be someone who relies on the supernatural to inform himself on some aspects of his life (perhaps in dealing with a spouse or kids), but otherwise rejects it.

          • Ray

            I don’t see why you even need to get into Humanism’s stance on the supernatural, which is frankly kind of wishy-washy — I’ve definitely heard the term “religious Humanist.” It’s easy to find principles which a Humanist is bound to follow, on pain of hypocrisy. Would Gingrich not be equally hypocritical if he self-identified as a Humanist and not a Catholic?

            Sure, Humanism isn’t categorically opposed to divorce like Catholicism. However, even the bland statement from the “What is Humanism?” page lists compassion and honesty as virtues. Surely given the circumstances of Gingrich’s divorces he managed to violate both of these principles.

            That said, Gingrich’s personal life is the least of the crimes we could lay at his feet. His political choices have been destructive on a massively larger scale, extending even to the present paralysis in Washington. On this point, I’m not sure whether humanist organizations or religious ones have spoken out against this nonsense with greater clarity (I think both tend to try to maintain at least the pretense of being nonpartisan if not outright apolitical, and are thereby somewhat hampered.) But, Humanists do seem to be more opposed in practice.

          • stanz2reason

            As it’s been defined here and elsewhere, it seems an important aspect of being a humanist is having reason guide your views rather than revelation, making this, I feel, in the wheel house of sorts for a hypocrisy test. It wasn’t my intent to limit hypocrisy to issues regarding the existence of the supernatural, just that the reliance on it to inform certain decisions in your life seems contrary to how a humanist claims they should act. A self-proclaimed humanist who consults tea leaves to guide his or her decisions would be a hypocrite.

            To be honest it was an arbitrary starting point and I’m open to suggestion here.

          • Darren

            We are treading close to a No True Scotsman, though.
            Gingrich is a “nominal” Catholic, so of course he doesn’t count. One might say that knowing the creed someone claims can predict what they aspire to, if not what they achieve, but I doubt this is so true as we might like.

            As I read the claim (predictive power), we are looking at individuals, not a corporate mission statement. Imagine Gingrich, Colbert, Franco, Campbell, and Duvalier all think themselves good Catholics (or at least they claim to be), what standards do they aspire to? If one has to say that one
            is a Democrat-Liberal-Vatican-2-Feminist-Social-Justice-Church-State-Seperation-Gay-Rights-Pro-Choice-Catholic,
            how much predictive value does that Catholic part have? About as much as if it had been replaced with Humanist, is how much.

            This is not to pick on Catholicism, or religion in general.The reasons for self-identifying as one creed or other are so varied, and most having so little to do with actual agreement with or commitment to the tenets of said creed, that I think it a poor predictor overall.

            That said, I don’t much care for most of the contemporary
            Humanist summaries. I think the ideas are good, but they miss the crucial point. Humanism, for me, means that any morality, if it exists, proceeds from Humans. Meaning and purpose, if there is such a thing, proceed from Humans
            themselves. The reason, IMO, that so many Humanist claims sound like such a watery rip-off of the same things the religious claim (other than the historical myopia that many radical ideas once so opposed by the Church have become so ingrained in or worldview and co-opted by the religious that we fail to recognize them) is this missing why.

          • K.Chen

            I don’t mean to claim that Gingrich is not an authentic Catholic (although its probably easy to make an argument he is a bad one) I am saying I know he is a Catholic in the same way I know someone is a Catholic when they fill out a survey, they name themselves as such. And I think tracking aspiration is incredibly useful in predicting behavior.

            As to the rest, let me ask you this: do you think “Catholic” is at least as predictive as “French” at the appropriate scale?

          • Randy Gritter

            Gingrich is actually a convert so he did think about becoming Catholic. His divorces were prior to him becoming Catholic. Sin does not exclude you if you have repented and gone to confession. Persisting in sin, especially public sin, can cause scandal. Still it is not our place to judge. We pray for each other to grow in holiness.

          • K.Chen

            I don’t mean to judge Gingrich as a human being, I do mean to judge him as a public figure.

          • stanz2reason

            Nah, I’ll judge him as a human being. F that guy.

          • Randy Gritter

            So there is some absolute moral standard he has violated? Interesting.

          • stanz2reason

            Only standards I can speak for him violating are my own. Subjective morality doesnt mean no moral judgements are made. Judge has ruled. He’s a prick.

          • Randy Gritter

            So if somebody judges you by their moral standards that would not bother you at all? Good to know.

          • Darren

            They don’t already?

          • Randy Gritter

            People always do. It is just a question of whether we complain about it. If we explicitly claim the right to do it to others …

          • stanz2reason

            Everyone judges me (and everyone else) by their own moral standards. Why would that bother me? That’s the whole point of my position.

          • Darren

            Nice analogy, Catholic:French. I like it. And very applicable, I think, as to the appropriate scale at which it is useful and the kind of predictions one could reasonably make, cultural more so than specific moral conclusions (which is what I read Leah’s criticism as focused on – specific stands on specific questions).

            Nor would I remove our ability to use group identity or self affiliation as a predictor, I am just wanting us to calibrate our expectations a bit. Now when we are all slapping the Humanists for being _vague_ (and I will happily join in, they are), we can do so while keeping in mind that if knowing someone is a Humanist only gives us an 80% confidence in predicting their opinion on the morality of drone strikes, knowing someone is a Catholic only gives us a 60% confidence in predicting their opinion on the morality of gay marriage.

            Also amusing that people seem content with Franco, but rather more squeamish with Gingrich being on their team. You are correct in saying that aspirations are useful, where I was trying to get was pointing out that a one-word affiliation does not do us as much good at parsing those aspirations as we might think. I do not find it hard to imagine that Gingrich, deep down, does not feel like a good Catholic, but Campbell likely does, despite being publicly reprimanded by her own churches leadership.

          • Randy Gritter

            Actually French encompasses everything I don’t mean when I say Catholic. I mean the religion, not the cultural phenomenon. A lot of others call themselves Catholic precisely because it is part of being French or Italian or Filipino or whatever. I find that quite maddening. Not because I don’t want them to be Catholic. It just seems to be a barrier to actually experiencing Catholic spiritually.

            In the moral context it is more clear what Catholic means. People do bring up Joe Biden or John Kerry just to be difficult but they know what Catholicism teaches.

            Franco? I don’t know if you know how many priests Franco killed. Try this:

            http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=7508

          • Darren

            “A lot of others call themselves Catholic precisely because it is part of being French or Italian or Filipino or whatever. I find that quite maddening.”

            A great illustration of my contention that a single word creed affiliation gives us little predictive power for a person’s moral conclusions.

            Two word affiliations though, “Real Catholic”, now we’re talkin’! ;)

          • Randy Gritter

            We are trying. It is oxymoronic because Catholic means universal. Qualifying your universality is a bit odd.

    • adrianratnapala

      The distinction you make between yourselves and the Objectivists is essentially that your views are fuzzier than theirs. You have perspectives, they have theories. How is that distinction relevant?

      • Paul Chiariello

        The distinction I take is that Objectivism is a theory about, specifically and only, ethics (and maybe politics). While Humanism is a perspective about a wide range of topics, including, but not limited, to ethics (and politics).

        Hence a ‘worldview’ or ‘lifestance’.

    • K.Chen

      Let me ask you directly the questions I alluded to in my comment then:

      There are sorts of secular humanism in the world that are (from an objective and Clifford Gertz influenced standpoint) at least religious as Theravada Buddhism (which is atheistic), and there are kinds that are nothing more than vague collections of people who reject God and/or religion and/or the religious but seek the company of fellow travelers). Does your group fall anywhere in particular on this spectrum (alternatively, feel free to reject the premise at this point, but address the underlying concern of positive beliefs versus rejection of the belief of others.)

      Do the Yale Humanists sincerely understand themselves as a “faith group” “faith community” or a religious ministry? Alternatively, do you imply that other religions are really nothing more than overgrown philosophies/worldviews?

      To shed some light on the distinction, say a federal law obligates every man woman and child to spend 2 years in military service. A court rules that, due to the protections under the Free Exercise clause (technically RFRA, but that involves legal nuances unimportant here) those with sincerely held religious beliefs whose exercise of such is compromised by this law are exempt objectors.

      Objector A says “I have the deeply held belief that this policy is wrongheaded and I wish to stand athwart”
      Objector B says “I have the deeply held belief that life is precious and that military service is wrong”
      Objector C says “I have deeply held beliefs that taking life or making war in any circumstance is a grave sin, and to do so would imperil my soul for eternity”

      Do you see any difference between those three objectors, and where would Yale Humanists fall?

      Edit: An additional question: do you have room in your group for theistic humanists, or does that imply a contradiction in terms to you?

      • avalpert

        “If an individual deeply and sincerely holds beliefs that are purely ethical or moral in source and content but that nevertheless impose upon him a duty of conscience to refrain from participating in any war at any time, those beliefs certainly occupy in the life of that individual “a place parallel to that filled by . . . God” in traditionally religious persons. Because his beliefs function as a religion in his life, such an individual is as much entitled to a “religious” conscientious objector exemption under § 6 (j) as is someone who derives his conscientious opposition to war from traditional religious convictions.”
        Justice Black’s majority opinion in Welsh

        • K.Chen

          Without getting too far down the legal rabbit hole Welsh is a statutory interpretation case, trying to figure out what 6(j) covers, not determining what is considered a religion for Free Exercise/RFRA purposes. If there was a conscription act that did not have a built in conscientious objector out, the only grounds would probably be”Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability” from RFRA

          EDIT: Also of note: “Although an individual’s assertion that his views are religious is to be regarded highly, the opposite proclamation is not to be similarly viewed.”

          • avalpert

            Yes, it is possible a different legal result may be had depending on how the hypothetical law is written and how RFRA is applied to it. But the reasoning Black used still provides the answer to your question. At least as regards your objectors B and C.

          • K.Chen

            I was and am curious to Chiariello’s answer on the topic, not looking for a right answer. We can also set up the question slightly differently, and I’m curious if you have the same positions.

            Say there is a federal law making the use of a certain drug illegal. All three objectors are arrested for using the drug, and explain themselves thusly:

            Objector A says “I have the deeply held belief that the policy of criminalizing drug use is wrongheaded and I wish to stand athwart”
            Objector B says “I have the deeply held belief that drug use is a deeply important way for people to live life”
            Objector C says “I have the deeply held belief that I must use this drug in order to commune with God, as I am commanded to so by my faith”

            Do you come out to the same result? More to the point, do you think there is a difference between objectors B and C? Put it another way, you already seem to accept that A is a different class from B and C, so the depth and strength of the belief cannot be what is important. What is left, or so I argue, is the nature of the belief held. So, do B and C have different natures?

          • avalpert

            I should have clarified why I accepted A as a different class – it wasn’t the strength of depth of the belief but the content. I can’t see how a republic remains functional if you can opt out of laws based on policy disagreement alone – it virtually guarantees different legal regimes for everyone based on policy preference.

            On the other hand, I can see reason to except people from some laws when the inherent act itself runs so contrary to their beliefs that they can’t do it. Determining which acts warrant those exception and which don’t is no small task and I’m sure reasonable can and will disagree on the line. For me in particular, I happen to agree that it is wrong to except Indians from bans on peyote but not others who strongly believe it provides spiritual meaning to their lives. I don’t think the distinctions that can be made between the nature of those beliefs warrant different treatment under the law.

            On the other hand, I can see why some would make a distinction between this hypothetical, where you are prohibiting something, and the first one where you are demanding a positive action.

          • K.Chen

            It is interesting you use the word “spiritual” there, since to me, that is the content difference between statements B and C. It also gets additionally fuzzy when I throw in might be might not be religious cultural practices, like any number of the traditional Chinese beliefs/Confucian/daoist practices that might be banned or restricted.

            While the policy implications for running a government interest me, my point here was to suggest there may be a substantive content difference between philosophies and cultural beliefs writ large and religious beliefs and practices in particular. Or at least to suggest that the distinction is defensible, and I would like to know where Yale Humanists sees themselves on the question.

          • avalpert

            I would be interested in hearing your articulation of the difference between core beliefs born from religion versus those born from personal introspection/reasoning such that it warrants different levels of protection.

            Personally, while I could list various differences between the two I don’t find any material enough to distinguish a religious worldview from a ‘merely’ philosophical one in this regard.

          • K.Chen

            I wouldn’t, but because that isn’t the way I think about the problem. I start from Clifford Geertz: “(1) a system of symbols which acts to (2) establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by (3) formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and (4) clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that (5) the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic.”

            In other words, religion is a particular type of culture. Like all culture, it has external aspects (the cultural community as it lives and the symbols established in art, literature and thought) that are internalized. What makes religious beliefs different is the degree of power, combined with the depth at which that influence takes root in a human being. For example, Christianity has had such a deep influence on Western thought that we are always looking at religion as a collection of beliefs – orthodoxy – when the vast majority of religious and cultural weight in the rest of the world is on practices – orthopraxis.

            At this point, a short digression to pull out the fact that whenever someone tells me that they are “spiritual but not religious” I think they’re wrong. They are religious by any useful sense of the word, especially for discussions like this.

            Anyway, the isn’t isn’t “core beliefs” I have no interest in judges or anyone else sorting through what beliefs are integral to a belief system and what are not. I am interested in protecting the ability of the religious on the whole spectrum of religiosity and belief to continue to operate their lives with minimal bonus intrusion from the state, because that is how they understand their lives, even if they do not in turn understand that is how they understand it. Not coincidentally, this policy usually protects irreligion from state religion.

            The most obvious example is the Amish, who have a thick view of religion: a whole life, cradle to grave, which each part contingent on the other. To walk away from Amish religion – nearly any part of Amish religion – is to walk away from family, from community, from being able to make a living and have nearly everything torn away from you. This is the sort of way religion works, if less obviously for religion that is easily integrated into a modern way of life. This is true for even for the considerably less insular religions all the way down to the thinnest spirituality, and less true for even the most of the strongest held introspective beliefs.

            While it is easy to think of situations why bright line rules separating the weakest religion and deepest secular thoughts will have absurd results, in the world as it stands, the job is easier, and who gets protection is about the world far more than it is about the abstract.

            Also a good time to point out I am cribbing wholesale from James Madison http://religiousfreedom.lib.virginia.edu/sacred/madison_m&r_1785.html

            The short, imprecise and messy answer (TL;DR) is that religion asks the big questions and has an outsized influence on the answers and the sincere adherents play for infinite stakes. If I threaten a man with jail because after long introspection, he decided war is inhuman and wrong, that is pretty bad. If I threaten a man with jail because he’s convinced he’ll condemn his soul to infinite torment, that is a special level of cruelty.

            EDIT: I ask for a bit of forebearance, since you asked me a huge question worthy of several book length essays, and I tried to answer in the 27 minutes I had before being terribly late to a appoinment involving dungeons and also dragons

          • avalpert

            That would seem to apply to any community of philosophy as well – at least in general.

            But I’ll just focus in on why I disagree with the notion that threatening a man with jail who is violating his own introspection on right and wrong is equal to threatening the one who is convinced he’ll condemn his soul to infinite torment.

            Since at the end of the day, I know he isn’t condemning his soul to infinite torment I know that in both cases what we are doing is causing them internal strife because they are violating their own consciences – nothing more, nothing less. It is not crueler because one thinks that violations carries on after death and one may think it ceases at death along with him – in both cases the violation is as if it is infinite.

          • K.Chen

            Geertz’s first and fifth criteria is the most important. A religion is a system of symbols, and that system of symbols creates uniquely realistic. An ethnic community or group of devoted Kantians may have deep and significant passions, but they tend not to interpret reality uniquely. Religions on the other hand, take not only great stake in things that non religious and the other religions do not – the hand of providence versus karma versus random chance for example – but elevate those things to be more real than material reality.

            Regardless of what you know vis-a-vis the soul, it is the perception and the behavior that is important. The person worried about betraying his conscience is playing for high stakes, but the person worried about his soul is playing for infinite stakes. Imagine two people who go all in at a poker game. One stakes his whole fortune. The other stakes his whole fortune and every dollar he shall ever make. If it happens to be that both men die tomorrow, the sums may be in reality the same, but the second man behaves as if he risks more.

            At any rate, if what I’ve written can’t convince you, I’m probably out of rhetoric on the subject short of someone paying me professional rates – but there is a lot of great academic writing on the topic in the context of what liberal states owe religious groups, as well as the classics such as Madison’s Memorial and Remonstrance.

  • grok87

    Interestingly, there may be a one-to-one mapping on this issue between the Yale Religious Ministries and the Boy Scouts of America

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Scouting
    The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) in the United States takes a hard-line position, excluding atheists and agnostics.[11] The BSA has come under strong criticism over the past years due to their religious policy and stance against agnostics and atheists:

    “Declaration of Religious Principle. The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God. In the first part of the Scout Oath or Promise the member declares, ‘On my honour I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law.’ The recognition of God as the ruling and leading power in the universe and the grateful acknowledgment of his favours and blessings are necessary to the best type of citizenship and are wholesome precepts in the education of the growing members.”[11]

    The Boy Scouts of America has accepted Buddhist members and units since 1920, and also accepts members of various pantheistic faiths. Many Buddhists do not believe in a supreme being or creator deity, but because these beliefs are still religious and spiritual in nature, they are deemed acceptable by the BSA since their leaders subscribe to the BSA Declaration of Religious Principle.

  • adrianratnapala

    These would presumably limit the Humanists ability to run down other
    religions on campus or possibly to host prominent New Atheist speakers
    like Dawkins or Harris.

    Hah! So the rules for religious orgs prevent zealotry. I genuinely think that’s a pity. I don’t think G.K. Chesterton would have a approved. Nor J. Christ. Though S. Gotama have liked it – seeing it as an opportunity to be sly.


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