Do Your Religion a Favor: Live Up to Its Principles 

I meet monthly with the Downtown Senior Clergy of Minneapolis. This week we listened to one of the imams in the group describing increasing violence toward Muslims. Last weekend cars in the masjid’s parking lot were spray painted and otherwise damaged. Women wearing the hijab have been sworn at and confronted in public spaces. Muslim [Read More…]

Fear, Hope, and Hell In A Hand Basket

I learned to type on a manual typewriter. There’s wasn’t an exclamation point (!) on typewriters. In order to type that character, one had to type a period (.) then backspace, then type an apostrophe. Needless to say, as someone who typed at the breakneck speed of fifteen words a minute, I didn’t use all [Read More…]

Grace for the Rest of Us

Grace. Some say it before meals. Some have it for a name. Grace-ful people have grace in abundance. It’s also theological concept, and that’s where I run into trouble. When people learn that I’m not a theist, I’m sometimes told in a very knowing way that only theists have a theory of grace. The reason [Read More…]

#Terrorism: Religion and Nationalism Aren’t Fixing It

Nothing like a crisis to clarify values. If the terrorist attacks in Paris have clarified the dominant values of Western civilization, those appear to be such things as self-absorption, border restrictions, and violence. These are the values of nationalism, not Humanism. Sure, it’s true that Paris is the world’s number one tourist destination, so lots [Read More…]

The “Trinsics”: Where are You Coming From?

Psychologist Gordon Allport argued that there are two types of religious experience—the extrinsic and the intrinsic. Extrinsic religious orientation has little to do with religion and lots to do with social norms, rules, and regulations. Allport said extrinsic orientation functions “to provide security and solace, sociability and distraction, status and self-justification.” This sort of religion [Read More…]

Congregational Humanist Liturgy: Creating a Religion-Neutral Zone

The Daoist philosopher Zhuangzi (370-287 BCE) told this story: Once three friends were discussing life. One said: “Can people live together and know nothing of life, work together and produce nothing? Can people fly around in the air and forget to exist, forever and ever?” The three friends looked at each other and burst out [Read More…]

Words, Words, and the Word Was With . . .

In his play Hamlet, Shakespeare has the character Polonius ask Hamlet, “What do you read, My Lord?” “Words, words,” Hamlet replies. Polonius says, “But what is the matter, my lord?” “Between who?” “I mean the matter that you read, my lord.” “Matter.” Shakespeare loved words that cut two ways. “Matter,” as in what’s the matter? [Read More…]

Why Does a Super-Nice Word Like “Spiritual” Make Humanists All Itchy?

Here is what Plato had to say about the body and the soul: Does not purification consist in this . . . in separating as much as possible the soul from the body, and in accustoming it to gather and collect itself by itself on all sides apart from the body, and to dwell, so [Read More…]

Death of the Curate

Art museums are currently going through a sea change, and that sea change is about the difference between access and curating. Now, obviously, as in most either/or binaries, the answer is actually both/and, but binaries help us get clarity in our thinking.  Think of the old model of art museums: they served a curatorial function: [Read More…]

Putting First Things First: Congregations of Philosophers

In 1931 the Humanist Unitarian minister Curtis Reese looked into his crystal ball and wrote that society was moving “away from religion conceived as one of man’s concerns, and toward religion conceived as man’s one concern.” Why would a Humanist foresee religion becoming more, not less, central as a human concern? (Note that Reese had [Read More…]


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