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Commentary: World Humanist Day signifies importance of humanistic values

Dan Barker, Tribune News Service on

Published in Op Eds

June 21 (the summer solstice) is World Humanist Day -- a day when people of goodwill globally aim to transcend their differences and put human values above dogma and superstition.

The continent of Europe is showing us the way. In spite of centuries of religious animosity -- or perhaps because of it -- most Western Europeans are currently secular, according to a Pew Research Center survey.

I recently attended the General Assembly of Humanists International in Reykjavik, Iceland. Humanists International has more than 160 member organizations all over the planet. The Icelandic humanists are closely allied with the Norwegian Human-Etisk Forbund, the largest humanist organization on Earth, with more than 90,000 members. (That would be equivalent to a U.S. organization having a membership of 7 million.) The Nordic countries, which are among the least religious in the world, also report the highest levels of happiness and well-being. They realize that if humans are to flourish, government must put human values first.

The humanist event was held in conjunction with the conference of the European Humanist Federation (representing 63 organizations) and hosted by the Icelandic humanist association Sidmennt ("ethical education"), which has recently become an official "life stance" recognized alongside other religions in the nation. The conference -- which dealt with climate change, refugees, economic injustice, democracy, and other ethical issues -- was opened with a welcoming speech by Iceland's President Gudni Thorlacius Johannesson.

That's right. The president of the country attended a humanist gathering.

It is hard to imagine that the president of the United States would ever deliver a welcoming address at a humanist or freethought conference. But our nation is moving in that direction. Whether we call ourselves atheists, agnostics, secular humanists or simply not religious, the "nones" are the fastest-growing religious identification in the United States. As more and more Americans are moving away from the divisiveness of religion, it seems we are finally catching up with Europe.

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And for the first time in history, the U.S. Congress has a Freethought Caucus. Founded by Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., and co-chaired by Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., the members of the Congressional Freethought Caucus aim to promote reason and science, to protect the separation of church and state, to champion freedom of thought and to oppose discrimination against the one-fourth of the U.S. population that is nonreligious. They believe that the House of Representatives should be ... representative.

We humanists agree with Founding Father Thomas Paine, who stated: "My country is the world. My religion is to do good." We aim to spread human-based morality all over the world so that reason, not dogma, will prevail on this Earth.

About The Writer

Dan Barker, with his wife Annie Laurie Gaylor, is co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and is the author of several books, including, most recently, "Mere Morality" (Pitchstone Publishing, 2018).

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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