A program of the Center for Inquiry
The following article is from the Secular Humanist Bulletin, Volume 22, Number 3 (Fall 2006).
Is humanity at a crossroads in the twenty-first century? Although only future historians will be able to answer this question, current global political, environmental, and technological developments suggest that such a time might be upon us. In the face of this prospect, humanists believe that the survival of our species will require a foundation of rational thought, empirical research, reality-based ethics, and solidarity with all of humanity. In these times, therefore, it is critical that these values be expressed in positive, constructive ways and that those who hold them sustain a viable community for social support and the exchange of ideas.
Among the most promising routes for gaining such visibility and strengthening the humanist community is the celebration of HumanLight. It is both positive and constructive: HumanLight is not directed at criticizing others or diminishing their joy in their own holidays. Instead, it is a way to let others know that humanists are here and that we have something to say that others may find valuable or at least worthy of respect.
Since its inception in December of 2001, HumanLight has spread to dozens of locations across the United States and has received attention both in local and national media. Along with front-page stories in local newspapers, HumanLight has been discussed on regional radio (WBAI in New York City) as well as on the national airwaves (Air America Radio).
Matthew Chapman, the author (Trials of the Monkey: An Accidental Memoir), filmmaker, and great, great grandson of Charles Darwin, has shot footage of activities and interviews with participants of the 2005 HumanLight celebration in northern New Jersey for a documentary he is producing for the BBC on reason and faith in America. HumanLight was also the subject of a six-minute story on Current TV, the cable network launched by Al Gore.
HumanLight is a wonderful opportunity for drawing the humanist community together. It is celebrated with friends and family, including children. For some humanists, HumanLight has been an emotional and powerful experience. A reading of the remarks by international figure Dally Messenger, rabbi and Society for Humanistic Judaism founder Sherwin Wine, humanist celebrant Barry Klassel, and others on the HumanLight Web site (www.humanlight.org) will give you a sense of the intensity and depth that is possible at these gatherings.
Messenger, founder and former president of the Australian Federation of Civil Celebrants, former president of the International Federation of Civil Celebrants, and the author of Ceremonies and Celebrations, has put it well: “This holiday celebration we have called HumanLight because, just as we are conscious of how the sun brings light and life to the physical universe, we realize that human beings can bring light and life to one another.”
HumanLight will be celebrated on December 23. Please consider furthering your humanist ideals by organizing and participating in a celebration this year. Several suggestion for getting HumanLight going in your locality are available on the Web site. You will also find photos, texts of talks, and newspaper articles from previous HumanLight events.
We would love to hear your comments or suggestions. Please contact us at info [at] humanlight.org.
Joseph Fox is a member of The HumanLight Committee of the New Jersey Humanist Network (www.njhn.org).