The Humanist Symposium #3


Welcome, friends. I’d like to have constructed a clever premise for this 3rd edition, but alas it was all I could do to read your fantastic submissions and get them organized and summarized. So I’ll begin by thanking Ebonmuse of Daylight Atheism for getting this series started. Though I spend a fair amount of time in attack mode, I welcome his emphasis on the positive, and as one of the following posts pointed out (can’t remember which), we don’t have to wait until the old buildings of religion are completely destroyed to start building the new structures of humanism. I think it’s a subtle difference, because–make no mistake–in order for humanism to take over responsibility for ethics, meaning, and culture, religious authority must end in these areas. But we can support this transition while understanding and finding as much common cause as possible with those who, for whatever reason, still need to keep their crutches of belief.

There are also plenty of destructive beliefs which have absolutely nothing to do with religion. (Since I was raised in a religious cult, I’m greatly familiar with that paradigm.) But there are plenty of other motivators for sinister cultish behavior. These include financial, political and personality cults. As humanists, we should consider the formation of cults as one of the ultimate enemies of individual responsibility, and one of the biggest threats to a stable humanistic society. Until and unless something changes, cult leaders will always arise and cult-members will always look to be led. It’s an area which warrants intensive study to see why this tendency is so strongly present in our species. My contribution to this symposium is an exploration of the symbiosis between cult members and their leadership.

So, on to reader contributions: It looks like the big topic winner (not even close), for sheer number of submissions, is “The Movement.” Which bodes really well–who said we couldn’t organize?

The Movement

Opening this edition of the Humanist Symposium is Doug Muder, wondering if the ‘new’ humanism and ‘new’ atheism really represent anything different. New atheism’s negative stereotypes include militancy and lack of ‘nuance’, while new humanism is stuck trying to “banish the ghost of Spock.”

Friendly Atheist Hemant Mehta on the fruitless but seemingly unavoidable squabble in the atheist movement between the accommodationists and the confrontationalists.

Humanist Symposium founder Ebonmuse holds forth on atheist charity.

Taner Edis of Secular Outpost on untangling the moral and strategic thicket we atheists and humanists face trying to participate in a conservative and theistic society. Especially while trying to tone down the harsher rhetoric and to gain a seat at the discussion table, without compromising our principles.

vjack at Atheist Revolution on the significance of the recent coalescing of formerly divergent non-believers into an atheist movement.

C.L. Hanson at Letters from a Broad… on getting to the root causes of conflict and violence (be they religion or otherwise). Finding common cause between atheists and peaceful believers in a loving god.

Greta Christina asking those who think there’s gotta be “something more,” “What more do you WANT!!” In a wonderfully pictorial description of the importance of the atheist identity in two parts.

Naomi from God is for Suckers with a nice clarification of secular demographic trends. It’s like I’ve always thought: atheism is severely underreported, especially among the young. Keep up the good work, Naomi!

Brent Rasmussen of Unscrewing the Inscrutable (and founder of the venerable Carnival of the Godless) pens an open letter to young pistol-hot starlet and atheist Amber Heard who openly discussed her lack of belief with USA Today.

Nature and the Universe

John P at The Spanish Inquisitor with a meditation on losing guilt, appreciating science, and how atheism has increased the meaning and value of each and every moment.

James Coufal with a guest post at Black Sun Journal on both the intrinsic value of nature, humans as part of nature, and the importance of our stewardship of biodiversity.

David W. of Atheist Self on his experiences in nature. On finding a special spot and imagining who or what has been there before. On finding significance in our insignificance.


Abacquer of Unbecoming Levity with the incredibly moving story (every deconversion is!) of his journey from Catholicism to atheism (includes a not-to-be missed cartoon).

Cragar from A Varitable Plethora on how actually reading the New Testament was the nail in the coffin of his beliefs, and the social consequences he’s experienced as an atheist, even in his marriage.

Ethics and Philosophy

T Ellis at Evanescent defends atheists against accusations of arrogance, and shows how those who deny inquiry, “reject evidence, embrace supersition, use faith to “discover” knowledge regardless of the evidence…” are the ones who are truly arrogant.

Austin Cline of with a philosophical primer on humanism and secular humanism, and the evolution of those concepts as guiding principles for morality.

Brandon Peele of Generative Transformation on the prioritizing of life’s energy, toward the exploration of Absolute truth, inquiry, and the defeat of relativism.

Atheist Ethicist Alonzo Fyfe on what he would do if he were to be appointed U.S. climate czar.

Jonathan Blake from Green Oasis pens a zen-like reflection on the ephemeral nature of human existence, the questions of what defines selfhood, and the strangeness of contemplating death from the inside perspective of a consciousness which has always been alive.

A Eulogy

The always eloquent tobe38 from A Load of Bright, with a belated but stunningly beautiful eulogy for his Catholic mother, who suffered an untimely death.


The Exterminator of No More Hornets with a confessional list that…well…just turns things upside down. Like #8, he actually thinks that “what happens in Vegas somehow gets around.” No, really, it IS about the very serious subject of humanism, but it’s still funnier than a priest locked up all day in a confessional with no guilty sinners. And if that’s not enough for you, go to Friendly Atheist’s thread of responses and additional confessions.

That’s a Wrap

Until the next edition at nullifidian on July 1, 2007, we’re keepin’ it real here at Black Sun Journal, keepin’ it whole. Working to end humanity’s long and disatrous flirtation with mind-body and spirit-matter duality. We are all one, and the universe is an inseparable, indivisible natural continuum.

Comments (15 comments)

Christopher / June 9th, 2007, 10:55 pm / #1

How does one submit as I have just recently written an article at Alternative Philosophy.

Naomi / June 9th, 2007, 11:42 pm / #2

Thanks for including me! I wasn’t sure I could tone down my “stridency” enough. I guess I must be a “strident” but positive atheist – which sounds like something posted today on our site: a militant quaker…

I very much admire EbonMuse and you for your excellent writing. I feel we’re on the right track to a mature and rational world – given enough time.

Carnival Alert « A Load of Bright / June 10th, 2007, 12:31 am / #3

[…] Carnival Alert The 3rd Humanist Symposium is now up at Black Sun Journal. My recent article Absent Friends is included. […]

My Sunday Morning Ritual / June 10th, 2007, 4:28 am / #4

Trackback from Atheist Revolution:

… This Sunday, there is a special treat. There are two blog carnivals going on, representing the best of atheistic blogging from around the web:

* The Humanist Symposium
* Carnival of the Godless …

Daylight Atheism > For Your Reading Pleasure / June 10th, 2007, 6:29 am / #5

[…] There are several new carnivals this week, but I just have to give pride of place to the one I started. :) Therefore, I’m very pleased to announce that the third edition of the Humanist Symposium has now been posted at Black Sun Journal! Focusing on the positive and constructive aspects of atheism and humanism, rather than attacks on religion, this carnival features some of the best freethought writing on the internet from the past three weeks. Go read and show your support, and if you’d like to contribute to a future edition, it’s never too early to send an entry in. […]

vjack / June 10th, 2007, 7:13 am / #6

How are people doing trackbacks. What am I missing? I can’t get find a trackback link anywhere.

My Sunday Morning Ritual / June 10th, 2007, 7:16 am / #7

[…] This Sunday, there is a special treat. There are two blog carnivals going on, representing the best of atheistic blogging from around the web:

* The Humanist Symposium
* Carnival of the Godless

Carnival Alerts - Bligbi / June 10th, 2007, 8:18 am / #8

[…] The Humanist Symposium at Black Sun Journal […]

Ebonmuse / June 10th, 2007, 7:36 am / #9

The carnival looks great, BlackSun! Thanks for volunteering to host.

Christopher – you can find submission guidelines on the Humanist Symposium home page at

C. L. Hanson / June 10th, 2007, 9:40 am / #10

I know how you feel — I wanted to think of a clever theme when I was hosting the Carnival of the Godless recently, and it took enought time just reading all of the posts and grouping them in a reasonable way. Thanks for your work!!! :D

Green Oasis » The Humanist Symposium #3 / June 10th, 2007, 1:23 pm / #11

[…] The third edition of the Humanist Symposium is now available. A post by yours truly has been included. […]

John P / June 10th, 2007, 5:42 pm / #12

I linked to this, but I can’t figure out how to ping back.

BlackSun / June 11th, 2007, 9:42 am / #13

Thanks, everyone for reading and for your comments and great promotion of the symposium.

vjack and John P, I think the pingback or trackback may have to do with selecting “allow trackbacks” or some other setting in your admin panel. I’m not really sure, they seem to happen automatically for me.

nullifidian » Humanist Symposium #3 / June 11th, 2007, 11:26 am / #14

[…] Yesterday (Sunday) saw the third edition of the (personally much anticipated) Humanist Symposium, hosted this time by the tremendous Black Sun Journal. Go and read some top humanist posts from the past three weeks. […]

Black Sun Journal » Archives » A Milestone / October 13th, 2007, 1:36 pm / #15

[…] The Typepad format was a much better and more interactive and immersive experience for me. I learned a lot and met a lot of new friends on the net. Special thanks to the crew at Goosing the Antithesis, Aaron Kinney at Kill the Afterlife, and Matt Crandall at 10,000 Reasons to Doubt the Fish. Later, after launching BSJ 3.0 as a custom wordpress application, I became friends with Tobe38 of A Load of Bright, John P from Spanish Inquisitor, John Blackman of Evolutionary Middleman, and Heather and TW from Why Don’t You Blog? I also helped Ebonmuse of Daylight Atheism to get the Humanist Symposium started, hosting the 3rd edition of that carnival. In August of ‘07, John Blackman submitted my article Atheist Metaphysics and Religious Equivocation to the Richard Dawkins site which resulted in about 10,000 unique visitors. […]

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