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A Helping Hand for Secular Families


The following article is from the Secular Humanist Bulletin, Volume 13, Number 3.


Family is a central experience in our lives. Our family experiences - whether as children, partners, parents or relatives - shape our own lives, and enable us to give meaning and love to the lives of others. Family life is also deeply affected by our fundamental values and beliefs. It is an area where people manifest their life stance in the most profound and intimate ways. Nurturing a family is a challenging responsibility in any circumstance. In current American society, secular people face the added moral, educational and social challenges of going against the grain of a predominantly religious society. Many secular humanists are isolated from other freethinkers. Theirs may be the only secular humanist family in the neighborhood. Or they may be the only freethinker in their family. Up until now, secular humanists have had no-one to turn to for advice, support and discussion about family issues.

The Council for Secular Humanism plans to change that. To meet the unique needs of non-religious families, we are launching the Secular Family Network. The Secular Family Network will be first and foremost a support network linking together parents and families for mutual help, encouragement and discussion. But the Secular Family Network will also include a range of initiatives to meet specific needs.

Family Values

Society and work put many strains on families. "Non traditional" families, such as same-sex partners and single parent families, can face additional burdens. Ironically, many so called "family values" religious groups work to increase the problems faced by many families. The Southern Baptist campaign against Disney clearly demonstrates this: the entertainment company is under attack for extending family benefits to gay and lesbian partners of its employees.

Family values should emphasize support, caring and inclusiveness, not bigotry, hatred and discrimination. The Secular Family Network will therefore be organized around the principle that the real meaning of "family values" is to value all families. The Network will aim to help all kinds of people, in all kinds of family patterns, achieve a fulfilling home life.

Family Projects

Secular Family Network projects will include:

  1. A Quarterly Newsletter

    The Secular Family Network will publish a quarterly newsletter, Family Matters. Initially this will be a four page insert in the Secular Humanist Bulletin

  2. Web Site and E-Mailing Lists

    A Secular Family web site and e-mail list-serve will be launched with the newsletter. The beginnings of our website is here.

  3. Children's Camps

    The Council for Secular Humanism sponsors Camp Inquiry - an annual day camp for 8-12 year olds.  We aim to make secular humanist camps available to children of all ages in all parts of the country.

  4. Resource Directory

    There are many excellent books, videos, and games to help children understand science and the humanist outlook. The network will develop a directory of these resources.

  5. Education courses

    The Network will develop new humanist resources and education courses for children, parents and professionals in the family field. Critical thinking and moral education will be key components of these courses. A pilot educational course is being run at the Center for Inquiry International by Andrea Szalanski and Paul Kurtz.

The success of the Secular Family Network depends upon the support and participation of secular humanists across North America. If you are interested in the Network, or would like to be involved in any of its activities, please let us know.

Jan Loeb Eisler
Coordinator, Secular Family Network
familynews@secularhumanism.org
P.O. Box 664
Amherst, NY 14226


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This page was last updated 12/04/2003

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