Vote on Quote for Greg Graffin Lifetime Achievement Award

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Here are the 2 finalists for the quote to be engraved on the award we’re presenting to rock star & scientist Greg Graffin (of Bad Religion) on Saturday. #1 Seems to me to directly express the purpose of the award, and has the benefit of being by Rushdie, the first recipient and after whom the award is nicknamed. But the 2nd quote is pretty good too and specifically mentions Graffin’s 2 areas of expertise: evolutionary biology and music. Maybe we can use both but that would preclude having a line such as “In admiration of your three decades of creating inspiring Humanist music, and of your profound commitment to the promotion of science and education.” Which quote do you like? Or should we go with both and throw out the statement?

Quote #1: Not even the visionary or mystical experience ever lasts very long. It is for art to capture that experience…to be, for a secular, materialist culture, some sort of replacement for what the love of god offers in the world of faith.

–Salman Rushdie

Quote # 2: The capacity to blunder slightly is the real marvel of DNA. Without this special attribute, we would still be anaerobic bacteria and there would be no music.

–Lewis Thomas (renowned author and cancer scientist)

Paid College Student Fellowship with Interfaith Youth Core!

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Interested in receiving a stipend, training and travel funds to help promote religious pluralism, service, and Humanism? The Interfaith Youth Core is a national organization that empowers young people to do demonstrably meaningful work around the US. They are actively seeking the leadership & participation of Humanist/atheist students in this fellowship program, and would welcome you as no less or more a part of their community than their Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, and other members. It’s a great chance to promote Humanist values in a constructive, positive way; I strongly encourage Humanist/atheist college students, whether at Harvard or elsewhere, to apply. Contact Lauren or Megan (http://www.ifyc.org/contact_us/contact_info), and feel free to tell them I sent you.

Women in Humanism/Atheism/Skepticism

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Rebecca Watson of Skepchick has been doing great work since her turn as one of the most intriguing speakers at our April conference. This unfortunately well-justified rant about the lack of female speakers at TAM6 (James Randi’s “The Amazing Meeting” conferences are among the biggest drawing events in the Humanist/atheist world) really caught my eye.

I don’t mean to be the pot assisting another cooking vessel in calling the kettle black: male speakers outnumbered female speakers at The New Humanism as well, albeit not by the ratio Rebecca is rightly bemoaning. But I really agree this is one of the next big issues our community needs to address. Surely, prominently featuring the work of more female Humanist/skeptic leaders is one important way for us to live up to Humanist ideals.

What else do we need to do? How can the Humanist/nontheist community most effectively cultivate female leadership and participation? Do we have to look at different types of programs? Different types of language?
My friend Susan Marine, director of the Harvard College Women’s Center, has always said she’d be happy to help if we ever decided to put on a major (or, to start out, a not-so-major) Harvard event on Women in Humanism/Atheism/Skepticism, perhaps for next year.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

American Humanism and Buddhism: Seeking Community and Culture

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I haven’t posted to this blog much in the last few months, mainly because news about the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard now gets posted on our new newsfeed section, and my own editorial commentary I now mostly post at “On Faith“, the Newsweek magazine and Washington Post site on religion.

But occasionally I do come across articles I just want to make a brief comment about. Here is a great one at a very interesting site, religionwriter.com.

The article details the predicament of American Buddhism, as it too often finds itself disconnected from community, lacking cultural frameworks that would make it sustainable, and failing to connect to a new generation. I find it interesting first because this could very well have been my predicament had I continued with my interest, around age 18-20 or so, of becoming a Buddhist Priest. But also because the situation in many ways mirrors that of Humanism, and of where the current rise in atheism will end up a generation from now unless we develop more sustainable Humanist and atheist community institutions.

Perhaps more on this topic to come, from me. But what do you think? Do you see any parallels between American Buddhists as depicted here, and Humanists and/or atheists? Any lessons for us to learn?

In Memoriam: Rabbi Sherwin T. Wine 1928-2007

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Dear friends,

It is with profound sadness that I inform you of the death of one of the greatest Humanist leaders of the 20th Century, my beloved friend and teacher Rabbi Sherwin T. Wine, the 2003 American Humanist of the Year. Rabbi Wine and his longtime partner, Richard McMains, were vactioning in Morocco. Returning from dinner Saturday evening in Essaouira, their taxicab was hit by another driver. Both Rabbi Wine and the taxi driver were killed instantly. Richard survived the collision and currently is hospitalized in stable condition.

For a press release with more detailed information, including regarding the memorial service currently being planned, click here or visit the Society for Humanistic Judaism. To hear Rabbi Wine speak on Humanistic Judaism, click here for an interview recorded at Harvard University in April 2007. A video of Rabbi Wine’s stirring speech at Harvard in April 2007 will be available later this week at http://harvardhumanist.org.

In the informal feedback the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard has gathered from our conference, “The New Humanism” at Harvard this past April, Sherwin Wine was chosen more than any other presenter as the most outstanding speaker of the weekend-long event; which included such world-famous figures as Salman Rushdie, E.O. Wilson, Amartya Sen, and Steven Pinker. As one younger conference attendee wrote, he was “the surprise speaker who blew me away,” but for those of us fortunate enough to know Sherwin, his excellence came as no surprise. He was not only among the greatest and most knowledgeable orators I have seen, he was also a compassionate and wise leader who over the course of his extraordinary life showed thousands of people what it means to live in a community that is good without god. Wine performed thousands of weddings, funerals, bar and bat mitzvahs, and baby-naming ceremonies based not on obedience to or praise of god but on a celebration of the human spirit. He listened at the bedside of sick and dying patients with the same passion, commitment and warmth that drove him to found numerous successful organizations such as the Society for Humanistic Judaism, the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism, the Humanist Institute, and Americans for Religious Liberty.

Around the world, Wine unceasingly taught that human dignity, courage and love are our most important values, not religious obedience. Wine was a non-traditionally religious rabbi, a non-theist, and a staunch Humanist. He debated and defeated fundamentalists such as Jerry Falwell, Meir Kahane, and other enemies of freedom. He also refused to give lip-service to the religious veneer that America so values in its leaders– he refused to publicly pray or praise a God he did not believe in. This forced him to create not only a movement but also a secular and Humanistic liturgy for Jews and others; Wine wrote and collected hundreds of Humanistic meditations and poems that help the members of Humanistic Jewish communities to express their grief or inspiration, without reference to god. This approach led to a public reception best illustrated in an anecdote about Wine’s mother, a small but strong woman profoundly impacted by her Eastern European Jewish roots. “Mrs. Wine,” it was once pointed out to her about one of the many successful international gatherings Sherwin organized, “Aren’t you proud of how many people have come to hear your son?” “Of course,” she replied, “but do you know how many people would be here if he just believed in God a little bit?”

And yet the movement Sherwin founded and the career he pioneered– creating a new tradition that I am proud to be among those dedicating our lives to carrying on– was never about being against god but rather about moving beyond god to create humanist community, led by humanist professional clergy, for the benefit of all human beings. If we learn one thing from Rabbi Wine’s loss, let it be this: now that the world’s attention has turned to the 1.1 billion non-religious people on earth, and now that bestselling books on atheism by authors such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have shown what Humanists do not believe in, let us follow Sherwin’s example and dedicate ourselves to building a positive alternative to traditional religion. Let us build communities, organizations, and families that do good for ourselves and others, based on a Humanist ethic of reason, compassion and creativity.

Sherwin Wine, like Eleanor Roosevelt, knew that it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. So in moving forward, let us remember the words he wrote in the moving liturgical song, “Ayfo Oree” (“Where is My Light?”):

Where is my light?

My light is in me.

Where is my hope?

My hope is in me.

Where is my strength?

My strength is in me.

And in you. And in you.

Singing and Building

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It has now been nearly two months since our wonderfully successful conference but the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard hasn’t quite been able to slip into summer vacation mode, because of all the exciting opportunities that have been coming our way since.

This week, for example, we are the featured story in Newsweek magazine’s well known section on religion, “Beliefwatch.” It is wonderful to see the subject of Humanism, underappreciated for too long, lately receiving the attention of the nation’s largest magazines and newspapers. We are building towards the point where all of American society will have an opportunity to engage with Humanism’s message of ethical community and naturalistic values– that wider reach for the best of Humanism old and new is what the “new” Humanism is all about.

As far as this particular story goes, what is strong about it is not that it casts me personally “at the center” of the controversy it describes, nor that it depicts a personal debate between myself and people such as Richard Dawkins with whom I actually agree on many issues; but rather that the very idea of a controversy over the true significance of Humanism and atheism is being widely circulated. This story is strong in that it acknowledges that our community of Humanists, agnostics, atheists and the non-religious is coming into its own, and that it will help encourage the millions of non-traditionally religious people in America to think about what we can build up together, not solely about what we want to tear down. I am proud to take the opportunity to speak out in favor of a positive, constructive Humanism. And I am willing if necessary to receive the scorn of a few extreme atheists who see nearly all religion as child abuse and are working to eliminate it altogether. But the point is to nurture a nurturing Humanism, and I could never do so on my own– I am incredibly grateful for the wonderful work so many of my colleagues (far too many to list here, unfortunately, but for one example see the website newprogressivealliance.com, whose founder Jeff Nall is also featured in the Newsweek piece, and consider signing up in support of it today) have been doing, in some cases for decades, to build Humanism. Let us all continue to sing and to build together.

On the note of singing and building– one of the prominent themes of our April conference– you can now go to the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard’s revamped website, http://harvardhumanist.org, and listen to many of the most inspiring moments (intellectual and musical) of our conference, by clicking on our new Podcast player, which currently features Salman Rushdie, E.O. Wilson, Dar Williams, and myself, and is soon to feature Sherwin Wine, Alan Dershowitz, and many more. Thanks so much to the New York-based Humanist think tank the Institute for Humanist Studies and its popular podcast, Humanist Network News, for putting these wonderful materials together.

And on a personal note, I want to add that in the weeks since the conference, I’ve finally finished my graduate work at Harvard Divinity School, which has kept me from having time to correspond with the dozens of you who’ve written me in the past few weeks. Hopefully over the summer, as a new grad myself, I’ll be able to get back to you sooner. It has been an honor and an amazing experiment working and studying nearly full time for the past three years, and I now look forward to now focusing exclusively on the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard.

My Speech at the Dinner with John Edwards

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On Saturday night I had the pleasure of being asked to give an invocation at a dinner with Presidential candidate and former Senator John Edwards. The dinner was hosted by the North Shore Labor Council, and it was a wonderfully successful event– Edwards clearly inspired the over 500 attendees.

There are fortunately a number of intriguing candidates for the 2008 election, but one can’t help but admire Edwards’ attempt to distinguish himself by being a consistent, persistent voice for social justice and against economic inequality. It was a welcome challenge for me to try to speak briefly about Humanism’s connection to this issue, and to Labor politics as well– Humanism and Labor have long been closely connected, but that’s generally been forgotten in today’s American political climate. It would be nice if the reason for this forgetting were that we Humanists wanted to acknowledge our debt to Libertarian economic thinkers as well as populists, but I fear that is less relevant than the simple fact that religion is just assumed to dominate all things political these days. So, here is my little contribution to reuniting issues of Humanism and Labor (and bonus points if you can identify the excellent television drama dealing with issues of religion and social justice from which I adapted a key couple of lines):

This evening as we celebrate the women and men of the North Shore Labor Council, we join hands and raise glasses not for a political meeting, not to raise funds, not even for the purpose of enacting a law promoting a policy. No my friends, this dinner is a celebration of our shared ethics, of our common human values.

Workers in this region and everywhere need someone to represent them and their interests. If this society were to become polarized between an entrenched political class and a disenfranchised working class we would be doomed. We wouldn’t need terrorism to destroy us, we would destroy ourselves. Because of good people like the ones in this room, –Americans and people of all countries– because of the work of your hands, minds and hearts, I have faith America can stem the tide of polarization and become the welcoming and just society she long ago promised to be.

Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Humanists, people of every religion and no religion—Citizens of this country and citizens of every country—we are all citizens of an ever increasingly interdependent world. We are all human beings. We all need the nourishment and sustenance of justice. In that spirit, let us break bread together tonight:

Let us bless our sharing of this simple food.

And let us bring forth forth food from the land

For all of us to enjoy.

In Tribute

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A member of our community and strong supporter of the Humanist Chaplaincy has recently died. Dr. Donald Burke was among other things a physician who spent decades specializing in Emergency Medicine. He attended and very much enjoyed our 30th Anniversary Conference last month and became fatally ill soon thereafter. Don Burke pdf.jpg Here (click on the thumbnail) is an article from the 1970′s about Dr. Burke from his days as a principled objector to the Vietnam War, and a photo of him at our Darwin Day celebration from this past February, with Humanist Graduate Community President Peter Blake in the Gorilla Suit. IMG_0527.jpgDon, ever passionate about animals and the importance of Darwininan thought, loved this photo.

Meanwhile Clark Adams, a prominent and much beloved young Humanist leader, strongly involved with the Secular Student Alliance among other things, has also recently died. Many of you may have met Clark at our recent conference. Our friend Hemant Mehta has a beautiful tribute and thoughts on Clark’s sad and untimely death at his blog, friendlyatheist.com.

You might be interested to know, for example, that in Scotland last year 44% of all funeral services were performed by Humanist officiants like myself. And in fact I will be using some of the British Humanist Association‘s beautiful memorial materials in preparing Don’s service.

This would seem a good time to remind you that, should you as a member of the Harvard or surrounding community ever need Humanist or non-religious services for a funeral, wedding, baby-naming, or other such special occasion, I am happy to perform these or help refer you to someone else who can, or to materials that will help you in creating and leading your own ceremony.

All the best and may the beginning of this summer be a time for reflection and renewal.

Harvard Humanist Year in Review 06-07

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It has been an amazing year for our diverse, growing community of Humanists, agnostics, atheists, and the non-religious at Harvard and beyond. As those of us whose lives are marked by the rhythms of academic calendars, exams, and summer vacations prepare for the change of pace that summer brings, I wanted to take a look back at some of the wonderful things we have achieved together this year. Celebrating is an important part of Humanism, after all, and below I’ll ask for your help in planning a concrete celebration where we can get together one last time before the 07-08 year, but first here are some highlights of the year in which the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard and our whole was community named the American Humanist Association‘s Chapter of the Year!

September 13:

The Harvard Secular Society kicks off another successful year with great food and conversation at Memorial Church. See flyer. Under President Amanda Shapiro, ’08, and officers Alex Harris ’08, Anna Reinert ’08, and Matt Valente ’08, the HSS put on regular discussions, played an integral role in most of the biggest events described below, and most recently has added new officers: Daniel Robinson, ’10, Lauren Gibilisco, ’08, and Zoe Kawaller, ’09.

September 14:

Website launch: The Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard’s launches its own website for the first time ever.

Website Screenshot

The site features special profiles about noted Harvard Humanists Amartya Sen, E.O. Wilson, Steven Pinker, Tu Weiming, and Anthony Pinn, as well as of selected Humanist Harvard students Amanda Shapiro, Omar Haque, John Silva, Tom Gessel, and Robin Bellows. August Brunsman, Executive Director of the Secular Student Alliance, reacted: “wow does your website rock: I was just reading over the Profiles section of your website this morning–it’s wonderful.” Check out the profiles today—Tom Gessel’s story is particularly recommended and might just as easily have appeared in the New Yorker. And watch for plenty of updates and additions to the site coming over the course of the Spring and Fall.

September 28:

The Harvard Humanist Graduate Community kicks off what would be an extremely successful year with a Wine & Cheese Social Gathering for approximately 50 students from all of Harvard’s graduate schools, at Harvard Yard’s Phillips Brooks House. See the flyer here.

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Oct 4:

We receive a great email: “At long last, the SSA can formally say ‘Yes, we’re coming to Harvard.’” It was our pleasure to work with the Secular Student Alliance throughout the year in planning our 30th Anniversary Conference. And we’re proud that Harvard now has more SSA members than almost any other school.

October 8:

“Jesus Camp” trip: the Harvard Secular Society arranges for a University grant enabling approximately 2 dozen group members take a trip over to the MIT area to see the noted new documentary, “Jesus Camp.”

Oct 10:

Michael Shermer: The Humanist Chaplaincy, along with the New England Skepical Society and the Humanist Association of Massachusetts, hosts renowned Skeptic and Humanist, Michael Shermer. Shermer, editor of the magazine Skeptic, spoke on his book, Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design. Approximately 150 attended, and a signing and dinner with the author followed at popular local bar, Redline.

Oct 19:

Richard Dawkins comes to Cambridge on his The God Delusion book tour, and after a packed reading at First Parish Church, Dawkins joins the Harvard Humanist Graduate Community for an exclusive post-reading discussion.Richard Dawkins and Harvard Humanist Students Listen to Greg Epstein.jpg

Dawkins has very positive things to say about the experience in his blog. And Humanist Chaplain Greg Epstein has kind words for Dawkins as well.

Oct 26:

Julia Sweeney: Renowned Actress, Comedienne, Playwright and Humanist Julia Sweeney visits Harvard to perform her inspiring new play, Letting Go of God, for a huge crowd– 750 paid attendees – at Harvard’s prestigious Sanders Theatre.

_MG_6095 copy.jpgThe audience, which marked the largest crowd Sweeney had ever performed the entire play for, was wowed. See the Harvard Gazette article. Undergraduate Julie Duncan’s review was distributed nationally and internationally in leading Humanist e-newsletters. For a photo essay of the almost supernaturally magical night: http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/humanism/2006/11/03/julia-sweeney-photos/

November 15:

Interfaith Thanksgiving Service: the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard and the Harvard Secular Society co-sponsor an Interfaith Thanksgiving Service in Harvard’s Memorial Church. The Humanist Chaplaincy is the first among Harvard’s 40 Chaplaincies, and one of only two, to provide significant funding in support of this first-ever at Harvard event which had participation from the Humanist, Hindu, Buddhist, Baha’i, Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities. Secular Society President Amanda Shapiro and Humanist Chaplain Emeritus Tom Ferrick are among the speakers. Approximately 150 attend. For more: http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/humanism/2006/11/09/yet-some-more-upcoming-events/

November 16:

Special Lecture: “The Neuroscience of Moral Decision-making” by Harvard Professor Joshua Greene. Presented to a crowded Science Center lecture hall with the Center for Naturalism and the Humanist Association of Massachusetts.

November 24:

Robot Goes Here: Harvard Humanist Graduate Community Member David Rand‘s high energy electro rock project Robot Goes Here releases the album “The Byte Is In My Blood” on Infidel Records.

Robot Goes Here/Dave RandMixed by Ray Martin (Gorillaz, Shakira, Mindless Self Indulgence) and Ted Young (Taking Back Sunday, Bouncing Souls, Andrew W K), the album lyrically tackles a wide range of big-pictures issues from a Humanist prospective while still being fun and making you dance. The album has been on NPR’s nationally syndicated Here and Now among other places, and one of its songs will be on millions of laptops sent to kids in developing nations as part of MIT’s One Child Per Laptop initiative. Check out the video for “What All The Screaming’s About” here.

December 4:

Anthony Pinn & African American Humanism: For our 14th Annual Alexander Lincoln Memorial Lecture, we were delighted to initiate a partnership between the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard, and The Harvard DuBois Institute for African and African American Research, in presenting Harvard alumnus Dr. Anthony Pinn, the leading thinker of African American Humanism.

Pinn Photo

Pinn also took time out for a special luncheon with students from the Harvard Secular Society and the Harvard Black Students’ Association. For the Boston Globe’s write-up: http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2006/12/16/religion_professor_backs_atheistic_view/.

December 7:

The Humanist Grad Student Community ends the semester with a FESTIVUS (!) celebration.

January 16:

Dr. Herman Suit, Andres Soriano Distinguished Professor of Radiation Oncology at Harvard Medical School joins the board of directors (honorary) of the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard. This begins an expansion for the HCH board that has since added Steven Pinker and Amartya Sen, as well as Harvard College alumnus and labor lawyer Michael Felsen, ’71. The board plans to continue its expansion in ‘07-‘08.

February 5:

A new Humanist Chaplain, Dr. Anne Klaesen, is welcomed at New York’s Adelphi University.

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Harvard Chaplain Greg Epstein was among those consulted on how to arrange for this new institution, along with Harvard Alumnus and Adelphi Associate Dean of Performing Arts Dr. Michael Stepniak. For more on the Adelphi Chaplaincy: http://www.ehsli.org/blogpage.php?blogid=109. More Humanist Chaplains at more schools may be on the way—a committee of national Humanist leaders has recently been formed to explore this possibility. To lend your support, email  humanist at hcs.harvard.edu.

February 8:

www.thenewhumanism.org, the website for the Humanist Chaplaincy’s 30th anniversary conference, is launched. Over the next 10 weeks, 582 people from around the world would register on the site, including 282 students and young adults. 21 leading Humanist and related organizations also registered to take part in our Humanist Expo on Saturday April 21. These numbers overwhelmed our original expectations (almost no money was spent to advertise the conference or the website) and caused us to have to switch conference venues 3 times due to need for more space.

February 12:

‘A Toast to Darwin’/Darwin Day: Harvard Square’s popular bar, Redline, is packed full with Humanists, agnostics, and atheists of every age and background, for Darwin Day, an at times almost raucous “International Celebration of Science and Humanity.” The Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard, the Center for Naturalism, and the Humanist Association of Massachusetts sponsored this gathering hosted by the CFN’s Director Tom Clark.

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March 1:

Alumni Mailing campaign: The first ever campaign to officially organize Harvard Humanist, agnostic, atheist, and non-religious alumni began with a letter sent via US Postal Service.

Responses began to come in the very next day, including this one: “I cried (with joy and relief) when I received the letter from the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard. I wish I had known there was a Humanist Chaplaincy when I was there 1982-86, and am glad to have been reached out to.” Deborah Strod, ’86.

March 21:

Special Lecture: Marc Hauser, author, Professor, & co-director of the Mind, Brain, and Behavior Program at Harvard “Evolving a Universal Moral Grammar:The Natural Foundation of Right and Wrong”

March 30:

An Associated Press article, “Atheists Split Over Message,” centers on the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard. The article runs in dozens of newspapers worldwide, including the New York Times, Washington Post, the Guardian (UK), and more. The article describes how “Not all nonbelievers identify as humanists or atheists, with some calling themselves agnostics, freethinkers or skeptics. But humanists see the potential for unifying the groups under their banner, creating a large, powerful minority that can’t be ignored or disdained by mainstream political and social thinkers.” Chaplain Greg Epstein is quoted describing Humanism as a more welcoming, inclusive approach to philosophical naturalism than the media-dubbed phenomenon ‘The New Atheism:’ Humanism is not about erasing religion, he said. It’s an embracing philosophy…The philosophy of the future is not going to be one that tries to erase its enemies…The future is going to be people coming together from what motivates them.

April 8:

Harvard’s WHRB Radio does a great story on “The New Humanism”, featuring Amanda Shapiro, Humanist Chaplain Greg Epstein, and Hemant Mehta, President of the Secular Student Alliance and author of I Sold My Soul on eBay. Listen here.

April 20:

Harvard Divinity School student and Humanist Chaplaincy intern Mary Ellen Giess leads “Humanist Values in Action,” a new project wherein Harvard Humanist, agnostic, atheist & non-religious students connect with one another and give back to their local community and beyond, through volunteering projects and social justice work. The humbling opening project was a visit by a dozen students to Barbara McInnis House, a local health clinic for the homeless, where they did arts and crafts and played games with recovering patients.

April 20-22:

What can we say? Our 30th anniversary conference, “The New Humanism” was an amazing experience, and possibly the largest Humanist conference in the US, ever. We learned so much from this opportunity to host 1000+ “New Humanists,” among them novelist Salman Rushdie; Nobel laureate Amartya Sen; 2-time Pulitzer Prize Winner E.O. Wilson; 2006 American Humanist of the Year Steven Pinker; folk rock star Dar Williams; 2006 Candidate for US Senate (D-CT) Ned Lamont; Humanist Congressional Lobbyist Lori Lipman Brown of the Secular Coalition for America; Rabbi Sherwin Wine; Director of the Harvard-Yenching Institute and Professor Tu Weiming; Fred Edwords; Lou Appignani; Ambassador John Loeb Jr. ’52 ’54 (MBA); Ambassador Carl Coon ’49; novelist and philosopher Rebecca Goldstein; and many, many more. Among last-minute announcement surprise guests were world-famous lawyer and Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, who spoke stirringly to students about his passion for Humanism; and Professor Peter Gomes, Minister of Harvard’s Memorial Church and widely recognized as one of the “Best Talkers in America.” We surely could never have managed it all without our wonderful student volunteers: Brendan Randall, Hadas Edelman, Handan Titiz, Andy Connor, Alex Ellis, Dave Rand, Dan Berry, Julie Duncan, Zoe Kawaller, Anna Reinert, Sebastian Velez, Mary Ellen Giess, Peter Blake, and Amanda Shapiro, along with Registration Coordinator Joseph Pacatte.)

For conference recaps, see the Harvard Gazette and the Humanist Network News. For an incredibly thorough blog recap in four parts, complete with numerous photos, see British bloggers The Lunchtime Observers, parts 1, 2, 3, & 4. Click here for a photo essay of our opening event, which packed every one of the 1070 seats in Harvard’s Memorial Church, plus two additional rows placed in the front, and turned away dozens if not hundreds. (Thanks to Harvard Humanist graduate student and photographer Juliette Melton!)

April 24:

Harvard Humanist Graduate Community President Peter Blake appears in the Boston Globe, in response to a recent Op-ed:

“Jeff Jacoby is right to praise the efforts of religious leaders to improve the lives of others, but wrong to presume that non-believers make no similar efforts. Last weekend a conference at Harvard called “The New Humanism” brought together secular humanists, atheists, and freethinkers from across the globe, including Salman Rushdie and E. O. Wilson, to promote community outreach, compassion, and tolerance.

Our organizations prefer an inclusive approach, working with and learning from our religious peers, in order to improve the world. This is in stark contrast to the us vs. them mentality that Jacoby seems to advocate.

PETER R. BLAKE
Cambridge

May 9:

Dominican Republic School Building Project:

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Harvard Humanist Graduate Community Member Sebastian Velez, of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, is featured by the American Humanist Association in a nationwide announcement of Velez’ new project, “of great significance to those who value educational opportunity for all as well as freedom of religion.”

Along the border of the Dominican Republic and Haiti–in a rural area beset by dire poverty, a total lack of educational opportunities, and a regressive economic system–Vélez is taking the lead in a school-building project. The school will start with grades one through four and currently needs a building for a library, among other improvements. Admission to the school is free, regardless of whether a child is “sponsored” or not. Donations in support of this Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard-affiliated project can be made at the American Humanist Association’s Humanist Charities website.
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May ???:

A wonderful Celebration of our year’s many achievements!!
***

LOOKING FORWARD TO NEXT YEAR:

September: Expect a partial relaunch of www.harvardhumanist.org, featuring dramatically expanded multi-media, and many new features.

October: the 15th Annual Alexander Lincoln Memorial Lecture, featuring Rep. Pete Stark, the first openly Humanist member of Congress in US history. Featuring the Secular Coalition of America, the organization which organized this historic announcement.

Representative Pete Stark

Exact date and location TBA.

SPRING Semester:

Harvard’s first-ever full credit course on Humanism, thanks in part to a grant from the Institute for Humanist Studies.

The second annual Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award for Cultural Humanism, or ‘Rushdie Award.’ A committee is now being assembled to determine the awardee and organize the event. First Annual Award Photo

Possible awardees that have been mentioned so far include musicians Eddie Vedder, Michael Stipe, Ani DiFranco, and Greg Graffin; cyclist Lance Armstrong; artist Todd MacFarlane; and others. Who will it be? To help put this event together email  humanist at hcs.harvard.edu.

THANK YOU SO MUCH TO EVERYONE WHO WAS INVOLVED THIS YEAR!! We hope you will join us as part of our growing community in the coming months. For suggestions of future events, or any other feedback, email  humanist at hcs.harvard.edu.

Coming Soon: Major Website Updates

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Later this month, we are expecting some major, exciting changes on the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard website (harvardhumanist.org) and some fantastic multimedia updates to our conference website (thenewhumanism.org) as the latter transitions from being a site promoting an upcoming conference to being a focal point for some of the exciting new energy and ideas that came out of the conference. Also look for more activity on this blog– I’m even thinking about recruiting a few select guest bloggers for this site, so if you’re interested, let me know. In short, we’re expecting a very busy and productive Summer for Humanism at Harvard and beyond, so be sure to check back often, and be in touch if you want to get involved/contribute.

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