Harvard Humanist Alumni

Here are examples of some recent discussion topics.

What Can Humanism Learn from Religion? 

This discussion will jump off from a 19-minute TED talk by Alain de Botton on "Religion for Atheists" (oddly, never mentioning Humanism): http://www.ted.com/talks/alain_de_botton_atheism_2_0.html It's not essential to view this first, but helpful. de Botton argues that atheists should "respectfully but impiously steal" ideas from religion: The pleasure many of us take in ritual and community; our need for education about how to live, i.e. Humanist sermons; the value of repetition of important ideas; the importance of structuring the year; the impact of oratory; the need for art to be didactic; the power of forming large, branded institutions like churches.

James Croft, from the Humanist Communities Project, will join in the discussion. The focus of this discussion will be on the de Botton talk, but you would also enjoy James' recent talk to the Greater Boston Humanists: http://www.templeofthefuture.net/foundations/building-the-temple-of-the-future-fulfilling-the-promise-of-humanism 

Death and Dying

We all have to die eventually, and nearly everyone experiences the deaths of people close to us.  How do we think and feel about our own deaths, and the deaths of others?  Do we have thoughts about the best way to die?  What comfort can Humanism and the Humanist community offer in these situations? 

Highlights of this discussion are on the blog of the New Humanism magazine.

Humanism and the Holidays

This time of year we are inundated with messages (though often profoundly commercialized) rooted in Christian or Jewish religious traditions. Does this make you feel emotionally under siege? How do you deal with family and friends who invite you to participate in more-or-less religious occasions? Do you think we should organize Humanist celebrations such as "Festivus" to meet our own needs? This will be an oasis of Humanism n the midst of the "Holy-day Season." We hope to see you there.

Income Inequality

17% of America's income goes to the top 1%. Put another way, for each dollar the top 1% gets each of the rest of us receives, on average, less than 5 cents [corrected].  The disparity between the rich and everyone else has dramatically increased over the past few decades.  Is this fair?  More importantly, is it a healthy situation, either for the poor or the rich?  If one says "no" to either of these questions, what can be done? 

Facts about incomes are on this Wikipedia page:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Income_inequality_in_the_United_States

The impact of inequality on societies is analyzed in a recently published book, "The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger," by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett.  The best introduction to their argument is Wilkinson's TED talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/richard_wilkinson.html Support for their arguments are set forth on a web site: http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/why/evidence

Humanists and Technology

- How can Humanists utilize technology to strengthen our community?"
- Does technology bring people closer together or separate and fatigue us with information overload?
- Is the purpose of technology to increase efficiency and computation or increase human flourishing?
- Does the inevitable growth of technology foster peace in human civilization or increase the possibility of war and conflict?

Building Bridges? Humanism and Religion

- Do you engage personally with religious people about faith issues, and if so how?
- How engaged do think the Humanist movement should be with organized religions?
- When, if ever, is it appropriate to ridicule religious beliefs?
- What religious practices or emotions should Humanism seek to replicate in a non-theistic context?
- One of Humanism's objectives is to foster human flourishing. Would it pose a dilemma for Humanists if it could be scientifically proven that people are happier and healthier if they have religious beliefs? 

Highlights of this discussion are on the blog of the New Humanism magazine.