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.
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.
Secular Family Network projects will include:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
P.O. Box 664
Amherst, NY 14226
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