Remaking ourselves.

Author:Werner, Michael
Position:HUMANISM 101 - Column

HUMANISM HAS FAILED. This election has shown how our values were repudiated by many Americans in national, state, and local elections. There is still much to be learned, but for us it's clear that a great many Americans do not embrace the core values from which everything else in humanism emerges.

I teach a class on epistemology (what we know and how we know it) and recently asked those attending if it was even pertinent anymore since Webster's Dictionary says that "post-truth" is the new word of the year. Is "truthiness" the new norm replacing critical reasoning?

Humanists have seen rough times before and survived. The Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago was targeted and spied on by Mayor Richard Daley's "Red Squad," and the humanist group won a court judgement on the government's actions.

Corliss Lamont, author of the classic The Philosophy of Humanism and a past president of the American Humanist Association, refused to answer Senator Joseph McCarthy's Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in 1953. He denied ever having been a Communist, but refused to discuss his beliefs or those of others, citing not the Fifth Amendment as so many others did, but the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech. He sued the government for opening and not delivering his mail under the anti-propaganda mail law of 1962, and he won by a unanimous Supreme Court decision (Lamont v. Postmaster General) that the law was unconstitutional (the first statute the Supreme Court found unconstitutional due to the First amendment).

AHA founder Edwin Wilson told me the story of how during the McCarthy era two young men in black suits with crew cuts came to the AHA office saying they were "interested learning about humanism." He said they might as well have had "FBI" painted across their chests. Having nothing to hide, Wilson let them go through everything. They never identified themselves, of course, but one of the young men told him with a wink, "I came here to bust you, and now I'm one of you." We have known authoritarianism, survived, and we will this time as well.

We seculars have been successful in growing our numbers, but have failed by talking only to ourselves and not reaching a larger...

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