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Humanists Stress Optimism at Anniversary Conference

by Norm Allen


The following article is from the Secular Humanist Bulletin, Volume 16, Number 1.


Humanists from all over the world will gather in Los Angeles this spring to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Council for Secular Humanism and Free Inquiry magazine. In contrast to the prophets of doomsday who claimed the year 2000 would bring worldwide disasters, the humanists will focus on the positive future of a post-religious world.

During the past year, religious zealots worked furiously to produce hysteria over the nervously anticipated Y2K catastrophe. In their best-selling book Left Behind, fundamentalists Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins pointed to biblical prophecies and argued that the Apocalypse would bring global disaster throughout the world on January 1, 2000. The Reverend Jerry Falwell, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, and other religious leaders made similar claims. Many have since revised their claims or denied having made them.

Christian doomsayers have been predicting the end of the world for 2,000 years. But humanists offer a positive alternative to theologies of despair rooted in doom and gloom. "Imagine There's No Heaven: A Future Without Religion" will be the theme of the conference in Los Angeles, California, from May 4-7, 2000 (the conference begins on the evening of Thursday, May 4 and concludes on the afternoon of Sunday, May 7). It will take place at the luxury Wyndham Hotel LAX, at 6225 West Century Boulevard, Los Angeles. 

New Keynote Speakers

Five hundred to 1,000 people from more than 25 countries are expected to participate in the world humanist gathering. Speakers will focus on the importance of reason and activism in solving problems. Topics will include: Secular Humanism and Politics; Scientific Revolutions of the Twenty-First Century; Humanist Manifesto 2000; The Future of Sex; and The Student Freethought Revolution.

Newly confirmed keynote speakers include Alan Cranston and E.O.Wilson. Cranston, the U.S. Senator for California from 1969 until 1993, was the only prominent U.S. politician to sign Humanist Manifesto 2000: A Call for a New Planetary Humanism. Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and biologist E.O. Wilson is the author of Consilience and Sociobiology, among many other works. 

Previously announced speakers include entertainer Steve Allen; Pulitzer Prize-winning science author Jared Diamond; actor William B. Davis of The X Files; Dr. Jill Tarter, head of SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence); and exiled Bangladeshi author and fatwa-victim Taslima Nasrin.

World humanist leaders speaking at the conference will include Babu Gogineni, executive director of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU); Levi Fragell, leader of the 60,000-strong Norwegian Humanist League and president of IHEU; Sanal Edamaruku of the guru-busting Indian Rationalist Association; and Professor Paul Kurtz, founder and chairman of both the Council for Secular Humanism and the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP—publisher of Skeptical Inquirer magazine).

Commenting on the twentieth anniversary conference, Council for Secular Humanism Executive Director Matt Cherry said, "As well as celebrating 20 years of growth and achievements for the Council, "Imagine There's No Heaven" will look forward to an even brighter future for humanists."

Cherry also encouraged humanists and freethinkers to make their plans for attending the conference as far in advance as possible: "Five months out from the conference we already have our best-ever line-up of speakers. There will be over 20 workshops and seminars for humanist activists. And we also have some great entertainment planned. Our twentieth anniversary conference looks set to be our biggest and best meeting ever. Because of the strong interest in "Imagine There's No Heaven," we urge people to guarantee their place at the conference well in advance." To be certain of reserving a $95 room at the conference hotel, reservations must be made by April 10.


Norm Allen is director of African Americans for Humanism and a Free Inquiry Associate Editor.


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