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The Madman's Speech

by Tim Madigan


The following article is from the Secular Humanist Bulletin, Volume 12, Number 4.


The Next Generation

In traveling to visit various humanist groups across the United States and Canada, I invariably hear the refrain "Where are all the young people?" Humanist meetings are predominantly comprised of individuals who are unlikely to be proofed for age when buying alcoholic beverages. I was in my early 20s when I began such travels, so I could at least respond: "Hey, you're looking at one!" Although, truth to tell, even then I was old at heart and had very little in common with my peers, most of whom would not have found sitting home every night reading Schopenhauer quite the thing to do.

Now, though, well into my 30s, and increasingly haggard-looking from fighting the good fight, I can no longer give such a blithe response. But, like the cavalry to the rescue, there is renewed hope for those who would like to see the torch of reason passed on to a new generation. On August 6-11, at our headquarters in Amherst, New York, the Council for Secular Humanism helped to inaugurate the Campus Freethought Alliance, the purpose of which is to promote humanism, skepticism and freedom of thought across college campuses throughout North America. Tapping into some already existing student groups, and inviting some enthusiastic activists who desired to found campus chapters, the Alliance members, on their own initiative, hammered out a statement of principles, and a Declaration of Necessity, which boldly proclaimed: "We call upon our fellow students to establish skeptical, secular, and freethinking organizations on college and university campuses across the land. We invite our fellow students to loft high the banner of rationality and to join us in this most necessary endeavor." (See the Fall 1996 Free Inquiry, pp. 36-37 for the full text.)

All movements, if they are to be successful, need to balance the wisdom of elders with the idealism and fire of the young. Humanism has always had a plethora of the former - now, for the first time, we have the organized means of tapping into the latter. For many people, myself included, it was coming to college that helped us to break away from the religion of our childhood. It was only then that we realized that there were many worldviews to choose from, and we could decide for ourselves which made the most sense.

One of the nicest aspects of the August meeting is the fact that Gordon Stein participated in the founding of CFA. Although terribly frail from the cancer that would take his life a mere three weeks later, Gordon sat in on all the organizing sessions and gave his valuable input. He had himself been actively involved in organizing groups on campuses throughout Southern California a decade before, but noted that, after the initial bursts of activities, the campus groups tended to die out, due to lack of outside support. Rival organizations like the Campus Crusade for Christ, the Newman Centers and Hillel know how vital such support is to promulgate their points-of-view on campuses.

I would like to encourage all members of our Alliance of Secular Humanist Societies to support the Campus Freethought Alliance, by supplying them with speakers, materials, and moral and financial assistance. I would also like to ask that all of our readers who are college professors or instructors get in touch with me so that we can form a network of campus advisors. It is crucial that these campus groups not be allowed to flounder. This is a golden opportunity for the humanist movement to demonstrate its relevance to a new generation. To become involved in this exciting project, please contact me as soon as possible: Tim Madigan, PO Box 664, Buffalo, NY 14226; phone: 716-636-7571; FAX: 716-636-1733; e-mail: TimothyMad@aol.com. To paraphrase Ingersoll, the time to be organized is now. We will be holding the first annual meeting of the CFA on November 1-3 at the Center for Inquiry. The theme will be: "Patriotism and Secularism."

Finally, I would like to single out for special praise the dedicated students who came here in August to make this dream a reality: Derek Carl Araujo, Harvard University; Alex Bierman, University of Oregon; Chad Stephen Docterman, Marshall University; Etienne Rios, State University of New York at Buffalo; Keith Justin Augustine, Brianna Kathleen Waters and Alireza Aliabadi of the University of Maryland at College Park. To them, I give my highest commendation: they remind me of me when I was their age!


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